This post was originally about something entirely different than its eventual topic. I'll tackle the other topic soon, as the introduction was already written. Instead of telling you about Stephanie March - a talented actress who portrayed (and still portrays, I think although I rarely have time to watch) an ADA and/or bureau chief on Law and Order SVU, I'll instead write about what my brother says is my absolute favorite topic on which to write or to speak: ME! Anytime I seem to him to be too full of myself, my brother announces, "Let's all sing another round of the "Alexis Theme Song" (sung to the tune of Barney's opening theme: "I love MEEEE! You love MEEE! Everyone loves MEEE, MEEE, MEEE!" etc. You get the point. My brother thinks my ego is excessively large, and i am perhaps abit self-obsessed.
As a very young child, I had a bit of an obsession with the guy who played Steve on Blue's clues. I didn't even know if his real name was Steve or not. That's how young I was. Judge Alex Ferrer was probably my closest thing to an obsession after Steve. At first I wanted to be adopted by Judge Alex and his wife and to be rescued from what I perceived as the abusive home situation in which I was entrenched. Then, as I began to see reality a bit more clearly, I just wanted to become Judge Alex, or at least the female equivalent of him. Television fame - or even fame in any form -- was not my aim. Rather, my goal was simply a matter of wanting to fight for truth, justice, and the American way. I lamented that fact that I was not of Cuban descent. I wanted to go to a really good law school. From there, I wanted to be an assistant district attorney, which is something Judge Ferrer never did, but still I thought it was the best way for me to reach my ultimate objective, and it had worked well enough for The Judge Honorable Marilyn Milian (also of Cuban extraction), so it seemed like a viable plan.
Incidentally, I now no longer totally idolize Judge Ferrer, I don't worship him as I did as a young teen. Instead, I see him as a real person with normal strengths and weaknesses - far more strengths than weaknesses, if it matters - who is a truly good, kind, and moral person. He is a good husband and father, which, in today's crazy world, is one of the most honorable characteristics a man can possess. He married a good woman when he was young and was smart enough to stick with her through the inevitable tough times of any marriage. He raised children of whom he and his wife can be proud. One of them just graduated from law school today. He never forgot his humble roots, having immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba as an infant, with his family having left behind a comfortable lifestyle and virtually everything they owned, and speaks often of his experience as a young immigrant assimilating into a new and very different culture. He's the sole survivor of his parents' three sons, and as such has assumed the responsibility of assisting his aging parents. Judge Ferrer has raised awareness of the issue of bullying in our schools and elsewhere, and is also taking on corporations who commit unethical practices that harm all of us, in many cases without our knowledge of the nefarious corporate practices. Judge Ferrer is someone I admire immensely, and once the craziness of medical school, internship, and residency are history, I will strive to someday accomplish a fraction of the good in the world that he is doing..
Judge Ferrer is someone I also consider a friend -- one on whom I can call for advice or even just a kind word of encouragement when I'm in need of it. He doesn't have to be so nice to a complete nobody such as myself. He just does. It's certainly not because of my looks. If such were the case, he'd be asking me for the phone numbers of my friends, some of whom are bona fide knockouts. I'm not the only average citizen to whom he extends such kindness, He's a great man who gives freely of himself. If half of the world's celebrities, or even of the world's average citizens, were as giving of themselves as is Judge Ferrer, the world would be a much better planet on which to live.
Back to my law career that never happened . . .From the ADA's side of the courtroom, I had hoped to impress enough politicians that I might eventually be appointed to a position on the bench in some capacity. I could, obviously, have run for election, but I'm not sure it would have been a great route to a judgeship for me. Something about being a tiny blonde girl with a high-pitched voice who doesn't look her age and probably won't until she's fifty wouldn't seem to inspire confidence in the masses when it came time to cast one's vote for a judge, and my preference wouldn't be to wait until the age of fifty before attaining the rank of judge. (Once I had the position and had done a decent job, relection wasn't quite such a daunting prospect to me.) Neither Alex Ferrer nor Marilyn Milian waited so long. Impressing a few politicians seemed like a surer bet. Meanwhile, I could put away hordes of heinous.criminals. I would have to look over my shoulder constantly because of the friends and relatives of the gang members and other bad guys I'd convicted, but that would be just part of the excitement of the lifestyle.
My ambition to practice law was all the more heightened by my Aunt Jillian's choice of law as a profession. Aunt Jillian is only seven years older than I, and has always been my real-life role model. I suspect if she had become either a nun or a prostitute I would have seriously considered doing the same even though I haven't the slightest inclination toward a vocation of either sort. She attended J. Ruben Clark School of Law in Provo, Utah (affiliated with Brigham Young University) because she had done her undergraduate work there and because her husband was attending the University of Utah School of Medicine thirty or so miles up the freeway. Aunt Jillian did well in her law studies, just as she has done well at virtually everything she has ever attempted to do. She had considered medical school, but because of issues with her health, she ultimately decided that law school would be a more reasonable course of study or her.
I don't know if she has regrets about her decision to forego medicine in favor of law -- I certainly hope she doesn't -- but her early legal career showed considerable promise. She moved from the public defender's office to a position as an assistant district attorney to private practice to doing the one thing that really mattered to her most, which was to raise children. She is in her final trimester with her second and final child. (Having children puts more stress on her body than it does on the body of the average expectant mother, and she's doing very well to be able to produce two healthy children, and signs point to her being able to do just that, though we're all still keeping our fingers crossed and keeping her and the baby in our prayers.) .Jillian's older child - a little boy named Andrew, who just reached six months of age, is my Godchild and is the absolute light of my life. I don't think anyone in the world loves him more than I do except, perhaps, his parents.Andrew's little sister will be born at around thirty-five or thirty-six weeks of gestation, which is as long as she can carry a baby before going back onto her regular medication for cystic fibrosis. This will make Andrew between eight and nine months old when his baby sister is born. My mom says non-twin siblings born less than a year apart are known as Irish twins. The babies are half Cuban, with the remaining half being a mixture of Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian, so there's not a drop of Irish in the mixture, but they're about as close in age as non-twin siblings can be. I gave up a teaching job this summer (I had an offer to teach calculus for summer school) in large part so that I could spend as much time with the babies as possible. There are lots of people to help, so it's not as though the family is in great need of my assistance, but it's what I want to do with my summer. Jillian and my Uncle Scott will probably get so sick of me that they'll kick me out of their house, but until then, I'm staking my claim and hanging out there.
Aunt Jillian still does paperwork for the legal firm in which she is a partner (it was a new firm, and they really needed capital, which she could offer, so she became an instant partner). When her children are in school, she says she'll try a few cases a year. Meanwhile, she'll handle paperwork and draft opening statements and closing arguments for other attorneys in the firm when she has time.
I've worked with Aunt Jillian as a paralegal (no certification is required in order to be a paralegal here; if the attorney paying you is satisfied with the job one is doing and the "paralegal" does nothing to offend the judge, he or she has the job). I can shuffle papers with the best of them and am a relatively quick study with a bit of clairvoyance in terms of anticipating what document Aunt Jillian needs before she asks for it, plus I'm a meticulous note-taker. She says anytime I want to take a break from my career as a med school student or doctor, I can work for her if she's working. Right now she's having too much fun with her baby to even think about stepping into a courtroom.
Working with Aunt Jillian gave me an up-close-and-personal look at the practice of law in the courtroom. It's neither as glamorous nor as exciting as what one typically sees in any of the Law & Order genres. Even in the most efficiently-run courtroom, a tremendous amount or time is spent on technicalities. Jurors are late for trials. Motions are made and must be ruled upon, however ridiculous they may appear. Witnesses become emotional or ill, and everything stops while they compose themselves or finish hurling. Questioning involving s mindless and inconsequential matter can go on for what seems like forever. A good judge can minimize the repetition, but the accused must have a fair trial, and if that sometimes involves the belaboring of a point ad nauseum, that's the way it has to be.
And that's just the courtroom side of the law -- the exciting part. Most of a lawyer's hours are not spent in court. Most of it is buried in paperwork, negotiations, consultations (often for which the pay is often a big fat nothing), drafting of pre-trial motions or responding to such, conferencing with clients either by telephone or in person, trying to reason with people who are not all that reasonable, and attempting to console clients or families when things don't go the way they had hoped. But mostly it's paperwork, paperwork, and even more paperwork. And that's if you're working in criminal law. In civil law, God only knows how much worse it might be. For the most part, there's not quite so much looking over your shoulder at someone who wishes in the worst way to off you as an act of revenge, but it's still not beyond possibility. Family law in particular can be ugly in that regard. Where huge sums of money are involved, too, emotions run high, and people who might otherwise behave more rationally can lose sensibility. No profession is 100% safe, and the legal profession is probably less safe than most.
The safety factor is minor in the grand scheme of whether or not to ultimately choose to go into the legal profession. one must have a passion for it in order to be either successful or happy. It is going to be tedious more often than not. An attorney had best be a person who doesn't mind reading even when the reading material is something that could put a person to sleep who hasn't slept for days, and one must read with extreme attention to detail and with level 20.0 comprehension at the very lowest. (That's as in beginning first grade being 1.0, mid-second grade being 2.6, etc.). Unwieldy stacks of written material will appear on an attorney's desk on a regular basis. Unless an attorney has a paralegal he can trust beyond question [and it typically takes years to develop such trust in an employee] the reading needs to be done by the attorney himself or herself. The buck stops with the attorney. One simple conjunction -- an and versus an or-- can drastically alter the bottom line of a settlement. It's all in the details.
And one must write with the same level of precision that is expected in one's reading. A good legal secretary or paralegal can catch the obvious errors, but the more subtle nuances may only be understood by the attorney. As an attorney develops a working relationship with a paralegal, he or she may find that the paralegal is roughly as competent at such things as is the paralegal, but in such cases, if the paralegal is really sharp, he or she will complete law school and cease to work for a paralegal's wages. And in spite of any paralegal's qualifications, the ultimate responsibility will always fall upon the attorney. He or she will be sued if a client is screwed over by a misplaced comma or other seemingly inconsequential misuse of the English language that might have earned a single mark of a red pen in a university English course but could cost thousands or tens of thousands if an attorney botches a legal settlement on behalf of a client. (These sorts of things are usually read multiple times by more than one reader with expertise in going over such material; such a grievous error isn't an everyday occurrence, but they do happen.)
Though it sometimes doesn't seem to be the case with my haphazard typing, usually after I've put ointment into my overly dry eyes, I am able to write with precision when I take the time to do so. I read carefully as well. I have the ability to pay attention to detail, to think quickly, and to draft responses on the spur of the moment. What I do not have, and may not have at any time in the foreseeable future, is a commanding presence and a powerful voice. I'm a skinny, pale little girl whose voice sounds even younger than I look. (I only sound authoritative if I have a cold.) Were I to pursue law as a career, I would surely need to have speech therapy in effort to add depth and resonance my voice, and chances are that the world's most talented speech pathologist would have only marginal success in improving my voice. In terms of vocal chords, you basically get what you're born with. You can damage them but you probably cannot make them much better.. Relaxation techniques can remove some of the strident sound my voice possesses, but there's a limit to how relaxed I can or should be on the job. I can't down a pint of bourbon before work every day.
What I do have working in my favor, though, is that I've always had a knack for math and science. My dad mostly kept his mouth shut throughout the time it was assumed I would study law because he knew that I was likely to do the opposite of whatever he suggested, although he did recommend several math and science courses as electives under the guise that it would supposedly give me an advantage in certain specialty branches of law. I listened to his advice and took the courses. Then, midway through my undergrad studies, Dad finally came right out and said that it was a waste of mathematical and scientific strength for me to go to law school. I don't know if he honestly believed the part about it being a supposed waste of ability; I think he just believe I would totally suck as a trial lawyer. Regardless, at least I had that strength on which to fall since it didn't appear that law school would be the best of options. I would have gotten into at least some law school (my GPA and LSAT scores were strong), and I would have done reasonably well in law school, but I would have totally stunk up the joint as a trial lawyer, and chances are that any attention I got from any politician would have been because of my high and squeaky voice and little-girl-dressed in-her-mom's clothing appearance, and not because of my Solomon-like rulings and any presumed laser-like precision with which I ran the prosecution of my cases,
It's a family thing that we all try to obtain degrees in music even though we don't necessarily intend to pursue careers in the field. Both of my parents have music performance undergrad degrees in addition to their REAL degrees. Matthew didn't have time to get one because he played Division I baseball and finished school in three years. As critical as i can be of Matthew, even I will admit that it's asking a lot of someone to complete a double major under such circumstances. I was already on track to complete my piano performance major, but because I had switched majors from English to biochemistry and didn't have quite as many broad science courses as would have been ideal for a medical school applicant, my counselor decided it would be a wonderful idea for me to tack on a violin performance major to my already heavy load, (The word on the street is that nearly all science majors with high GPAs and MCAT scores who are also violin performance majors are usually accepted into the medical schools of their first-choice.) Since I was slated to finish in three years (I had taken tons of AP courses in high school. I would have finished high school in three years except that A) my parents didn't want me leaving for college at 15 and B) I took enough AP course to equal more than a year of university credits) this added a level of intensity to a final year of university that should have been spent lying on the beach while opening an occasional textbook. C'est la vie.
The violin performance add-on major might seem on the surface to have been a really good idea except for one minor glitch: I'm not all that terrific a violinist. What I play sounds good, but my technique up to that point hadn't been something on which I devoted a great amount of time. Piano was my instrument. my mom played violin, and we always had one around, so I dabbled with it. My mom noticed that I got a better-than-average sound out of it when I played, so she taught me the basics, but I never had formal lessons. I didn't even own my own violin until the Christmas before I graduated from high school. I played it because I enjoyed it, but there was a considerable level of technical mastery that I lacked. When the counselor came up with his brilliant idea, the workload nearly killed me, but I did it. I passed my juries easily, and the recital went without a hitch. (It's easy to perform when you're playing the pieces you choose.) I'll never know if the violin major made a difference, but I was asked to play violin at two medical school interviews including the one at the school I attend.
That's how I ended up in medical school despite starting out as an English major with pre-law aspirations. Relatively few people end up doing what they thought they would do when when they began university studies. The points to this, if there are any points to it, are that ANY degree is better than no degree at all, to take courses early that will be useful regardless of one's major ends up being, to listen to the right people, as some people give better adudy vice than others, to make changes in university if one feels the strong desire to do so , as it's easier to shift courses of study while still in school than it is to do so after one has completed his or her education, and to try to maintain some sort of a balance between what you do well and what you love to do.