Thursday, March 23, 2017

Death by Default: Chapter 6 - Speechless

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Detective Rosetti led me to his car – a black sedan with coffee stains on the armrest and a bullet-proof vest lying on the backseat – and had me wait inside while he made a phone call under the awning of the nail salon. I watched him from the rear-view mirror through the drizzling rain thudding on the back window. It was cold, but I could feel beads of sweat collecting across my brow. Why had he gone out of his way to find me?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Death by Default: Chapter 5 - Hiding Out

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They buried Winnie on Tuesday.

I didn’t go to the funeral. It didn’t feel right. I hadn’t known her that well in law school, and under the circumstances I figured her family would want privacy when they laid her to rest. The papers said it was suicide like Emily Mara the week before, although they had yet to reveal a motive. Emily had been in debt, but so far the headlines were mum on Winnie’s finances at the time of her death. I sent Derek a sympathy card at his office after looking up his address on the state bar website, and now I found myself all out of ideas on how to respond to yet another suicide by one of my fellow graduates. It felt like I should be doing something, but I didn’t know what.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Pulling a Geographic

There’s a term that people in AA use called “pulling a geographic,” which describes the process of moving to a new place looking to escape one’s problems. It’s criticized by some because, as the saying goes, “wherever you go, there you are.”

But sometimes, pulling a geographic can be just the ticket.

Take Daniel Bailey, a 2010 law school graduate who knew early on

Friday, March 17, 2017

Death by Default: Chapter 4: Warm Bodies



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I saw Michelle talking to Alex on one of the mahogany benches in front of the view of Lake Michigan. The violinist had switched from Bach to the Beatles, the gloomy strains of Eleanor Rigby providing an appropriate soundtrack for a room full of would-be lawyers.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Death by Default: Chapter 3 - Voices

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Alex drifted back into the crowd while I tried to talk Michelle out of saying anything about Emily Mara. Eventually she agreed – with a huff – and abandoned me when she spotted Derek Ubel. She and Derek had a fling during our 1L year, which started after the “Race Judicata” fundraiser in October – Michelle and Derek tied for first – and ended just before On-Campus Recruiting in January. She never told me why they broke up.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

“Thank You, Sir, May I Have Another?” (Or, An Open Apology to Curves for Women)

I’ve been catching up on my blog email lately and I came across a message from a struggling attorney who enjoys the research and writing aspect of her job, but dreads going to court because of all the anxiety and insecurity it provokes. It got me thinking about my litigation days, and one of the worst courtroom experiences I ever had.

Actually, the courtroom wasn’t the real problem (more on that in a minute); the lead up to the courtroom was.

The exact circumstances are foggy now, since it happened so long ago, but I’ll give you

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Death by Default: Chapter 2 - Sacrificial Lambs



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Kerner Law School, founded in 1965 and regrettably named after Otto Kerner, Jr., one of several Illinois governors who eventually landed in prison, overlooked Lake Michigan and was recently anointed by Time magazine as the school whose graduates were least likely to repay their student loans. It was located in Cold Lake, Illinois, just a few miles north of Chicago and three short blocks from Cold Lake University, where Michelle and I earned useless humanities degrees before taking the twenty-thousand-dollar-a-year plunge at Kerner Law School. Tuition now cost forty thousand a year, a hefty increase since we graduated five years before, which hardly seemed justified considering they still hadn’t changed the name. The school didn’t boast any particularly impressive faculty, but the library was really something. Lots of mahogany and marble, with a wall of windows facing out toward the lake, and a rooftop deck where classes were sometimes held on especially warm days. Back in 2007 during my 1L year, just being there made me feel the weight of American jurisprudence. Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, Cohen v. California – in each case the rule of law outweighed prejudice, shady police tactics, even good taste, simply because it was that important. All of those cases had been argued and decided by lawyers. And all of them were contained within the hallowed stacks of the Kerner Law School Library.  That was probably why the recruitment mixer was being held there, among the towering rows of legal journals, law reporters, and statute books.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Death by Default: Chapter 1 - Hunger Pangs



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I should’ve stayed home.

That’s all I could think as the taxi hiccupped down University Drive in the stop-and-go Friday night traffic. Michelle wouldn’t take no for an answer, though. Michelle could never take no for an answer, which was how I found myself sharing a cab with her – a cab I could not afford – to a law school recruitment mixer I would not enjoy on a Friday night when I should have stayed home.

A sheet of rain slapped the windshield as we passed Science Hall, a dingy brick eyesore crawling with ivy. Michelle sat next to me, skipping down memory lane at every building, her face beaming from the nostalgia and the sea of stoplights surrounding the cab.

Death by Default: Prologue

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I never really knew Emily Mara. In fact, when I saw her photo in the paper after she died, I almost didn’t recognize her at all. Back when we were in law school, she had dirty blonde hair and wore a nose ring, wanted to go into environmental law. In the newspaper photo, she was a PI lawyer wearing a sleek brunette ponytail and a strand of pearls. A lawyer who – shortly before she flung herself from the Skyway Bridge into the freezing Calumet River – worked for Smith and Associates LLP, a firm that specialized in processing asbestos claims until the market dried up. The partners decided to cut their losses and close up shop. That’s when they let Emily go. That’s when she killed herself.

She and I were in the same study group for our trusts and estates class. Our professor had a

A New Blog Series

What's killing all these law school graduates?

I've been thinking a lot lately about creativity and what inspires it. My first novel was inspired by my experiences as a young lawyer working in criminal defense. It felt cathartic when I finished it, like I'd finally worked through all of the emotions I felt trying to navigate the justice system while at the same time hating my job and looking for a way out. My Pizza Diaries series was inspired by my adventures in trying to escape student debt hell. Again, when I finished it, I felt like I'd worked through that part of my life.

I feel like there's a part of my leaving-the-law story that I'm still working through. The trouble is, I can't put my finger on it. I still find myself keeping up on law school news, especially as it pertains to student debt. I also find myself reading stories of former lawyers who got out and what they're up to now. I wonder what it all means - will I ever truly be free from that part of my life?

I find that fiction is the best way of tapping into latent anxieties. So I started writing. And I kept writing. And now that I'm a few chapters in to this new work, I figured I would start