Posts Tagged ‘law school’

Wow, even WordPress’ Dashboard is different now that I’m back attempting to blog…

I am eating Trader Joe’s Thai Chili almonds over a 9 oz glass of Chardonnay at the Las Vegas Airport.  Truth.  So to speak 😉  It’s a far cry from where I was months ago when blogging about being an integrative law student was one of the lifelines I had holding me in check as I anxiously completed and then emerged from the nightmarish cocoon of law school.

The short story?  Ha.  I’ll try.

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It started last spring when I began meditating on my intentions and actively began envisioning how I could manage to make a decent living/improve my circumstances financially (and this definitely falls under the umbrella of “self-care” by the way).  I kept asking myself, almost in a chant, almost like a mantra: How am I going to advocate for policies I believe in AND support myself economically?  A quarter of a million dollars in educational debt I was (and am, thank you).  But beyond the debt, what kind of opportunity was I working on manifesting for myself?  What would be the texture of the “work” I would do in the world?  My goal has always been and continues to be service, making the world a better place — more specifically, helping to facilitate healing in the world, not war, not divisiveness, not convenience or expediency over thoughtfulness and integrity and cogency — not without connection between what feels to me, and to others, like what’s REAL for people and what’s IMAGINED TO BE REALITY for policy makers.  Hmm…  What does all of that mean?  And how does one even purport to hope to “manifest” such a proposition?

Well, I’m not great at telling stories in a linear fashion.  And although our lives creep by in years, which is a chronological measure of life lived, I’m not sure the actual telling of our life stories comport with this version of “reality”.  With that said (yes, you lawyers out there, consider this a disclaimer of sorts), I’d like to make this post the first in what will probably become sort of a collage depicting from various angles of time, experience and emotion what my journey since finishing law school has been and what I am projecting for it into the future…  This has basically been how a lot of HolisticToolKit.com has chronicled my path, but moving forward, I just thought I’d clarify that yes, this is my story.  And yet, no, it is probably not easy to follow.  LOL.  Rather, it’s something I guess I’d like to invite you, my dear reader, into.  That perhaps, is actually the purpose of this post.

I invite you to join me as I plunge into even deeper waters of finding out how law and an holistic mind, body and spirit can find not just overlap but a place of belonging in the world of social justice, in the world of corporate finance, and part and parcel for me, is how this occurs in the legal cannabis space…  That is where my journey has brought me and my triumphs, bitter failures and intimate gleanings from it will be what I write about for the next several years.

If you are down to share this journey with me in any way — by reading random blog posts, sharing them, commenting on them, seeing my posts on social media & offering a little smile even if all you dip into the waters of this crazy world of HolisticToolKit.com is a toenail — it is all good.  In the words of teachers and friends and mentors and collaborators I have come to love deeply, these sentences and paragraphs are being constructed out of the energy of solidarity, affection and a fierceness focused on facilitating critical reflection, compassionate acceptance, radical honesty, vulnerability as it bleeds into strength and, always, more love.

Namaste and more about the cannabis industry itself next time.

Dear Other Recent Law Grads,

It’s funny, how now that I’m in my thirties, now that I’ve joined a secret society (by this I mean the field of law), now that I’m starting to find even footing in life, I find more and more that what I crave is a sense of community. Sounds cheesy, right? Or like I’m pointing out the obvious? Well, hold on. I would like to share a bit more of my story.

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See, when I was younger (for some reason, the theme song to All in the Family plays in my head here — “thhhhhose were the dayyys”) I used to run away from whatever required sustained team efforts. I would feel frustrated trying to communicate enough to get everyone onboard with a certain approach to problem-solving or I’d recognize that who I was and what I had to offer wasn’t being honored off the bat so I’d want to call it a day. When I looked for jobs, I was able to find really cool fits — very cool if you ask me. But I always sort of kept in my mind this idea that these things were temporary, and that there was no way I could keep doing what I was doing for very long. Short attention span it seems. And yet, now I wonder, was it a short attention span all of these years or was there something missing in terms of how I was presenting myself to the world and what I imagined was possible to receive in return?

Cryptic, I know. But to bring this back into current focus, let’s take the precipice I am currently on. Having finished my JD, having decided I do not necessarily want to take the bar (at least right now), I have found myself in a place of major uncertainty. Where do I fit in? What is going to allow me to feel comfortable and valued enough where I can keep throwing down every day and feel gratified by the experience? (NOTE: if you don’t feel that this is an important element in the realm of employment, I warn you, you may not want to continue reading…) Conventional wisdom as we graduate law school appears to be this: now you are a lawyer; you have a community; you just have to find some job in that community and everything will be fine. Well I would like to say STOP — if you have found this to be the advice given by people in your life or the mentality demonstrated by your law school community or your local bar association, please, do keep reading.

I am finding that legal education has provided me with a platform from which I can assert even more strongly who I am and what I bring to any table (whether it is a table at a church amidst massive grassroots organizing, whether it is at the table of those who are attempting to found a progressive school, or whether it is at the table of big wigs in finance and industry — all of which are tables I have recently found myself seated). Law does not provide an easy plug-in for individuals who want to find for themselves niches that capitalize on who they are, their authentic voices and gifts. You may have to go outside of the “law community” if you want to find a nexus between whatever your interests in law are and the qualities and preferences that make you who you are.

The good news of course is that there are many lawyers who have realized this — that their ability to perform in the legal world is not tied to wholly identifying with whatever firm culture or bar association bullshit is most prevalent where they are working. It is not necessary to pigeon-hole ourselves in an industry where authenticity and creativity are feared or suppressed. It is actually possible, and I would argue desirable, to put out feelers when you are networking for individuals and organizations that feel like a fit for who you are. Find a sense of community and then be open as far as how your training and expertise from law school may be integrated into whatever culture you find gives you that feeling. Do not be afraid to seek that community or lie to yourself and assume you have found it simply because these are the individuals who would hire you, or because this is the firm that everyone in your family is impressed by you becoming a part of. Find what impresses YOU. Seek what and who inspires YOU and invest in that community. There is too much out there for us to be boxed in by whatever fears or narrow mindedness has come before.

With love and affection,

Shoshanna

Imagine…  You are sitting around a conference table with a number of other students your first year of law school.  Let’s say in the first month, if not week.  Perhaps you are sharing a meal.  At the least, you are together in an open and collaborative environment.

Keep imagining…  Whomever is facilitating — whether a law professor or maybe even an executive coach — explains the ground rules to everyone.  I.E. this is a circle, a ritual gathering really to mark the beginning of your time in law school.  Moreover, a gathering to establish tone and intention for what is ultimately a rite of passage.

There will be no arguing at this table, in this circle, in the ways that the rest of your classes seem to invite.  The objective here is not to persuade, dissuade, cast value judgments or establish anyone’s worth (in general or to the field).  The goal here is to engage in a process that allows everyone to speak THEIR truth and hear one another’s truth.  And by ‘truth’ we mean story.  This ritual is about creating space for each student to explore and reveal some of whatever story has brought them to law school.  We are here to respectfully and lovingly if possible, become away of our own motivations for taking this path and become sensitized to the differences in trajectory that exist between us.  We are all working to create a common space — a shared space — where this mode of inquiry has gravity and can serve as an anchor for us in the coming months and years.

IMG_1041There is no interrupting.  There are no insults.  There may be questions, but whenever we are asking questions of one another, we are first asking ourselves those same questions.  Or we are considering how we ourselves would interpret such a question.  Would it make us defensive?  Would it trigger in us anxiety or fear of some kind?  If yes, tread carefully.  Maybe we even frame our questions with the admission that such a question even makes us uncomfortable.  And we would go on to explain why we want to ask it.  If no, we still witness whatever reactions come up in us as we listen to the other’s response.  We notice what fears, irritations or anxieties the other’s speech raises in us.  And we continue to engage in this inner-then-outer dialogue about where that fear comes from, what the information of our feelings in relation to the substance of our questions and answers means for us in terms of understanding who WE are, where philosophically and emotionally WE are coming from, and whether there is more space within us to entertain, honor even, the beliefs and motivations and perspectives of others.

Perhaps we do not find space in our hearts for others’ truth.  Perhaps we find what we are hearing repugnant or ignorant or ill-informed.  It is very possible.  But this table, this group, this circle, is about finding those spaces of discomfort and testing ourselves not with multiple choice questions or absurd essay prompts, but with our own ability to continue listening and to continue digging deep for the most honest responses we can muster.  In so doing we are also taking the brave step to trust that what is in our hearts matters and is safe to express.  To do this though, and to derive value from it, we continue on in our legal education.  We let facts and doctrine guide us into viewing our own “material” (what has brought us here) into a more objective, but still consciously grounded place.  This is the form of knowledge we seek.  The capacity for objective analysis within a context of subjectivity that is alive because of it we are consciously aware.

Once the values and purpose (and rules) of this process are clear, we would begin by going around and exploring what brought everyone to law school.  What are the most surface reasons?  What are the more deeply held reasons?  And then, likely in another session, we would go on to explore our individual experiences with the law.

Were we objects of custody battles as children?  Were we witnesses as children or as adults to crime?  Have we ourselves ever been arrested for a crime we committed?  Have we ourselves or people we love been victims of police brutality?

Have we been plaintiffs or defendants in tort actions (personal injury suits, etc)?  Sexual discrimination?  Other forms of discrimination?

What jobs have people held in the past where they saw how useful knowing the law might be for the sake of clients?  Or in order to advise at a policy level?

Have we had children who have struggled with the law?  Do we have parents or others in our lives that cannot care for themselves and need advocacy in order to receive adequate medical or psychological care?

Have we lost loved ones?  Have we had to deal with probate issues or estate planning?  Have we had tax problems?  Trouble accessing benefits or subsidies from the state?

Imagine this kind of conversation is where students started their first year.  In little cohorts that meet on a regular basis, where students FEELINGS about the law and their relationship to it could be explored in such personal terms.  Yes, this would be a challenge to many.  It could seem like a violation of privacy.  It could seem like opening a Pandora’s Box, which can be scary…

But it would also create a space for honesty in legal education; in fact it would place VALUE on honesty.  It would place VALUE on the concept of vulnerability and would EDUCATE students in the art of self-expression, active listening and critical thinking.

It would offer students a safe space to explore their emotions and see how these emotions can inform and be formed by their legal studies.  It would demonstrate that who we are as individuals has everything to do with our capacity to survive law school (thrive if you like) and would set an example for them as far as how to cope and promote emotional intelligence and self-care in the field.  It would also help to remove the stigma associated with not knowing things or of being unsure as to how one fits into this industry.  It would open up creative channels of inquiry and in that sense serve as a profound tool for professional as well as personal development.

Imagine conversations during the second year following up on what was raised first year.  As students gain more and more experience ‘in the field’ and with ‘the rules’ they would have a table to return to where the values and beliefs that brought them to law school could be revisited.  Cognitive dissonance in terms of what they are learning in books versus what students perceive through their experiences in the ‘real world’ would come to light — come to light and be acknowledged by faculty…  The imperfections of both our justice system and our legal education system could be brought into some tangible form of relief.  Then there is no holding onto frustration and confusion because what one is being told does not jive with what one has lived or witnessed.  There is space for truth.

Once this ‘space of truth’ comes into being, imagine students now talking about their plans for the future.  Their hopes and dreams for work in the field and for their lives overall.  There is no reason to hold back at this point.  They know they can be truthful about what moves them and because of that, they can envision in much fuller ways what they want to accomplish after they graduate.  They know themselves AND they know the law.

This is because a contextual form of learning that hinges on reflective practices and voicing to a group has been formed early on.  In a sense, we could think of this in terms of attachment theory in child development.  There has been a latching!  There has been a connection made for students within themselves, between one another, and in relationship to the field, ultimately the practice, of law.

I am reminded of the lesson that stillness brings action for two reasons right now.

The first has to do with exams.  It has to do with allowing myself the rest I need to prepare mentally and emotionally for the roller coaster that is sitting in a windowless room for hours pouring every scrap of intellect you have into an assignment that feels removed from life and arbitrary yet so very crucial to the prospects of one’s future at the same time…  I have been practicing inner-listening like crazy.  I have been massaging my hands and feet like crazy.  I have been clearing internal space so that what must rise to the surface for the good of my academic standing can come.

The second has had to do with the recent grand jury verdicts that have come out of Ferguson, Missouri and New York City.  I have been hearing and reading the fear and agony these decisions are causing people of color in all of our communities.  And I have been voicing my own feelings of fear and utter sadness to others I go to school with — other aspiring lawyers.

Let us not confused silence with stillness, by the way.  Stillness has to do with deep listening, to our own pain and that of others.  Stillness has to do with humility — with the ability to let feelings like loss of control fill our senses and not repress them, but allow their brunt to be pushed upon our most visceral senses.  For this seems to be where the seeds of real justice are planted.  I imagine we, citizens of this country, are all reaching up right now.  Scrambling with hands and fingers clawing at the ground above us so we may break through the dirt and find light.  Find the ground where those seeds are planted and begin to cultivate justice that does not demand our patronage from the dark.  Again, justice from a place of light.  Justice from a communal, collective sense of truth.  One born from discourse and genuine democratic inquiry — aka the strength and the freedom to outwardly proclaim when people’s rights have been violated, or where people’s rights have been disregarded as if they do not exist at all.

My stillness is my contemplation of these images and of these fears.  My action comes from that space.  In work and in life.  For myself and for the health, for the integrity, of our world.

A friend of mine just re-posted an article via Facebook called 25 Struggles Only ENFPs Will Understand — it’s put out by a blog called Thought Catalogue and, despite much skepticism of tests that “objectively” discern the vicissitudes of our personalities, I can’t deny these folks are on to something.

http://thoughtcatalog.com/heidi-priebe/2014/09/25-struggles-only-enfps-will-understand/

At my law school we have a leadership program that, up until now anyway, has largely been built around the use of personality types referred to in this article.  It’s Myers-Briggs to be precise (although there are a couple more we’ve taken that when I say their names they sound like venereal diseases — examples being a “FIRO – B” — I mean, really, wtf??)

Seriously though, I think the bad taste I developed for these tests stems at least partially from an experience I had just out of college.  A woman, whom I later found to be a staunch Republican of the Ayn Rand AND George Bush Jr. variety, literally pointed her finger at me on the street one day and said, “I see it!  Totally corporate, totally artistic!”  She then convinced me to come in for what would be two weeks of interviews enroute to my first ever salaried position.

I never even got to the point of being paid a real salary, as my probationary period as a light/industrial temp recruiter was, simply put, short lived.  I was told my footsteps weren’t “heavy enough.”  Not to mention it went quite unappreciated when I tried to give education and career consulting to some of the temp agency’s applicants (very poor folks whose job it essentially was to call us every day and inquire if we had any back-breaking work for extremely low pay that they could do).

I should have seen it coming, really.  I mean, when you take a personality test and your about-to-be employer’s secretary calls to say they need you to re-take the test because the results, basically, indicate that you have multiple personalities, well, it shouldn’t be too hard to see that you might not fit into the culture of that particular workplace…

I distinctly remember re-taking that test and seeing exactly where they wanted me to answer differently because it’s what followed, according to their logic, from the answer I gave in the previous question.  It was that ridiculous.

So when I got to law school and was asked to do the same kind of little dance, it felt pretty forced.  I felt uncomfortable. And pretty dubious of how well this sort of testing can steer us in terms of (effective) leadership development.

Alas, I took all my tests.  I listened to their lectures.  And here’s what I’ve learned —

1 – It’s okay to be “sensitive” and actively value compassion, even when you are studying (and I believe practicing) law.

2 – It IS harder to be sensitive and compassionate and function in the legal world, but it is also better!  It is what our system (and the world) needs.

3 – The same can be said for creativity and optimism.

4 – A persisting obstacle is the feeling of isolation that can come when what gives you energy is to be with people, but what allows you to work productively on legal problems requires being, or feeling, alone.  It’s a toughie…

5 – Self-care practices are key.  Especially if you are someone who is inclined towards feeling joy and gratitude even for the smallest of things, giving space for yourself to experience those things, even while you are “working” is ESSENTIAL.  Otherwise, you risk losing what feels most important to you on a fundamental level every time you engage in the level of focus that the study and/or practice of law requires.

6 – Because we are sensitive, creative people, innovating self-care practices that fit our physical, mental and emotional needs is something we love to do!  It’s an opportunity to ‘think outside the box’ and push ourselves to find forms of expression that burst what could feel like a prison, wide open…

Here’s to finding our way as un-lawyerly personalities and please comment if you have thoughts or feelings to share!!

3L year has started.  I’ve re-shuffled classes, spent an exorbitant amount on casebooks that do little but make my eyes glaze over, and the fun has just begun!  In all seriousness though, there’s a difference in me now.  And it’s not necessarily a bad or sad one, as I often report from the dungeon of law school.

1398991_10201622950175624_3601028634142264250_oTwo images came into my mind the other day. First was of a mound of string suspended in front of my face. My arms were outstretched as I furtively tried to gather the whole thing at once.  There were feelings of fear here, anxiety, a sense of urgency I couldn’t unplug from.  The second came right after, and it was of this same string but in the form of an untangled line.  This time, instead of grasping for more than I could even fit in my arms, I simply picked up one end of it, and holding on ever so lightly, began to move forward.  I experienced a sense of peacefulness and stability from the second image.  It felt like I could trust that being where I was, or having pulled through however much of the thread as I was able to, was enough.  I didn’t have to keep reaching; I got this sense I was already where I needed to be.  Instead of feverishly pulling or reaching for more, I could rest in the awareness of where I was.  And from that place, just allow, rather than push myself, to keep moving.

I posted this on Facebook mostly to people’s puzzlement — what does it mean, charitable FB friends chimed?  I’m pretty sure it has to do with being in touch with what is closest to my core as a person.  And finding the delicate freedom that comes with ‘staying true’ to who you are while at the same time recognizing you’ve got to tow a line in this world.  As an obsessive seeker of truth this has always been challenging for me.  I’ve always measured my happiness by the degree to which I could ‘let go’.  Law school’s been tough because it’s forced me to ‘hold on’ for dear life.  Now, it seems, I am learning to find a balance…

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So this is Jonathan Flack’s photo of himself & a friend practicing yoga amidst finals. Jonathan will be a 2L at NYU School of Law in the fall & we are very grateful for his contribution to HolisticToolKit.com 🙂 #turninglawschoolonitshead

Income Tax.  Final Exam.  Yesterday.  9 am.

Per usual, got up around 6.  Fed & walked the dog.  Meditated a bit on all the tax-related thoughts swarming my brain (exam-specific ‘monkey mind’ if you will).

Packed a snack bag of bananas & peanut butter.  Water bottle.  And embarked on my half-mile journey to school, again per usual, on foot (helps me feel alive, think, and conserve gas not to mention parking money).

Surprise: at no point did I feel I needed coffee.  And oh, did I mention I’d been up late the night before playing music with friends?  I felt well-rested though in all regards.  Still felt tired in a sense, as the whole exam land seems to induce a sense of fatigue that is neither rational nor healthy, and I didn’t go to bed super-early.  But, my soul felt fed.  And somehow, the specter of caffein presented something more analogous to a threat to my system than a harbinger of greatness.  It felt unnecessary.  It felt like I would be going over and beyond the place I needed to be in order to take this test to my fullest, authentic ability (more on ‘authentic ability’ in a future post…).

coffee_cup_by_sammy15-d4jyg5l

So how did I do?  Won’t have any idea for weeks.  But let me tell you where I started from and why no coffee = awesome.  At the outset of my first year, (am finishing my second year of law school now), I had just detoxed from an eight year Adderall habit.  Yes, eight years.  Of a steadily increasing tolerance that gave me a lot of energy, that’s for damn sure, and a means to focus that I’d previously never known.

In short, I loved my Adderall.  And I’m glad I took it because it gave me a baseline for evaluating how strong my ability to concentrate and produce can be.  I also now understand the underbelly to focus though, when it becomes manic, or when it becomes something you are unable to turn off.  This is in general, and when it happens as a byproduct of drugs.  Because the truth (to me) is, regardless of whether it’s a substance aiding your focus/sapping your ability to chill, when you reach a certain space of “focus” you may need the ability to pull away, or ratchet down.  Now it’s hard enough when “natural” stress has gotten you there, but when you’ve got a substance inducing it, or exacerbating it, this task can become even more of a project, even more of a demon you don’t want to face.  And then things like coffee, or on the other end, even harder drugs, become all the more necessary.

So my decision to leave Adderall before law school rather than after was a hard one.  I knew I’d be shooting myself in the foot in some sense, but a voice also told me I would become stronger for having engaged in this battle without it.  What I’ve found is that by not being on it, I’ve had to work really hard to find my On switch, but I’ve also not handicapped myself from finding an Off switch.  In that sense, leaving Adderall has enabled me to find balance.

I’m not saying getting good grades would not be easier with Adderall.  God knows.  I yearn for that shit sometimes.  But I’m learning how to take that yearning for more and convert it into affirmation that what I have already and who I am at this moment is enough.

We’ll see how grades turn out.  But more than that, I can tell you right now how I feel — great.  That’s because regardless of what my exams say, I KNOW my ability to tap in as well as tap out are strong.  And this seems like a pretty sweet indicator of growth, which is what I am in school to facilitate in the first place.  And learning the law is something I want on top of that, not in exchange.