Stop Asking Where I'm From

“Do you know what makes you a real lawyer?”

Written By: humarashid - Jul• 15•13

An interesting question, isn’t it? Clarence Darrow had some thoughts on that. He famously said, “The only real lawyers are trial lawyers, and trial lawyers try cases to juries.” I like that answer.  The core of lawyering is to stand up before a judge and (in Illinois,) a panel of twelve people and argue your heart out.

And, given that we just got off a three-day jury trial in Cook County, I got to do just that very recently. Because the matter is still pending – sentencing is in September – I won’t go into the details of my first trial experience until after the case is closed. And by the time that case is closed, I’ll have at least two, likely three or four more trials under my belt. I’ll be a seasoned vet, right?

This is basically what I do every time in court before my case gets called up.

Anyway, I got a call this morning as I was preparing to get out of bed and get ready for work. It’s Ramadan, so I’m getting up around 3AM to eat a quick meal, and then I try to snatch a few hours of sleep before heading in. That’s why office days are nice; I can fall asleep after Fajr around 4AM, and not have to get up again until 8:30AM.

So I was about to get up when I got a call. It was my boss, which wasn’t all that unusual. We’re basically always texting or calling each other about various things – we’re a two-attorney, one paralegal-operation, so we’re basically tending the whole farm.

“Hey!” He sounded really cheerful and upbeat, and didn’t bother with any sort of preamble. “You know what I forgot to tell you last week?”

Last week being our jury trial on a ten-count felony indictment, five charges of Dog Fighting and five charges of Aggravated Cruelty to Animals.

“No…?” I was still kind of sleepy and it took me a minute to catch up.

“You’re a real lawyer now!” he exclaimed. “Do you know what makes you a real lawyer?”

He didn’t wait for my response, which was good, because I had no idea what made a real lawyer. I had a feeling that “being sworn in” wasn’t the answer he was looking for.

“It’s not going to law school, it’s not passing the Bar,” he was saying. “It’s not even getting sworn in. It’s not doing any of the other stuff – motions and court appearances and hearings, all of which you’ve done.”

I was awake now, and interested in his answer to the question.

“No, it’s not any of that. What makes you a real lawyer … is getting yelled at by a judge during trial!”

He sounded so pleased that I had hit this benchmark, and it was so funny, that I just burst out laughing. I was basically cackling. Because oddly enough, it’s true. I can totally see what he meant by that.

“Up until now, you’ve been . . . a wannabe.” I could hear him smiling as he said it. “And now you’re a real lawyer!”

I was still just cackling as I remembered that point in the trial, in my redirect of my witness, when I had the State on its feet, and both the State and the Judge SCREAMING at me as I sauntered back to my seat the defense table, my point having been made.

It was a hell of a tense moment, I’ll tell you that much. I’ve never been yelled at by a judge before. I mean, I’ve been yelled at while sitting with my boss, but that was kind of different. For one thing, that Judge had been yelling at the both of us, together. And he had also been simultaneously yelling at the Government. Which is good, because you never want to be the only party getting yelled at. If the Judge is mad at everyone in the room, then you’re fine.

sentence you to kiss my ass

But that moment, during trial, was the first time I’d ever been yelled at by a judge, and it was the first time I’d ever inspired such a . . . spirited reaction by the State.

And my boss was correct: in that moment, I felt like a real lawyer.

Real lawyers get screamed at, y’all, but they make their point and, just as importantly, they make their record.

Sigh.

Written By: humarashid - Jul• 12•13

We just put on an almost three-day trial in Cook County.

We lost.

I am devastated.

But still, I’m reminded of all the reasons why I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney. This is the life I chose, and I don’t regret it for a second.

I’m a little more disillusioned, but not disheartened.

And I think that’s something.

Besides, this isn’t over yet.

Since it would be rather unethical and not in my client’s best interests for me to say anything more than that (which I said just because I know a lot of you think the appeal of this blog lies in the ‘wide-eyed, bushy-tailed new lawyer struggling to hide how galloppingly inept she is’ perspective), I will reserve all posts about my first trial, and everything I learned, did, and felt until after sentencing, when the case is properly concluded and closed.

Also, those of you who think the appeal of the blog lies in that ‘wide-eyed new lawyer’ thing – you’re wrong. There is no appeal to this blog. There is nothing to see here. You all have dismal taste and I despair of you.

:|

So, yeah.

“Isn’t it funny how your dreams come true?”

Written By: humarashid - Jul• 06•13

That was what my boss said to me after I told him this story. And I couldn’t agree more – it’s pretty hilarious how my life has worked out. And continues to work out. It’s pretty hilarious how all of these things I never thought would be possible just kind of … show up.

So let me put this in context. It’s a very rainy July 3rd afternoon, and my boss and I are enjoying excellent coffee and the best brownie I’ve ever had at Two Prudential Plaza on the 200 N. block of Michigan Avenue in the city. Here’s a picture. I wanted to snap one as I was leaving so I could post it here, but it was rainy as hell and I was mainly focused on getting to my car without having my blow out morph into an unruly mass of ringlets and waves.

(Eh, I shouldn’t say that. I love the rain. I love walking in the rain. Hair be damned.)

1PP is on the left, and 2PP is on the right.

Anyway, we’re sitting inside, drinking coffee and eating brownies after our last meeting of the day. My boss is big on that sort of thing – whenever we are in the city, whenever we had a stressful day, whenever we win something that we thought had a snowball’s chance in hell, he likes to just stop everything afterward and sit down for a leisurely meal or coffee with dessert, and some pleasant, relaxed conversation. It’s a great way to kind of “come down” when adrenaline’s high and your nerves are starting to get frazzled. It’s a very useful de-stressing technique.

Hell, it was what we did after we got screamed at by an Article III judge, but that’s a blog post for another time.

Anyway.

We have office space at 2PP, even though our main offices are elsewhere, because since we do so much work in Cook County and on the federal level, it’s sometimes easier for clients to meet us in the Loop rather than coming to Olympia Fields, the burb where we’re actually located most of the time.

My boss is very sensitive to my commute, so if we have client meetings in the city and he doesn’t think it’s absolutely necessary for me to be there, he tells me not to bother, and that it’s fine. Not that I mind one way or another – it’s just about a better use of our resources, and where my time would be best spent.

But on the 3rd we both had things to do downtown, and then at the end of the day we had a client meeting at 2PP, so it made sense for me to be there once I’d wrapped up what I was doing.

So I plugged the address into my GPS and drove over there, and I’m kind of a newb when it comes to downtown Chicago, even though we moved to the burbs of Chicago when I was 10, back in 1996, and I spent three years in the Loop during law school, so you’d think I’d have a handle on this, but I don’t.

I have NO CLUE about anything having to do with geography as it relates to Chicago. You can spit neighborhood names at me – Andersonville, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Chatham, Washington Park, and none of it will mean anything to me except in terms of “will I be raped/murdered there?”

(No, seriously, whenever I have to go anywhere, including but not limited to downtown Chicago, I text @BobBlahBlawg the address and ask him if I’ll be raped there. I’m not even joking a little bit. He’s basically my most street-smart friend, anyway, and isn’t that just a little sad?)

So I plugged in the address and my GPS took me there and as soon as I saw the actual building, I just stopped. And laughed. And laughed and laughed and laughed.

Here’s the story I told my boss when I explained this.

It was December of 2011. I was six months out of law school. I had opted, for personal reasons, not to take the July bar, so I was taking the Bar for the first time in February of 2012 (I was sworn in in May 2012).

But it was December, and I was six months out and having no luck with job applications or internships or whatever else I was up to at the time. It was a shit economy for lawyers – still is, obviously – and I was feeling pretty discouraged and hopeless.

A Twitter friend of mine, who was a law student up in Minnesota at the time, was in Chicago visiting some friends, so we decided to meet up. She wanted to go to Giordano’s for a deep dish pizza, so we met up at the one in Prudential Plaza. It was a cold but cheerful night, and I schlepped into the city to meet this friend for the first time.

I found some street parking on Stetson, paid, and hurried into the restaurant, trying not to look up at the skyscrapers. In law school, I was surrounded by federal buildings and skyscrapers and both of them had taken root in my mind as Places Filled With Successful Lawyers, so basically the anti-thesis of everything I was at that point in my life. Looking up at skyscrapers when I was walking around downtown always made me sad, so I just avoided it, and pretended every building I passed was three stories tall at the most.

Three-story buildings aren’t all that arrogant and over-achieving, you see.

We had a lovely meal, and getting to know my Twitter friend boosted my spirits. She’s warm and friendly and fun and says what’s on her mind (her first words when seeing me walk in were “OMG GET OUT YOU ARE SO TINY!”), and the food was good, even though I much prefer Exchequer’s deep dish to Giordano’s. It was a nice, warm, glowing little interlude on a dark, cold night, and I almost forgot about my inferiority hang-ups for a while.

But during the meal, as she told me about all the things she was up to in 1L and I haltingly told her about some of my difficulties after graduation, I was conscious of a slow, simmering jealousy. Jealousy due to the fact that she was still a 1L with two years of security before she stepped out into the Real World, and I was out in the Real World and floundering. Badly.

But I pushed that aside, as I have a way of ruthlessly pushing aside most of my unpleasant thoughts, and brightly suggested that, since the night was still young, we find a cool bar and order desserts or coffee or whatever and listen to some live music.

We bundled up and headed out. Nights in downtown Chicago are spectacular, especially in winter. It’s so dark and cold but the Loop and the surrounding areas are alive with lights and noise and movement. It’s wonderful.

I remember being on the phone with @BobBlahBlawg, having him tell me which bar we should hit up because (1) my Chicago geography sucks and (2) as a tee-totaling Muslim girl, I don’t exactly frequent a wide variety of bars. Although I do have a couple pubs that I just love to bunker down in.

We passed 2PP, that giant skyscraper. My friend was walking next to me, happily chattering, and I was on the phone with @BobBlahBlawg. And I broke my rule: I looked up at that giant skyscraper.

All I remember was that it was shiny. It was as dark as the night sky, but it still stood out somehow because it was so damn shiny. Which I know doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but if you come to this blog looking for things that make sense, I really don’t know what to tell you.

We got to my car, parked right outside the health club on Stetson, got in, and headed over to what was actually a really fun, cute little Hipster Lite bar. But not before I passed 2PP again, looked up once more, and thought, It would be so nice to be an attorney and to walk into that building and have work to do there.

And fast forward to July of 2013, and I’m once again parking on Stetson and trotting down the sidewalk in my heels and a slightly askew skirt-suit, anxious to check in with the front desk and get up to my meeting on the 35th floor.

SubhanAllah, I really just can’t even explain the feeling. It’s why I was almost late – because I stood outside of 180 N. Stetson, aka 2 Prudential Plaza, basically cackling at how my most random little dreams have such a strange way of coming true.

*tumbleweeds*

Written By: humarashid - Jun• 26•13

The reason it’s been kind of slow around here is because I came to a point a while back (February?) where I decided that there would be no more posts about open cases, unless they were VERY GENERAL posts. Like, more about a concept, in which case I could talk at length about a concept-experience and the mention of the case was basically tangential and not even all that necessary.

So I’ll only be talking about cases after we close them. And while we’ve closed several interesting ones since that point in early 2013, the going is slow. Because, you know, these are criminal cases. They take a while.

Well.

They don’t always take a while. You can catch a case at the prelim stage and show up for about three or four more dates and then plead the guy and be done with it. That way, it didn’t take long at all. But that’s obviously not the right way to do it; you have to do the work. So our cases take longer. Maybe eight months, or ten, or a year.

And we also have bad luck in some cases. These are cases that have been set for trial, where my boss and our paralegal, Nicole, have shown up with their trial boxes, ready to go, only to find out that it wasn’t going on that day due to … fill in the blanks. (Seriously, there have been some bizarre turns in some of our open cases.) So some of the open ones have been open for two years. One of our cases is in its sixth year! So that’s super special. (Even the prosecutors in that room roll their eyes when that case is mentioned – they want it gone as bad as we do. Unity. It’s a beautiful thing, guys.)

So while we’ve closed some pretty damn interesting ones and I WILL be blogging about those, the going is kind of slow, especially with regard to the cases I find the most compelling for various legal and emotional reasons.

But that will pick up. Once I get these five federal motions in limine out of the way and put together mitigation packets for two of our open cases and a plea presentation in another one, then I’ll start blogging in depth about some of the way cool stuff I’ve been working on that closed recently.

;)

Eh, you guys don’t care.

It’s okay; even I only barely care.

:|

Oops.

Lessons in Running a Successful Blog:

Step 1. Don’t Give a Shit About When You’ll Blog Or About What.

Step 2. ?????

Step 3. Profit.

:|

IDK, seems air-tight to me, you guys.

 

I had lunch with THE Andrea Lyon a month ago!

Written By: humarashid - Jun• 04•13

I didn’t blog about this yet, did I? I know a lot of you (a LOT of you) were very curious about it, and also very excited for me, which was very sweet of you. When I mentioned it on Twitter, I got all sorts of replies from people who greatly admired her work (um, how could you not?), and people who had been fortunate enough to have her as a teacher, and others who had listened to her lectures at the Clarence Darrow Death Penalty Defense College, a week-long program held at DePaul University.

Fun aside: my boss, Raymond Wigell, is teaching there again this year. I think this is his … sixth year doing so? Don’t quote me on that, though. All I know is, he’s out of the office that week, so my time will be divided up nicely between handling whatever morning court calls I have, and then spending the rest of the day throwing a Kanye West dance party at the office. Obviously.

Anyway, that’s where he is right now, as I finish editing this post that I wrote two weeks ago. And his absence is also why our conference room table looks like this right now, because I am in incorrigible slob when I’m working hard on something (many somethings), and our paralegal Nicole is super sweet and doesn’t discourage me or mess with My Process, as I refer to my general ineptitude.

conference

I can’t be trusted, basically.

So anyway, in the first week of May, I met Prof. Lyon for lunch at a sushi place on Michigan Ave, just a stone’s throw from our respective law schools. (Remember, she’s a professor, associate dean of clinical programs, and the director of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases at DePaul, which is right across the street from my own John Marshall.)

When I mentioned my plans to meet up with her on Twitter, the question I received most frequently was, “What are you wearing?!” And that kind of made me laugh because … I hadn’t thought anything of it. :P I was thinking more along the lines of, Crap! I have to read everything anyone ever wrote about Andrea Lyon! I have to prepare a list of questions about … stuff! And things! And I should bring a notepad and a pen to take notes during lunch!

You know, because I’m an obsessive trainwreck, and kind of a major fangurl when it comes to awesome attorneys.

(Embarrassingly, I still fangurl over my boss all the time. He takes it all in stride.)

Anyway, I hadn’t given much thought/importance to what I was wearing. I figured … court clothes. If it was suitable for court, I’d wear it to lunch. I was going back to the office afterward, anyway, so it was all good.

I ended up wearing a paisley printed black and beige silk dress with a black cropped sweater, black tights, and neutral/beige heels. Plus my favorite emerald silk coat (because it was kind of brisk that day). So that should satisfy any curiosity on that end.

Anyway, lunch was lovely. Prof. Lyon was a little early, and I was a little late (due to a freak accident on 290 like TEN minutes from the city, which was pretty bad and left only one lane open and I’m sitting there like OH NOES I FEEL SO BAD FOR EVERYONE THAT GOT HURT and GRAH GET OUT OF MY WAY EVERYONE I HAVE THINGS TO DO). So I felt bad that she’d been kept waiting for me.

ALSO. I parked in the Palmer House garage, which was a nightmare. I mean, I paid next to nothing to park there, but DAMN, those little aisles are narrow. And I only have a Camry Hybrid, which is not a very big car, and there were spots where I had to reverse a bit before moving along because I wasn’t about to chance it. And even then I was positive I was going to scrape half my car off on the cement walls. Which had clear scrape marks from the countless other cars, I’m sure, that sustained quite a bit of damage when rounding those turns. So that was encouraging, and I’m never parking there again. Parking in the Loop is such a nightmare in general. This was why @BobBlahBlawg was always in charge of the city driving back when we were in law school.

Anyway, all of that was obviously worth it, and then some, since I was having lunch with the woman that basically played a huge hand in inspiring me to become a CDL in the first place.

Prof. Lyon said something interesting, though, on that note, that made me think. She said, “When I was in law school, I didn’t have any role models. There weren’t other female defense attorneys for me to look up to.”

And that gave me pause, because, really, I was quite lucky to have someone like Andrea Lyon to read about and admire while I was figuring things out and trying to make my way through law school without killing anyone. She really was an inspiration. Reading about her helped me get a really clear idea of what I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, what I wanted to stand for.

We had a lovely afternoon, and Prof. Lyon asked me lots of questions and let me ask her lots of questions. Topics ranged widely, from law school to practice to religion to love to where I should look in the city for an apartment. She gave me lots of advice, both personal and professional, which I found very, very useful. I don’t really want to divulge any more in terms of specifics, because it just feels … wrong to do so. So, sorry. But I will try to speak to more general bits of advice that I think most people in my situation can benefit from, without betraying specifics.

I’ve made no secret here of the fact that I’m a new attorney. I have six months of experience as a criminal defense attorney, and even though I’ve handled a lot of cases and gotten my hands dirty with just about every single one of our open files, six months is still pretty damn young.

So when it comes to older attorneys who are willing to give me some advice, I always listen and remember it and soak it up like a sponge, basically. I’m really lucky when it comes to my boss, because he turns everything into a teaching moment and has lots of patience for my questions. So I listen to my boss any chance I get, and I listen to any other attorney that takes the time to impart an insight here and there. Heck, I’ve even gotten (and appreciated) pep talks from opposing counsel, which I found valuable, not to mention kind.

I’m kidding, I’m kidding. :P All my love to the lone prosecutor who got horribly lost on the Interwebz and found this blog.

Anyway.

So being able to sit down with Andrea Lyon and ask her questions about her experiences and have her advise me on any number of different topics and concerns was just great.

As far as being a new CDL, there aren’t many people I know personally that I can turn to for advice on certain topics. No one in my extended family is an attorney; very few of my friends, other than a handful of friends from law school, are attorneys. I’m fortunate enough to have a network of CDL friends that I “met” on Twitter, so I know they’re always there if I need help, and that means a lot.

But there aren’t a whole lot of people I’m close to who live this sort of life. People who sit at the office and look at photographs from a grisly murder scene while sipping their morning coffee. People who flip through hundreds of images of contraband pornography and do jail and lock-up visits and watch people they’ve come to care for get cuffed and taken into custody right in front of them.

*shrug*

It’s kind of a strange life, I guess, now that I try to think about it from a distance.

So one of the questions I asked her was about that played out “women and work-life balance” idea. I fucking hate that shit. People (often men) have been talking about whether women can “have it all” for decades.

I’m so. goddamn. BORED. of that stupid topic.

How about we stop pontificating about whether or not women who devote themselves to their career do so at the expense of their children, or whether professional women who take time off for kids do so at the expense of their careers and the profession at large?

(My favorite is hearing male friends who are doctors talk about how women doctors/researchers are negatively affecting the field because they enter it, leave it to have babies, and the research they’re working on gets left in a lurch or whatever. Like, fuck off. You did NOT just blame the entire state of medical research and whatever problems you believe it has on women. Miss me with that shit.)

So even though I HATE that women and work-life balance nonsense, and I hate that it merits so much discussions and fills pages of magazines and blogs with sanctimonious judgments and sweeping generalizations and bitter condemnations, I asked Prof. Lyon a question sort of along those lines.

Because I was curious. And because I wanted some advice that would at least in part help arm me against what I perceived would become very real problems in my future.

But only if, you know, I ever manage to successfully club a man unconscious and drag him back to my lair. Because, given how gallopingly awkward I am, let’s face it, that’s the only way I’m going to end up with anyone. Let’s just be real for a second here.

My question was basically about whether or not being a trial attorney adversely affected the relationships in her life.

The answer to this is obvious: yes, absolutely. I mean, how could it not? I wasn’t asking a yes or no question, though, even though I phrased it that way.

What I wanted to know, more specifically, was how a woman like Andrea Lyon dealt with her work – that she loved – negatively affecting people she cared about and loved.

Because that’s one of my fears. That being a(n associate) trial attorney will cause me to occasionally ignore and dismiss and be short with people that I care about, whether they’re friends or family. I can see myself missing a family dinner party or something because I had a jury in the back and was waiting on a verdict. I can easily see myself forgetting a close friend’s birthday because I’m up to my eyeballs in trial prep material. I can totally see myself neglecting a husband and barely seeing him for a week or two straight as I put on a trial.

You know, if that whole clubbing some unsuspecting gentleman over the head and dragging him back to my lair and threatening him into putting a ring on it actually works out for me. If I ever happen to grab a knuckle-dragger and turn him into some sort of a husband, I can easily see myself ignoring him while preparing for trial.

And I’m still new enough that I haven’t been through this yet. I will soon; as my boss told me not very long ago, by the time the leaves change, I’ll have several trials under my belt. We’re kind of up to our eyeballs in it right now, so that’s pretty cool.

But I know that this will probably come up (it’s already starting to),and I wanted to know how I could best deal with it. So I obviously wanted to know how Prof. Lyon dealt with it.

She was very candid in her response, and some of the things she said made me laugh. What it basically came down to, she said, was preparing the people in your life ahead of time. Letting them know that you’d basically be really short on time and temper for the next couple of weeks or whatever, and that you were sorry, and that was the size of it. I found her advice very, very helpful.

All in all, I had a wonderful time. It was a lunch date I’m positive I’ll remember for a long time to come. I consider myself so fortunate that I was able to spend some time with an excellent attorney who was one of my professional inspirations.

And then as I was driving back to the office after Prof. Lyon walked me back to the Palmer House and I miraculously managed to get my car out of there, LOL, I thought to myself that I was lucky in so many, many ways.

Because I happen to work for an excellent rockstar of an attorney, too. And I have lunch with him almost every day. And every day he teaches me a dozen new things, and shows me a dozen other things, and always takes the time to answer my questions and help me think things through and analyze them the way I should be. He is a very generous, nurturing, skilled man and teacher who loves what he does, and more than anyone else at this point, even the stuff-of-legal-legends Andrea Lyon, Raymond Wigell is my role model.

I can look to the two of them and see exactly what I want to be in my professional (and to some extent, personal) life – what I’m working every day to become.

I can look at Andrea Lyon and see the attorney I want to be. A female attorney who is taken seriously, and even feared. Who doesn’t use her femininity as a crutch, nor has it used against her as a handicap. (Or rather, one who doesn’t CONSENT to having her femininity used against her like it’s a handicap.) Someone that is determined and strong in the face of something terrible and scary and soul-gutting and heart-wrenching, who just keeps fighting the good fight, day in and day out. Someone whose attention to detail and commitment to this lifestyle, and yes, it’s a lifestyle, as I’m learning, seems unflagging. Someone who takes the time to talk to and help younger, less experienced attorneys and gifts them with the benefit of her tremendous knowledge. Someone who is an absolute legend in our world.

And I can look at Raymond Wigell and see the same thing. I can see the kind of attorney I want to be. Someone who’s been around the block and gotten his teeth kicked in a time or two or twelve thousand, who always rallies and bounces back like it’s nothing. Someone that I’ve watched go into very tense, very stressful situations where it looked like we didn’t have a shot in hell, but with all the eagerness and determination in the world. Someone who, despite how awful things may seem, or how poorly a situation develops for us, turns to me and insulates me from it, and turns it into a teaching moment so that I can grow and learn from it instead of being bulldozed by it. Someone who will tip me into the deep end of the pool, but who would never let me sink and drown.

Someone who cares about every single client that comes to our door, who loses sleep over them, who works tirelessly for them. And most importantly, someone who wakes up in the morning to do the same thing he’s done for almost the past forty years, and still has so much fun doing it.

Between the two of them, I really couldn’t have asked for better role models. (Although I do repeat here, just in case it helps anyone else, that I do my best not to admire people themselves so much as the excellent qualities they have. It’s just not fair – it’s a hell of a lot to be expected to live up to. And people are flawed, and sometimes have low moments and bad days. I find it’s so much more helpful to my personal growth to admire and emulate the wonderful qualities I see in other people, rather than model myself off of them or hold them up as some kind of ideal to aspire to.)

Despite that caveat about emulating good qualities rather than emulating people, I couldn’t be happier and more excited to come into work every day and have these two attorneys (and many other excellent CDLs) to look up to.

So.

Yeah.

I’ve got it pretty good.

Pretty damn good.

And I hope, two or three decades down the line, I can help, teach, and inspire other young lawyers the way these two attorneys have and continue to help, teach, and inspire me.

Beware, young attorneys.

Until then, I’ll just be here in my little corner, quietly living the dream.

Y’all know where to find me.

So I joined a gym for the first time ever.

Written By: humarashid - May• 12•13

You guys.

I joined a gym.

:|

An actual gym.

Not like that fake gym that I joined that got raided by the FBI a week later.

@BobBlahBlawg STILL hasn’t let me live that down.

No, no, this is a real, legit gym. With treadmills and weird stair machines and more weight machines than I’ve ever seen in my life. And that works out really well, because I’m lifting weights.

:D

Yup! Your little Hoomie is lifting weights and totally bulking up. BEEFCAKE!

Beefcake.

Anyway, I’m pretty fancy now, you guys. I mean, I don’t want to alarm any of you, but, really, I’m pretty damn fancy now. I have joined a legit gym and I have a personal trainer (who doesn’t mock me for being flabby and incompetent), and I have a nutritionist. Ugh. I’m going to get so ripped.

BEEFCA- Eh, you guys know the drill by now.

Anyway, joining a gym was something I’d been meaning to do for quite some time, but nothing really felt right. And then I found a gym in my area that’s a little different from the others, and I found that I really liked the atmosphere there and then I got a Groupon for it and everything came up Milhouse.

I’ve never, ever belonged to a gym before. I did hot yoga for a month, so I had to actually join a studio for that, but that was the only time I was ever in any kind of actual workout environment. Before that, I’d done yoga on my own, but nothing regular. Kind of whenever I felt like it and that feeling outweighed my feeling that I’d really enjoy falling asleep on the couch.

As BobBlahBlawg can well attest, my workouts are a little … odd. Basically, I pick out one of the many workout DVDs I own. It could be cardio, it could be something more intense like P90X or the Shred, it could be a dance-based workout, it could be pilates or body-strength-training. I’ll pick something out. I’ll change into my super adorable workout clothes. I’ll drag out my pink yoga mat. I’ll put the DVD into my PS3. I’ll sit on my yoga mat and watch the DVD. I’ll fall asleep on my cushy yoga mat. And then I’ll wake up when the DVD has ended and is just replaying the menu music in an annoying loop. Then I will get up, eject the DVD, change out of my workout clothes, and consider it mission accomplished.

:|

THAT has basically always been what my workout consisted of.

During law school, it would piss BobBlahBlawg the hell off. He is a very disciplined and body-conscious man, you guys. He was always drinking like 96 oz of water a day and popping glucosamine pills and hitting the gym and doing P90x and running six miles a night and stuff.

He’d come to school and be like, yeah, I ran twelve miles last night and found Jesus. And I’d be like, …I watched a gentleman run real fast in a commercial and I broke out in a bit of a sweat so I decided to take the rest of the night off.

And he’d have to valiantly fight the urge to throw me out the window.

But the thing was, as awful as this sounds, I never really felt like I needed it. I know that doesn’t make sense. We all need to work out and be healthy. But there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I could climb five flights of stairs without feeling winded. I could do five unmodified push-ups. I could chase a puppy down the street without losing my breath until said puppy was being snuggled against my chest.

Plus, as far as clothing sizes go, I wear size 0 dress pants, size 00P blazers, and my jeans usually come from the little girls’ department. So I wasn’t all that concerned about losing weight.

And then, post law school, while I was studying for the Bar, I gained 5lbs. A little odd, especially since I had spent 2000-2011 weighing exactly 101.5lbs. A little odd, but not too terrifying.

Then, when I passed the Bar and was sworn in, I had gained another 5lbs. And then by the time I was hired at my current job, I’d packed on another 5lbs.

So that was pretty terrifying. Especially for someone who’s always been able to eat whatever she wanted in whatever quantity without gaining weight. To be fair, I can still eat whatever I want in whatever quantity – but I can’t really get off the 114lb mark. And I know that’s a healthy weight for someone who’s only 5’1″. I know that. That was the first thing my nutritionist said, actually. She was like, I don’t want you losing any weight unless you truly feel uncomfortable at 114.

But anyway, that weight gain has kind of been on my mind and was part of what spurred me into seriously considering a gym membership.

Another thing is that I’m pretty weak. I have the muscle definition of overcooked linguini. On the many occasions that I do my damnedest to beat BobBlahBlawg up because he is terrible, he just laughs because it tickles. So, that’s pretty weak, you guys.

So I wanted to build some muscle, too. I wanted to lift weights because strength training + cardio helps melt the pounds, sure, but strength training builds muscle. And I’m not worried about it at all, or even at all cautious about it, because I know that women don’t bulk up like men do, not unless they REALLY try specifically to achieve that look. So all those “but if you lift weight you’ll look masculine!” comments kind of slide off my back. (Also they’re pretty stupid in general. And what’s wrong with a masculine-looking woman? Nothing! How about we let women look any damn way they please?)

So I wanted to build a little muscle because I obviously wanted more of a toned look. I know I don’t look like it, but I’m pretty flabby. I’m a very flabby sort of super-skinny. It’s weird, it really is, because you can’t tell. But I can feel it, and I wanted to change that.

Also, there was another thing that kind of pushed me into the gym. It’s related to the building of lean muscles – but it’s focused on their use.

This is something I don’t really talk about, but it affects me more than I would like it to.

When I’m leaving various courthouses in Cook County and the outlying counties, I get followed to my car.

A lot.

I get followed to my car by asshole men trying to holler.

And it terrifies the living shit out of me.

It never happens at 26th & Cali. Partly because there is a separate garage for attorneys, and the street is always crawling with cops who try to keep people moving, so there’s really very little opportunity for some asswipe to try something. Also, I’ve never been at 26th & Cali by myself – I’m always with my boss, and he always parks in that garage, too, obviously, so we always walk together. No one tries to look at me cross-eyed when I’m with my boss.

It was the same way back in law school, actually. I went to John Marshall, in the Loop, and I’d frequently head out during the day for little errands or to get lunch or to meet friends at nearby DePaul, whatever. And I was taking the train, so there was a morning walk from Union and an evening walk to Union.

And I noticed that every damn time I went out on my own, just wandering about the Loop, I’d get cat-called or touched or harassed in some way. Like, every damn time.

But whenever I stepped out with BobBlahBlawg – which was a lot, since we were basically inseparable – no one ever did a damn thing. Which made sense. BobBlahBlawg was, at the time, a 6’3″ bearded Scottish dude. (He’s still 6’3″ and from what I hear, he’s still Scottish, but he’s no longer bearded.) Anyway, he’s a tall, shiny building of a man. He kept creepers away from me.

But I often find myself walking around alone these days, even if I’m just walking from the courthouse doors to the parking lot. And I get followed to my car a LOT.

And, as embarrassing as this is to admit, it triggers panic attacks.

It’s absolutely terrifying.

My thoughts always tangle in a crazy jumble: will this guy go away if I ignore him? Oh, no, he’s just trying to get closer. Is he going to touch me? Fuck, he keeps asking me a question. He sounds angrier since I’m not answering him. I better answer him. Crap. I was nice but dismissive and he’s not taking the hint. Ok, I’m walking faster. DAMN IT SO IS HE. Can I be rude to him? Will he hit me? Chase me? How far away is my car? Why didn’t I wear flats today? I can’t run in heels! What if he grabs me before I can get in my car? Ok, just a few more steps, almost there. WHY WON’T HE GO AWAY. Ok, I’m going to tell him to please leave me alone. Pleasedontfreakoutatmepleasedontfreakoutatme. There’s my car. Few more steps. I can make it. UNLOCK, MOTHERFUCKER. Go away, go away. Oh, thank God, he’s gone.

And by that point, I’m basically sprinting to my car, diving in and almost closing the door on my leg, and sitting there, breathing hard and resting my head on the wheel and trying not to cry.

Like, a lot of the time, there is ostensibly no reason to be as terrified as I am in that moment. It’s always broad daylight. It’s always a packed lot. There’s always at least one or two other people walking either toward or away from the courthouse. Only men who WANT to get caught would actually try something here.

But try telling me that. For whatever reason, this basically triggers a panic attack every damn time. Maybe it’s not so much the situation itself, but the knowledge that if I were in a different place, a little more isolated, a little darker, and this guy DID try something, I probably wouldn’t be able to fight him off. Because I’m small and alone and, as I said earlier, pretty weak.

So I had more of those little panic attacks than I care to admit, and then I was like, no, fuck it, I’m joining a gym. I’m getting stronger. And almost as importantly, I’m gaining some confidence – the confidence that comes from knowing that if, God forbid, naudhubillah, if something like this were to happen, I would have a pretty good chance of being able to defend myself.

So I joined a gym.

And now I’m learning how to lift weights and even though it’s only been a few sessions, I can see myself getting stronger. My upper arms that were a touch on the flabby side, enough to make me just a wee tiny bit self-conscious when I shucked my blazer? They’re more toned now. The pronounced flab isn’t there, at least.

I can feel my metabolism revving up again, as weird as that sounds. Slowly, but I can feel it anyway. I’m generally pretty in tune with these little changes that take place in my body. I’m not back to where I used to be, that’s for sure, but I can feel the subtle changes in my metabolism. I need to start consistently taking the supplements I was told to take, and I’m sure I’ll start to see even more of a difference in my general health. (Although supplements tend to take longer to manifest any sort of difference, I’ve noticed. Especially omega-3s; I have to take a lot of those consistently for a few weeks before I can actually point to some tangible difference.)

That’s been pretty cool. I’ve always known, just based on years of watching my body do its thing, that I’m the kind of person that can lose fat pretty easily. I’ve stayed petite all these years without even really trying, and now that I’ve packed on a few pounds and have started actually doing something to whittle them down, it’s just nice to be met with success.

(And I’m very, very grateful that I can usually see results pretty quickly. I know how fortunate I am that my body works that way. I’m very grateful for it.)

So, yeah.

Another benefit I’ve noticed is that it seems to be a great way to get my endorphins up and force my stress levels down.

Now, I love my job. More than anything. I’m living my dream every single day. It’s a pleasure. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful. It’s a good kind of stress, and I’m fortunate to be experiencing the stress that accompanies something I love this much, but still. It’s stress.

And while I’m VERY good at managing stress, and have developed several very strong coping skills over the years that I use fairly consistently and successfully to keep my stress levels down, I’m always open to new tactics. I mean, if my only coping skill when it came to stress was to sit and sip my tea, that would get kind of boring after a while. So I like to mix things up, and that’s always worked well for me.

Going to the gym is just another stress relief tool for me, and I really appreciate it as such because it’s a double win: I get to lower my stress levels, AND get healthier (and, let’s not lie, even hotter than I obviously already am). Heh. I usually just start up an audiobook on my Overdrive app and get to work. An hour later, I’m relaxed (and sweating) and happy and heading home to a hot bath with epsom salt. It’s great.

I was concerned at first that I might not have enough time. I’ve been with my boss for more than five months, and in that time I’ve been responsible for more and more work. Obviously. That’s not a complaint; it’s just a statement. So my concern was that, with juggling all the awesome stuff I get to do at work, would I have time to make two sessions a week with my trainer, plus the one or two “homework” workouts I’m supposed to be doing?

But I’ve found that when something is important to me, I make time for it. Or the time just kind of seems to be there. However you want to frame that.

And I’ve had several sessions so far, while trying to juggle social commitments, random little work emergencies, and an ass-ton of motions. It’s been fine. It’s been great, actually.

(Plus, my self-satisfaction at being fancy and being able to handle all this rampaging adult-ness is pretty through the roof, you guys. Not gonna lie.)

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. I identified a little problem in my life, realized that I could correct that problem while reaping benefits in other areas of my life, and I took the plunge. I was resistant to the idea for several months, as I’ve mentioned, but I’ve kind of always found that if I was resistant to something, it was a pretty good indication that I just needed to do it.

;)

So now, when random workout-minded bros ask me, “You work out? Ugh, do you even lift?” I can be like YEAH BITCH I LIFT.

 

That’s basically exactly what I look like when I lift, too.

Impostor Syndrome – Anyone Else Have It?

Written By: humarashid - Apr• 19•13

No, I’m seriously asking: does anyone else suffer from Impostor Syndrome? Because I have a feeling a lot of us do. I know I do, and if any of y’all have any tips as to how to deal with it, I’m all ears.

Now, obviously, we all carry around baggage, and this isn’t going to devolve into some Woe is I post about how I’m such a special snowflake and I need to be wrapped up in cotton and protected from the world. (If anything, with my rabid wounded bird tendencies, I’m far more likely to wrap someone ELSE up in cotton and protect them from the world!)

But I’m honestly asking, because I suffer greatly from Impostor Syndrome and I’m hoping it’s something I’ll grow out of.

I think a big part of it is that I’m a South Asian Muslim girl (hah, notice how I still refer to myself as a girl? Calling myself a woman just seems … weird and inauthentic). I’m the daughter of traditional South Asians and fairly conservative Muslims.

And South Asian culture, at least what I’ve seen and experienced all my life, seems to demand an almost … infantilization of girls. We’re the ones that are most often sheltered and protected from all the unpleasant aspects of life – protected by our fathers, who then transfer that responsibility to our husbands.

I mean, ideally, that’s how our cultural norms would have it. The reality of the situation often doesn’t play out that way because South Asian girls tend to have, you know, agency and ideas and individuality. Troublesome, pesky little things like that.

But I’ve had to deal with that pretty much all my life. Anything that was even slightly unpleasant or slightly resembling work, my dad wanted to do it, or he made my brother do it. And obviously, that’s very sweet and it was helpful, too, because I got to focus on things I wanted to do, like school or reading or writing or any of my other pursuits.

However, I’m sure I don’t need to get into all the ways that such treatment is intensely problematic. The biggest reason for me, personally, is that being treated that way puts me in a position where the big decisions in my life are made by someone else, and the unpleasant things are dealt with by someone else. So when I had to make a big decision, I didn’t necessarily have all the tools and life experience to do so. And when I had to deal with something unpleasant, from being rear-ended on the way to school or being followed to my car by some jackass who didn’t understand how NOT into him I was, I didn’t always know how to handle it.

Which leads me back to the idea of infantilization, which in this case meant that I felt like an Impostor Adult for a very long time after I legally became an adult. And I still feel like that, but I’m much better now.

But screw that, because no one cares about my personal life. That’s boring. Anyway, I have this same dilemma professionally.

As devotees will remember, I’m a criminal defense attorney. I represent people accused of crimes – some not to so terrible, and some pretty damn terrible. And in every case, the plaintiff is the State (or the federal government). And that means that I’m the one basically keeping someone else’s ass out of jail. And sometimes I can’t, and I’ve had that happen, in which case I just try to get them out of jail as soon as possible.

But that’s basically what I do.

So what I’m saying is, the stakes are pretty high. I’ve had a client taken into custody right before me. It’s hard, even though you prepare for it and you prepare the client for it as a possibility. I’ve sat across a small table from a man and watched him sign away the next thirty years of his life.

The stakes are fucking high.

And it’s generally not a good idea for me to have to deal with a bout of Impostor Syndrome when all this is going on and when I’m trying to stay focused.

Impostor Syndrome is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when you walk into a room, prepared and ready to do your job and deal with whatever curveballs are flung at you, and all of a sudden some little voice in your head decides to be an asshole.

What are you doing here? This little voice wants to know. Who do you think you’re fooling? You don’t belong here. You might look the part, in your dresses and blazers and heels, but you’re just a child playing dress up. Look at the rest of the people here – the men in their suits with their silk ties, the women with their briefcases and neatly pulled back hair. They’re the ones who actually know what they’re doing. You? What do you know? You probably wrote your motion in crayon, didn’t you? You don’t belong here. You’re just faking. Faker!

The voice sounds a lot like Lucille Bluth, you guys.

Anyway, I hear this voice every single damn time I walk into court. Which is dumb. Because I even hear this voice when literally all I have to do is walk up to the podium, state my name and the fact that my client is in custody or out on bond, and ask for a date.

Like, damn. That’s not normal! What in the world is wrong with me?!

You’d think that after having done this for a while, and loving my job and (according to my boss, because what do I know) doing well at it, I’d have developed a little bit of self confidence. At least, enough of it that I can tell that little voice to piss off, because I’m awesome and competent and know things, dammit.

 

You’d think so, but no. Not even the angry!Doctor can inspire that sort of confidence with his all his yelling about cleverness.

Oddly, it rarely happens at the office. When I sit and type out long, detailed motions, I’m in my element. I’m fine. I know what I’m doing (generally) and I know that no matter what, even if I mess up, my boss will nudge me in the right direction and then send me along on my merry way to fix it. So that’s fine.

But get me in court, or hanging out with other attorneys, and I’m convinced that I’ve got the legal know-how of a 3yo.

 

I’m convinced I’m not the only one that feels this way.

I have friends that are doing their residency and stuff right now, and I’m pretty sure that they get up there in front of an actual patient and think, AAA IT SHOULD BE A CRIME FOR ME TO EVEN TOUCH THIS PERSON I WILL PROBABLY ACCIDENTALLY GIVE THEM EBOLA RETROVIRUS HERPES AND A BROKEN LEG. I have friends that are journalists and writers, and the very first time someone ‘in the industry’ took on one of their pieces, they’d quietly flip out, too, suddenly convinced that their well-thought out and researched stories were on par with See Spot Run.

I’m positive we’ve all been there in one way or another.

I guess I’m just wondering if it gets easier. I’ve been making court appearances for months now, and even when it’s something a trained monkey could do, I second-guess myself. I always get a handle on it before I even step out of my car, to be honest, but still. It’s odd and disconcerting that the little voice is even there – on the small things. I can understand it being there if I’m doing something huge and complicated and totally out of my league.

Whatever.

Like with everything else in my life, I have a game plan to defeat this. I think. Because that’s how I am: I identify problems and then I figure out ways to conquer them. I kind of obsess about it until I am able to figure something out, which works well but makes me a little neurotic, I think.

My game plan is simple.

  1. I’m going to keep learning everything I can by watching other attorneys (namely by boss, who is a rock star, and Andrea Lyon, on those occasions when I’m fortunate enough to be within a ten foot radius of her), and by reading whatever I can get my hands on. And I’m definitely going to keep practicing and stretching my limits and figuring out what I can do, and getting help when I need it.
  2. I’m going to tell the little voice to STFU.
  3. Profit?
  4. No, no, kidding. That won’t work.
  5. Damn it, I wish that would work.
  6. What was I talking about?
  7. Oh, yes, keep learning and keep reading and keep watching and asking for help.
  8. Keep the hell out of my own head. If I’m truly focusing on the case at hand, then, really, I shouldn’t be able to focus on that stupid Lucille Bluth voice about how I’m a faker. If I’m truly focused, I need to be just that: truly focused. And that means thinking about the case and my client and possible curveballs, and staying out of my own head in any way that’s not productive.
  9. Every time I leave court, or a similar place where the little voice often invites itself, I need to take a few minutes to just sit in my car and review what happened. I need to take those few minutes to let myself focus on how well I did my job just moments ago, and how nothing terrible happened. And even if something terrible happened, I was able to handle it. (That happened, too, in the past, but that’s a post for another time.) That kind of positive, self-affirming Monday morning quarter-backing can potentially be really helpful, I think, and can go a long way toward getting rid of that jerk voice.
  10. Every time that voice pops up, I’m just going to remember sitting in my car, patting myself on the back for little victories. Before long, that little voice should fade away.

One of the first things my boss told me when I joined his firm was to savor the little victories. Because as defense attorneys, we don’t get many of those. I wish I’d taken that advice to heart right away, because it would have saved me some stress and heartache and fear and tears. But at the same time, I don’t know that I could have taken that advice to heart without having gotten my teeth kicked in by a judge, or having had the fear of God put into me by whatever curveballs were whipped right at my head, you know?

Sometimes, you just have to live through shit before you can truly understand the advice someone gave you about it all.

But I did live through some stressful incidents like that, and I had my small victories even in those cases. And my boss’s words came back to me: you have to savor the little victories. And not only that, but he said that sometimes you have to create victories from things you might otherwise have thought were losses.

I remember the very first time I was sent alone on a case and it was something terribly simple that went terribly awry, and I handled it and managed to avoid having my client taken into custody by desperately, strenuously prying a date from the Judge’s vice-like grip on his packed calendar.

I remember standing on the courthouse steps on that cold January morning, and calling my boss. I was breathless and convinced I’d bungled it all up somehow. (Even though, objectively, I hadn’t. Objectively, I’d done a kick-ass job, but I couldn’t see it at that point.) He was in federal court in Indiana that morning, gearing up for a change of plea that was to happen in literally less than 15 minutes, and he still took the time to listen to me and calm me down and get me off my ledge.

And he said something that I won’t soon forget – something that comes back to me when I’m having trouble seeing the small victories I’ve created.

He said, “Huma, breathe. I know you’re stressed. I know this was a bad situation, but remember, we knew there was a chance – a very small one, but still – that this could happen. And you dealt with it. He’s not in jail. He walked out of the courthouse with you. We still have some ways to fight this. I know you’re feeling upset because it’s not the outcome you’d hoped for, but remember: any time you can set a date, any time you can just get some time to take a fucking breath, that’s a win. That’s a win!”

Any time you can set a date, it’s a win.

Even when the situation feels like this.

And I’ll tell you, when my boss put it that way, it clicked in my head. Any time you can set a date and breathe, it’s a win.

I mean, I didn’t get it right away. I was still upset. I drove to a nearby McDonalds, bought a bunch of cookies, and ate them in my car. So yeah. Not a proud moment for your friendly neighborhood Hoomster.

But when I sat down and evaluated the situation (and geared up for the next stage of the fight), it did click. He was right. I bought my guy another week of freedom. And I got the Judge down from 40 days straight in prison, to 20 days, which meant, since they’d be served day-for-day, that he’d spend 10 days in jail. So even though the Judge was angling for jail time, I’d go into sentencing next time knowing that I’d at least gotten the Judge down from what he was considering giving my client. Sure, he could pull a 180 on me and go back to the 40 straight, and that would totally be within his discretion, but even though he wasn’t keen on my defense position, I had a gut feeling that this Judge was the kind that would remember what he said to me and would abide by it. He just struck me as that type.

In, like, the brief (10-15 minutes?) time that I spent up there, talking to him.

Still.

(And I was right. So there’s that.)

But that “little victories” thing my boss tried to drum into my head is absolutely on the money, and I think it’s a good way to deal with Impostor Syndrome. So every time that voice pops up, I’m going to take it as a sign that I’m not FULLY focused on my case, because if I was, I wouldn’t register that voice. And after I’m done with my court call, I’m going to sit in my car and review it and think about everything I did right, and how I handled the unexpected. And whenever that voice pops up again, I’m going to remember my little victories and force it back.

Because I’ve got to stop  walking into court like this:

And start walking into court like this:

 

 

 

 

Excuse me while I have the fuzzies.

Written By: humarashid - Apr• 10•13

Ugh. You guys. You’re going to have to bear with me, because I’m feeling kind of good right now. I have the warm fuzzies.

<3

Well, either that, or I need to start wearing diapers.

Anyway.

This is going to be one of those posts where I ramble on about something that most people would probably rightfully consider small and meaningless. (So, basically, it’s like every other post on this blog.)

We have this one client who is currently in custody. He’s the one I’m really excited about – the federal trial in the Northern District of Indiana. Man, I’m so stoked.

My boss has been working this case for a while. He wasn’t the first (private) attorney on the case, but he stepped in to “negotiate” a plea agreement. I put “negotiate” in quotes because from what I’ve seen as I’ve worked this case with him is that there isn’t much negotiation going on in the Northern District of Indiana. At all. It’s the government’s way or the highway.

And it reminds me of what my boss told me once, on a prior occasion and unrelated to this case: “Your greatest power as a defense attorney comes from five little words: Fuck you, I’m trying it.”

So, we’re trying it.

But this client is … interesting.

He’s incredibly smart, and he’s familiar with a good deal of the procedural steps that have affected his case and their implications. He’s like-able and he’s shrewd and he just “gets it” really quickly. With some clients we have to sit there forever and explain everything to them over and over before it clicks. (Which is fine. There’s nothing wrong with that.)

This client, let’s call him Thomas O’Malley, is not like that. He gets it right away, and that makes for great discussions when we’re sitting with him in a freezing contact room at the detention center, working on our theory of defense.

Now, Thomas O’Malley is accused of some really awful sex crimes. Probably the worst you could imagine, if you’re just an average person reading this blog.

(Why are you even reading this blog. What is wrong with you. Why are you wasting your life. You sicken me.)

A big chunk of our practice right now is sex crimes. I have no problem with that. People always assume that it bothers me, because I’m a girl and I’m pretty outspoken about things like rape, misogyny, patriarchy, and so on. But I have no problem with it, and I work very hard on all of these cases, regardless of how awful the facts might be.

But that’s a post for another time.

The thing is, many of our clients that are accused of sex crimes, including sex crimes that I don’t personally think of as sex crimes, like possession/distribution of child pornography, well … they’re kind of uncomfortable around me.

Sometimes, they’re just overtly uncomfortable in every way – and we have a couple of those. In those cases, they’re just so unnerved by my mere presence that my boss meets with them one-on-one, because I guess they don’t feel as awkward discussing their alleged predilection for child porn with a man.

Whatever.

But sometimes it’s a more subtle kind of discomfort. Sometimes, when we’re all talking about something sensitive, something that most men don’t want to discuss in front of most women, they’ll start fidgeting, or looking away, or rubbing their face or their eyes, or clearing their throats repeatedly, or just piling on euphemisms in a way that indicates that they REALLY want to be talking about something else.

My boss usually diffuses the tension in those moments by saying something crude. If I had a nickel for every time the word “butt-fuck” has been bandied around, well, I could afford yet another pair of shiny court shoes.

And it works pretty well. I never blink when he says something like that – mainly because it doesn’t faze me. Whatever. And the client will very often pick up on the fact that not only is my boss willing to say crude, vulgar, graphic stuff like that in front of me, but that it doesn’t bother me one bit.

So that usually diffuses some of the tension and that’s important, because then at least the client feels that he can speak a little more frankly and doesn’t need to come out of his skin over the fact that he has to discuss with a woman the child porn that might have been found on his computer, or the person he might have sexually assaulted or violated, etc.

OMG. I almost typed out this small aside that I thought was pretty funny, but as I was typing it, I’m looking at it and I’m like OMG THIS IS AWFUL WHY DID I EVER THINK THAT THIS WAS THE KIND OF THING I COULD SHARE WITH GOOD DECENT NORMAL GOD-FEARING PEOPLE.

:|

I have problems, you guys.

Anyway, consider yourselves spared.

But then there are the other clients.

These clients don’t get so bashful that they want me excluded from the meetings. These clients don’t get awkward during sensitive parts of the meetings.

These clients test me.

And Thomas O’Malley was one of them.

God, that was awesome.

The first time I tagged along with my boss to meet with Thomas O’Malley, he decided to test me a little. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and not only that, but it was my first visit to any sort of detention facility.

So I’m sitting across the table from him and he’s talking about a certain aspect of the chain of events that the government alleges led to his arrest and subsequent incarceration, and the next thing I know, he’s talking about anal sex.

Specifically, his anal sex encounters.

Yeah.

Now, if I had been in my normal state of mind, ie, that of a wildly sexually repressed Muslim girl, I would have stared at him tearfully like, but, but, why are you telling me these awful things regarding the whereabouts of your dick when all I want to do is protect you from the world? Why are you doing this to me?

And he did it just to test me, to see what I could do.

Because as he talked about those things, he’d sneak a glance toward me, really quick. My boss noticed it, too, but didn’t say anything and didn’t stop him or change the subject. (Not that I needed him to.)

But what Thomas O’Malley the Alley Cat didn’t know was that I had spent the entire week prior to our visit – probably more than that – up to my eyeballs in nasty-ass porn.

Yup.

I was writing a monster motion at the time for one of our other child porn cases, and I’d basically been living in our secure evidence locker. I’d spent that entire week, and possibly two weeks, just buried under stacks of pornographic contraband and also explicit narratives focusing very strongly on themes of incest and bestiality.

Very strongly, you guys.

I’d gone through that shit with a fine-tooth comb, because I had to regurgitate it into the body of my motion. Speaking of which, I hit my first square on Litigator Bingo that day by using the word “fuck” in a motion. Repeatedly. In a vile, vile context. YAY ME.

(Coincidentally, I hit another square on Litigator Bingo just yesterday, when I made a special prosecutor from the Sex Crimes unit blush like a teenage boy. YAY ME.)

So, when Thomas O’Malley was describing some very tame acts of anal penetration, I was sitting there like,

Minus the weird lip twitch, but yes.

Because whatever he was trying to pull, it wasn’t working. I wasn’t shocked or scandalized or near tears. I was thinking, “Wait, anal sex between two consenting adults who aren’t biologically related? Pfff. Call me when one of you is livestock.”

And when he failed to get a reaction from me (my boss was so proud of me, seriously), he moved on.

But this client is just … a little strange in that way.

I always get the feeling that he’s testing me, that he’s not sure why I’m here, that he doesn’t fully trust me. His handshakes felt dismissive for a very long time – he’d clasp my hand and let go, as if to just barely acknowledge my presence, rather than my agency.

I’ve visited him often enough, though, and I’ve realized that slowly, very slowly, I had made progress. He was starting to take me a little more seriously. He’d direct some of his questions toward me. He’d crack jokes with me. He’d accept my sympathy. He’d listen when I spoke to him.

And I visited him again very recently. And this time, like every other time, when we wrapped up the meeting and he got up to go back to his room, I offered him my hand.

My handshakes are always strong and direct, and I like to think, warm. I’m not overpowering, but I’m assertive and enthusiastic enough. I hate weak handshakes, I hate hand-clasping, and I don’t do that.

And this time, unlike every other time, when he shook my hand, he squeezed it for just a moment.

And I know that’s something that sounds … unremarkable. It was a tiny gesture, something easily lost, easily written off as inconsequential, meaningless. But after getting used to his weak, dismissive handshakes, let me tell you, I felt that squeeze. And it felt like a turning point.

So, yes. That’s what I wanted to talk about today.

I mean, I can’t very well talk actual details about a crime as vile and off-putting as child pornography, either in terms of the substantive crime or the details of my client’s case. So I’ll just talk about something vague and tiny that happened and doesn’t bear heavily on the actual case at all.

;)

I’ll save all the real, juicy details for the salacious, filthy memoir I will probably write when I retire and don’t give a shit about anything or anyone.

 

“Hey! It’s great to see you out of that orange jumpsuit!”

Written By: humarashid - Apr• 09•13

That was what I really wanted to say when one of our clients, a defendant in a federal case, came to visit us at the office recently. But, you know, you can’t really say that to people. It’s awkward and unappreciated and weird. But my intentions are good, I swear!

This client is kind of special to us. This was a case that fell in our lap and came to a head really quickly. We were retained on the eve of a detention hearing, and with my boss out of the office that day, I was the one frantically trying to create and e-file a federal appearance through Pacer and get our ducks in a row with the clerk and the AUSA in the time span of, like, an hour.

That was … interesting.

(I hate Pacer. But I love clerks. They are always so sweet and helpful. So shit evens out.)

Once we filed the appearance, I was able to get the courtroom clerk and the AUSA on the line, and they could actually talk to us about the details since the paperwork was in the file. My boss asked for the detention hearing to be pushed out a few days to give us some time to prepare and warm up to the client and his family and everything.

So when the detention hearing rolled around, we showed up in court not all that optimistic about our chances. Our client was brought into the room in his orange jumpsuit and hand/leg shackles, and the hearing was underway. And as you already know, we won and our client was released on bond.

And we walked out of the courtroom like this,

I’m joking, I’m joking.

(But in our minds, we walked out like that.)

At the time, we were aware that it was quite a big deal to win one like that, because federal judges tend to be very cautious and keep defendants in custody rather than fussing about with PreTrial Services and bond conditions and custodians and all of that.

But we didn’t really understand yet just how big a deal it was.

We currently have two federal cases pending in this district. For the other one, I had been talking to one of the Federal Defenders in that district because I needed some help with a discovery letter I was writing. I had a rough draft in hand, but I wanted one that was local so I could get a better feel for the culture there and how the local defenders practiced, what they asked for, what the conventions were, etc.

(That’s one of the things my boss really stresses when he puts me on these projects: the importance of learning the local culture, even if that means something as simple as showing up to the courtroom early and watching the in-room PDs deal with the ASAs.)

So I’d been talking to this FD, and my boss had been as well, because this FD was actually the initial attorney for the client in our newest case. And he mentioned that he’d been there that day for the hearing, and that we were the talk of the courthouse.

This took us a bit by surprise, and the FD explained that the judge in question never let anyone out on bond. Ever. It was just kind of an understood thing there: if you get this judge, your boy is staying in custody. Even when the government and the defense agreed that releasing the defendant on bond would be appropriate, it was always nixed.

And so when we got our client out that day (he wasn’t released officially until two weeks later), it was big, big news. Because it just wasn’t done.

So that was pretty cool. And hearing it from one of the federal defenders was awesome. We were just like,

So, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but we’re kind of a big deal in that courthouse now.

But anyway, our client was finally released, and we needed him to come to the office (with his custodians, obviously, as a condition of bond) and sign a waiver of the 30 day period for charging by information or indictment. That pushes the arraignment date out until some point in May, which works better for everyone.

We have some time to breathe, and focus on some other cases that are in trial posture, and the AUSA gets some time to get the forensics back and analyze the case a bit more. Plus, the timing and the procedural stuff that still needs to be done will affect how the case is positioned. So I’m looking forward to working more on that and seeing how it all develops.

But we had the client come in with his family to discuss the case and the waiver and what it meant and give him a chance to figure it all out. It was our first time seeing him out of prison, because our previous meetings with him had either been in the detention center or in the courtroom, where he was dressed in that awful jumpsuit and wearing those awful shackles.

And the first thing I noticed when he walked in was how much … better he looked.

I know that’s kind of a “duh” moment. I know it sounds dumb of me to say that.

But really, that was what I noticed, and what I was just blown away by. He looked alive. He had color. His eyes sparkled. His movements were freer, easier. When he was in prison, he looked … dead.

I don’t mean that to be disrespectful, I swear. Or insensitive. But he looked like a mere shadow of himself, almost to the point that it was unnerving.

He was so pale, basically sickly looking. His eyes were dull. His movements were restrained (obviously) but more than that, listless. When he was seated close to my side in the courtroom in that glaring jumpsuit and cold shackles, he seemed really, really small.

Guys. I’m small. I am. I’m 5’1″. I’m a small person.

But when I was with him, he felt just as small as I am. He looked that small. I thought he was that small, just because it felt that way.

And that, of course, triggered my near-rabid protective instincts. I seriously need to get a grip. But it was kind of funny, the comic alacrity with which both AUSAs turned and stared at me when, as my boss got up to move to the podium for direct, I scooted my chair right next to my client and settled my hand on his armrest. I’d also occasionally lean over to murmur something to him throughout the course of the hearing. \

The judge noticed my Mother Hen tendencies, too, which, hey, we caught all the right edges to get him out, so maybe that was one of them. (The judge actually commented on it in his ruling, too, which I thought was kind of funny.)

But when our client showed up in our office, seriously, it was like a completely different man had walked in. His color was good, he’d looked to have gained a little weight back, he was actually talking and smiling, and holy crap, you guys, the boy is tall.

I don’t think I even come up to his shoulder. He’s tall.

And that’s why it kind of makes me laugh and shake my head when I think back on how small I thought he was. And that’s why I comment on the difference of seeing him in prison and out on bond – because it really is a huge difference! For God’s sake, I could have sworn to you that our client was short and slight, when in reality he’s tall and broad-shouldered.

Gah.

Man, did that mess with my sense of perception.

Prison is weird, you guys.

It’s like this place where order and reality are suspended.

I just … I don’t know.

Prison is weird.

I’ve been in jails and lock-up and detention centers and prisons and any other name you can think of for places where people are incarcerated and … it’s like it never gets any easier.

It’s not like it’s hard to go there. It’s not like it’s difficult for me to set foot through those doors.

But it’s surreal, almost. Every time I go, it’s just surreal. It’s this place so far removed from my own life and my own experiences, and even the experiences of everyone I know.

I wonder if it’ll ever not be surreal.

Frankly, I doubt it.

My interactions with prosecutors are always so butt-paralyzingly awkward.

Written By: humarashid - Apr• 08•13

I mean, I’m awkward in general. I’m so incredibly awkward. If I’m talking to women, I’m much better, and can be myself a bit more easily. But when I’m talking to men … forget about it. I’m insanely awkward, and I can’t read between the lines of what they’re saying, and so many times I just plain miss social cues that would be obvious to anyone else, and our interactions come off stilted and awkward and confused and I just want to crawl into a hole and die afterward.

Accurate.

And generally, the vast majority of prosecutors I have to deal with are men. There are a couple women, but obviously, the relationship, while civil and cordial, isn’t an overly friendly one, so I’m generally just as awkward with the ladies as well.

There are basically only three prosecutors (a special, an AAG, and an AUSA, all of whom are coincidentally on a handful of our child porn cases) that I can have normal, friendly conversations with and not want to stab myself afterwards. Three in, like, dozens. Dozens and dozens and dozens.

Ugh. I’m a trainwreck.

ANYWAY.

So that’s the lead-in to this little story about how awkward my life is, and how I should basically not be allowed out in public. I don’t think I’ve shared this one. It happened quite a while ago, but trust me, severe social awkwardness must come with some kind of muscle memory because I still wince a little when I remember it.

So I was out somewhere, in some county where I rarely appear, and I was handling one of our misdemeanors.

This courthouse was kind of in the sticks, and I’d never been there before, so I had no idea what the local culture was like. I’d talked to some of the PDs down there and they told me that it was a little laid back and the focus was on moving the cases along, and the prosecutors and PDs generally got along pretty well because they worked with that mindset.

(Now, I don’t know if that means that the focus was just on pleading people out in order to move things along, which I don’t like, but whatever. You should never just plead your guy out to something because you want to get the call done quickly or dispose of the case so you can work on your bigger ones or because the client isn’t paying you on schedule or because you’re working for the bond or whatever.)

Still, that didn’t tell me everything I needed to know, you know? So when I got a hold of the prosecutor on the case, I asked him if he’d mind stepping into the hall with me, and  I started talking. I explained who I was and why I was there, and then I like to do a quick bio of my client with the most important (and mitigating) details. Short and sweet. The prosecutor stopped me and was like, yeah, I’m not going to jam you, this is what I’m offering. I worked him down on the fine by way of compromise, since I couldn’t get the dude to budge on the time period of supervision (and he’d already given me what I wanted, which was non-reporting and appearance waived on the date of termination), and we called the case.

Later, I’m out in the parking lot, standing by car and looking at my calendar as I tried to organize the flow of the rest of my day and also figure out where I could get the biggest sandwich known to man.

And who should I see walk past me down the long row of cars in the lot but the ASA on the case I had just wrapped up. He was on the phone and wearing an ugly knit hat, and he didn’t notice me as he strode by.

“Yeah, I just got done with the morning call,” he was saying to whoever was on the other end. “Thought I’d get some coffee. There was this one attorney from up in Chicago who was here and she drags me out into the hall and gives me this whole schpiel about how her client was stressed out or something and it was just an unfortunate mistake and I’m listening to her and I’m thinking, ugh, fuck me, I don’t want to talk to anyone…

That was all I heard before he was out of earshot, and I remember just staring after him, not fully convinced that I had heard that.

Um.

A whole schpiel? I probably talked for sixty seconds, tops, before we launched into the terms. And I didn’t say my client was stressed – I said, “clinically depressed.” And the “unfortunate mistake” thing, yeah, that was accurate.

But he didn’t have to say it like that.

:\

But twenty seconds after he’d walked off to get that cup of coffee, I started to laugh.

I mean, I kind of had to laugh about it, you guys.

:P

It was kind of adorable. I “dragged him into the hall,” and I gave him “a whole long schpiel” and he didn’t “want to talk to anyone.”

I just had to laugh.

And then I got in my car and wondered, for the millionth time, why I was so incapable of having interactions with men that didn’t turn out to be gallopingly awkward.

Ah, well.