Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Career change pays off, eh?

First thought: SHE SENT OUT 685 RESUMES??? Are you serious?!

And 40 is too old to be an associate, they said. 40 is too old for a lot of things. Yet here we are, 40 and beyond, still participating in life, fools that we are. One day we might even turn 50. Egads. Who will put us out of our misery then? Little left to do but shoot us at that point.

I wonder what the numbers really are in terms of her career change "paying off". She cashed in her retirement, people. Now she's in solo practice (read: no "retirement plan" other than what she can scrape together from her take-home...can she afford to make consistent/regular contributions to a retirement account?...or will she have to work into her 90's after her hearing has failed her? And health care will she pay for her hearing aids?). It doesn't mention whether she has a husband or children. Which makes me think she probably doesn't have a husband or children, most especially children. Which makes this less helpful to me than I initially thought it would be. I am, seemingly, grossly aberrant. Comparing apples to apples in my case feels futile.

Anyway, here's the article (from via Magic Cookie's 2005 archives. Thanks CM!)

Career Change Pays Off for Techie Turned Solo and Author

By Neil Squillante Wednesday, September 21, 2005

TechnoLawyer member Diana Brodman Summers was earning a good living as a database administrator, but yearned for a career change so she used her retirement savings to invest in herself and pursue a law degree at night. A few days before the bar exam, her employer downsized her out of her job.
Fortunately, Diana still managed to pass the bar exam despite this bad news. Unfortunately, she could not find a job as a lawyer. "Out of 685 resumes I got three interviews, two of whom told me to my face I was too old [at 40] to be an associate."
Instead, she started contracting herself out to law firms on a per case or per month basis. Eventually, she earned enough money and developed enough of a reputation to open her own solo practice in Lisle, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. Diana primarily represents employees in employment discrimination matters, and also serves as an arbitrator for Cook County and DuPage County's Mandatory Arbitration Program.
Diana is also a best-selling author. Her current book
How to Buy Your First Home has become the top-seller in its category. She recently spoke about the book on her local ABC TV station. Her other books include Illinois Landlord's Legal Guide, How to Write an Illinois Will, and How to File for Divorce in Illinois. Her next book, How to Start a Home Based Business will hit bookshelves in a few months.
As for her favorite technology tools, Diana lists Word and WordPerfect, Adobe Acrobat, Netscape, and especially "It enables me to print postage whenever I want, and it keeps a records of when I printed the postage and a file of names and addresses."

I found this via a link on Magic Cookie's archives from 2005, which takes you to another 2005 link at (full link shown at top of article).

Final thought: I was initially thrilled to stumble upon a site called because I thought it would be about the direct application of tech skills to lawyerly/client-related matters (emphasis on "direct application"). Alas, it seems to focus on "practice management" which is the legal profession's term for business administration, it appears. In other words, it's all about "use these tools to track your time" and how to do backups, etc. Blech! I already do that stuff, to the hilt. That's the stuff I'd like quite a bit less of, thank you very much. So my quest for info on how being a techie helps you be the best darn e-discovery lawyer around is still full on.


Diana Brodman Summers said...

I am Diana Brodman Summers, the person in your post. Yes, it really was 685 resumes with only 3 responses. Besides my age I am told that the lack of response was due to a poor economy at the time (1993), the fact that my job before law school was high-paying, and the fact that I had gone to law school at night. Yes, I did and do have the same husband who was and is a supportive partner. No, I did not and do not have children. At the time I (1993) my father had just died and, as an only child, I was responsible for caring for my mother both physically and financially. In 1994 when I finally was getting my feet under me as a contract attorney, my mom fell and suffered medical issues that kept her hospitalized for 4 month. So during that time I also had her 10 cats and house to deal with. On October 25, 1994 my mother died of a massive heart attack in my car, in Chicago rush hour, while bringing her back from a doctor's appointment. I put my practice on hold and personally cleaned and worked on her home daily to sell it. Thank God my husband had a job or I would have had zero money. Today I have a small solo law firm. You are right there is no retirement. I enjoy what I do BUT looking back on it would not have made the same decisions. I would have let the dream of being a lawyer (which I love) pass for the practicality of being able to make enough money to support my family.

gudnuff said...

OMG! A comment! And a super relevant comment. Thank you for commenting. There is SO MUCH I'd like to ask you about, you'd end up billing me for the time (or should). Lots to say in response. First, I am so sorry for the loss of your parents. That was obviously very difficult for you, and having your mother die, in your car durng rush hour tragic, traumatic, haunting. My heart hurts for what you went through during that time. That's another issue for us "older" folk to keep in mind - the care of elderly parents, and the final arrangements/sorting out of their estates/houses/belongings, etc. You've shown amazing strength through all of this. I can't help but feel saddened by your final assessment, that you'd forego what you love to do for the ability to make enough money to support your family. I am saddened because that is exactly the sticking point for me, and try as I might, I cannot break free from that concern. As I was leaving the parking garage this morning, as a matter of fact, trudging deliberately toward our office building, I was overcome by a sense of disillusionment, annoyed by the optimistic hype that we can do whatever we want, no matter how old we are, or how humble our beginnings, etc. blah blah blah. It's not true. I mean, it IS true, of course, because you've done it, haven't you? But it's not true, at the same time. It can be done, sort of. If one is creative (hence your success as an author), hard-working (your success as a solo practitioner), focused and determined (your success at finishing law school and passing the bar), one CAN be whatever one wants, when viewed from a macroscopic level. Viewed microscopically, however, it's not quite what you were going for. At least, years later, when all is said and done, you've weighed the pros and cons, and say you would not have made the same decision. In the end, though, it boils down to this: but is it good enough? You say you love it. That must be good enough. When all is said and done, bills or no love what you do...I want so much for that to be good enough for me.

PT-LawMom said...

E-discovery is such a huge, expensive and important part of the litigation process. That said, do you need to be an attorney to work with it? How about just a litigation technology expert? I worked for BigLaw and we had a whole department that did that and got paid big bucks to assist the attorneys with discovery, trial aids, etc.

gudnuff said...

Hey PT-LawMom! Thanks for commenting. OK, so what I'm discovering is that the more I try to make my tech background relevant as a positive selling point in terms of (a) getting into law school and more importantly (b) getting a firm (or anybody) to hire me as an attorney, my profile becomes less attractive for the role of attorney per se. Which is FINE by me, truth be told. I am happy to ditch the whole tech angle, should things swing that way. I'm okay with holding onto it, if need be, to a limited degree. My husband's attitude is "Work with what you've got." In other words, over 12 years in the tech world is what I bring to the table. Would I shoot myself in the foot to completely ignore that backgroud? Conversely, am I going to be married to it even within the legal profession? That is not my goal. I'm not sure exactly what my goal is yet - I'm working diligently to narrow that down as much as possible - but to keep doing close to what I'm already doing...well, I'll just stay put, in that case. I guess there's some sense of being a member of the club that appeals to me. Not sure exactly what I mean by that. If anybody out there identifies with that sentiment, regardless of what you interpret it to mean, please share!

I'm not interested in finding stuff using technology just for the sake of doing so. But I imagine I could step into that role readily enough. I'm much more interested in (what I imagine to be) the legal issues involved. And probably, to be brutally honest, attracted by the challenge of becoming an attorney, and the rights and privileges afforded someone who has passed the bar. The exclusivity of it all just speaks to me. I would be proud of myself. For that matter (and not to sound patronizing, forgive me if I do), I'm proud of all of you - especially the mothers - who are already in the process of meeting those challenges and joining that club. Aren't you proud of yourselves? But only foolish folk like me actually come right out and say so, probably. It's okay if nobody chimes in to agree with me. I bet you're proud of your accomplishments. And I think that's as it should be. And I would like to join your ranks. Whether I utilize my tech background or not.

gudnuff said...

Not that I can afford to...

technolawyer said...

Ouch! We work ten years to create an award-winning publication and you sum it up with the word "Blech."

Your Post strikes me as a textbook definition of cognitive dissonance. You quote from and praise an article of ours, but then conclude that our publication is worthless. That doesn't square.

The fact of the matter is that we provide tons of information about how to use technology to better serve your clients. In addition to our blog, we publish nine email newsletters, all of which are free. Check them out.

No hard feelings. We hope to see you in TechnoLawyer. And we'll start linking to your blog in our BlawgWorld newsletter as long as you keep posting. Thank you for commenting on our profile of Diana Brodman Summers.

gudnuff said...

In the interest of fairness, I don't think I said it was worthless. That would be like saying what I currently do for a living (and I make a very good living doing it) is worthless. Which it isn't. Did I really say that? Or did I say that it didn't appeal to ME since I already spend much of my time focused on technical issues similar to those addressed by your site? You (and I) provide a valuable service, a very necessary service and I applaud the legal community's efforts to embrace the use of technology. Hooray! I, myself, have been embracing it til my fingers are bleeding, so that's all I was saying. Seriously, did I say it was worthless? Where'd I say that, for real?