What happens now?

February 12, 2010

The change in jobs is fast approaching:  The new job starts sometime in March.  My next post will be about the big picture economics of the change in paychecks.  We’ve as much as been living on our austerity budget already, although it will no doubt be different when the training wheels come off and there’s no safety net.  (Tip: canceling cable not that bad, but big health insurance co-pays sting.)

But first, an update on the transition….

I’ll be giving my two-week notice at my present, well-paid but unbearable job next week.  In the meantime, I’ve already attended an orientation at my new job.  I’ve checked in, signed a mountain of forms, and started learning how the bureaucracy works.  More importantly, I also met with my new boss and some colleagues-to-be, whose intelligence, sophistication, and professionalism–in short, the tone-setting kernel of the workplace–is plainly equal to that of the best of my private law colleagues.

This is the right move. At home, I’ve woken up to a feeling I haven’t had in at least two years: plain, uncomplicated happy.  During the past two years, firm life progressively slipped from new to uninspiring, and then from distasteful to horrific, as I realized that try as I might, the fit just wasn’t there.  This isn’t to say I was never happy, but when I was, the happiness was always qualified by whatever undertaking awaited me back at work, and the knowledge that evenings, weekends, and vacations were always a BlackBerry buzz away from annihilation.  And for what?  Certainly not anything worth setting aside my wife and toddler.

Now, I know this sounds like I’m excited about better hours at my new job. And that’s not an inconsiderable good. But more important to me is that the work is something I care about. So in addition to having more time for what matters to me, when and if I do have to put an air mattress in my office and work through the night, at least the benefits are not, in the end, just amount to a reduction in the amount of liability faced by a client’s insurer.

The old gig.

January 23, 2010

Things are about to change.

For the moment, I am a lawyer at a firm doing what they call complex commercial litigation. What this means is I represent big corporations in lawsuits that look large to you and me, but usually aren’t especially important to the corporation.  The work is uninspiring, and involves a lot of mucking through the flotsam and jetsam of failed relationships between big companies. That means reading skeins of emails from 5 and 10 years ago, countless power point presentations full of six-sigma jargon, and fighting with other lawyers about why I should get more of their client’s emails and power points, and why they should get less of ours.  When things get really heated, it goes to court. But I’m too junior to have any part of going to court unless it’s to watch.

Ironically, my firm is one of the good ones. People are professional and have few hang-ups. Partners don’t usually yell or act boorish. There are exceptions, however. For instance, when a family member of mine was ill with an acutely life-threatening disease during a big case, I couldn’t make a deposition because of a key doctor’s appointment (the one where you hold your loved one’s hand while they ask “doc, have I got a chance?”).  Though the deposition was of minor import and another attorney could easily cover it, the partner told me I should have missed the appointment or rescheduled  it.

True story.  Also, an unexceptional one in the legal profession.

Whatever the circumstances, there are those who enjoy and excel at this work. Many of them are wonderful people. I don’t judge. For me however, the job is a soul-sucking horror. I am compensated unreasonably well for it, but the extra money is worthless when it comes to happiness.

But things are about to change.  I have just accepted a job working for the government. It’s not a cushy government job, and the drop in pay is steep. We won’t have a dime to spare, and I may need to find some pick-up work to make ends meet. But we both think it’s worth it. This blog will primarily be about that transition, and with a particular emphasis on the experience of intentionally transitioning from more-than-enough-money to not-quite-enough.  Everything is fair game: the economics, the relationships, the bagged lunches, and the highs and lows of moving from a job I know I hate to one I hope I love.