Monday, April 20, 2009

Just a few abstract thoughts.

I've come a long way from the wandering boy in law school looking for a life of meaning and power. I can't say I'm a better person, in fact I'm sure I'm not. What I could say is that I've learned to take care of others in ways I used to only take care of myself. I've learned to take pleasure in the happiness of others, and to share in their joy and more. While I'm not as protected as I used to be, I'm more hidden. There are expectations that the person I was yesterday will be the person I will be tomorrow. I wouldn't try to change anything, except that I don't think I have much more to become other than smarter, kinder, more selfless, and more in control of my surroundings. Control...

Control is the one thing that I have given up, and it is the one thing that has freed me from my need of it. It's the source of my anger, my disappointment, and my frustration, and it is the seed of my enmity towards others both large and small. Yet as much as I have released my talons over control, it has not left me in the slightest bit, but it still lurks like a shark, surfacing in ways that make me take a deep breath and will it away. I am the ocean and the beasts that swim within are my thoughts. Should they be seen above the surface, they would become a spectacle, so they swim in the deep dark blue where eyes cannot see them. Control...

I am an actor, and a good one because by deep breath, I am able to convince myself that I am headed down the right path, and the current that is lapping at my calves gently show me the way in which I should allow us to flow. G-d has brought me here, and G-d will bring me there, and the surrender is with consternation but a sigh of relief - there is no relief, just a float down a stream that can turn dark, vicious, and violent at any time and I would be caught without a boat, without oars, or without knowledge, direction, or discretion.

The world is kind, the world is benevolent, the world is evil, disgusting, and self-serving. Society is just, society is voracious, with unkempt teeth that could rip through tin. Yet it smiles an evil smile as it consumes and shows a clown face with makeup smeared in the wretched place that distorts kindness into shock. If only I could let these animals stay beneath the surface all will be calm. But they do stir.

Only days will pass before I've closed this chapter of our picture perfect existence, the husband wearing ties and dress shirts to work, carrying his most treasured briefcase of soft brown scratched leather. The evil has prevailed and I have been benefited through the evil. It has become a tool for good yet it still will be punished greatly for hurting the good among us. And yet others unknowing will be rewarded for their unkind deeds without knowing why judgment is not sent their way. Haman will hang and Achashveirosh will remain king and Esther his stranger.

I'm doing what I think is the right thing to do; there is so much uncertainty that I don't know what else to do. My wife was not happy here - not with this life I have given her, not away from her home away from home. I can't stay here in good conscience knowing that the one I'm supposed to love and protect isn't happy. I don't think it's her fault either. We're both allowed to make our lives better and easier to live. We also - if we do it right - hopefully make it better for the other as well. I trust that there is a profitable job after all this work despite the number of times G-d has shown me my lack of value. I don't think I'm great in the least bit, and by dirt as my sky I can attest that I have no value other than who I am, how I act, and what I know. I could control the latter two, the first are my cards.

I'm tired of trying to forge my own path. I'd rather just take a deep breath, hold it until my body floats to the surface, and look at the sky as the sun distorts my vision until everything is white with shapes. I'm tired of trying to make sense of my life and trying to piece together my skills to find my path. I don't know what to do, where to turn, or with whom to speak but all I can do is just sit still and pray that I will be taken care of by the one who finds the most value in his creation. Tatty.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Why I *CAN* start a law practice after school.

So I have this blog reader named Anonymous who is a patent attorney and who has been sending me messages as to why I shouldn't go back to school to finish the electrical engineering degree, and instead, I should forget patent law altogether and I should just quit and move on because I'll never succeed going down the path I am headed.

Anonymous' reasons were 1) I didn't get an engineering degree the first chance I could back in college, so law firms will think I'm not a techy kind of guy, and so they wouldn't hire me, 2) I became a patent attorney through a technicality (e.g. piecing together science classes I took while an undergraduate student and taking what I was missing during law school to fill in the gaps) and thus I am not a real science guy and for that same reason, law firms won't hire me, 3) I am not following the traditional path (e.g. engineering or science route, then law school, then patent exam) and thus they won't consider me because I'm not a typical applicant, 4) I'm only going into electrical engineering because it is "hot" and so I am chasing the trend, not standing in front of it, and finally, 5) regular patent attorneys who did everything in the proper order and who went to the good schools and got the good grades are having a super-difficult time finding work, so why would I think that I will be in any better of a situation then they are. I think this list is complete.

Okay, here's my retort. No, I am not superior in any way to any of the other people that went to a better school than I did, I did not participate in moot court and I did not graduate within the top five percent of my class. Frankly, I am happy that I did the work and that I made it out of law school, that I passed all my bar exams, and that I worked hard and passed the patent bar exam on my first try. I am also happy that I have a family to support, that my family is growing in number by the year, and that I have a wonderful wife who is supportive of everything that I do.

I am not and have never been the ideal candidate for a law firm, nor do I fit the mold with my religious Jewish lifestyle, where Shabbos, family, and holidays take precedence over my position at work and my career. I will not be the type of lawyer who spends all hours of the night working because more importantly, I am a father who has children who I love and whose lives I want to be part of. I do have law school debt up the wazoo, and I'm no longer living in one of the states I'm admitted in, so my only option is to work as a patent attorney OR to work in some other non-lawyer capacity.

I *am* a techy kind of guy; I always have been. Just because I went the medical school route during my undergraduate years in college rather than the engineering route should not preclude me from practicing patent law now that I'm an attorney. To add to that, I have been taking the coursework which will lead to an engineering degree, and I feel that electrical engineering is the most useful of them all when it comes to designing patents and with regard to being part of the workforce should I choose NOT to practice law. Is electrical engineering the kind of engineering I would practice if I WEREN'T going to be a patent attorney? Honestly, who knows. However I DO know that I will be exposed to all the different engineering disciplines when I go back to school in the Summer, and I will have some time to make a decision as to which direction I would like to go.

Honestly, and this will not take up much room in my thoughts, EVERY career test I have taken over the years makes me either an actor, a movie director, some kind of artist, or some kind of performer. And since these fields are not within the pay range I am able to even consider with my law school debt, I will stick to the fields that will pay well that I enjoy doing, and when I am older and I don't need a paycheck to pay the bills, I will consider those fields as hobbies.

Speaking of a paycheck, all of Anonymous' arguments against what I'm doing apply to someone who is looking to work for a law firm. Trust me, in my life family comes first and I'm not looking for the kind of lifestyle that a law firm provides. Because I do not fit the lawyer mold, I will likely not end up on the partner track, and I will not work 80 hours a week just to make my billable hour requirement. However, I *am* and always have been a diligent and a hard worker, and I am not afraid to take calculated risks and to put in effort into endeavors which will take years to become fruitful. With this I am referring to starting my own law practice once I leave school.

I've been reading Jay Foonberg's book on How to Start and Build a Law Practice, and I believe I have what it takes to make this happen. I am willing to put in the effort to learn the ins and outs of running a law practice while I am in school, to get the connections with the people who can help me get started, so that WHEN I decide to go for it, I will hit the ground running. On top of that, my wife is going back to school for a second degree, so once we're done, she and I could both work and pay the bills while we get the law practice up and running. I have two years to figure out the ropes and to network, meet and befriend the right people to get started.

Lastly, looking at everything that is going on from a different perspective, this opportunity to go back to school while receiving unemployment insurance is a blessing in disguise, because it is also allowing me to look at the different fields out there even outside of engineering and patent law and to help me gain direction with regard to which direction I would like to go, if not the path I am already on. This IS potentially a mid-life career changer, and there is no denying this. Having the ability to return to school is quite a gift, as I feel that I HAVE made some major mistakes along the way with regard to career decisions (first thinking of becoming a doctor while being a Cohen, then going to law school thinking I'll be able to practice patent law right out of school), and so this could afford me a clean start. I will look at things from a fresh perspective, and will try to find the best profession that will fit the needs of my family and my goals. I expect that electrical engineering IS my path because everything has led to this, however, I AM open to other possibilities. What a privilege to be able to make decisions like this at my not-so-ripe age of 31.


Monday, April 06, 2009

I finished my projects and was laid off. :)

The great posts usually come when I'm fired up and angry, so I'm sorry if I disappoint. I do have good news though.

On Friday, April 3rd, I finished the patent application that I was working on and submitted it for review. I had one last project before I ran out of work again, and defying fate, instead of spacing out my work so that I was assured billable hours to fill my daytime in the days to come, I blew through the project being as efficient as possible. This was a challenge to G-d and to my boss because I knew that after this project was over, there was nothing further for me to work on.

Hours before I finished the project, my boss asked me for a status report on the project, and within minutes, I saw the CEO in a closed-door meeting with my boss. Minutes later, I got an e-mail stating that there was to be a company meeting with only a select number of people in attendance. In my heart, I thought to myself, "wouldn't it be nice if this meeting was the meeting where I would be laid off." "No luck" I thought, "G-d doesn't like me that much. I'm just going to have to quit after I use up my remaining days off during the coming Passover holiday."

I entered the meeting and thought the select people in attendance made for an interesting combination. "Mostly administrative staff," I thought. "I wonder what they want from me on this matter."

The CEO and the other partners entered the conference room and handed each of us an envelope. "Effective immediately," one said, "you are free to go home. We have terminated your employment here." Inside, I was totally overjoyed because work has been so dead for so many months I was thankful that I was being laid off and that I didn't have to quit. Instead, I kept a straight face and I said nothing.

Some stormed out of the meeting in anger, others just got up in shock and left without saying a word. I asked a few questions, offered to spend a few more days to make sure that everything went smoothly regarding the projects that I finished, but they told me it was not necessary and that they wouldn't be offended if I went home.

So that is it. I closed up shop, had a meeting with my boss explaining any loose ends that needed to be closed after I'm gone, and quietly left work without saying goodbye to people. I didn't want to make a fuss about it, and I didn't want to make a scene, if only to save myself embarrassment from being pitied. I called my wife and told her I would be home early, found a terminal where I had access to the internet and filed for unemployment online, and headed to my car to leave work for the last time.

Now all this might sound like a sad sad story, but as you know, I was days away from quitting. Not only that, I was quitting so that I could go back to school full-time to finish up my engineering degree and move my family to California where my in-laws are so that my wife can be around her friends and her family where people can help her out with the day care and the day-to-day activities of our family. Now I get to do all that *AND* I get unemployment insurance to fund my transition. I also called the unemployment office, and found out that there is no need to stay in the state, and going to school (even full-time) is not a hindrance to receiving unemployment; I would only have to be available to move back if I find comparable work which is fine with me. So there you have it. This chapter of our lives is over and the next chapter is about to begin.