I’m not THAT Jennifer Alvey, Either

Well, she’s at it again. One of those other Jennifer Alveys. This one was the Indiana state finance director a couple years back, and allegedly had back-door communications with the operators of a proposed gasification plant about a pending contract; not cool under state sunshine laws.

little girl wearing eye mask

On the Internet, anyone can be a cute kid. Or Jennifer Alvey. Photo courtesy Stockvault.net.

Another Jennifer Alvey, a few years back, was convicted of shaking her adopted daughter and causing the baby’s death. Though the events took place just before I moved to Tennessee, in one of life’s odd coincidences, we moved to a town only a few miles from that other Jennifer Alvey, just before her trial.

While allegations of back room political dealings are certainly better than a dead child, still, I’m yet again setting the record straight: Continue reading

Legal Presents

Everyone, lawyers included, likes presents. Even if you don’t celebrate at this time of year, it’s still nice to fantasize. What would be a great gift for you? I have some suggestions . . .

And in the highly unlikely event (snort) that the poll doesn’t work properly, please feel free to vote in the comments section.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who coaches attorneys on how to put fun back in their lives. You can try coaching for free (a sample, that is) by contacting her at jalvey@jenniferalvey.com.

5 Tips Toward Being a Funtastic Lawyer

Alright my lawyer peeps, it’s time to get serious.

Did you feel your energy level just drop to the second ring of hell? “Oh no, I’ve been a bad boy (or girl) and I have to pay”—that’s the gut reaction, isn’t it? Heck, I knew what was coming next, and “get serious” made me feel a bit anxious.

child in silly glasses

Go with you inner fun kid, and get that inner critic to pipe down. Image courtesty Stockvault.net and David Hensen.

So what we’re going to do today, boys and girls, is to have some serious, excellent fun.

Lawyers have an incredibly difficult time with fun and play. There are lots of reasons for this—lawyer schooling and culture, the kind of personality that law attracts, the levels of depression that pervade the profession, and the number of lawyers who come from dysfunctional families–just for starters. But I’m not going to spend a lot of time in this post going on about those, cause, yanno, it’s not fun.

Instead, this post is about having fun. I would just say go out and have some. But, see supra.  What I already hear is “I have too much work to do to have fun. I don’t have time!!”

So instead of telling you to have fun and leaving you to your own devices Continue reading

Whatya doin?

I know, I’ve been on a real tear lately about fear, positive thinking, toxic friends, depression and other similarly heavy topics. So it’s time to lighten up and have some of that fun I’m always nattering on about.

Complete the poll as many times as you like. If I didn’t screw up the poll setup, you can even add your own unique answers.

Happy Friday!

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who pretty much used every item listed to avoid work when she was practicing in BigLaw. Except social media, but only because it wasn’t invented back in the Jurassic when she was in practice. Nowadays, she coaches lawyers to find work they don’t want to avoid at all. Have a unique work-avoidance tactic? Please do share at  jalvey AT jenniferalvey.com.

Friday Files: No, I’m not that Jennifer Alvey

Yes, I’m back. I didn’t really go away, but let’s just say that the intermission was longer than anticipated.

One of my favorite characters lately is Thursday Next, from the Next Octology series by Jasper Fforde. (Several reviewers call the series “Harry Potter for grownups.” Possibly this means I’m not really a grownup, since I love Harry Potter. But I digress.) For various and sundry extremely good reasons, Thursday spends a couple years hiding away from the real world in Bookworld. When she returns, most of her acquaintances and friends ask, “Have you been in prison?”

I mention this because I share the same name as a woman who lives maybe 10 miles from me. Continue reading

Friday Files: Poor Choice of Words

So I’m at lunch with my two sisters, celebrating the 40th birthday of one of them. Being girls, we of course must all go to the loo together after the meal. Fate smiled on us, giving us three empty stalls and indeed, an entirely vacant loo. So much the better to keep gossiping and catching up.

While still engaged in my personal business, I hear one of my sisters coughing. It’s a really hacking, smoker’s kind of cough. Since one of them is in between rounds of trying to quit smoking, I naturally call out, “Hey, you gonna live or what?” No response, but the loos are flushing and sinks are running.

I step out of the stall to see both sisters nearly doubled over, hands over mouths. One of them whispers, “That wasn’t us coughing!” And then they bolt.

Greeeaaaaaat. I’ve just insulted a total stranger. And since I can’t get my hands washed and bolt myself before my victim appears from her stall, I decide I have to act like an adult. I’m the oldest, after all.

As she approaches the sink, I turn to her and see a wispy-looking woman in her early 60s, I think. Not a lot of gray, but she definitely looks a bit fragile. Oh, even better, I’ve insulted someone my mom’s age. Super. So I suck it up.

“Ma’am, I’m so sorry. I thought you were one of my sisters, and I was just joking with her.”

“Well, that’s OK,” she replies, in a soft, quavery voice. “I had breast cancer a while back, you know. The cancer came back in my lungs.”

“Wow, I’m sorry to hear that.”

At this point, I’m really hoping someone will bust in to rob the restaurant and coincidentally shoot me, as well. Really, can this get any worse?

(Note to self: Remember what they always taught in trial practice about asking one question too many?)

The lady in question continues, “Well, I’ve had chemo, and they say it went pretty well, but it’s not going to get rid of the cancer completely.”

The blood drains from my face, my brain stops working, and I can only manage to stammer, “Well, gosh, best of luck to you,” before finally bolting myself.

The sibs are in the restaurant lobby, and I give them the highlights. Confronted with the horror of what I’ve just said to a poor lady dying of lung cancer, we do the only rational thing: Go to the outside entryway and start laughing so hard we nearly pee ourselves.

And then stagger toward the car, whilst carrying on a bit more.

Then the 37-year old baby hisses, “She’s coming out!! Stop laughing!!”

Ah, to be 10 again.

Friday Files: Lawyers and Carolyn Hax

Here’s another one of my guilty addictions: Carolyn Hax’s Tell Me About It columns and online chat. I’ve been reading her since her very first column appeared in the Washington Post. Strictly coincidentally, her column started about a year before I left law. I remember reading the column in the firm library on Fridays. Good times, good times.

Friday’s chat had a bit of discussion about the plight of lawyers who don’t like their jobs, courtesy of some guy who was thinking of law school, mostly because he didn’t have any better idea of what to do with his life. Apparently, Carolyn got inundated with responses from lawyers shooting down that idea, because she posts one (sadly, not MY pearls of wisdom, but ah well):

 Law School: I’m sure you’ll be inundated with disgruntled-lawyer responses, but please, PLEASE let someone else tell San Francisco that law school is NOT the panacea to career unhappiness. As someone who thought law sounded interesting (wrong, for the most part) and felt pressure to have a “professional” career (needlessly), I can assure you that being trapped at an all-consuming BigLaw firm just to pay my $70K of law school debt is not so great. Please reconsider going, particularly if you’re not super enthusiastic about being a lawyer. Plenty of other careers exist that cause far less debt and ultimate workload.

Carolyn Hax: We are (inundated), and I will (let), so thanks. The rest of you, get back to work–this can’t possibly be billable.

There’s no real lesson here, cause if you’re here you already know that. Just thought I’d share. If for no other reason than to lead you to the bit about bridesmaidzillas and the cosmic justice of making them wear the dress they picked for their bridesmaids, to your wedding.

Friday Files: Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya

Sometimes, you just feel for people. Even though you know that most BigLaw partners are huge pains in the tookus, when one screws up so majorly and publicly, you feel something. Gratitude, if nothing else, that it wasn’t you who did it.

It’s the worst nightmare of every attorney: an email goes astray to a reporter. Sending stuff to a reporter means buh-bye to attorney-client privilege, of course, because reporters, unlike opposing counsel, don’t have clawback agreements.

Without saying who, Portfolio.com reports that a woman partner at Pepper Hamilton accidentally sent an email to Alex Berenson at the New York Time–berenson@– rather than to Brad Berenson–bberenson@–co-counsel at Sidley Austin.

There’s been speculation about why a reporter’s email would even be in the partner’s address book, but I think it’s a red herring: all it would take is one “no comment” reply to a query from Alex Berenson, and boom! there it would be. Speaking as one, reporters send email queries all the time to set up interviews and such.

Here’s a guess: Auto-complete has been disabled in every attorneys’ email program at Pepper Hamilton, and probably a lot of other BigLaw firms. Hell, I would disable it, because I’m just the sort of person who gets ahead of herself and forgets to double-check those autocompleted names. Even without external email to blame, I once managed to fax a document to opposing counsel, rather than a client. Fortunately, it was only a case, and opposing counsel agreed to tear up the fax. All was forgiven. And let’s get real, sending opposing counsel a case is pretty small potatos compared to sending a document detailing the metes and bounds of a settlement agreement.

Eli Lilly has said it’s not firing Pepper Hamilton. No word on whether the partner who goofed is still working on the settlement, or has slept much in the interim. Maybe Eli Lilly gave her some Prozac, Cymbalta, or Darvocet samples to help.

Friday Files: The Great Font Debate

The thing about so many lawyers is they are very, very knowledgeable about one or two things, but think that means they know everything about everything. Which leads them into trouble when it comes to non-linear things like, say, typography.

In reality, I know precious little about typography, but having edited magazines, I’ve picked up bits here and there. When designers tell me a font does or doesn’t work, I listen. Plus I do own the classic Thinking with Type.

I mention all this because fonts are hot, baby. First, there was the movie last summer Helvetica, about the glories of that ground-breaking font. (Sadly, not living in a major city any longer, I missed it.) And the NYT Magazine published a terrific piece on Clearview, a new font coming to a road near you.

You would think that lawyers and typography are one of those “and ne’er the twain shall meet” kind of things, but you would be wrong. Back in the late 1980s, law firms were dipping their wing-tipped toes into the pool of branding. And at the particular BigLaw place where I was hanging, fonts were a raging debate, the subject of angry meetings and countless memos.

The problem was, essentially, that lawyers think everyone else is dumber than they are. And so the fact that an M and a W were looking mighty similar to each other, with very vertical stems, was keeping some folks up at night. In the proposed new logo, if you flipped one of those letters vertically, you couldn’t tell the difference between them. Flipped, they fit one on top of the other. And this was bad, very bad. A threat to the very fabric of society.

So the compromise was that the extremely vertical W was replaced with one that had some huge kind of angle to the stems. Never mind that it made the Ws as wide as a barge and collectively probably upped the firm’s printer cartridge consumption by 5 percent. The world was safe from interchangeable Ms and Ws, and that is what counted.

Until the firm changed its name. But that’s a different story.

Friday Files: Method Depositions

I used to work with Hank, a compulsive micromanager and highly methodical partner at a 30-attorney boutique. Despite having practiced for 20-plus years, Hank wanted his depo prep binders to have every possible iteration of a question included.

So I dutifully included questions like: What is your current position? How long have you held that position? What position did you hold before that? How long did you hold that position? Why did you leave that position? I think I included the same question set five or eight times, just in case.

I honestly couldn’t believe that going over 20 years of employment history was anything but a waste of time, when the dispute was only with a job held for about five years. Sure, ask if the guy had ever filed discrimination claims before, and follow that if the answer suggested you should, but going over every single job since the 45-year old guy was 21? Ludicrous.

So Hank calls me up after the first day of the deposition, in quite a lather. As he was plodding through the witness’ job history, the guy gets increasingly uncomfortable. When Hank got to the guy’s late 20s, the witness asked for a break. Hank was confused, but agreed.

When the witness and his lawyer return, the lawyer looks stunned. But the deposition resumes. Hank repeats the pending question, “What position did you hold before that?” And the witness proceeds to tell everyone how he wasn’t working before that. What was he doing? Serving time for a MURDER CONVICTION. For a murder committed when the guy was 19, trying to fence some stolen televisions.

Oy vey! I hate it when annoying partner habits pay off, but in that case, Hank’s plodding did just that.

As you might imagine, the case settled shortly thereafter. But that’s a tale for another day.