Monday, September 5, 2011

My Labor filled Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day everyone! As much I would love to spend this blog discussing a fun family bbq or this beautiful “fall preview” weather, I only have one thing on my mind today. Yes, like most of you, I normally choose to spend my Labor day thinking about anything BUT labor, but alas work is at the forefront of my thoughts right now.

You may remember from my previous blogs that my work life has been taken over by a huge federal construction case. Although it started several months before I was even pregnant with L, I always think of him when I mention this case. I found out I was pregnant with him the morning before the site inspection, I sat in depositions for months pregnant, swollen, and upset that the 20 plus other attorneys involved in this case worked through lunch while I tried to munch quietly on a Nutri-grain bar to silence my “you’re starving your baby – guilt”. When I got into a heated cross examination, he would kick. Several of my co-counsel had a “How many times will Mandi leave the deposition to pee” count (yes with this subject matter even the attorneys need games to keep us awake). So, I have dubbed this case “L’s case” because everytime I look at L tottering around I am reminded just how long this case has been in my life.

L’s case is one of those “this will never be tried cases”. It’s massive, a dozen plus attorneys, to date over 600 exhibits, 100’s of depositions, 2 weeks of every month for the past year designated for depositions by the judge, legal expenses mounting every minute. It has its own home in my office, taking up a whole large filing cabinet and overflowing everywhere. It’s one of those cases that you think to yourself, there is no way this is going to be tried because people just won’t want to pay the money that goes with trying a case this large…

But the one thing L’s case has taught me is the law is anything but predictable.

Alas the case that “will never be tried” is being tried in just a little over a month. The trial was originally set for 4 weeks. The first time this trial was set (last year) my husband and I planned meticulously. Todd took his 2 week vacation during the scheduled trial to make life easier. We did everything we could to soften the blow of the upheaval of our life. We were ready. But then you know what happened right?? Yes, the case got continued. Todd and I were upset that we had planned our life around the case, and wasted vacation time. So, then came the trial date for October 2011. This time I said “Don’t’ worry about it” when Todd was scheduling his vacation… “There is no way its going to be tried, so we’re not going to do what we did last year”. So instead of planning, Todd took his vacation time this summer and we took a long overdue family getaway.

Yes, the lady of justice is laughing at me behind her blindfold now, because you guessed it…now the case is going to be tried. And we are flying by the seat of our pants on how we’re going to manage it.

And of course it got worse…A week ago we sat down with the judge and had a talk about the trial. The judge talked about the preparation to pull a jury away from their lives for 4 weeks. Suddenly the Plaintiff’s attorney interrupted: “Uhh, you’re honor, it may take 2 months to try this case”. [Cue the instant heart attack for me across the phone…2 months? 8 weeks?]

Now if this was in my local county, I wouldn’t be so nervous, but of course L’s case can’t be that easy. The case is set 2 ½ hours away from where I live. The Mom inside me wanted to speak up: “Excuse me your Honor, 8 weeks? I can’t be away from my kids for 8 weeks.” But of course the lawyer side of me sat in silence.

So now here I sit, with the very real prospect that in just about a month, I am going to have to try to find a way to try a 8 week trial 2 ½ hours away from my home. I have to find a way to prepare a multi-million dollar litigation, and still be Mommy.

After the settlement conference, during yet another deposition in the case, the attorneys sat around discussing the trial. Thankfully I was appearing at this deposition by phone, because my eyes were rolling nearly out of my eyes as the other attorneys laughed about living in a hotel for 2 months, eating nothing but pizza and fast food. It seemed their biggest concern was the mountain of work that would be waiting for them 2 months away from the office. Yes, in a room full of over a dozen attorneys I seemed to be the only one silently worried about being away from HOME, not the office.

My schedule isn’t like most people, I have to be home at night, because my husband works at night. And not just a regular night shift, a 6 pm to 6 am night shift. There is no way I can simply kiss my kids goodbye and live a hotel life for 8 weeks. I have trouble being away from them for 1 night, yet alone 8 weeks.

And of course this has to be happening during the fall, my favorite time of year. I can’t help but think of all the trips to the pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and other fall activities that may be missed.

Of course I am lucky in a lot of regards. I have a great support system. My Mom calmed my fears earlier this week with a “just name the days I have to take off work and I will” attitude. The insurance adjuster actually encouraged me to send an associate during some of the “off days” so as to save costs on the trial. But the problem is, how on earth do I decide what is an “off day” on a trial like this?

But there is one small beacon of hope in this mess of a tale. The case is going for a final mediation Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Although most cases settle and so I should be excited about this mediation, I’m not. This case is a hard one to settle, and we aren’t even close. I have been crossing every body part I can and praying over and over for a settlement. And of course I have been working late into the night every night this weekend trying to be prepared and hoping for a miracle.

I know deep down, I’ll get through this even if the case doesn’t settle. I’ll make it work. As is most things in my life, the anticipation is always scarier than the actual reality. But still, the fear of the dramatic turns my life is going to take this fall has me completely on edge.

So here’s to hoping I can look back on this blog at the end of this week and laugh, knowing the case is settled, the bullet is dodged, and my fall will be completely normal. And here’s to hoping you are actually enjoying a “labor free” labor day!


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