Monday, September 12, 2011

The Peanut Gallery

Last Monday, I told you about my monster 8 week trial. I wrote that blog two days before the case was set to mediate. It did not settle.

So, alas, I am embarking on what seems to be an impossible task for me, trying to get myself and my family ready for the horrible fall that awaits us.
Of course, after my announcement that the case did not settle to my family and friends, I have been met with a ton of comments from everyone…my “peanut gallery” if you will. Everyone seems to be weighing in on my recent news.  

However, I am finding that in addition to the allergy I have to actual peanuts, I am apparently allergic to peanut galleries as well, because all the chatter has driven me crazy. I thought talking about this trial with people would help me cope…well….nope.
Oh the peanut gallery. Now don’t get me wrong, some people have been amazing throughout this process, and I am certainly not intending to be ungrateful for the countless people who have listened to me complain about my work life lately. But still, I’m finding through this process that silence is golden.

The worst member of the Peanut Gallery is the lawyer himself/herself. When I tell a lawyer about the fall that lies ahead of me I am usually met with: “Oh, I have to do that all the time…(usually followed by a story or two of some great trial)”, “You’re a litigator, so this happens” or “Yeah, that stinks, but you’re used to it right?”  What I’m dying to say to these people when they say this to me (and in all honesty have actually said to a few) is…this may happen to YOU, this may be something YOU deal with as a litigator, but it doesn’t happen to ME.
See, it’s no surprise to you if you are a follower of my blog that I’m not a typical litigator. I love litigating, don’t get me wrong. My favorite place to be in my career is in front a jury…but my love for litigating doesn’t hold a candle to the love for my kids. I see myself first as Mom, and then as a litigator. So this means, that an 8 week out-of-town trial might be old hat for some litigators, but not me. I’m the litigator that’s out the door by 4:30 most days, the litigator who never misses a school event or time with her kids. I’m a Mom first, then attorney.  

In fact, contrary to what some members of the gallery may believe, I’ve never had to do what I am about to do before. Sure I’ve had out of town trials, but anything that lasts more than 1 night, I bring my kids with me. They have been to the smallest counties in Iowa, sitting with their Dad or my Mom waiting for me to finish up a deposition or try a case. In fact, when I say “trial” they say “What hotel are we staying at? Does it have a pool?”.
But, times have changed. J is in school. If this was last year, I would without hesitation move my kids with me for 8 weeks and find a way to hire child care out there. But alas I’m without that option.

What’s that saying… “There are a thousand ways to skin a cat” or something like that?? Well, there are a thousand ways to be a litigator, and so I wish our profession could see that just because you are a litigator does not mean litigating 2 month long trials away from home is something you are used to or want to do.
Then there are the “Why don’t you…” members of the gallery, the problem solvers of the group. “Why don’t you just commute each day to the trial?”, “Why don’t you just settle the case?” “Why don’t you just send another attorney to cover?”. These people come from the right place…but still I wish they could see it is simply not that easy. Although I would love to commute to this trial everyday, it simply isn’t possible. I live 2 ½ hours from the courthouse. The trial will most likely start promptly at 8:00 a.m. A trial is not like a deposition, there is no leeway for being late. Not only do you have to be there on time, you have to be there early to get things set up. And then you have to factor in possible construction, traffic jams, accidents. It’s just not possible. Sending someone else to do my duty also won’t work. I’ve lived and breathed this case for 2 years. Having someone come in at the 11th hour simply would not work in a case of this magnitude. And settle the case? Well, I tried so hard at mediation I was barging into rooms with counsel trying to get it done. I’m apparently forefronting a new attitude in attorneys: “professionally desperate”.

Finally there are the “look on the bright side” members of the crowd; the ones trying to get me to find some sort of silver lining to this. “Think of the experience of it all Mandi….”; “You’ll finally get some alone time…”; “You can come home on the weekends”, etc. Well, although I wish I could see the glass as half-full in this situation, not only is it half-empty…its bone dry. This experience is not one I want at the expense of family time. I have never missed anything for my kids. Now with this trial I will miss out on fall field trips, bedtime lullabyes, dance classes, parent teacher conferences, Halloween parties, and the hardest to bear, Halloween itself. Alone time? Well, I’ve never been away from my kids for more than a night in their lives. I don’t like alone time. In fact, I always laugh how when Todd and I do get a way for the night, I look forward to actually being able to sleep in only to find myself wide awake at 6:00 a.m. anxious and excited to go back and get them. And yes, it is true I will be able to come home throughout the trial, but this just means I’ll have to endure 20 goodbye crying sessions instead of 1. A couple days with my kids is not enough for me, especially when I think about what chores will lie ahead of me after a week of leaving my kids with my husband!!

I’m finding through this experience, that the best thing I can do is to silence the peanut gallery, no matter how well intentioned they may be. The truth is, I’m the only one that is going to go through this. I’m the one that has to find a way. I know I’ll do it, I’ll come out of this, I’ll survive, and before too long this will be a distant memory. So peanut gallery…I think I’m “nutty” enough for all of us, so thank you so much, but I’ll take it here….


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