Tag Archives: law

Remembering I’m an Extrovet

Yesterday, my Mom kindly consented to join me at an AFP event and we headed into Milwaukee. I almost didn’t go. But I RSVPed and felt somewhat obliged to attend and there would be food.

I walked through the doors at the event, looked around the room, and saw people I knew. Moreover, people I liked. Former co-workers, bosses, and mentors. People I spent years fighting alongside. People I only know from Facebook. People I met once years ago. People I wanted to know. The AFP, grassroots world. In the flesh. 

I guess I just didn’t realize how much I missed that world. 

It was like a light flickered on in my head. ‘I know this situation. I am trained for this situation. I can go work the room. I can catch up on all the changes. Network.’

I often feel displaced in law school, to say nothing of the five months I spent in Thailand. But this was the opposite feeling of displacement. It was belonging. 

And I also realized, while I miss the people, I don’t necessarily miss the job. That is, given the chance to go back to my old position, I probably wouldn’t. I like the law. I like the extra layer of understanding I possess when I talk about policies impacting our state. 

I’m not sure where that leaves me, except with a strong reminder that I’m still becoming. No matter how stressful this past year, no matter how stressful the coming one, it is not the last chapter. I’ve got people rooting for me. People who trained me, mentored me, and pushed me forward. And right now a new batch of people train, mentor, and push me. But that doesn’t mean the last bunch forgot about me. They’re still my people. I’m just also getting more people. 

More than anything, the evening reminded me that I’m an extrovert and need to spend more time with people who fill me up. 

Which leads me to a major thank you to my introverted mother for sticking around much later than she wanted while I caught up with people. She also had to deal with my giddy rambling on the drive back. My Mom is the real MVP.

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Finals: AKA What Is Going ON???

Honestly, I do not know how anyone manages to graduate from Thammasat University. I am told the other departments do not run as haphazardly as the legal department. But really, I don’t know how any of the students keep track of anything. My entire finals experience has been nothing but chaos! 

I am taking 5 classes. Allow me to briefly summarize my experiences: 

Class 1: The professor announces that any student who wishes to write a paper instead of taking the final may do so. I tell him I want to write a paper; we select a topic; I do initial research. A month before the final, I check in to ask if he wants an outline or draft before I turn in my final work. He looks surprised and informs me he did not realize I was writing a paper; no one is writing a paper; I should just take the final instead. I protest. He insists. I end up taking the final. 

Class 2: The professor gives out a syllabus at the beginning of class and another one a few weeks later when she makes some scheduling changes. Both clearly state: midterm = 50% of the grade, paper = 40%, final = 10%. As I review for the upcoming final, it occurs to me we never did write a paper. I ask my classmate. She says the final is worth 30% of our grade. I ask what happened to the remaining 20%. She sort of shrugs and after digging through my notes I see we had an in-class presentation. Apparently that was worth 20%. 

Class 3: The professor strolls into class and inquires how the take-home final is going. We all stare at him blankly. Take-home final? Now he looks surprised. Did the office not send out the final like he asked? No, no the office did not. Oh, well, if one student will provide their e-mail, he will send the final to that student and the student can distribute it to everyone else. Except guess whose e-mail that student does not have? Mine. I managed to get a grainy picture of the final from someone who took a shot of it from their phone. Exactly how we turn in the final once we finish remains unclear. Apparently the office will contact us.

Class 4: The office sends out a list of in-class finals with rooms and times. I ask my classmate how she is studying for it since we’ve had at least 6 different professors for this class. She says only one professor is testing us and it is a take-home exam. I say it is not a take-home exam; the office clearly put it on the list of in-class finals. She says the professor changed his mind. I flip through my notes. Sure enough, he told us a take-home. I ask where we get the take-home. She says he hasn’t given it to us yet. I ask when we should expect it. She doesn’t know. I ask another classmate. She thinks we might receive it Monday. Maybe Tuesday. It will be due in June. When in June? Uncertain. 

Class 5: I don’t know how to study for this final. Because the office kept scheduling another class at the same time, I only attended about half the courses we are being tested on. The professor responded to my e-mail for more information brusquely and basically told me her portion of teaching is done. I assume this means I can expect no further clarification. If I had a friend in this class, I could ask for notes. But far from being friendly, the students did their best to ostracize me. [And if you think I am being paranoid, allow me to inform you they actually switched their conversations from English to Thai when I walked by trying to find a discussion group to join because my group members all bailed. The professor saw and yelled at them and they designated one person to converse with me in English while they continued their conversation in Thai. My designated conversation partner spent the entire time looking miserable.]

In summary, I am a law student who might fail a freshman level course because I cannot figure out how any of this works.


The Little Things

My first two months living abroad were an exercise in powerlessness. By powerlessness, I mean the feeling of “I don’t know what to do.” Everything around me came with a learning curve. Transportation, food, working the air conditioning…literally all of it took effort. But over time, I mastered them. And then I moved on to the next set of challenges: developing a social life. It took a while. Again, though, I eventually made friends and found a church and braved the masses playing tourist. The last two months I feel like I really hit my swing.

But there are days like today when the last four months rewind and I feel powerless again.  When that happens, I’m generally not in a situation where you would expect powerlessness. I did not lose my debit card or miss my bus stop and end up on the outskirts of Bangkok again. I am not battling with hundreds of people to get my visa renewed. No, I feel powerless because all the little things keep adding up and I finally crack. 

Little things like:

  • My bus to school costs 14 baht instead of 13 baht. And I do not know why. Did it change permanently? Is it because I’m riding on a Thursday? Or because I’m riding ten minutes later than I normally do? Was I just taken advantage of? It is the same distance. The same bus. The same commuters. But some days I’m charged 13 baht and some days 14 and sometimes even 15. And I cannot find the pattern, the rhyme or reason. A tiny thing in the big picture, but then…
  • My professor absent-mindedly starts speaking Thai, or shows a slide in Thai, or tells us “since you all took Thai Civil Procedure, I will not spend any time on this part.” But of course I have not taken Thai Civil Procedure. I do not know Thai. I feel like I am missing something critical. Maybe a classmate sees my confused face and leans over to translate. Maybe the professor apologizes and explains to me. Or maybe I am just left in the dark. A little thing, but for a few moments I feel helpless and like I am missing something critical. I feel like a failure for not grasping the subject. 
  • My school cancels class. Again. Or schedules a make-up class with less than 24 hours notice. Suddenly, I’m scrambling to remember what is going on and where I am supposed to be. Chances are I have a class conflict. Then I’m wondering which course I should attend and if someone will grab notes for me in the other one. I feel like a terrible student but I do not know what to do. I cannot be in two places at once. I haven’t been to Fundamental Rights in 5 weeks. I’m a failure. 
  • The convenience store lacks whatever I am looking for. I cannot find the pattern for when they carry certain things and when they don’t. Some days the store overflows with food. Some days the shelves look bare. Some days I can find cake; some days they carry Oreos. But then the next month they do not carry either. Such a weird thing to leave me feeling unstable, but I do feel unstable. I am used to stores running out, but I am not used to stores not quickly replenishing their stock when they do. Or, you know, not ever carrying that thing again. Imagine a Wal Greens where the snack options randomly disappear and reappear every few months and only endless rows of dried seaweed and ramen stayed the same. But you have no explanation for why. It just is.

In the big scheme of things, none of these things matter much. An additional class, an extra baht, one less day with chips. But added together, these little moments of powerlessness add up. I cannot find the pattern. I cannot accomplish the thing. Panic sets in. And even though it is just momentary panic, add enough of them together and I feel a bit like a pin ball machine. 

Then add extreme heat, humidity, millions of other humans, and taxi drivers with a perchance for charging you triple the actual price and I start thinking nostalgically of the misery that was my schedule last semester. 

My friend, Ginnie, sent me a quote from a book she is reading and I love the way it sums up the emotion (albeit of Vietnam, not Thailand specifically): 

“Because life in Vietnam is one body-crushing, must-do, crowd-throbbing, mind-heavy, event after another. It takes all my energy just to react.” Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

All my energy just to react. Welcome to life abroad in Asia. 


“Why this class?”

“And why did you decide to register for this class?”

With dawning horror I realize the professor is looking straight at me. The entire class pauses to stare. For half a second, I consider giving him my real answer.

“This class sounded more challenging than Constitutional Law.” 

It would make people laugh, but I don’t know if this professor would find it funny. In truth, I had no clue what “Law of Information Technology” consisted of when I signed up. I am not even sure I thought it sounded interesting. But it did sound useful. And so, I decide to answer with the reason I would have given if I knew what I was getting myself into before I signed up,

“I want to learn more about the GDPR,” I say.

The professor looks slightly disappointed and moves on to ask another student. I think, “I should have given him the Constitutional Law answer.” 

 


The Water Law Professor

“Great weather we’re having!” says the professor, as a few remaining students trickle in. “Great that Spring finally arrived.”

“But it is Fall,” says a literal minded girl in the back. 

His smile falters somewhat.

I think, “This professor is funny. I am going to like this class.”

Then he starts teaching. He explains he is half Chippewa and was raised on the reservation listening to the stories of the elders. 

We nod politely. There are only 8 of us in the class so it is noticeable if you aren’t paying attention. 

He continues. However, instead of heading to water as one would expect with a class titled Water Law, he mentions Locke, then Marx. He talks about property rights and ownership. If his thread is a little unclear, we are at least in familiar territory. 

Then he starts talking about the Chippewa’s worldview, about the giant turtle who crawled out from the sea and formed North America. Warming to the subject, he talks about moon cycles (“our men have them too!”) and the Chippewa calendar based off a turtle’s back (not “the rule of some pope!”) 

We are all now totally lost but the professor is just getting started. He shows us pictures of his Grandfather – happily sidetracking to talk about the crazy stories the man told – and his brothers. He talks about the infinity symbol and how all of nature must work together. He discourses on Native American farming and spends a good five minutes ranting about Europeans who claimed the tribes were nomadic. He talks about the importance of the numbers 3 and 4; he shows us a picture of corn, squash, and beans and tells how the 3 of them fit together. He then explains the 4th element is mankind. 

Puzzled about what this has to do with water law? Oh, me too! Our professor lost his syllabus and openly told us he was teaching from a slideshow used for a different class. (Presumably one about the Chippewa worldview.) His main points however, were that conflict is an anathema and that all things must be brought into balance, otherwise “the Creator will bring it into balance for us, and we may not like the result.” 

I have a feeling I may not like the result of this class. 


Scalia Dissents

I have spent a lot of time this summer reading cases about religious liberty and the role of the First Amendment. Some rulings I agree with; others I strongly do not. The best feeling in the world, however, is reading a case I adamantly disagree with, noticing the year, and realizing Justice Scalia was on the court. His dissents are the best. Just take this line (internal citations removed): 

“Our cases in no way imply that the Establishment Clause forbids legislators merely to act upon their religious convictions. We surely would not strike down a law providing money to feed the hungry or shelter the homeless if it could be demonstrated that, but for the religious beliefs of the legislators, the funds would not have been approved. Also, political activism by the religiously motivated is part of our heritage. Notwithstanding the majority’s implication to the contrary, we do not presume that the sole purpose of a law is to advance religion merely because it was supported strongly by organized religions or by adherents of particular faiths. To do so would deprive religious men and women of their right to participate in the political process. Today’s religious activism may give us the Balanced Treatment Act, but yesterday’s resulted in the abolition of slavery, and tomorrow’s may bring relief for famine victims.” 

Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 615 (1987).


Not the CEO

I thought I was done geeking out about the Strength Finders test. But I’m not. 

I learned something new about myself today!

The Strength Finders test measures strengths based on 34 different attributes. So much I knew. (As previously blogged, my top five are Strategic, Communication, Positivity, Learner, and Input.) However, what I didn’t know was that Clifton Strengths classifies those 34 attributes into 4 different types: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking

The sheet I received describes the types like this: People with dominant Executing themes know how to make things happen. People with dominant Influencing themes know how to take charge, speak up, and make sure that the team is heard. People with dominant Relationship Building themes have the ability to build stronger relationships that can hold a team together and make the team greater than the sum of its parts. People with dominant Strategic Thinking themes help teams consider what could be. They absorb and analyze information that can inform better decisions. 

Guess what I learned? I do not have a single strength in Executing. Not this time I took the test. Not the last time. I guess not ever! 

Slightly less shocking given my recent discoveries, my dominant strength comes from Strategic Thinking. I absorb facts and find problems. I look for solutions. I’m happiest and most effective when doing this. I do not know about Amy 2017, but that sure describes Amy 2018. 

And I think I am okay with that. 

Strategic Thinking doesn’t sound like me. It sounds like someone who likes math, or plays chess, or runs the War Department. But I guess it also sounds like someone who loves writing research papers and playing Sudoku and growing community field offices. So that’s me. 

My results illustrate two other things about me that I did not previously realize: 

1. Leadership Style.

When I think of leaders, I think of the executive type. Those people know how to get things done. They have descriptors like Achiever, Arranger, Discipline, and Responsibility. I want those strengths and to be the sort of person who leads others with a single-focused drive. But that isn’t me.

Just because I am not an executive leader doesn’t mean I am not a leader, though. My leadership skills reflect big-picture problem solving. I plot. I plan. Sometimes I even follow through on those plans. I am less the executive CEO type…and more the in house legal consultant. (Hey, that’s convenient!) 

2. I might not be as entrepreneurial as I thought. 

I love entrepreneurs. I want to be one. But when I started thinking about my strengths, the lack of executing stands out pretty strongly. It also explains some of my previous difficulties running a field office. Just because I can see a problem does not mean I am good at fixing it. I need to work with others who can. 

No one functions entirely solo, but turns out I really can’t. I would never accomplish anything and I would unhappy if I tried. It isn’t the way I am wired. Far from depressing me, I find the realization somewhat freeing. I do not need to build, or accomplish, anything on my own. I am most effective when working with others.

I suppose that is probably true for everyone, but I still find it gratifying. I do not need to partner with an Executing type because I am weaker or underdeveloped in that area, but because I am better and more fulfilled doing something else. Heck, that’s the beauty of the free market. I do not know why it surprises me so much to find that in my everyday life!

On a more personal level, my discovery looks like this: Maybe I do not actually want to start my own law firm like I thought. Maybe that was the expectation I placed on myself because I am not a natural, executing leader but I still want the independence that comes with authority. So I told myself I needed to start a law firm to gain that independence. You know what that tells me, though? Independence is the value I crave, not authority. 

Where does that leave me? Somewhere between a need for others and a desire for independence. I do not know what that looks like yet, but I do know that when I find that sweet spot, I will be set