Thursday, May 31, 2018

Deciding It's Time to Move On (Delayed Post)

After commuting between Austin and Dallas for more than a year, I feel ready to give up on my current job. The logistics are tough and the job doesn't make the sacrifice (or prospective relocation) worthwhile.

There have been a wave of associate departures in my firmwide subgroup since January 1st, mostly at the senior level. Our local office has been particularly hard hit: (i) we started the year with with six associates in our subgroup, by mid-summer only two of those associates will remain, and (ii) I'm the only senior associate left.

The senior departures have to do with compensation issues and that we have a set of midlevels who have been encouraged to think they are senior associates and refuse to do proper work for senior associates (one associate in particular is guilty of turning in assignments to the senior associates weeks late, if at all, and rife with errors in order to take assignments directly from partners; I understand the logic, but I don't like it). Locally, that leaves us with just one junior associate who is completely overloaded.  According to the partners, the solution is for senior associates to handle deals "soup to nuts," which is to say, solo with no support for the indefinite future.

As an example of this, last week I was at the office past 2 am Sunday through Thursday night. Eighty percent of that time was spent on work that I would consider too junior for my level (we're talking an 8th year associate doing material contract review for due diligence). I expect to work those hours in my specialty area, but I am never going to advance if the majority of my time is spent on junior tasks to make up for the firm's persistent human capital management problem.

There's so much more to say, but that's all that's fit for a public forum.

So it's time.

Would part of me love to go to another, more functional firm? Yes. I like the resource rich environment that firms offer. My subspeciality is better suited to a firm than in house environment. And a firm environment is... what I'm used to.  Having said that, I'm out of moves. You can only lateral so many times. I also feel that I'm out of time--too far out of law school--with atypical experience.

So I'm interviewing for all sorts of jobs.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Long Weekend in Lake Tahoe

To celebrate my boyfriend's graduation from business school, we planned a (last minute) trip to Lake Tahoe for the holiday weekend. I had saved some money thinking we would head to Europe, but due to timing issues related to his job, we needed to stick closer to home. When my boyfriend suggested Tahoe, I couldn't refuse!

Since we planned to stay on the north side of the lake, we flew into Reno, a relatively sleepy airport. Our flight arrived just before midnight. We snagged a cheap room in Reno on HotelTonight (an app for last minute hotel bookings). In the morning, we made our way to Tahoe. The weather was cool and crisp, and it was fun to experience a dramatic change in landscape--when was the last time I'd seen a pine tree?

We stayed in a condo right on the water. The units were in excellent condition and offered all the amenities I could have hoped for--steam shower (can I have one of these at home one day!?!), kitchen, fireplace, washer/dryer in unit and access to a pool and hot tub. Something I'd never realized before home ownership is the extent to which my mental list of home maintenance and housekeeping chores wears on me whenever I'm home. By putting myself in a location where I couldn't complete any chores (and my cell phone hardly functioned), I was able to truly relax.


We didn't have much of a schedule and spent most of our time enjoying the fresh air and otherwise resting and recharging (and seeing Solo, which we thought was a lot of fun). I'd love to come back when it's a little warmer to spend some quality time hiking!

Emerald Bay State Park

Our one scheduled activity was a guided kayak tour. It was a touch cold for this activity, but I know I'll relish the memory of those cool temperatures during the upcoming, hot and steamy Texas summer. The Keep Tahoe Blue folks have been doing a great job: the water was remarkably clean (on par with New Zealand).

Near Sand Harbor

This was my first true vacation since my graduation (eight years ago!?!). I'm fortunate that this trip coincided with some changes at work that made it possible to limit the amount of time I billed over the weekend. I learned that while tacking an extra day or two on to a work trip or travelling to visit family is fun, it's just not the same as taking a real break from everyday life to recharge. 

Many thanks to the boyfriend (and the boyfriend's brother who owns the condo where we stayed) for suggesting this trip. I didn't want to come home! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Graduation Dinner

My boyfriend graduated from the full-time MBA program at UT earlier this month.

I'm proud of him. He had a full career in the military before heading back to school. As much as it's been a time for learning finance, accounting and Excel, it's also been a time for transitioning his vocabulary and acclimating to the civilian perspective. It's been a lot to take on at a time in life when change is less appealing to most.

I had to talk him into participating in the graduation ceremony. Ironic, given that I refused to walk in my own law school and MBA graduation ceremonies eight (8!) years ago.

By the time I won this negotiation, every restaurant we tried for post-ceremony dinner reservations was already booked. This meant I had to pull together a modest celebratory dinner to be enjoyed at home, which was a touch difficult because we needed to leave the house for the ceremony mid-preparation and had a house full of hungry guests immediately thereafter. Here's what we came up with:
  • Main - Picked up chilled brisket from Franklin's to reheat using a pseudo sous vide method that required minimal supervision.
  • Side 1 - Cowboy beans that simmered in a slow cooker throughout the day.
  • Side 2 - Corn on the cob. This was the only item I cooked after the ceremony.
  • Side 3 - White bread (because, as I was surprised to learn at my own UT Law orientation, in Texas, white bread goes hand in with BBQ).
  • Dessert - Pecan pie baked the day before.
It was simple and very fitting for a Texas graduation. I would have loved to do something more involved, but think it was smart to dial it back and reduce stress so we could all enjoy the celebration. He was happy about the menu and that's what was important!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Bucilla Christmas Stocking (Christmas Drive)

One of my goals for 2018 was to complete a Bucilla stocking for my nephew who is nearly a year old. The Bucilla kits are part of a family tradition reaching back to my great grandmother's generation. I have a Bucilla stocking that my mom made for me when I was a toddler (can you believe it's held up after all these years?) and I completed the Airplane Santa stocking kit for my boyfriend (who is a pilot) last December.

In January, I started the Christmas Drive stocking kit. I picked this kit for my nephew because it features a big red truck, which I hope will be a hit with the little guy during his childhood. He won't use this stocking every year--my sister in law has a khaki/beige color scheme for her Christmas decorations and this stocking clearly isn't in conformity with that scheme--so it's just for the years that they celebrate Christmas with our side of the family at one of our houses. I'll also make a Bucilla stocking for my sister-in-law so that everyone is included.

Bucilla stockings are made of felt and decorated with embroidered, sequined and beaded appliques. Building up the details that make these stockings so delightful takes time and patience (and a good pair of sharp, detail scissors). I usually work on just one or two pieces per session, which explains why this stocking took five months to complete!

Unlike the stocking I made for my boyfriend last year, this kit calls for a name to be embroidered across the top of the stocking. I gave this a try and felt like my attempt was unattractive and ruined the look of the entire stocking. To reverse this error, I carefully pulled out the name embroidery and then took a trip to the craft store to pick up some gold cording and matching thread. I twisted the cording into my nephew's name, tamping it down with the matching thread for a better result.

Here is a look at the finished stocking:

I'm happy with how this turned out, but if you're working on this kit, I would use dark brown thread, instead of black, to define the muzzle of the teddy bear.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

On the Condition of my Car, >2 Months After the Accident

I'm checking in to close the loop on my last post regarding the condition of my car after two attempted repairs by Service King over the course of more than a month.

Due to the long list of still-not-repaired damage to my vehicle after two visits to Service King, I spent hours on the phone with Allstate to get them to agree that the remainder of my service would be completed at a different Service King location.

Upon delivery of my vehicle to the new location for Service King's third attempt to repair my vehicle, I brought with me a written list of the still-not-repaired damage and reviewed it in detail with the manager. The key issue being that the front passenger door, when closed, would not seal because the door of the vehicle had been bent out of shape while the vehicle was in Service Kings custody.

After a week, the new location called me to notify me that my vehicle was ready. When I arrived to take delivery of my vehicle, the front passenger door was still not repaired. I advised that I would not leave the shop until this issue was resolved. They reacted quickly to this feedback and resolved the issue in about 15 minutes while I took client calls in their customer waiting area. (As always seems to be the case, this errand coincided with a particularly busy day at work.)

Driving away from the body shop, two remaining issues were immediately evident:

  1. Loud rattle while vehicle was in motion had not been resolved.
  2. Blind spot monitoring system was no longer functioning (dashboard indicated a complete system failure). This was a new issue. We would later learn that the reason for this failure was a poorly executed, incomplete repair completed at the first Service King location.
So, I was once again on the phone with Allstate and Service King advocating for the complete repair of my vehicle. Ultimately, I demanded an opportunity to take the vehicle to a different body shop recommended by my vehicle's manufacturer. Representatives from Allstate and Service King met me at the new body shop to review the still-not-repaired damages (presumably, in case I was making all of this up). They agreed that there were unresolved issues and the new body shop took custody of my vehicle.

Within a week, the new body shop had coordinated with my vehicle's manufacturer for repair of the blind spot monitoring system and independently resolved the rattle. 

After four visits to the body shop over the course of more than two months, repair of my vehicle is finally complete!