Sunday, May 26, 2019

Read 12 Non-Fiction Books (Part I)

One of the joys of life after law firm is having enough time to read for pleasure. This year, I plan to read at least 12 non-fiction books and 12 novels. I've made significant progress.

Here are six non-fiction books that I read during the first half of 2019:
  • The Boys in the Boat. An account of the American rowing team that won gold at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics. While not a central theme of this book, the author spends considerable time discussing the role of flow state in competitive athletics (a concept I wrote about in my undergrad application!).

Sunday, May 19, 2019

LSAT Class

One of my goals for the year was to teach an LSAT prep class. Mission accomplished as of last week!

I taught my first LSAT class back in 2002 (yup, 17 years ago) and "retired" from teaching a few weeks before I took the bar exam in 2010. In the intervening years I worked at law firms and did not have enough control over my schedule to teach, but last year when I went in house I started thinking about teaching again and returned to the classroom to prep students for the November 2018 LSAT and June 2019 LSAT.

Why teach an LSAT class at this point in my career?
  • Ownership. In my full-time role, I have very little ownership over my matters. This bugs me. In the classroom, I have full responsibility for student comprehension and I can measure my effectiveness by tracking student score improvements.
  • Public Speaking. The curriculum I teach currently includes twelve three-hour lectures. No matter what my future holds, it's great to practice communicating clearly, thinking on my feet, and engaging an audience.
  • Connection. In my full-time role, our manager structures our workflow in such a way as to deliberately stymie the development of attorney relationships with client teams. It's isolating. The LSAT classroom gives me an opportunity to work with the same set of students over the course of a few months and watch them progress. It's rewarding.
  • Cash. When I transitioned from a law firm salary to a gov't salary, I created a hyper-aggressive budget so I could maintain the amount I save each month, which required cutting out all the extras. I earn $70/hour teaching LSAT classes. I've used this money to pay for my Peloton, dinners out and "extras" for the house (e.g. shades for the bedroom--finally!).
There's probably only one more LSAT classroom course in my future--the classroom course business has been cannibalized by online course offerings.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Hoarding PTO

My current employer, a government agency, does not offer paid parental leave. So, just in case, I'm hoarding as much PTO as I can to try to minimize the financial impact of any parental leave (should I be lucky enough to find myself in the position to take parental leave). Incredibly frustrating since one of my objectives in leaving the firm was to be in a position to take an annual vacation.

How much PTO do I need to accumulate? The agency allows employees to take up to 12 weeks off for parental leave. That's 480 PTO hours needed to avoid unpaid leave.

How many hours can I accrue in one year assuming I take no PTO?
  • 96 hours of vacation time, accrued at a rate of 8 hours per month
  • 96 hours of sick time, accrued at a rate of 8 hours per month
  • Up to 190 hours of comp time, accrued at a rate of 1 hour per 1 hour of overtime worked
How many hours can be carried over from one year to the next?
  • 180 hours of vacation time can be carried over from one year to the next (vacation in excess of cap not used converts to sick time)
  • No limit on the number of hours of sick time that can be carried over from one year to the next
  • No comp time can be carrier forward from one year to the next
Given these policies, my strategy is to avoid using vacation or sick time, and use comp time only when its expiration is imminent. So far this has worked for me. To date, I have saved the following hours:
  • 88 hours of vacation time
  • 88 hours of sick time
  • 120 hours of comp time
This means that although I haven't hit one full year of service, I've met my goal of banking 240 PTO hours.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Attending a Conference as a Government Employee

One of the professional goals that I set at the beginning of the year was to attend a conference. This sounds simple. Our GC is supportive of conference attendance. There are myriad conferences on offer. Easy peasy. Right?

Wrong. Now that I'm a government employee instead of a law firm associate, there are many rules surrounding travel and the value of complimentary food or entertainment we can receive. I appreciate the need for ethics and compliance rules to make sure all travel arrangements are above board and all agency resources are used appropriately, but the red tape sometimes left me wishing I had never volunteered as tribute... er, volunteered to travel on behalf of the agency.

How was traveling on behalf of the agency different than traveling as a firm associate?

  • Internal approval process resulted in significant delays in booking airfare, resulting in additional expense to the agency.
  • I handled all arrangements, except for the purchase of the flight, because our department does not have a dedicated administrative assistant.
  • There is a relatively low cap on the daily rate on lodging--the best option available to me on this trip was a Best Western.
  • There is also a low enough cap on the meal reimbursements that it was difficult to avoid coming out of pocket at the conference location. 
  • There is no reimbursement for tips (on meals, Ubers, etc.). 
  • I had to decline certain dinner, reception or entertainment invitations due to the value that could be assigned to such events.
  • The conference fee was waived for LPs. (Law firm attendees, on the other hand, paid a conference fee in excess of $1k.)
The conference content was interesting, but I think I learned more from the informal conversations that took place before and after the formal sessions. I left the conference with a better understanding of how business teams (on both the GP and LP side of an investment) approach a deal and how they view the negotiation of legal documents. (There were few attorneys in attendance so folks were speaking... freely.)

Oh and did I mention the beautiful conference setting?

The ritzy location was what was driving the struggle to keep expenses within the agency's various expense caps. I'll take that struggle in exchange for the spring sunshine, this view, and the sheer delight of the conference lunch coinciding with a major butterfly migration.

Coincidentally, a dear childhood friend lives halfway between the conference hotel and the closest airport. I was able to meet her for a quick meal before I caught my flight home. Truly the icing on the cake.

In the future, I'll look for conferences with more technical content located closer to home.