Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JULY 2003

Parting Thoughts
Judge Judy and Me
By Sonia A. Montalbano

It’s getting close to the noon hour as I sit and write this. A cup of coffee is close at hand. My office door is shut, blocking out interference from the other inhabitants of my work space. Case files are strewn about my desk, as well as the floor, as I focus on the task in front of me, ignoring the 'You’ve got e-mail' prompt tempting me from my work. Only one thing could possibly invade the intellectual sanctuary I have successfully created for myself. The doorbell.

The doorbell means I must get dressed, brush my hair and make myself presentable to the outside world. It also means the cats will get into the room and start jumping on my lap, the computer keyboard and my inbox, causing as much destruction as possible to the order I have created in the universe of my new home office.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Having decided to make the switch from partner in a small law firm to sole practitioner in the last few months I admit, I have had to make adjustments and adopt a new set of habits. One new habit is sitting around in my pajamas until noon. Of course, I don’t always wear pajamas that late into the day. Sometimes I wear evening gowns to mix things up. Sitting around the house in a business suit seems a little pathetic, if you ask me.

A whole new world has opened itself to me by making this transition. For example, I have an entirely new relationship with the mailman. Previously he was an anonymous cog in the wheel of the postal service, leaving articles of mostly junk in my mailbox. Now, he is a unique individual linking me with the outside world. I reflexively jump whenever I hear any sound resembling footsteps on the porch; it means the mail might be here! There could be an invitation to a CLE, a signed retainer agreement from a new client, a check from an old client or better yet, the new Vanity Fair!

Like most lawyers, I am still a procrastinator. In the past the opportunity to avoid work was limited to the availability of my friends, most of whom had time commitments to their own jobs. My efforts at distraction were confined to quick and meaningless phone calls or e-mails. Now, I have an infinite number of diversions. My house has never been cleaner (except maybe when I was studying for the bar exam). The lawn is mowed, my pantry is stocked, the plants are watered, every photo I have is in an album, and I have finally organized my 36 pairs of shoes according to both color and style.

My office is a mess, but I have plenty of time to get to that. I have work to do, but I couldn’t possibly do a good job knowing my books are not arranged upon the shelves according to category (sci-fi, fantasy, classics, historical fiction, modern fiction, poetry and old philosophy books I keep around to impress people who look at bookshelves, such as myself). As soon as I finish that project I will be ready to settle down to the task at hand. I will begin by reviewing a complaint.

Wait! This will require some legal research. It’s 3 o’clock, which means it’s time for The People’s Court. No longer having unlimited access to Lexis or Westlaw, I grab my research opportunities however they present themselves. That Judge Milian is pretty savvy and I am convinced we could all learn a thing or two from her. To be thorough I skip over the channels to check out Judge Judy. I wish she would stop yelling at the litigants. It’s so embarrassing. Judge Milian rarely yells, and when she does it’s usually about her husband.

Four o’clock. I should really get cracking. Recognizing that I need to contemplate what I have learned in my research, I devise a plan of action. Since the weather is nice I decide the best way to accomplish this is on my bicycle on a ride along the Esplanade. Nothing is more inspiring than a brisk jaunt along the Willamette River.

I return to my house, full of ideas and energy. I am also hungry. Since I began working from home I cook more often, and much more elaborately. Tonight I think I will try my hand at Pad-Thai noodles with salad rolls. This will require a trip to the market. But I also need printer paper, which makes it a deductible trip (I hope). After dinner I’ll finally be ready to get to work.

And you know what? That’s fine, because there is no one looking over my shoulder. I have no one to answer to but myself and my clients, and I know they want me to be in the best possible frame of mind when I work for them. If that’s at eight, or more likely nine o’clock at night, so be it. Since going it alone I work more effectively and efficiently than ever before. The work gets done, that is all that matters. When it is done is of no consequence.

Unless it’s Wednesday, which may mean more research. I think Law and Order is a new episode this week, and it could come in handy some day. It certainly did when I was studying for the bar exam.

Sonia A. Montalbano focuses her practice on the areas of employment law and business litigation. In her spare time, she emcees fundraising events for a variety of non-profit organizations. She is also licensed to perform weddings.

Sonia A. Montalbano focuses her practice on the areas of employment law and business litigation. In her spare time, she emcees fundraising events for a variety of non-profit organizations. She is also licensed to perform weddings.

© 2003 Sonia A. Montalbano

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