Today, I retired from the practice of law.
I know, right? Doesn’t that make me sound like a septuagenarian who got tired of shuffling down to the courthouse every day to inquire whether it pleases the court? In reality, it’s not so glamorous (if being a septuagenarian who got tired of shuffling down to the courthouse every day could be considered glamorous). The truth is, it probably won’t make much of a difference in anything.
When we moved to Colorado in 2003, I had been practicing law in Illinois for four years. I was one year shy of qualifying for reciprocity, which means that if I wanted to practice law in Colorado, I’d have to take the bar exam here.
I’m not gonna lie. Taking the bar exam was my least favorite thing I’ve ever done in life. It was awful. And it’s not like I didn’t enjoy studying for law-related stuff. Honestly, and
not to brag (although I think it’s stupid to brag about shit like that), I kicked ass in law school. Shit, I graduated summa cum laude and was third in my class. (Full disclosure: I went to a low-ranked school.) That’s not representative of someone who doesn’t like to study law-related stuff. Hell, I loved studying law-related stuff. I was remarkably, freakishly, dorkily fond of law school. I enjoyed the gamesmanship as much as anything. It wasn’t just that you had to know the material. You had to know the material and you had to express what you knew in the manner each professor wanted to hear it (which implies that you also had to figure out what each professor wanted to hear and how he or she wanted to hear it). It was like a big puzzle and I loved the hell out of every second of it. My favorite was the professor who was incredibly hard on everybody. He was the stereotypical “mean” law school professor. One time, I raised my hand and said something in class and in response, he paused and then said, “Oh my God. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” I loved that shit, not because I have poor self-esteem or enjoy abuse, but because it was a game and it was a challenge. I rocked the hell out of every exam I took in his classes, and one time his comments to me were so fantastic (if I recall correctly, he might have drawn a smiley face) I had them hanging on my refrigerator until I graduated. I threw out most of my law school stuff, but I still have that page somewhere.
So you’d think I wouldn’t mind the bar exam, because it’s the biggest game of all. There are multiple choice questions designed to confuse you into picking the wrong answer. It’s incredibly stressful and awful and like it was designed to mess with your head. I must not have been nearly as bad ass as I thought I was, because the bar exam seriously messed with my head, which is stupid because I knew that’s what it was designed to do and I let it happen. I was powerless to resist its fuckitude. I remember taking the bar review class, which was bad but it wasn’t the worst of it. The worst of it was spending hours and hours in the library, reviewing shit over and over and over and then going home and seeing all the assholes playing on the beach (I studied downtown and lived in Andersonville, so trips to and from studying often involved Lake Shore Drive). I remember freaking out and bursting into tears for no reason. I remember thinking that if I failed (and there was always someone on Law Review who failed and holy crap I didn’t want to be that person), I’d have to find a new line of work because I was not going through this shit again. After the test, I went out to a bar with a bunch of peeps from law school and I couldn’t even be relieved it was over, because I was so afraid I failed. Then you have to wait months to get the results, and boy that’s awesome.
There was no way I was going through that shit again, so I decided that if I moved to a different state, I just wouldn’t practice law. And that was that. (Of course, I didn’t really think about what I’d actually, you know, do, so that was kind of stupid and resulted in some woeful underemployment before I went back to school to become a teacher and then found my current job.) But hey, making emotional decisions and acting on them without adequate thought or planning is how I roll, and roll I did, all the way to Nederland, Colorado.
Since moving to Colorado, I’ve registered as “inactive” every year and paid my $105 for the privilege of, well, nothing. I usually completely forget about registering and paying every year, which means I then pay another $25 for each month I’m late (as you can tell, I’m one of those people who’s kind of book smart but not so smart in any other way).
Today, I received an “urgent” email from the Illinois attorney registration people, informing me that, once again, I’m late and I need to hurry up and pay my shit before I’m removed from the master roll of attorneys (which is some bad shit, because if you’re removed from the master roll of attorneys and you don’t get back on and pay for all the months you were late, you have to take the bar exam if you ever want to practice law again). As you may know, I do not wish to take the bar exam again. And I like being on the master roll of attorneys. Wait, that should be capitalized. I’m on the Master Roll of Attorneys, bitches. Recognize.
Anyway, today I noticed you can change your status to “retired.” If you’re retired, you don’t have to register every year or pay $105. The only bad thing is that, if I ever want to change to active status, I’ll have to pay the active attorney fee (which is $200-something) for each year I was on retired status. Well, okay. I can live with that, because I hope I can presume that, if I ever move back to Illinois to practice law I’d have a job that pays me enough for this not to be an undue hardship. Right?
I just hope AARP doesn’t find me.