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Ruth Carter

Day 32/90 – Raising my Game

Day 32 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I feel like I raised my game as a lawyer.

This is how I look when I'm working - me & my laptop. (Photo by Brandon Larkin)

This is how I look when I’m working – me & my laptop. (Photo by Brandon Larkin)

When I started Carter Law Firm, my work mainly consisted of client consultations, drafting and reviewing documents, and intellectual property registrations. I limited the scope of my solo practice to consultations and transactional work because I didn’t want to screw up a case that might go to litigation, and I definitely wasn’t prepared to handle a litigation case alone. Now that I am with Venjuris, where we have seasoned litigators on the team, I have the proper entity to expand my practice areas to include potential litigation matters.

Today I drafted a cease and desist letter for a client. It was a solid effort and sufficient as a first draft. I took the draft to one of our litigators who sat down with me and went through it sentence by sentence, suggesting minor changes throughout that significantly raised the quality of my writing.

I went back to my desk bubbling with energy. My first draft was covered in notes in my chicken scratch handwriting. I was excited to integrate the changes into my work.

I love working with amazing writers. I appreciate it when they review my work and they return my drafted covered, almost dripping, with ink. And I consider myself to be a good writer! Working with these people gives me the opportunity to raise my own game, which leaves me ecstatic to know that I’m becoming a better writer and a better lawyer.

I feel a little weird using the phrase “raise my game” in reference to legal work because I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t take my work seriously. On the contrary, I am always aware that when someone comes to meet with a problem, their life and/or their livelihood is on the line. I have the deepest respect for the trust they have in me and my abilities. But I felt this phrase was appropriate because it embodies the energy and desire I have to improve my skills.

In case you missed it: Day 31 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I love listening to the way lawyers speak when they analyze cases.

Day 31/90 – Listening to Lawyers Speak

Day 31 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? Listening to a seasoned litigator talk about a case.

Giant Gavel by Sam Howzit from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Giant Gavel by Sam Howzit from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Have you ever listened to a lawyer analyze a particular case? I’m not talking about the egotistical ambulance chaser stereotype of a lawyer, but I thoughtful articulate lawyer. They are so smart when it comes to their practice area that it is almost mesmerizing to listen to them process strategy ideas and ways to phrase documents.

I popped by one of my colleague’s office today to discuss a case I’m working on and a demand letter that I’m drafting. I wanted to get his take on the situation to make sure that I wasn’t missing any legal issues. My pen flew across my legal pad as I tried to scribble down every word that seemed to flow out of his mouth like butter.

At one point in our conversation I paused, and he started to explain his previous statement because he thought I didn’t understand. I smiled and said something like, “Oh I know. I just like hearing the way you speak.”

Joining Venjuris has provided so many amazing opportunities for me in terms of expanding my scope of practice and I get to be surrounded by super smart people every day who below my mind with their knowledge, eloquence, and work ethic.

In case you missed it: Day 30 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Real Conversations with my Friends.

Day 30/90 – Real Conversations

Day 30 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? Having real conversations with my friends.

My friends are awesome.

My friends are awesome.

Even though these are the 90 Days of Awesome, I have had a few rough days lately with a substantial amount of physical and emotional pain at times. I’ve been a little MIA – mainly because I haven’t been suitable for human consumption.

When I have the days like this, I’m lucky to have so many wonderfully supportive friends, especially in the recovery community. When they ask, “How are you?,” they want to a real answer. And we can have real conversations – even if we are doing it over email or online chat – and we’ve been having them lately. I love that I can say that I am sad, angry, irritated, anxious, pissed off for no apparent reason, and none of them try to “fix” me. They also get it when I’m struggling and need keep my life as simple as possible. They know to stay out of my way so I can just focus on one thing at a time unless I ask for help. My friends know that I’ll be there if they need me, but that they have to get on my schedule unless it’s an emergency.

My friends are awesome. I am grateful that we can have real conversations without it being a big deal. On two separate occasions in the last few months, two different friends randomly asked, “How’s your heart?” It’s not something I talk about a lot because there isn’t anything new to say, but I appreciated that they asked.

Sorry is post isn’t more upbeat, but sometimes that’s just how life is. I am on the mend and will bounce back eventually.

In case you missed it: Day 29 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Indie Week Lunch at Fez!

Day 29/90 – Indie Week Lunch at Fez

Day 29 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I had lunch with a new friend at Fez during Independents Week (not a typo).

Photo courtesy of Fez on Central

Photo courtesy of Fez on Central

I received a request to meet with a fellow lawyer who is new to Arizona and starting a solo practice. He wanted to hear about my experiences starting a firm and marketing myself with social media. It’s always fun to chat with receptive lawyers about what’s working for me with social media. This guy was brand new to the valley so I got to give him an overview about networking in the Phoenix area.

We met for lunch at Fez. I picked this restaurant for several reasons:

  • They have awesome food.
  • They’re on the light rail – which would give my friend a chance to try public transit.
  • They’re members of Local First Arizona – great way to introduce this organization to him.
  • And they’re accepting Golden Coupons during Independents Week so we got 20% off our bill.

I enjoy Independents Week. It’s a week to focus on spending your money at locally-owned businesses so more money stays in the community. It may seem strange that I (an aspiring minimalist) get excited about a consumerism-focused event. But there is method to my madness.

  • Carter Law Firm and Venjuris are members of Local First Arizona, and I believe in keeping my money in my community.
  • Although I’m not a recreational shopper, I do buy things.
  • I’m frugal.
  • Shopping during Independents Week with the Golden Coupon to buy things I’m going to buy anyway lets me get them at a discount.
  • Everyone wins!

With nearly 3,000 businesses belonging to Local First Arizona, it’s hard to keep track of everyone. Seeing the list of companies that are accepting Golden Coupons is a reminder of some of the awesome local businesses in this state.

In case you missed it: Day 28 of the 90 Days of Awesome was Less than Awesome.

Day 27/90 – Biking my Errands

Day 27 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I ran my errands by bike today.

This is an old picture but it embodies how I felt after riding 21 miles today.

This is an old picture but it embodies how I felt after riding 21 miles today.

Last week, I proved to myself that I can easily bike to library to get books and DVDs.  Today, I took it to the next level and ran all my errands by bike. My ride started around 9am with a ride to the library to exchange some DVDs. I stopped off at home to drop of my DVDs and grab a snack before heading out again. I rode into Tempe to pick up a prescription and check out Zia’s Records. Zia’s is giving 20% off if you shop with a Golden Coupon during Independents Week (not a typo). I appreciate that the City of Tempe has invested a lot of energy and funding into making the city safer for cyclists with lots of bike lanes and racks. In all, I rode about 21 miles today. My legs were pretty tired and I was worn out in general by the time finished these two rides.

Although I sprayed myself down with sunblock before I got dressed today, I still got a bit of a sunburn on my arms and the beginning of a farmer’s tan on my thighs. And I hate having tan lines. Note to self: re-apply sunblock frequently.

I want to be someone who doesn’t rely on their car for every errand. Getting out and riding more often is showing me I can accomplish a lot even in a city with a substantial amount of urban sprawl.

In case you missed it: Day 26 of the 90 Days of Awesome – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal!

Day 26/90 – Marriage Equality!

Day 26 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal and protected the by the U.S. Constitution!

Rainbow by Benson Kua from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Rainbow by Benson Kua from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

It seemed like this ruling was going to be a given for same-sex marriage, but conversely, it means so much. Remember, homosexuality was regarded as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association until the 1970s. Just under 30 years later, I was at San Francisco Pride right after the Lawrence v. Texas (which legalized consensual sodomy between adults) came out. I was a newly-out baby queer, just basking in the fabulousness of the Castro. I hope people at Pride festivals this weekend are having a similar experience.

During my lifetime, we went from calling homosexuality an “alternative lifestyle,” to legalizing gay sex, to legalizing same-sex marriage. Not only have we legalized getting laid and getting hitched (woo-hoo!) the Supreme Court has legitimized same-sex marriages. At this point, we don’t need to say, “gay marriage” or “gay wedding.” When two people decide to get married, they have a “wedding.”

As I drove into work, I listened to some of the reaction on NPR from people who were unhappy about the ruling. I thought, “Ugh. Just leave each other alone,” before changing the channel. I always thought it was strange when opponents said that legalizing same-sex marriage would damage heterosexual relationships. I can think of only two instances when someone’s relationship creates a problem in my life – and I use the term “problem” loosely:

  1. If I’m attracted to someone and thinking about hitting on them. (Note to self: always check the left hand.)
  2. If my friend is connected at the hip to their significant other whom I don’t like. (The same is true for a friend who is perpetually with their best friend and I can’t stand the best friend.)
queer pride butt

That’s my butt & my Queer Pride shirt (2003)

Neither of these issues have anything to do with sexual orientation (or race, religion, gender, etc.). I hope as a country we are moving towards the idea of protecting individual rights, including the right to your own beliefs – with the caveat that this doesn’t give you permission to dictate what’s right for others. Stay out of my wallet, my sex life, and my reproductive organs. I don’t tell you what’s wrong with your relationship or life choices (to your face) and I would appreciate the same courtesy.

FYI – Your relationship – no one’s relationship – has ever legitimized or minimized any of my romantic relationships.

I probably spent two hours after the announcement reading the reactions on Facebook and Twitter with giddy excitement. I finally had to tell myself, “You need to calm the fuck down and get some work done today.”

It was a good day. Congratulations everyone! Thank you U.S. Supreme Court – at the five of you who made the right decision.

In case you missed it: Day 25 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I got to Teach a Webinar on Social Media Marketing for Lawyers!

Day 25/90 – Social Media Marketing Webinar for Lawyers

Day 25 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got to do a webinar on social media marketing for the Washington Bar Association, Solo and Small Practice Section!

Live Tweet from Today's Webinar

Live Tweet from Today’s Webinar

I spoke to law students and lawyers along the west coast about social media marketing during The Undeniable Tour earlier this year. The Washington Bar Association asked if I would do a webinar version of this talk. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity.

So today was the day – at noon, I jumped on the webinar with Mark Jordan of the Solo and Small Practice Section and spent just over an hour talking with 3-4 dozen people about how I use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and blogging to network and build my practice. I really tried to emphasize the interactive nature of social media, compared to print ads and billboards which are a one-way communication. I also tried to focus on how important it is to make time to blog, to be present on the platforms where you choose to create an account, and to be authentic. There is no split between my professional and personal lives.

We ended the webinar with questions from the audience and the thoughtfulness of their questions suggested that many of them are ready to take the plunge into blogging and being more active on social media. All the feedback I’ve heard so far was positive, so I hope I’ve helped this group be more effective at networking and promoting their knowledge and work.

I hope I get to do more things like this in the future. It’s a bit weird to post a sign on my door that says “Webinar in Progress. Please Do Not Disturb” and spend an hour talking at my laptop screen and webcam, but it’s a lot of fun too.

In case you missed it: Day 24 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I’m so lucky to have so much freedom in my life.

Day 24/90 – Freedom

Day 24 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? Seeing how much freedom I have in my life.

I love how genuinely content I look in this picture. Photo by Julia Kolsrud

I love how genuinely content I look in this picture. Photo by Julia Kolsrud.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging, but my life is basically made of awesome. When I think about the ultimate goal of my professional life, the first word that comes to mind is “freedom.” Looking back on today, I’m on track to achieve that. In the long run, I hope to have the freedom and financial means to basically do whatever I want, but for now, I am very content with the amount of freedom I have in my life. I get to:

  • Hand select my clients,
  • Charge whatever I want,
  • Wear whatever I want to work,
  • Set my own hours,
  • Decide whether I’m working from home or in the office each day,
  • Run errands in the middle of the day if I feel like it,
  • Bring my dog to work,
  • Write books,
  • Speak professionally,
  • Write blog posts about whatever I want, and
  • Do whatever I want with my free time.

If that doesn’t count is awesome, I don’t know what does.

It is my life perfect? God no. It’s far from that; but given how happy I am, I know I’m on the right path.

In case you missed it: Day 23 of the 90 Days of Awesome – The Satisfaction of Helping People!

Day 23/90 – The Satisfaction of Helping People

Day 23 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got to help people!

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams - used with permission

Pictures of me working at my desk are boring. Here’s an image that embodies how I feel about my work. (Photo by Devon Christopher Adams – used with permission)

For those of you who don’t know, I’m an existentialist – a big one. An essential part of who I am is based on the idea that what I do matters. It’s not an ego thing, but rather a why-am-I-here thing.

One of the things I love about being a lawyer is that I get help people in ways that they can’t help themselves. I love being able to tell clients, “We can fix that,” or “We can make that work.” I see my job as being an educator about the law as well as a problem solver because most people don’t know what their rights are, how to protect them, or their options for recourse are when there’s a problem.

I work on preventing problems in solving problems in my work, and lately I’ve been putting in a lot more work on the problem-solving side. I spent a good chunk of today drafting and revising a demand letter for one of my clients, and it felt really good to know that this document may bring my client the resolution he’s seeking. I am both pleased and proud of the work I did today.

One of the benefits and challenges of my work is that it’s not about me personally; it’s about using my skills and talents to achieve my clients’ desired results. So there are times that I have draft documents and negotiate on their behalf in ways that I don’t personally agree with, but are not legally wrong. On the flip side, it also means that it’s possible to have a cordial relationship with the opposing counsel when both sides are acting as zealous advocates for their clients without their egos getting in the way. Those tend to be the fastest and the easiest negotiations.

Today was a good day.

In case you missed it: Day 22 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I took my Fake British Accent to the Verizon Store!