On October 20, 2008 I was called to the managing partner’s office. The conversation was quick.
Everyone likes you, Craig. You do good work when you’re motivated, but you’re not motivated. A law firm can afford to keep a nice guy like you around when things are going well, but things aren’t going well. The firm needs to cut people. You’re not going to make partner here, so you’re one of the ones getting cut.You can have until the end of the year. We’ll give a good recommendation to any potential employer. Your job between now and then is to hand off your cases and to find another job.
I knew on some level it was coming, so I didn’t have much of a reaction. I think I even thanked my boss when he was done. I didn’t feel much of anything for the rest of the day except maybe a small bit of relief if you can believe it. I had been worried for some time that I wasn’t going to be able to reconcile my personal and professional lives. Now that had been taken care of for me. What lay ahead was harrowing, but I’ve always been better at dealing with adversity than anticipating it.
I left the office and got a drink. Then I drove up to the Ohio State campus, walked around for an hour or two and tried to remember how I perceived the world 17 years earlier when I first walked around the place. Nothing came of it so I went home.
After the kids were asleep I told my wife. I lied and told her that I was blindsided. I lied again and told her I knew that everything was going to be OK. How could I have any idea of that? The economy was in full collapse. People were being laid off by the thousands. Maybe I ruined us.
A sensible person would have taken that as a major wake up call. Would have realized that his pipe dream of being a writer derailed his legal career. Would have gladly traded any glimmer of hope that he could make a living doing what he loved for a steady paycheck doing what was necessary. I’ve always been a sensible person, but in this case I made an exception.
In early November I was asked to move Shysterball to The Hardball Times website and did so at the end of the month. I updated my resume and included the blogging on it alongside my other work experience. Maybe it would scare potential employers off, but I’d be damned if I was going to hide that part of my life any longer. I may have killed my legal career, but I wasn’t going to kill the chance at having a writing career. Whoever took me next was going to take me for what I was, not something I pretended to be. Because we are what we pretend to be.
I didn’t have a job yet when December 31st hit and began 2009 unemployed. I wrote my blog from home and hung out with the kids. When I was able to put the fear of being broke and maybe homeless out of my mind, I thought about how great it would be to do this all the time.