On The Floor

I will never forget the time I spent half a day on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Prior to September 11, 2001, the second-floor gallery was open for visitors to observe the madness of the Exchange during the business day.  But tours have not been available for almost six years. And even when tours were available, visitors had to stay above the action and out of the way. But I was on the actual trading floor, a locale that few have experienced. I spent a day there because I was an intern at the NYSE Division of Enforcement during my last year of law school. I was not involved in the day-to-day trading aspect of the Exchange, but rather worked with attorneys that monitored the specialists and brokers on the floor (click here for an explanation of what a specialist is and how they maintain a fair and orderly market by providing liquidity and acting as agents for publicly traded companies). Not only do the federal securities laws apply to each person on the floor, but so do the numerous NYSE regulations. Consequently, there is a whole separate division of the NYSE responsible for the enforcement of those laws and the prosecution of any violations. I worked there part time for four months.

 I don’t remember whether the market was up or down the day I visited (and it certainly wasn’t as volatile as it has been in the past few weeks), but I remember how hectic the place was. Unlike what you see on television, the NYSE is quite large. The large trading floor that is shown constantly in the media is only one room of many. The technology used by all parties is quite sophisticated and impressive; it also does away with the need to use paper to execute each trade. Some old timers still tell stories of cleaning up knee-high piles of crumpled paper that were used to write bid and ask prices throughout the business day. Everything moved so quickly. The atmosphere was intense and emotions ran high. It seemed that everyone had a nickname and women were still a rare sight. There was definitely a “clubby” feel to the crowds on the floor and the feeling I received was that positions came truly from who you knew and less from what school you went to in a way that is different from the legal or investment banking world. In fact, many of the people currently working on the floor never even attended college, but have risen through the ranks from a “runner” to a trader. With that as the case, believe me when I say that only the strong have survived.

As exciting as it was, however, I couldn’t imagine working there each day, let alone the bad days the market has had in the past few weeks. It was an experience that few people have and one that I am unlikely to have again.


Nanny Days

Our part-time nanny started yesterday. And by part-time, I mean that she works three days a week for twelve hours each day. That would hardly be considered part-time to many people. Our daughter Hanna is not yet three-months-old but my wife had no choice but to start her new job yesterday in Greenwich, Connecticut. And so for the past two days I have left at my usual time in the morning to catch the train. But instead of giving my wife and daughter a kiss goodbye, I am now just giving my daughter a goodbye kiss and thanking the nanny before I run out the door. Hopefully the nanny works out. Not only are we trusting her with our child, but we’re trusting her in our home for hours on end each week. The reality of two incomes is nice, but marrying a doctor does require some changes and sacrifices; not having a parent at home for much of the week is one of them. And since in the end I will always be a man, my hard-working wife is probably thinking that she could use a wife.

Manhattan Criminal Court

I was reminded today why I chose to go into private law practice over working for the government. I stopped by to visit a friend and former supervisor of mine this afternoon that happens to work in the Manhattan Criminal Court, that decaying, filthy-looking building at 100 Centre Street just off of Foley Square in lower Manhattan. The place is a mad house, like most criminal courts tend to be. But as you can imagine, being in Manhattan, this building in particular can be a bit scary. The security is intense, as is necessary, and because many of the proceedings are open to the public, those in attendance come from all walks of life to either seek justice or lend support.

The only reason that I am familiar with the building and know someone working there is because I was a student intern there over two years ago. During my four months at the criminal court in 2005 I learned a lot regarding the legal process in criminal proceedings and observed some interesting trials. Among them was the retrial of former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski, who was eventually convicted of looting his company at the expense of shareholders for over $400 million. Looking back, it was a great experience to be able to work in chambers as an intern to a criminal court judge in one of the most exciting counties in the country. But when my internship ended, I knew that type of work, while important, was not for me. As I returned there to visit my friend today, among the long security lines, the emotionally upset people in attendance and the crumbling building, I was reminded of why I chose to become a business lawyer.

Vacation From Vacation

Vacations can sometimes be more hectic than real life. I just returned from a so-called vacation and feel that I am now ready for a real break. From airport delays and over crowding to trying to fit in seeing everyone and doing everything while you’re away, the past many vacations my wife and I have been on have been anything but relaxing. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy traveling and seeing family and friends, but my wife and I agree that it is time to take a real vacation. Maybe we work too hard? Isn’t life supposed to be enjoyed? Aren’t vacations meant to be spent on the beach somewhere, or in nice restaurants alone with your loved one in exotic cities, or at least trying new things in new places?

And now we have our little Hanna and my wife’s new job. A true vacation will probably have to wait until next year. But even then, where do we go? Do we bring Hanna or not? I often think of the well-known saying, “Life is short” and think of my mother. Having always wanted to visit Hawaii, her life ended abruptly before she had the chance to go. We love our friends and family, but to save our long-term sanity and because life can be short, we need to plan a real vacation.

Writing 104

Believe it or not, this post right here that you are reading will be my 104th post since I started Sound to Sound. Who knew that when I decided to start a blog last November that I would write so much. One of the things that I have always wanted to do is to write a book. Writing, I believe, is good for the soul. If I keep this up I will be able to print out the hundreds of posts I have written and have a substantial record of my thoughts and feelings. But it will hardly be worthy to call a book. I find it easy to sit down several times a week and write a few paragraphs regarding what is on my mind. It is something entirely different to craft a book that somebody would actually want to read, let alone publish. And yet, that is what I would like to do. Now, I just need to get a story. I am torn as to whether to pursue fiction or non-fiction, as they both entail considerable amounts of work. I have a few ideas, but nothing substantial enough to start working on. Or maybe it is the time I lack. In any event, whether it is my mind or my time that keeps me from that first step of writing a book, I will at least keep up my blog. 

*I will be out of town starting tomorrow and will not be back until Monday evening. I will detail my trip when I get back.

Planes, Trains and Wedding Bells

This week is a week of firsts for me. On Wednesday My wife and I are flying out of JFK for the first time as parents and bringing our daughter Hanna along. I hope we are not the couple on board the plane with the screaming kid. We have over a four-hour flight, and although Hanna is a good baby, four hours is a long time to be sitting there with her (not to mention the travel time to get to the airport and the waiting around once there). I am a little nervous about the flight because in my experience no one ever leaves JFK Airport on time. And the weather forecast for Wednesday does not look promising, as thunderstorms are predicted to hit the area. A delayed flight is one thing, but because we are flying out in the evening, an arrival at our destination later than scheduled will likely cause us to miss our rental car pickup, forcing us to get back near the airport the next morning to pick up our car. In short, it could become frustrating and our good little Hanna may be the least of our worries. 

The purpose of the trip is to attend my brother’s wedding. While I have never met his fiancé, I have heard good things about her and am happy for them. It is still hard for me to believe that my younger brother is getting married. There was a time that I tried to convince him to date other people before he became too serious with one girl, but as they say, when you know what you want, you know what you want. Let’s just hope that it’s what they both want at this age, because as helpful and good as marriage can be, I can say that it is not all fun and games. But here’s to the young couple ready to start their lives together. May you always love and appreciate each other and treat each other kindly.

Do I look like Daddy?

Some people say that my daughter Hanna looks just like me. What do you think?