An Ode to ER

The NBC drama ER is ending this week. It will be missed. While many people stopped worrying what shows were aired on what network at what time, I have yet to join the TiVo/DVR time-shifting crowd and don’t have much time to catch missed episodes on Hulu. For me, Thursday at 10:00 pm, if I was home, was ER night. What made the show great was its writing and plot, the credit of which should go to the late Michael Crichton, one of the show’s creators, writers and a doctor himself. Admittedly, I only really got into the show starting in 2004, long after what some describe as the glory days of ER and the launch pad for actors such as George Clooney and others. My ER, however, consisted of Abby, Luca, Sam, Dr. Gates, Dr. Greg Pratt and, of course, Neela.

Being married to a doctor, I learned years ago that I have very little interest in medicine, but I enjoyed that I could ask her questions regarding acronyms or accuracy when watching the show together. In fact, it was one of the few shows I could get her to watch with me at all, as she generally hates anything on television. I enjoyed ER not because I care specifically about medicine, but because it was smart. Like The West Wing, it assumed a certain level of education and knowledge on behalf of its audience and didn’t dumb down the show for anybody. The issues ER dealt with were real and the characters were representative of those you would discover in this country. They suffered through hard times, rejoiced in the happy moments and trekked through everything in between. I remember on more than one occasion watching the ending of the show, music fitting to the scene playing in the background, characters struggling, contemplating, grieving or celebrating, and actually felt emotions. That’s how real the show was – it actually caused emotions to stir within the viewer, a rare feat among current network television in this country. Fans of the past fifteen years may claim that ER jumped the shark years ago, but in my mind, it was one of the dramas truly worth watching. Thank you ER for a great fifteen seasons.

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She’s Almost Here

Sometime in the next week I will be a new father. Again. The nine months passed even faster this time than with our first baby. We are again having another baby girl and I feel like I can handle it, as I’ve been there before. Two years ago I remember thinking how much my life was going to change leading up to the birth of my first daughter. It did change, but it would be hard to imagine life without her in it today. I hardly remember what it was like without her, and it has only been two years. Two girls will be a handful, but I am up to the task. If nothing else, the biggest change will be for our first daughter, unaccustomed to sharing mom or dad or competing for attention. My first order of business when we return home from the hospital is to focus on her and teach her all of the wonderful things about her baby sister. With time, she will never know life without her younger sister in it. They will be friends; they may, at times, be enemies. And we will be their parents. After nine months of going about life without giving the growing baby girl in my wife’s tummy the attention she deserves (relative to baby girl number one), I am finally ready for her to come. Within the next week, I will be ready to welcome to the world _________. (We still need to find that perfect and fitting name.)

College Hoops Hits Home

College hoops season is here again. Like millions of other people, I have submitted my March Madness brackets and joined pools with coworkers, friends and family. I have watched this tournament with excitement each year since I was in elementary school and have always enjoyed the games as well as CBS’s One Shining Moment recapping the entire tournament, which I wrote about last year here.

But this year I am also keeping my eye on another college basketball tournament. The NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship from Kansas City. Instead of 64 teams like the NCAA tournament, only 32 make the NAIA tournament, and most of the schools you have never heard of and are glad you didn’t attend. But my brother currently is in his last season as a starter for the sixth seeded team. In their first-round game yesterday, they pulled off a close win in overtime and move on to play again today. I couldn’t watch the game because they don’t stream the games live online for free, as CBS does for the NCAA tournament, but I can at least follow all the stats in real time online. Today could very well be the last competitive basketball game he plays in his life at this level. His college days are all but behind him and playing basketball at the next level is not a road he plans on pursuing. For the past many years, playing basketball has essentially been a full-time job, albeit one that kept him in great shape and came with many perks.

But regardless of what happens today on the court, win or lose, he’s had a great career. I will be following the game and rooting for his team online today. I’m proud of you, bro. Sorry I couldn’t be at more games.

Lawyer Layoffs

It’s getting ugly out there for lawyers. A profession that has been fairly well insulated from economic downturns in the past is now being roiled with unprecedented numbers of layoffs. Each day brings more bad news. I check sites like “Above the Law” or “AmLaw Daily” and read headline after headline of white shoe and top tier firms laying off their associates and staff. And the numbers are staggering – 400 people from this firm, 300 people for that one and so on. Firms that laid people off in the fall are now conducting round two or three of letting people go. No one is safe. The law firm I was at until last August performed cuts in November of last year, and I could have easily been one of them. But I left just in time. After years of trying to get into a top law firm in New York, I eventually took a position at an investment firm, forever altering the path my career will take. I have left the law firm world for good, and I don’t miss it. The billable hour does not exist for me, and neither do demanding law firm partners. I have become the client and my timing could not have been better. I graduated from law school in 2006 and entered a legal market that was still strong. I was busy for most of my time at the law firm I worked. In 2008, as things started taking a turn for the worst, I was in the middle of looking for a new job at law firms in New York. I tried and tried to find that right position for me with no luck. Firms weren’t hiring, I was told, but no one had started laying people off. Finally, when an opportunity arose to jump ship and try something different, I took it, fed up with where I had been working and ready for a new challenge. There was a time I was even serious about becoming a legal recruiter, as I was interested in the legal industry as a business and felt I was good at creating and maintaining relationships. But now recruiters are being laid off or leaving the industry in droves. No one is hiring or needs their services. And for the few available legal positions out there, firms see recruiters as a cost too difficult to justify in this environment.

But above all, the law school class of 2009 is stuck with the short end of the stick. Entering law school in 2006, they studied (and borrowed money) hard, lured by the dream of rising associate salaries and constant deal flow. Even in a good market, most graduating law students do not have jobs by the time they are out of school, forced to pass the bar exam to become more marketable. Where will this year’s class find work? Coming out of college, they could have perhaps found a job in a field that interested them for a modest salary. And if so, their debt load, if any, would have been manageable and they could have started their career three years earlier. But now what do they do? Where do they turn? Bitter and upset, this will forever change the lure of law as a profession. Now, more than ever before, it is abundantly clear that being a lawyer is definitely not what it used to be. 

What makes all of this a bitter pill to swallow is that law students finish school with a sense of entitlement and a hope that their income will be a bit higher than the average. It’s the reason why many of them attended law school in the first place. This year’s graduating class will be seen as “too overqualified” to take the job they could have gotten out of college, while, paradoxically, no legal opportunities exist out there. It’s a catch 22. Of the tens of thousands of graduating law students in 2009, I would dare say that about 60% will not have a job when they graduate and will have no idea where to turn, having exhausted most of their options already in their job search. It’s one thing to be a graduate from a top tier law school. But the vast majority of law students and law schools fall outside that realm. Their first job will set their career down a path many had not anticipated or even desired a short time ago, but forced to make ends meet and pay the student loan debt most of them have incurred, they will conform. The legal industry is quick to pigeonhole its people, and no one wants to retrain and retool lawyers in this market. Wow, it is ugly out there and I am afraid the bleeding is not yet over.

Friday Night Lights Out

Friday nights used to be special. It was usually a good day at school or work and always signaled the beginning of the weekend. I attended parties, sporting events or other special occasions. If nothing was planned, Friday was usually the perfect night to be spontaneous – go out to dinner, attend a movie, hang out late with friends and so on. Having kids made the scheduled and non-scheduled events harder to do, but I was always up for finding some way to make Friday night a little different than the rest of the week. After all, it was Friday night.

Now, I find that I am exhausted by the time Friday night comes around. It has nothing to do with age (despite my mention of gray hair below), but is rather the result of a life where I feel time is my enemy. Sleeping is a necessary activity that takes up too much time. The result of living such a hectic life is that I am left with about five or six hours a night to cram in some shut eye. Some days it’s sufficient. Some days it’s not. By the end of the week I am exhausted, and the ‘to do’ list never goes away. I know I am not the only one with this experience or rant. But it’s only Tuesday and I again can’t wait for Friday night lights out.

Gray Hair

I don’t know how it happened, but there is no mistaking it now. I have a lot of gray hair. This isn’t just a few strands here and there that blend in with the rest of my natural color, but I’m talking about a lot of grayish-white hair. On my head. I’m too young for this. Where did these gray hairs come from? I noticed a few gray hairs years ago and liked the novelty of the idea, but now more hairs appear to be joining the club each week. I actually don’t mind that much (yet) and hope it makes me look a bit more sophisticated or wise, but I am afraid of where this will go. I am nearing the end of my third decade this year. Will my head be one gray mess in ten more years? Will I even have hair at all? Is stress an actual factor in causing hair to turn gray, because I have had some of that in my life? Does anyone even know what causes gray hair other than genetics (but my dad doesn’t have that much gray)? I rather have graying hair than hair loss, but I am just curious as to how this is hitting me at this age.