I'm afraid that I suck.
Law school has done very little to prepare me for the practice of law. I went to a very good law school, I can recite criminal procedure jurisprudence on command, I read Supreme Court cases for fun (even the non-criminal ones, just so I can 'stay fresh' on things like federal jurisdiction and civil procedure). And yet, none of those things did one lick of good to prepare me for what I do day to day. I'm not sure that it should, necessarily - I think the only way to figure out how to work in the court is to actually work in the court - but I spend so much of my time trying to figure out what is happening and trying not to fuck it up that I'm just spent. I can't even hide in my office anymore because people keep finding me.
One day, after a previous long hard tiring day at work, I had to cover a case I knew nothing about in a courtroom I knew nothing about (it was just a silly administrative matter, really) and the judge just made me feel like an ass. The outcome was what I needed, but nevertheless, I walked out the courthouse doors sniffling and just decided to take a walk and cry, cry, cry. The most privacy I'm able to get these days is on the sidewalk in front of court. How sad. I finally walked to some cracked fountain where homeless people drink out of paper bags (there were some bottles lying about) that overlooks a small teeny triangle of grass and the highway. I cried for about 30 minutes and it felt so good. I cried because I feel so incompetent, I feel like people must think I'm such an idiot, I have no idea what's going on half the time and it is so tiring to be fumbling around every minute of my day. Sometimes I miss being able to know what I need to know - being able to look it up in a book, or debate an issue 'in theory' without anyone having to serve more jail time or lose their kids or be deported for it. Things happen so quickly, snap judgments need to be made, and then I always wonder if there's something else I should have done.
I hate that law feels so, I don't know, alpha male. The guys just act like they don't need the help, that they don't want anyone else helping them figure things out, they'll do it as they go. It's been frustrating, because it makes me feel like my anxiety is a personal flaw - that if I can't do this without getting so worked up or getting 4 people's opinions on it, if I feel like such an ass all the time, then it must be because I'm not a good attorney.
Then, as I was saying farewell to a court interpreter with whom I had not worked before, I heard the words I needed to hear.
"Are you new or did you transfer from somewhere else?" she asked.
"Oh no, I'm new. Just here a few months now."
"Really? I wouldn't have guessed it. I thought for sure you had worked somewhere else before. You're very good. You speak very confidently, and you really seem to know what you're doing."
I melted. I couldn't help but collapse in a heap of overwhelmed gratitude. It had been a long day, and I felt like it had been a good day, but it was so nice to hear someone tell me that I had done a good job.