Why Do I Cry So Easily?

Photo of a waterfall in winter

I have a confession to make: I am a crier. I cry very easily. Not when someone insults me or yells at me, but when I watch others experience great joy or pain. I cry at movies — even happy movies. I cried during Hidden Figures (and that movie is not supposed to be sad!) (by the way, if you still haven’t seen it, you should).

I’ve never teared up while, say, questioning a witness. I think in that kind of performance situation, the adrenaline, competitiveness, and focus on the task at hand probably interfere with any crying reflex. When I sit in court as an observer, though, and watch a defendant’s remorseful allocution or a victim’s recounting of the harm she’s suffered, I really have to fight to maintain my poker face. I’m an empathy crier. I can’t help it. Read more

Ask Alexis: What’s a Federal Case?

The following information is not intended as legal advice. Please see the disclaimer posted above.

If you’ve ever heard the saying, “Don’t make a federal case out of it,” you may have been left with the impression that federal cases are the most serious kinds of legal cases. Actually, federal cases aren’t inherently more serious than cases in state courts. In the U.S., some kinds of cases will always be heard in federal court, while others will always be heard in state court, and some can be heard in either.

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The Weekend Listen

A pair of wireless headphones for podcast listening

I listen to a lot of podcasts while driving, working out, and doing chores around the house. In this weekly feature, I’ll tell you about one episode I particularly enjoyed that week.

My recommendation for this week is On Being’s episode Eula Biss–Let’s Talk About Whiteness.  You may have heard On Being on your local public radio station.  It’s a Peabody Award-winning show hosted by Krista Tippett that explores the question, “What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?”

In this episode, Krista and writer Eula Biss talk about race, the language we use to discuss it, aspects of privilege like opportunity hoarding, and how we might start conversations about these things.  It’s a thoughtful, frank, and insightful discussion.

Race is a subject that often provokes strong feelings.  I encourage you to approach this interview with an open mind and to observe any emotional reactions that arise in you as you listen, whatever they may be.

Is there a podcast you think I should be following?  Let me know in the comments, send me an email, or tweet using #LexListens.

Recognizing and Accounting for Our Own Implicit Biases

Implicit bias is a tricky thing to root out. It’s a naturally occurring psychological phenomenon that helps us to navigate a complicated and ever-changing world. We all harbor biases and stereotypes based on our past experiences and socialization. Even young children exhibit implicit biases. Most of us are unaware of our biases because they operate at a subconscious level.

Implicit bias has been the subject of research for years, but lately, it has generated a great deal of attention from journalists, commentators, and the public, especially in relation to race. Fearing that the term “implicit bias” has taken on a particularly negative connotation in recent times, some experts have begun referring instead to “implicit associations” or “unconscious associations” in an effort to avoid defensive responses to the topic. This topic should not be as polarizing as it is. Getting beyond the defensiveness is so important because, left unchecked, our implicit biases can lead to dire consequences not only for the people to whom we are reacting, but to us, the ones who harbor the biases.

I am not a psychologist or sociologist and I have not read all of the extensive research on this topic. Based on my limited knowledge, however, here are a few key things to understand about implicit biases.

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How Creative Pursuits Benefit You in Your Non-Arts Job

Charcoal drawing of the artist in 3/4 view, looking at an easel.
Self Portrait, 2004.

Ever since I decided to attend law school, people have been asking me how a person with an art background becomes a lawyer.  I’m not going to talk about my reasons for pursuing a legal career today (I’ll save that for another post), but I do want to explore how creative pursuits can benefit us in our jobs and lives.

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What I’ve Learned from Being Neutral

Side view of the author gazing to her left on a beach with mountains and houses in the background
Photo by Emilios.

The idea for today’s post came from Sarah F. Thanks for the suggestion, Sarah!

Unlike most of my fellow citizens, I had to sit out the recent election cycle. I voted, but I did not display a yard sign, put a bumper sticker on my car, contribute to a campaign, or like any candidate’s Facebook page. As a federal judicial employee, I’m prohibited from engaging in any political activity at any level. I’m not permitted to campaign on anyone’s behalf, nor am I allowed to publicly endorse any candidate. I cannot like a partisan post on social media, or attend rallies, and in most cases, I can’t participate in issue advocacy. At least for as long as I serve in my current role, you will not see any politically focused posts on this website.

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The Weekend Listen

A pair of wireless headphones for podcast listening

I listen to a lot of podcasts while driving, working out, and doing chores around the house. In this weekly feature, I’ll tell you about one episode I particularly enjoyed that week. (I do not receive any compensation for these recommendations.)

I had a hard time choosing a podcast for this post because I listened to several this week that were so good.  The one I initially selected is pretty short, so I decided to pick a second bonus episode this time.

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To the Blue Collar Kids Applying to College

The author's high school yearbook picture.
Me at 17, sporting a truly awful haircut and braces. Carlisle High School Oracle, 2002.

Fifteen years ago, I was a high school senior ready to graduate and move on to bigger and better things. My parents had always expected me to pursue higher education, but they hadn’t gone to college themselves and couldn’t provide me much advice in the search and application process. My high school guidance counselor was responsible for too many students and didn’t know much about me beyond the grades and test scores in my school record. He didn’t have many occasions to see kids like me, the ones who usually showed up for school, got decent grades, and didn’t get into trouble very often. So, like many aspiring first-generation college students, I was unaware of most of the tips and tricks that some of my more privileged classmates had been taught.

I’ve always been pretty resourceful and independent, so I figured things out on my own, with the help of several books, a fantastic admission counselor at the college I ended up attending, and a financial aid office that was willing to work with me. I was accepted to the four colleges to which I applied and received a generous scholarship package from my top choice.

My college admissions journey didn’t end once I matriculated. As a student, I worked as an intern and work-study in the admissions office for three years. My first “real” job after graduation was an admission counselor position at a different liberal arts college. After leaving that job, I volunteered as an alumna admissions ambassador for my alma mater. I also went through the process of applying to law school, which is different than applying to college, but similar in many ways. Based on my experiences, below are some things I would tell my seventeen-year-old self if I could revisit 2002.

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