Month: June 2015

2 Years

Announcing Mr. and Mrs. Barbi - June 30, 2013.

Announcing Mr. and Mrs. Barbi – June 30, 2013.

Two years ago, today, we got married. 

At this point, we have been married longer than we were dating. I think it’s finally starting to sink in that this is for real, and its so much better than I could have dreamt; even my wild imagination could not have created something like what we have. As I’ve said, this isn’t a fairy tale; real life is so much better. And with you, it really, truly is. The only problem is that it’s going by too fast.

A recap of the last year. We didn’t move anywhere, we only started one new job between the two of us, and God provided work for you long before you even needed it. We drove to North Carolina, Ohio, and Maine, each time getting to witness another wedding. You finished your guitar and we have starting taking tangible steps towards your future in lutherie. The biggest change of this year was my graduation from law school, and we saw that coming years in advance. It was a more settled year, for sure, but that is exactly what we needed.

Mr. and Mrs. Barbi for nearly one year.

Mr. and Mrs. Barbi for nearly one year.

I won’t say the first year was harder than the second, or more fun, or scarier, or more stressful – it was just different. The first year is all the firsts – first home, first Christmas, first time doing this or that; but by the second year, you no longer have to create ways of doing things, you get to repeat or modify. People no longer stare at you as “newlyweds,” nor do they ask (well, mostly) invasive, sometimes embarrassing questions about “married life.” We started to find our grove, we know each other better, and aren’t as afraid that we’ll make stupid mistakes because we’ve already made plenty and realized they are not the end of the world.

While the groove has been found, the spark has by no means been lost. I can’t say what life will be like in five, ten, or forty years, but I can tell you that I still have no idea what people mean by the “honeymoon” phase. For a while, I imagined that at some point into our marriage – one month, six months, one year? – I would wake up and suddenly realize how hard this was, suddenly no longer find marriage cute or exciting or fun, but find it a burden and a challenge that might not be worth fighting for. That, I thought, must be when I know the honeymoon phase ends.

Two years later and I still haven’t woken up to think any of those things. (To more seasoned wedded readers, my use of the word “still” will sound laughable, but bear with me because it is the longest I’ve ever been married.) In fact, due to outside challenges that have resulted in us leaning on each other for support, wisdom, and comfort, we are certainly closer than ever. I still love him. He still makes me happy. I still find marriage to be the best, most gloriously mysterious relationship I’ve ever been a part of. I’m still 100% in this, and Massimo seems pretty into it, too. Call it a honeymoon phase, call it newlywed bliss, call it whatever you want – I’m calling it my life.

Married for just shy of two years. Where has the time gone?

Married for just shy of two years. Where has the time gone?

The importance of our marriage has become even more stark since being surprised this year by the end or apparent end of some other marriages. In my life, I’ve never been up close and personal with divorce or separation, apart from my job, that is. But in legal work, the lawyer usually doesn’t see the death of the marriage, we see the people that once knew it coming by to claim its belongings. It’s a gruesome business and I don’t much care for it. This year, I was caught off guard by several marriages in my personal circle going on life support, and it was scary.

Will that ever be us? Could that happen to us? We had this conversation many times this year, and the conclusion has always been the same: no, it won’t. I don’t want to sound naive, but here’s all I know: for us, getting married was like building a house, a big house that needed to stand against serious storms and hold for many, many years. Our house needed good blueprints and to be made of really good materials. I know that we have good plans in our marriage, because we put the work in, consulted the experts, and worked out the details with the maker of marriage. As far as the materials, I know that for all his sinfulness, Massimo is made from the best stuff on earth, and he says that I’m the good stuff, too. We’re far from perfect, but I think our house has at least a fighting chance. Two years in, and I know that now better than ever.

Every so often I listen to the song we used for our first dance, and it’s words get more and more applicable the more I get to know you and get to know our marriage.

Happy anniversary, my signore. I can’t wait for all the rest. Thank you for picking me to be your partner and love; I know God put us together because only the Perfect Creator could have designed something like this.



Bar Prep for Dummies (No Offense)


If it’s 9:45 on a Thursday, and you are making property law flashcards, you might be studying for the bar.

I wouldn’t know about this stuff either unless I was doing it. In fact, no one should know about it because it should be banned, because it’s evil and stupid and we all hate it.

Anyway, for those of you that don’t know I’m in the middle of bar prep – aka all finals and tests and stresses you’ve ever gone through in your life jammed up into two months of studying. It’s been a blast.

For you lucky suckers that aren’t involved in the bar, I thought I would take a few minutes to complain inform you on this magical horrible process.

1. What is this test?

Passing the Connecticut Bar exam is one step to becoming a lawyer in my home state. The other steps include earning a law degree at an approved school, passing an ethics test or ethics course, and passing the bar committee’s extensive standards regarding my background (everything from criminal history, to mental health background, to employment records, to credit checks).

Every single state is annoyingly different (from a legal perspective) in these beautiful country, which means almost every state has a different bar exam. In Connecticut, it looks like this:

Day 1 (July 28) – 2 MPT essay questions in the morning (requiring us to read facts, review documentary evidence, read case law and statutes, and assemble them into some organized presentation), and 6 essay questions in the afternoon, in 7 hours, including lunch.

Day 2 (July 29) – 100 multiple-choice questions in the morning, 100 multiple-choice questions in the afternoon. This is again 7 hours, including lunch.

Day 3 (July 30) – sleep and/or celebrate and try to forget about this whole thing.

We get our results in October, and we will (hopefully) get sworn in by the Connecticut Supreme Court in November. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

2. What are you tested on? (a.k.a. Why is this exam so stupid?)

Good question! The exam is stupid because it tests you mostly on national common law, which is also known as law that judges make, and is usually modified by statutes in each state. And, even though it’s a test for Connecticut, and I’ll be practicing Connecticut law, I’m not tested a whole lot on Connecticut law, common or statutory.

The subjects in this test are really freaking broad, too, which is ridiculous because no one practices every area of the law – there’s too much! They even test you on federal civil procedure, which is totally unnecessary unless you are going to practice in federal courts. The test covers: Constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, federal civil procedure, real property, torts, administrative law, agency and partnership law, conflicts of laws, family law, trusts, commercial paper and bank deposits, secured transactions, and wills.

Some of the most important papers of my life are found in these quasi-juvenile binders.

Some of the most important papers of my life are found in these quasi-juvenile binders.

3. Why is studying so time-consuming? Didn’t you already learn this stuff in law school?

Yes and no. Most of these subjects I did study in law school, but some classes don’t cover every aspect of that subject. For example, in my Constitutional Law course, we ran out of time and had to only briefly glance at First Amendment issues, so studying that now is practically brand-new to me!

Also, most of these subjects (all the Day 2 subjects) we studied in the first year of law school, which was three years ago for me, but is even longer for some students. In other words, I’m trying to remember things I shoved into my brain to pass my first year, when law school was more about surviving that locking away the nuances of the rule against perpetuities for, well, perpetuity.

4. How do you study for this thing?

Most students take a class, either in the classroom or online. We have to pay for these classes, too, which are not at all cheap. My course is online, and usually consists of one lesson per day, Monday through Friday. The lessons are usually a review of a certain subject, where the professor attempts to squeeze one semester or one year of a course into a 4-12 hour lecture. You take notes, answer questions, and take a number of quizzes after each lesson. There are also skills lessons, to help you master strategies for handling different parts of the exam. Then in your “free time”, you write out rules, make note cards, write essays, and take more quizzes.

I’m also working while doing this, which is definitely not ideal. (Repeat: for anyone in law school now or planning on it, try to design your life around not working May through July of your bar summer.) I’m trying to cut back how much I work, but money doesn’t grow on trees, you know?

So between working, studying, church, family, and attempting to remember to take a shower every once in a while, my brain is practically mush. If you know someone who’s suddenly disappeared from the world, but when they do appear they laugh at things that aren’t’ funny, and get annoyed at things that aren’t annoying, they are probably studying for the bar exam. And you should roll with it.

Bar preppers are simple people - they don't require a lot to get excited. Just a stroll down the street for some jelly beans will do the trick.

Bar preppers are simple people – they don’t require a lot to get excited. Just a stroll down the street for some jelly beans will do the trick.

5. Well that sounds tough. How do you pass this exam?

It sounds ridiculous but, in my state, I only need 264 points out of a possible 400 to pass (that’s only about 66%). Half of that score comes from the multiple choice questions, half from the essays. Although that sounds like a D+ to most of you, it’s actually relatively difficult. Only 77% of the testers last July passed the Connecticut Bar exam, but 88% of the testers from my alma mater passed. I’m hopeful (and just about anyone who passes says this) that if I put the time in, I will be in that 88% percent. I’m tentatively certain I will never do this again.

So there you have it – more than you ever wanted or needed to know about bar exam prep. And for me fellow “preppers” (no, not this kind) out there – we will get through this! And hopefully, like they say about the pains of childbirth, it will all be worth it someday.


Everyday Sexism

1383197_10151744923592798_958827039_nAccording to a recent survey conducted by activist organization Girlguiding UK, 75% of girls aged 11-21 think sexism affects most areas of their lives.

70% of respondents aged 13-21 report experiences of sexual harassment at school or college.

Reading the synopsis of the report, I was reminded of the first time I was able to identify sexual harassment in my own life.

I was in eighth grade, about 13 or 14 years old. In science class, I was assigned to a lab table with mostly, if not all, boys. We were in the far back corner of the classroom, where the teacher was often out of earshot. Because of this lab table, I hated going to this class, even though I usually loved school and always got good grades. After several classes of sitting silently at this table with these boys, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I finally got up the nerve to go to the guidance counselor and ask for her to do something.

I walked into her office and sat down.

“What’s going on?” I took a deep breath and finally opened my mouth.

“It’s these guys at my lab table in science class. All during class they are constantly making sexual jokes and comments, talking about things and making gestures and comments about girls and sex – I hate it. I can’t take it anymore. I’m just sitting there, so helpless. I can’t say anything because I have to be at this lab table with them: if I say anything, they could retaliate against me. I’m so uncomfortable I can barely concentrate on the class. Please make them stop.”

“Okay, so that’s actually sexual harassment and they can’t do that.”

“Really? Can you talk to them?”

“Yes, well did you ever tell them to stop?”

I honestly couldn’t remember. I’m sure I had said something, or made a facial expression that they must have understood.

“Yeah. I think so. Why?”

“Well, I can’t do much until they know that you wanted them to stop. They have to know that you want them to stop, and then do it again.”

I couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t just know? They couldn’t just realize or be told or SOMETHING to help them figure out that an eighth grade science class was not the appropriate time or place for such language? Why did I have to subject myself to ridicule and victimization before they got in trouble? It was ludicrous: I knew they knew what they were doing was wrong, and they should be punished. They were interfering with my education – shouldn’t that be enough?

“Yeah, I’m sure they know.”

The next time I was in science class, their language improved, but one boy made a comment about getting in trouble with the guidance counselor, although he didn’t know who had told on him. He generally asked if I knew anything about that. I can’t recall if I lied or didn’t respond; either way it was not a great place to be.

I try not to dwell on the everyday difficulties and special challenges that come along with being a woman today. If I did, I think it would so overwhelm my brain power that I would never get anything else done. I don’t like identifying as a victim; I find it keeps me from moving forward.

But this study brought it all back. And the recent announcement that, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote, a woman will be featured on the $10 bill – alongside Alexander Hamilton – brought it back. And when I learn about the virtual disaster that is parental leave in the US, and wondering about how on earth I will ever be able to afford to have a child when I am self-employed.

“Only half of all first-time mothers in the US take any paid leave, [Vicki Shabo, vice president at the National Partnership for Women & Families] says, and that payment usually comes from other benefits such as vacation time, sick days or short-term disability coverage. Only about 13 percent of the private sector workforce is employed by companies that offer designated paid family leave, she adds.”

And the fact that women still get paid only 77 cents on the dollar (for a number of complicated reasons), and that my own state ranks 46th in this area women in Connecticut earn an average of $13,367 less per year than their male counterparts, according to a Fall 2014 report by the American Association of University Women.

And the fact that a former boss called me “aggressive” for sending out letters looking for a job in the legal field one summer, after all attempts to find a job through traditional searches and listings failed. Or that I was called “snippy” for posing a question about why my boss favored one phrase over another in a piece we were working on together.

And just the simple fact that in seven years of working for lawyers, I have worked for five male attorneys, and one female attorney – which leaves me so hungry for a female mentor that every time I go to court and see a female attorney, I track her every move (what she’s wearing, how she walks, where she sits, how she talks to her colleagues and her clients, how she addresses the judge) to learn what is expected of me as a female in this male-dominated field. And the fact that (for whatever reason) I have earned less money than my husband in every job we’ve had since getting married; and right now he makes almost twice what I make (he has a high school diploma, and I have both bachelor of arts and law degrees).

[Please don’t misconstrue my words, my husband deserves every penny he earns and more, he is underpaid as it is; it is simply that one would think that someone in my field, with my training and education, would also be entitled to a little more compensation.]

And the less damaging, but more annoying everyday aspects of sexism – like comments on the Internet, or being stared at and treated so differently at the grocery store when I’m with my husband versus when I’m alone, or when we females are given full responsibility to dress modestly for the sake of our “brothers”, or how the “girl’s” heath products cost so much more than the “boy’s” version, or when the male FedEx employee would not help me with my package until I smiled, or being afraid to walk or run too late in the evening, because I would be alone in the dark and unable to defend myself.

There are so many ways that sexism affects my daily life, that it is simply impractical for me to dwell on them – it would take over my life. So what’s the answer? There isn’t one – there are many.

For one, acknowledgement would be nice. There are many ways in which men are treated unfairly in this society as well; I make it a point to attempt to acknowledge this unfair treatment, especially to my husband or other men I know are affected by it. My husband does the same for me. He actually said he was sorry when I told him that a women would be escorted by Mr. Hamilton on the $10.00 bill. That acknowledgment meant a lot.

Once you realize what is happening, we all have a responsibility to try to change. Not because it’s “P.C.”, or because sexism hurts people’s feelings, but because it impacts our lives – our studies, our jobs, our ability to participate in society. If sexism is preventing women and men from contributing to schools, communities, the workplace, and the economy, then who knows what we are all missing out on? Change because it’s good for everyone. 

I know for a fact that you are not responsible for the sins of others, because you, dear reader, cannot change everyone else anymore than I can. There will always be jerks, and misogynists, and we will deal with them. That is not what is required; all that is required is to try to change yourself, and see where our daughters and sons and sisters and brothers go.

Finally, when you are affected by sexism, remind yourself that it is not stronger than you. I learned a long time ago that when I felt like sexism was getting in my way, to remind myself that God didn’t make me a woman by mistake. He made me on purpose, and he knows what I’m dealing with and he’ll see me through. We actually are stronger than any evil force on this earth. It that’s not encouraging, I don’t know what is.


Why I Changed My Name When I Got Married

Drew, Ellen, Me, and my husband, Massimo at Hermit Island, Maine - June 6, 2015.

Drew, Ellen, Me, and my husband, Massimo at Hermit Island, Maine – June 6, 2015.

Wedding season is officially in full force. Having recently returned from my cousin Drew’s beach-side nuptials in woody Maine this past weekend, I have got weddings on the brain. Ever since getting married almost two years ago, attending weddings always bring up all the memories and feelings surrounding my own wedding day.

Of all the decisions one has to make when getting married (and there are a lot!), one that is often overlooked is whether or not the bride will change her name – and if so, to what? This deeply personal choice (it is your name, after all)  most of us don’t learn about until after the wedding. Back when we were first talking about getting married, Massimo and I made the choice together that I would take his name, and here I am to share what factors went into that decision, for anyone curious about some things one may consider when going from Miss to Mrs.

1. I changed my name because I had a choice.

Although we still have a ways to go, here in the US, and in my particular family, we women have the choice of changing our names or not. Some people don’t like women changing their name upon marriage because of the history of the tradition – that when you got married, you were no longer a legal individual, but the property of your husband. Personally, I felt it important to reclaim the tradition, and exercise my freedom to consider the change or not for myself and for my new family of two. I had the choice – and that alone made it worth considering.

2. I changed my name because it was representative of our new, united family.

This is a common reason to change your name: so that everyone will have the same name. It’s a practical reason, but also has its symbolic implications. Having the same name helps symbolize my new role as a wife, and instantly associates me with my husband, and, should we have them someday, our children. In some ways, I feel sorry for Massimo and men in general that they don’t get the same symbolic “re-birth” (for lack of a better term), but I suppose it’s up to the husbands to figure out their own way to represent our covenant – tradition has given me one already and I happen to like it.

3. I changed my name because it mattered to my fiance.

Even though it was I who would be living with a new name, as an engaged couple, it was important for me to respect the opinions and feelings of my soon-to-be husband in such big a decision as a name change. If I was neutral on the idea, and didn’t care either way, but Massimo felt very strongly and always pictured me having his last name, then I would do it. In reality, I was mostly already planning on changing my name before we discussed it, but knowing how much it mattered to him helped me dive in all the way.

I had the choice – and that alone made it worth considering.

4. I changed my name because there were other Devenneys to carry on the family name.

I come from a family with a lot of girls, but we do have two boys that can carry on the family name. Some women want to keep their name (either as a surname or middle name) to preserve it if they have no brothers to do so. I was fortunate enough to not have that pressure on me, and little did I know that nearly a year after getting married, we would add a sister-in-law to the family who happily took on the Devenney name through my brother.

When we were brand-new Mr. and Mrs. - June 30, 2015 in Haddam, CT.

When we were brand-new Mr. and Mrs. – June 30, 2015 in Haddam, CT.

5. I changed my name because I got married young.

I always assumed that if I got married at all, it would be years and years into my career. For that reason, I worried about changing my name after already having a client base and law firm, and how it might affect my professional recognition.Would I change it legally, but keep my maiden name professionally? Would I let people call me by my husband’s name, but not legally change it at all?

These questions are especially significant in the field of law, where your name is not just what people call you, but often the name on the moniker on your building. All these questions subsided and I fortunately didn’t have to answer them when I married at the ripe young age of 23, when the most recognition I had for my last name was the fact that my first-year Torts professor could never, ever say it right.

6. I changed my name because it’s easier for me to change my name than anything else.

As I said, we wanted both of us to have the same last name, and we wanted to symbolize our new life as a married couple. Well then, “Why doesn’t he change his name, or you hyphenate the two of them?” While those options would give us the same result, “Devenney” is a lengthy name to hyphenate, and the fact is that our culture simply isn’t designed for men to easily change their names. When a woman changes her name, it is instantly understood, and we don’t have to answer a lot of questions about why we suddenly have a new name.

When I had to go through the process of changing my name (which took about a year to do thoroughly), all I had to say was, “I got married,” and that (along with appropriate documentation) was enough. I can’t imagine the confused looks and questions that Massimo would have had to endure had he tried to change his name. Everyone would probably assume he was trying to commit identity theft. Until security questions ask, “What is your mother or father’s unmarried name?” it will simply make more practical sense, if anyone in the couple is going to change it, for wives to do so.

Now, I do realize this is a circular argument, because if wives keep doing this then our culture will never change. But I also realize that me – being just one person – am not solely responsible for the 60% of Americans who think women should take their husband’s last name when they get married.

7. I changed my name because no matter what it says on my license, I will always be a Devenney.

At first, I worried that I would lose a part of me if I changed my name – I would no longer be instantly associated with the Devenney name and family. After considering this, I realized that my mother has been a Devenney for over 30 years, and is still easily identified with her parents and brothers, who carry her maiden name. I grew up in the same town as my grandparents and cousins – all of whom had different last names – and yet everyone still knew that we were related. I realized that no matter how long I am a Barbi, people will still know that I was a Devenney first.

8. I changed my name because I wanted to honor the support of my husband on my diploma and in my career. 

The name “Deborah Devenney” appeared on 23 years’ worth of essays, programs, awards, certificates, and diplomas. Every time it showed up, I was able to represent the Devenney name and let the world know that the Devenneys had all helped me get to wherever I was. I got married one year into law school, and although my parents, siblings, grandparents and so on were still extremely supportive and instrumental in allowing me to finish law school, it was Massimo who stepped up and took on the role of supportive spouse full-time.

When I realized that I would be getting married before graduating, I told Massimo that I wanted his name to show up on my diploma, so that everyone would know that it was he who helped me get there. When we each have our own businesses or careers or whatever, our shared name will let everyone know that I helped him, and he helped me. Having the same name is one way we chose to symbolize that mutual support, and share in each other’s successes.

“Devenney” is a lengthy name to try to hyphenate, and the fact is that our culture simply isn’t designed for men to easily change their names.


How To Be a Good Client To Your Attorney


My sister, Judith, and I celebrating my new hood.

In this window between the already an not yet (having graduated law school, though not yet holding my law license), I find myself in the unique position of being trained enough to offer advise on this subject, though not yet responsible for my own clients, so as to not be accused of talking smack about anyone (a practice frowned upon by the classiest lawyers).

Those outside the profession are often surprised to hear that most lawyers agree that all their best cases are ruined by the clients – whether it’s being unreasonable, hiding information, or never getting off our case. But you, wise reader, do not have to fall into this stereotype. As a team, a good lawyer and great client can really get the job done. And if everyone practiced these few, simple habits in litigation, I promise that the judicial system would turn upside-down in the best way possible.

1. Get an attorney.

This might sound like a no-brainer, but an increasing number of people think they can do this law thing on their own these days. I, along with anyone else who has spent three years studying the subject, will tell you that the law is complicated. Not just a little bit –  a lot a bit. We are the professionals, we know what we’re doing. When people go pro se (represent themselves), it throws a wrench in the whole process, slowing it down, limiting options, and putting the judge in the ethically dicey situation of having to offer advise to a litigant while trying to maintain their duty of impartiality. If money is the problem, look for a local legal aid office or legal clinic. But please, for both your sake and the sake of the integrity of the justice system, hire an attorney you trust.

2. Shop around for that attorney.

You shop around for your doctor, your educators, and your financial advisers, so why not shop around for an attorney? Whether through personal recommendations, knowledge, or internet research, you should find out who has experience in your type of case, and who has a style you are comfortable with. A lot of people don’t consult with multiple attorneys before hiring one and this could lead to a big mistake because an attorney-client relationship is usually a long-term relationship.

3. Listen to your attorney.

Your attorney has a duty to act in your best interest. A lot of people think that attorneys are just greedy scam artists, but most of us honestly are in it just to help people – and when you hire that attorney, he or she is there to help YOU. For this reason, no matter what you’ve done in the past, going forward listen to your attorney and do what he or she advises you to do. Listening and following his or her instructions will probably help you get more of what you want out of the case, and perhaps even save you money. On top of this, if your lawyer says that the law doesn’t allow you to get what you want, or that a certain fact is irrelevant (for example, an event that can’t be brought up because of the rules of evidence), then trust her. She knows that it stinks and that it seems unfair, but a lot of times that’s just the way it is and it’s not her fault.

4. Tell your attorney everything she needs to know.

Communication is a two-way street. Your attorney needs to hear from you, too: we need to know anything that could come up later. No matter what, it is so better to hear it from you, now, than hear it from the other side later. Lawyers really don’t like surprises. Make sure you keep telling your lawyer new things that come up. Law is a living, changing thing, so it’s important to keep your lawyer informed so he or she can best help you.

P.S. A lot of lawyers can tell when you are lying. So don’t do it.

5. Pay your attorney.

A law firm is not a bank. Lawyers are professionals, trained in their field, and carry a significant responsibility in this society. A lot of solo practitioners and small firms are not necessarily “rolling” in it, either. For the same reasons that you should pay builders, chefs, graphic designers, and doctors, you should always, please, pay your lawyer.


Have you ever been a client? What did you think worked well or didn’t go so well in that relationship? Are you a lawyer? What items would you add/change from this list?