Friday, December 30, 2016

What My First Law School Finals Were Like: A Summary


Hey there, everyone! I know a lot of you have probably been wondering where I've gone, since my last post was during Thanksgiving break. Well, the answer is... FINALS. So first, I want to thank you for your patience during the last month of me falling of the face of planet. Secondly, let's get to it! Here is what my first law school finals were like!

At my law school, we had exactly one day of classes after Thanksgiving break - we had to go on Monday since we missed a Monday back in September for labor day. For my research class, we had a make-up class before break so we didn't have to go back after Thanksgiving. In my civil procedure class, we had a review for finals so we didn't have to do a real class. So all that left after Thanksgiving was one, two-hour torts lecture. This meant that I was essentially in finals mode as soon as break was over. Following Monday classes, the school had two "study days" which meant no classes or finals, and then our finals period started on December 1st. Yep - you heard that right - we had finals right away in December. If you thought finals week in college was bad, just wait until finals last 2 1/2 weeks in law school.

I was lucky and didn't have my first final until December 5th, which was my criminal law test. Personally, I was happy to have my criminal law final first, as it was the test I was the most worried about it. Although criminal law had the least amount of material, we had to memorize case names, which is a lot harder than one might think. The format of this final was two essay questions. The first essay question was supposed to take two hours - where we had to answer a series of questions about a hypothetical situation. The questions were generally what charges could be brought, what defenses the people might use, and who in the situation could be charged. The second essay question was much shorter, and specifically asked what defenses a hypothetical client could bring. Overall, I feel like I did an okay job with this test and was able to work in a lot of the class material. I finished around 20 minutes early, so I was able to work in some extra stuff. And, at that point, I was just glad to have one of my finals out of the way.

The next test I had was four days later, and was over Civil Procedure. This was the class I felt the most confident about. This test was a mixture of 10 multiple choice questions, which were supposed to take around an hour to complete. Then, there was a series of essay questions that were supposed to take two hours. The essay had a hypothetical situation which was two pages long. It took probably a solid 15 minutes to read and digest everything. Luckily, I still finished everything in time, and felt pretty confident in my answer. Like I said, I was confident in this class, which helped me understand the material and be able to show that on the test. Of course, I don't know how well I did until grades come out, but I feel like I did well.

Lastly, I had my torts final. This final was a beast, because of the amount of material we covered in that class. Essentially, this test was a two-page hypothetical situation and ended with a "who can sue who" type of essay prompt. Essentially, this meant that I spent an entire three hours typing out as much as I could. We also had some "bar exam" questions on this test. For those of you who are unfamiliar with bar exam questions, these are questions about the concepts where you don't just pick an answer that is right - you have to pick the answer that is the most right. So as you might imagine, those were incredibly difficult. This final I finished just in time - literally in the last minute. At the end, I felt as though I did well again, but that might just be the kick of endorphins from being done with my first set of finals!

So overall, I made it through my first set of law school finals and lived to tell the tale! I am planning on writing a few more posts about finals - studying, exam tips, etc. Let me know what you guys would like to hear about! I look forward to writing more to you soon, and I am glad to be back on my blog!

Friday, November 25, 2016

How I'm Spending My First Law School Thanksgiving



Hey there, everyone, and happy Thanksgiving! Boy oh boy, I have a lot to be thankful for this year. Not only do I have amazing friends and family, but this year I can add a college degree, a new place to live, a new school, and plenty of law school friends to add to the list of things I am thankful for. I am sure many of you feel the same.

Unfortunately, I go to school about 1,000 miles away from my hometown, and going home for the holiday just wasn't an option; plane tickets were too expensive, driving would take too long. So here I am in this college town, left to celebrate Thanksgiving away from home. Luckily for me, Thanksgiving is a holiday I am rather indifferent to - sure, I am very thankful for what I have, but I've never felt all that attached to the holiday. Black Friday doesn't appeal to me anymore either, after 3 years of working in retail. So, I'm not all that bummed about not going home. In fact, I'm pretty excited about my first law school Thanksgiving break!

Classes for us law students lasted until Tuesday. The undergrads here were done last Friday, so it was pretty quiet over the weekend and the beginning of the week. This was great because our memo was due, and everyone is trying to get a bunch of stuff finished up before the end of the semester. Because the weekend was so productive, I decided to take Wednesday, the first day of break, off from doing anything school related. I laid at home, watched TV, baked a pumpkin pie, and was lazy as can be. This was a much needed treat.

Thursday was turkey day. Although I didn't get to have a big Thanksgiving meal with my family, one of my friends from school who also stayed here over break cooked us an entire Thanksgiving feast with two other friends. Let me tell you, the day your friend cooks an entire turkey dinner is the day they earn your respect for life. I'm pretty sure that's what it takes to become a real adult. It was so nice to relax with friends, complain about law school, and stuff our faces with something other than take-out or macaroni and cheese.

Today is Friday, which meant my break had to be over and I needed to get back to work and study a little bit. However, there was one important life event that I had to do first. Gilmore Girls, my favorite show since the 5th grade, premiered four specials on Netflix. So I woke up at 3:00 a.m. ET to watch all 6 hours before I was off to school to study. Let me tell you, if I didn't get the opportunity to actually go home for break, this show is the closest thing to home there is for me.

When I got to school, I was devastated to find out that my ID card was not working to swipe into the law building. In fact, nobody's card was working. Myself, along with two other students and a professor, were trapped outside of the building. Professor to the rescue, though. He called the university police for us and we were let in to get our books and study away. That's where I spent most of my day. However, I did take a break in the afternoon to watch some football.

Tomorrow and Sunday will be similar. I need to study and work on school most of the day. I still have two research projects, my CORE grammar post-test, and studying for finals in the remaining seventeen days of the semester. It feels like there is a lot to do, but I am motivated and I know that I can do it.

Sometime in the rest of the weekend, I am going to clean my entire apartment, go grocery shopping to get necessary sustenance for finals, and try to find a little more time to relax. I hope all of you law students are able to do the same.

Oh yeah - and last, but not least - I want to say I am so thankful for each and every one of you that reads my blog. I have already gotten more readers than I ever thought I would, and the number grows every day. Thank you for being a part of my law school adventure!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Surviving During the "Hard Weeks" in Law School


Hey, everyone - my only class scheduled for today was cancelled, and now I am officially on Thanksgiving break. After break, I only have one day of classes left and then it is finals time! This entire semester has flown by so fast, and I am so nervous for finals, but excited to go back home and see all my friends and family for the holidays. For those of you in school right now as well - congratulations on wrapping up a semester! It's always a tough challenge, but a huge victory once you hit that home stretch.

Today, I'm going to discuss one of the not-so-fun topics about law school. The unfortunate reality of being a law student is that there are going to be a lot of hard days. Sometimes, it feels like there are going to be more hard days than good days. In reality, I know it's not that bad. But, it can be hard to see how great life is when you are drowning in memos to write, career services meetings, endless readings, and of course, going to class. There are definitely some weeks that are harder than others, and it can be difficult to know how to handle it. This last week has definitely been a hard week for me. Not only are finals approaching, but last week the workload seemed incredibly heavy, and my final writing assignment for the semester was due. To add to the school stress, my law school class was unfortunately faced with the tragic death of one of our classmates. Throughout the school, you could feel the stress, anxiety, grief, and sadness throughout the air.

So, you might be wondering, how do you get through weeks like this? To be honest, I am no expert. In fact, sometimes I think I don't handle things like this well at all. But, I will try to give you my best advice for how to survive during the hard weeks in law school

First things first - take care of yourself.
Seriously, you know what to do. Drink your water. Get enough sleep. Eat something. Take a shower. It's surprising how hard the most basic things can be when you are struggling, but these things are all essential to make you feel like a human being. So make sure you take care of yourself.

Take care of others
If you are struggling, so are you friends. Make sure that they're being kind to themselves. Offer yourself as someone to talk to. It's easier to draw strength when someone else needs you, and helping a friend may be the morale boost you need.

Talk to someone - anyone
Call your mom. Text your best friend. Meet with a professor in office hours. This week, all of the law school staff and faculty has made it so clear that they are here to support us. I have had so many professors reach out to lend an ear, offer advice, and take care of my classmates and myself as we deal with the loss of one of our law school brothers. I am so convinced now, if I wasn't before, that all of my professors and law school staff are here to help me succeed, and I am willing to bet most people would find the same at their school.

Give yourself some time away from law school
For the last fifteen days, I have not had a single day where I have not been inside the law building. I have had to spend so much time in the library studying, going to classes, and attending meetings that I can barely remember the last day I wasn't inside my school. It's important to take a break every now and then to get out. My friends and I like to do this by taking trips to get ice cream. Do something fun and mindless that doesn't involve school.

Remember your goals
When law school gets hard, it's easy to make half-serious jokes about giving up and dropping out. I know that I have made plenty. But remember your goals and why you attended law school in the first place. Use that as a motivation to do your best and get through the week.

I know that sometimes, law school feels like you're drowning, and no matter how hard you try, you can't keep your head above water. But keep kicking, keep fighting, get your head above water, and slowly - but surely - you will learn to swim.

I have a hard time too. I'm not the best at this whole "law school" thing yet. But I know that I can get through it all, and I know you can too.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Meeting with Professors During Office Hours


Have you ever heard the phrase, "Life isn't a popularity contest"? I'm sure you have - it's something that adults tend to tell kids and teenagers to encourage them when faced with adversity from their peers. Well, I have a newsflash for you - in the legal world, life is a popularity contest. The job you'll get will likely be based on whether or not people like you. Yes, your grades and school performance matter. But the opinions of future employers, as well as your references matter. Some of your most important references in law school are going to be your professors. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to connect with your professors. One of the best ways to connect is by meeting with them during office hours.

Most professors are required to have office hours once or twice a week, where they are available in their office to answer questions, help you with class, and give you school advice. This can be a great a resource if you need a little extra help in your classes. To be totally transparent, I don't always take advantage of my professors' office hours - I don't usually go in unless I have a reason. However, it's comforting to know that time is available if needed.

This week, I met with two of my professors on separate occasions. The first meeting was a writing conference with my writing professor. My school has several of these required conferences throughout the semester, as well as several optional ones. I take advantage of each and every one of these conferences. After all, how could I say no to getting personalized advice about legal writing? I've already had three or four of these conferences this semester, and the help I have gotten is invaluable. If your writing professor offers writing conferences, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the opportunity.

Another great thing that can come from these types of conferences is understanding why you get the grades you do. My conference this week was to go over my first graded writing assignment that was due a couple of weekends ago. I got a 'B' on this assignment - which is a fairly good grade for law school. Through the conference, I was able to understand why I missed the points that I did, why I earned points for things I did well, and got more tips for my next assignment. The best part of this conference was that when I was going over my paper with my professor, she commented on how her comments seemed inconsistent with the score she gave me - meaning that she's going to reevaluate and my grade might be increased. I never would've had the opportunity to earn back those points without a conference - so there's another reason to meet with your writing professor as much as possible!

I also had a conference with my Civil Procedure professor to go over my in-class, ungraded midterm that I took last month to evaluate my performance. When I got to my professor's office, we first had a personal conversation about how I feel law school is going, how I'm doing in my classes, etc. This was nice, just to know a professor cares about how I am doing overall. Then, when going over my midterm, my professor told me that if I performed similarly on the final, I would likely have one of the best grades in my class. This was amazing to hear, and gave me a boost of confidence that I am on the right track in the way I study.

After meeting with both of my professors, I ended the week feeling more confident about this whole law school thing. Finals time is approaching - it's about to be crunch time, and I'm getting nervous about taking my finals and getting my final grades. However, having two professors acknowledge the good work I'm doing makes me feel like maybe I've got this after all. I know what I'm doing well, what I need to work on, and how to approach finals coming up.

I highly recommend meeting with your professors as much as you can - you never know what will come out of a conference!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How I Take Notes in Law School


In law school, being successful in classes obviously includes more than simply showing up to classes and listening to the professors. Not only do you have to do your reading and study outside of class, but the note-taking you do inside of class matters a lot as well. Everyone takes notes differently - some people take really thorough notes outside of class and then don't take notes in class at all, some people on take scribbles of notes while they do their readings and then take extensive notes during class, some people give equal effort both in and out of class. There's no right way to do it - just do whatever is right for you. But, despite that little piece of truth, I know that me saying that is less-than-helpful. So I'll show you how I take my notes for class and then you can decide whether or not parts of my note-taking system might work for you.

First things first, I tend to take more extensive notes outside of class than I do in class. Part of the reason for this is that the majority of the reading you will do outside of classes will be reading case law, and I tend to brief every single case that I read. I won't give you any information on how to brief cases here - I've written an entire post on that already! These case briefs tend to take up most of my notes. However, I do write down any other information the book gives me, as well as a few bullet points on the footnotes or follow-up questions also included in the book. Here's an example of what a section of my reading notes look like:

In this screenshot, you can see both bullet-point notes on information, as well as a full case-brief. You might notice that I put the page numbers of the case next to the title of the case I am reading. This helps me quickly locate the full case in the book, so I can easily find it during class for reference. I highly recommend this practice.

You might be wondering, from this screenshot, what program I use to take my notes. I use Evernote for all of my typed notes in law school. To tell you more about Evernote, I'll send you my colleague Nikki's blog - she wrote an entire post about Evernote and why she uses it. Her post is what encouraged me to use Evernote, and I definitely owe Nikki for introducing me to it. Check out her post - it includes some great note-taking tips as well!

In class, I do not type my notes. I have been told by many professors, and believe from personal experience that hand-writing notes is the best way to remember information. However, my class notes are way less-detailed and way less-organized. My goal during class is to write down main points, things I need to remember, and things my professor mentions that weren't in the reading. Overall, I really take notes in class to make sure I stay focused and pay attention. Here is what an example of my notes from in class look like:

Notice that these notes are way less detailed, a little messier, and more general. Then, at some point after class, usually after a few weeks, I will compile these notes into an outline that is a summary of all of my notes and everything I have learned in one document. Here is an example of what that outline looks like:

I like typing up my outlines in Microsoft Word, because I like the format. However, after I work on my outline I make sure to upload it to Google Drive or Evernote, because if my computer crashes mid-semester I definitely do not want to lose my notes and all of the progress I have made throughout the semester. I also recommend waiting until the end of a unit to outline, that way you know what is the most important for that particular part of the class. You don't want to waste more time on one part of your outline than necessary - you spend enough time working on your notes as is.

Overall, that is my note-taking process. I try to be as thorough as possible when I take my notes that way I have all of the information that the professor wants me to know, whether I derived it from the book or from the lecture. I always type out my notes from the reading, and handwrite my notes in class. I do have one class that does not allow laptops, but I just print out my notes for that class. I like to type my reading notes because it saves time and it is cleaner, but if you prefer handwriting then that is equally as valid.

Again, this is only one way of taking and organizing your notes. There are many method's out there. Nikki's post is a great example of one way to take notes, mine gives you another option, and there are more options than just the two of these. Bottom line - just make sure you are taking notes. Then, a style that works for you will develop on its own.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Being Young In Law School


I am one of the youngest people in my law school class. As far as I know, I am the second-youngest person in my law school class, as far as I know. Like many law students, I cam to law school directly out of undergrad - I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Political Science in May of 2016, and began law school the following August. However, I actually only attended undergrad for three years. By some luck and apparently overloading on classes, I was able to get my degree an entire year early. Not only that, but I have always been young compared to my classmates - I turned eighteen the July after graduating from high school. So, all things considered, I began law school barely a month after I turned twenty-one.

Being young in law school has definitely contributed to a unique experience among my peers. There are a handful of other twenty-one year-olds in my class as well, so I am not alone. However, the majority of my classmates are at least a year or two older than me, and some even more than that. However, being young in law school hasn't been detrimental to my law school career in any way, and if anyone else is in a similar position, I advise you not to let it deter you.

Most people associate being twenty-one with a year of partying, fun, and free-spirited shenanigans. Being in law school, this is clearly not an option. I've replaced bar crawls with bar prep, hangovers with early morning study sessions, and spontaneous roadtrips with well-planned library trips. Law school isn't necessarily boring, but it is serious. If you want to spend your time partying and having fun, I recommend you get that out of your system before taking the plunge into your 1L year.

Another way being young might impact you while attending law school is lack of life experience. Some of my classmates have used their time in undergrad to study abroad, other have years of work experience, and others just seem to be better adults. I didn't have time for any of that - I spent three straight years studying in undergrad, and then came straight to law school to study some more. Sometimes this makes me feel a little intimidated - like I am less of an adult than my classmates. But then when it comes to reality, I feel like I have a better grip on most things like paying bills, handling insurance claims, going to the DMV, etc. So it's all about how you handle things.

Overall, I wouldn't change my experience of being one of the younger ones in my class. Sure, it brings a variety of challenges. But it also brings an opportunity for me to prove myself. Unless I tell people, they usually don't realize how young I am, and I certainly don't act like a typical twenty-one year old. So don't let being young hold you back from going to law school. If you have an experience anything like mine, it won't matter a bit. I'm not ready to let go of my immaturity yet - I still have stuffed animals and toy trinkets stacked on top of my law books. But I'm ready to be a law student, and nobody but me knows the difference.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Two Months of Law School


As of now, I've been a law student for a little over two months. It kind of feels like it has only been two weeks; at the same time, it feels like it's been about two years. Overall, I'm starting to figure out what this whole "law school" thing is actually about, and I'm starting to find my identity as a law student. So I wanted to write this post to summarize for both all of my readers as well as myself what my first two months of law school have been like.

Emotions

First things first, my first two months of law school have been way more emotionally compromising than what I expected. Not only did I have an extremely difficult time with homesickness and moving away from my family, but adjusting can be very emotional in itself. Law school is a big change for most people. It's a change in location, education, and lifestyle - that takes some getting used to.

The first few weeks of law school, I was extremely emotional. More than once, I cried in the library, teared up in class, or had a complete breakdown in the car. I spent all day texting my friends that I missed them. The anxiety was so bad that I lost seven pounds from not eating. But all of that was only temporary. After a few weeks I started to feel like me again. I could make it through days without crying, I called my mom just to talk rather than because I was sad. And I started to feel like myself again.

The point is, the first two months of law school have been an emotional time for me. However, the hard times have only been temporary. While there are still things that make me emotional - I have definitely started to feel normal again.

Classes

Classes have probably been the easiest thing to adjust to in law school. I came to law school straight out of undergrad - meaning that I've been in school for the last sixteen years, so spending my days in the classroom is nothing new. Sure, law school classes are a little bit different - the professors use the Socratic method, the material is a hell of a lot harder, and there are no projects, quizzes, or papers to pad your grade. However, most of us know how to attend a lecture, pay attention, take notes, brief cases, and learn the information. Attending class has probably been the easiest part of transitioning to law school.

That doesn't mean classes aren't difficult - they are! Law school classes are incredibly hard in material, and you will always be afraid of being subjected to being called on at random by your professor. But even so, if you have been a recent student, you will be able to adequately adapt in no time. And with those adaptations will come the grades that you want, and your first assignments will be a breeze!

Social Life

For many people, having a social life might seem like one of their lesser concerns while in law school. But just as maintaining a healthy academic life is important, it's equally as important to maintain a healthy social life while in law school. Having good friends and a quality support system is extremely crucial to maintaining a positive lifestyle while in law school. If you attended a law school close to home, where you went to undergrad, or near family, finding this support system is likely a little easier. If, like me, you moved far away for law school, this is a little more difficult.

Living far away from all of my family and friends makes it a little difficult to lean on them for a support system. Luckily, it's the year 2016 and technology makes it at least a little bit easier. I can have Skype movie nights with my best friend, FaceTime my little sister, and text my friends and family very easily. Whenever possible, both schedule-wise and economically, I can visit home or my friends can visit me, but that's not necessarily enough. Thus, it's important to find friends within your law school community to be a closer support system.

Finding friends near me started with my roommates. I have been lucky enough to find two gorgeous and smart law students to live with, that make even better friends. They have been the most essential part of my support system here. A couple times a week we talk for hours in the living room, about law school, life, and missing home. We go out to dinner or even order food in together - they are great! However, if you live alone or don't have roomies that are quite as great as mine, turn to who you see at school. Is there someone in your classes that you really connect with? Ask them to grab coffee! Looking for a group activity? Join a school club or organization! Need some help navigating this whole "law school" thing? Find out if your school has a mentor program! The common idea here is to put yourself out there, find your people, and love them hard. People need people. 

Budgeting

So I plan on doing an entire post about budgeting in the future, but overall, how to budget in law school has been the biggest adjustment for me. For the last two years of my undergrad, I worked full-time while being in classes. Law schools don't let you work, though, so for the first time in my life I am living off student loans and trying to budget a little bit more. I was lucky enough to get a full-tuition scholarship to my school, but that only covers tuition - not fees, textbooks, rent, food, gas, clothing, etc. Thus, I am living off of the recommended amount my school's financial aid office budgets, which isn't all of that much.

Luckily for me, I consider myself to be pretty financially smart. This means that I am able to pay my rent and bills, buy groceries, and still have money to put into a savings account at the end of the week. It feels weird "saving" money that I now technically owe to the government on my loans, but I want to make sure that if I have a car repair, doctor bill, or other unexpected expense I don't have to go running from my parents. And it's a good habit to start "saving" now so I can practice portioning the money I get for when I eventually have to start paying my loans back.

The point about budgeting here is that it is possible. While not working is a big adjustment for me, it's also really nice to not work and only worry about school. So budgeting is definitely worth it and I recommend anyone who is preparing to attend law school learn a little bit about budgeting before you go.

Overall

When I began law school, I expected to spend my entire 1L year feeling like I am drowning. It hasn't been quite that bad in my experience - I feel like I am treading water. Sure, it's hard and very tiresome, but I'm keeping my head above water. Two months into law school, I've realized that I can do this. It's not going to be easy, parts of it aren't fun, but in the end I am working toward my dream of being a lawyer and I know that I can get there one day.

Less than two months until finals - let the real work begin!


First Legal Research Assignment


Last week was a hectic week for me at school, because not only did I have my first writing assignment due, but I also had my first research assignment due. The research assignment was little bit shorter and easier, and was only worth 10% of my grade. But since every person this year has told me that my grades are the most important thing, I still wanted to do really well. My law school splits our writing and research classes into two separate, 2 credit classes. This is somewhat nice, but also more tedious at times since each class comes with separate assignments and tasks. Especially since each class had an assignment due at the same time.

My first research assignment was to look at a hypothetical client problem and research the issue trying to find the answer to the client's question and then writing a short, informal memo about the issue. For this first assignment, we were specifically researching case law. Later in the semester, we will have assignments about statutory law and administrative law, as well as a wrap-up assignment that pulls everything together. Limiting the research to only one type of source makes things a little bit easier.

Most law schools provide you with a plethora of research tools. Obviously, every law school has an extensive library with volumes and volumes of legal authority looking regal on the shelves. However, in the modern day, the electronic databases that your school provides are probably what you use most. It's so much easier to type in a search query and get thousands of results than it is to browse the shelves of the American Law Reports or legal encyclopedias. My school provides LexisNexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg, HeinOnline - basically all of the sources you can think of. This is both good and bad. Having these resources is great, because it makes research a hell of a lot easier. It also can be detrimental, because not all of us will have access to these amazing tools when we actually enter practice.

The assignment that I had made me use Lexis, Westlaw, and HeinOnline to find the answer's to the client's problem. The assignment was actually pretty easy - there was a number of guided questions, and as long as you followed directions, you should have got the right answer. The informal memo I had to write was a little more open-ended, as was the research log I had to make while I was doing the research. Because grading in law school is based on a curve, I knew that I had to put in more effort on these sections. I couldn't focus on just getting the right answer, I had to have the best and most thorough answer.

Luckily, my efforts paid off. After turning the assignment in and waiting about a week for grades, I earned my first A in law school. Although it's only a small portion of my grade, I was pretty proud of the score that I received. I definitely earned points for being the most thorough, so I would recommend doing the same on your assignments.

Good luck to everyone as you begin turning in your graded assignments as well!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

First Law School Writing Assignment (+ Writing Tips!)


One thing that I have had to get used to in law school is the lack of papers, tests, quizzes, and other graded assignments throughout the semester. For the most part, grades in law school are limited to the finals, and maybe participation or attendance depending on the class. The few exceptions to this are legal writing and research classes. Most law schools require first-year students to take some sort of legal writing and research classes. Mine are two separate classes, but some schools combine them. These classes tend to have a few more assignments throughout the semester than the doctrinal classes, such as torts, criminal law, civil procedure, property, contracts, etc.

Having more assignments through the semester is both a blessing and a curse. Although it creates a nice contrast to what I do in my other classes (a.k.a. reading all of the time), it adds a little bit of pressure. Your torts professor likely won't care that you have a quiz on the Bluebook the same day they assign 60 pages - so the graded assignments are just one more thing you have to balance in your academic life. However, it is nice to know that my grade in at least one class won't be entirely based on a single test.

About a week ago I had to turn in my first graded assignment for my legal writing class. The assignment was to write a formal office memo regarding a hypothetical client situation using provided legal authority that the professor gave to us. We had done a short, ungraded e-mail memo prior to this as practice, but this assignment was the real deal. Essentially, a legal memo is paper in which you analyze a client situation using legal authority such as cases and statutes to explain why you think the court will decide the outcome of a case in a certain way. Our memo was limited to 8 pages, and we were provided four cases to use as legal authority. You might think that 8 pages is long - but it was actually rather difficult for most of my classmates to not go over the page limit.

Learning how to write legal memoranda is important, because many of law students are required to write these memoranda as part of their law school internships. Along with that, the memorandum that you turn in for you legal writing classes will likely be the writing sample that you will submit to potential employers when applying for jobs. That fact, combined with the fact that the assignment is graded, means that writing my first memo came with a lot of pressure. I had two weeks to complete the assignment. However, because of one of my friend's passing away and needing to travel for a funeral, I really only worked on the assignment for a little over one week. For me, this was adequate time to feel like I did well on the assignment - but I know some of my classmates needed longer and some only took a few days to write their memos.

I am still anxiously awaiting my grade for my memo, but I feel as though I did fairly well. Pending feedback and completion of the next memo I have to write, I will eventually write a post on writing legal memos. However, until then - here are some general legal writing assignment tips:


  • Consult the Bluebook - you have it for a reason. Make sure your citations are correct and that you follow Bluebook style to avoid making stupid mistakes.
  • Edit, edit, edit! Edit your writing as you go, take breaks from writing to go back to edit, edit when you are finished, then wait a day and edit again. Your professor will be able to tell if your writing is polished or not.
  • Read your paper out loud to yourself. It will help you catch little mistakes you might not notice if you read silently.
  • Know your school's collaboration policy - my school doesn't allow us to discuss any aspects of the assignment with each other. You don't want to lose points or fail the assignment for discussing your writing with your friends.
  • Take breaks from writing. You need to be able to walk away from your assignment and come back to it to create your best work. It's pretty unlikely that if you sit down and do the assignment all at once that you will create quality work.
  • Remember basic grammar. Seriously, this is not the time to misplace commas or forget basic sentence structure.
  • Don't overthink it. You'll do better if you just relax and have some confidence that you are producing your best work.
So good luck to everyone as you write your assignments this semester, and let me know what writing tips you have!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sick Days in Law School


It's that dreaded time of year when the weather gets colder, leaves start falling, and signs for flu shot clinics appear in every pharmacy. Yes, friends - it's cold and flu season. As a student at a giant university who is consistently surrounded by twenty-somethings who aren't very good at keeping their germs to themselves, I am constantly in fear of catching a virus or whatever sickness is plaguing the college community at the time. I walk around my apartment twice a week with Lysol wipes in hand, disinfecting every surface I can think of. A bottle of hand-sanitizer is constantly clipped to my backpack, I constantly take my vitamins and stay hydrated, and I avoid hanging out with people the second I hear them cough. Despite all these precautions, somehow I have caught a bug and now I have to deal with feeling sick in law school.

You've probably heard a lot of the same statistics I have about the average adult getting about 4 colds a year. Despite the commonality, I still feel shocked every single time I come down with the slightest illness. I'm sure many of you feel the same, but I advise you to embrace the inevitability and prepare for how you will handle yourself when you do eventually get sick. As I am trying to stay on top of things and be the kickass law student I know I can be, while battling the plague of the common cold, here is my advice on how to handle sick days in law school:

Know Your Class Attendance Policies

If you're sick, chances are, you might be missing classes. Before you decide to stay home instead of going to Contracts class, make sure you've checked your class attendance policy and know whether or not that absence will hurt you. For example, I have one class where if I miss more than two classes, I will automatically fail. Others require 80% attendance, meaning I can miss up to five classes. Others have provisions of two or three absences before my grade is impacted; some require a doctors note or other documentation for any absences. As you can see, attendance policies vary greatly - so make sure you know the policy for whatever class you are considering skipping before you do it. It's better to be miserable in class than to fail for spending the afternoon in bed. 

Don't Let Yourself Fall Behind In School

This goes for while you are sick - and before. Can you imagine if you catch the flu - but you're so behind in your classes already and one sick day puts you even more behind and you fall into a downward spiral of being inevitably behind in all your classes? Scary, right? So don't let that happen to you. I try to stay a day or two ahead in all of my readings and assignments so that if something does come up, whether it be an illness or an emergency, I don't fall even farther behind. As cold and flu season rolls in, make sure you are staying on top of your assignments, just in case.

While you are sick, don't let your illness be an excuse for you to fall behind either. As much as you can, do your readings and assignments. While I've been sick these last few days, although I've been exhausted, I've still tried to put in at least a half-day of work. Today I worked on my readings from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and went to my hour class in the afternoon. This way, I'm not falling behind too much but I'm also not doing my normal long days at school that would exhaust me.

Hydrate, Hydrate. Hydrate!

Okay, so this is just general good advice for being a healthy person - but drink a ton of water. Your body needs fluids to heal. When I'm sick, I'm very likely to ignore eating or drinking anything - but that is a bad habit that I need to break. One of the best things you can do to help yourself get better is to drink enough water, so as Nike would say, just do it!

Get Enough Sleep

As a law student, I don't get nearly enough sleep as it is. I often stay up later than I should trying to get things done for school, cleaning my apartment, talking to my friends from back home, or laying awake stressed out about literally everything in the world. Being sick just adds more unnecessary stress to my life - which makes it even harder to sleep at night. But thanks to NyQuil, I've been forcing myself to get a good night's sleep because I know that rest is essential to healing. Between that and a nap here and there, I am sleeping my way to recovery and I highly recommend you do the same.

Take Care of Your MENTAL Health As Well

While this post is primarily about taking care of your physical health, I assure you that caring for yourself mentally is no joke. The stress from law school can take a huge toll on your physical and mental health. However, when you have a head cold or a touch of the flu, it's much easier to grab some medicine, hydrate, and get yourself back on track. Taking care of yourself mentally isn't so simple. This is something to keep in mind throughout the entire year, but especially during those times where you might feel a little bit ill. Being sick can add some extra undue stress that can have a bigger impact on your mental health than you might realize. So make sure if you start to feel a little down when you are sick, that you recognize the burden you are putting on your mental health and do something about it. If you aren't a fan of seeking out therapy, try to at least use some of your favorite stress relief methods, care for yourself, and remember that it's totally and completely normal to feel upset every now and then. But despite the bad days, you can get through this. Take care of your body, take care of your mind. 

Stay Away From Booze, Drugs, Etc.

Many law students like to relax using some of these things, but while you are sick is not the time to indulge. Most of these things have negative effects on your health - even in moderate amounts - and you don't want to sabotage your body while it is trying to be healthy again. I know you don't want to give up a night out with your friends, or you just want to relax - but seriously, you can let yourself go a few days without it and when you are back to your full, healthy safe, you will thank yourself.


and last but not least,

Take A Deep Breath and Chill

Relax. Getting sick isn't the end of the world, although it may feel like it at the time. You will feel better soon, you will get back on track, and you will be okay. Just focus on getting better and getting back to being the amazing law student that you are!

Good luck everyone, and stay healthy this cold and flu season!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Grieving

Hey, everyone. So you may have noticed that I have not posted in a few weeks. I am sure most of you have probably attributed this to me being extremely busy with law school - and you are not entirely wrong. This week my first two graded assignments are due which is taking up most of my time. I'm either working on them, or stressing about how I should be working on them. But due to some circumstances in my personal life, I haven't really felt like posting a lot or writing happy posts. So I apologize for being away, and I will try to get back to a normal amount of posting here soon.

Unfortunately, a little over week and a half ago, I found out that an old coworker and friend of mine had passed away. His tragic and untimely death definitely had an impact on my emotional stability these last few weeks. Grieving is hard in general, and it is even more difficult when I am 1,000 miles away from my friends and family and have to continue to stay on top of my law school assignments like nothing is wrong. I was able to travel back home to attend the funeral, which was sad, yet emotionally healing as well. One good thing that came from this was that many of the friends that I have made at law school reached out to me to just give me hugs, offer to bring me cups of coffee or lend me their notes, or just hang out with me when I need a distraction. People need other people. I need other people. And grieving has made me realize that more than anything else.

If you are away from home at law school, college, or anywhere in your future - you will likely have some similar experience where you may have to grieve from a distance.  Everyone has their own grieving style - you may need to cry for days, you may want to distract yourself, or you may want to do nothing at all. Whatever you need to do, just do it. There is no wrong way to grieve. Let your professors know, let your friends know, let your coworkers know. Do whatever you need to do in order to feel okay again. It will be hard, but you can get through it. And if you ever need to reach out to anyone, you can always reach me by email or in the comments on here.

So, now that I have addressed this, I will try to get back to normal posts about law school. Any questions you guys have? Anything you would like to know? Leave them in the comments and I will write a post!!

I will talk to you guys soon.

- Bailey



If you ever feel alone, are having problems with addiction, or need any other help - check out these resources below. Your life is precious. People need you and want you here. Love yourself and help yourself, because you are worth it.

For help finding mental health or substance abuse treatment centers: 1-800-622-HELP


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

Friday, September 30, 2016

Getting Called On


So, if you're anything like me or the majority of law students, you probably think that the most terrifying thing about law school is the fact that the professors use the Socratic method to teach. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Socratic method, it basically means that the professors will call on you at random at their own whim in classroom discussions. Basically, this means that you show up to class, the professor picks a student and asks them a bunch of questions to stimulate critical thinking. This is a little bit different than in undergrad, where classroom participation was a voluntary thing.

I won't lie to you, professors cold-calling you is always going to be terrifying. I was called on to present a case in torts today that I was more than adequately prepared for, and my heart still raced as I was going through the case facts. I assume that it will only get easier with time, but I am seven weeks into law school and it's still scary, so don't expect to get used to it.

Different professors choose how to call on students in different ways. My torts professors lets people volunteer, and cold-calls when there are no volunteers - pretty much everyone has to talk at some point during each class. My civil procedure professor randomizes the order of all of our names and calls on us in order of his randomized list. My criminal law professor calls on people completely at random, however she chooses. I've heard of some professors that put students' names on note cards and draws them at random. Some assign certain people to be "on call" each day. I've heard of others assigning cases to people throughout the semester. The moral of this is that each professor has their own method. But at some point in each class you will get called on without volunteering.

So you might be wondering, how do I survive this brutal attack of professors' wrath? I'll be honest, I haven't figured out a foolproof way, but there are some ways to make it easier:

Prepare for Class

Okay, so you might be thinking duh. But it really is that simple at the most basic level. If you actually did the readings, took notes, briefed your cases, and sort-of know what's going on, you will feel so much better about the professor possibly calling on you. It's much less nerve-wracking being on the spot if you actually know the material. For example, yesterday my criminal law professor cold-called me, but because I had read the case twice and had a beautiful brief written out, I nailed it! 

Participate Outside of Being Cold Called

This one basically working the system, but professors like to cold call to engage students who maybe not paying attention or don't seem as willing to volunteer. Thus, if your professor allows for voluntary participation outside of the Socratic method, raise your hand and answer questions, ask questions, or make a comment! This will definitely decrease the amount of times your professor will ruthlessly call on you.

Pause and Think Before You Speak

If you are especially nervous about being called on or don't feel as comfortable with the material, don't be afraid to take deep breath and a few seconds to consult your notes or think your answer through before responding to the question. Your professor will appreciate a well-thought out answer more than you stumbling over your words and trying to figure it out. This will also give you a second to figure out how to incorporate your notes to show you are prepared.

If You Don't Know the Answer - Admit It!

Okay, seriously, if you don't know the answer to the question when the professor calls on you - admit it! Give your best answer, or part of the answer if you can, but please do not give the wrong answer. One of my professors will make fun of students that do this, I've heard of others that are very mean if you answer incorrectly. But if you simply say, "I don't know that I found an answer to that within the case facts" or, "Well I think it might be this, but I am unsure if that is true in this case," most professors will accept that and move on. Try to show that you at least read the notes though.

Realize Nobody Will Remember This

Seriously, if you screw up an answer in class, the only person that will remember is you. On Monday in torts, I gave an entire case presentation and got the holding wrong. However, today I gave a flawless case presentation and nobody remembered my flub on Monday. Everyone screws up every now and then, and most people are more worried about themselves messing up than you. So don't worry about it if you don't have the right answer at first.


Overall, no matter when you get called on in class, you'll be okay. After awhile, you can't imagine class without the fear of getting cold-called. If anything, it's a really effective motivator to study. I'd rather spend my free time reading cases over and over until I understand than be embarrassed in class. And that is definitely part of the reason why law schools use the Socratic method. So take a deep breath, do your readings, and get to class - you're going to nail that cold call today!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Mid-Semester Slump


This week marks week seven out of eighteen for this semester. The semester isn't new anymore. Finals aren't imminent quite yet. Thus, we have hit the middle of the semester and everyone is definitely hitting a mid-semester slump. It's the point in the semester where I have started to notice more empty seats in classes, notes are looking a little less thorough, and people spend less time in the library studying. Thus, we have all settled into the semester.

In some ways, the fact that we are hitting this slump is a good sign. It means all of us 1Ls aren't totally and utterly lost anymore. There are definitely echoes of comfort in our laziness. The first few weeks, everyone was motivated by fear and nervousness, and desire to succeed. Now, we have all sort of figured out how to be law students and the threat isn't as scary.

However, this is mostly bad. The month of September has flown by. I have been a law student for over a month. I have written more case briefs than I can count. My caffeine consumption is through the roof. And I finally feel like an actual law student. But that means October and November will fly by quickly too - which essentially means finals are just around the corner.

It's not good to let yourself get lazy as a law student. There aren't tests or quizzes throughout the semester to help keep you on track. Professors will not remind you to keep up with your reading. And you definitely won't outline or study for finals if you aren't on the right track for classes in general. So make sure you don't fall to the laziness of the mid-semester slump.

To help you stay on track, find something to motivate you. I have a trip home planned in two weeks. I am trying to stay on track so I don't have to worry about school when I am visiting my family and friends. Maybe you want to reward yourself at the end of the week with a night out or a movie night with your friends. Tell yourself if you study a little extra in the library, you can grab Starbucks on the way home. And last but not least, remember that the most important thing your 1L year is your grades - so just do it!

I hope everyone is staying motivated and good luck to you all!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sobriety In Law School



Hey, everyone! I thought I would share something new with all of you about myself - I don't drink alcohol. I've tried a few drinks here and there, and I used to work at a restaurant that was tied to a brewery. so I know my beers, But for the most part I refrain from the well-rehearsed college ritual of drinking. I might have one drink every few months, but other than that I am basically sober. For those of you who are in law school, you know this is extremely uncommon among law students. Because of my unique experience, I thought I would share what it has been like for me thus far.

My reason for not drinking is pretty simple - I just plain do not want to or feel the need to. Some people choose not to drink for religious reasons or for their health, others might be recovering alcoholics or alcoholism may run in their family, but whatever the reason someone may choose not to drink, they will usually be in the minority. However, being someone who doesn't drink often puts you in the position of having to explain yourself which can get rather awkward - especially in a place where drinking is fairly common, such as a college campus.

I am going to law school at one of the nation's biggest universities, which of course makes it a place where there is an ample amount of parties and opportunities for drunkenness everywhere. And, in law school, everyone is over 21 so drinking is completely and totally legal. Therefore, many of the law school social events involve drinking. There are many happy hours, tailgates, and a weekly event that is humorously named "Bar Review" that is basically a law school bar crawl. I think I have only been invited to or attended a handful of events that didn't involve alcohol since starting law school. With all of these opportunities for drinking and partying, it can get exhausting having to explain over and over again why you do not drink.

While this may sound overwhelming if you are someone who plans on or tries to refrain from alcohol, don't get worried. It is not impossible, and it's not really that difficult. You just have to be strong-minded and okay with a little bit of adversity. But, as a law student, you are probably already to prepared to argue your point so I think that is a manageable task. Here are some things to remember if you plan on staying away from alcohol during law school, and tips to help you manage it:

  • Be prepared to explain why you don't drink a lot. I have basically had to perfect my 10-second speech on why I don't drink so I can deliver it without any questions. Mine is pretty simple - "It's just something that I have never been into and don't feel the need to do. I don't have any problem with drinking or people that do drink though. Plus, with me around there's always a designated driver!" That is usually enough for people.
  • Go to events even if people will be drinking - I still go to happy hours and tailgates, I just leave after an hour or two, which is usually when people start actually getting drunk. 
  • Find a sober buddy. There is strength in numbers, so find someone else who doesn't drink as well. This way, you have someone to make sober plans with or just back you up in awkward conversations.
  • Do not start drinking just because others are pressuring you. Peer pressure is real - but if you decide you don't want to drink, go ahead and stick to that. You'll feel better for upholding your values in the end.

Alcohol isn't the enemy. It's just not something I have chosen to include in my life or my law school experience. Staying away from alcohol in law school can be harder than it was in undergrad, but it's not impossible. If you're planning on staying away from drinking in law school, I commend you. It might be difficult at times, but it is definitely possible. If you are looking for someone to support you in your sobriety, feel free to reach out to me - I'm always there to help you out and would never mind being someone's support system.

Good luck! :)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

How to Brief Cases for Law School


If you're a law student or thinking about going into law school, chances are you know a little bit about the work load and studying. One part of studying and class preparation you may have heard of is "briefing" cases. As a law student, briefing cases is something that you will grow to be very familiar with and most likely do every day.

So what is briefing cases? Essentially, briefing cases is organizing the information of a case into notes in order to assist you with classes, writing assignments, or general understanding. Some students only do briefs for important cases, for certain classes, or only when required. Others, like me, do them for every single case. You might think that sounds like it takes a lot of time - and truthfully, it does.

So why should I brief cases? Well, the first reason I can give you is that it will ensure you have read and understood a case, or at least made an attempt. Secondly, it is *so* helpful when a professor cold calls you and asks for the facts of the case, and you can just look down to you brief and have a perfect little notes section already written up for you.

How do I brief cases? Well, there are several different ways to brief cases. One of the ways to brief a case is through the IRAC method (I have never personally done this, but check out Nikki's blog for a good explanation), similar to that is CREAC, which is essentially the same way as IRAC with different organization. However, I simply state the facts, procedure, issue, holding, rationale, dissent/concurrence, and rule. Below is a detailed explanation with examples:


  • CASE NAME AND CITATION: This is self explanatory. If the case is from a textbook, I also put the page number so I can easily reference the case later. Example:
    • John v. Jim, 123 Fake Ct. 456, pp. 789
  • FACTS: So this is what actually happened in the case. For example, in this section I would write something along the lines of :
    • John was riding in the passenger seat of Jim's car. While they were driving down a highway going 65 miles per hour, Jim had a seizure which caused him to lose control of the wheel and crash into a barrier on the side of the road. Jim was an epileptic and knew he could have seizures at any time.
  • PROCEDURE: This is where you write facts related to the procedure of the case, and how it moved through the court system. This could be fairly simple, or more complicated, especially if it is an appellate or Supreme Court decision. Say in our example, we have a state court appellate decision:
    • John brought a civil suit against Jim for negligence. The trial court found a verdict in favor of John, the plaintiff, awarding him monetary damages. Jim appealed on the basis that the statute regarding negligence in motor vehicle accidents was interpreted incorrectly, because the statute prevents passengers in motor vehicles from bringing civil action unless the driver was grossly negligent. The appellate court affirmed the decision of the lower court.
  • ISSUE: This is where you state the actual issue that the court is deciding. Better phrased, this is where you state the question the court is asking. This is usually something that is very specific, and can be answered with a yes or a no. In our example:
    • Is a driver grossly negligent if they operate a motor vehicle with knowledge of epilepsy?
  • HOLDING: In this section, you will state the court's answer to the question they asked in the issue section. You don't need to explain why, that will be in the next section. So our example would be:
    • Yes, a driver would be considered grossly negligent in operating a motor vehicle with knowledge that he has epilepsy.
  • RATIONALE: The rationale section of your case brief will likely be the longest, other than maybe the facts section. This is where you explain the courts reasoning and why they made the decision that they did. Our example could be something like this:
    • According to the statute in this jurisdiction, a passenger cannot sue following a motor vehicle accident unless a driver is grossly negligent. Plaintiff in this case claims that Defendant was grossly negligent by operating a motor vehicle while he knew he had epilepsy. In order to satisfy the element of negligence, one must prove that a reasonable, prudent person would not have done the act. The court reasonably believes that a reasonable person would know the danger and thus would not have driven. Because a reasonable person would not have driven, Defendant is determined to be grossly negligent.
  • CONCURRENCE/DISSENT: In some cases, other Justices/professionals will have opinions that are different than the opinion of the majority. Here, you would write a sentence or two about why they agreed or disagreed.
  • RULE: This is arguably the most important section of your case brief. In this section, you will explain the rule you learned from the case. You could get several rules out of one case, but often you will only have one that is relevant to what you are supposed to be learning in class. Say in this class, you are learning about negligence and the basic requirements. So for the rule you would write:
    • In order for someone to be acting negligently, they would need to be acting in a way that a reasonable, prudent person would not have acted.

And that's all she wrote! That is a typical case brief that I do for each case, every single class. Now, you have to remember that you might not have every section for every case. Most cases don't have a concurrence or dissent, and some you don't need to write about procedure. Many cases, each section will only be a sentence or two. And most of the time, the only person that will read your briefs is you, so you only need to write them for your own understanding.

I definitely recommend writing or typing out briefs for every case. It helps me understand what each case is about and fully understand it before I get to class and potentially get cold called. Obviously, there are other ways to brief cases and you might find your own style. For those of you looking for a starting point, I hope this helped.

Happy briefing!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Homesickness as a Law Student


The first Friday of the school year around 2:30 p.m., I was sitting in the law school library at a study carrel, trying to get my reading done for torts, when suddenly I couldn't focus anymore. Instead of reading an briefing cases, I was actively fighting back tears and trying not to break down in the middle of law building. After about fifteen minutes of struggling to focus, I gave up, grabbed my stuff, and ran out to my car. I hard barely closed the door when I started sobbing uncontrollably. Phone in hand, I dialed my mom and when she answered I let all of my emotions out.

During that phone call to my mom, I told her I regretted everything; I said if I could go back in time six months and change my mind about going to law school and moving away, I would. My heart felt heavy in my chest, I hadn't been able to eat for days, and I spent at least an hour per day either crying or fighting back tears the entire first week of law school. The problem was not that I was scared for school, that I wasn't making friends, or that school was too hard. I was experiencing complete, debilitating homesickness. 

My undergraduate university was only an hour away from my hometown, so this isn't something I really experienced then. When I did my Disney College Program internship in Orlando, I didn't feel homesick because my best friend was with me. But a few weeks ago, I was sitting alone in my car 1,000 miles away from my home and my family, and I finally knew the experience that a lot of college students have at some point. And let me tell you, it was not fun. It's still not fun, because truthfully I am still working through it. But what I had to realize is that it is completely normal and it's going to be okay.

Homesickness is very real. It is a lot more complicated than just missing home, friends, or family; it's being completely and utterly consumed with the feeling that you have been removed from a place you considered home and from people you feel safe with. As someone who has never been controlled by my emotions in the past, it was an entirely new experience to have my emotions lead my life. I woke up every morning and instantly felt upset because I didn't wake up where I wanted to be. I spent my days studying in the school I had carefully selected and was so excited about just weeks before, but all I could think about was ways to get home instead. I looked up transfer requirements to schools closer to home, re-read my lease to see if there was a loophole to get me out of it so I could move back, and researched plane tickets throughout the day. I even created a countdown in my phone to the end of the school year so I could know exactly how much longer I had to live here. Overall, I was obsessed with missing home.

Fast forward three weeks, and I am finally feeling okay again. I still miss home, my friends, and my family and I talk to them every day. Sometimes, I still consider transferring to a school closer to home next year, and I haven't ruled out that possibility. But I am no longer crying each day, I feel comfortable staying here, and I can focus in class again. My first week of law school I experienced a sharp decline in my mental health - but now it is headed upward again.

So you might be wondering how I dealt with this homesickness, and how I felt better again. The first step was the phone call home to my mom - admitting that I was having a problem and that I was not doing okay like I wanted everyone to leave. I needed someone to know that I was having a difficult time, someone I could talk to in order to get through it. It was such a relief to get the weight of having to pretend I was okay off of my chest, and it was the first step to feeling better.

Second, I made a few plans. My best friend made plans to come out and visit me, and I made plans to go home over a weekend in the middle of the semester. I was able to create a new countdown in my phone, and having to only wait six weeks to see my friends and family was a much easier pill to swallow than waiting until Christmas break. These two plans instantly lifted my spirits and gave me something to look forward to.

Third, I took time to myself and just let myself be sad for a minute. I spent a day curled up in bed watching Netflix and crying. It sounds pathetic, but watching my favorite TV shows curled up in a blanket from home gave me the comfort I needed to get through the sadness. I also put up pictures of my friends and family in my room, and took comfort in some of my things I brought from home. I even changed my phone background to a picture of my little sisters. I'm a true believer that the little things can make a real difference.

Lastly, I tried to start taking it one day at a time. Day by day, week by week, month by month, I will get through feeling upset. Trust me, you're not the only one feeling like this. Most law students are going through the same period of incredible change that you are, and are struggling just as much as you. Feeling homesick is normal and natural, but it won't last forever. So just take it day by day, and every single day will get a little easier. 

As Dorothy said, "There's no place like home." I still miss back home every day, and I call, text, or Snapchat everyone from my hometown on a daily basis. Slowly but surely, I am starting to create a new home here though, and each day is getting easier. So if you are feeling homesick, it's all going to be okay. You're going to be sad, there will be good days and bad, but eventually you will get through it and each day will get better and better.

I promise.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Separating School and Home Life


Law school is hard and time-consuming. I'm sure that's something you have heard before. I know it's something I have said in many blog posts before. However, although you might spend 40 hours per week with your head buried in your books, it is important that you also have the ability to do something other than school for awhile and have some free time as well. In order to keep yourself mentally stable during law school, most people suggest scheduling time to forget about school. You must be able to separate your school life and your home life in order to be successful.

Study Schedule

The first important step in making sure that you can separate your school and home life is to make sure you set up a good study schedule. This will help you manage your time and make it easier for you to know when you will work on school and when you will have free time. If you're like me, and treating school like a job, this is a fairly easy task. School occupies my day until 5:00 p.m., and then the rest of the night is free for me to do as I please. Maybe you want to schedule a few hours of free time for yourself in the middle of the day, or before your classes start. However you do it, make sure it works with your study schedule.

Focus

This seems fairly obvious, but it is also important to point out. When you are at school, focus on school. When you are at home, focus on anything but school. If I am at school, I am either in class or studying in the library. Other than the occasional 15 minute break to clear my head, I don't work on anything else while I am in the law building. I don't use social media, read the news, pay my bills, or even check my blog while I am at school. I want to make sure I mentally associate being at school with working on my studies.

Restrict Your Computer

Like I mentioned above, I don't use social media when I am at school. At least not on my computer - I will check it on the small breaks I give myself or as I am sitting waiting for class to start. However, generally I have a rule: when I am at school I don't pull up social media or entertainment websites. Then, when I am at home, I don't pull up my school's online course management system, log into Evernote, or even check school emails most of the time. This is one of the best ways I have found to separate my school and home life.

Make Plans Outside of School

In order to get yourself to not think about law school for awhile, make plans to do something other than study. Whether it is going to a movie with your friends, going out to eat, seeing sporting events or concerts, or even playing board games - do something that doesn't involve the element of intent or LexisNexis. That stuff is great when your learning, but it should be the last thing on your mind while you are trying to relax. I made weekend plans to visit a friend soon, and it is so nice knowing that I will get out of this town and get to do something other than law school for a day.

Get Enough Sleep

Seriously, this is really important. I know you might think that you should stay up all night studying Civil Procedure, but if you aren't sleeping enough you'll be useless in school. If you are so tired in class that all you can think about is going home to nap, then you have officially lost your separation of school and home life. So make sure you sleep enough at night so you can focus on school when you are at school.


I cannot stress enough how helpful it is to be able separate home and law school. I mean, don't get me wrong, I enjoy law school and what I am learning. But I also enjoy going home each night and forgetting that law school exists. So make sure you set up some degree of separation from school and home. You'll thank yourself for it the minute you do.




Sunday, September 4, 2016

How To Explain What Law School Is Like



If you're a first year law student like I am, chances are that all of your friends and family asks you the same question over and over and over again:
          "So, what is law school actually like?"
Considering I spend at least six hours per weekday buried in case briefs and coffee cups, you would think I would have a solid answer worked out. But truthfully, describing what law school is like is much harder than one would imagine. It is kind of one of those things where you cannot really know what it is like until you do it yourself. So, over the last three weeks of law school I have crafted an answer to this question.

You see, I had been answering the question with a myriad of answers. I would say, "Oh, it is just a lot of reading and a lot of tears" or "Basically like college on steroids." Both of those answers are true, but they really do not capture the essence of law school. If you want a quick and easy answer, those two options will suffice. But, as future lawyers, the aim is always accuracy and clarity.

I had a revelation when I was texting my best friend about the homework load I had for the night. She asked me how much work I had to do, and I told her that overall I had to read about sixty pages for the next day. This seems to be an average amount for daily readings, in case any of you are curious. However, the moment of clarity was when I explained, "I only have eighteen pages left, though, so I should be done in about an hour and a half." She was extremely confused and asked why it would take so long to read only eighteen pages. As most law students, I have been reading at a very high level and quick speed for a long time now, so simply reading eighteen pages should take no longer than fifteen minutes.

That is where law school is different. The amount of time it takes to read, absorb, and learn all of the information required takes five times as long as normal, because it is harder, denser, and way more important. There is not simply "more reading" or "harder material," but it is a combination of both and the dedication it requires to learn the material. So far, it seems that for every hour you will spend in class, you will spend two to three hours outside of class to read, learn, and understand the material.

Law school is a full time job. Law school is hard. But it is also really rewarding to put in this amount of dedication to something that you love and will serve you for the rest of your life.

- Bailey

Friday, September 2, 2016

Law School Study Schedules


Being a law student is a full-time job. I heard people say that long before I ever started law school, but until I actually was a law student, I didn't fully understand what that meant. For every hour you spend in class, it seems that you spend at least two hours outside of class reading and studying. So, lets do the math:
  • 16 credit hours = 16 hours per week in class
  • 2 hours outside of class for each hour in class = 32 hours
Total = 48 hours per week spent on school. 

Yup, people meant it when they said that law school is a full time job. Personally, 48 hours seems as though it is a bit of a stretch, but I would expect a minimum of 40 hours per week, and usually a few more. So with all of the time that one should be allocating to his or her studies, it is important to have an organized study schedule in order to get all of the studying necessary done. 

There are several different options for creating your study schedule. Obviously, you should do whatever works best for you. However, it is important to create a study schedule in order to keep yourself accountable for your time and to make sure you allocate enough time to get your work done. Creating a study schedule also helps you keep your life organized outside of school, because you always know when you will have free time for other activities. 

Every person's study schedule will vary slightly, depending on their habits and how they want to spend their time. My study schedule is completely different from my roommate's, and her schedule is different than a lot of her friends, who have different schedules than my friends. Everyone studies in a different way and at different times, so do not feel bad if your study schedule is completely unique. Just make sure that it works for you and it should work out.

There are a few common approaches to creating a study schedule, so here is a list of some that I have heard:

The Average College Student

This one is similar to what many of you may have done in undergrad, and a lot of people continue to use this type of schedule in law school. This is the schedule where you wake up whenever you need to start getting ready for class, whether it be 6 a.m. or 11 a.m., and you get up and go through your classes. You might study at the library at school between your classes, or just use that time to relax. Once your classes are done, you go home and eat, relax, hang out, and do whatever it is you enjoy. Then, before going to bed for the night, you study and do your readings. You might not start studying until 8 or 9 p.m., and stay up late into the night getting everything done. This works especially well for night owls or people who are accustomed to this schedule.

Study Chunks

This is the transitional study schedule, and it seems like it is the most common way for law students to study. This is where, along with going to class, you study at random points in the day for smaller chunks of time. This could be for an hour between classes, an hour or two right after, in the middle of the evening, and again late at night. This is a good way to break up your studying and not have to focus on one thing for a long period of time. The downside to this study method is that it may feel like you are studying all day - but hey, that is expected for law students anyway.

9-to-5, School is Your Job

Last but not least is the study method that I use. This seems to be the most common for students that have spent time in the workforce before coming to law school or students with families. Studying with this method means that you treat law school like it is a 9 to 5 job. Get there early in the morning, stay until around 5 p.m., and then take your nights and weekends off. This is easiest on days where I have 8 a.m. classes; but even on Tuesdays and Thursdays where I do not have class until 1 p.m., I head to the library at around 9 a.m. and get all of my stuff done and leave by 5 every night. The biggest perk of this study schedule is that I know at the end of every day I will have a few hours of "me" time before I go to bed. However, I also get up by 6:30 every morning at the latest to ensure that I get to school to study on time.

These are obviously not the only options out there, and each method can be tweaked for your own personal preferences. No matter which method you choose, make sure it is one where you can be sure that you will have enough time to get everything done?

What study method do you use?

- Bailey




Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Law School Reminds Me of High School


It was about the third day of law school when I had a major revelation. Although I was struggling emotionally with the transition into law school, something about the whole experience was vaguely familiar and comforting. I couldn't quite put my finger on exactly what it was, though. At least, not until I rolled into the building at 8:00 A.M. one morning, threw my lunch box in the fridge, and stopped off at my locker to grab my books and supplies for my first class. That's when I figured out where I had done this entire routine before - high school.

Yes, I said it, folks. Law school is exactly like high school, except there are more tears and more debt. You might be thinking that I am drawing crazy comparisons here, but I assure you that I am not. So without further ado, here is my list of reasons why law school is like high school:


  • You stay in the same building all day. Obviously, most of us went to a high school that was in one, giant building. The same is true for law school. It's not like college where you might have one class in the science building, another in the arts building, another in the honors building, etc. You are stuck in the same building all day, every day. Because of this, make sure you pick a law school where you like the building because it is where you will spend all of your time.
  • Class Size. So this clearly depends on where you go to law school, but most law schools have overall class sizes are similar to high school. For example, my high school graduating class was 129 people. My J.D. class is 154 people. I go to a very moderately-sized law schools, but most are not bigger than a typical high school.
  • Lockers. Ah, yes - lockers. The one thing about high school that I never realized I missed. At most law schools, students are given lockers in the building to keep their books, supplies, whatever. This is so amazing, because law school textbooks are extraordinarily heavy. Not only that, but I have a couple of snacks stashed in my locker for emergencies, as well as an extra sweatshirt for freezing classrooms, pens, and a water bottle. 
  • Spending all day at school. In undergrad, I would go to class for a few hours then return to my apartment for a nap or food, and maybe head back to school again in the afternoon for a few hours. In law school, they recommend that you treat it like a 9-to-5 job, where you go to school for class and study before, after, and in-between classes in the law school, and then go home and leave it all behind. This is much more similar to my 8-to-4 high school schedule than my sporadic undergrad schedule.
  • Drama, "Cliques", and Friend Groups. This one is a bit more negative than the rest, but it seems like all of the high school drama comes back a little bit in law school because it is such a small group of people that spends all of their time together. There are definitely established friend cliques and drama between them already. Although I feel as though I have managed to stay out of the drama, it is always there.
Those are some of the main reasons that law school reminds me of high school. Although you might have a different opinion, it is hard to deny some of the similarities. In some ways, this is kind of nice. However, it's definitely something that I will have to get used to again, as I was so accustomed to my undergraduate lifestyle. 

What do you guys think? Is law school like high school?

- Bailey
 
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