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.


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