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
 
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