Monday, March 20, 2017

Law School Prom

It's that time of year when juniors and seniors in high school get so excited to have the most magical night of their lives thus far. Limousines, fancy dresses, tuxedos, and dancing the night away is every teen's dream. And then when high school is over you have nostalgia for the days when life was so simple and nights like that existed. Unless you go to law school.

I've talked before about how law school is actually a lot like high school. This weekend, that analogy strengthened when we had the ultimate high school event - prom. Yep, you heard that right. Law schools have prom. Technically, it's not called a prom. It's usually referred to as a Barrister's Ball, or some schools just call it a spring formal. But don't let that fool you, any and every law student will forever refer to it as a "law prom," because it is.

At first, when I heard about this event, I rolled my eyes a little bit. After all, I graduated high school four years ago, I don't need to attend another prom. There was so much hype for the event then, it feels weird to have that same level of excitement as an adult. However, I didn't want to miss out on the experience, so I decided to go ahead and buy a ticket to go. After all, I've studied hard all year and deserve a night of fun and enjoyment. And now I'm glad that I went.

For those of you that also have law proms at your schools and have questions, I've decided to address some of them here. So without further ado, all about law school prom!

What Do People Wear?

Remember prom in high school? Fancy dresses, suits, and tuxes. Same thing at law shool proms. Of course, the dresses tend to be a bit more grown up in style, but the idea is still the same. My school had a formal/semi-formal dress code, but most people generally wore typical prom dresses. I got mine on clearance at a department store prom sale, and it was a very classic prom dress. A lot of the guys just wore suits instead of renting tuxes, but there was a tux or two in the crowd. It was really fun to see everyone dressed up, and it was a nice departure from the typical hoodies and jeans that everyone wears to class every day. Don't be afraid to break out an old prom dress, buy a new one, or just pull out your fanciest outfit for the event. A lot of people even got their hair and makeup done, got their nails done, and did the whole thing up. Go big, or go home!

Here's a classic mirror selfie for you.

So, is it a dance... or?

Yes, and no. Primarily ours was a formal dinner. We had a catered buffet dinner at a country club. The difference between this and your high school prom is that it is a 21+ event, so it included an open bar. However, toward the end of the night, the tables were moved and the dance floor opened. For a three hour event, they had about one hour of dancing which was just the right amount. And of course they played dance floor classics like the Cupid Shuffle, which did not disappoint the throwback prom feel.

Drinking. Yes or No?

So like I mentioned above, this event included an open bar (for two hours, then it turned to a cash bar). As I've written about, I'm not really a drinker, so this didn't really matter to me. For other people, this is a big deal. I mean, free alcohol is kind of a cool thing if you're into that. So therefore, the answer to this question is yes, drinking. However, be smart about it. You're always representing your school, and you never know what kind of impact you could make on your future. Therefore, don't get sloppy drunk, be nice to your bartenders, and make sure you keep it classy. I watched one of my classmates get kicked out for taking nine beers from the bar at once without the bartenders. Don't be that person, please.

Should I go to my school's law prom?

YES! I'm not one for going out. I'm definitely not one for getting all dressed up. But after some peer pressure from my classmates, I decided to go to our formal after all. It was a ton of fun, so nice to see everyone dressed up, and and once in a lifetime experience (or three times if you go every year). Plus, now I have some great pictures of me dressed up to show my relatives I don't always look like a mess like I do at school. I highly recommend everyone attends this event if your school has one - it won't disappoint!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Day in the Life: Law Student Edition

When I'm trying to decide whether to get involved with something, such as a job, internship, or activity, I always want to know what the day to day life of doing that job is actually like. While I've written about a lot of the "big picture" stuff when it comes to law school, I've realized that I've never given a summary of what the daily life of a law student is. While there is some variation in the day-to-day life of most law students, or even some variation among my days, the vast majority is the same. So without further ado, here is a description of my day:

6:30 A.M. - Wake Up and Get Ready for the Day

Although the times that I wake up vary, I would say the average for me is around 6:30. Don't let this scare you though, I'm a morning person. I like having ample time to get ready for school and enjoy my day before the hustle and bustle starts. I wrote a post about being a morning person if you would like to learn how to become an early riser like myself!

During this time, I do my morning routine to get ready for school. Usually I have a quick breakfast while watching a short television episode or a few YouTube videos as a relaxing way to ease into my day. I can also use this time to do a little bit of cleaning before my day begins if I have extra time. As a rule, I don't leave my house without making my bed. So having ample time in the morning ensures that I can get all of the stuff I want done.

8:00-8:15 A.M. - Drive to School

Self-explanatory. However, I do live in a college town, which means everyone goes to the same place at the same time, so traffic can be atrocious. Thus, I have to plan for extra time on my drive, just in case traffic delays me.

8:15-8:45 A.M. - Get Organized for the Day

When I first arrive at school, I'll gather my books, materials, and whatever else I need for the day. I also put my coat in my locke12:30r, drop my lunch box in the fridge, and check my school mailbox. Then I'll take the time to write out a to-do list for my day. Basically, this time at the beginning of my day is setting myself up for success in the rest of my day.

8:45-11:00 A.M. - Volunteering/Study Time

Twice a week I volunteer for two hours in the morning at my university's Tax Assistance Program for international students. This is so excellent because I get a great experience, get involved on campus, and learn something different than what I would learn in class. I still have a lot of downtime during my volunteer time, so I can usually get a bit of studying done too. It's a win-win situation.

If I'm not volunteering, I spend this time in the library. I'll study, do my readings, or work on assignments. When I was looking for a job, I used a lot of this time to send out resumes, respond to emails, and even did a phone interview or two. Basically, mornings are my work time.

11:15 A.M. - 12:30 P.M. - Class

You know the drill here.

12:30-2:00 P.M. - Study Time

At this time I go back to the library for more study time, which consists of the same things I do during my morning study time. I also usually use this time to visit professors in office hours if needed.

Along with study time, once a week I have therapy from 1:00-2:00 that also falls within this time, so I lose an hour of study time one day out of the week.

2:00-2:30 P.M. - Lunch

You might notice that I take my lunch break a little late. Most students take their lunch break at 12:30 when we get out of class. This means that a lot of the tables are full, there's always a long line for the microwave, and our eating areas get very loud. I like my lunch to be a bit more relaxing, so I take mine late so that I can eat when it's quieter and less crowded.

2:30-4:25 P.M. - Class

Again, you know the drill.

4:30-5:30 P.M. - Study Time/Meetings

I return to the library once more to get a bit more studying and reading done. I also frequently meet with my professors during these late afternoon hours. It seems that professors are almost always in their offices right at this time, because it's when they finish up work before going home. Sometime, if I've finished my to-do list for the day, I can head home right after class. But usually, I try to finish one more hour of work before leaving for the day.

5:30-6:30 P.M. - Errands

If I have any errands to run, such as going to the post office, grocery shopping, washing my car, or picking up a few things from Target, I make sure to do these right after class. That way, when I get home I can just stay home for the evening and not have to leave again. I almost always have something I need to do after class, and this is the perfect time.

6:30-7:00 P.M. - Cook and Eat Dinner

This is pretty self-explanatory.

7:00-9:30 P.M. - Relax!

These evening hours are my "me time." I like to watch TV, read, hang out with my roommates, or Skype with family and friends from back home. A lot of people go home and study in the evenings, but I like to create a good life/school balance, so I like to keep my evenings clear from school and just do things I enjoy.

9:30-10:00 P.M. - Get Ready for Bed

I like to go to bed early, so I like to start winding down pretty early as well. Before bed, I get everything ready for the next morning, from making sure my backpack is ready to laying out my clothes. I like to clean up a little bit as well, because I like waking up to a clean space. Of course, I brush my teeth, change for bed, and wash my face at the end of the day as well.

10:00 P.M. - Go to Bed!

Yes, I go to bed very early. I usually fall asleep watching TV, but I am almost always asleep within an hour so that I can wake up early and do it all over again the next day! 

The day might be pretty boring, but I swear the routine is what keeps me together. The reliable day-to-day lifestyle is something that really helps me do my best in school. Your daily routine may differ, but one thing that will probably remain the same is that it seems like you're always studying. Do your best to create some balance, and schedule some personal time like I do. Then, your daily life won't seem too bad!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How to Spend Spring Break in Law School

Writing a post on how to spend your law school spring break is somewhat ironic. Why? You may ask. Well, my spring break was last week and it seemed to be more of a horror story than a break. Have you ever been gone on a trip and come back, just to think "I need a vacation from my vacation"? Yeah. That's me right now. I'll give you guys the quick summary of why:

Only five minutes into my short roadtrip to the airport, a freak snowstorm with whiteout conditions (it was clear when I left my apartment, with no snow in the forecast) caused a 70+ car accident, and little old  me was car #5 involved. This involved about 2 hours of being stuck on the interstate, police dropping me off without a ride in a tiny mountain town,  and a three hour struggle of finding someone to pick me up and take me back to my apartment. Luckily, I still made my flight to go home early the next morning, and I got in to see my family. Unluckily, this meant that my first two days back were spent calling my insurance, state police, and towing companies to find my car and file a claim. Tuesday I had a job interview (future post about that later). Wednesday I found out my car was totaled from the accident. Thursday I went through the long process of buying a car. Friday I had to get everything set up to insure my new car, and then pack my belongings to leave. Saturday and Sunday were a sixteen-hour roadtrip back to school. So when I finally arrived back at my apartment Sunday night, I was officially exhausted and felt like I needed a break - you know, like the one I was supposed to have.

All in all, I got lucky. A giant car accident on the side of a mountain could've ended a lot worse, and I feel a little guilty for complaining about the stress it caused. However, a stressed-out spring break was not what I had been looking forward to. No use worrying about things I cannot control in the past, though! However, in order to help other future law students brainstorm how to enjoy their spring break, here are some of my suggestions on how to have a great spring break in law school!

Don't even think about school

Some people like to use spring break as a way to catch up on readings, start outlining, study more, etc. To me, this is an awful way to spend spring break. Sure, being ahead in my classes sounds wonderful. But I also know that burnout is so real. Every now and then, I just need a break from the stress and struggle that is law school, and spring break is the perfect opportunity. Instead of using spring break as a time to get ahead, just make sure that you are on top of things going into break. Then, you can use the week as a true break from school and not even think about case briefs or writing memos or all of the other awful things that make up our days in law school. This is one thing that I was successfully able to do during spring break, and I am so thankful for it.

Get out of town

As a budget-savvy law student, I always scoff at movies where students are able to go on extravagant spring break vacactions to the beach. Who is paying for that? While that may be the reality for some people, it certainly is not for me or for most people I know. However, I do understand the appeal. If you live in a true college town like I do, it can get a little bit old after awhile. Spring break is the perfect time to get away for a little bit! Most people at my school go home for break to see their families or friends. This is what I did - I was lucky enough to get a $250 plane ticket, which was budget-friendly and so perfect for a week away. But even if you can't get that far, find something to do outside of where you live. Spend one night away in a nearby city at a hotel. Find a state park and go explore nature. Or even just go on a long drive for a day. But change up your scenery and get out of town, at least for a day.

Plan for your future

So if you aren't thinking about school, chances are, you'll feel the need to do SOMETHING productive. Use this time to make future plans, whether it be planning for your summer job, your career, or even things for the next school year like where to live. I went on job interviews while I was back in my home state. I know a lot of people used the time to apply for jobs, or even just to polish resumes and cover letters. I have some friends with their sights set on transferring, so they worked on transfer applications. You could also use this time to find a new place to live for next year, do some spring cleaning to organize for the rest of the semester, or even just think about your goals and plans. That way you can be a little productive without immediate pressure.

and last, but not least...

Have fun. Seriously.

You're on a break from school. You're still young. And you deserve to enjoy life a little bit. So go ahead and have some fun. I did get to spend one day of break having a movie marathon with my best friend, and that was seriously the best day of my week. It doesn't have to be big, you just have to enjoy it. So find some way to have a little bit of fun and your break will be better because of it. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

6 Lessons Learned in 6 Months of Law School

A week or so ago I had a sudden realization - the middle of February signaled the six month marker of my time as a law student. Some days I feel like it's been only about six days, others I feel like it's been approximately six yearus. Either way, these past six months have been an absolute rollercoaster ride of emotions and life lessons. One of the best things about blogging is that I can take these lessons that I learn, and share them with you. So, in the interest of sharing, here are some lessons I have learned over the course of my six month legal career:

1. The phrase "I'm a law student" carries a lot of weight

When you first start law school, it's likely that you'll be eager to tell anyone and everyone about your status as a law student. For me, it was so annoying for people to lump me in with all of the undergrads milling around campus - I already have a degree, damn it! So you tend to drop hints that you're doing some postg-grad schooling to anyone who will listen, just to let them know you're one step above the drunk eighteen-year-olds clutching fake IDs. Luckily, you usually get a pretty big response from people.

People are obviously impressed when you tell them that you're in law school. After all, attorneys are in one of the most prestigious careers in the nation. Thus, you'll probably be perceived as smart, hard working, and successful. And I won't lie - this is pretty awesome.

There is a flip side to this. Occasionally, you'll receive groans or worried looks when you tell people you're a law student. My therapist went through full disclosures when I started, my landlords made sure I agreed to every aspect of my lease, and when I take my car to get repaired they are so diligent in obtaining my signature on repair consent forms. Law students are known for being very litigous, so everyone is suddenly afraid of being sued. This part is a bit annoying.

2. Friends and family will ask you for legal advice all of the time

I don't know why anyone would think that a person who has only survived one semester of law school can advise them on a divorce, yet it happens all the time. Once you start law school, you'll get questions all the time like "Can I sue for this?" or "So explain this law to me." Last semester, my mom asked me to draw up a 'Consent for Medical Treatment' form for her. This is far from unusual, and you will get these type of questions all the time.  As if one torts class can give you all the answers in the world. It gets real old, real fast.

Luckily, you have a good excuse not to answer these questions. Giving legal advice before you are a licensed attorney can actually damage your legal career - so just tell people that you legally cannot give them advice. Secondly, be honest. Tell people you have no idea. It's totally okay to do and it stops them from asking future questions. Thankfully.

3. You took everything in undergrad for granted

Things I miss about undergrad: dining halls, flexible class schedules, being able to get by without doing the assigned readings, being able to have a job, and textbooks that all fit in my backpack.

We all have different things we loved about college, and chances are, you won't realize some of the things you've loved until they're gone. Although there are several things in law school that are better than undergrad, it doesn't change the fact that you'll feel like you didn't really take full advantage of all that you had in the first four years of your education.

It's a pretty common joke that all law students do is complain about law school. Which is more of a truth than a joke, in all honesty. It's not like law school is the worst thing in the world, but it is definitely much harder and much more stressful than college was. I think part of what makes this transition so obvious is that I went straight from undergrad to law school, but there is definitely a big difference. 

4. The competition is so real

When I was searching for law schools, one of my criteria was that I didn't want to attend a school that was overly competitive. I wanted to actually be friends with my classmates and not be afraid that everyone in my classes was trying to sabotage me. There are law schools like that out there, undoubtedly. This is usually something that is expected with top tier law schools, but it can really happen anywhere. Luckily, at my school, we have a very friendly group of students who all get along quite well. But that doesn't mean there isn't competition.

I started noticing my competitve side when it got closer to finals. People would ask me questions, and I would often say "I don't know" even when I definitely knew the answer. I just didn't want to share - more help for me on the grading curve. Throughout the semester, I didn't share my notes with anyone, except the occasional time when someone was sick and really needed it. Of course, I wasn't a total competitive jerk. I helped explain material to my friends, worked with groups to understand during class, and submitted my outlines to community outline banks. But there's always the underlying pressure of competition, and no matter how nice everyone is, the competition is incredibly real.

5. You'll be more stressed than you ever have been before

Lately, I've been telling everyone that law school finally made me go off the deep end and spiral into a level of crazy that has always been inevitable. I have ulcers, I'm in therapy for the first time in my life, and more days than not I feel totally and completely overwhelmed with school. This is all due to the fact that law school has made me more stressed than I ever have been in my life. Of course, I'm not saying this to scare you, but it's the hard and unfortunate truth.

Luckily, future lawyers are problem solvers, so when stress becomes the problem, you'll find a way to solve it. Most people know that I am an advocate of finding a stress relief you love. I highly recommend you look for an activity as stress relief, whether it's a creative outlet, exercise, a book or TV show you love, or even starting a blog! Along with that, don't be afraid to get help. Talk with your friends and family about the stress. Start going to a counselor. Share you struggles with your professors. Take care of yourself. While law school has been the most stressful period of my life, it doesn't mean it's something that I can't handle. 

6. There's a lawyer inside of you

Alright, so this might sound cheesy. But one of the most important things you'll realize in your first year of law school is that, although it might be difficult, you are going to be a lawyer one day. It'll hit you randomly sometimes, whether you're studying in the law library, answering a question in class, or simply walking into school one day. There's a reason you're at law school. There's a reason you picked this career for yourself. You're meant to be a lawyer, and you'll be one someday. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

How Many Law Schools You Should Apply To

I've realized that while I've been focusing a lot lately on life as a law student - which makes complete sense. It's basically all I know about right now. But I realized, it's been awhile since I've focused on the process of getting into to law school, including the application process. A few days ago, I came across my post where I announced I made an official decision of where to attend law school, and it was around a year ago today. The reason that this was such a big deal, was that I applied and got into six different law schools, and got decent scholarship offers to all of them. Therefore, I had to choose between several different schools. This made me think about how, recently, I've had a number of future law students ask me some questions about the application process, and one question that I often get is, "How many law schoools did you apply to?" which I've realized is code for, "How many law schools should I apply to?" So I thought I would write a post addressing this very important question.

Now, the first thing that I want to throw out there is a typical diclaimer - what works for one person may not work for you. Some people apply to like twenty schools, some people only apply to one. It all comes down to doing whatever is best for you. However, for those of you who are looking for some general guidelines, I am here to help!

The absolute minimum number of law schools you should apply to is three:

  1. Your Dream School: This is the school that in an absolutely ideal world, you would go to. It's in a place where you want to live, has programs you want to study, you like the sounds of saying you have a degree from there, etc. You might think "Oh, it's too expensive!" or "I'll never get in!" But apply anyway. You'll regret it if you don't, and might be surprised what will happen if you do.
  2. Your Safety School: This is your "fallback" option - where you would be okay with going, it would be comfortable, you could afford it, etc. This should be a school that you know you can get into, no questions asked. This is where you apply so you know that, whatever may happen with scholarships and admissions, you will have at least one law school you can attend in the fall.
  3. Somewhere In-Between: Pretty simple, this is usually a school that isn't quite at the level of your dream school, but packs a little mroe prestige and risk than your safety school. For me, this is where I ended up attending. It's a place where, if you can't go to your dream school, it's the "next best thing"
Now, a lot of people will want to apply to more than three law schools, which is totally normal. If you're adding extra applications, apply to more "in-between" schools - these are usually good places to apply if you want a lot of options of where to attend school in the fall and are looking for a variety of experiences.

One thing that's important to remember is that applying to law schools is expensive. You have to pay LSAC $30/per school to send your credentials (transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc.) along with each school's application fee, ranging anywhere from $25 to $250. So with my six schools that I applied to, I spent hundreds of dollars on the application process alone. If you're somebody that wants to apply to a lot of schools, save up your money to do this!

When it's all said and done, the bottom line of everything is that when in doubt, APPLY! If you think you might want to apply to a school, go ahead and do it. It's better to apply to a bunch of schools and have more options than wonder what would've happened if you would've appplied to X or Y school. Do what feels right to you, and trust that at the end of the process, you will have an incredible school to attend in the fall!

Good luck on applications, everyone!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Budgeting in Law School

If you're in law school, you may have noticed one kind of big thing: it's expensive. Like, hella expensive. Somehow, I managed to get through undergrad with absolutely no debt, which was incredible. However, I also made it through without any savings, and it quickly became apparent that there was no way I was going to be able to make it out of law school without any debt either. Thus, it became important to figure out how to manage my money to ensure I make it out of law school with as little debt as possible. Luckily, I've always been good at managing my money and I am so excited to share with you how to budget in law school!

For those of you who have been around since this blog started, you might remember a post awhile back about how you can go to law school for free. I am lucky enough to be on a full-tuition scholarship at my school. This obviously saves me SO MUCH money. I know that this isn't possible for everyone, but in order to minimize your debt, I highly recommend you attend a school where you might be able to get a significant scholarship. This might mean going to a school that's not at the top of your list, but I promise it's worth it. If you aren't lucky enough to get a full scholarship, you need to figure out how you're going to pay your tuition - whether it be grants, loans, or savings. This is an entire process and itself, and very important - however, I'm going to explain how I budget for my expenses outside of tuition in this post.

Step One: Determine Where Your Money Will Come From

First things first,  where are you going to get your money? This can come from a variety of sources. Maybe you've been great at budgeting in the past and have money in savings (although if you do, I don't know why you are reading this post because your money skills are on point). Maybe your parents will give you money to live on. Maybe you'll take out loans. Maybe you'll get a job (I don't recommend this - law school is your full time job). Either way, figure out where you're going to get all of your money from. If you are getting loans, know whether you're getting federal loans or private loans. If you have a co-signer, private loans will have lower interest. If you're on your own (like I am), federal loans are likely the way to go.

Step Two: Determine The Total Amount of Money You Will Need for the Year.

In this case, year can either mean the full calendar year, or the 9-month school year, depending on how you want to plan. If you are going to be working during the summer, you might not need to stretch your financial aid over the three summer months. If you plan on not working, or working an unpaid position in the summer, you might want to anticipate needing more money. Either way, know which way you are going to go early.

Next, your school likely gives an anticipated dollar amount that students need for expenses outside of tution for the year, usually labeled under "cost of living" somewhere on the finances page of their website, or in the information they have sent to you. This usually includes stuff like fees, books, rent, transportation, food, and miscellaneous needs, and is tailored to the school and geographic area. Keep in mind, this is a 9-month estimate for the school year only. It also determines the maximum amount you can take out in federal loans. However, if you are good at budgeting you can make this amount last the whole year. 

In making your decision on just how much money you need, I advise you consider this "cost of living" amount with your own personal lifestyle. If you know you tend to spend more, consider getting a little bit more money. If you tend to live a simple lifestyle and need less than average, why take out more loans or ask for more money from your parents. Use the school numbers as a guideline, and tailor them to you.

For purposes of giving examples, I will let you know that I took out $22,000 for my living expenses this year.

I gain income from some other sources - I have a part time job I work during breaks from school like Christmas break or spring break, as well as tax returns and various odd jobs like pet sitting for my friends. I don't budget this in, and just put it into savings or use it as extra money when I get it. 

Step Three: Determine Fixed Expenses (Typically Monthly)

One of the easiest things to factor into your budget is fixed, monthly expenses. This includes things like rent, insurance, your phone bill, Hulu, Netflix, and Spotify subscriptions, and anything that you have to pay on a recurring monthly basis. I like to figure out how much I'll spend on these monthly things right away, because they are fixed amounts and once I subtract these, I can determine how mch I should allow myself to spend on variable items like groceries, toiletries, household supplies, clothes, etc. each month.

To continue with my example, here are my monthly fixed expenses:

  • Rent - $610
  • Cell Phone - $85
  • Hulu - $10
  • Spotify - $5
  • Power Bill - $35*
  • Gas Bill - $35*
*These expenses vary, but I budget as though they are fixed because I know the maximum they will be.

All of this stuff adds up to $780/month, so multiply that by 12 (because I budget for a year rather than 9 months) and that adds up to $9,360. Subtract this from my total of $22,000, and I have $12,640 for the rest of my budget.

Step Four: Determining Variable Semester Costs

The next thing I like to do is determine a few variable costs I will have per semester, or for longer periods than a month. The most obvious for this is books and fees for school.So, let's add things up again.
  • Fees - $500
  • Books - $1000
Add this all up and you get $1,500. Multiply that by 2, and you've got $3,000, and I've got $9,640 left for everything else. 

Step Five: Determining Frequent Variable Costs

Now, obviously I only have a set amount left in my budget, and you might've noticed I haven't budgeted for groceries, household expenses, clothes, etc. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten. But I'm also not the type to set out specifics like "I will spend $150 on food this month, $40 on toiletries, $25 on eating out..." in a perfectly organized plan. To me, some of those things are too variable to plan out exactly. So, I try to give myself one lump sum for it all and budget myself within that. 

Now, since I've got $9,640 left, I can divide that in a couple of ways. If I want to give myself a monthly budget, I can divide by 12. I, however, think it's easier to budget weekly. I'm more likely to go to the store for variable things every week, so it's so much easier to split into smaller increments. Thus, I divide by 52. This comes out to roughly $185, but to err on the side of caution, I give myself $150/week. This has to buy me gas, food, household supplies, etc. And it's usually pretty easy.

The reason I don't give myself the full amount is so I always have a "cushion" for incidentals, emergencies, etc.


And that is pretty much how I split up my money for budgeting. It's not the most exact representation of my actual  budget, but it basically shows you how I do things. Within this, I still try to spend as little as possible and generally come in under budget. But with money, it's better safe than sorry! I'm lucky enough that my parents pay for my car and health insurance, so that cuts two major costs. I also live with roommates, which cuts down my rent quite a bit. And, I like to overestimate rather than underestimate, meaning I usually spend less than I plan

In order to stick to my budget, I have two bank accounts. One account is where I keep the lump sum of money and take all of my montly and semester variable costs out of. I transfer the weekly variable amount of $150 from that account to another checking account, that was it's easier to make sure I stay within my budgeted amount. This also helps me keep track of the smaller, variable amounts in a more itemized manner.

Is this budget perfect? No. But overall it has helped me manage my money and keep me from being as broke as some law students. What's your best budgeting tip?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Things to Do BEFORE Your Law School Internship Search

If you know anything about trying to find a job after law school, you know that the decision will be largely dependent on your summer experiences as a law student. And you know that what summer experiences you have are largely dependent on who you are during the school year. Thus, you should begin preparing now in order to get the best summer experience possible, so that you can get the best job possible after graduation. As a 1L in the middle of my second semester, my internship search is in full-swing. I've sent out SO MANY resumes, practiced interview questions, met with career services, and I am on the job of securing that perfect summer internship. So, while I haven't obtained an internship yet and don't want to give too much advice for something I haven't done, I can  give advice on what to do to prepare for your law school internship search.

Think About What  Practice Area, Geographic Area, and Type of Experience You Would Like

Do you already know what practice area of law you want to practice? If you do, great. If not, you're on the same page as most law students in their first year. Which is totally and completely okay. But, you should start thinking of where your interests might be in order to guide your internship search. This can be totally and completely broad (i.e. saying you want to do civil versus criminal law, you'd rather do transaction work than litigation, etc.). It's also helpful to think about what you don't want to do. And if there are a few specific practice areas that interest you, keep those in mind. 

For example, I am for sure interested in civil law over criminal law, preferably transactional work, with prominent interests in tax and financial law, but also open to real estate, trusts and estates, and employment law. I know for sure I don't want to do family law, healthcare law, or criminal law. With all of those examples, I have a very broad area to search, while also providing some guidelines for myself.

The next thing to think about in this area is more where you want to work. This includes geographic area - do you want to stay around your school? Your hometown? A new city? Do you have a couple areas you would go, or no guidelines whatsoever? This seems rather obvious, but still important to consider. 

My example for this is that, since the majority of 1L internships are unpaid, I cannot afford to pay rent in two places. This means my internship search is limited to where I live or where I can stay for free. Thus, I am considering the city my school is in, my hometown where I can stay with my parents, along with Houston, Texas and Denver, Colorado where I have relatives I could stay with. 

Lastly, think about what type of experience you would like. Summer internships are available across the board. You could work for the government, a non-governmental organization, or the judicial system itself (like clerking for a judge or workin in a District Attorney's office). There are also firms, non-profits, and corporations. Firms and corporations tend to have the best pay, where government and public interest jobs tend to be unpaid. Accordingly, you will get different experiences in each place. If a firm does family law, you'll be working with that. At a DA's office, you'll probably work with a lot of criminal law. Think about what is unique to each place you apply.

For this example, I know that I would prefer to work in a firm or corporation, but those positions tend to be more competitive. Thus, if I have to work in public interest, I know I would like to work part-time, so that I could work another part-time job to make money.

Polish Your Resume and Cover Letter

So this should be obvious, but make sure you perfect your resume as early as possible. Chances are, your career services office provides excellent resume help and may even have sample resumes for you to use. One nice thing I've noticed about law school resumes is that they are extraordinarily simple. Keep it black and white, a clean font, and not too cluttered with random stuff. Also, do your best to keep it under one page. This is graduate/professional school, so cut any and all references to high school out, and keep your undergrad information to a minimum. Obviously keep the highlights, but your employers will care about who you are as a law student - not what you did getting a degree in English or philosophy that is largely irrelevant now. Make sure to clean up your resume as early as possible, so you can have career services look over it before sending it to employers.

The same goes for cover letters. If you don't have one yet - don't worry. I didn't at the start of the year either. But you will need one for an internship search. A lot of the time there is  no "application" for legal internships, you just send a cover letter and resume to a recruiter. So your cover letter is your chance to say who you are, what you are applying for, and why you are applying for that job. Again, your career services office will be an excellent resource for this.

Get A Suit

I don't know if you have heard this yet, but if you haven't, listen up: if you're going on an interview in law school, you better be wearing a suit. A suit is the classic, neutral outfit for lawyers and you're going to be wearing one for the rest of your life. Even if you're going to have a job where you won't wear a suit every day, you should at least have one for interviews and days you might go to court. Accordingly, a suit helps an employer envision you as a lawyer, and bumps you up from that "law student" vibe. Make sure to get one early - most suits require alterations. You should pick black, navy, or dark grey with a neutral colored shirt. And ladies, as much as it kills me to say it, you should have a skirt suit because, whether you like it or not, lawyering is a conservative profession. So go shopping now if you don't have a good interview suit.

Network As Much As You Can

You've probably heard the phrase "Life isn't a popularity contest." Well, I have news for you. In the legal profession - it is. Half of getting jobs is based on who you know and who likes you, so networking is of the utmost importance. Now, networking for some people comes naturally. For others, it seems pretty scary. Don't worry, if you're in the second group, it's not as hard as it seems. Networking can be as simple as getting to know your professors, or finding out if your friends or family have any attorney friends. Over winter break, I just asked my parents to ask one of their attorney friends if they knew of any places that hired law students for the summer to get internship leads. That's networking, and it's pretty simple. Your school also may offer networking events, where you literally walk around talking to lawyers and collecting business cards. And a lot of the time, these lead to jobs. 

These are just a few things you can do now to start preparing for your internship search. Finding, applying, and interviewing for internships is an entirely different ballgame. Hopefully, I'll secure an internship soon and I can give you some tips and tricks for finding your perfect law school dream job!