Friday, April 21, 2017

7 Things NOT to do in Law School


There are blogs and books and people that always want to advise you on how to be successful in law school. I know I myself have posted several different tips and tricks of how to be sucessful in law school, with hopes that someone will be able to take my advice and be a more successful law student. However, I'm sure I'm not alone in occasionally wondering, what are some things I should NOT do in law school? After almost a full year in law school, I've learned from some of my mistakes and the mistakes of those around me. Turns out, there are a few guidelines as to certain things you should NOT do in law school.

1. SKIP CLASS

Some of you are going to read this and be like, "Duh. Bailey, everyone knows you shouldn't skip class." But seriously, I mean it. Do not skip class if at all possible. Yesterday, I was going through my outline, and I came up to a topic that I missed when I had to skip class for a gastroenterologist appointment (yay, stomach ulcers!). Of course, the absence was excused and I did the readings for class anyway. But as I came to review the material, I realized that I had absolutely no idea what the material for the day meant. Sure, I have plenty of time to get notes from classmates or meet with my professor in office hours. But think about how much easier it would've been if I had just gone to class? Yeah, I missed for a valid reason that day. There have been other days where I've skipped for not-so-valid reasons. When I have to put in the extra effort to cover that material, I'm going to wish I had just sucked it up and went to contracts that day.

2.  JUST "SKIM" THE READINGS

We've all been there. You'd rather take a nap or watch Netflix, but you also have to read for class. So you just skim the readings, get the basic ideas, and call it good for the day. Fast foward to sitting in class, and your Constitutional law professor calls on you to explain Scalia's scathing dissent in some case. Good luck with trying to explain the textual argument that you barely read. Just do the readings. Take notes. Highlight. Reading is about half of your job in law school, so really it's the one thing you should actually do. It phsyically pains me when I heard people casually say "Oh I don't even read for that class anymore" and then go on to complain that they don't understand what's going on. So read. Pay attention. Take notes. It might suck, but you just have to do it. 

3. WORK AN OUTSIDE JOB

Some of you might know that the American Bar Association puts a cap on how many hours that law students can work in a week. This is for a very good reason - law school is your job. It is a 40-hour a week, 9-to-5, takes over your entire being job. As someone who worked full time in all of undergrad, I did not know what to do when I quit my job to start law school. I thought I was going to be so bored. Newsflash: I wasn't. I was tired, stress, and could not imagine working an outside job. So save yourself some stress, and don't worry about working.

*Side note: I know most people don't want to work - they have to for the money. And I get it. Some of us (including myself) are not lucky to be financed by mommy and daddy, or don't want to feel the crushing debt of student loans. I graduated undergrad debt-free, and when I had to take out loans to live on, it felt a bit crushing. But, I'm so glad I did it for my own mental health.

4. GET OVER-INVOLVED

So when you start law school, you'll consistently hear people say "Get involved! Join a club! Be on the Student Bar Association! Volunteer!" and so on and so forth. What they won't tell you is that there's a flip side to this. If you join EVERYTHING (or even more than couple of organizations, really) you will be overwhelmed. There will be tons of events, information to keep up with, leadership positions, etc. When you're probably already going to be stressed about school, you don't want to be stressed about your outside activities as well. Accordingly, employers will get suspicious with overly involved 1Ls. Join just a few things that you are REALLY interested in, and you won't regret it. My outside involvement is limited to an honors organization, one club, and volunteering with an organization on my university's main campus. Because I've limited my involvement, I'm able to actually commit to these organizations and get something out of it. 


5. FORGET TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR RESOURCES

Law school is hella hard. We all know that. But your law school tries to make it at least a little bit easier by providing you with some awesome resources to help make your law school journey as smooth as possible. For example, when it comes time to get a law school internship, it can be overwhelming creating a resume, writing a cover letter, preparing for interviews, and all of the other crazy things that come with job hunting. But I am positive that your school has a career services office that can help you out with those exact things. If you are feeling stressed or emotional, most schools provide some sort of mental health counseling. Academic questions? You probably have an advising program at your school. Struggling in a class? I bet there is some sort of tutoring program you could go to. Check out all the resources that your school has, and take advantage of them while you still can. After all, that's what your student fees pay for!

6. BE "THAT GUY" IN YOUR CLASSES

You already know who I'm talking about. There's always one person who has to "play the devil's advocate" in every situation. Or the person that literally always raises their hand, even when the professor didn't ask for anyone to talk. Or someone who always tries to bring the dicussion back to their favorite topic, whether it relates to the dicussion or not. Or the person that always has some crazy experience or story they have to tell the class about. You know, those people that have a less-than-positive reputation in class. This isn't only because I want people to like you - although it is good to have friends. This is because now, more than ever, your peers in the classroom are future networking contacts. You never know who will be a powerful attorney at a firm you want a job at one day, or a judge you have to argue in front of, or even just a good connection to have to boost your resume. Thus, you want to make a positive impression. So don't give them a weird or annoying memory of you from classes.

7. FORGET THE BIG PICTURE - YOU'RE GOING TO BE A LAWYER ONE DAY

Law school is so hard. Days are long, classes are intimidating, and the work load is enormous. Sometimes it is a lot to handle, and it seems like the struggle of law school will literally never end. But don't lose sight of the end goal. One day, you will graduate and you will be a lawyer. It's easy to forget the big picture and get focused on some of the little, stupid things that don't matter. Once your three years are up, nobody is going to remember the cold call you didn't know the answer to, or the day where you were 20 minutes late to class because you couldn't find a parking spot, or how how you didn't get to go out with your friends one Friday night because you were in the library studying. Although the day-to-day may be long and hard, in the end you'll be a lawyer. Don't forget that. 


Overall, there are a lot of dos and don'ts to mastering the law school game. I wish I could give each and every one of you a foolproof survival guide, but unfortunately I'm still figuring it out as well. I hope some of these little things can help you get through this crazy law school adventure. What are some other things you guys would not reccommend other law students do?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How To Get A Law School Internship


A few weeks ago I wrote a post on what to do BEFORE your law school internship search, and I mentioned that I had some job interviews over spring break. Well, I am pleased to say that I got have accepted an internship position working as a summer associate in a law firm this summer - an opportunity I am so excited about! Not only will I be gaining great experience, but I will be working in a firm that I absolutely love that does work I am passionate about. This summer cannot come soon enough, and I am so grateful for this experience.

I thought I would try to give some insight to other law students who might be seeking internships and looking for some tips and tricks to secure a summer job. I'm only in my first year of law school, so my internship search experience is somewhat limited. However, I might as well share what little I do know about the process to help others as best as possible.

Apply EVERYWHERE!

I seriously mean everywhere. There are a lot of different legal experiences out there, but there are also a lot of law students. Although you should think about what type of experience you want and what type of experience you absolutely do not want, be open to other possibilities. As a 1L, you will be at the bottom of the totem pole in the intern pool - jobs are much more likely to take 2Ls with experience or even 3Ls that are planning to intern before securing a full-time job. Thus, you want to increase your odds by applying to as many jobs as possible.

I knew that I wanted to be in a firm for the summer, so I applied to over fifteen summer associate positions at firms. Out of these, I probably only heard back from about five, and two of those were simply that the firms don't accept 1L interns. Hence why it's important to apply to a lot of places. Accordingly, although I wanted to be in a firm, I also applied at a few corporations, non-profits, and government jobs to make sure I was being thorough. I ended up balancing three offers, one for a firm, one for the district attorney's office, and one for a non-profit. And that's thanks to me sending out over twenty applications overall.

Figure Out Living, Transportation, and Finances

While you are searching and applying, you might be asked questions like "Do you have a place to live?" or "Do you have reliable transportation?" and for public interest jobs, employers might be concerned about finances (because public interest jobs typically pay nothing or very little). This is especially important as a 1L, because the majority of 1L internships are unpaid. I was lucky enough to secure a well-paying firm job, but my employer still wanted to ensure I would have no problem relocating to the area or getting myself to and from work. 

Make sure to make these arrangements, even tentatively, ahead of time. I applied in four cities - two I could work in while staying with my parents, the others were in Houston and Denver where I have family that offered me a place to stay. Just having a quick answer to know that you will have some of these arrangements made can be a huge comfort in the interview process.

Plan Out Answers to Typical Interview Questions

If you're searching for an internship, chance are you will have to do a couple of interviews. These might be phone interviews, Skype interviews, on-campus interviews, or interviews at the office you are planning to work at. Whatever way the interview takes place, a lot of the questions will likely be the same. Typical ones to expect are:
  • Tell me about yourself. (This might be the most important one, so think about it a lot)
  • Why did you go to law school?
  • Do you like law school?
  • What has been the hardest part about law school for you?
  • What type of law do you want to practice in the future?
  • Do you have any legal experience?
  • Why did you apply here?
  • What interests you about working here?
Your career services office probably provides lists of interview questions as well, but these are the ones I got asked by most of my interviewers. They also might ask about something specific on your resume, like your GPA, class rank, an activity, a job, or an interest. Be prepared, but don't be scripted.

Look the Part

Most legal jobs, as much as I hate to say it, care about what you look like. No, they don't care about your specific physical features. But they care that you look the part of a lawyer. If you're interviewing, you should always be wearing a suit - no exceptions! A conservative suit is the standard lawyer apparel. For guys, this means a black, dark grey, or navy suit with a tie and preferably a white or pale blue shirt. Ladies - it kills me to say this, but you should be wearing a skirt suit in black or navy with panty hose and a two-inch heel. Make sure you have a well-fitting suit so that you can walk into an interview always knowing you are dressed appropriately. One of the good things about this is that I always feel extra confident in my suit, and putting it on really gets me in the interview mood. 

Find a Place Where You Fit

This is the absolute most important thing when finding the perfect law school internship. Walking into the firm where I applied, meeting people that worked there, and discussing their work made it abundantly clear that this firm was the place where I really fit in. I was able to joke around with the interviewers, felt comfortable in the office, and really felt like they were invested in my future at the firm. I like the work they do, the people that work there, and the possibility of a career there. And most importantly, I feel like I will actually enjoy my days working there. I had several interviewers email me following the interview and tell me what a great fit I would be for the office - and I truly believe that. Although I had other offers, it was clear where I wanted to work. 

I highly reccomend you find a place where you fit. It's not just about finding a job - it's about finding the right job. Finding a "perfect fit" job as a 1L might be somewhat difficult, but if you work hard and expand your horizons, you might just find it. Don't be afraid to be yourself and search for a job that you'll actually enjoy, because in the end, the payoff will be worth it.



All of these are general guidelines, but I hope they can be at least a little bit helpful in your internship search. It's crazy to think that after these seven months in law school, I will be out gaining my first legal experience in just a few weeks!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Depression and Anxiety in Law School


Hey, everyone! It's been a few weeks since I've posted - but life has been crazy busy! As of today I AM DONE WITH LEGAL WRITING (Hallelujah!) Finishing up that class was a lot of work, so needless to say, I haven't been up to writing my blog for awhile. However, I am back and ready to blog my way to the end of the semester.

To start off on a not-so-fun note, I wanted to give a quick mental health update. A few months ago I posted about the mental and physical toll of a legal education, where I discussed my own personal story about some of the not so fun parts of law school. I admitted that I was struggling and set out a plan for what I was going to do to get better. But most importantly, I wanted other law students who might be going through the same struggle to know that they are not alone, the mental health struggle is more common than they might think, and despite how hard the day-to-day is, everyone can make it through.

I wrote that post two months ago, and I am happy to say that depressed, anxiety-ridden girl that wrote that post would be so proud of the sunshine-loving, food-eating, happy and healthy girl that I am today. I'm not saying every hard day is over, and I am definitely not saying every day will be great from now on, but I am saying it has gotten better. And I hope for everyone that goes through the same amount of stress and struggle that I have gone through will eventually feel the same.

To fully understand the struggle that I was going through, I recommend going back and reading my post from two months ago, where I initially discussed my mental and physical health struggle. And to quickly update everyone on my progress...

Physical Health Update

I mentioned before that I was losing weight and starting to develop stomach ulcers from all of the stress that I was under. At that point, I had lost about ten pounds. My weight loss continued, and I was ultimately down to 105 pounds, meaning a total loss of over twenty pounds and landing me at my lowest weight since high school. I continued to take my medicine and alter my diet to help correct my damaged stomach lining. As my stress decreased and time passed, my stomach lining began to heal. And luckily, I am finally off of my medication and starting to be able to get my normal eating habits back. This weekend I celebrated feeling happy, finishing a class, and phsyical health by grabbing a burger with friends and it's like that girl who didn't eat for two months never even existed!


Mental Health Update:

My mental health a few months ago put me in a very scary place. I cried multiple times a day, experienced panic attacks, and I am pretty sure some of my stomach problems came from my mental health struggle. Sharing my mental health struggle was the first step to improving; it's hard enough being stressed, but it's even harder if you keep it all inside. Next, I decided (and by decided - I mean my friends and family made it mandatory) to start seeking professional help and go to therapy. Unfortunately, I got rejected by a handful of therapists and didn't actually get to start for about a month. If you want to damage someone who is already mentally unhealthy, have a mental health professional reject them from their practice and see what that does -- needless to say, that wasn't fun. Luckily, I did find a therapist that I really clicked with and has been a huge help for me.

It didn't take long in therapy to be told something I have known for awhile inside - I have situational anxiety, mostly related to the stress and pressure of law school and moving so far away from home. Depression and anxiety are two sides of the same coin, which is why I felt depressed for so long as well. Having a confirmation of what I've been struggling with has been comforting, and I've been able to learn how to cope and have come a long way.

How to Cope with Depression and Anxiety in Law School

  • Be honest about the way you are feeling! One of the most important parts to me finally feeling somewhat normal again has been letting my friends and family know what I am going through. Turns out, a lot of my friends feel the same way, my professors understand what it's like, and my family is a great resource. Even if these poeple can't help you fully, I swear it does help to not have to pretend like you're okay and deal with everything yourself if you really are struggling.

  • Seek out professional help. Your school probably has resources for mental health, or there are usually plenty within the community. I chose to go to an outside provider instead of the ones at school, but do whatever works for you. It may be scary seeking out professional mental health help, but it has been a major part of my healing. It's good to sit down and be forced to talk about your feelings for an hour each week, especially when someone can help you learn how to deal with your feelings.

  • Make lifestyle changes if necessary. I started going on walks around my neighborhood multiple times a week to get outdoors and get my body moving. I set out thirty minutes each day to just disconnect and be alone with my thoughts. I cut out caffeine from my diet (ironic, considering my blog title). Sometimes these little changes can do a lot for you.

  • Understand that healing takes time. I desperately wanted to fix my mental health overnight. But that's not how things work. There were a lot of bad days, all in a row, and I would've given anything for a magic solution. But there wasn't one - it just took a whole lot of time, and a lot of effort honestly. While I know that it will take more time to get fully better, working on myself the past two months has been long and difficult, but worth the wait.

  • Know that it really, truly, and absolutely will get better. Easier said than done, of course - but I promise it is so true. 

If you are dealing with mental health issues in law school, hang in there. I know how tough it can be, but I promise you are tougher. We all are. 
 
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