Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Buying a Laptop for Law School

Hey, everyone! So during finals my second semester of 2L year - my laptop decided to stop working. Don't worry - it wasn't tragic or anything, it worked enough to get through finals. But some hardware broke that made it so I couldn't connect to my school's internet network. Thus, I had no choice but to get myself a new laptop. After a few weeks of shopping around and saving up my money from my summer internship, I finally made a choice. However, I found a lot of contenders and wanted to share those possible choices with you!

First, I'll let you know my requirements for a law school laptop, because those definitely impacted my decision. My main requirement is that I wanted something thin and lightweight. After all, I have to lug around casebooks in my backpack all day - I don't need to carry a super heavy laptop too. Another requirement is that I needed it to have a decent battery life. One thing that annoys me a lot is having to charge my technology in the middle of the day. There's nothing I hate more than a person who interrupts a class by loudly fumbling in his bag for a laptop charger. Plus, a charger is just one more thing to carry. Thus,  I wanted something with a long battery life. Lastly, I needed to make sure the laptop could do a couple basic things - let me access the internet, run Microsoft office, and install final exam and bar exam software. Pretty simple, right?

One thing I wanted to stray away from  was super complicated computers. I don't need somthing I can game on, or is going to be the best machine around. I just need something I can use for class that isn't going to die on me. So, I had a couple top choices, which you can see below. To be fair, I think any of these would be a good choice for law school. Anyone looking for a laptop for law school should definitely consider the following:

MacBook Pro

The first laptop I originally considered buying was a MacBook Pro. I would say that this is the most common laptop I see law students using. Which, of course, makes sense. Macs are notoriously reliable and last forever. However, this choice just really ended up being a little too heavy for me and the battery life wasn't as good as comparable Windows models. However, especially for die hard Mac fans, this laptop is a surefire win for any law student.

Lenovo Yoga

Another laptop I considered was a Lenovo Yoga. To be honest, the look and feel of this laptop is what really drew me in at first. It's a sleek looking computer. It's also very lightweight and the battery life is great. I also know from using Lenovos before that they are very durable laptops. I really like the 360 degree capabilities as well. I ended up not choosing this one because I simply liked another one better, but this would also be a great choice.

HP Spectre x360

So I actually had an earlier version of this laptop before and LOVED it. It met all of my requirements, worked flawlessly, and the battery life was incredible! It also was durable and withstood my abuse for about four years. The only reason I didn't purchase a new one was the price. This isn't a cheap laptop, but I'd dare say it's worth it to get a new one. Also, it's literally beautiful, so highly recommend.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Last, but not least, is the laptop I ACTUALLY BOUGHT - the Microsoft Surface Laptop. It meets all my requirements - it is super lightweight, the battery life is about fourteen hours, and it does all the things necessary for law school. On top of that, it's SO pretty, and comes in lots of fun colors. I would highly recommend this laptop - it has been perfect for me so far. I also considered the Surface Book, which converts to a tablet if you want to get even fancier.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

How To Choose Classes in Law School

Hello, everyone - and welcome to another exciting year of law school! Some of you may be starting on the daunting journey that is the begginning of law school, and starting 1L year, with classes set by your school and curriculum requirements of the ABA. Others are starting 2L and 3L year, and have more control over classes. As I'm now in my last year of law school, I am taking classes that I selected completely for myself which is so cool - but a little scary. After all, what I know after law school will be shaped by the classes I take - meaning that I need to pick well. 

I remember how scary it was to pick classes for myself at first. After all, my law school didn't provide much advising, so I was basically on my own to make my schedule. Thus, I wanted to write this post to help other people know how to choose classes when the time comes. So, without further ado, here are my tips on how to choose classes in law school!

First, check your school's degree requirements.

There's a reason I put this first is because it's likely the most important tip I can give you. After all, the point of this whole "law school" ordeal is to walk away with a Juris Doctor degree. How embarrassing would it be to get to the end of your 3L year, and find out that you can't graduate because you forgot to ever sign up for that ethics course you needed?! Mortifying. Most likely, your school website or student handbook will provide a list of degree requirements. Make sure to check that and cross reference your plan with it. You don't have to immediately get all of your requirements, but make sure you have planned to get them before graduation.

For example, my school requires certain "experiential" courses before graduation, whether it be an externship, practicum, pre-trial advocacy, or other classes. I had to make sure I planned to get all of my credits in this area during my 3L year so I can graduate in the spring.

Next, take classes that will prepare you for the bar exam.

Of course, after that ultimate goal of getting a JD, comes the goal of passing the bar. As much as I don't want to think about the bar yet - some planning is necessary. Many of the subjects on the bar are not required classes for law school. And while they aren't required, you might want to think about including them in your schedule for law school at some point. Some classes that I recommend you take to prepare for the bar are:

Criminal Law and Procedure
Civil Procedure
Constitutional Law
Wills and Trusts
Secured Transactions
Family Law

Now, some of these classes, you can theoretically learn by taking a bar prep course. Others are probably required in your first year. And others, you may just not want to take a full course on. All in all, at least consider what level of course you want to take to prepare for the exam,

It's also important to note that you will likely be required to take some sort of legal ethics or professional responsibility course at some point, which you should take before you take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam. This isn't part of the bar exam, but in most states, you also have to take and pass the MPRE, so it would be a good class to take as well.

Consider taking classes in the areas you are considering practicing.

This is probably a given for most people. I am interested in tax law, so I have of course taken every tax law course that my school offers. I know people that want to do corporate law, so they take every business course. This can be good because it makes you a marketable candidate for jobs, as you are knowledgeable in certain areas. However, I would throw out some caution and say don't focus too much, because then you are limiting your job options and might lose sight of some other things, like bar classes or graduation requirements.

Make sure you balance your course load in a way that is best for you.

One thing that is extremely improtant to your overall enjoyment of life while in law school, is managing your course load. You don't want to take too many credits one semester and feel like you're drowning, or take too little and get bored. It's important to balance. For me, this meant trying to keep my course load consistent. I basically figured out the number of credits I needed to graduate, and divided by the four semesters I had left, and figured out that I needed fourteen credits per semester to graduate. I tried to stick with this as much as possible to maintain balance. I know a lot of people that did a heavier 2L year, so they could coast more their 3L year. Do whatever works for you, but make sure you at least consider a balance.

Pay attention to classrooms and class times.

I'm a morning person, so that means I prefer morning classes. On the flip side, my brain can't function after 5:00 P.M., so night classes aren't really my thing. I know this when making my class schedule, so I try to avoid taking classes that are primarily at night if I can avoid it. I also know that I hate taking classes in my school's courtroom or basement (natural light is very important to me), so I try not to schedule more than one class a day in those rooms. These details might sound picky, but I just know I won't be able to focus in a basement classroom at 6:00 P.M. in November, so I might as well plan ahead an put myself in the best envrionment possible. Thus, I try to at least pay attention to these factors and consider them when making a class schedule.

Schedule at least one class you enjoy every semester.

Whether you pick a class with an interesting topic, a class with your friends, or a class with a cool field trip - make sure you have at least one class you're excited about every semester. This will really help the semester be more manageable, and help keep you happy.

Overall, all these tips are a lot to consider, but your class schedule is basically going to control your life for five months. Thus, choosing classes is an important choice. Overall, don't let it stress you out, make your schedule, and look forward to each semester!