Monday, July 15, 2019

What I Wish I Would've Known Before Law School


Two months ago I walked across the stage where I shook hands with my University's President and received a piece of paper signifying the most important accomplishment of my life thus far - my Juris Doctor degree. That's right, folks! I'm a lawyer now. While I am very thrilled to be in this new phase of life, I can't help but think about where I was just a few years ago. . .


When I started law school, I was newly 21 years old, fresh out of college, with my dreams and my cardigan - just like Miley taught me. I remember spending the summer before law school endlessly searching for blogs with any tips or advice for how to handle the brand new adventure that was waiting for me in law school. I researched diligently, and felt like I was entering law school extremely prepared. And for the most part, that was true. I generally knew what was going on and what would happen, plus I had a few good study tips ready to try out.

Unfortunately, despite my diligent research, law school had a few life lessons waiting for me. Like any big adventure, law school came with its own set of difficulties. And those difficulties taught me a few things during my three year journey to my JD. So, I thought I'd write a list of things I wish I would've known before law school, as if I were writing to my younger self.

The Biggest Key to Success is Taking Care of Yourself

I learned this lesson in the hardest way. During my 1L year, I had a full blown breakdown in January that involved me getting on a plane and flying away. Seriously. I had done extremely well during my first semester of school academically, ranking in the top 10% of my class. Unfortunately, that academic success came at the sacrifice of my own mental and physical health. Luckily, with a not-so-gently push from my family and friends, I took the time to learn about taking care of myself and fostering a postive mental health environment, and really began to thrive.

My grades weren't as top notch as they were first semester, but I ended law school in the top 25% of my class and started actually enjoying my life in law school as well. I made tons of friends that I already miss so much, got a job I'm super excited about, and made it out of law school in one piece. Had I not learned to take care of myself properly, I am 100% sure I would've dropped out of school.

Law school is hard. It's stressful. It's competitive. So, make sure you take care of yourself. Don't forget to eat. Make some friends you can trust. Set goals and explore your passions. And most importantly, don't forget to set aside some time to treat yourself. Take a vacation, take weekly bubble baths, get food you enjoy, etc. Just take care of yourself first, school second.

Grades are Important, But They Aren't Everything

One thing you will hear over and over again before law school, during orientation, and over the course of your studies is how important it is to get good grades. It's honestly super overwhelming during that first semester when all anyone tells you is that you should be studying because grades are the only thing that matters. You know what happens when you listen to that advice a little too closely? Refer back to the item above. 

So here's the truth. Grades do matter. The top jobs go to the top of the class, and getting good grades can really help you get ahead. However, here's the other half of the truth: not everyone can get the best grades. Law school grades are typically curved, meaning that as great as it is to be in the top 10% of the class, someone has to be in that bottom 10%. And guess what? That bottom 10% can still get jobs and become very successful lawyers.  

If you find yourself not getting the grades that you want, don't panic. Yes,  take it as incentive to study a little harder. But also use it as incentive to round out your law school resume. Try to get involved in organizations and maybe take on a leadership role. Think about trying to "specialize", perhaps by focusing on public interest or a certain subject area. I know plenty of people who graduate toward the bottom of the class and found wonderful jobs early on. I also know plenty of people in the top of the class still looking for work. So yes - grades are important, but they aren't the only thing that matters.

It's Okay to Not Know What You Want to Do After Law School

I mean, sort of. Obviously you came to law school to be a lawyer. That's step one. An important step. But what about step two? Figuring out what type of lawyer you want to be. That opens a whole myriad of possibilities. When I first entered law school, I told everyone I wanted to be a tax lawyer. Yes, that's a little weird but I have always loved all things tax and loved that being a lawyer was a way for me to work in the tax field. While I still do love tax law, I've backtracked a little. I'm not completely sure that I want to work in tax law. I think I could be happy doing that. I also think I could be happy doing a lot of other things. At this point, I'm even open to working in litigation. So even if you do know what you want to do when you enter law school, you might change your mind or expand your interests.

On top of that, plenty of people have no idea what type of lawyer they want to be going into law school and that's completely and totally okay. Law school is a time to explore and figure that out. 

If you are one of those people that happens to know exactly what you want, good for you! But if not, that's completely okay.

It's Your Last Three Years Before Real Life


I feel like we spend so much of our life focused on our next step. In high school, you're focused on getting into a good college. In college, you're focused on getting into a good law school. In law school, you're focused on getting a good job. And then once you get a job, you realize so much of life has passed you by. If you were anything like me in college, you probably forgot to have a typical college experience while you were hyper-focused on your law school future. 

I spent my first year of law school the same way - focused on the future. By my second year, I realized that it was also important to enjoy life. Tailgates and football games on the weekend made life a little more fun. Napping in the middle of the day is a luxury. And living off kind of gross fast food and cheap groceries can be a great way to bond with your friends. Enjoy the last few years you have of youth, before true responsibility and real life sets in. You'll have the rest of your life to be a boring lawyer. Life it up and be a student for awhile.

Yes, You're Smart. So is EVERYONE ELSE.

Most law students are acheivers - we are used to being one of the smartest people in the room. Getting into a law school is a huge accomplishment in this world. But here's the problem: when you get to law school, everyone is smart. Everyone has gotten into law school. Everyone is an achiever.

This kind of relates to the item above about grades being important, but not being everything. Most law students are used to getting As, getting the job, getting into the schools we want, etc. Well, now you're in an environment that is concentrated with equally smart and possibly smarter people. It's probably a good idea to humble yourself a little bit before starting school.

It's a Long Three Years, But it's Worth It

Lastly, yes. Law school is three years. And they are a long three years. Some of the most grueling years of your life. But they fly by faster than you think, and at the end YOU WILL BE A LAWYER. Knowing everything I know now, I truthfully would do it all again. And I mean all of it. The hard parts, the learning moments, and the rock bottoms were a big part of my growth and my journey throughout law school. And now I'm a lawyer. It is all so worth it.

To anyone getting ready to jump into law school - good luck! Feel free to drop some questions below. I love to answer them, and I might even write a post about your question if I have enough to say.



Friday, July 12, 2019

How my law school study group saved me (Guest Post!)


GUEST POST by ADAM BALINSKI

Oh, crud. What have I done?

It had been only two weeks and I already felt like my soul was withering away. Seemingly endless days buried in books. A competitive culture. Classrooms haunted by an Ancient Greek philosopher who was turning out not to be quite as cool as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure had led me to believe. The Socratic Method is sometimes accused of being a law student torture apparatus. That’s because that’s exactly what it is. 

Maybe I'd made a mistake. Maybe law school was not for me. Gone were the days of being surrounded by friends and the collaborative learning environment I had once enjoyed as a corporate trainer.

It probably shouldn’t have taken me two full weeks to start to question the sanity of quitting an awesome job, selling my house, and squeezing my growing family into a small, two-bedroom cinder block apartment. There was at least one red flag by day one.

When you opened up the main doors to enter the law school I attended, you were immediately greeted by a dark brick wall. Though a reliable receptionist, the school may have well hung a sign that said, “Abandon hope, all ye that enter.” That wall could be an accurate metaphor for the experience of many law students. 

That brick wall could have been a metaphor for me. But it wasn’t. I could have emerged from law school depressed and cynical. But I didn’t. 

Week three changed everything: It gave me a killer study group.

Forming the right team

One study group strategy is to team up with gunners. Gunners sometimes get a bad rap for holding the grip too tight, brown-nosing with professors, and other socially destructive behaviors.

There’s a sliding scale between the laziest students and craziest gunners. You don’t necessarily have to be a self-absorbed, ultra-competitive freak to be a gunner. Some gunners manage to be well-prepared and engage in class without damaging their reputation or relationships. 

Good gunners can come in handy when it comes to study groups. Well-prepared students can often explain things in a more digestible way than professors. This is probably because they recently walked the bridge between ignorance and competence. Professors may have a harder time remembering just how long that bridge can be.

You may be tempted to make a gunners-only study group (or at least a group where everyone else has to be a gunner. . . ). I can see how that approach may seem at least a little appealing, but it's shortsighted.

Gunners are good, in moderation

For starters, gunners are highly competitive and a study group where everyone is aggressively competing with each other, even if they're pretty nice about it, won't be much fun. 

A more important issue is that a gunners-only study group may lack diversity of personality types and approach. During law school, you'll likely learn about the prudent investor rule. Something prudent investors almost always do is diversify. Your study group is an investment. Make sure your portfolio of study group compadres is a good mix.

That's what I lucked into when I haphazardly approached several classmates about joining my study group. A couple of us were genuine gunners (and probably took law school a little too seriously), a couple probably could have taken law school a little more seriously, and a couple were somewhere in between. 

We balanced each other out. We kept each other sane. And we opened each other's eyes to fresh perspectives. 

Formula for study group success

The traditional mid-semester study group model is pretty simple: Study the assigned reading, then come together to discuss. (When finals come around, it looks a little different, but I want to focus this post on more of the day-to-day class preparation.)

There's nothing fundamentally flawed about the traditional study group formula. If you have the time for it. The problem is many law students don't have the time to carefully read every case on their own, let alone get together to talk hypotheticals and theory after. 

Being married with children, active in the community and in my religion, I personally had a hard time keeping up with the reading. Before my study group, I found myself often resorting to online case briefs, which left me feeling less confident and less prepared for class. I didn't want my study group to make my time management challenges even worse. I wanted to find a way to use my study group to save time, be more prepared, and have more fun than I would preparing on my own. 

The formula I came up with accomplished all of those things better than I anticipated.

Divide and conquer, return and report

Each week, we rotated who would be the "experts" for a given subject. We decided to have two experts at a time for each subject to create a bit of an internal auditing system or safety net. We rotated subjects to keep us all comfortable reading and analyzing cases across all subjects. 
When you were an "expert" for a subject, you would read very carefully and take thorough notes which you would post to a shared Google Drive folder. Then about 20 minutes right before each class that you were an expert in, you and the other expert would get together with the whole group and explain anything confusing and answer any questions the group might have. 
Being an expert took more time than preparing independently, but it resulted in more critical reading and better note-taking because you knew the others in your group were relying on you. As a little aside, I found this process to be helpful in preparing me to be an effective attorney after law school because any time I read a case, I was reading carefully with a client in mind (my study group).

Though being an "expert" in a subject took more time than typical preparation, being a "non-expert" in the other subjects saved more than enough time to compensate. 
When you were a non-expert for a subject, you could skip reading the case book entirely and just read through two sets of thorough notes the night before the class. That's what I usually did. It typically took only about 20-30 minutes to read through both sets of notes. I did it before bed, so that it would be easier to remember the following day. Then right before class, I would show up to my study group to enjoy whatever else I could learn from the experts. 

I was often surprised to find that many of the questions we discussed before class specifically came up during class. I always felt prepared and my professors had no clue when I hadn't "done the reading" (at least in the conventional sense).

Results

The folks I recruited to my study group initially only committed to a two-week trial using the above-described method. After two weeks though, everyone enthusiastically wanted to continue and we even picked up another member. Though it made an odd number, we figured out a rotation that gave each of us a week "off" every so often (which helped us make time for papers and such). We followed the formula for two semesters straight.

One nice thing about the law school I attended is that you are in the same classes with many of the same students for the entire first year, which made this model work well. However, the model didn't work as well for my second and third years because everyone was taking different classes. Our first year, with only one or two exceptions, we performed better in terms of grades than we did during our second and third years. In other words, we generally outperformed ourselves academically when we worked together using the model above. And we saved time and had fun.

Lifelong benefits

Part of the value of a study group is the friendships you create. We still do BBQs and Christmas parties together. Most of us are heading up to Canada this summer to attend the wedding of one of the guys in our group. I consider the crew among my very best friends. 

Another part of the value of a study group is the professional network it eventually creates.  And here again, the more diverse, the better. One of us went to work for a huge firm in London. Another is working for the FBI. Another is a real estate broker. Another is working for a small firm. Another is working for a legal aid organization. Another is working for a mid-size firm and beginning a pivot into politics. Another is working for a tech company. And then there's me, who did a stint as an assistant attorney general in American Samoa, before founding a revolutionary law school study aid company and returning to work for my alma mater.

Figure out something that works for you

Though a study group makes sense for most students, it may not make the most sense for you. Also, if you do form a study group, the type of study group I described may not be the Holy Grail for you, like it was for me. Your circumstances may be different than mine were. Your law school path is your own and I only hope that you walk away from reading this with some fresh ideas about study groups and how you might make the most of them.


About the author: Adam Balinski graduated summa cum laude from BYU Law and scored in the top 5% nationally on the Uniform Bar Exam. He founded Crushendo, the leading audio-based bar prep and law school study aid solution, and is currently writing a book called, “The Law School Cheat Code: Everything You Never Knew You Needed to Know About Crushing Law School.”

Friday, June 21, 2019

Life Update: I'm A Lawyer (But not an attorney)!

Hey, all!

Well, it's the middle of June and I am knee-deep in my bar review course. My lecture on torts got done a little bit early this morning, and I'm going to take advantage of the Friday vibes and give you guys a little bit of a life update instead of doing some extra flash cards.

So here's my big update:

I'm a lawyer! 

Alright - this might be a little bit late. But, about a month ago I finally graduated with my JD.

Here's a fun candid of the day, post ceremony, when I was tired of pictures.

Law school was undoubtedly the hardest thing I've ever done, but it's also the thing I'm most proud of. The girl in that picture above is a completely different person from the girl that started as a 1L in the fall of 2016. I've learned, I've grown, I've made lifelong friends, and I've developed into someone who is capable of doing a career that she loves. 

I want to thank anyone who has read this blog along the way and other bloggers who inspired me. This blog has provided a fun little respite from the law school stress, and I love sharing my experience with others.

I'll keep working on providing content for you, just be patient with me as I ajust to bar prep and then life as a lawyer!


Saturday, February 2, 2019

Building Your Law School Resume - Free Resume Template!


Hey, friends! Anyone who has been following along on my law school journey has probably ready by now that I recently went through my post-grad job search and ended up getting a judicial clerkship! One thing that I included in that blog post was that I was never too worried about my prospects, because I had built a pretty impressive resume (in my humble opinion). One of my readers asked me to expand more on how I built a good resume in law school, and I thought that was an excellent idea - so I decided to make a whole post about it! In fact, I'm kind of shocked I haven't written this post before now.

So let's dive in!


Overall, I would say that there are two different ways to make your resume great - your format, and your content. So, I'll split this post into two sections to address those.

Format

Before anyone reads your resume, they are going to have a first impression based on the look of the resume itself. Therefore, you want to make sure that your resume looks impressive before they read a single word. 

The biggest thing you want to do is make sure your resume looks clean. Not too cluttered, a simple and easy-to-read serif font (you really cannot go wrong with Times New Roman), all on one page, readable font size, and black and white. Basically, a legal resume should be low-key boring. Also, I said it once, but I will say it again - KEEP IT TO ONE PAGE. Nobody wants to flip through pages of a resume. Truthfully, they don't care that much. 

Your law school career services office probably has resume templates that you can utilize, and will absolutely review your resume for you. Use those services! However, on the off chance that they don't provide you with a template, I have created one for you to use! Check out the link below. This template is pretty similar to my resume that I use. Feel free to tweak it and make it work for you, but this is a good start for formatting.

RESUME TEMPLATE DOWNLOAD (it works best when downloaded and used in Microsoft Word)


Content

Now that you've figured out what your resume should look like, it's time to put some meat on the bones and figure out the content. This can be pretty hard, because it is obviously very important. And as I mentioned above, you want to keep things simple - so you have very little space to convey the information you want. So here's a list of things you absolutely want to include:

  • Your law schoool information (duh)
    • Put your law school, expected graduation date, GPA, class rank (if impressive), and activities
  • Your undergrad information
    • Yes, it's over and you obviously have a Bachelor's degree - but they still want to see where you got it, what you majored in, and how you did overall
  • Any legal work experience!
    • If you are a 1L, you might not have any legal work experience. But if you do - put it!
    • Put your position, what you did, where you did it, and any other imporatnt things you learned that you would want an employer to know.
  • Your basic contact information
    • This seems simple, but often overlooked. I've had people tell me that they hate it when they have to go search for someone's email address because they don't just simply list in on their resume.
    • Put your name, address, phone number, and email address. 
Those are the absolute, must include things that you should have on your resume. But chances are, there are more things that you should (and probably want to) include on there if you can. Here's a list of other good things to put on your resume:
  • Other work experience/internships
    • Did you have a job or internship in college? Put it down! Sometimes this grabs the attention of the interviewer, other times it just shows that you're a well-rounded person.
      • Story time: I did the Disney College Program in college, meaning that I spent a semester cleaning up trash at Disney World. It was technically an internship, but not really academic and definitely not related to law. But I put that on my resume EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Why? Because interviewers and recruiters love to talk about it. It stands out. It's fun. Disney is a fantastic company that everyone loves. No, sweeping streets at Disney World did not help me learn how to write a memo or research the law. But it helps interviewers notice me.
    • Law firms and other legal jobs love when you have customer service experience. They like seeing that you have work ethic and people skills.
    • Jobs, internships, etc. tend to show personal interests and tell the interviewer something about your personality
  • A personal interests section
    • I highly recommend having this! In mine, I include that I like the Toronto Maple Leafs and listening to podcasts. It shows that I have a personality. In fact, my old HR manager emailed me on my first day of work to tell me that he was so excited to have another Leafs fan in the office. People eat this stuff up.
    • Make it one line with two or three interest. 
  • Your LinkedIn URL
    • This is the technological age, they are going to look you up. Why not make it easier?
    • But if your LinkedIn sucks - don't put it. That's just embarrassing.
  • Anything else you want people to know!
    • Any cool awards? Let them know!
    • Special skills. Especially if you know other languages or other potentially useful skills.
Those are my main tips as far as content goes. I included a link above to a resume template I made for you guys to use.

******

There are a couple of other things to consider when making your resume. First, you have to live or die by what you choose to put in there. If you have something that might be slightly controversial or could be interpreted badly, think about whether you are prepared to not get a job because of that line. For example, I know some people who have interned with activist groups for specific causes that would be considered controversial. It might be important to them, but if an employer feels otherwise, it could end up costing them a job. So be sure to consider that.

Second, if you're like me, you might have a lot of things you could include on your resume. I had two internships and three jobs in college. I include my Disney internship because it's always a great conversastion started, and my full-time customer service job because it shows off my work ethic. This allows me to include some of my experience in college, but leave enough room for the legal stuff. Just pick the items that you think will yield the best results.

Lastly, remember that your resume is likely going to be accompanied by a cover letter and transcript. Yeah, your resume might be simple, but some things can be expanded upon in a cover letter, or explained better through a transcript. The resume is just the cover sheet for it all.

Overall, a resume is a pretty important thing, so take the time to make it good. Any questions? Leave 'em in the comments below and I'd be happy to answer. 








Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Difference: 1L and 2L - Guest Post!


Hey everyone, Bailey here! Below is a guest post by my colleague Paul at Law School Study Guide! I'm sure many of you have checked out Law School Study Guide before - it's a great resource on all things law school. I wrote a guest post for him too, so make sure to go look at that once you're done with Paul's post here. Without further ado - enjoy!



Maybe you just finished your first year of law school and are wondering if you should drop out.  Don’t give up so fast! You are through the hardest part of law school, with one exception: taking the bar!  The first year of law school is difficult, for multiple reasons. The second year is much better, mainly because you know what to expect.  Let’s take a deeper look at the similarities and differences between 1L and 2L year:

1. A New Place


As with starting any new class or job, or moving to a new location, starting 1L year can cause anxiety.  Don’t worry. Everyone else probably feels exactly the same way you do even though some are able to hide their anxiety better than others.  Having some anxiety is completely normal! After all, you are most likely in an entire new building and being taught by professors of whom you have never met.  Additionally, the first year of law school can cause anxiety because it is held out to be the most important year in law school.
So you may wonder, does 2L year get any better?  The answer is, yes! Your first year in law school is very important, but don’t overlook your second year.  Your second year of law school can help boost your GPA and may just get you your dream job. When you start your 2L year of law school, you will likely have some of the same professors and know how to take a law school exam.  Because law school is entirely new to you as a 1L, your second year naturally seems easier.

TIP:  If your school offers a summer course before your 1L year, this can help you ease into law school and it is a good way to get rid of the anxiety ahead of time that many other students will face during their first semester of law school. 

2. Expectations


One of the biggest differences between 1L and 2L year is the level of expectation of the professors.  Your first year, you may feel as though you are back in kindergarten with someone holding your hand along the way.  Once 2L year comes along, most professors have heightened expectations and assume you know how to write a legal paper, how to respond in class when cold called, etc..
Remember that, in 1L year, everyone in your class is new to law school.  The professors don’t expect you to always have the right answer when they cold call on you . . . at least most don’t.  Additionally, your professors don’t expect you to know how to draft a legal memorandum. During your 1L year of law school, your professors may ask you to brief a case, or write a memo, with no direction.  This is simply a “test” to see how you react under pressure. After all, most partners at a law firm are not going to tell you exactly what they are looking for when you have an assignment to complete. While you may not be given much direction, it is always okay to ask the professor for more detailed instructions.  The worst that can happen is that the professor says, “I don’t have any other instructions.”
Your second year in law school will get better, however, the expectations of your professors will rise.  During your second year of law school, you will have more work to complete, you will be expected to know how to brief cases, and you will be expected to know how to apply the law to facts the professor provides to you in hypotheticals.  You will likely see the amount of reading increase for your second year of law school, but you will also know how to complete readings in a shorter amount of time. While expectations may increase during your second year of law school, just remember that you made it through the hardest year of law school.


3. Activities/Experience 


Many students come to law school asking about what clubs they can join, where they can find jobs on campus, and what activities are open to 1L students.  You will quickly learn that in law school, activities are not tailored towards 1L students. In fact, many organizations require that you are at least in your second semester of law school before getting involved.  You may ask, why don’t law schools let 1L students participate in activities? This is a valid question. The reason most law schools don’t allow or don’t encourage students to participate in extra-curricular activities during their first year of law school is because the law school wants you to focus on doing well in class and getting good grades.  Because your first year grades are incredibly important to obtain summer associate positions, most law schools strongly encourage students not to work during their first year of law school. While there are few events and organizations that permit 1L students to participate, it is recommended to not get too involved. The important of your 1L year grades cannot be stressed enough!
So you start your second year, and now you are bombarded with organizations looking for members, in addition to having stacks of books to read for class.  What should you do? While class should always comes first (I know I sound like your mother), employers like to see that you have legal experience and are involved in some organization(s) on campus.  Employers often look for whether their job applicants have law review and/or journal experience. Additionally, employers like to see that you have some legal experience. Therefore, during your second year of law school, you may choose to work as a law clerk at a law firm.  Law firms are often willing to hire law school students to do their legal research at a cheap rate!

While your 2L year of law school can be just as stressful as your first year due to the amount of work and experience you are expected to do, just remember that you are over one-third of the way through law school and will be a lawyer before you know it!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Why You Should Travel During School


Law school is such a busy time. We spend hours and hours studying or in class each day, and it seems like the weekends are spent endlessly catching up on school work. While semesters are short in the grand scheme of things, the weeks can really drag on if you end up doing the same thing on repeat. For me, I go to law school in a place where there are cold, snowy winters. So when the days get shorter and darker, and I follow my routine, it's easy to start feeling trapped and isolated.

During my 1L year, the feelings of being trapped got to be too much, and I ended up buying a last minute plane ticket to visit my family. While I now comically refer to this as "The Great Mental Breakdown of 2016," this incident showed me that I needed to be more intentional about getting out of my college town, and experiencing something different than just the mundane daily law school classes I was taking. So I made it a goal of mine to travel more during my 2L and 3L year. And that decision has seriously been life-changing.


Now, I know you might be thinking that it's impossible to travel during law school, especially because travelling during law school comes with two big challenges:

Travelling is EXPENSIVE, and takes a LOT of time!


The first challenge - cost - is something that can be hard to get around for some people. As law students, we are already on really tight budgets. And while I like to think of myself as someone who is fairly good at making a budget and sticking to it, this doesn't mean I have a bunch of extra cash floating around. However, there are ways to travel without spending too much money. Further, if you work travel expenses into your budget at the beginning of the year, the travel splurge will feel like more of an anticipated expense than like you are spending money you don't have. I personally set aside some of the money I made from my paid summer internship as a travel fund, so I knew that I would have the money for my adventures. I've also figured out ways to reduce costs when I'm travelling as much as possible. See some of my tips listed below!

The second challege - time - is something that I think is easier to get around. Being able to figure out time management is an important skill in law school anyway. Thus, this is just one way to exercise those skills. If you plan ahead and get a little bit of extra work done before you travel, you won't have to worry about catching up. Further, planning out your "break" days to travel may save you some of the exhaustion burden that can hit you later if you don't take time away. In some ways, I think planning some trips can actually be a great way to ensure you are spending your time in law school more wisely. Plus, it's a lot easier to skip a day of class than it is to take vacation days once you start your career. So might as well travel now.

Ways to Save Money Travelling:

  1. Plan early and shop around for deals! Turn on Google alerts for flights, or wait for holiday sales on attraction tickets or travel necessities.
  2. Don't be afraid to make last minute changes! Sometimes if I'm going to a city where I know there are plenty of places to stay, I will wait until a few days before to book a hotel room or an AirBnB to get some last minute deals.
  3. Use rewards programs! I exclusively stay at Mariott Hotels, so that I can save up my rewards points to get free rooms. I also use a Delta American Express Credit Card for flights, and in the last year alone I've gotten three free flights using my points. Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/BAILERqhrv?xl=cp27
  4. Travel with a buddy! Splitting the cost of a hotel room or gas on a road trip greatly reduces costs.
  5. Go to places with free or cheap activities! I've gone on trips to place like Washington D.C., Philadelphia, or National Parks where the cost of activities is low or free because they are operated by the government. This means I've had trips where all I pay is travel costs, lodging, and food.
  6. Cut spending in other areas to increase your travel budget. Are you someone like me who is addicted to coffee? One time I realized that if I cut out my Starbucks habit for a month, I could pay for another night in a hotel room easily. It really made me think twice about ordering my matcha latte.
  7. Small trips are okay! You don't have to travel to Italy to make it count. Take a small trip to the closest big city, or travel to Disney World. These trips are cheaper but still amazing.



So there are some of my reasons why you should travel in law school, or even in college. You're only young and able to travel with no job or family ties for so long. You might as well take advantage of it. Plus, you'll make memories of a lifetime, and finally be able to post a pic from somewhere other than the library on your instagram. What more could you need?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

How I Got My Post-Grad Judicial Clerkship


Hey, everyone! A  couple of days ago I wrote a post telling you all that I didn't get my dream job, which was an associate position at a law firm that I had interned at for two years. While I was extremely devastated at the time, I knew I had to quickly spring into action and find a new plan for after graduation. After all, I have student loans that are going to need paid back, so I need to find a way to earn a paycheck. And I am pleased to say that at the end of October last year, I accepted a judicial clerkship! This is the story of how I landed on that position.

After getting the bad news of not receiving an associate position, I took a day or two to gather my thoughts and go over my options. I thought about going to get an LLM in taxation, because I have a pretty heavy interest in pursuing tax law for a career. However, after I already didn't get a job due to the fact that I wasn't open to some areas of law, I figured that narrowing my interests even further would probably have negative results. And truth be told, I am more than ready to be done with school for awhile. Maybe in the future an LLM will be an option for me. But until then, I needed to find a job.

Since the beginning of law school, I have had my eyes set on a law firm career, doing some sort of transactional work. I knew that I wanted to be in one of two cities after graduation, mostly for personal reasons and family ties. So I made a list of all of the law firms that I could think of in the area that were about the size of firm I was interested in and that I knew had a strong transactional practice. I sent emails to all of the recruiters or HR managers at those firms. I also used my most basic research tool - Google - to look for more firms in the area. Basically, I sent out SO many unsolicited emails. And with the way these things go, I received a few rejections, a few contacts to set up a meeting, and a whole lot of silence. I met with two firms - one on the phone, and one on a coffee interview. The phone interview went well, but I didn't really like the people I talked to. On top of that, they hadn't ended their summer program yet, and whether or not they could move further with me was conditional on one of their interns not accepting an offer. The coffee interview went great. I loved the people and everything I heard about the firm. But they had never hired someone directly out of law school, and were hesitant to make any decisions until the summer. 

And before I knew it, I was back and school and hearing mostly silence from anyone I sent emails too. Now, I try to be a really positive person, but I was starting to really get discouraged. I contacted my career services office at my school, and got them to get me reciprocal access to the online job boards at the local law schools in the cities I was interested in. I turned on Google job alerts and asked around with my colleages. Basically, at this point I was waiting for opportunities to arise. Here and there I was able to apply to a couple of things, but nothing I was really interested in. I applied to a job fair, but the organizers lost my application and that limited my chances. A lot of what I was finding was that firms needed litigators, which always stung a little considering that is why I didn't get the job I wanted.


Now, I am the type of person who really enjoys security. So I wanted to have a job picked out by the time winter break rolled around. And to be honest, when I started my job search, I didn't think it would be too hard. I had a pretty impressive resume, usually great interview skills, and was thorough in my application process. But nothing was coming easy. I figured I would have something before the end of August. And then September rolled around. And then October. I was really discouraged, and starting to get to a bad place emotionally.

I met with my career services advisor a couple of times, and realized I needed to change my focus. I was still stuck on finding my dream job - you know, like the one that had just rejected me. But really, I just needed to be looking for my first job. Although it would be nice to start where you want right away, but the reality is that doesn't happen for most people. I realized I needed to be looking for something that would give me good experience, an opportunity to grow, and the ability to make connections that would bring me success later.

In considering all of my options, I actually also applied to two "JD Advantage" jobs. These are jobs where you don't necessarily need a law degree, but they prefer to have lawyers in that position. One of these jobs was at a bank, in an entry program that places you in one of many departments after a year. It would be risky, but I really loved the people I interviewed with, and some of the jobs I could get after the program would've been amazing. Another was with an insurance company, in a claims position that was similar to an in-house job. I was contacted by a recruiter for that one. But I was worried that with these positions, I would potentially hurt any future chances at ending up in the type of firm I wanted to work at.

Then, one day, as I was doing my daily job searches on Google and job boards, I saw a position that just kind of felt right and fit. It was a judicial clerkship with a state court of appeals. I was definitely intrigued, and compelled to apply. Now, here's the thing - I had never wanted to do a clerkship. Never even considered it, actually. Clerkships are usually an entry-level position for future litigators, highly sought after and some of the greatest experience you can get if you want to spend your career in a courtroom. I had always been interested in transactional practice, so a clerkship was never on my radar. But for some reason, I was like, "Hey. This seems like exactly what I need right now." A year or two to learn and grow, network, and wait for the job market to turn around and need transactional lawyers again. Or if it doesn't turn around, at least I will know a little bit more about litigation and might feel comfortable taking one of those positions. So I went ahead and sent an email to the judge with my application materials.

Within an hour I had an interview set up.

Two weeks later I met the judge in a hotel lobby where the state bar association conference was going on. I was wearing my favorite suit and heels, and walked up to the judge confidently and introduced myself. We sat down for an interview, and things went pretty smoothly. It felt more like I was talking to a friend, and I knew that I would love to work for this judge. We talked about my past experience, terms of the clerkship, things like that.

The biggest thing I was most nervous about was explaining why I didn't have a job at the firm I interned at for two years, and why I was suddenly pursuing a clerkship. I had met with my career services advisor and asked a couple of friends how to address it, but they all suggested I say my interests had changed or something of that nature. Sitting in the interview, I realized that wasn't right. So I just told the judge the truth. About how I loved my old firm and was devastated not to work there, but how it caused me to reflect on what I need to do. About how I couldn't find a perfect job, and needed a year or two to figure it out and learn. And about how a clerkship would help me learn and grow without hurting my career. And the judge was actually really cool about it.

She told me she needed to do a few more interviews and call some references, but that she'd be in touch in a week or so. And to be honest, I walked not feeling worried anymore. As soon as I got back to my boyfriend's apartment, I told him "I think I just got a job." I flew back to my law school and, although I was still a little nervous, that extreme anxiety that I had before was gone.

About a week and a half passed, and I got a call from the judge offering me the job.

I immediately accepted while on the phone. Now, there are conflicting ideas as to whether or not you should accept or you should make them wait, but I was sure this was the right opportunity for me. And I could not be more excited about it.

If you had asked me six months ago if I would be interested in a clerkship - the answer would be absolutely not! But now, I realize that it is probably the best position I could have asked for at the time. If anyone is going through their job search and not finding the right fit, my advice would be to be patient, open your mind to what you might need, and the right job might come along. I've come a long way from the devastating moment six months ago where I was rejected from my dream job, and now I am looking forward to starting my first big kid job as a judicial clerk this August!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

I Didn't Get My Dream Job - And It's Okay


Ever since my 1L year, I decided that I was going to be really vulnerable on this blog, which means sharing both the highlights and the low points of my law school journey. This really became important to me when I started sharing my mental health struggles that became especially apparent during my 1L year. This is because that I started this blog to help other law students and guide them through the struggles that law school entails. Although I haven't been great about posting, this last year has been full of many ups and downs and it's time I share them without you. So without further ado, I want to tell you guys about the absolute worst thing that happened to me during 2018 - I didn't get my dream job. But don't worry, it's going to be okay.

First thing's first, let's back it up a little bit. Ever since I began law school, I knew that I was absolutely made for law firm life. I could just see myself putting on a suit every day, riding the elevator to the top of a high rise, and eventually securing a corner office where I'd spend my days. And that dream started to become a reality when I got my 1L summer internship, at a prestigious law firm from my hometown. It was everything I dreamed of. Not only did I do fulfilling work, but I loved the attorneys I worked for and could truly see myself working at that firm forever. So you might imagine how excited I was to be invited back to intern at the same firm my 2L summer. I accepted right away, and looked forward to it for the entirety of 2L year. One of the partners had told me that I had "passed their test" and as long as I didn't mess anything up, he saw me getting a post-grad job offer. Fast forward to 2L summer and I have another amazing summer. I receive completely positive feedback on all my work. Things were falling into place, and I was so happy.

Then, on the last day of my internship, I walked into my final review with one of the partners. Again, we went over all of my projects where I received positive feedback and told wonderful things. And then the bad news came. They didn't have any positions available for me next year - they only needed litigators, and I had indicated pretty strongly that I was only interested in transactional work. And this news had come to the hiring committee fairly late in the summer, meaning it came as a shock to everyone in the office. I was, of course, absolutely devastated. But I thanked my boss, and said goodbye with a smile.

And then I ran to my office where I cried. And I don't mean like one tear just rolled down my cheek. I was sobbing to the point where I couldn't breathe. I cried to two of the younger associates that had been my friends. I was so embarrassed, but it was basically a panic attack because my entire plan had unraveled. So I gathered my belongings and left my dream job behind.

I'm not going to lie, this still stings a little bit. Even writing this post right now, I am getting teary eyed. I desperately wanted to be mad at everyone I worked with for giving me false hope. But the truth is, I wasn't mad at all. I was completely and totally heartbroken because I truly wanted to work there with my entire heart. To be totally and completely honest, I still want to work there in my heart. But that isn't the opportunity that is available to me, and I have no choice but to figure it out.

Luckily, now it's five months later, and I know I was able to recover well (more about that later), but at the time all I wanted to do was sob on the couch and eat ice cream. But that wasn't a possibility - I had to start looking for a post-grad job, update my resume, sharpen my interview skills, and most importantly, find a new dream to motivate me.

To be honest, I have never been someone who deals with failure well. And that's exactly what this felt like to me - complete, and utter failure. Now reflecting back, I can see that this was not the case. I did the opposite of failing. I excelled at my internship, receiving completely positive feedback and making strong connections with professionals in the community. Although my hope was to receive a full-time offer, this taught me to adapt to big changes and figure them out.

This experience taught me a lot of things. First, it taught me that my plan might not always work out, but even when it doesn't, I can adapt to the hardships and figure them out. This experience helped me brush up on my job search skills. This experience taught me to value the opportunities that I have had and how they can help me in the future. This experience taught me that disappointment isn't the end of the world. And this experience taught me that even something that feels like failure can't break me like I thought I could.

But most of all, this experienced affirmed that I am taking the right steps toward my goals and that my long-term goals, hopes, and dreams mean something to me. Like many law students, I think that I have had times where I wondered if I was on the right path, or doing the right thing by being in law school. However, after having such an emotional reaction to not getting this job, I realized that I am completely and totally on track. I'm somebody that doesn't consider myself to be emotional, so for this to devastate me so much means that becoming a lawyer at a firm I love is so important to me. This experience only made me want to fight for that dream more.

So overall, I didn't get my dream job. Yet. And that's okay.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Textbook Tips for Law School


Hello, friends! It's the start of a my LAST semester and I cannot believe it's here. But the start of this semester has brought quite a bit of stress to my life in the last week related to one specific thing... textbooks. For some reason, buying and receiving my books has been the bane of my existence. For real - I have had to fight my school's bookstore, Amazon, and some of my professors on this. First, both Amazon and my school bookstore sent me books that were supposed to be new that definitely had highlighting throughout. So I had to make extra trips to refund and exchange. Law books are expensive - I'm not about to pay $80 to $100 more for a book that already has writing in it! On top of that, my professors have had issues letting us know which books to buy for classes. Needless to say - it has been rough.





But, with all the stress this textbook fiasco has provided me, it has brought me some inspiration to create a quick list of textbook tips for y'all. When I first started blogging a few years ago, I wrote my first post on law school textbooks, which you can find here. However, I have learned A LOT since then, and there's some stuff I'd like to add. So here we go!

Buying Textbooks

So the first thing that law student's typically realize about law school textbooks is that they are hella expensive. Like, more than my car payments for six months expensive. Let me remind you about how much my textbooks cost from my first semester of law school, if you didn't go back and read my original post:

Now, luckily I realized this right away and budget for it every semester. If you haven't ready my budgeting post - go read it now, make a budget, and type in at least $1,000 for books every semester. But, with that being said, here are a few things you can do to make your books cheaper:
  • Buy used! So this is a little hypocritical, because I don't do this. I absolutely loathe used books, and can't stand highlighting or writing that is not my own. However, if you don't mind that (I know some people even prefer the highlighting already done for them!), buy a used book and sometimes you can reduce costs by 50%. Amazon, Chegg, and your school bookstore probably all have used options. Or buy them off your upper-classmen friends and help them make some cash.
  • Rent! This is how I save most of my money when it comes to buying textbooks. Although I am picky about used books, my school bookstore allows me to rent my books new, which can save on the sticker price of the book a lot. You can also rent through Amazon, Chegg, and likely your school bookstore, so feel free to price shop. Some professors and students think you shouldn't do this for "bar" classes, so you can keep your book. But that decision is really up to you. 
  • Shop around! We have been blessed with the gift of the internet - use it! Spend an extra hour and search around for the best price. Your wallet will thank you. Or, if you want to take the work out, use a tool like bookscouter.com, which will search the internet for you. Not an ad, just my favorite tool.
  • Sell back your old book! One thing that is nice about expensive textbooks is that sometimes you can sell them for a lot of money too. I mean, there is the chance that you will buy a $300 book, and the most you can sell it for is like $25. But, worth checking at least. And bookscouter.com can find you the best price for selling books too!
  • Buy old editions! So, I'll be the first to admit - I'd never do this. But I know plenty of people that do because you can save a ton of money. Just use discretion on what classes this might work well for. Torts? Contracts? You can probably get away with an older edition. Federal Income Tax? Definitely not. When in doubt, ask your professor.
All in all, textbooks are still going to cost a lot. One thing to keep in mind is that typically textbooks get cheaper for 2L and 3L years. My textbooks this semester ended up costing just under $400 - which is much more reasonable than that first semester of 1L. So for all you 1Ls, at least that's one thing to look forward to.

Using Textbooks

To highlight or not to highlight, that is the question?

If you're in any law school, one thing you probably notice over time is how marked up most students' books are. Seriously, I have seen some students with books with more highlighter ink on the page than ink from the actual printer. Now, I can't judge too much. I also highlight in my books. But many law students have questions as to whether or not they should highlight, and how much. And to be honest, this can be answered with the infamous law school answer: it depends.

Really, my best tip is going to be to highlight in whatever way helps you study and take in the information. For me, I highlight for two reasons. First, it helps me pay attention when I read, by forcing me to focus on what is or is not important in the reading. Second, it helps me quickly reference pieces of the text in class whenever I get called on. Thus, I don't need anything fancy. So I specifically use a yellow, thin highlighter that I buy in bulk. It's nothing special, but it does what I need.

Other people use book highlighting as a way to take notes and brief within their casebooks. For this purpose, I have seen people with intricate color coding systems. In these situations, people typically use multicolored highlighters. I specifically like the ones previously linked, because they have a little window that allows you to see what you are highlighting, which is amazing. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have over highlighted something.

Some textbooks have thin, uncoated pages and ink highlighters just soak through. These textbooks annoy me to no end. However, once I discovered gel highlighters, this all changed. The gel highlighters don't leak through, which is nice. They do smear a little bit more, which is unfortunate. So I guess you have to choose whichever annoys you less. I've linked some gel ones above on Amazon, but if you prefer to buy them in person, they can be harder to find. They are often marketed as Bible highlighters, so check your local religious stores.

Do I actually need to read?

I'm going to keep this one really simple. Yes. Read your books as assigned. Otherwise you will look dumb. 

How much time do the readings take?

One thing that shocked me when I started law school is how long it took me to read my assignments. I had been a fast reader since elementary school. So when my first forty page law school assignment took four hours, I was devastated. But this is normal. Therefore, this is something to prepare yourself for and try to get used to. Luckily, with the time, the legalese comes a bit more naturally and reading goes a lot faster. Every now and then, I still have a case from 1864 that takes me awhile to work my way through. But overall, I can do most of my readings in less than an hour now. I would say to be safe, always over estimate and always try to have your readings done the day before just in case. I know this isn't always possible, but I used this system pretty strictly during 1L and it saved me. 


 
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