Tuesday, September 10, 2019

How To Pick The Best Bar Prep Course



Hey, friends!

This is a post that I've been wanting to make for awhile, ever since I picked my bar prep course last fall. However, I decided to hold off on making a post because I didn't want to be that person that advertised my methods for picking a bar prep course and then subsequently failed the bar. Can you imagine? Luckily, I got the news back recently that I PASSED THE BAR EXAM! Thus, I am starting my series on the bar exam and all things about it. And when it comes to the bar exam, I was trying to think of what would make sense to post first and I figured, why not talk about picking a bar prep course? So here we go!

Know Your Options

This might seem obvious, but the first thing that you need to do when picking a bar prep course is to know your options. Of course, there are the commercial course available. You've probably seen student representatives tabling at your school trying to sell you a course since first semester 1L. Barbri, Themis, and Kaplan seem to be the main courses available. Quimbee, AdaptiBar, BarMax, and other companies also offer courses, although they seem to be less popular. 

Another option is checking with your school. A lot of schools offer bar prep courses, either during the school year or for the summer after 3L. Sometimes these are meant to be comprehensive, sometimes these are meant to be a supplemental tool to another full, comprehensive course. A lot of the time, these are either free or included in tuition, so definitely check with your school!

Lastly, there is a self-study option. You can gather books, materials, and your notes from law school and study on your own. I'll be honest, I don't know a lot of people who do this because it's a lot harder. You have to be extremely disciplined, and there's something to be said for getting instruction from someone who knows what they are doing. 

When to Buy

This was a question I struggled with - when is the right time to buy a bar prep course???

Well, truth be told, if you are buying a commercial course, it is cheaper to buy early. But you don't necessarily have to make a decision and purchase a course 1L year. To me, that's far too early. So when I say you should buy early, I mean second semester 2L through first semester 3L year. For me, I purchased a course in October my 3L year. I got a good deal, and it allowed me time to think through my decision and not commit to something I didn't want too early. It seems like most law students choose a course around this time.

How to Decide

The hardest part about picking a bar prep course is probably actually deciding which one you want to get. And truth be told, the right choice is different for each person. You're probably thinking "But Bailey, just tell me which course is best!" But the truth is, I can't. Because what worked best for me might not work best for you. So instead, I'll tell you some things you can do to help you decide!

  • Most bar prep companies (at least the three major ones - Kaplan, Barbri, and Themis) offer a free MPRE course. When you take the MPRE, I recommend trying out the free course and seeing which ones you like. The bar prep course will likely be similar (at least in format) to the MPRE course, so it's basically a free trial.
    • I can't emphasize this option enough. I took the MPRE three times - twice using one course, when I failed. Third time I used another course - increased my score by 30 points and passed by a huge margin. Took the bar prep course from the company I took the passing MPRE course with and I passed. 
  • Look at your budget and consider costs. If you've started looking at bar prep courses, you know that they can be pretty expensive. Obviously, at the end of the day, it's worth paying for something that can be integral to passing the bar. But, that doesn't mean you should throw out your whole budgeting plan to pick a top course. If you have a firm paying for your course, this might not matter. If you're going into public interest or a clerkship, a cheaper option might make a big difference.
  • Ask your friends who just took the bar what their honest reviews of the courses they took are. Ask what they like, what they didn't - not just general thoughts. Some people may want a course that focuses more on writing practice, others may need more multiple choice help. Some may want to be in a more guided course, others may want more freedom. Ask lots of questions.
  • Lastly, ask student reps and the companies themselves. Obviously, this information would be a little more biased because at the end of the day, these companies are trying a product. However, it might help you get answers you need. 

Then, take these considerations and weigh them. You might have a clear answer, or they might all sound the same to you. Truth be told, if you take a course and honestly put effort into doing the work you will probably pass the bar. They are all good courses. So don't let it stress you out too much. 

Which Course Options to Pick

Another thing you might have noticed is that once you pick a company, you have to pick a course. Some companies offer in person classes, some offer live stream classes, and others offer fully self-paced online classes. When it comes to choosing which of these options you want, my biggest advice is to know yourself and your study habits.

Do you want flexibility with time? Maybe an online only option is great for you. Do you want a bit more structure in your day to keep you on track? Maybe go with an in-person class. A combination of both? The live stream class might be best. Think about whether you want to be social, whether you want to study at home,  and what structure has previously worked for you in the past.

For me, I wanted something scheduled in my day to keep me on track. I originally chose an in-person class, but that class unfortunately got cancelled and I switched to a live stream class. This was great for me. I had class from 8:00 a.m. to noon daily, and then spent the afternoons and evenings on my study activities like practice questions, essays, and reading. However, I had a friend who travelled a lot in the summer and needed flexibility, so she chose an all-recorded option.

Just consider your lifestyle, study habits, and summer plans!

Supplements?

The last thing I want to address is whether you should get any sort of bar prep supplementary tools in addition to a course. When it comes to bar prep, you can get a number of different study aids in addition to commercial bar prep courses. As if spending literal thousands of dollars on a course wasn't enough. So you might be wondering whether or not you should also pick up one or two of these supplemental tools.

To be honest, I did use a supplemental tool. I used an MBE outline set from Crushendo. These were audio and written outlines that helped me supplement the materials I had from my bar prep course. It was nice to have something written differently for subjects I didn't understand, or to be able to play the audio outlines when I was cooking dinner or working out.

I know several people swear by buying a set of commercial flash cards. The Critical Pass Cards seem to be a favorite, with Kaplan flash cards trending right behind.  While I love flash cards, I chose not to get these because part of why I like flash cards is because actually making them helps me learn. However, I know people SWEAR by these.

So, I would recommend getting a supplement of some kind. It's nice to have information that is written differently than the way your bar prep course has written the information, and it's especially nice to be able to change up your routine. However, if you can't afford an extra tool, do not stress about it!


Overall, you have to choose the bar prep course that is right for you - and that means something different for everyone. However, most of the commercial courses out there are pretty good and I am sure you will do fine with whatever course you choose. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

I Passed the Bar Exam!

Hey, everyone!

So, I'm coming at you with some good news here...

I PASSED THE BAR EXAM!


That's right, folks. You heard me. Might as well get me a spray tan and call myself Kim Kardashian because I am a straight-up, full blown laywer. Honestly, this has been a surreal weekend processing the news. But now that I have a chance to sit down and think about it all, I am so incredibly grateful and happy to be blessed with the opportunity to pursue a career that I've dreamed about and that I know I will love very much. 

I want to thank each and every reader of mine who has been on this journey with me. I want to thank other bloggers who have inspired me. And I want to put out nothing but intense gratitude for everyone who has really helped me acheive my dreams.

This last few weeks have been insane. I took the bar, moved into a new apartment, started a new job, and spent six anxious weeks waiting for results. I'm hoping that now that things have settled down a little bit, I will be able to get back into blogging. I plan on blogging about my bar exam experience and about starting my career as a judicial clerk. Obviously, before now I have mainly focused on being a law school blogger. While I love talking about law school and helping law students, I don't know that I necessarily will be able to produce a lot of content about law school without continuing to go through it. So, this blog will likely switch to focusing on my life as a baby lawyer. 

If you have anything you want me to blog about, please let me know!

Thanks everyone, and I'll see you with some more posts soon!

Friday, July 26, 2019

"Must Have" Supplies for Law School



Hey, friends! Sometime during 3L, I was on the phone with my mom and said something somewhat profound and a little bit humorous:
"You know, it's funny, but I think after almost twenty years of being in school, I've finally figured out what study tools work for me. And now I'm almost done" 

The truth is, through years of college, my study habits have changed and developed, and I've really figured out what does and does not work for me. I wrote a post a couple of years ago about what supplies you should get for law school, and I stand by everything in there. I repeated some of the supplies here, but for a comprehensive look, check out that post too! And by now, I definitely have figured out what my favorite things are, especially for law school. So I thought I'd share some of those products with you! Below is my list of must-have supplies for school, with links to specific product recommendations if I have any. If you know of brands or products that you would rather use, choose those. These are just the ones I like.

Technology Products

  • Desktop Monitor
    • So this is something I actually bought during 2L, but I wish I would've bought it when I first started law school. And to be honest, I use this more than anything else. I originally got my desktop computer monitor for writing papers so I could have two screens - one for displaying my research or notes, the other screen for the actual paper. Now I love it for so much more. The bigger screen alone is a bonus, and a real keyboard and mouse makes things much more comfortable. Now I don't have to squint at a tiny screen, waste time flipping between windows, or get neck cramps from typing on a small, flat screen

  • iPad - or other Tablet
    • It's pretty obvious that you are going to need a good laptop for law school. In fact, certain schools require you to have one, and may even have certain specifications that you laptop needs to meet. So I won't bore you by telling you that you need a good laptop. You already know that. 
      • But for those of you that are curious, I have this laptop and LOVE it.
    • However, one thing I didn't realize that I really loved having is an iPad. In fact, after I bought my iPad at the beginning of 3L year, I never brought my laptop to class. This espeically makes sense if you take notes the way that I do - where you type out your reading notes but handwrite your class notes. The iPad allowed me to pull up those reading notes, without having to bring my entire laptop to class. I loved the portability and ease. The ability to check my text messages in class quickly without much distraction was also nice. Plus, I liked it for playing games, watching Netflix, or browsing Pinterest when I wasn't in class. 
  • Big, over-the-ear headphones
    • In law school, you're probably going to spend a lot of time studying in public. This might be at the library, in a coffee shop, in airports or train stations - basically anywehre you might have some down time. So you're probably going to want to have some headphones to cover up the noise around you. I spent the first semester of law school using my ear buds and after awhile, my ears started to hurt and I hated being attached by a cord. I decided to spring for some big, over-the-ear bluetooth headphones and they seriously changed my life! I loved them to drown out noises in the library, really focus in at home, and especially loved them for airplanes.

  • Extra Phone Chargers
    • I cannot recommend this enough! I literally had four chargers during law school. One by my bed, one in my car, one at my desk, and one in my backpack for school. It's nice to not lose your charger taking it to and from every location you need, and it's nice to always have a full charge if you need it.
      • For your bed, I recommend getting an extra-long charger. I have an iPhone, so I use these chargers!
      • For everywhere else, I find that the regular chargers are great - especially in the car, at your desk, or in your bag where you don't want a cord to take up a lot of space. You can even buy them in multi-packs!

Stationary and Writing Utensils

  • Highlighters
    • You will do a TON of highlighting in law school. Like way more than you actually think. I literally went through a highlighter a week in law school - no exaggeration. I have a couple of different product recommendations here.
      • For standard, yellow highlighters - my most used tool - I prefer Sharpie, thin, chisel-tip fluorescent yellow highlighters. I bought this 36-pack, because it made it so I wasn't running to the store for more every month. These are bright and thin, making it easy to highlight exactly what you want and the color is happy and stands out.
      • For colored highlighters, I recommend Sharpie Clear-View highlighters. (I really love the Sharpie brand, y'all. I love the clear view because you can see what you are highlighting through the little window. It's seriously cool. They are more expensive than the plain yellow ones, but I primarily used only yellow highlighters, so when I needed colored ones I splurged on these.
      • For gel highlighters, I actually recommend my only non-Sharpie favorite, Bible highlighters! These are a great price and are nice to use on books with thinner pages that ink highlighters bleed through. Sharpie and other brands have gel highlighters, but I've found that the bible ones are thinner and more accurate.
  • Pens
    • In my mind, pens are so personal. We all like what we like. And that's fine. Whatever you like, get a ton of your favorite kind of pen. I personally prefer the Pilot G2 Gel Pens. In fact, they're still what I use for bar prep. 
  • Notebooks
    • Some people prefer taking notes on their laptops. I personally believe that your in-class notes should be handwritten, because it helps retention and helps you focus. Thus, notebooks are SUPER important to me. However, even if you are someone who prefers to type your notes, make sure you at least have a notebook or two. You never want to be that person in class who has to ask around for a piece of paper if you need one. Plus, what if your laptop dies or something?
  • Planner
    • StudI am probably in the minority of law students who don't think you need a big, fancy planner to get by. However, you do need some sort of planner. You will have a lot on your mind, and the last thing you need to worry about is keeping all of your due dates or appointments in your head. So get an academic planner. I prefer ones with weekly views as well as monthly views for different things.
      • I prefer the Blue Sky Planners - I get these every year. They are available at Target and Amazon, usually for $10-20 so they are great!

Food & Drink Items

  • Lunchbox
    • Law school is a lot like high school. You have lockers. All of your classes are with the same people. You might even have a lunch room. Our school had a cafe, a couple fridges, a couple microwaves, and eating utensils available. This was great, because although I lived close to school, going home was sometimes a hassle. So I brought either lunch or a lot of snacks every day.
      • I bought a basic lunchbox from Walmart for like $5 during back-to-school sales. However, this one is similar to the one I bought and I am looking at ordering for my big kid job starting soon!
  • Water Bottle/Tumbler
    • I feel like on every suggested school supplies lists, the writer lists a water bottle. It's important to stay hydrated. But on top of that, whenever I was nervous about being called on in class, my throat would get SO DRY. So I was always grateful to have my water with me. And let's be real, it's 2019 and single-use plastics are lame. So get a reusable water bottle or tumbler to bring to class with you - or even for using at home!
      • A lot of people like a Hydroflask - and I agree! They're great - they literally keep ice frozen for 2 days.
        • But, I needed a cheaper option! Law school has me on a budget, y'all. I got this knockoff water bottle from Walmart, and it's seriously my favorite water bottle I've ever had. I admittedly bought it as a cheap thing to take to tailgates, that way I wouldn't care if I lost it and now I treasure it!
      • Or, if you prefer a straw, check out this totally cute tumbler! I also use straw cups every day, so you can't go wrong.
  • Reusable Food Containers
    • I mean by now, you get the point. You're going to want to bring lunch, snacks, and possibly other meals to law school with you. So save the earth and bring your food in reusable containers in you lunch box. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Locker Snacks
    • Lastly, I'm a big fan on having snacks available at all times. Keep some snacks in your locker for an emergency sugar rush, or for days you didn't plan on staying for lunch but did anyway. I recommend keeping some fruit snacks for a quick grab between classes, or some macaroni and cheese cups for emergency meals.

Study Space Supplies

  • Amazon Echo Dot
    • During my 2L year, I decided to check out what all the buzz was about, and purchase an Amazon Echo Dot. Now, I absolutely love it and could not imagine a study space without it. It's so easy to just shout out an instruction to play music on spotify, ask the weather outside right before you head to class and you're trying to pick a pair of shoes, or set a timer when you are trying to convince yourself to study for just 20 minutes. 
      • I actually also just ordered the bigger Amazon Echo so I could have a better speaker, but it is a little more expensive. So it's an option, but the Echo Dot is great for budgeting.
  • A Good Lamp
    • One thing about law school is that your eyes will suffer. You'll spend so many hours staring at a computer screen or reading books, and vision headaches might become frequent. One way to combat that is to make sure you study and read in adequate light. my desk lamp was a lifeseaver. Luckily, I lived in an apartment that was furnished with a built-in desk and desk lamp. However, I found this great option that looks plenty bright, comes in several colors, and has a USB port for charging your phone! Great for small desk spaces. 
  • Blanket
    • It's super important to be comfortable when you study. It makes things way more tolerable. I always had a blanket slung on the back of my desk chair to wrap up in when I studied. It was great for when the AC was running or just feeling cozy. If you're anything like me, you probably have a million blankets already you can use. But if you're anything like me, you never pass up on an opportunity to buy another cozy blanket. I love sweater blankets, and just ordered this one on Amazon for my new apartment!
  • Essential Oil Diffuser
    • To be honest, I always made fun of people who used essential oils. I thought they were a hippie thing. Then my grandma bought me a diffuser and I realized that they are AMAZING. It's basically an air freshener, but there's something so soothing about it. I also like mine because the diffuser itself changes colors and lightens up the space.

So those are all of my must-have supplies for law school. At least the ones I can think of right now. To be honest, the bar exam is in a few days and thinking is a little difficult at this point. Let me know what your must haves are, or if you tried any of these products!

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.

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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?
 
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