Friday, September 27, 2019

My First Two Months as a Judicial Clerk



Hey, everyone!

So a couple of months ago, I made a post about not getting my dream job. However, after I didn't get my dream job, I ended up taking a job as a judicial clerk. So far, this has been a wonderful experience. So, I thought I'd update you all on what my first two months as a judicial clerk has been like!



First things first, you may be wondering how much time I had between taking the bar exam and starting my career. Unfortunately for me - it was less than 24 hours! No - seriously. The bar exam ended at 5:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, and I started my clerkship at 9:00 a.m. the next day. It was definitely a whirlwhind 24 hours. Of course, my judge didn't just schedule the beginning of my clerkship right after the bar to traumatize me. The clerkship always starts on August 1st, and the July 2019 bar exam was on July 30th and 31st. So it was just the way the calendar worked.

One thing that was nice about starting my job so early is that I didn't have time to spend stressing out about the bar exam. My brain was occupied with starting a new career - not worrying about how well I did on the exam. The bad thing is that starting right way is that I barely absorbed any of the infomration they told me during orientation. In fact, this ended up causing a small problem with payroll when I took two vacation days I didn't have. Luckily, my judge vouched for me and it wasn't a big deal. With that being said - take notes during orientation, people!

I am working for a state appellate court, meaning my day isn't filled with trials, hearings, or other things you might see in a trial court. My day is filled with reading, reading, and more reading! The job of my court, as an appellate court, is to review decisions of the trial courts below us. This means that I take the entire case file - transcripts of the trial, evidence, pleadings, briefs, etc. - and review it to determine whether the trial court made the right decision, or if they made errors where the parties assert they did. Sometimes I spend multiple days reading through a case file, sometimes it's a fairly quick review. It all depends on the type of case.




After I review the case file, I typically converse with my judge about what way she thinks she wants to decide, and then I start researching and writing an opinion. For us, the parties each file a brief, so a majority of the argument and research is done for us. Of course, I have to always double check and make sure the arguments and research in the briefs are accurate - but that is a lot quicker than starting from the very beginning! Once the opinion is written, my judge and I pass the opinion back and forth and exchange edits.

In some cases, we might have oral arguments, where the parties are each allowed ten minutes to argue their side of the case. During that time, the attorneys have to be prepared to answer questions from the judges. Sometimes these oral arguments help us clear up fuzzy details, or help tip the scale when we are having a hard time making a decision.

And that pretty much sums up my job! So far, I'm really enjoying it and learning a lot. It's been a great first job and a wonderful immersion into the world of lawyering. A part of me feels a yearning and longing to get out and practice, but it is also nice to have a slow and easy transition into being a young professional.

If you have any questions for me about my clerkship, feel free to drop 'em below. And as always, make sure you give me suggestions for what you'd like to see me post about next!

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!
 
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