Journey, My Life, School

A year out

Finding balance in life is not an attorney’s strong suit. We spend 3 years putting off our life to go through law school, 8 weeks doing the same for bar prep, and once we’re in a career it’s likely any semblance of balance goes out the window for life. When I was in law school, I had a counselor make a point that really helped me re-focus my life after graduation. For three years, we live in survival mode. Everything that isn’t law school or basic survival needs goes out the window. Once we’re out in the real world, slowly we can regain control and find actually hobbies and passions.

Now, I’m out in the real world. Finding balance is not as easy as I would hope it could be. This coming February, I’m a year out from the bar exam and just starting to find who I am as a person. I’ve found I love cooking and can’t just sit and relax. I love running and being involved in the local community. I’ve grown in my ability to make small talk and help other people solve their problems. I’m more compassionate and patient.

Being out of the law school trenches changes who you are. You become a human again. At the time, three years seemed like such a long time but now that it’s over, it’s become a little blip in the map. I truly feel for those in the middle of it, but stay the course and make it through!

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Studying

Finals schedule

Planning during finals is critical to getting good grades and being prepared for your finals. Now, I’m crazy and have to have things planned out in detail. A lot of students I know don’t plan out the studying specifically but instead say “ok I have X exam in 2 days. I’ll study for X exam for the next 2 days.” It’s a perfectly fine method to studying and I know a lot of students who are successful using that method. I am not one of those students.

My finals planning starts the week before finals. I create a study plan that breaks down my time into studying, relaxing, taking care of life, etc. and it’s fairly concrete. I have lots of different calendars that I use to keep my life organized and they all overlap on my google calendar. My productivity (light blue) calendar is key to planning each week, but especially during finals. I also have my non-negotiables (red), workouts (yellow), and random other things in various colors.

Finals schedule

My calendar has a lot of red and light blue for this week. In my productivity calendar, I make sure to block out at least 2 hours for studying. For me, anything less than 2 hours isn’t enough time for me to get settled, start studying, and actually understand the material. I try to set 3 hour blocks when I can but I need my breaks, too.

I’m terrible with studying at home. I have Patrick, the dogs, Netflix…the distractions are endless. While I will study at home for a good chunk of finals, I’ll eventually run into things that need my full, undivided attention. During finals week, I make sure to schedule in plenty of time to study at school or at a local Starbucks. Luckily, I live far enough off campus they aren’t overrun by college students. It’s a nice change of venue (haha, legal jokes) too so it makes it easier to focus.

This week, I work twice and have three exams: Adoption, Immigration, and Admin law. I know going into the week that my Adoption and Admin exams are closed book and my Immigration exam is open everything, except the internet. I also have a paper due next Monday. With that information, I can start planning what I’m going to study in a general sense. Obviously, I want to study Adoption first and make sure I have a firm grasp on that subject before I move on. With Immigration, I know I need to take an hour and print everything we’ve gone over and compile my notes. For Admin, I need to focus on running through practice problems and creating an outline I can use for those practice problems. My Crim Pro paper on Monday is a 15 page maximum, so it should take me roughly 6 hours with research and writing.

With all that knowledge, I can plan out exactly what I should study when. I never plan what I study in certain blocks but I do plan overall how long I think studying will be for each class. I’m estimating 4 hours for Adoption, 3 for Immigration, and 7-8 for Admin law. Having estimations in mind help me figure out how many breaks I can take and how late I have to study each night. Now, it’s a matter of putting all this into action and studying for my finals!

School

The wonderful world of debt

Yes, this will be another somewhat serious post. Some things just need to be discussed and that’s just how it is.

Law school is awesome, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t change my decision to go to law school for anything. By far, the worst part of law school is the debt you take on doing to law school. I know some people don’t take on debt going to school (jealous!) but I am not one of them. If you can go to law school and not take on debt, more power to you!

I’m not that lucky. I’ve taken on a mound of debt. With an out of state undergrad and a private law school, my debt is huge. It’s hard not to feel discouraged seeing a 6 figure debt total. Law school may not be the best financial move, but to me it’s worth it and that’s what matters.

Debt is stressful and it can easily control your life. Make sure you know your loans and don’t take out more than you need to. Know your deferral time, how much interest you have, and if you can pay on it while you’re still in school. The most important thing with your debt is to make sure you stay on top of it so there is less of a chance it will get out of control.

Networking, School

The importance of pro bono

I’m a firm believer in giving back to your community. Ever since I was little, I wanted to get involved and make the world a better place. I constantly told my mom I was going to change the world. I got mad I couldn’t volunteer with Habitat for Humanity when I was 9 or 10 and got mad again when I couldn’t volunteer at a domestic violence shelter when I was 16. Now, I’m in a position to change the world and I think the community that welcomes us with open arms deserves some help.

Pro bono work in law school is so important. Currently, I’m the Executive Vice President of Administration for the law school’s Volunteer Student Law Project. We work to pair students up with lawyer in the area through clinics and their regular offices and provide pro bono opportunities for students. I’m lucky with UD. For 50 hours of pro bono work, you get an award at graduation and a notation on your transcript. They truly encourage pro bono work here and I’m glad I’m at a school that does.

Doing pro bono work is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. I’ve met people from all walks of life, helped solve problems, met attorneys, and saw different types of law I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. Not only is pro bono work good for the community, it gives you work experience without having to go through the process of finding a job. Most attorneys love to have students come in and learn from them and do some pro bono work. It’s a win-win. You meet attorneys and you get experience. I’m so grateful for the attorneys I’ve met through pro bono work and what they’ve taught me.

Another benefit to pro bono work is it just plain looks good on your resume. This is totally a superficial reason to do pro bono work but it is true. There have been OCIs on campus who want students that are highly involved in their community and pro bono work. I’ve been asked about it in every single interview I’ve done. Showing you have a commitment not only to your education but also to the community shows an employer a lot about you.

There are plenty of ways to get involved with pro bono work. See if there is a group that works with students like our VSLP group does. Reach out to the local bar associations or see if there is a local volunteer lawyers project. Talk to the public defenders office. Reach out to attorneys in general. Pro bono work isn’t just great for the community, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and pride doing work for people who need your help.

 

School

All shapes, sizes, and walks of life

Law school is great to learn about diversity. People from all walks of life come to law school for a variety of different reasons and it’s important to be tolerant and accepting of everyone you encounter. I’m absolutely floored by how much diversity we have in law school; not in a bad way at all. I LOVE how diverse my school is and how everyone truly embraces the diversity. I’ve met everyone from ex-military to stay at home moms, K-JDs, and retired men and women looking for a new challenge. Each person comes to law school with something special to share and experience in their past to enrich the class. Get to know people from all walks of life. I’m great friends with a K-JD, married mother, and ex-military woman. It’s awesome to get different perspectives on things and learn about their lives. You never know who you’ll encounter in law school but take advantage of everything each person has to offer to your learning experience. It’s well worth it.

Studying

Being proactive

Being proactive is hands down one of the easiest ways to be successful in law school. It’s easy to get caught up in work, reading, and events but taking a proactive approach to your education only helps you stay on top of everything you need to do.

Let’s be honest, you will not understand a lot of law school. That’s fine, no one is expecting you to be able to know everything about it. When something comes up you don’t understand and you sit through class scratching your head, it might be time to be proactive. Professors love proactive students who are actively engaged not only in class but during office hours or through emails. I have never had a professor turn me down or treat me badly because I showed up to their office hours or emailed a question. Taking the time out of your schedule to go to office hours, stay after class to ask a question, or even compose a professional email to a professor can go a long way for your education.

Being proactive doesn’t end at the classroom. It may seem daunting but you’re studying for an exam. Not just your semester exams, THE exam. It’s easy to forget that’s why you are in school but being proactive and meeting with the bar prep advisor early on relives a lot of stress. They can give you timelines, answer questions about character fitness, help you figure out where you want to practice, etc.

Everyone in law school is willing to help you but you have to ask for it. Professors, faculty, staff, even other students are not mind readers and don’t know what you need. If you are proactive and say you need help, you’re going to be better off in the long run.

Studying

Hypos

Hypos are some of the worst, most helpful things in law school. Essentially, all your exams are just long intricate hypos so learning how to answer them works perfectly. I’m always really bad at remembering certain things and how they apply. In an attempt to learn torts, I figured out an awesome system for remembering different torts. Here are two of my favorite torts hypos.

1. Mike was angry at Cecelia for cheating on him with Sully. One day, Mike saw Cecelia walking down the street and decided to get revenge. He walked up to Cecelia and smacked her. Did Mike commit battery on Cecelia.

2. Prince Charming wanted Cinderella to marry him. He brought her home to meet the King and Queen and Cinderella did not like them. She told Prince Charming she was leaving. The moat alligator was in defense mode and Cinderella was stuck at the castle for the night. She fell asleep and Prince Charming locked her in the room so she couldn’t leave. Prince Charming realized he would rather marry Drisella and unlocked the door before Cinderella woke up. Did Prince Charming falsely imprison Cinderella?

Hypos using fun characters make it easier to remember. If it was A was angry at B, it wouldn’t be nearly as memorable. It may be a trick that only works for me but you never know.

Classes

For the love of UCC

Last year, I HATED contracts. If I had a stronger word than hate, I would use it. It was the bane of my existence and having the class at 8:30 clearly didn’t help. This year, I thought it would be a great idea to take a Uniform Commercial Code class so I didn’t have to teach myself for the bar exam.

I thought I would hate it. Friends I talked to about the class decisively responded with “I’m sorry”. In reality though, I love it! I’m taking Secured Transactions which covers Article 9. It’s not terrible and I have an awesome professor for it. I guess sometimes you really just don’t know what’s going to peak your interest.