Sunday, December 23, 2007
by now, you all should be done with your finals. to all you 1Ls...congratulations on making it through one of the most foreign, stressful, and unsettling experiences of your life.
finals weeks get easier after this. they never get objectively easy...finals are hard, and will require late nights of studying even as an upperclassman. but, the more law school finals you take, the better idea you'll have on how to take them in the future. as much advice as we can try to give here, it's no substitute for experience. it's no substitute for familiarity with the stressful testing environment. it's no substitute for wading through those fact patterns, shoving the stress to the back of your mind, flipping through that immaculately-tabbed outline [if you're fortunate enough to have a open-book final], and spotting as many issues as you can in the three hours you have.
and now, here's my advice for what to do over the next couple weeks:
relax. have fun. spend time with your friends. party. stay out all night. stay in bed all day. watch football, or watch some bad reality television. read books that have nothing to do with the law.
overdose on all the things you had to eschew during finals and in the weeks leading up to it. you've earned it. ♥
Monday, December 03, 2007
Run Run as Fast as You Can
I posted my musings on coffee shop studying over at Useless Dicta earlier today. I am now back from said coffee shop and am happy to report that I managed to knock out 1/2 of my evidence outline in 4.5 hours of coffee shop studying today. (and I'm the biggest procrastinator in the world so it's kind of a huge deal that I sat down for 4.5 hours straight and got some serious work done).
I don't know why it took me so long to figure out that studying in the law school actually impedes my progress due to all of the stress in the air, but it does. Actually, I kind of figured out that the stress inside the law building was not conducive to my studying during the first week of first semester exams last year, but instead of finding a good study spot off campus to study I made the bigger mistake of trying to study at home. There are WAY too many distractions at home to try and get any kind of substantial work done during exam periods.
Anyways, the point of this rambling is that if you are finding yourself unable to get anything done or even convience yourself to get started on studying for exams then a change of scenery just might do the trick.
I wish I would have known just how crazy law students can be when exam season comes a knocking.........and I wish I would have known about the cheap refill policy on coffee at the coffee house up the street..........
Sunday, November 18, 2007
don't jump the gun...or, the beginning of the 1L job hunt.
i wish i had known to tell them to stuff it, at least until after finals.
they were convinced that the first month they could talk to you, 1L november, was the crucial be-all and end-all of 1L job-hunting time. they were so intent on telling 1Ls everything they ever needed to know about career services during that month.
i shouldn't have put up with it. you shouldn't put up with it.
think about job hunting after finals. get your finals done, and then talk to career services about how to fix your resume, how to interview, and how to target your job search. the job hunting process is long, involved, and stressful--and is nothing you have to worry about until after your finals are done. good grades on your finals will get you further in any legal field than a couple of extra weeks of visits to the career services office ever will.
have that "mandatory" meeting with the career services office...eventually. it may be helpful.1 but, if at all possible, do it after finals. you have enough to worry about before then.
that leads to another thing: do not send the december 1st Santa-Sack of resumes out to law firms. yes, december 1 is the first day you can send applications to law firms. but, the time you spend preparing the mass mailing is time that you can spend either studying for finals, or at least getting some much-needed relaxation in--which will allow you to face finals with a calmer and fresher attitude.
the resume mass-mail on december 1 almost never works. i know a lot of people who did it--and only one ended up with a job. the vast majority of firms either ignore the mad december 1 resume drop, or they send you back letters telling you to apply again after you actually have some grades to show them.
if you have a firm or two that you're truly interested in, it may not hurt to send the resume out on december 1 and see what happens if you have your resume ready. but, don't fret about it too much. don't worry if you don't have your resumes ready on december 1. concentrate on finals--if you want a firm job, you're going to be far less likely to get one if your grades on your finals aren't good. there is no use sacrificing a great resume for a minuscule chance at a summer position. it's better to apply after finals, when your grades are out or just about to come out. then, they'll finally have the information they want for evaluation--and your grades will be better because you spent your time in the finals mindset and not the job hunting mindset.
1 i'm trying not to rule out the idea of some career counselors at some schools being helpful. but, from most of what i've heard, they're not all that helpful. mine never were. they seem very focused on getting students into big-firm jobs, and even then they don't provide any creative tips. it's all along the lines of "have high grades and send out your resume a lot." yes, those are all good things to do, but it's not the be-all and end-all of the job searching process. if there is anyone who contributes here, or reads this blog, who did have a good and helpful experience with the career services office, i'd love to hear it. me? i got my job searching advice from the excellent book, guerrilla tactics for getting the legal job of your dreams by kimm alayne walton. that book is more helpful than any ten career counselors i've ever met. it's clear, it's interesting to read, and it provides more diverse advice than the career services office ever will.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
I am finishing up my first semester of my second year, so while I have had to do a summer job search and I am now starting to try to figure out if I can get an internship and job for next semester and the upcoming summer, I have not yet had to go through the nightmare of finding employment after graduation. Before I came to law school I had this naive impression that you go to law school for 3 years, you pass the bar, and then *Poof* you become an attorney with a $90,000+ paycheck.
Oh how wrong I was. It's great if you are in the top 10% and can get an OCI job that turns into a job offer for after graduation before you even start your last year of law school (not to mention the paycheck that goes with these jobs is pretty hefty). But what if you aren't in the top 10%? I know I have said it before and I will say it again: 90% of your class will NOT be in the top 10%. It seems simple enough, but it is oh so easy to forget.
So if you are going to law school thinking that you will put in your 3 years and come out with a fantastic job, think again. It is totally possible to find a great job, but the jobs are not just going to land in your lap. In addition to surviving 3 years of law school you will also have to be ready to embark upon some serious networking and job hunting while you are in school. Trying to balance everything can be a challenge. Those who work hard tend to find jobs either before or right after graduating and passing the bar, but those who think that because they have a law degree they should be able to just have a job handed to them are usually in for a rude awakening, and it really sucks if your first student loan bill comes while you are still unemployed.
So how do I know all of this if I'm just a 2L? Well, I have friends who are 3Ls and I have never seen them so stressed out before. November 1 really seemed to be the signal to all of the 3Ls without job offers to kick the stress into high gear. I hope that I won't be in their position next year, but I likely will be. I really don't think anyone can emphasize enough the importance of making connections with practicing attorneys and getting practical experience while you are in law school (internships, clinics, law clerking, etc). It is a lot easier to find a job if you know people in the field and you have some legal experience on your resume. Career services tells students this kind of stuff all of the time and yet a lot of people don't seem to listen. There is always a handful of people who make it to their 3rd year having never really worked in a law related job and who know nobody in the profession.
If you are really sure that you want to go to law school don't let the horror stories of unemployed recent graduates scare you away, just be prepared going in to work hard in school and to be diligent about taking the necessary steps to get a job well before graduation day finally arrives.
Friday, November 02, 2007
The ghosts and goblins have gone away for another year, the stores around town are kicking themselves into Christmas Cheer overdrive, and panic is beginning to descend upon law students across the nation.
In case you haven't been paying attention or counting down FINALS are now right around the corner, some maybe even less than a month away. If any of you were like me last year, it is likely that this has caught you off guard and that you too are now starting to panic. Despite the dread you are now feeling, you just have to know that you need to keep going and that eventually all bad things really do come to an end. It may not seem possible right now, but I really can promise that there is a light at the end of the first semester law school tunnel.
I think one of the reasons I panicked the most was because everyone was talking about this mysterious thing called "Outlining" but I had no idea what the heck an "Outline" for a first year law course was supposed to look like by the time I was finished. This paralyzed me somewhat and I ended up with 10 Days until my first exam and I still had NOTHING done, not even 1 outline was started!
While I certainly don't recommend this approach to anyone, I can say that I survived my first semester and I came out ready to face second semester with a different approach to studying that ended up resulting in higher grades in my second semester.
What you should be doing at this point of the semester is either continue staying on top of your studying/outlining/flash cards/ or you should spend this weekend drafting a "study plan" that you are comfortable with so that you can get started on preparing and still leave yourself some free relaxation time to recover a bit over Thanksgiving weekend. I have been procrastinating as usual, but I do have my "study plan" for this semester ready to go, I'm posting my schedule for my Evidence material since that is my first exam of the exam period:
Nov 5- Nov 7: Outline Relevance (Rules 401-404)
Nov 8 and 9: Outline Character Evidence (Rules 406-412)
Nov 12-15: Outline Hearsay and Exceptions (Rules in the 600's)
Nov 19 and 20: Outline Expert Witnesses and Testimony (Rules 701-704)
Nov 27-19: Review outline, make changes, and add material from class lectures on Nov 20 and Nov 27.
You'll notice that I have scheduled nothing on the weekends (this is to preserve my sanity) and that I have taken a break for the entire thanksgiving period.
Good luck to everyone as you start getting ready for finals!!!
Thursday, November 01, 2007
these musings pertain a little less to the 1Ls now than it does to the 2Ls and 3Ls, but it's good for you 1Ls to have this in your mind when spring comes and you get to sign up for your 2L classes. my advice boils down to one simple principle:
don't take bar classes for the sake of taking bar classes.
there's a reason that almost everyone takes a bar prep course: specifically, to become familiar with the topics and questions on the bar in a way that will prepare you to pass the bar. even if a law school class covers a topic that is on your state bar, the professor probably does not teach it in a way that is useful for the test, and the class is not going to focus on the specific law in your jurisdiction, the law that you're going to have to know for your state bar. in fact, a recent study has shown that there's no statistically significant correlation for most students between how many "bar classes" they take and if they pass.1 leave your bar exam worries until after graduation, while you are actually taking your bar course--the only thing you'll ever take that's targeted at passing that test.
there's an even more important reason not to take bar classes for the sake of bar classes--your sanity. remember: if you sign up for a class, you are stuck with it for an entire semester. do you want to be stuck taking corporations for an entire semester if you don't plan on taking corporate law, just for the sake of a test a year and a half in the future, for which you're going to have to learn the topic all over again right before the test? probably not. you'll be much happier taking classes because the subject matter looks interesting, or because they are being taught by professors you enjoy working with.
law school is frustrating enough sometimes, whether you are taking classes you like or classes you don't like. any class you take will demand a significant amount of your time. make all that time you spend doing schoolwork as pleasant as possible: let your interests and passions guide your course selection instead of letting a cut-and-dried list of bar topics guide it.
1 according to the study, there was a weak but statistically significant correlation between taking bar classes and passing the bar for students in the third quartile of their classes. there was not a statistically significant correlation for students in the first, second, or fourth quartiles of their classes.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Getting through your reading through book-briefing or mini-briefing (two-three sentence briefs) and/or some combination of supplementary aids.
Beerpong (so I've been told having never played it myself)
Getting over yourself.
What you should be doing right now:
Getting hold of practice exams and working on them -- find the questions you know stuff about. Bounce possible answers off a trusted friend/study partner/or better still, your prof. Yes, right now.
Outlining. Yes, right now.
Get on it now before you have some ridiculousness due for legal skills at the end of the semester.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
save the drama for your llama.
(this started as a comment to Useless Dicta's last post, but it started to get so long that i decided to make it a new entry to the blog.)
i didn't quite realise what a drama factory law school was until i was a 2L. i was a little dense. to be fair, i came to law school as part of a couple, a pretty long-term one...and the drama is always a lot less when you're paired up than when you're single. i was just oblivious. it really didn't matter a whole lot what was going on. i wasn't really a part of the drama. i had my friends that i met through activities or through class, but there was always the whole significant other thing. i didn't do anything scandalous with my classmates, and i didn't care what kinds of scandalous things my classmates were doing with each other.
(although, i'm not quite sure how much of the second one was the fact that i was taken, and how much of it was the fact that people in college were so nice about staying out of everyone else's business--and the naivete that bred.)
then, pretty early in my 2L year...i was a single gal again. i had a new, clearer eye through which to see all of the drama going on around the law school, and it is like high school. the law school world became a little more interesting to me, since it had inadvertently become my entire universe...i'm not from st. louis, and so all the people i saw on a regular basis were truly tied to the law school. that was fine, i had close friends, and as supportive of a law school world as a girl could hope for.
but...i can't believe i had been so oblivious for so long. everyone knew everyone else's business. 1L, 2L, 3L...it really doesn't matter. be prepared for everyone to know a little more about you than you want to. i don't even know if high school is the right comparison...law school is more like the size of a middle school. (to be fair, i went to a fairly large high school.) law school is small. it's insular. people can be really, really catty under the stress of law school, and it's only exacerbated by the fact that most people spend almost all of their time around law students.
the best advice i have? what i wish i knew coming in? just...brace yourself for the most vicious rumour mill you've seen since you were thirteen. don't take it too personally when rumours start to fly about you or your friends. if anyone asks about them, feel free to clarify, but don't be surprised when your attempts to clarify what [salacious circumstances/rivalries/insert subject of rumour here] actually went on fall on deaf ears. keep living your life, and stay close to your friends because they can keep you sane as well as be a valuable aegis against your cattier classmates.
and, if you want to go to that house party and make out with that cutie in your torts class, don't be surprised if people ask you about it the next week.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Useless Things I Wish I Would Have Known
Ten Useless Things I Wish I Would Have Known before starting law school:
1. Law school can be a lot like high school, you should try your best not to get caught up in useless drama.
2. Non-Law school friends are the best lifesavers in the world, it's nice to be able to get away from the law school crowd even if it is only for an hour a week.
3. Going to some classes can be seriously overrated. If you always leave class having not learned anything new or having not taken any notes it's probably a sign that it's okay to skip once in a while to help lighten the load.
4. You will not learn anything from your legal writing professor or the legal writing class, what you will learn to do is going to happen on your own time outside of class on your own time.
5. 90% of the people in your class will not be in the top 10%, this may seem like simple stupid elementary school math, but the sooner you realize the reality of these odds the sooner you will learn to chill out and just do your best and not obsess over not being "good enough."
6. Law school is not as glamorous as Elle Woods made it seem in Legally Blonde .
7. Law school (and in particular Contracts) is not as bad as the movie The Paper Chase would have you believe.
8. Find a good place to study off campus, this could be at home or it could be somewhere else, but being in the law building when exams approach is the fastest way to stress yourself out. Law students, and 1Ls in particular feed on each others stress, don't be a part of it if you don't have to be.
9. Resist the urge to check your 1st semester grades until after Christmas and New Years. The holidays can be stressful enough, don't add first semester grades to that mix, it's a recipe for disaster.
10. No matter what happens first semester try your best to put it behind you once grades come out and start the second semester with a fresh slate. If you do great first semester you don't want to put a ton of pressure on yourself to do the same second semester because all of that stress can and does lead some people to disaster. And if you did not so great your first semester you don't have to settle for mediocrity, people can and do turn around second semester but dwelling on bad grades is not going to help with any endeavor of trying to improve.
Until next time, happy studying!
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Follow-up on supplements
You're a month into law school and maybe just starting to get the hang of it. So of course, the prof's are ratcheting up the reading assignments and you may start to feel a little overwhelmed. You're looking for an out. You think, f--k it, I'll buy a bunch of supplements.
My thoughts, in no particular order:
"Supplemental material" like commercial outlines and case briefs, aren't as useful toward the end of the semester as you would think. Get what you're going to use early, refer to it often during the semester... even when it feels like you don't have time. Its worth losing an hour of sleep now to know what's going on at finals time. Ideally, you should only have to review at finals... not learn it.
Casebooks can leave you feeling bogged down in minutiae. Supplements are great for big picture before you do your casebook reading... if you do casebook reading. (See discussion of Con Law in prior post).
Don't be the girl who brings commercial case briefs to class, and reads from it aloud in front of the professor when called on. Unless you're in a REALLY big class and can get away with it. There are no true short cuts, but there are ways to be more efficient.
There is no "right" supplemental material -- and what you need varies by class. There is no secret -- Emanuels versus Gilberts? High Court versus Legalines? Doesn't matter, really. I only used case briefs in two classes, for example, and a commercial outline in one.
However, the Examples and Explanations series is terrific in Torts and Contracts, and to a lesser extent effective for Property and Civ Pro. Get these.
Buy supplements used on Amazon if possible.
You don't have to buy the hornbook if its recommended but not required. Its in the lawbrary. You can read it there, when need be.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
studying...one gal's thoughts.
as far as con law goes, i have one word: chemerinsky. it bears repeating...chemerinsky. he has a soft-cover treatise on constitutional law, and it's the con law bible. i read that treatise in lieu of the casebook, at the end of the semester, and con law was my highest grade that semester. i didn't outline, or even look very much at my (almost nonexistent) notes...i just depended on old erwin to pull me through, and that he did.
i'm usually not so cavalier about not doing the reading. my con law class was just plain weird...i had a professor who talked to us as if we were philosophy grad students instead of law students. (he was a philosophy professor by trade, who taught law on the side.) his lectures were...opaque to put it nicely, or unintelligible to put it bluntly. he called on people in seating chart order, so you knew exactly what day you were going to be called on.
for any of my other classes, my regimen goes a little like this:
- stay on top of the reading for class. take notes in the book on things that jump out to help with class participation, and take good notes in class about what was discussed.
- at the end of the semester, right before the final, condense the material from the notes into an outline. outlining is a forced comprehensive review of the class, and involves running through the material from beginning to end, to refresh my memory.
- some classes are harder to outline or condense than others. that is where study aids come in. i don't buy study aids for every class, or even the majority of them, but i find myself quite partial to the "CaseNote" canned briefs, if i'm using a book that has a CaseNote volume keyed to it. CrunchTime is also a good series, because it is very clear, and has good practice problems to run through and discuss.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Normally, I blog at A little fish in law school.
Over the summer, I posted some commentary on the end of 1L and the ambivalence I felt over it and exams.
Thought I'd share. Maybe you can learn from this.
I am trying to be "over it," you know? I can't do anymore than I did... I can't change what happened exam week... I can't change what happened this semester. I can't change that I didn't work as hard as maybe I could have. I know I didn't do what I know I am capable of, and it makes me angry at myself, and alternatively, at "the system."
A little piece of me is Hermione Granger, who got top marks in all but one subject, and was disappointed. She defined herself in part by her ability to succeed academically. I thought I had gotten all of that adolescent bullshit out of my system -- I'm over 30 years old. I've got a child who is thriving and a husband who loves me. I've survived more in the last ten years than the scared, geeky, desperate for approval adolescent I was could ever have contemplated.
And yet when I got my Property and Civ Pro grades, I felt a stab of disappointment, and my first thought, unbidden and shameful, was "my parents are not going to be proud of me." So, post-adolescent angst is part of the reason I am not quite over it. But only part.
So... to avoid post-exam angst:
1. Start writing practice exams sooner rather than later.
2. Use supplements sooner rather than later. The E&Es in most subjects are good.
3. Understand that despite your best efforts, you may not get the grades you think you deserve. Or you may get exactly the grades you deserved, but you may be disappointed anyway.
Alright, 1Ls and Pre-Ls, I'll check in with you soon. Feel free to leave a comment about a burning question or desire and I or one of the blogging cohorts will do our level best to answer it.
Friday, August 31, 2007
my name is nicolle...and i'm a new contributor here. (thank you, Calculating!) i've been blogging (a little) about law and (a lot) about random, non-legal things for a few years over at the last refuge of the persecuted crack smoker, and i'm currently a 3L at Washington University in St. Louis.
there is a lot of advice on here for 1Ls, so i'm going to start with something that is probably near and dear to a lot of 2Ls and possibly 3Ls right now, and will become more and more present for 1Ls as the year wears by: the job search.
but, i'm not going to talk about how to find a job, at least not yet. i'm going to talk about common courtesy during the job search.
during OCI, people often gush about how great their interviews went, how many interviews they have, or how they have taken the offer of their dreams. be excited about it...but don't spend all your time squeaking and gushing and bragging about your interviews to your jobless friends. tell your friends what is going on if you're close to them, and if that is something that they talk about with you as well. it definitely helps to have people you can talk about the job process with respect
but, know the boundaries. don't brag to people you know are jobless, or to people you know didn't get a ton of interviews through the application process. it's frustrating. they don't want to hear it.
right now, it's still august. it's still early, so people aren't likely to be nearly as frustrated yet if they don't have a ton of interviews or a job offer than they will be in a few weeks. large rounds of OCI, large job fairs...they are still going on. still, it's starting, and hearing that Bob The Gunner has forty-five job interviews with big firms is not going to make the average person, someone who doesn't have forty-five interviews, feel very good about the perfectly respectable number they do have, or the fact that they are planning on doing government, public interest, or small-firm work--for which they will not have interviews or offers until winter or spring. most of them probably don't want to hear Bob The Gunner gush to anyone in a ten-foot radius about the fact that he is spending more time in airports than he is at home, or spending more time sipping expensive scotch with equity partners than he spends within the confines of the law school.
by mid-september, or early october, tensions will run even higher among students who are trying for those biglaw jobs. some people will be trying to winnow down their offers to the five that they can keep considering under NALP regulations, while others are still interviewing, interviewing, interviewing...trying to get just one offer. last year, i was one of the lucky ones...i had the offer i really, really wanted very early in the process. i was excited about it...but i definitely talked a lot more about than i should. some of my friends were having easier times with it than others, and it took me way, way, way too long to get the hint that i needed to calm down about it. finally, when i did, relations with people i knew at school were a lot smoother. i wish i had just been a lot more toned-down about it from the start. now that i'm watching interviewing season with a detached eye, i can only imagine how much less stressed out everyone would be if people were a lot more tactful about the process, instead of doing even more to stress each other out.
job hunting season is a stressful time--so if you're lucky enough to have interviews, to have any offers on the table, make sure to be nice about it. be excited, but don't expect everyone else to be as excited about your job offer as you are about your job offer.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Looking for Contributors
We had a strong start.
But now we are all at different points in our lives and busy with other things.
And I know that we had a lot of additional posts planned last year that just never got written (more on relationships, the job search, the MPRE, etc.). I may try to post once or twice this year, but that's not going to sustain a blog that hasn't had a post for over seven months...
So, to those of you who survived your 1L year, or to those of you who have survived multiple years of law school, if you are interested in contributing with what you wish you would have known drop me a line. (There will be no "write-on," interview or resume submission. You don't have to worry about me judging you like law school does -- we are just looking for some good old fashioned advice.)
Thursday, January 18, 2007
1L Second Semester: A New Beginning
You haven't gone postal, stigmata haven't appeared on your body, nor has John Roberts called to offer you a 10th spot on the Supreme Court. As you scan your classes now, you will see the opening of where someone sat before, new gunners have appeared, old gunners have gone quiet. Welcome to the second semester.
If you did well your first semester, congratulations! You should be proud. Very proud. However, it doesn't mean much yet. You can't rest on your laurels during law school. You have to keep at it. At least not until third year.
If you didn't do as well as you had hoped, fear not, this is not the end of the world. This is where I fell after my first semester. I looked at the grades I received and said that this is only a starting point. My goal was simple: improve after each semester. 4 semesters after setting this goal, I have completed it each and every time. As cliche as it sounds, you can't change everything in one semester.
Regardless, I said at the beginning that it is all gravy, and I mean that.
No matter what grades you received, you belong in law school and you've shown that. The first semester is the hardest and you've completed it. The rest of your education is no walk in the park, but you can do it.