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Dealing with Social Anxiety in Law School

Happy Monday!

Today was my first day of 3L year. It is so hard to believe that this is my last year. This semester, I only have one class on Monday's so it was a pretty low-stress first day. This does lead me into my topic for today's blog though. The class I have on Monday's is Business Associations and it is one of the few classes I have had in law school where none of my close friends are taking it with me. This lead to me having a small anxiety attack when I got to class this morning and had to decide where to sit... alone. I know that seems a bit silly but regardless, there was a flash of panic when I walked into the classroom. Thankfully, it passed after a few deep breaths and I found a good seat toward the front near an acquaintance who has always been a sweetheart.

I think social anxiety is often overlooked. I know it took me a long time to realize that I was struggling with it. I would get so nervous about events that I couldn't sleep the night before as I laid awake overthinking every possible situation. I would stand in a room and imagine that everyone was thinking the worst about me or my smile was looking weird. After a social interaction, I overthink the interaction endlessly. As a person who has always struggled with social anxiety, law school has presented some interesting challenges. It is a high-stress environment to begin with so any anxiety on top of that is magnified. Walking into big lecture halls stresses me out because I am always afraid of doing something embarrassing like tripping and I am naturally very shy so networking events are my personal version of hell. In my time as a law student (and just growing older and wiser), I have figured out some tricks for dealing with my social anxiety, particularly in the stress of law school. These are not from a licensed medical professional, they are not exciting ideas and they may not work for everyone but these are the simple tricks that have helped me to deal with my social anxiety.

1. Practice Deep Breathing
I feel like everyone says this but it seriously does work. Like I said earlier in the post, a few deep breaths is one of the best ways to calm myself down when I am starting to get anxious. It is simple but for me, it really does help.

2. Think Happy Thoughts
I can fall into a pretty negative thought stream when I get anxious. One of the other simple tricks I use to combat my social anxiety is to simply think happy thoughts. I try to find something positive to focus on and avoid any anxious or negative thoughts by focusing on the positive. It doesn't have to be big; just a small positive thought to keep the anxiety at bay.

3. Start Small
Something I have used all along (even before law school) in my battle with social anxiety is to make small progress and call that a win. I will conquer one small thing I am anxious about and just keep doing that until I have accomplished the things that were causing my anxiety.

4. Fake it until you Make it
This is one of my favorite pieces of advice. If you fake it until you make it, no one will ever know how anxious you were. So sometimes, you just have to listen to some pump up music, give your self a pep talk, slap a smile on and fake it til you make it. For me, most of my anxiety is completely invisible to the average person so long as I fake it. This method has gotten me through a lot of networking events and the whole first week of law school.

5. Practice makes Perfect
I will say that just like anything, practice and repetition make it easier. The more networking events I attend, the easier they get. The longer I am a law student, the less cold calls stress me out. Fake it til you make it and eventually it will get easier. I don't think social certain situations will ever be easy for me, but they do get easier with practice.

How to Create a Manageable Reading Schedule for Law School

Happy Hump Day!

For those in the middle of their first week of law school or law school orientation- stay strong! You are halfway there!

To continue my Law School series for 1L's, I am talking today about my top tips for creating a manageable reading schedule for law school- particularly for 1L year (but I have used these tips beyond 1L year).

Introducing my Law School Vlog and How I Use a Binder System for Law School

Happy Tuesday!

This is the second installment of the 1L law student series- today I am talking about the binder system I use for law school to stay organized- I keep all my notes, handouts, etc in a binder labeled for each individual class. But instead of typing out a blog post explaining how I use my binders for law school, I recorded my first ever VLOG! I am introducing my new youtube channel for vlogging today with a brand new video.

I had a ton of reader requests for some law school vlogs as an extension of this blog so I have spent some time over the last few weeks working out the kinks and figuring it out. It was actually pretty fun to record and just talk instead of typing everything out... though it was awkward just talking to my phone at first. Hopefully, my first vlog isn't completely horrible.

Please let me know your thoughts on this and if you want to see more of it in the future!

How to Brief a Case for Law School

Good Morning! Happy Monday!

I know many schools are starting law school orientation today or first law school classes. For those who are in either of those categories, I wish you the BEST of luck! (If you want to know more about my Orientation Experience, here are my posts about it and if you want to know what my first day of law school was like, check out this post or for a recap of my first week, check out this post)

After an Instagram q&a session, I realized there are a lot of little questions and concerns nagging at new law students. I decided to start a little series to try to answer those questions and concerns. I have already blogged about some things but over the next few days, I will be blogging daily to fill in the blanks. When complete, I will compile it all into one easy to access post to help future law students seeking answers.

Up first, how to brief a case for law school. I have not previously blogged about this because I never felt fully competent to offer advice on case briefing... I am not really sure why but it's the truth. Now that I am a 3L and I have cased briefed hundreds of cases, I feel I can express the basics without screwing anyone up. This is going to be very bare bones and simple case briefing instructions- I encourage everyone to develop their own style for briefing cases over time and with practice.

What is a Case Brief?
A case brief is as you may assume, a brief statement of the important pieces of a legal case. The law is built through precedent so the cases that came before truly contain the black letter law. Most law school classes (1L core classes in particular) involve reading vast amounts of cases. One of the best and most widespread ways for you to comprehend these often antiquated and convoluted cases is through case briefing.

A case brief pulls out the important elements of the case: the issue at stake, the rule of law established or involved, the facts of the particular case, related precedent law, the rationale of the judges for the rule and the conclusion of the case.

Case briefing before class is one of the best ways to be prepared for being cold called. Professors will often ask you to state the facts of the case or the issue at stake- if you briefed, you can simply read off of that without stressing about what the answer is. At the beginning of law school, you will often get those core elements incorrect and that is OKAY. The point of the process is to learn to read cases and be able to pick out those elements and it usually does not happen overnight. Just like anything, case briefing gets easier with time and you will improve with steady practice.

How I Case Brief
I have included an example of what my case briefs look like. (I used a fake case... you may recognize the name if you are a fan of Legally Blonde). I always write out a case brief. Some people do "book briefing" which is where they highlight the elements of a case brief within the book in different colors. This works for a lot of people but it did not work for me so I stick with written case briefs for each case in my reading.
I do like to color code my brief sections so that when I get called on in class, I just look for the corresponding color of the information I am seeking. Usually, I type up my case briefs in word so they are all pretty and easy to read and leave big margins and lots of space between elements. I print them out and fill in those big margins with class notes on the case that the professor points out and I add that into my binder with the corresponding notes from that piece of law. As for the elements of the case brief, let's break that down further. 

1. Issue
The issue of a case is whatever the case is seeking to resolve through the legal process. Most cases you read in law school are from their appellate decisions so it is issues of law not issues of fact up for argument. When reading a case, look for words like issue or whether which will often point you to the contested issue. 

A good example of an issue statement for a case brief is: 
Is the government required to notify arrested defendants of their Fifth Amendment constitutional rights against self-incrimination before interrogation? (from Miranda v. Arizona)

2. Rule of Law 
The rule of law is the legal manifestation of the decision reached by the court. Every court decision must be based on law. In the United States, we have a common law system so our law comes from precedent (previous cases and decisions). The rule of law will either comply with the precedent law or overrule it to create new law. 

The rule of law will be a firm statement of the legal basis for the conclusion the court has reached. I think this is one of the easier parts of a case brief to determine. 

An example of a rule of law for a case brief: 
Government authorities must inform individuals of their Fifth Amendment constitutional rights prior to interrogation after arrest (also from Miranda v. Arizona)

3. Precedent 
Precedent within a case brief is simply the previous cases in this chain of case law. As I said, cases in law school casebooks are usually appellate which means they have been previously tried. Precedent is an explanation of what has already happened in this case that led to it being in front of the appellate court. This is the simplest part of a case brief in my opinion. I can usually get this done in a sentence or two. 

4. Facts 
Though the most important part of cases is the rule of law and underlying rationale, it is so important to have a solid grasp of the case facts as well. Understanding what happened to give rise to the legal proceedings will help you to understand what factual basis gives rise to certain legal issues and rules of law. The facts section of a case brief should contain only the relevant facts to the issue, rationale, and rule- it should not read like a mystery novel. This should be very brief and kinda dry- leave out the juicy details in favor of a quick and dirty version of what happened. I try to keep the fact section of my case briefs to one paragraph. 

5. Rationale or Holding
This is the hardest part of a case brief in my opinion. Why did the court reach the conclusion that they did based on these facts and law? This is the very important why part of a case. This will often involve precedent law on the same issue, the policy purposes behind the relevant law and so much more. This is the part of a case brief that gets easier with lots of practice. It took me quite a lot of reading during my first semester to be able to pinpoint the rationale in a case. 

The rationale is also usually the longest part of my case briefs- this is because it is the meat of the case. This is the part of the case that actually makes you understand the why of the decision. Often, there are more than one rationales for the decision and it is important to flesh out all parts that led to the decision and conclusion. My rationale section in my case briefs will usually be a solid paragraph or two. 

6. Conclusion 
The conclusion of a case brief is simply what the court rules. Did they affirm or overrule? Who did they rule in favor for? This is simple and should be no more than a sentence or two.

Example: The court affirmed the decision of the trial court.

Bonus: Dissent or Concurrence
Sometimes cases will have dissents and concurrences. It is important to jot down some notes on which justice did so and why because it will often be a question from the professor during class.

There it is- a very quick and bare-bones outline of how I brief cases while I am reading cases for class. Everyone has their own style and everyone does things a little different. Use trial and error to figure out exactly what works for you.

5 Things I Should Have Believed Before Starting Law School

Happy Sunday! 

I am pretty sure that many law school orientations are happening all over the country this week or it is the first week of law school for many as well. For me, this is my last week of freedom before my 3L year starts. I am doing some self-care, binge-watching a lot of Netflix and helping with my school's new 1L law student orientation as a student ambassador. I cannot believe I am starting my last year of law school and this journey is coming to an end. 

I have been thinking back to my 1L year a lot as my law school career is nearing its end and I have realized I was wrong about a lot of things before starting law school. Today I am highlighting 5 things people told me that I should have believed before starting law school and (stubborn me) I didn't believe until later.