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A Recap of 2L Year

Well.... I have been away from the blog for a bit. This Spring semester just kicked my butt. Thankfully I am done now and officially a 3L! I cannot believe that... time is flying.

First semester of 2L year was hard- I took 18 credit hours, competed in our interscholastic appellate advocacy competition, started a job in admissions... but I got through it and pulled decent grades.

This semester was especially exhausting.... My moot court competition was super time consuming, I had two of the hardest classes of law school, I was working, participated in a mentoring circle, took on leadership roles in three organizations... there was a lot going on and the motivation to blog just wasn't there.

But now it's over and the wait for grades begins. I have two grades back already and I am very pleased- I got an A in one of my hardest classes of the semester. Next Monday I start my summer internship clerking for a local judge. I am so excited for the opportunity to learn and observe- it is bound to be a great summer.

At the end of May, my husband and I are going on a Carribean cruise and I cannot wait for sun, sand, and relaxation! Other than that, I am enjoying my homework-free days full of puppy snuggles, reading novels for fun and getting some projects done around the house. Just one more year of law school and that thought blows my mind. It had flown by so far.

I wish everyone finishing up finals the best of luck, congratulations to those who are already done and I hope everyone enjoys your summer!

Nailing a Law School Internship Interview

Hello friends... it's been a while. This semester has been kicking my butt.... I am on my last day of Spring Break and just now feeling a touch caught up on life and school. Blogging has been on the backburner lately but I am back at it for today!

Today I am talking interviews- law school interview season is in full swing. Internships are so important but they can be so hard to secure- especially after your 1L year. Below are my tips for nailing your law school internship interview. Interviews and securing an internship is so important for your career so it is best to nail it!

1. Dress for Success
First impressions are EVERYTHING. Dress in a way that presents the image you hope to project: polished, professional and confident. A few things I do whenever I am dressing for an interview or first day of a job:
  • Iron everything- nothing makes you look frumpy faster than wrinkles
  • Light perfume- you do not want to leave them in a cloud smelling like flowers
  • Lay everything out the day before and do a trial try on- I hate to leave ANYTHING to chance the day of my interview
  • Make sure your bag doesn't clash with your outfit 
  • After you are dressed, ask yourself this question when you look in the mirror: would my gradisagreer disgree with anything I am wearing? If the answer is yes, change. If the answer is no, proceed to the interview.
What to actually wear? Here is a handy chart to help both the ladies and gentlemen!

2. Do Some Homework 
Make sure you know something about the firm/company/office you are interviewing with. Look up the people you will be interviewing with and make sure that you have some background. It is important to understand what you are walking into and some of what to expect. This can also help you to prepare some questions for the interviewers because they very well may ask you if you have any questions for them and it looks good to have a few.

3. Firm Handshake
Seriously, if I shake one more hand that feels like a dead fish I am going to scream. Practice a FIRM handshake. I do not mean crush the bones in the hand you are shaking but you need to have a little grip and show through this handshake that you mean business. It projects confidence and strength which is especially important as a woman in a field often dominated by men. Once again for the people in the back- FIRM handshake!

4. Be Yourself 
One of the worst things you can do in an interview is fake it. It is not worth it; you will slip up and make a fool of yourself. Or the fact that you are faking something will come across as unconfident and weak. Be yourself and project your professional self to the people interviewing you. They either like you for you and hire you or they don't. If you misrepresent yourself and get the job, eventually the misrepresentation will come out and you will look bad. Be honest, be real and be you.

5. Be Nice to Everyone 
A story my career services office always tells is of a law firm who would send a limo to pick up students for interviews. After the interview, the hiring attorneys would ask the chauffeur for their opinion of the student and how they treated the chauffeur. This is an important reminder that you must be nice and courteous to everyone you encounter be it the secretary, security guard or a partner in the firm. You want to leave a good impression on EVERYONE you encounter. In my first internship during my 1L summer, the secretary was married to the chief of the office. Had I left a poor impression on her, it very well could have been the difference between getting the internship or not.

6. Thank You Notes are Still a Thing 
After your interview, a great thing to remember is to send a short thank you note or email. This shows that you care and are thankful regardless of if you get the position or not. It may help to set you apart from the pack as well. Either way, it only takes a moment and can have a huge impact on the recipient. You can get a pack of Thank You notes super cheap at walmart or target and just keep them on hand.

Best of luck on the interviews!

How to Improve Your Law School Reading Skills

I feel like it is no secret that law school requires a ton of reading. It is a huge part of being a lawyer so naturally, it should be a big part of the process of becoming a lawyer. I have always been an avid reader. I was not uncommon for my middle school self to check 20-30 books at a time out from our local library because I would buzz through them so fast. My parents had to take the nightstand light out of my room because I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning reading. When people warned me that law school was largely about reading and lots of it, I thought, "bring it on".

Even though I knew I would be doing a lot of reading going into law school, the sheer amount was still a surprise and took some serious getting used to. 30 pages per class per night doesn't seem that bad at face value... but it is so much more than just 30 pages. Not only is the reading super long, it is super dense, it is often full of words you need to look up, footnotes that need to be referenced and sometimes cases that should be skimmed because they are mentioned within the reading. You also need to take notes as you go and sometimes read a section more than once to grasp the full meaning. Reading for law school is a skill that improves over time with practice. In my time in law school, I am certain that my reading skills have improved substantially. Below I have outlined a few of the tips and tricks that have helped me to improve my reading for law school to make it go faster with better retention of the material.

1. Practice Active Reading 
This is my number 1 tip: practice active reading when in law school. I cannot stress this enough. Staying engaged in reading is very easy when it is Harry Potter or your favorite trashy romance novel. Staying engaged in reading when it is a case about hunting foxes from the 1700's is a different story. I had a teacher in middle school preach about how important learning the skill of active reading was... I was already a nerd and a straight A student so I largely tuned her out because as a typical 13-year-old, I thought I knew everything. When I started law school and came to a very sudden realization that my reading skills may not be up to snuff, something in my brain reminded me of that 8th-grade teacher and active reading. I did a little research and my life has never been the same. Active reading simply means reading something with the determination to understand and evaluate it for its relevance to your specific needs. Passively reading and re-reading the material isn't an effective way to understand and learn anything (especially in law school). Actively and critically engaging with the content the first time you read it can save you so much time in the long run. When my middle school teacher taught us active reading, she said the best thing to do was to push your self to read it as fast as you possibly can while still reading and comprehending each word. Making yourself speed up and focus on the material keeps your mind from wandering. My teacher always said that if you finished a paragraph and had made a grocery list in your mind, you were not practicing active reading. Some of the best strategies for actively reading are:

  • Ask yourself pre-reading questions. For example: What is the topic, and what do you already know about it? Why has the instructor assigned this reading at this point in the semester?
  • Identify and define any unfamiliar terms in your notes
  • Bracket the main idea or thesis of the reading, and put an asterisk next to it. Pay particular attention to the introduction or opening paragraphs to locate this information.
  • Put down your highlighter. Make marginal notes or comments instead. Every time you feel the urge to highlight something, write instead. You can summarize the text, ask questions, give assent, protest vehemently. You can also write down keywords to help you recall where important points are discussed. Above all, strive to enter into a dialogue with the material instead of just passively highlighting.
  • Write questions in the margins, and then answer the questions in your notes. Try changing all the titles, subtitles, sections and paragraph headings into questions. For example, the section heading “The Law of Gifting Personal Property” might become “What are the laws for gifting personal property?”
  • Make outlines, flowcharts, or diagrams that help you to map and to understand ideas visually within your reading notes.
  • Read each case carefully and then determine “what it says” and “what it does.” Answer “what it says” in only one sentence; this is basically your rule statement from an IRAC style case brief. Represent the main idea of the case in your own words. To answer “what it does,” describe the cases purpose within the section- why is this case important? Why is it in this part of the book?
  • Write a summary of a section or chapter in your own words. Do this in less than a page. Capture the essential ideas and perhaps one or two key cases that are used. This approach offers a great way to be sure that you know what the reading really says or is about and can offer a quick and dirty summary of the reading.
  • Write your own exam question based on the reading.
  • Teach what you have learned to someone else! Research clearly shows that teaching is one of the most effective ways to learn. If you try to explain aloud what you have been studying, (1) you’ll transfer the information from short-term to long-term memory, and (2) you’ll quickly discover what you understand — and what you don’t. Meet up with your friends before class and teach them what the case was about or what alegal term from the reading means. 
Loosely adapted for law school from https://mcgraw.princeton.edu/active-reading-strategies

2. Take Notes 
As I mentioned several times in the first part, I take notes while I read. It helps to keep me fully engaged in the material as I practice active reading. It also provides a crutch to use when answering a cold call in class. My reading notes are generally pretty messy because I know I will be making adjustments during class. I make sure to include in my reading notes the main points of the section, any law mentioned, majority/minority rules, rationales of public policy, definitions for any words or phrases I do not know and of course case breifs for every case. I generally write my reading notes in black on about half of the page and only on the front side. Then my class notes are added in a contrasting color and I have plenty of space thanks to the back side of each note page and the space on the front- this helps me when I go back to outline and review because I know what information was from the book and what was from the professor in class due to the colors. Sometimes I will type up my reading notes and leave space for class notes in a contrasting color... it just depends on what I am feeling like doing when I am reading. Taking notes while I read is more beneficial for me than highlighting because I actually have to pause, think about how I want to write that in my notes and then proceed to write it down- it is a much more active process and helps me to synthesize and understand the reading better than if I was just highlighting passively as I went through and never really pausing to consider the material.
Reading notes

Reading notes + class notes in a different color

More examples of my reading notes with class notes added in a different color: both typed and handwritten 

3. Have a Plan
I always like to plan out my reading into chunks. I pick out a number of pages or a "chunk" I want to get read before taking a break. I write this down on a sticky note and cross off each chunk completepelte it. This way I have a set break time and it helps me to focus and power through the dedicated chunk of reading because I know there is a short break on the other end. If I do not do this, I end up pulling my phone out after every few paragraphs and my reading will take three times as long because I am so distracted.

I also strategically plan out when I will do my reading during the week. Sunday afternoons I read for my Monday and Tuesday Classes. Monday morning I read for my Wednesday and Thursday classes. This way, I do not stress about when I am going to fit my reading in because I already have time allocated for it in my weekly schedule.

4. Atmosphere is Key
Understanding what time during the day you are at your best will help you read better. If you know you are most awake and focused in the morning, plan your reading for the morning. If you are a night owl and don't come alive until 10pm, read from 10pm-1am. If you have neighbors who always blare music in the afternoons, make sure that your reading is not allocated for afternoons because it will likely be very hard to focus.

As for location, you know best what locations makes you the most productive. Some people study best at home; some have to be at school. Some people prefer a quiet coffee shop and others like to be outside. Whatever works best for you to be focused- do your reading there. If you like pure silence while reading, invest in earplugs or noise canceling headphones. If you need some background noise while reading, I highly suggest websites that play white noise like waves/falling rain or instrumental music without lyrics such as Hans Zimmer movie scores Pandora station (my personal favorite) or any classical music. Make yourself as comfortable as possible: have a comfy spot with good light, not too warm or too cold, ample water and snacks, make sure it is clean and tidy, have all your materials within arms reach and get to work.

5. Refresh Before Class 
Whatever reading you do, give yourself at least five minutes to refresh it before class. This way, you know where everything is in your notes, you are comfortable with the material and you will be ready for any cold calls. Flip through the reading in the books, read through your notes and have your materials ready to go when class starts.

Best of luck with your massive amounts of law school reading. I hope this is helpful!

How I Forced Myself to be a Morning Person

Good morning friends! Mornings are the topic this morning. (Let's see how many times can I use the word morning in this paragraph...). I have always been a night owl. When in doubt, I stay up late and get up late.... it's just the way I am wired I guess. However, this semester, my schedule has forced me to adjust my habits. I have night class 4 days a week and morning classes 3 of the days. My night owl tendencies would leave me with zero sleep if I continued to follow them. Therefore, I made a 2018 resolution to become a better morning person. So far, it's going pretty well.

As much as I hate waking up in the morning, I love how productive it makes me feel. I get so much more accomplished. This is a good habit to set now because it will serve me much better in the professional world... there are also studies about how the most successful people are morning people. Let's hope they are right... Without further ado, here are my tips on forcing yourself to become more of a morning person.

1. Go to Bed Earlier 
Yes, this is a no-brainer. However, it is also the first step to being a better morning person. I have always been a night owl. That is when I am naturally most productive. However, the older I get, the more I have realized that being a morning person is a great habit. With my schedule this semester, it pretty much forced my hand. I had to be productive in the mornings because my evenings are filled with night classes and if I saved all my homework for after my night class, I would never get to see my husband during the week. I have slowly worked my bedtime to be earlier and earlier. I start winding down around 9:45 and I make lunches for the next day, lay out my clothes, take the dogs out, do my nightly makeup routine and settle into bed. I have found that my humidifier with a few drops of a soothing essential oil really helps me to wind down. I usually read a few chapters of a novel on my kindle ( I avoid my phone because the blue light will keep you awake) before my eyes grow heavy and I am usually asleep between 10:30 and 11:00. This means that when my 7am wakeup comes, I have gotten a full 8 hours of sleep at least.

2. Have Breakfast Prepped 
I hate cooking breakfast when I first wake up. When in doubt I just skip it which is really unhealthy or eat something really unhealthy like sugary cereal. I have found that having breakfast prepped and ready to go helps me to get up and get a good breakfast even though it's early. My favorite thing to do is to make a huge batch of steel cut oatmeal in the crockpot on Sunday and portion it into daily breakfast sizes. Then in the morning, I just heat up my portioned oatmeal and a hearty, healthy breakfast is ready to go in just a few minutes.

3. Workout First Thing
Ahh workouts. I have a very love/hate relationship with working out. I have been doing better in 2018... the treadmill in my basement has been a gamechanger. I have been making a point to wake up 30 minutes earlier so I can knock out a run before my day really gets started. It helps me to wake up and get moving. I also feel so productive and positive if I start my day off with a work out- I feel so accomplished! Hopefully, I can keep it up and fulfill my goal of running a 5K in 2018! Some mornings I don't feel like running and I will do a short Yoga session instead. Either way, getting a workout in first thing has been a great way to start off my mornings and make my mornings easier.

4. Save Some Reading for the Morning
So this may seem like a weird tip but it has been working for me. I save a little bit of my reading for the morning before my classes. While this seems "last minute" it basically forces me to get up early because I know I HAVE to finish my reading (and I am terrified of going into class unprepared so it is a great reinforcement of getting out of bed and hitting the books). It also serves as a great little review before my class so the information is fresh in my mind.

5. Plan Things for Morning Whenever Possible
In the same vein as saving some of my reading for the morning, I plan meetings or appointments in the morning whenever possible. This forces me out of bed first thing and then I have the rest of my day after that engagement is completed. This keeps me from falling into the temptation of staying in my cozy warm bed because I have nowhere to go. I am not a natural morning person so I tend to have to trick/force myself into being better at it.

I am still working on being a better morning person but these things have certainly helped me improve!!

My Opinions on 1L Core Classes

I am just getting started in my fourth semester of law school. Thus far I have taken 15 classes and I am in the process of taking 5 more. Throughout all my classes, I have had some favorites and some that I did not enjoy. I am going to touch on the highlights of both for the 1L core classes everyone has to take. While everyone is different and enjoys different classes or concepts, my hope in doing this is to just give a little more insight into what law school classes are actually like: the good, bad and ugly.

I took Contracts in two installments 1L year. Overall, I found Contracts to be extraordinarily boring. I felt like it was mathematical... a good contract requires filling in a formula of sorts. You have a formula of law to create a contract and a formula of law to breach one. Though this made the class relatively easy for me and I did very well, it just wasn't my cup of tea. I have never been a math person and I think that is why contracts didn't click with me either. For others in my class, they loved the formality of contacts. I think it is a class you either love or hate.

Oh Property... it's a love/hate relationship. This was another class I took in two installments 1L year. I LOVED some parts of Property law... I loved how historical it is and how the law has changed little in hundreds of years. It is precedent based.  It brought out my inner history nerd. I also loved how it is so applicable to real life- as a homeowner, I could relate to Property law because I had used it. However, some concepts just blew my mind and I could never quite grasp them (and yes I am talking about Estates and Future Interests... and mortgages...). Though I genuinely enjoyed Property law class, I found studying for and taking Property exams to be some of my biggest challenges 1L year.

I took Torts my very first semester and it was my highest grade first semester. I LOVED Torts. I think it is such a fun class. The concepts are conceivable- we have all heard that if you slip in a store, you could recover damages. You can wrap your head around the laws easily. The cases can be so ridiculous they are hilarious- one I always remember is a claim by a woman that her car trunk should have had a release from the inside because when she locked herself in the trunk of her car to commit suicide and it didn't work because the trunk wasn't airtight, she should have been able to get out on her own; instead she was in there for 5 days until someone opened the trunk by happenstance (she lost because it was decided that suicide was not the intended purpose of a car trunk). The utter ridiculousness of this case makes it impossible for me to forget, along with the accompanying Tort law concepts. I love Torts so much that I asked to be a part of the Products Liability Moot Court Team when given the option.

Civil Procedure
Civil Procedure is a great first-year class because it involves cold, hard, black letter law rules. There is no guessing and arguing- there are just rules. Though this made it a great class to learn in and was easier to study for than some others, it also felt a bit stale and stifling at times. I had a great professor who made it as fun as legal rules can be but it still is just very stale. I know that it is a very important class for those who want to go into civil litigation and trial work and if that is your focus, I suggest making Civil Procedure a priority!

Constitutional Law 
Con Law is a very important class. I know not everyone will agree with me but I truly believe it is. The Constitution is the basis of our country and its legal system. As aspiring attorneys, the legal system is going to be our bread and butter. Knowing where the laws came from, why they came to be and how they came to be may not always be fun but it is integral. Con law seeps into all other classes because a constitutional issue will inevitably pop up in every other law class. I always felt there was something extra important about learning the law of our country through the frame of our constitution... it is just so important as an American. I also enjoyed the historical aspect because I am and will always be a self-professed history nerd.

Criminal Law 
Crim law is my absolute favorite. I have always said I wanted to go into criminal law but I really didn't what that entailed until taking this class in the spring of my 1L year. Two weeks in and I knew this was the only law I wanted to practice. I just love the challenge each case presents- you need to find out the truth of the case and fit it into the elemental boxes of a crime and then argue for or against conviction. My professor taught us criminal law by assigning us defense or prosecution and letting us argue our way through class according to the statutory provisions and facts of a case. I just loved every minute in that class. Criminal law is unique because you are applying statute to facts to determine if there is a crime or not. It is a bit different than other classes that have laws based more on the decisions of precedent cases and the common law system. After finishing Criminal Law, I knew this was the field for me... and it was my highest grade in law school to date which certainly made me happy.

Legal Research and Writing 
Legal research and writing is such an important class. It is truly hands-on and simulates what you will do in practice as an attorney. However, it is also technical and at times very frustrating... and it is easy to put on the backburner during the hustle and bustle of 1L year. By the end, I wanted nothing more than to burn my bluebook. I did really well with the appellate brief because it was persuasive writing. But I struggled with objective writing for the memorandum. A lot of the things they made us do in LRW just felt like busy work... I never want to hear the words "Core Grammar" again. But all of that aside, I did learn to be a better legal writer and when I went to my internship after 1L summer, I was armed with a group of skills to complete any research or writing assignments they gave me. So no matter how annoying and boring it was, legal research and writing is so very necessary and a class that should be taken very seriously.

Well, there they are: my very honest opinions and thoughts about 1L classes. I know everyone is different and has very different opinions about which classes they enjoy and which they hate. I just hope this helps to give some insight into what to expect in these classes so you can go into 1L year with some understanding of what to anticipate.

Also, I am happy to have no classes today in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day but I want to take a moment to remember why we have no classes. Today we honor a man who worked tirelessly for justice, equality and rights for all- the three things I think lawyers should strive to protect and uphold. Today, I remember a great man with a dream for freedom and I will work extra hard toward my own dreams so that someday, my license to practice law can help me to provide justice, equality, and protection of the rights of my fellow citizens.