#The2Llife: Transferring Schools Truths

GUEST BLOG By Harrison Thorne,
2L at UCLA School of Law

TRANSFER UPDATE

Now that school has been in session for a bit over a month, I felt now would be a good time to talk about my experiences so far as a transfer student. I will do so by talking about my fears going in, and whether or not they came to fruition.

1) I wasn’t smart enough

UCLA is a great school. It is ranked much higher than my previous school. Therefore, I figured I would not be able to cut it amongst such brilliant faculty and students.

This has proven to be completely false. While classes are still very challenging, I was, and am, ready to meet these difficulties. I work very hard, but not disproportionately so to when I was at my previous school.

2) People won’t like me

We’d all like to think we are “past” seeking acceptance. However, we aren’t.

I was concerned that I would not fit in at UCLA because I was not “one of them.” However, this, too, has proven to be completely false. People at UCLA have been warm, accepting, and collegial. When I tell someone I am a transfer student, they often ask me if I need help figuring out things (like the complex online student page), or whether I am liking classes. The student body at UCLA has been extremely warm. Moreover, there are approximately forty transfer students, so I am amongst friends, so to speak.

3) Classes will focus too much on ivory tower issues instead of the law

People often say that at higher ranked schools, the classes focus on policy and academic issues over the substance of legal theory. I have found this to be partially true, but mostly false.

First off, it is true that UCLA offers many more policy-based courses than my old school. There are Law & Economic courses, business policy courses, academia-based courses, and similar others. However, the “nitty-gritty” courses, such as evidence, are very much rooted in the practice of law. In fact, many of my professors are and were former trial attorneys, and many of them have a great deal of real-world experience.

Overall, I would say that UCLA, and transferring in general, has been a great experience. I took a giant leap of faith by leaving my comfort zone, but it has definitely paid off. I am working harder than ever, but I love what I am learning, I respect my professors, and I enjoy my classmates. What more could I ask for?

#The1Llife: Legal Writing Meltdown

GUEST BLOG By Lauren Rose,
1L at the University of Detroit Mercy

Well, it finally happened.

I have officially been shot down by a professor. No, not literally, but definitely figuratively. My first critique of a memo by my professor was honestly one of the most nerve wracking things I have ever experienced. Coming straight out of undergrad, I thought I had figured out how to master the art of writing a great paper. However, in law school, writing is not the same. Writing in law school is unlike anything that I have ever encountered in my entire life.

When we were given the task to write a memo, I didn’t think it would be that bad. I was wrong – so very wrong. From what I have learned about legal writing in the last month is that it is strategic, precise, and definitive. There is no use of flowery language and exquisite adjectives to make your writing interesting and exciting to the reader. Every word, every sentence is placed in a particular spot to convey your point clearly and concisely. It’s so different from everything that I have learned before and maybe that’s why I don’t like it so far.

This whole situation has made me seriously question why undergrad institutions do not teach legal writing. From what I understand, some universities offer these classes. I guess I’m just confused as to why these institutions do not make “pre-law” writing classes mandatory if you are on the “pre-law” track. Anyways, I’m hoping that as time continues I will learn how to effectively write for the legal profession, but for now I’ll be in the library freaking out about how to do it.

5 Things to Start Doing Now to Prepare For Your 1L Final Exams

By Mike Sims,
BARBRI President

You’ve figured it out already. Most, if not all, of your first-year grades will depend on your performance on your final exams. And, most if not all, of your finals will consist of essay questions….but law school essay questions are different than what you’ve previously experienced.

It’s not about how much law you’ve memorized. Instead, your job is to solve the problem presented in your essay question. You are being tested on your ability to apply the facts to the rules of law you have learned and explain how you arrived at a reasonable solution and solve the problem.

So what should you start doing NOW to learn the material and position yourself well for final exams?

  1. Read the assignments
    • Always try to get the reading done even if it feels like you don’t understand everything (or anything!).
  2. Always go to class – even on the rare occasions that you are unprepared
    • The most important thing is that you learn what the professor thinks the case said – not what you think the case said.
  3. Write down every fact pattern that your professor gives you in class as you go
    • These are all previews for what will likely be on the final exam.
  4. Consistently review
    • Try a daily review – quickly take 5-10 minutes at the end of each day to jot notes about what the professor said was important in class that day while it’s still fresh.
    • A periodic review at the end of every major topic in each course is a must.
      • The end of every roman numeral in the syllabus is an excellent way to gauge the end of a topic.
      • Review your notes and distill all of the information down to a couple of pages. This overall process is often called outlining, but outlining for the sake of outlining is not the goal. Neither is just re-writing all of your notes. The goal is to learn the material.
  5. Do some practice questions
    • Don’t worry too much about the specific number of practice questions you do, but make sure you do some.
      • Most professors have old exam questions on file. With at least one, sit down and write out a full answer – give yourself the same amount of time you’ll have on exam day for that question, get together with friends, read each others’ answers.
      • BARBRI’s 1L Mastery package also includes practice essay and multiple-choice questions to give you additional confidence. If you haven’t already enrolled in 1L Mastery, do so here.
      • If you have questions as you review, take advantage of your professor’s office hours.

Be consistent with these practices and they’ll pay off big time as you approach final exam time.

#The1Llife: Explaining Law School

GUEST BLOG By Lauren Rose,
1L at the University of Detroit Mercy

Think about the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to explain to someone.

Now think about trying to explain law school to your friends and family. Over the past month, countless family members and friends have asked me questions along the line of: “What’s law school like?” “Is there a lot of homework?” “What do you mean by a lot?” “What’s your favorite part?” If you’re like me, you probably find these questions difficult to answer.

Law school is unlike anything that I have ever experienced before. Even though the students that I went to undergrad with were smart, the students at law school are even smarter. These students are the best of the best and it becomes apparent in every class.

Each and every day, my grandmother asks me if I have homework and how much homework I have. In her own weird way, I know that she is asking me because she cares about my school. However, like every other law student I’ve talked to, it’s difficult to explain the homework load to non-law students because the reading (and amount of it) is unlike anything else. Trying to explain the process of re-reading cases and briefing them is impossible, so in this past month I’ve learned that it is easier to describe my homework in estimated time increments.

legally-blondeWith time I know that I will find better ways to explain the law school process to my friends and family. For now, I’m perfectly okay with just describing it as the need to always be prepared. *Que my interpretation of the scene from “Legally Blonde” where Elle is cold called and didn’t know about the reading*

 

 

#The2Llife: Missing the Forest for the Trees

GUEST BLOG By Harrison Thorne
2L at UCLA School of Law

Law school is very hard. There is more reading than you think possible, and nobody gives you concrete feedback.

During my first year, it was fairly common for me to oscillate between feeling that I had everything under control and freaking out. Ask my family. I would correctly recite case facts during a cold call and feel on top of the world. But then someone would make a comment that I hadn’t thought of, and life was over.

This pendulum drove me to work harder. I always wanted to be on top of the readings, and I never wanted to feel left out of class discussion.

However, it is very easy to miss the forest for the trees in law school. It is great to know every case’s holdings. But the facts and the specific parties to a case are almost completely irrelevant.

The point is to fit all the pieces together, and to synthesize rules that come from cases. The teachers do not care whether you can recite facts on an exam. Rather, they expect their students to analyze the facts given on the test—perhaps by comparing/contrasting the given facts to cases you’ve read.

I think this really sunk in after my first set of finals during 1L. Consequently, my studying techniques changed drastically. I no longer obsessively tried to figure out the procedural posture of cases, or who was the appellant vs. appellee. Rather, I tried to make all the cases fit together in such a way that I could create a framework to analyze new facts on a test.

I suppose this post is inspired by the fact that I just began my evidence and bankruptcy outlines this past weekend. Outlining is a big task. You have to take a ton of information and cases, and actively synthesize rules to figure out how various cases fit into a bigger picture. And that’s not easy—especially for bankruptcy!

Fotolia_62353810_Subscription_Monthly_MHowever, as always, work smarter, not harder. I recently obtained outlines from past years for each of my courses, and have used those to get a broad sense of my courses, and to help guide my own outline. I also use Barbri study guides, as they give a no-nonsense breakdown of black-letter law. Barbri outlines saved my life during criminal law . . .

So, if you are reading this as a 1L, the takeaway is that when reading a case, always think about the facts so that you’re prepared in case of a cold-call. But, more importantly, think about the bigger picture, and how you would apply this case to new facts on an exam.

#The2Llife: Smarter vs. Harder

GUEST BLOG By Harrison Thorne
2L at UCLA School of Law

Smarter vs. Harder, Efficiency, and Having a Life.

During my first year—especially my first semester—I thought working around the clock was a prerequisite to doing well in law school.

Of course there are cycles. Sometimes you’re working to make a deadline, or sometimes you have to play catch-up. This happens, and cannot be avoided.

However, I realized that working longer hours is not always the best use of time. I think this really clicked after my first set of finals during 1L. I had briefed every case (which I still do, and still recommend). But I had also made a flashcard for each case, made two different outlines, and had a list of rules and rule statements printed on a separate document. After realizing exactly what I needed to know, it hit me that I was WASTING MY PRECIOUS TIME.

I will admit that I am a slow reader, and that I find it difficult to “get it” after reading something once. However, here are some tips that have really helped me.

  1. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses. If you know that you have to read something a few times, or that you read slowly, plan accordingly. Be realistic with your process and the amount of time things will take.
  2. Make a plan. I have all my assignments and reading in bullet points on my computer. I start each day with a goal – i.e., finish Assignment 1-3 for bankruptcy, Assignment 2 for evidence, etc. Stick to the plan.
  3. Use the resources available to you. I often used BARBRI lectures to explain big-picture ideas. I used my BARBRI first-year outline book to create outline structures. Use these tools. They help.
  4. Take breaks. I like to set a timer for 45 minutes. I work for those 45 minutes, and then take a break. Avoiding distraction and working without breaks is amazing. You can get a LOT done in 45 unbroken minutes.
  5. Take it easy.

I think #5 is the most difficult. Knowing when to “turn it off” can be very, very tough. But like everything, practice makes perfect. If you want to thrive, you have to keep some semblance of normalcy (in my opinion). I suggest finding 2-3 things you enjoy doing. Once you have those things, DO THEM.

For me, I go to the gym/run, I hang out with friends, and I watch television/read. I do these things regularly, and they keep me balanced.

I also like to keep things light and enjoy other students. A good friend of mine recently started a website, Res Ipsa Whatever, that pokes fun at law school and the seemingly ridiculous things teachers and students tend to do regularly. Never lose sight of your goals, and never lose your humor during the process! http://resipsawhatever.com

#The2Llife: Week One in the Books

GUEST BLOG By Harrison Thorne,
2L at UCLA School of Law

Week one in the books. Literally.

I spent the whole summer eagerly awaiting my return to law school.  I like law school – you meet interesting people, talk about interesting things and learn a lot. But then I remembered that the grass is always greener when I cracked open the Bankruptcy Code!

Yes, I actually do like being in school again. I spent the summer externing for two Superior Court judges and learned a lot about writing. But now I’m ready to get back to learning.

That said, this week has been a bit different. As a transfer, I was given the opportunity to write on to UCLA’s law review. I say “opportunity” because that is what it is. Most people would kill for a spot on a UCLA journal. So instead of whining about doing the transfer write-on amidst tough substantive classes, I got the materials and put my nose to the grindstone.

Well, okay, I did whine a little. Well … a lot. But I am doing the work! In fact, I am in the middle of writing my comment as I write this post.

I think this write-on is indicative of law school generally and, likely, the rest of my life and career: When faced with a seemingly impossible task – like writing a ten-page comment, doing a huge Blue Book exercise and writing a personal statement in four days – there are three choices.

  • Choice 1: Shrivel up and refuse to do the work
  • Choice 2: Complain, waste time and do the work
  • Choice 3: Do the work

I began the write-on process in the Choice 2 category. I complained about how it’s not fair, etc. Then I quickly realized that I’m complaining about the opportunity to write on to one of the most prestigious legal journals in the country. That quickly motivated me and brought me into the realm of Choice 3.

With that, I need to finish this up. So, until next week, thanks for reading.

Follow me @The2Llife!
-Harrison