Exam Period: Just Keep Studying

Guest Blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

If you’re reading this, you may be studying for your finals.

First off, CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve finished this semester. Whether you’d classify it as a “strong” finish or not, you’ve finished and that’s something to celebrate.

Now, the REALLY fun part begins. If you’re like me, you’re prone to get really stressed out during exam periods. It’s like no matter how many encouraging words and cheers you get from the outside, you always tend to find yourself freaking out about the exams on the inside. Trust me, I get it. Here are 2 pieces of advice:

  1. Study hard and understand that you’ve got this. No, seriously, you’ve got this. Do you know how many people have taken the very classes you’ve taken and passed with flying colors? It’s possible. You can do it, too.
  2. Just do the work. You have the notecards. You have the outlines. You have your notes. You have the textbook. Just keep studying! Just keep studying! *cue Dory from Finding Nemo:)*

Studying can be very tedious, but understand that it won’t last long and before you know it…it will all be a faint memory, especially for the 3Ls.

So, stay strong. Hold on.

Everything will be fine.

Happy Studying!!

Twelve Things the Law Student in Your Life Wished You Understood

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Everyone knows law school is stressful.

But for a law student, it can be difficult to describe how the strains of law school impact your ability to connect with their non-law school friends and family. Often times we suppress our frustrations because we don’t want to insult or be rude to the people we care about. Try as we might, every law student has caught themselves wishing that their non-law school companions understood certain facets of the law student life. To that end, I’ve compiled twelve of the most common things my peers wish their friends knew about their law school life.

  1. Sleep is hard to come by so it’s not unusual for us to prioritize sleep over going out.
  2. It’s not abnormal to have an offer (or a job) after your first or second year.
  3. Exam prep does not last a few mere hours, it requires literal days of hard work.
  4. Just because we don’t have an assignment due doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of work. In fact, readings can be worse than assignments.
  5. On the topic of readings, it can take multiple hours to complete a reading for one class because of the complexity of the subject matter. So we’re not lying when we say our entire Saturday is being spent prepping for class.
  6. Non-class time is not necessarily free time. We have pro bono requirements, board meetings, journal meetings, assignments, etc.
  7. When we visit home we do want to see you, but it may not be feasible since we often have important school work, assignments, and other tasks to complete. Likewise, because law school often requires a sacrifice in the sleep department, sometimes our bodies are telling us to use our break to rest and recharge.
  8. Being a law student doesn’t mean we have the time, or the experience, to solve all of your legal problems.
  9. If we forgot to respond to your text message it’s not intentional. Often we get your messages when we’re in class, and though we mean to respond, the hectic nature of law school sometimes causes us to forget that we didn’t actually press send!
  10. Law school is expensive! Sometimes we can’t financially afford to attend all the events or dinners that you invite us to, so please don’t read anything into our rejection.
  11. In the majority of our courses grades are based on one final exam or assignment, and to make matters worse, we’re graded on a curve – meaning someone has to get a B- while someone else has to get an A. Furthermore, getting good grades is crucial for obtaining decent clerkships and post-graduation jobs.
  12. And finally, the law school workload is not at all comparable to the workload of undergrad, or even the average MBA. In our opinion, the law school workload and expected standard of achievement is much, much higher!

For my fellow law students, what things do you wish your non-law school friends knew about law school life? Likewise, for those non-law school readers out there, are there any questions you have pertaining to the day-to-day life of the law student in your life? Send me your questions and ideas on Instagram or Twitter: @The2Llife!

4 Steps to Forming a “Finals Attack Plan.”

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona

Can you believe it my fellow 1Ls, finals are right around the corner! I am lucky and my finals are pretty late, as they do not start until December 10 and I have my last final on December 19. If you haven’t started now is the time to start forming your finals attack plan.

1) If you haven’t started, write your own outline!

If you haven’t started outlining yet, your first tendency might be to use one from a 2L or 3L who took the class from your professor but resist this urge. Instead, grab your syllabus and book and make the framework of your outline from there. This really helped me for midterms, and I wish I had started sooner. This will let you easily organize your notes in the way the professor intended you to.  Don’t worry about how long it is. You will likely end up with one master outline or a “study” outline, then a condensed version of the outline that features fundamental concepts, and then ideally you’ll be able to create an attack outline that will help you on the test.

If you’ve been like me and outlining throughout the semester, now is a great time to start condensing it and creating the attack outline.

2) Fill in the Gaps

Every time I look at my outline I see things missing, or concepts I feel “ify” on. Now is the perfect time to consult the BARBRI Outlines,  and an upperclassman’s to fill in those gaps. Pro Tip:  Be sure to highlight those areas and then make an office hours appointment with your professor to discuss. If you do this now, you won’t be rushing for a spot at the end of the month or discovering an issue during the reading period.

3) Find Practice Exams

Your professor will likely provide these, or they may be in your library. Be sure to find the ones for your professor that have model answers. You will likely not want to start studying with these too early, as you want to be able to answer the entire question being asked. But having these saved to your computer will help you when everyone else is trying to locate them

4) Study Where It Counts During Reading Period

If you have courses with finals that vary in their credit value, then you should spend the bulk of your time on the on the class that is most likely to impact your GPA. This was a great trip that I learned during my BARBRI Law Preview course. It seems that most people dedicate the same amount of time studying to all of their classes, but if you have a Torts class that is worth 6 credits and a Contracts class that is only worth 4 credits, getting a high grade in Torts will have a more significant impact on your GPA. At my school, every single one of my courses with a final is worth 4 credits so I will be spending an equal amount of time on them during our reading period.

How are you preparing for finals? Do you have your own finals attack plan? Any tips you think other 1Ls could benefit from? Let me know over at the @The1LLife on Twitter!

Reflections: What I’m Thankful For

Guest Blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

Around this time of year, I tend to get very reflective.

The Thanksgiving season always helps me put certain areas of my life into perspective. It’s cheesy, but I always like to take a moment and really identify what I’m thankful for.

This year, as a 3L, I am thankful for the opportunity to attend law school. In the midst of all the reading, the work, and the studying, I tend to forget that there was a moment in time where law school was just an idea, a possibility. I can remember applying to schools and trying to decide which one was the best fit for me. It was such a grueling and tedious process, yet here I am…about to graduate.

Photo: Lance Murphey

Having the opportunity to attend law school and, furthermore, become a lawyer is such a significant experience. More specifically, being an African American woman, I know that many of my ancestors never even thought that this was possible. To be here in this position is TRULY incredible.

Yes, law school is tough, but when I think about the historical issues African Americans faced (and still face), it’s such an honor to be graced with the opportunity to do something that not many people get to do. I actually have an opportunity to “have a seat at the table.” Amazing!

This year, I’m just REALLY thankful for this opportunity. Graduation is right around the corner and I’m sure we’re all ready to finish. Nonetheless…just for a moment…I encourage you to reflect on this great opportunity we have and really appreciate this journey.

How to be Eco-Friendly on a Law Student Budget

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Many of us flocked to law school with the notion that we would someday change the world. And though the enormous amount of law school debt incurred may have convinced the majority of us to trade in our hero hats for a seat at the Big Law table, there are still ways that we can make a difference. For instance, through pro bono projects and clinics we can help the local community and beyond. However, for those of us looking for more long-term impacts, adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle is a great (and popular) route to take!

Of course being eco-friendly sounds great … I mean, who doesn’t want to literally save the world? But to many of us it also sounds expensive; seriously, we’ve all seen the prices on the organic products in the grocery store. So how do you balance an eco-friendly lifestyle while living on a law student budget?

Truth be told it’s actually not that hard once you accept that it doesn’t need to be an all or nothing approach. You can still buy your affordable, non-organic produce and cleaning supplies if that’s what your bank account is telling you to do.

To make your life a little more Eco-Friendly simply adopt one or a multitude of these habits into your routine.

  1. Reduce waste by only grocery shopping with a list and meal plan in mind. No need to buy those tomatoes that are just going to sit in the back of the fridge until trash day when you know there’s no meal requiring them.
  2. Invest in reusable containers and use them! Buying lunch and snacks on the go is easy and tasty, but it also contributes a lot of waste over time (and it’s not all the economical either).
  3. Likewise, say goodbye to Ziploc bags and plastic wrap, and instead, say hello to reusable sandwich bags and beeswax wraps. Bonus, since both these products are reusable you’ll save money in the long run as well!
  4. Add reusable cutlery to your backpack or lunch bag – that way you can say no to the plastic forks but still indulge in the free food found around the law school.
  5. Trade in your car or frequent Uber rides for public transportation, walking and/or biking whenever possible.
  6. Switch out your regular light bulbs for energy efficient ones instead. While efficient light bulbs will cost you a little more, they also cut your energy bill and generally last way longer, so really it’s worth it!
  7. Cut down on plastic waste by investing in a good reusable water bottle.
  8. If you’re a hot beverage lover (or iced coffee lover), add a reusable thermos or mug to your bag. Pro tip, many cafes offer discounts to people who bring their own mug!
  9. Keep your counters and dishes clean without the waste! Instead of dish sponges and power towel, use washable dishcloths and a silicone sponge– as an added perk, you can sanitize your silicone sponge as frequently as you like, so bye-bye germs!
  10. And finally, don’t forget your reusable bags when shopping!

These are just a few of my favorite eco-friendly hacks. What are some of yours?

5 Self-care Tips to Help Prepare for Finals

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona

Not that you need a reminder, but finals are right around the corner. It is a stressful time for all law students, especially us 1Ls because even if we had midterms, we don’t truly know what it feels like to take a 3+ hour exam final. I am especially nervous about one class because we did not have a midterm. Even with that whirling around in my head, I have to remind myself there are things within my control (besides studying) to make sure that I am in the best shape possible for all of my finals and this starts with self-care. Here are 5 tips I’m following to make this possible.

1) Feed your Brain!

Did you know the dark chocolate and blueberries help your working and cognitive memory? There is a lot of research out there about how healthy eating can improve your testing ability. It is easy with our schedules to forget to eat, or just grab pizza at lunch from a meeting. I am the worst at this, however, I am taking steps to make sure that I have simple meals prepared for the next few weeks. I also brought a bunch of brain-friendly snacks and put them in my locker. Figure out a way to make healthy snacking easy. It will help improve your stress levels and prevent hangry outbursts.

2) Be Mindful!

You may remember in my very first blog I recommended downloading and using an app called Meditation Studio to help manage stress through mindfulness. Even short mindfulness exercises, have been proven through studies to increase your alertness during a test, and improve working memory. This study found those that used mindfulness training during their GRE prep had a 16% increase in their scores. I don’t know about you, but if it lowers stress, and can improve my issue spotting abilities, I am all in!

3) Do something you love!

Maybe it’s hitting the gym, going for a bike ride, or baking. Whatever it is, work it into your schedule. It is easy to lose track of our hobbies and the things we love as we keep up with our reading, work on our outlines and take practice exams. However, take time out of your day to unwind in your favorite way. Not only will you feel better, but taking time away from studying can actually help you retain more of the information.

4) Get those Zzzzzzzs.

Repeat after me sleep is good for you. We all know this, and if you’re like me you are going to bed later and later as I try to get everything done. Research shows that we need good sleep to feed our high-level, innovative thinking and problem-solving abilities. Go to bed!

5) Phone a Friend

Hopefully, you’ve been as fortunate as I have been and have made fantastic friends at school, but they don’t know you as well as your friends before law school. Phoning one of those friends will allow you to escape school, and they likely will be able to give you some perspective and remind you why you started this journey in the first place.

I hope you find these tips helpful and I’d love to hear more suggestions! Feel free to tweet me @The1LLife

1L MASTERY HACKS DURING FINALS PREP

By Sam Farkas, 
BARBRI Curriculum Architect and Instructor

As a 1L, you are no doubt feeling the pressure as your first semester final exams loom near. Most first-year students have already signed up for the BARBRI 1L Mastery package (if you haven’t, you can do so now). It’s a rich study supplement, so let’s break down the “Top 5 Hacks” – in other words, proven strategies – for how to use 1L Mastery most effectively during your pre-exam study period.

[HACK #1] SOAK IN THE SUBSTANCE AND SKILLS

First, be sure to watch the substantive lectures for a complete subject review. These lectures review the black letter law in a concise, easy-to-understand way. You can watch online or download the BARBRI App (free on iTunes / free on Google Play) and stream or download to watch on-the-go. These lectures will also help you gain a stronger understanding of the rules most likely to be tested.

Then be sure to watch the separate Exam Skills lecture for each subject. Our 1L Mastery professors have a lot of experience creating and grading exams for their subjects. They’ll walk you through what you’re likely to encounter on a final exam, including particular rules or issues that first-year professors like testing. They’ll also share subject-specific tips and strategies, especially common missteps and mistakes that many 1L students make.

[HACK #2] STUDY BACKWARDS

During your reading/study period, begin studying for your last exam first and work backwards based on the exam date. Let’s say your first exam is Contracts, the second is Torts, the third is Civil Procedure and fourth is Criminal Law. Study Criminal Law first. Then go to Civil Procedure, Torts and end with Contracts. This way, Contracts will be the freshest as you head into that exam. After your first exam, you’ll just need to do a final review of each remaining subject prior to taking the exam. It’s an efficient study strategy to make sure you effectively review each subject during your reading/study period.

Now with that in mind, you’ll also want to wisely allocate your study time. As you know, not all subjects are created equal so to speak. Four credit courses count more than three credit courses in your GPA, so focus your time accordingly and devote more study time to higher credit courses.

[HACK #3] WRITE TO BE SURE YOU’RE RIGHT

Many 1L students mistakenly believe they are practicing essay questions by simply reading the fact pattern and mentally issue-spotting the problem. They turn to the model answer and affirm to themselves that they would’ve identified all the issues and discussed the appropriate law. Don’t do this, even if you want to save time or study a little faster.

You really need to write out an answer, or at least outline your answer to any practice essays you work. Then, compare your answer to the model answer. Make sure to do a thorough self-analysis. Evaluate whether you identified the correct issues, recalled the correct rules to resolve the issue, and identified the facts that you would have incorporated into your analysis.

[HACK #4] MAKE USE OF PRACTICE MULTIPLE-CHOICE QUESTIONS

Even if you only have essays on your final exam, consider working through 1L Mastery multiple-choice practice questions as well. Working multiple-choice practice questions can help you identify your own knowledge gaps and you’ll begin seeing a pattern of how rules may be tested in different fact patterns. You’ll get better at applying the rules to solve legal problems and you’ll benefit from reviewing the rules in the explanatory answers. You may even see the rules tested with similar facts on your final exam. In addition, you can work through multiple-choice questions more quickly than essays, which means you can cover more ground in a shorter amount of time.

[HACK #5] CONDENSE AND ATTACK

Reading week is the time to start condensing your more detailed course outlines into shorter “attack outline.” The process of condensing it into a one- or two-page outline forces you to think about the subject from a 10,000-foot perspective. It’ll force you to review the rules and it will help you further encode those rules in your brain.

The attack outline will serve as a checklist of sorts for all the main topic areas in the course that you’ll want to consider when working through a final exam essay. If you have a closed book exam, keep studying that attack outline until you have it ingrained in you—until you can reproduce it from memory.

If you weren’t able to finish your outline or didn’t make one, study the BARBRI outlines in 1L Mastery and use them to make your own attack outlines.

Now go forth and put these 1L Mastery hacks to good use and #Own1LFinals!

Crazy Law School Nightmares

Law School Nightmares

Guest Blog by Courtney Boykin,
3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

The countdown is on!

Guys, we’re like 4 weeks out from exams. How crazy is that?!?!

If you’re like me, exam periods are not only filled with stressful studying but stressful law school nightmares, as well. Mine has already begun.

Last week, I had this crazy dream that one of my professors gave us a pop-up exam (not a quiz…a full exam). Let the immediate freak out commence! I couldn’t even remember the course subject. I couldn’t remember if it was my Decedent’s Estates class or my Contracts class (which I hadn’t taken since my first year). It was terrible! The professor started passing out exams and, by the time she arrived at me, she had none left. Instead of finding an exam for me, she started the timer and told me she’d be back. At this point, I was literally shaking.

She eventually gave me an exam and a few moments later the timer went off. I’d answered one question and, again, I started to panic. Just as I was about to literally cry… my alarm went off.

I woke up sweating.

Law School Nightmares

If this is any indication of what my exam period will be like, I’m in for a crazy ride. Stay strong out here, my friends. Christmas break is right around the bend! If you’re suffering from any crazy law school nightmares, share them with me and other law school students on Twitter or Instagram: @The3Llife

Thanksgiving Ideas for Law Students

Thanksgiving Ideas for Law Students

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

The beginning of the holiday season is upon us. Thanksgiving is only a week away. Do you have plans? What are some Thanksgiving ideas for law students? While 1L’s are encouraged to spend Thanksgiving outlining, creating stacks of flashcards, and pre-reading for courses in an effort to get ahead of the exam craze, there seems to be less pressure on us 2L’s! But wait … if you’re not locked away in the library studying then how should you spend your glorious long weekend?

Head on Home

Thanksgiving Ideas for Law Students

If you live nearby, or if you can score a good flight or train ticket deal, you can almost guarantee that your family and friends will be happy to have you home for a few days (they’ll probably even cook for you as well). Plus, what’s better than catching up on sleep in your own bed while your mom (or dad) cooks dinner?

Friendsgiving

If home’s too far away, or if you’re planning to spend three of your four days studying, you can still take a break to gather with a group of your local friends! Of course, you can simply make reservations at a local restaurant, but why not make it more festive and do a potluck at home instead!

Road Trip

Are you tired of seeing the same streets and buildings every single day? Gather some friends, rent a car, and embark on a road trip. The best part is you can make it as lengthy or short as you’d like!

Shopping on a Discount

If your school is located near an outlet mall, or really any shopping district, try taking advantage of some of the Thanksgiving sales to buy yourself some new fall wardrobe essentials, or to get a jump start on your holiday shopping!

School Dinners

Often times universities or individual social groups will host Thanksgiving dinners for students “stuck” on campus. This is a great way to get to know some new people while enjoying a nice homecooked meal at the same time!

Work it Like a 1L

Of course, just because you’re a 2L doesn’t mean you’re banned from the library during long weekends. If you felt Thanksgiving break was useful study prep time for you as a 1L, it will likely be just as useful now – but do try to fit a little turkey (or your vegetarian/vegan substitute) in there somewhere.

Hopefully, you’ve discovered some useful Thanksgiving ideas for law students with my above list. If you have other ideas, please share them with me on Twitter or Instagram: @The2Llife.

Music to Study By

Music to Study By

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin,
1L atUniversity of Arizona

Do you have favorite music to study by? Before law school, I usually preferred to study in silence. However, this all changed when one of my study group friends introduced me to a YouTube livestream, lofi hip-hop radio that always has great music and made it less awkward that the four of us were sitting together without saying anything while we read for our classes. I began asking around for other recommendations and while everyone tastes vary, here are a few of my favorites from Spotify.

“Movie Scores Study”

Created by Haley Stewart—342 songs, 20 hours and 53 minutes.
42,304 Followers

With over 20 hours of music, if you are a fan of movies, this can provide great background ambiance. A few of the songs can be a bit “too intense” for my liking and can be a distraction, but with so many songs included it’s easy to skip ahead and have plenty of songs waiting for you.

Because of this list, I discovered that a few of my favorite songs came exclusively from the movie Up. This soundtrack always seems to put me in a great mood to study, you can find it here.

“Pump Up Instrumental”

Creator: hsheck—17, 107 songs, 5 hours and 28 minutes

Described as “similar to battle music or something you hear in a motivational video” this playlist lives up to its name by putting me in the mood to conquer the reading in front of me. It’s a bit intense, however it does this without being distracting, and I rarely skip a song. I find this to be the perfect playlist for when I can’t quite get into the mood to study or when I find other playlists to relaxing and I need to get reenergized. After a song or two, I am ready to go! It’s the exact opposite of the “Study Music and Calm Music for Studying and Relaxation” playlist included below.

“Study Music and Calm Music for Studying and Relaxation”

Created by trishrock—74, 9909 songs, 342 hours 41 minutes.

This might be the playlist you start, and actually not finish by the end of the year! With a whopping 9909 songs, it features mostly instrumental music and tunes you might find playing in the background at a spa. It sets the mood for a focused and calm study session. Some might find this too relaxing, but multiple people mentioned it to me when I asked for suggestions on Instagram @The1LLife.

“Law School Study”

With a mix of instrumental music found on soundtracks from movies, television shows, and musicals, it provides nearly 40 hours of music, without too much overlap from the “Movie Scores Study” playlist. It has a great mix of mellow and upbeat songs to keep the mood varied enough that I don’t find myself wanting a nap.

“Music for Law School”

Created by Mel John, 51 songs, 2 hours and 44 minutes.

A mix of classical, and instrumental songs, this playlist has quickly become one of my favorites. Its relaxing without being TOO relaxing and puts me into a great frame of mind, plus the playlist is long enough, I will rarely hear repeats and if I do, it’s time to take a break!

Is there a playlist you’d recommend of music to study by that I missed? If so, share it with me @The1LLife on twitter!