Passing Time While Self-Isolating

Learn Some New Cooking Skills

[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]

The world seems to be falling to pieces around us: our campuses are shut, classes are online, we’re being told to self-isolate and quarantine where possible, and to practice social distancing when engaging with the public.

Now, as a law student, there have been times that I have literally dreamed of being trapped in my bedroom for days on end to partake in lengthy Netflix binges and much-needed nap sessions. But, after only four days of being confined solely to my childhood bedroom (aside from the occasional bathroom break) because of my recent travels, I have to admit I’m beginning to go a little stir crazy.

If, like me, you are questioning how to survive the boredom resulting from the necessary measures to combat the further spread of the Coronavirus, then read along as I reveal some interesting – and free – resources that you can utilize to help pass the time.

Virtual Museums

1.   “Go” to the museum

While the museums themselves are all, for the large part, closed due to the social distancing requirements, many notable museums have launched FREE virtual tours. Travel and Leisure has a fantastic article outlining all of your virtual museum options, which you can access here. My personal favorites from their list include the following:

  • British Museum: where you can view hundreds of artifacts, Egyptian mummies, and the ancient Rosetta stone.
  • National Gallery of Art: featuring two online exhibits; one highlighting 17th and 18th-century American fashion, and the other showing works from Johannes Vermeer.
  • Van Gogh Museum: showcasing countless works from the famous painter himself as well as hundreds of personal letters.

2.   Netflix Party and Games

You may be physically distanced from your friends and family, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. Technology (thankfully) allows us to host gatherings from the comfort of our own self-isolated bubble.

If you’re in the mood for a movie, try using Google Chrome’s Netflix Party extension, where you can sync your screen with friends and share snarky comments via the chat feature.

If, on the other hand, you’re feeling more of a game night, then head on over to the following Boston Culture article for lots of virtual game night options – including the oh so popular Settlers of Catan and Monopoly.

3.   Get a workout in

Gyms may be closed but many fitness centers are offering virtual workouts for members, or for free to the general population. For instance, CorePower Yoga is offering On Demand yoga and KIC gym is offering virtual workouts on Wednesdays and Fridays. Check with your local gym providers to see if they are offering similar virtual services! Ps. If there are no offerings accessible to you then don’t forget to check out YouTube.

4.   Read all the books

Most academic libraries have begun making their resources available online, and many coursebook providers have agreed to make textbooks and study aids available for free. But don’t just limit yourself to academic reading, instead take advantage of this time to check off some of those novels that have been on your radar for ages – bonus points if you pick something by a self-published author since times are tough. And remember, Ebook sites have a great selection of free and low-cost books to choose from if you want to avoid going to the store.

5.   Work on your cooking skills

Since eating out is pretty much off the table right now, it is officially the ideal time to perfect your culinary skills – provided you can find the necessary ingredients amidst the frenzied bulk buying. YouTube has some fantastic cooking channels – such as the Rouxbe Online Cooking School – to help you achieve your dream meals.

Tips to Successfully Work from Home

Working From Home

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

Each week, I write these blogs about a week before they are published and sometimes, things do not change at all, however, as we all know life is changing drastically day-to-day. Last week I wrote about how many of us were going to be attending school from home for at least 2 weeks. Now, it seems we are all attending what many are calling the “Zoom School of Law” as we finish our semesters online. In addition to that, most of us are also now completing our internships/externships from home by working remotely.

As I wrote about before, this semester I am in for the UArizona Phoenix Externship Program, which is where I normally live (I commute weekly to Tucson most semesters), so I am not faced with the challenge of moving back home. I am luckily already here. My firm has been amazing to work for so far, and this week we transitioned to an online environment. While not all interns can do this, I luckily was able to. Having previous remote work experience was helpful and I want to share some of my best practices in working remotely. Even if you are not completing your internship from home, these tips also work for taking remote classes.

1—Create a Dedicated Workspace

A dedicated space will help you be less distracted and treat the time you spend in this areas more seriously. Even if this is a corner in your kitchen, a storage area, or even a closet, move things around so that you have a space that is exclusively dedicated for work. This will help you realize this is a “workplace” and allow you to focus your energy.

Ideally, this is different from where you do your schoolwork, but if it has to be the same place, consider using different accessories and set when you are working. This will also help you separate “work time” from “school time” by minimally changing your environment. For example, at my desk that I use for both work and school, I use a whiteboard to track my “work projects” and deadlines, but when I am in “study mode” or attending classes on Zoom, I flip this around and use the cork board side to pin up post-it notes. I also have a different desk set up for work, using 2 screens, and when I am in class, to be less distracted, I push the screen back and use a book stand for my book and have an established writing space to take notes. It is a subtle change, but clearly defines when I am in my “workspace” or my “school space”

2—Set (employer approved) dedicated work hours, based on your Productivity Peeks

It can be easy when you are working from home to “work whenever” but it is important to establish dedicated work time. This way you aren’t working excessively, but also are not putting work off. Keep in mind, if you are working remotely you may have more flexibility and you can use this to your advantage. For example, because of my normal school schedule, I work Tu & Th 9-6 and Wed 9-1. But from a productivity standpoint, I really hit my stride when I work from 2-8 pm. You, of course, need to have any changes to hours approved by your employer, but generally, as law clerks, our work is projected based, and we need to hit hours for our externships, not necessarily being present at certain hours. Know what works best for you, and see how that can benefit your work productivity.

3—Get Dressed for Work.

Ok, so there is no need to get your full business attire on, but don’t just roll out of bed in your PJs and “go to work.” Follow your morning routine and at least get dressed. This will help you get into “work mode” mentally. This also applies to attending school, get up get dressed and you will already feel more productive.

4—Remember to Take Breaks

Taking breaks can actually make yourself more productive. I wrote about this as a 1L, but taking breaks every 52 minutes, for 17 minutes is supposed to be the “golden spot” for productivity according to Time https://time.com/3518053/perfect-break/. Sure if you are in a roll, power ahead, but by taking a break you might also be more productive. Also, take short breaks to look away from your computer will help your eyesight and getting up and moving around will make you more productive.

5—Stay Connected to Coworkers (and your classmates)

At my workplace we have Jabber, other offices use skype, Facebook, Microsoft team, slack or other tools. Whatever it is, use it. Stay connected and reach out to people. Don’t be afraid to grab some facetime with a coworker over one of your “mental breaks.” Also, be sure to reach out to your fellow classmates, while we are isolated, we now all have Zoom accounts, so feel free to “meet up” for a social chat or drinks virtually from the comfort of your couch.

6—Set Timers

When you are working on a big project, it can be easy to get lost in your work. This happens at the office all of the time, but when you are working at home one of two things will happen, you will become so engrossed, that you will work for hours on end without even stopping for a drink, or you will be distracted by everything else you will get nothing done. Here, using your phone to set alarms can be a big help. It will make sure you are hitting your timing goals, plus make sure that you take well-deserved breaks. I am a big fan of asking Siri to label my alarms, that way when they go off I know what my next task is (or should be).

7—Have Ambient Noise in the Background

Maybe its music, for me it’s the TV. This has always worked for me, but one of the women in the office said having the TV on at 18 and set to talk TV was the perfect thing she needed to be productive at home. Experiment with the TV or music, but it will help you be more productive than working in complete silence.

8—Set Boundaries If You Are Not Alone

For some people, this next two weeks (likely longer) represents a break… that is not the case for us. We have school, finals and work to deal with. Many of you might also be home living with parents for the first time in years, so make sure you create space for yourself. Set clear boundaries with your family and significant other that when you are in your dedicated workspace you are not to be disturbed.  This is where having a dedicated workspace can be ideal. I know it sounds crazy using a closet, but if that is the only place you can be alone, make it happen.

If you have any tips you want to share, please let me know over at the @The2LLife on Twitter and Instagram!

Keeping the Social in Social Distancing, Law Student Style

Keeping the Social in Social Distancing, Law Student Style

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

As you are likely settling into online classes, you may be wondering how to manage your new work-from-home life. In addition to figuring out how to succeed in online courses, it’s important to make sure you are protecting yourself from isolation and loneliness as well.

There is a lot of research that indicates that working from home can be isolating and depressing, but it doesn’t have to be. For law students, who already tend to have higher rates of anxiety and depression, this time of enforced social distancing could either exacerbate those predispositions or provide some relief from the constant pressures of school and competition. Either way, staying connected, especially in such a new and maybe scary time, is critical.

Fortunately, we live in an age where over-connectivity is our typical problem and as such, the avenues for staying connected are already well-developed.

Here are a few ways to stave off isolation and loneliness even if you’re trapped in your house:

Zoom

I have a feeling that by the end of the semester we will all have a love/hate relationship with Zoom. I am dreading the moment one of my professors attempts their first virtual cold call, but Zoom is a powerful tool with a virtual cornucopia (do you see what I did there?) of cool features that you could use to:

  1. Host a virtual game night or happy hour
  2. Create a drop-in room for your organization or affinity group
  3. Have a virtual study group or book club
  4. Attend a support group or recovery meeting
  5. Throw a virtual birthday party
  6. Create an online “dog park” where everyone shows off their pets
  7. Host a virtual poetry reading
  8. Distance-jam with your band

Netflix Watch Parties

Netflix Party is a genius Chrome extension that allows you to sync up your viewing with others and chat in an included sidebar. It’s particularly great because it allows you to keep all of your regular Netflix viewing settings (subtitles, etc.) but also ensures that you are at the same point in the film as everyone else watching with you. If one person pauses the movie, it pauses for everyone! So cool.

FYI, Netflix Party only works on Chrome on Desktop.

Quaranchat

What an insane world we live in when there is a website that connects you to strangers all across the globe for a nice little phone chat. It’s like quarantine roulette, but without the downside of losing money, because it’s completely free! Calls happen over the internet via DialUp instead of a phone line, so no international calling charges.

Social Media

Social media is great, obviously, but not without its downsides. Twitter is my go-to (because #poetry, #academictwitter, and #lawtwitter are a thing), and I have been so pleasantly surprised and overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and genuine connection I have seen happening there over the last few weeks. Plus, healthcare providers in the U.S. have been turning to social media to connect with doctors and nurses in other countries for advice and strategizing.

Because of the algorithms and the “false courage” that communicating through the somewhat anonymous medium, Twitter can either become a feedback loop or a hub of negativity. Tons of research shows that undisciplined use of social media leads to higher rates of depression and anxiety, which obviously none of us need. Use with care.

Remember the good, old fashioned phone.

If you can stay home right now, this is a great time to catch up with long-distance friends and family. I am a horrible phone-communicator, and the frenetic pace of law school has made me an even worse phone person. I am taking this extended quarantine as an opportunity to call my people and reconnect.

Telehealth Apps

If your doctors and therapy offices have canceled face-to-face appointments, as mine have, have no fear! There is a plethora of virtual options that may be covered by your health insurance. This could be a primo opportunity to finally take that step to talk to a therapist, and you wouldn’t even have to leave your house. If you’re not sure what your insurance will cover, pick up that good old fashioned phone and ask. They are likely fielding tons of telehealth questions at the moment.

Keep the social in social distancing and reach out on Instagram or Twitter @the1lLife and let me know how you are doing in these strange times, and don’t forget to be extra gracious to yourself and others.

International Law Student: Employment and Bar Exam Considerations

[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]

When I decided to attend an American law school I knew I would most likely be sitting for a US bar exam and accepting an employment offer in the states – it was simply a necessity if I wanted to be able to pay off my heavy student loans following graduation, since the Canadian legal pay is not equivalent to America’s in any way, shape, or form.

Now that I’m a 3L and graduation is just around the corner, the reality of what it means to stay in the USA is finally settling in – or should I say, slapping me in the face. Maybe I was naïve, but I expected the process to be more clear and much easier.

  1. First and foremost, if you’ve accepted an employment offer from a US employer you need to confirm their ability, and willingness, to sponsor you for a visa if you’re unable to secure one independently. Without appropriate sponsorship, your work visa options are severely limited.
  2. Once you’ve confirmed that your employer can, and will sponsor you, you need to then confirm what the application process looks like, and their involvement therein. I was under the impression that my firm would handle my visa forms for me, but unfortunately, that’s not the case, and it may not be the case for you – so check in now if you haven’t already.
  3. Unless you’ll be leaving America shortly after graduation and not returning anytime soon, except as a visitor, you’ll need to figure out what to do visa wise after graduation. You have 60 days after your F-1 visa expires to depart or obtain a new visa or depart, or 30 days for J-1 visa holders. You should consult with your school’s international office and your employer, but popular choices include the following:

a. OPT: you must apply for OPT before you graduate (it can take up to 3 months to be approved, so start now) and you do not need a job offer to apply. OPT lasts for a maximum of 12 months, and the OPT start date must be no later than 60 days after graduation. You are permitted to remain in OPT status for 90 days unemployed, after which time you either need to begin working in a legally relevant job, or depart the US within 60 days, or get a new visa.

b. H1B: you are not able to apply for an H1B visa independently, rather your employer must file a petition for you (meaning you must have a job offer). Getting a visa isn’t necessarily easy since there are caps and a hierarchy in play, but if you win one you’re able to stay on the visa for a total of six years.

c. NAFTA: Canadian and Mexican professional workers can stay for up to 3 years under TN nonimmigrant status with a job offer in an appropriate field. The application process is fairly straightforward.

Again, when it comes to visa applications make sure to consult your law school, your employer and/or an immigration attorney. Also, note that different visas have different policies relating to spousal visas.

  1. Annoyingly, many employers seem to be hesitant to give an exact start date for new hires. You may need to push your employer to set a start date, or at least provide a tentative start date for immigration purposes.
  2. In addition to permanent/temporary work visa considerations, you’ll also want to ensure that you have a visa in place for writing the bar exam. My university has advised me that as I Canadian I’m eligible to enter under a visitor visa for the week that I’ll be in the USA for the bar exam, but you’ll want to confirm based on your home country’s entry eligibility. No matter what status you’re entering under (unless it’s a permanent status) it’s a good idea to have your employment offer, a letter from your law school, and your bar registration forms on hand.
  3. Since there’s a chance you’ll be studying for the bar outside of the USA (which admittedly I hadn’t considered previously), you’ll need to ensure your bar course offers a sufficient online study option. Some also offer limited international course offerings so check into that.
  4. You can also expect the bar application process to be somewhat more complex since you’ll need to obtain international transcripts, language proficiency certifications, and in some states, provide access to your international criminal record, etc. alongside your American records.
  5. Once you’ve figured all that stuff out (a piece of cake, right), you’ll then have to figure out housing, banking, and taxes. The ability to get loans and mortgages from US banks can be limited for non-green cardholders, so keep this in mind when deciding whether to rent or buy. While we’re discussing banks, it’s also worth noting that if you have foreign loans that you need to pay regularly then you’ll want to consider the best way to make payments without paying high foreign transaction fees every time. Finally, switching from nonresident alien status for tax purposes, to a resident alien means you’ll have to submit different tax forms during the next tax season in the USA and you’ll need to apply for exemption from your home country’s taxes to avoid double taxation.

My Favorite Apps for Law Students

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

I love it when companies are pro-student, especially during this time. Like Notion giving free access to students with a .edu email, and Headspace offering their entire library for $9.99 a year! Here are my favorite pro-student apps that are helping me get through the Spring Semester and social distancing.

Headspace – $9.99/year

I am a HUGE fan of mindfulness and meditation to keep my stress-levels in check. Headspace is great for days when I don’t have the energy to keep myself in the zone. You can also login on the website if you are sitting and working at your computer and just need a break. Also, just look at how cute the animation is. It’s great.

 

 


New York Times Crossword

I waste a lot of time on the crossword. I often sit in my morning chair and tap furiously through while I wait for my coffee to kick in. I LOVE starting my morning with a little “aha” moment. It makes me feel like I can take on the rest of my day.

 

 

 

 


Habitica

Habitica is a to-do list and habit tracker, with the added bonus of being designed like an 8-bit video game. You get points for completing tasks and can even join a party and go on quests. Such fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Kindle + Libby

I have been trying to read more non-law related books, but on a law student budget. So I’ve been taking full advantage of the Kindle daily deals and checking out e-books from the library. It’s been way better than scrolling through social media. I have a VERY long reading list, but that’s ok because Libby keeps everything all organized for me.

 

 

 

 

 


Duolingo

Duolingo loves education and is always free! I am trying to get my Spanish back on track before the summer, so I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with Duo the owl.

 

 

 


Spotify – $4.99/month

Spotify has a student discount for premium, which means I can listen to This Podcast Will Kill You for as many hours a day as I want without ads.

Stay healthy out there, folks. Don’t forget to wash your hands, sanitize your phone, and then shoot me a message on Instagram or Twitter @the1lLife and let me know what apps are getting you through law school and with online learning!

Tips for Succeeding In Online Classes

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

It appears that my school will have online classes for the next two weeks, maybe longer. Like many of you, I’ve taken a few online law school classes.  I’ve also taught online courses for several years, so I have experience on both sides of various platforms. While I enjoy learning and teaching online, I know the shift to online learning might be a struggle for some. Here are my tips and best practices for thriving in an online learning environment.

Get to Know Your Schools Platform.

The most common platforms are canvas and blackboard, and some schools have custom environments. At the University of Arizona, we use D2L. Here, the move to an online environment will not be too different, because this is how we receive and typically submit our assignments, but if it is new to you, be sure to watch the help videos available from the companies, so you know how to navigate your class.

You will also likely live lectures or a class using either Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Google. Once you know, be sure to download it and play around with it. You can do this by creating your own session. Understanding how the platform works will make you feel more comfortable. Some have chatrooms for students to submit questions; some let you raise your hand. Familiarize yourself with the mute and unmute buttons.

I also recommend downloading the associated apps; it makes the class much more accessible.

Prepare like Normal and Participate Early

Prepare for the class like you usually would. People often think online courses will be “easier,” but that is rarely the case, as they can take more work than a typical class. Keep up on all of your reading and extra assignments. In an online environment, teachers will have quizzes to ensure you completed the reading and required discussion posts that you rarely encounter with in-person classes. While it is REALLY tempting to leave these to the last minute, you will get more out of the discussions (and so will your classmates), if you engage in them early on.

Find your Wifi

If you are accustomed to using school wifi, and you do not internet access at home, be sure to find out where there is free wifi is near you. Here knowing that McDonald’s, Starbucks, and your public libraries all have free wifi can be a lifesaver, and can even be accessed outside, while in your car, if necessary. If you need to stay at home, some internet providers have exclusive deals or even free wifi for students. If you are struggling here, be sure to let your professor know.

Use a Headset/Earbuds During Class

During class, the mute button will be your best friend, but even if you effectively mute and unmute yourself, you will have a better time in class if you use earbuds or headsets while participating. Be sure to check that your headset has a mic. Using a headset/earbuds will eliminate background noise too. Keep in mind, most of these sessions will be recorded. Don’t be the person that makes it impossible to replay the class.

P.S…. Still dress for class…

Ok… so I shouldn’t have to say this, but… get dressed for class… yes… this means wearing pants too. Zoom automatically connects your camera in most cases, so be prepared for that, or simply set the default to not automatically connect during one of your “test” runs.

Did your class move to an online learning environment? Have tips or questions about online learning environments? Let me know over at the @The2LLife on twitter and Instagram.

Graduation Checklist

Graduation Checklist

[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]

If you’re anything like me you love to plan. Somehow time has escaped me and now it’s the middle of the semester, meaning my desire (and need) to begin planning all things commencement related has become too strong to ignore. So, in typical OCD fashion, I created a checklist to help me navigate the graduation requirements and necessities. Now I’m sharing it with you!

Graduation Eligibility





 

Commencement Tickets






 

Reservations / Bookings






 

Purchases / Rentals




 

Bar Requirements / Employment Requirements / Visa Requirements



 

Miscellaneous









 

A Self-Care Spring Break

Self-care Spring Break

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

Spring break has finally arrived, and while most of my law school friends are going off on fun adventures, I decided that I needed to stay home, as I knew I could benefit from 100% downtime. This semester has been a new challenge. Not only am I in a different city, I am taking classes on the quarter system (so I am writing this in the middle of my finals), working 20 hours a week at a firm, teaching this quarter, as well as commuting back to Tucson one day a week for classes so I can still be February bar eligible. Whew. No wonder I decided to forgo going to Florida, I cannot imagine adding travel and packing into this mix. I know a few of my friends also feel the same way, and even though they do not have work or finals this week, their notes were due, so they are just as overwhelmed. So, if you have decided to stay home, or have had your plans canceled because of the outbreak, here are some tips that may help you rejuvenate during spring break. Try one or all!

1) Plan Out the Rest of the Semester

Ok, maybe skip this one if you are completely burnt out, but for me, this helps me to relax. The second half of my semester is less intense. This upcoming quarter I have just five classes, rather than seven and I am not teaching. I will have Fridays free to work on my note and other activities. I want to make sure I do not waste the time I gain back, so planning out the remaining eight weeks will help put my mind at ease.

Wellness by going for a bike ride.

2) Consider a Week of Wellness

Yoga, massages, bike rides, hikes, and spending time by the lake are all in my future.  One of my friends even found a healthy cooking and juicing class for us to go to. Find a new healthy habit to try or return to one that you have neglected so far this semester. Hopefully, you will be somewhere you can get outside and enjoy the great weather. Check your area for ideas, as many businesses, offer spring break specials and events focused on wellness, especially for students.

3) Binge Watch All the Shows

Maybe instead of being active, you would prefer to cuddle up with your favorite blanket and catch up on all of the TV shows waiting for you. If you feel like you’ve been missing out on all of the talk about viral TV shows, now is the time to catch up.

4) Go to the Movies

I haven’t been to a movie in… wow… since winter break. I even bought a season pass to Alamo to try to encourage myself to get to the theatre more often, so next week I am going to use it! There are a few great movies out, and who doesn’t love popcorn?

5) Sleep

Yes… sleep in, go to bed early, take a nap. Get all of the sleep you want. You have nowhere to be!

6) Have a Night Out

Gather your friends and the people important to you and reconnect. It can be wild, or low key, just make sure you get out and enjoy each other’s company.

7) Tidy Up

Depending on if you like to clean, this might be fantastic or torture, but if you’ve also had an insanely busy semester, now is a great time to get your car, closet, room, apartment, or house in order. If clutter has been driving you nuts, now is the time to tackle it. You don’t have to tidy everything, just focus on one area that’s been annoying you and you will feel accomplished!

8) Journal

This is something that I used to do and just started last week, and that is maintaining a journal. Not only is this good for you to help preserve memories, but it also can help relieve stress. If journaling is not your thing, consider writing a letter to your future self for some extra encouragement, or just writing down all of the things you’ve accomplished so far to see how far you’ve come.

9) Create a Vision Board

While I have never done this, my friend John strongly believes that you should do this every spring. He says that it allows you to be creative and set your intentions. Maybe you can focus on the rest of the semester, what you want to have happen this spring, summer, or whenever.

10) Read a Book

Remember what it was like to read something other than a law book, treaties, case, or supplement? No? Well, now is a great time to escape into a favorite book or to find something new to read. Just make sure it isn’t school-related, you deserve a break!

I hope you have an amazing spring break wherever you are! What tips do you have for self-care during spring break? Let me know over at the @The2LLife on Twitter or Instagram.

Thriving in Law School with a Disability

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

Disability is complicated. Even the term is rife with implication, and in an environment that is driven by competition like law school is, the already complicated aspects of living with a disability have the potential to morph into shame and create or exacerbate toxic fear. For the law students I’ve informally surveyed about this, invisible struggles like chronic illness, mental health battles, learning disabilities, sleep disorders, and others that are not immediately visible can not only cause unique interpersonal situations, like whether or not to disclose to potential employers, what disclosure means for the bar or the social implications of taking time and a half on exams, but may also lead to habits of comparison and feelings of shame.

I don’t have the answer to any of the interpersonal and professional questions, though I wish I did. Those answers will vary based on personal circumstances. But I have picked up a few tips for overcoming habits of comparisons and shame and thriving in law school with a disability.

Learn your pace.

I have the tendency to go as hard as I can until I collapse. This strategy used to work for me, but definitely doesn’t anymore. Now if I go too hard for even a single day, it takes me about a month to recover. So this semester has been trial and a lot of error in learning my pace (which is slow. Very slow). Learning to pace yourself is hard work, so if you are in this phase, don’t sell yourself short.

Practice your advocacy skills

Whether you have an accommodation through your school or not, law school is a very good time to practice advocating for yourself. I’m not going to lie. This is easier said than done. Between cold calls and job applications, oral arguments and exams, law school requires an insane amount of vulnerability on the reg. And self-advocacy requires a certain level of vulnerability, whether you choose to disclose your disability or not.

This is the first year that my law school has had students arrange their own meetings with professors to discuss accommodations instead of having a staff mediator do it. I’m grateful for the timing, because it means many of my professors are learning to have conversations around disability and accommodations at the same time that I am. I was very awkward the first time I sat in a professor’s office to discuss what I needed in order to succeed in his class. I felt like I was admitting weakness and that my needs were indicators that maybe I just didn’t belong in law school. But every professor I have talked to has been kind, affirming, and understanding, and most of them have gone above and beyond to provide the support I requested.

Build your support group.

My support group consists of people both in and out of law school. This is a very small group of people who I go to when I need support, advice, or a kick in the pants. All I have to do is text the word “blergh” and any one of them will take that as their cue to read one of the lines I have given them for such situations. If you don’t have a solid support group, don’t fret. It takes time. Mine has been in the making for years. Be patient in the meantime, and maybe say a few of these affirmations for law students out loud to yourself.

Stop feeling guilty.

Law students tend to be high achievers who feel guilt and shame when they fall short of the high standards they and others set for them. This is a gross generalization, but one that I think is broadly accurate. In my quest to learn my pace this semester, I have had many, many, many moments of feeling guilty for not finishing everything on my to-do list or for getting 10 (or 12) hours of sleep instead of working on my brief. I started to see a pattern that when I felt bad about some perceived failure, I had a much harder time getting work done or feeling proud of my other various accomplishments. This is where my incredible support group comes in. I tell them all of these things and then they repeat back to me that my disability makes me more compassionate, or that I am actively learning a difficult new skill, or they list a series of recent accomplishments or whatever thing I told them to tell me when I reached out. It’s up to me to do the hard work of believing them and seeing my own struggle as a positive in my life but hearing basic truths from someone else certainly helps.

The point is that having a disability does not mean you don’t belong in law school. You bring something unique to the table, and the legal profession needs your experience and insight.

If you’d like to talk disability, Schitt’s Creek, or the 1L Life, reach out on Instagram or twitter @the1lLife!

Money Management

Student Money Management

[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]

Law school is undeniably expensive. Covering the cost of tuition, books, rent, food, and social events hit hard, especially if you received limited scholarships and/or family assistance. It was easier in 1L and 2L to push money concerns somewhat to the side, but now as 3L’s it’s time to start thinking about what we’re going to do when our student loan money ends, and repayments begin.

1. Student Loan Refinancing

Unbeknownst to most, many banks offer student loan refinancing for account holders (even new account holders). Such programs can save you heaps of money and make your monthly payments lower. Consider for instance that the federal rate for unsubsidized graduate loans is approximately 6.08% whereas First Republic bank refinances loans with rates as low as 2.00% and returns all interest paid if you pay off your loans in under four years.

Even if you have limited student loans, refinancing just makes sense – why pay more money when you don’t have to? For more information on what refinancing is and what to consider when deciding if/where to refinance your loans, check out the following Student Loan Hero article.

2. Employer Cash Advances

With graduation taking place in May and the bar exam scheduled in late July, many employers wait until the fall to bring new hires on – meaning you may be “unemployed” for a period of six months or longer following law school graduation. On the one hand, this gives you a chance to study, recharge after writing the bar exam, and sufficient time to take a bar trip or two. On the other hand, money will surely become tight as you continue paying rent and/or moving expenses during that time period.

Thankfully, many employers understand that extended durations without pay isn’t feasible. In consideration, if this they’ll often offer cash advances or interest free loans. If your employer hasn’t already reached out with information on such programs, take it upon yourself (if you require the assistance) to inquire. Just remember, any money you receive in advance will be deducted from your bi-weekly or monthly payments in the beginning.

3. Student Line of Credit

Many banks will permit you to take a student line of credit, even though you’re technically graduated because you’re studying for the bar exam. Thus, if you’re still feeling strapped for cash, consider taking a line of credit with your bank – just remember interest rates for such loans are often high.

4. Budgeting

Finally, there’s no better way to ensure you avoid going too far in debt than creating a budget – in fact, the earlier you create a budget the better! If numbers aren’t your thing don’t worry, there are a number of apps that are ready to help you!