Bar Applications Amidst COVID-19

The Bar Exam

[ Makenzie Way, 2020 Graduate at the University of Pennsylvania ]

Makenzie Way, 3L Graduate at the University of Pennsylvania

This was a BIG week for me.

For starters, I officially graduated from law school (goodbye forever issue spotter exams). And then to top it off, I submitted my application for the D.C. bar.

If you’ve followed my law school journey thus far you may be saying “hold up! D.C.? What happened to Boston?” Well, the short answer is COVID-19 happened, that’s what.

In early January I spent a good chunk of my school printing credits printing out the  Massachusetts bar exam application. Unlike many states, Massachusetts conducts its own Character and Fitness test, thus the lengthy application. By the beginning of March my application was complete and sitting in a sealed envelope ready to be mailed when BOOM bar exam delays.

With test dates up in the air, Massachusetts, along with many other UBE states, paused the acceptance of applications. Thus, my beautiful application packet continued to rest, waiting for the day when it could be mailed in. But wait, things got more complicated still.

In late April, Massachusetts announced that they would be giving priority status to applicants who had attended law school in-state and were sitting for their first OR second time; priority status was combined with limited seating capacity. This decision wasn’t unique to Massachusetts, many states followed suit, and I’m sure it’s a decision that has impacted a lot of you. For me personally, this caused some major panic, since of course, I had attended school out-of-state. It seemed unfair that my choice to attend a higher ranked school outside of Massachusetts was now going to impact the career path in Boston that I had spent the last five years working towards … but that’s the way the world works apparently.

After a quick descent into hysterics that my mother promptly dragged me out of, I realized that it was time to take action. I compiled a list of the UBE states whose application deadlines, or late-filing deadlines, hadn’t yet passed, as well as the requirements for each and the associated costs. I ended up with a handful of potential states, including: New Jersey, New Hampshire, District of Columbia, Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts.

Working my way through this list I realized a few important things that may be helpful to anyone else stuck in this boat:

  1. Some states, like New Hampshire, do not allow courtesy seating. What that means practically speaking is you cannot sit for the UBE in New Hampshire if you have no intention of being a registered attorney in New Hampshire. Other states, allow you to transfer your UBE score to any UBE state. Takeaway: make sure the state you register in is either the state you’re planning to work in or a state that allows score transfers.
  2. Many smaller states have limited seating, for instance, Connecticut. Practically speaking that meant my chances of receiving a seat in those states were lower, and thus my cost-benefit analysis had to shift accordingly. Takeaway: if you have a smaller budget, take into consideration the number of seats available versus your priority status when deciding where to apply.
  3. Multiple states have priority seating, for instance: Massachusetts’s priority is for local students, Connecticut’s priority is for local students and students from select Massachusetts schools, and DC’s priority is for recent ABA graduates writing the UBE for the first time. Takeaway: try to apply to states where you’re in the first tier.
  4. Each state has its own unique application process, and they vary with regard to their usage of the NCBE’s character and fitness test, recommendation letter requirements, notarization, and pro bono hours requirements. Takeaway: Make sure you meet the requirements before submitting an application – in most states, application fees are nonrefundable.
  5. Application costs vary greatly between the states. Takeaway: Create a budget and prepare for potential cost increases.

For me personally, New York got discarded because I hadn’t completed the necessary pro bono affidavits and didn’t have time to do them. New Jersey then got discarded because it seemed likely they would receive an influx of applications from worried New York applicants. Finally, Connecticut and New Hampshire got discarded because of their small size, and priority status decisions. Thus, I made the decision to apply to D.C. where I was tier one priority and to apply to Massachusetts when their application opens as a plan B if necessary.

My decision was made *small sigh of relief* but I wasn’t finished yet. Now I had to navigate the D.C. application process. The first thing I noticed is how outdated many of these websites are – it’s 2020, it seriously should not be so difficult to find the information you’re looking for. After awarding myself a Ph.D. in website navigation, I figured out that the D.C. bar application would open on May 18th, that I needed to submit the NCBE Character and Fitness application (but not receive the results) before submitting my UBE application, and that I would need to submit and receive the law school certification form from my university since unlike many states, D.C. does not accept forms submitted on behalf of students by law school officials.

Law school certificate emailed ✓

Now, for the Character and Fitness test.

If you haven’t already completed the NCBE application, be prepared to tell them every minuscule detail about your life from the time you turned 18 until the present day. It took me approximately a day and a half since I needed to track down the contact information for my supervisors from my college jobs; but alas, I clicked submit and then nearly threw up when the $400 price tag flashed in front of my eyes. I quickly reminded myself that if all went well and I got accepted then, (a) it was more than worth it, and (b) my firm would reimburse me.

Next step: UBE Application

Stress levels through the roof, I set an alarm for every hour on the hour from midnight until the application finally opened at 8 am. I expected the application to be grueling, similar to my Massachusetts application which required formatted reference letters, and an attorney signature. In a pleasant turn of events, the application was pretty straight forward. Having already completed the mind-numbing NCBE application, the D.C. UBE application took approximately 20 minutes, asking straightforward questions about when I graduate(d), where I attended law school, my academic conduct during law school, etc. The cost was also relatively low, clocking in around $230 when all was said and done.

After clicking submit and holding my breath while my subpar internet loaded the next page, I was told that my application had been successfully uploaded and would now be forwarded to the committee who would make the final acceptance decision. No real time frame was given, but the confirmation email that I later received said, if successful, I would receive my ticket number and additional information in August. Fingers crossed I hear back before then because if not, I’ll have to decide whether to eat the cost and apply for both D.C. and the Massachusetts offerings to be extra sure that get a seat for the September test.

So, in summary, the takeaway here for anyone in my shoes is this:

  • Research states with open applications: create a list and include any relevant application requirements, deadlines, and costs
  • Create a budget to determine how many states you can realistically apply to, should you want to apply to multiple to be safe.
    • Remember, UBE scores can be transferred, so if you get a seat in a state that allows courtesy seating, you can transfer the score to your desired state later on; meaning, you only need to sit for the UBE once.
  • Complete the NCBE Character and Fitness application ASAP if you’re unsure where you’re applying. They have state-specific applications and a general one for this reason. Include this cost in your budget and give yourself a full day to complete it.
  • Apply as early as possible, even if you are in the first-priority class, to maximize your chances of being accepted.
  • Update your BARBRI bar exam profile, and inform your employer of any changes to your UBE plans.
    • Don’t worry, you don’t require new BARBRI bar books if you’re taking the UBE in a different jurisdiction, the books are the same!
  • Try to stay positive!

Reflecting on the 2L Life

Reflecting on the 2L life

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

By the time you read this, I will be submitting my final project of 2L. What a ride it has been. The saying is, “1L they work you to death” (true),  “2L they work you to death… also true.” Now… a lot of my “working to death” was all of my doing. For example, I took 18 credits, both semesters. In addition to that, I also completed 300-hour externships both semesters, for no credit. In the fall, I continued working at the government agency I was at during the summer, and in the spring, I had a stipend based externship at a law firm. I was busy, but I wouldn’t change a thing!

I believe 2L is where you can begin to see yourself as a lawyer, and I am so grateful for all of the experiences that enabled me to know I was on the right path. Here are the best decisions I made during 2L.

I joined a clinic

In the fall, I was a 38d (limited practice) student for the City of Tucson. I remember the call I had with my dad when I told him I had won my first bench trial. He said, “that is so great, what did the teacher say? I knew you were nervous.” I responded that I had not told them yet. Confused, he said, “wasn’t she there, it’s a class…” I laughed and said, “No, dad, this was a real case, and an attorney supervised me, as I did the case, in front of a Judge.” I don’t think I will ever forget him going “WHAT!?!?” I learned so much during that clinic, and it solidified the fact that I should pursue litigation.

I entered a closing argument competition

Because of my clinic, I knew I wanted to get some practice making a closing argument before I had to do it in an actual courtroom. This desire inspired me to enter the closing argument competition. I did well and received an invitation to join the trial team. I wrote about this last semester, explaining that I had to turn down the invitation, because well, I just did not have time. This experience taught me to know my limits. Even though I said “no,” I knew I wanted to be on the trial team as a 3L, and I tried out again in the spring and made the team for next year!!

I focused on practical classes

It feels like there are two paths, and no, I am not talking about litigation vs. transactional, but rather to take bar classes or not to take bar classes. For me, I selected the experimental/practical course route. I do not regret this at all, and this decision has really helped me excel at work. During my summer, I realized that while knowing the law is important, knowing how to conduct effective legal research, communicate with clients effectively to build trust, and having the ability to write well is what seemed to matter most. Not only did this prepare me well for my externships, but I discovered this is where I could excel in the classroom as well. I learn best by applying what I learn in classroom simulations, and my GPA got a nice boost as a result.

Young Woman Working while in School

I worked… a lot…

Perhaps it is because I had a career before law school, but having externships during the school year has made my law school experience so much better. Each day I worked, I learned a new skill or more about my working style. I was able to be mentored by seasoned attorneys and learn from my mistakes, safely. Once we graduate, the training wheels are gone, and what we do could significantly impact a client. Working as an extern allowed me to experience many aspects of being an attorney without causing any damage to a case or client. I will be a more effective associate and attorney because of these lessons.

We all choose different paths in school, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to complete your 2L. But my advice is to select a path that will allow you to grow and blossom within the constructs of the legal field. I loved everything I did, but I also could have hated it, and that would have been just as valuable as a lesson, and allowed me to course-correct if needed. Thank you for sharing the @The2LLife with me, and I look forward to seeing you next year in the @The3LLife!

Get a Hobby, Law Student

Bird Watching as a hobby

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

One of the silver linings of quarantine has been seeing my fellow law students going back to their old hobbies and investing again in leisure. With the hectic schedule of 1L, preserving time to relax and participate in activities that bring joy can be difficult and seem impossible. Having hobbies is so crucial to wellbeing, though, not only because it provides an opportunity to think about something other than law school, but because it’s a safe space to fail and to be bad at something. Especially with so many summer internships going remote or being canceled, this is the perfect opportunity to invest in some self-care and leisure.

If given the choice, I would rather be outdoors every single moment of daylight.

This can be a difficult lifestyle to maintain in the midst of the chaos of law school and especially now, when staying inside is so crucial to public health.  My way around the need to stay inside has been to bring the outdoors in with container vegetable gardens. Fair warning about choosing a hobby: If you choose something like gardening or plants, some of them will die. It may break your heart. That is ok. If you choose something that you aren’t very good at yet, you have to consciously decide that it’s ok for you to not be good at it. I started drawing last year but got discouraged at how truly bad at it I was, so I decided it would be better to choose something that didn’t make me feel worse about myself.

Friends have told me that since the beginning of quarantine they have started reading again, playing music, painting, writing, running, and sewing. Each one of them has said it with a twinge of guilt, but mostly joy at having the opportunity to do something that makes them happy.

If you are on the market for a law-school friendly hobby, here are a few fun ones to consider!

  • Bonsai
  • Knot-tying
  • Scrabble
  • Whittling
  • Entomology
  • Bird Watching
  • Pasta making
  • Origami

And to convince you all to come to the dark side of gardening, just look at this tiny little celery sprout and the crazy growth on my potato plant!

I want to know all your weird hobbies and to hear about how you are handling this rapidly changing time! Reach out on Twitter and Instagram @the1lLife!

Reflections of a Law Student

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

My time as the BARBRI Life of a 3L blogger has come to an end, as has my time as a law student – but don’t worry, you can continue to follow my adventures as the BARBRI bar prep blogger.

As I prepare to virtually walk across the stage, I’ve found myself reflecting on my law school experience; both the good and the bad. There are memories that I wince at, and things I would have done differently if I were to revisit them now, but ultimately, I am happy with how I conducted myself in law school. To that end, I’ve put together a list of my recommendations – feel free to take them with a grain of salt, after all, I’m no expert.

Maintain a Balance

My friend group enjoying a much-needed spa night/birthday celebration in 2L

I chose to prioritize friendships and family over my academics. I lost my brother during my first semester of law school, and it radically changed my outlook on life. Prior to his death, I viewed grades as the most important thing – so important that I once broke down in tears in my university library over a poor paper grade. After his passing, I realized that there are more important things in life – when all is said and done, can you really say that getting straight A’s is what you’ll remember about your life? For me, it’s not.

That is not to say I didn’t apply myself, because I did. Like any law student, I experienced late nights studying, grueling cold calls, and an overflowing calendar. However, I am glad my outlook shifted, because funnily enough, it made me a better law student (and person) in the end.

I would urge any current or aspiring law student to take a long hard look at their work-life balance. To a large degree, I think we as law students have a tendency to buy into this notion that we need to be absolutely perfect or no one is going to want to employ us. And sure, to an extent that is true – I don’t recommend skimming through by any means. But I also think it’s important to remember that we’re only human, and it’s okay to prioritize your relationships and wellbeing over your academic pursuits from time to time; it’s okay to say spend thanksgiving not studying, and it’s okay to take a mid-day nap instead of heading to the library. You need to find a balance that works for you, or you’ll burn yourself out.

Special shout out to this girl right here: meeting you was the best part of law school. .

Foster Lasting Friendships

Without a doubt, the best part of my entire law school experience is the friendships I made. I can’t imagine what my law school experience would be like without them, but I know it would have been a struggle. These amazing people sent me care packages when my brother passed away; they made sure I had notes and study aids when I was too depressed to actually study on my own; they helped me move my belongings from state-to-state for summer jobs, and pack my apartment when, due to COVID-19, I was stuck outside the US; and so much more. These are the people that cheered me on during cold calls, inspired me to expand my research interests through their own passions, and blessed me with so many happy memories. So thank you to each and every one of you, and most especially, to my 1L roommate and legal bestie – you all amaze me.

Between orientation events, pre-assigned 1L sections, and the plethora of events, law school makes it easy for you to make friends. That said, I strongly recommend you move beyond those pre-arranged social events. Look outside of your section, and your year for friendships, join student organizations and pro bono projects, or take a trip with law students.

Develop Relationships With Your Professors

If I could go back and re-do one thing in law school, I would focus on developing deeper relationships with a wider range of professors. I came into law school with a solid idea of where I wanted my career to go, and because of that, I focused on establishing relationships with a targeted subset of the faculty. But, now that I’m beginning to look towards the bar and further graduate studies, I do wish I’d gotten to know some of the other professors at my university on the same level.

I took one course, one independent study, and formed NALSA with Professor Blackhawk (to my left). Thank you for all the support and guidance!

There’s a number of ways that you can establish lasting relationships with professors, the most obvious being course enrollment. If you’re unable to enroll in multiple courses with a professor, you can also serve as their research assistant, ask them to coffee to discuss their area of study, join the journal or group that they chair, do an independent study with them, etc. Regardless of how you do it, make sure to connect with at least a handful of professors – you’ll

need them for reference letters for jobs, the bar application, graduate school applications, etc.

Attending a conference on ADR in Tokyo, Japan, with Professor Feldman in 1L.

Make your own outlines

During the first semester of 1L, I really bought into the idea of shared outlines, passed down from previous classes. Some of my friends still swear by it, but for me, it simply did not work in my favor because I benefit from the process of re-reading and re-organizing my notes. Admittedly, I did find shared outlines useful as references – especially during cold calls – but I would recommend that all law students take the time to craft their own unique outline.

The trick I used to make outlining less of a cumbersome ordeal was to start outlining from the beginning. I made use of the table of contents feature in word, and the different headers, to organize my notes as I took them. After each section of the course came to a close I would go back through my notes and make modifications. This helped keep the contents fresh in my mind, and cut down on time when reading week rolled around.

Study how you want, not how you’re told

Similar to outlining, I realized early on that study groups were not for me – which, realistically, was not a surprise since they had never worked for me before. I think the law school environment has a way of pushing students towards certain study methods, which can be harmful to those students who benefit from alternative study methods. I tried to avoid this pressure during my years as a law student, but it was tough at times.

Penn Women’s Ice Hockey Team

Branch out From the Law School

Law students have a way of relating to one another; collectively, we all understand the legal world and the struggles associated with law school, and that can be comforting. Two of the best things I did during my time as a law student were non-law school-related; namely, joining a campus-wide event planning group, and joining the university hockey team. Each of these endeavors allowed me to meet people outside of the law school sphere, which greatly added to my overall experience.

Presenting my final paper for a course on women’s rights to UN WomenNot only is it a good idea to make friends outside of the law school for your own mental wellbeing (sometimes you just need a break from all things law-related), but it’s also a good long-term ‘strategy.’ One of my mentors once told me that the key to being a successful lawyer is being a good networker. You may not view it as networking at the time, but attending non-law school-specific events, making friends with people from other departments or schools, and generally branching out from the law school bubble is a great way to begin expanding your social network.  For instance, through my hockey team, I met a Ph.D. student who, without knowing it, inspired me to apply to a Ph.D. program of my own.

Take Courses That Inspire you

In 1L you really don’t have much choice regarding the courses you take, but in 2L and 3L it’s pretty much a free for all. When 2L course selection rolled around I struggled between enrolling in courses that would be on the bar, and enrolling in courses that were interesting to me personally. Ultimately, I elected to enroll in the courses that inspired me, which, I think was the right choice. I noticed that compared to 1L, I was more energized in 2L and 3L because I was actually excited to attend class. And, since the topics aligned with my interests, I was able to get better grades and write papers that I went on to publish. This strategy also enabled me to create more meaningful relationships with a number of professors and students.

The majority of my pro bono efforts focused on animal rights!

Do Pro Bono Early

I jumped on the pro bono bandwagon within my first months of 1L; by the time I finished 2L I had completed the requisite number of pro bono hours for my university, meaning I could enter 3L (relatively) stress-free.

In 1L I focused on small non-time consuming projects with a few select pro bono groups that interested me. Working on these projects in 1L was a great supplement to my legal writing course; it helped me hone my researching and legal writing skills, and was a great benefit during my 1L summer. Additionally, by beginning my pro bono work early, I felt like I had more freedom to pick and choose assignments that were of interest to me since I didn’t feel pressured to rack up a certain number of hours in a relatively limited time span.

Obviously, you should take things at your own pace, especially since 1L grades are some of the most important grades of your entire law school career. That said, if by the time second semester rolls around, you feel confident enough to take on a few small projects, I say go for it! Alternatively, if you don’t feel comfortable balancing pro bono and 1L courses, I know a number of my friends completed a significant portion of their pro bono hours during their 1L summer.

Budget for a Social Life

I have an irrational – or perhaps very rational – fear of debt. In college, I balanced a heavy course load with two jobs to avoid taking out loans. Unfortunately, the price tag for my law school made it impossible to avoid federal loans, so I opted to live in a cheaper part of the city and limit my outings and Uber rides.

My 1L law school schedule basically consisted of walking to-and-from university, cooking at home, and attending only the most popular events. This was a great strategy in terms of saving money, but I felt like I was missing out on the social aspect of law school. Thus, I re-configured my law school budget for 2L to allow me to attend bar reviews, and partake in a few school trips – my experience that year was SO much better. In 3L, I finally took the plunge and moved into the city, and though it was short-lived thanks to COVID-19, I have to say, I was very happy for those few months.

Looking back at my quality of life in 1L, I wish I had been a little more flexible with my budget from the start. Not only did broadening my social sphere and changing my living conditions help me to socialize more and have a more well-rounded law school experience, it also brought me more joy and helped me mentally as well.

2019 I-trek trip
Participating in the 2019 I-trek trip with a group of Penn Law students

Dear soon to be 1Ls…

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

I am just a week away from finishing up my 2L, and the time has flown by incredibly fast. I see on Facebook and LinkedIn that people are proudly announcing their seat deposits and forging ahead with their dream of law school even in this uncertain time. No matter if we are back on campus or still online, here is some advice about the things you do and don’t need as you get ready to head off to school.

Mac or PC?

It doesn’t matter. My school is half and half, so buy whichever you prefer. All that matters is that you have a reliable laptop with a good battery. Some people use Chromebooks and IPads or tablets. They work too, but make sure that they will work with the exam software that your school uses. I use a touch screen PC, and I love it. I also bought an extended warranty so that it would get me all the way through school. If you’re worried about cost, you can ask for an electronics increase on your 1L loan, just talk to your school.

Mac vs PC

Do buy a bookstand

I have these foldable ones that I could keep in my backpack. They came as a two-pack, so I left one at home and one in my backpack. They made it a lot easier to read books without straining your neck, and made the limited space you have in the classroom work better. These look small, BUT they could even handle Chemerinsky…. You don’t know what that means yet, but this will likely be your 3-pound Con law book!

Do not buy highlighters

I mean it, you do not need highlighters, because they get passed out like candy at school. Now, if we are not back on campus, you might want to pick up a few, but this is entirely up to you.

Do buy an extra power cord for your laptop

You might even want to buy 3. Ok, so I can be a bit forgetful, which often makes me seem over-prepared, but I cannot stress enough how important it was that I had an extra charger in my backpack. I even kept the third one in my locker, just to be safe.  If you have one at home and then keep one in your backpack, you’ll never be without power.

Do not by travel mugs

Seriously… LexisNexis will have you rolling in high-quality travel coffee mugs and water bottles. Trust me on this. They also give out great water bottles, so save your money!

Do buy headphones

Ideally, you’ll be able to buy some noise-canceling ones. It’s shocking how noisy the library can be, and even if you do not like listening to music while you are studying, headphones act as a great “do not disturb sign” to people around you. Ipods or other “in-ear” headphones are also great, but since they aren’t visible, they may not have the same “do not disturb” vibe, as over the ear headphones do.

Do not by earplugs

Again, a massive bowl of these will be available in the law library. Save your money!

Do you have questions about what else you should buy? Current law students, what is one thing you bought that you wish you hadn’t, and one thing you wish you had? Let me know over at the @The 2LLife on Twitter or Instagram!

My top five remote summer internship home survival tools

Working from Home

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

Well folks, I hope the end of the semester is treating you well. I finally limped through the last of my exams and now have a few days to recoup after the heavy emotional toll that limping to the end took. As we all continue to adjust to this new world we live in and to working remotely, I thought I would share the five tools that have gotten me through my seasons of working from home.

1. This mug warmer

I am currently on a five- to six-cups of coffee a day habit, but I still get immersed in my work and forget that I have coffee waiting for me. Very few things are as disappointing to me as a lukewarm cup of coffee, and we don’t have a microwave for easy reheating (plus, microwaved coffee gets kind of weird, let’s be real). So we have invested in enough of these cheap mug warmers to have one in each room of the house, because we are extra extra, and I never have to think about my coffee getting cold.

2. This tiny notebook

I love, love, love these notebooks. I keep everything in them from my reading, grocery, and wish lists to phone numbers, my daily schedule, and all of my to-dos. Sometimes I jot little poems or quotes or things I am thinking down in them as well. They are small enough to stash in my back pocket if I am doing things that require movement and very, very sturdy. Look out for sales on their website and at your university bookstore (if we ever get to go back to campus), because when they go on sale they are one of the most cost-effective notebooks I have found.

3. These noise-canceling headphones

Wall of Sticky NotesI love these headphones because they block out noise like no other headphones I’ve ever had, and they customize your listening experience based on your hearing profile. Plus, they have the option to rent a pair instead of purchasing. If anything happens to your headphones while you’re renting, they will send you a new pair. I am a broke law student, so I deeply appreciate the cheaper and insured option here. I don’t know if I would have survived exams with a roommate and a dog if I didn’t have the option to go into my own little soundproof universe of focus.

4. This wall of sticky notes

This project board is much more organized than the eclectic wall of stickies I set up for exam preparation but having a color-coded system with big font and easily moveable pieces worked VERY well for me. As I’m getting ready to start my virtual summer internship, I’m going to translate what I did for exams into something a little nicer to look at.

5. This bread recipe

There have been plenty of jokes and memes about how everyone is dealing with quarantine by baking sourdough, but I feel like what better way to comfort ourselves than freshly baked carbs loaded with butter. My one recommendation if you are following this recipe, don’t ever punch your dough down. Treat it gently, as though it had feelings. You don’t want to destroy all the goodness that your yeast or sourdough starter has worked so hard to create.

Stay safe and well, fellow sojourners, and as always, feel free to reach out on Twitter and Instagram @the1lLife and let me know how you are hanging in!

Sourdough Starter

Law School Highlights

Harvard Law School

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

Today, I attended my last law school class, and it finally hit me: after next week, I will no longer be a law student. The realization is bittersweet: I’m ready to be finished with law school, I’m ready to start the next chapter of my life; but I’ll also miss my friends … the familiarity of it all … my campus.

You might say I’ve been feeling a little sentimental these past few days, so it only seemed fitting to take you down memory lane with me. As a 1L it can be hard to look past the intensity of the coursework and the grading curve, but as a 3L I’m able to look back over my three years and see all the good that I have experienced. So, without further delay, here are my highlights.

Orientation Dinner 2017
(Orientation Dinner 2017)

All the Orientation Events:

I’ve always found orientation programming to be awkward and somewhat unnecessary. I’m an introvert, so I’m not a huge fan of mingling with strangers – the feeling held true during my law school orientation. That said, looking back at it, I’m really appreciative that my law school made attendance at orientation mandatory because the bulk of my close friendships were formed at orientation.

Barristers’ Ball:

I studied abroad during my 3L fall semester, so I only attended two barrister ball events during my time as a law student, but they were still amazing. The event itself may have been somewhat disappointing – I always picture Gatsby, but let’s be real, no school can afford to throw a party like that. But the opportunity to see my classmates outside of the classroom, all dolled up with their significant others, and ready to socialize in a non-oppressive setting, was truly refreshing, especially as a 1L.

Barristers Ball
(Barristers’ Ball 1L and 2L)
Final 1L Class
(Final 1L Class)

Receiving 1L Grades:

An odd one right? Usually, when law students think back to 1L exams their thoughts are filled with dread, and trust me, mine are too. But, I also remember that glorious moment when I pressed submit on my final exam of 1L. I remember the minute I received my final grade of 1L and realized that I’d actually done it; I had survived 1L. For me, I don’t think I really believed that I had what it takes to succeed in law school until I saw those little letters on my transcript.

Joining the Hockey Team:

Law school isn’t necessarily seen as a ‘sporty’ place, but the world is what you make it. Sports have always encompassed a huge part of my routine, I’ve been a competitive hockey player since I learned how to walk. I was recruited to play for the Penn Women’s ice hockey team in November of my 1L year, and it was a blessing. The smell of a hockey rink in the wee hours of the morning has an insane calming effect on me (maybe it’s a Canadian thing); practices and games became my therapy and helped me keep my head on straight.

Joining a Hockey Team
(Left: Penn Women’s Ice Hockey Goaltenders. Right: Hockey Team)
Summer Job
My 1L Summer Job: I LOVED my 1L job – like seriously, I loved the people, I loved the work, I loved the clients … I just really, really loved it. I had worked in legal settings before, but this job really solidified that I had made the right career choice.

My 1L Summer Job:

I LOVED my 1L job – like seriously, I loved the people, I loved the work, I loved the clients … I just really, really loved it. I had worked in legal settings before, but this job really solidified that I had made the right career choice.

Spring Break:

With the exception of 3L, which was filled with the uncertainty of COVID-19, my spring breaks have been absolutely fantastic. During 1L I attended a conference in Tokyo, Japan, with a small group of law students. Not only did this give me a chance to further explore one of my favorite cities in the world, but I also made international friendships that have lasted well beyond that one week. Likewise, in 2L, I participated in I-trek with a group of Penn Law students – it was honestly one of the best weeks of my life. I highly recommend taking at least one programmed spring break during your time as a law student.

Spring Break during law school
(Penn Law Transnational Program Participants; Tokyo, Japan)

Softball Tournament:

If your university participates in the infamous softball tournament at UVA, go to it. It doesn’t matter if your athletic, or if you’ve never held a baseball bat before in your life … well, maybe it does if your school participates competitively. I am admittedly terrible at softball (yes dad, I finally admit it), BUT the softball tournament is so much more than what happens on the field. In reality it’s one big party for law students from across the country.

My 2L Summer Associateship:

After loving my 1L summer in public interest so much, I was somewhat worried that I wouldn’t fit in well at my big law firm; thankfully, I was wrong. When I pictured my career as a lawyer, I pictured myself practicing in big law; it felt amazing to have that dream come true. I accepted my offer for post-graduation, but even if you don’t, there’s no denying that the summer programming in big law is superb. You’ll gain at least ten pounds from all the food and alcohol, but they more than makeup for that by planning extravagant outings.

(Women’s Association Event: Proskauer)

3L Study Abroad:

If there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I live to travel. If I could get paid to just travel the world and explore new cultures, I would throw my law degree to the wind. In fact, part of the reason I wanted to become a lawyer in the first place was the flexibility the career offered in terms of traveling (in big law, we have offices all over the globe, and we get opportunities to visit those offices from time-to-time. Plus, US law degrees are transferable, meaning you can seek entry into a range of countries after a few years of practice). Taking that into consideration, it should come as no surprise that spending the fall semester of my 3L year in London filled me with insurmountable joy.

Graduation:

It hasn’t happened yet, but call my psychic because I know my graduation (the real in-person one, not the virtual slideshow) is going to be the topper on the cake that is law school.

What have your highlights been so far? Let me know on Instagram!

College Grad
(Since I didn’t get law school photos, here are my grad photos from my masters)

Ready for a Movie Marathon?

Legal Movie Marathon

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

I think the answer to this question 100% depends on where you are in the semester. If you’re like me and finals are still two weeks away, a movie might be a welcome distraction. If you are in the middle of finals… maybe not so much.

Just in case a social distancing watch party is in your future, and you’ve watched “Legally Blonde” a few too many times,  here are a few of my recommendations based on the classes you may be taking, and who knows you might refresh a concept or two!

Trial Advocacy

If you’re currently in Trial Advocacy or just missing the courtroom, check out “My Cousin Vinny”

Professional Responsibility

“Michael Clayton” might not seem like the obvious choice, but in this movie, a law firm brings in a “fixer” after their lawyer has a breakdown while representing a guilty chemical company in a class-action suit.

Con Law I or Con Law II

Check out “Loving,” a case you likely read, Loving V. Virginia. The Supreme court case, which struck down laws banning interracial marriage were violations of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Environmental Law

“Erin Brockovich.” Based on a true story, not only does it touch on environmental law, but also negotiations, client counseling, and more.

Securities

If you need a spot the issue movie for your securities final, “Wall Street” is likely your best bet.

Criminal Law

You might want to check out the “Lincoln Lawyer.” Not only does it follow a criminal law issue, but it’s also full of ethics issues.

These are just a few of the suggestions I received, so if you have another one, let me know over at the @The2LLife on Twitter or Instagram.

Maintaining Studies During Uncertainty

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

By now, none of us are strangers to uncertainty. Between grading shifts, bar exam postponements, the uncertainty of what the fall semester will look like, and summer internship cancelations it is totally reasonable for things to seem scary and a little out of control. Here are two things I am trying to do to make the most of this strange time.

Try to maintain your routines, both in the day-to-day and the big picture.

Full disclosure: this has been difficult for me. The first three weeks that I was house-bound due to having a fragile immune system in the age of Covid-19 were really productive. I was waking up at my favorite 5:30 am and getting more accomplished before 9:00 am than I often do the entire day if I sleep later. Around the fourth week of not leaving my house or really interacting with other humans though, I started to lose motivation and it has been difficult to get it back ever since.

I have realized in this time that I rely heavily on the anxious buzz of the classroom and the student commons to keep me focused and motivated. Even as a very introverted introvert, I need a lot of contact with my peers to remind me of the good in all of the mundane overload of case reading. One of my short-term goals is to research and brainstorm ways to cultivate that connection if classes remain online in the fall and how to leverage those connections if we are able to return to campus.

Be a good goal-setter.

As you take stock of this semester and think towards next semester, it might be helpful to have two sets of goals in mind: one for if classes return to on-campus face-to-face format, and one for if your school sticks with virtual classrooms for the fall. Depending on what classes you’ll be taking, these two sets of goals may require radically different mindsets and plans, or they may simply require a plan with a little bit more wiggle room. Either way now is the perfect time to start mapping out what those goals may look like. Here’s a very early draft of a life plan I have been working on lately. It is only half-filled out, and half of what is there has already changed, but that’s part of the fun.

If you, like me, are a natural dreamer but not a natural goal-setter, try to think in categories such as academic, social (including professional networking), health and wellness, spiritual, financial, family, and leisure. Start with your ten-year, blue skies, no obstacles dreams, and work backward down to five years, three years, one year, six months, one month, and one week. Ask yourself at each step what you need to learn and do in order to move towards those ten-year goals. Keep in mind that as you move forward those goals may change, especially in a moment as uncertain as this one. That’s ok! Flexibility is a key skill to develop to thrive in the legal profession.

Though it may seem counterintuitive to take this time of uncertainty to build your game plan, I think a time like this reminds us to make the most of the time that we have, whatever that looks like for each of us.

Graduation Gift Ideas

Graduation Gift Ideas

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

So the time has finally come, your favorite law student is about to graduate and you have no idea what to buy them! With commencement ceremonies being pushed online, and in-person ceremonies being postponed, the law student in your life is sure to appreciate any gift you decide to give them … that said, if you want it to be something extra good, or extra useful, here are few ideas!

  1. Every aspiring lawyer needs a nice briefcase to tote their belongings and casefiles around. Try to stick to long-lasting materials like leather, and neutral colors, to ensure your soon-to-be-attorney gets the most use of it.
  2. Scrounging around in your purse or pockets for a business card isn’t very professional. Save your soon-to-be-lawyer from the embarrassment and buy them a business cardholder. Bonus points if it’s engraved with their school name or their initials.
  3. Diploma frames are expensive ($150 – $300), and yet they’re almost universally wanted by graduating students. Reach out to your law grad and offer to purchase, or pitch in, for the diploma frame.
  4. The most classic gift of all might be the whiskey tumbler and decanter set, or wine glasses.
  5. If your grad isn’t a big drinker, you can also buy some fun coffee mugs and/or travel mugs – trust me, we like our caffeine.
  1. Business attire! We’re all going to have to wear it, and you can really never have too much. Make sure to get a gift receipt in case something doesn’t fit, or go the safe route and buy an accessory like a tie.
  2. Speaking of business attire, what’s one staple of the American lawyer’s outfit? A watch. Sure, your law grad may have an apple watch, but do they have a nice professional looking watch? If not, consider gifting them one for graduation.
  3. Books. What law student doesn’t like books? This idea is pretty broad, you can go the legal route and buy them a Barnes and Noble collectible edition of the Constitution – it will look lovely on a bookshelf – or you can go the sentimental route and buy them ‘Oh, the places you will go’ or you can even buy them a book of legal jokes. The world is yours.
  1. You can never go wrong with a gift card, especially during this new virtual (and online) reality we’re all living in. Same goes for cash.
  2. Your soon-to-be-lawyer will likely appreciate a funny, or puny, legal t-shirt. It can serve as their bar studying attire.
  1. If you’re really feeling the funny gifts, and I mean why not, we could all use a good laugh right now. Consider putting together an entire care package. Grab your puny t-shirt, your favorite law inspired mug, a book of law jokes, and a few extras, like this fantastic ‘divorce papers’ scented candle, and gavel foam stress toy (great for bar studying stress).
The Smell of DivorceStress Gavel

BONUS: BARBRI has some cool stuff on Zazzle.com — zazzle.com/barbri