Brain Breaks

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

Something happened to me last week that has only happened to me a couple of times before.

After many days of 10+ straight hours of deep mental work, my brain just collapsed from exhaustion. I tried to push through it. I drank more coffee. I drank so much coffee. I worked on the less intellectually-demanding tasks while I waited for my brain health gauge to replenish, but the truth was that I had overdone it. The inner-workings of my mind resembled what my house looks like on weeks that I have multiple events at school: absolute disarray. The longer I delayed taking a break, the worse the mess got and the more difficult even the simplest tasks became.

It’s a vicious and inefficient cycle, really. I work slower and less efficiently instead of taking a break, which makes me even slower and less efficient. On and on it goes until the pace is really more like standing still. The time and work would have been better off if I had just stared at the wall for thirty minutes, or better yet – watched some 30 Rock.

We’ve talked before about how learning new information and processes creates and repaves your neurological pathways. The more new information you are taking in, the more “paving” work your brain is doing. As you are paving and repaving these neural pathways, your brain is simultaneously engaged in sorting and organizing all of the new information to relate to the pre-existing information. The more you repeat those same processes and that same information, the more well-trod those pathways become, but only to a point.

Why?

Because brains, like bodies, get tired. We all know this from our primary school days, right? Eat a healthy diet to give your brain energy. Exercise regularly to give your brain energy. Get enough sleep to give your brain energy.

Here’s the law school addition to that: give your brain breaks so that it can do all of that work without turning into a puddle of mush. I am finding that this is harder work than I care to admit. Even when I am not doing school work, my brain is still in on mode – somewhere in my mind I am rehearsing the definition of proximate cause. I am afraid that if I stop rehearsing it to myself, I will lose it.

In a sense, that’s true.

But if I give my brain actual breaks, it will take the definition of proximate cause and organize it. And I might lose it for a bit. But then when I find it again, I will be able to see what folder my brain put it in and then finding it will be that much easier next time.

This is especially important with exams coming up when the temptation to cram study is very high. We study more, sleep less, and retain less.

It’s very difficult for me to take real brain breaks, but here’s what I have found that helps me: boxing, running, and cycling; listening to really loud, fun music; watching trashy sitcoms; reading an engrossing novel; going on a hike with my camera; eating really good food without any other distractions.

I’d love to hear what you do to give your brain a break! Reach out on twitter and Instagram @the1lLife!

A Summer Associate Wardrobe on a Law Student Budget

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

Like most of you, I worked for free this summer, and like the rest of you have been living off of my student loans for the most. Money is tight, and I think that is just a simple fact for most of us. For me, I was very lucky, and I worked for a government agency this summer that had a very casual dress code. In fact, jeans were highly encouraged. The causal environment was perfect, not just because it made it easy to dress for work, but because it was very friendly to my budget since I could just wear what I already owned.

However, this summer, I will be a summer associate at a big law firm in Phoenix, and the wardrobe demands of that job will be very different. I need to build a summer associate wardrobe without causing too much damage to my budget. Before law school, I owned zero suits. Right before school started, I was lucky enough to buy a few professional outfits from The Limited when they were liquidating their inventory, for only $14.99 apiece. But that was it. So, for tips on how to build my summer associate without breaking the bank, I turned to my friends, fellow interns, and mentors.

Here is what I learned…

First, Know What You’ll Need.

Once you know the culture of your firm, courthouse, or workplace you can start understanding the dress code you’ll be expected to adhere to. You can do this by arranging for a visit to the firm, meeting with your firm’s mentor, or reaching out to the previous summer associates. The associate class from last year, took all of us out for a happy hour to give us great tips about succeeding at the firm, and what to wear.

Next, Plan to Mix and Match

Now that you know what to shop for, make it a goal to build a wardrobe that you can mix and match easily. One of my friends recommended building a wardrobe of pieces that all complimented each other and could easily be mixed and matched. She recommended picking a color theme, and this would allow you to easily repeat clothes by simply varying the shell, jacket, or skirt. For many of you, this is likely common sense, but for those of us that are more fashionably challenged, this was an important tip.

Where to Shop

First Stop, Goodwill.

My amazing friend and fellow 2L intern at my government agency swears by Goodwill and proudly professes that she has built her entire professional wardrobe through frequent visits. She has impeccable style, and you would never know that her items were picked up from Goodwill. Her best tip is to shop right after the holidays, as that is when she has been able to pick up the highest quality suits. A few other people also recommended Goodwill, so I began to hit up my local store once a month, and have been able to pick up some great jackets and shells. However, my best score occurred this weekend! I found three brand new Anne Taylor suits that were gorgeous, but unfortunately, not in my size. However, since they were only $10, a piece I knew they would be useful to someone that size in my law school class. I posted a photo and quickly had a request to purchase them. You’d never believe it, all three fit her perfectly like they had been tailored for her!

Shop Consignment Stores

Next, try consignment stores.

This is where I personally have had the best luck when it has come to purchasing actual suits. The prices here can range dramatically, but you’re more likely to find designer suits at a store like this. However, the prices can sometimes still rival that of Goodwill. In Phoenix, we have My Sister’s Closet, and I have found great suits for as little as $20.

You can also find amazing deals on Poshmark (if you need a referral code, mine is @stepharizona). One of the jackets I bought from The Limited has turned into my “go to court outfit,” and I desperately wanted to find it again. Luckily, I was able to on Poshmark!

Don’t Forget Chains and Online stores too

Nordstrom Rack is an obvious go-to for many, but do not forget Target, Amazon and even Costco.com, who all have professional wardrobes available. You can pick up pieces for less than $20 in most cases. Just make sure you can “mix and match” with the pieces you have already found. Now is also a great time to check out the clearance racks at department stores too. The clothes you can wear to the office in the summer will now be on clearance!

Finally, consider renting.

This final tip comes from one of my friends, who is a lawyer in Los Angeles. Sure, she is no longer on a law school budget, but she has substantial loans to repay, so she tries to keep her budget similar to what had in law school. Her favorite tip was to rent your wardrobe! She said for about $100 a month she can subscribe to a clothing rental service that provides her with 3 outfits at a time. She loves this because she gets new clothes that fit her style profile, and she never has to worry about dry cleaning! She simply wears an outfit to work, changes into gym clothes before going home, and ships the outfit back that night. Usually 2 days later, she receives a new outfit. She simply keeps this cycle going, because the service has unlimited returns and you get a new outfit shipped out as soon as the old one is received. Because of the system that she has, she really only needs a few staple items of her own, like the suits she wears to court. She has found this has worked really well for her and would be cheaper than her dry cleaning bill.

So those are my tips for creating a summer associate wardrobe on a law school budget! What tips do you have? Let me know over at the @The2LLife on Instagram and Twitter!

Mealtime for Law Students

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

It’s a known fact that law students are strapped for time. Our schedules are usually filled with school responsibilities, and when they’re not we’re normally too exhausted to take advantage of the break.

With limited time and energy to devote to non-school related activities, law students often become closely acquainted with the nearby restaurants and delivery services. Unfortunately, while eating out may be easy, but it’s not necessarily the most healthy option, and it certainly isn’t the most financially practical one.

Luckily, cooking your own meals doesn’t need to take hours (contrary to what some cooking shows seem to indicate). Personally, I love to cook so it’s never been an issue for me, but when I’m strapped for time I usually opt for one of the following recipes, because they’re quick, simple, and tasty! PS. Investing in a crockpot will save you loads of time and help you expand your efficient culinary possibilities!

The 15 Minute Chicken Stir-fry

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 2 cups broccoli, sliced
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
Instructions:
  • Pan fry your vegetables over medium heat for approximately 5-6 minutes. Once cooked remove from heat.
  • Pan fry your diced chicken and minced garlic for 3-4 minutes per side over medium heat. Add the cooked vegetables to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, honey and say sauce. Pour the mixture over the chicken and vegetables and cook for 1 minute.
  • In another bowl, mix the 2 tsps of cornstarch with 1 tbsp of cold water. Pour the mixture into the pan and let it simmer until the sauce thickens.
  • Serve on its own, or with rice.

The Five-Ingredient Enchilada

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb cooked chicken, shredded or finely chopped
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 10-ounce can enchilada sauce
  • 8 regular sized soft flour tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded four-cheese Mexican cheese (1 bag)
Instructions:
  • Preheat your oven to 350°F and lightly grease a large casserole dish.
  • Spread ½ of the enchilada sauce along the bottom of the casserole dish.
  • Fill each tortilla with approximately ¼ cup of chicken and tbsp of cheese. Roll the tortilla’s and place them into the dish with the seam facing down.
  • Pour the other half of the enchilada sauce over the tortilla’s and sprinkle any remaining cheese on top.
  • Cover the dish in tin foil and bake for 30 minutes.

The Fifteen Minute Alfredo

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup half and half
  • ¾ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • Grilled chicken, diced
  • Cooked spaghetti
Instructions:
  • Add noodles to boiling water and cook until tender, stirring occasionally (pour 1 tsp of oil into the pot to avoid the noodles sticking together). At the same time, pan-fry your chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Melt butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute before whisking in the flour, half and half, and chicken broth.
  • Once the dry ingredients are absorbed, add the parmesan cheese, stirring constantly until it is fully melted and then remove from heat.
  • Combine the cooked chicken and spaghetti, and pour the sauce over top. Add salt, pepper, or parsley for extra flavor.

The One Pot Beef and Broccoli

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli
  • 3 cups white rice
  • 1 cup teriyaki sauce
Instructions:
  • Cook the beef in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. At the same time, cook the broccoli in boiling water, and cook your rice according to the instructions.
  • Once cooked, add the broccoli and rice to the pan with the beef. Pour the teriyaki sauce over the mixture and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes.

What are your go-to law school meals? Share them with us on social media, we’d love to try them out!

It’s Clinic Time

Clinic Time

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

Can you believe it my fellow 2L’s, we are starting to pick our classes for the second semester of our 2L year!?! Once we start those classes, we will we halfway through our law school journey. Some of you might be even closer to crossing the finish line if you’ve completed summer school, or taken a full load of classes. While I’m not a fan of attending summer school, I am a huge fan of clinics.

Law school clinics allow students to be 38D certified (it might be some other title for your state), but it basically means that a law student can conduct “limited practice” under supervision of a licensed attorney. This attorney could be your professor or someone outside the law school. By being certified this means you can do all the things a bar-certified lawyer would do, for the most part.

All clinics are a little different, so it’s important to research all of the clinics available to you.

At most schools, it’s a competitive process. This means that you bid on the clinic you want (often by ranking them), or perhaps you might interview for the clinic to be chosen since there are limited spots. Depending on your school this could mean that you are not able to do a clinic while you were in law school. Other schools guarantee you’ll be able to participate in at least one clinic and that is how my school works.

So for all you pre-law students and 0Ls out there who are deciding on where you’re going to go to law school, make sure you look into this before you make your final decision. I know it played a role in my law school process. I knew I wanted to participate in clinics, so I picked a school that guaranteed at least one clinic, possibly even more. Some people at my school do clinics every semester in their 2L & 3L years.

There are lots of different ways to select a clinic, but here are my top 3 recommendations for picking a clinic.

First, pick a clinic in the field you want to practice

If you have an interest in family law, participating in a related clinic is a great way to find out if this is what you want to do for your career. You’ll interact with the same type of clients you will upon graduation, and the clinic gives you this experience while still being supervised and that is the key thing… it’s okay to make mistakes. Everyone knows you’re still learning and the supervising attorney is there to help catch those errors.

Family Law

Pick a clinic in a disliked or unfamiliar area.

On the flip side, you might want to pick a clinic for something you don’t think you want to practice in. This might seem like a recipe for disaster; however, you might surprise yourself and discover something you really enjoy and love. If you know you’d never want to practice in a can field, maybe skip this option, but if your doubt is just because you don’t know a lot about it, why not give it a try. A clinic offers the perfect opportunity to “dip your toe” in the practice area, with little risk.

Pick your clinic based on the skills you’ll gain.

Finally, you might want to pick a clinic, just based on the experience you’ll gain from it. And that’s the approach I took when I decided to participate in the prosecution clinic. While I did not plan on practicing criminal law when I picked this clinic as a 1L, I knew I wanted to be a litigator, and this clinic would provide a ton of litigation experience. I also knew for my criminal procedure class, that criminal law was something that I might have an interest in, so this allowed me to explore that interest. However, my primary goal was to be in court as much as possible, and this was the best clinic to meet that goal.

At my clinic, I get to prepare cases and try them in court. I prepared for six bench trials in the past two weeks. My first three trials all concluded in plea deals that were reached immediately before the trial began. Yesterday, I had my first opportunity to proceed with two cases. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that I was able to have an attorney be by my side and help guide me through the process of responding to objections, making objections, and speaking to the judge.

While there are classes that can help us do that, such as basic trial advocacy, to me is nothing like real-world experience. I learned so much and this experience will not only help me with my future cases but in my classes like evidence as well. It’s also helped me realize that pursuing a career in criminal law may be an interest as well.

So if you’re on the fence about doing a clinic or you’re not sure which one to select I hope you find these tips useful. I would love to hear about your clinic experience. Let me know, over at the @The2LLife on Instagram or Twitter.

Law School Note Taking Part II

Law School Note Taking

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

Last week in the 1L Life cafe, we talked about law school note taking strategies. This week we are following that up with a rundown of my absolute favorite ever all-purpose app – Notion. (remember, it’s free for students!)

If you think this particular note-taking setup would work for you, you can click here and duplicate the template into your own workspace.

Here’s how I have it set up:

I start with a school dashboard that has my to-do list for the week along with a sub-page for each class and activity I am involved in. I update my assignments on Sundays. It sometimes takes a while but having everything right there is so much easier than flipping through the syllabus ten times because I keep forgetting my planner and also what page numbers I am supposed to read.

School Dashboard

Each class sub-page has the info for the course, every assignment thus far, and a sub-page for each week, case briefs, vocab, rules, syllabus, and of course, the BARBRI outline. I use a unicorn cover photo for every Contracts page, because contracts, like unicorns, feels mystical and elusive to me.

Contracts

The Resources pages are mostly spreadsheets, within which each entry exists as a card. I became obsessed with this system of tables a few years ago when I started using Airtable. I am hooked. I use the provided emojis to give myself a little memory jog about the contents of cases without even having to click on them.

Ever-Time Roofing Corp V. Green

Contracts BriefsAs you can see by the sparseness of emojis, I have been a little behind on filling out my Contracts case brief chart. That’s okay, though, because I have a three-step process for interacting with cases. I take hand-written notes, so I do a very short (usually 3-4 bullet points) handwritten brief of each case. Right before class, I transfer my hand-written notes over to my weekly notes document, which refreshes me on the facts. Then, at the end of the week, when I am tidying everything up and making note of what I need to review, I transfer my in-line case notes into my table.

At this point, you are probably pretty impressed by my perfectly refined system but you should know that even though I have successfully tested this system to ensure it works well for me, there has yet to be a single week where I complete the whole process for all of my classes. There have definitely been weeks where I didn’t complete it for a single class. Also, I am fairly certain the case brief up there in that Ever-title Roofing case is actually from Lexis.

Contracts Final Plan

One last little note.

I just started mapping out my Finals plan, which only a little bit terrifying, of course. I have not gotten very far but included it here as well.

2Ls and 3Ls, I beg you for your sage exam-prep advice! If you try out the template, I’d love to know what works or doesn’t work for you. If your law school note taking system is better (or less complex) than mine, let me know! Reach out on Instagram and Twitter @the1lLife.

BARBRI: I Passed The Ohio Bar Exam

Yay! I passed the Bar Exam!

[ GUEST BLOG by Sara Valentine, Graduate of Capital University Law ]

Will Farrell ExclaimingHey, BARBRI! I passed the Ohio Bar Exam!

I am so thankful to my mom, my friends, and my support group for getting me to this point. I would especially like to thank Capital University Law School for providing me with a stellar education that allowed me to work fulltime while attending evening classes for law school. The evening program at Capital Law took four long, hard years. It was all worth it for this moment and this day.

Robert Downey Wiping Brow

However, I owe a lot of my happiness today to BARBRI. I still remember how overwhelmed I was starting up that first class. The process this summer was nothing less than grueling, but I am so thankful that I can look back and say that all of my hard work paid off. I stuck to BARBRI’s program, I focused on areas where I was struggling, and I walked into the Ohio Bar Exam confidently. What a relief to be celebrating today. I want to congratulate everyone who got good news this morning and those who have received good news as results have been rolling in.  I am thrilled for you all!

For those of you who did not meet with success, I know it is a very tough time.  Please try to focus on the fact that what you are attempting is something most people never even have the guts to try.  You should feel proud of yourself for making it this far and be confident that ultimately you will absolutely pass this exam.  BARBRI is in your corner all the way.  BARBRI has representatives who can do their best to help you figure out what worked for you, what didn’t, and how to change the result next time around.

Celebratory scene from the Office

For those of you who did pass, did you know that BARBRI is here for you even after you’ve become a licensed attorney?

You’re going to be getting BARBRI’s post-bar email about QLTS and BARBRI’s Attorney’s Course. If you’re interested in practicing abroad, BARBRI has a prep option for the QLTS exam. If you’re interested, you can find out more about the exam and what BARBRI offers by clicking here.

Do you need to take the bar exam in another state?

BARBRI is still here for you! The BARBRI Attorney’s Course is a streamlined, online course designed to save you time. The BARBRI Attorney’s Course bypasses some basic bar exam test-taking skills that are critical for first time takers, it gets your quickly to the most highly tested areas of the exam overall and within each subject, and it pinpoints your topic and subtopic weaknesses so you can spend time working the areas of law that will most benefit your exam score. You can find out more about the BARBRI Attorney’s Course by clicking here.

I know that the idea of taking another bar exam is what nightmares are made of. However, getting licensed in other states or abroad is only going to benefit you in the long run. You’re going to set yourself apart by being able to hit the ground running in states where firms only have a few attorneys practicing or no attorneys at all. Although doing this all over again isn’t necessarily appealing, especially so soon after the July bar exam, you will be able to set yourself up for long-term success if you are able to get licensed in more states.

Thank you all for taking the time to read my blogs and keep up with my social media accounts over the summer and through the fall. It has been my pleasure. Good luck to you all!

Leo Dicaprio raising a toast

All my best,
Sara Valentine

MPRE: What You Can’t Bring

mpre

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

I can’t bring that into the MPRE?

Think you have free range on what you may bring with you into the MPRE? Sadly, no.

Don't bring these items with you to the MPRE

When it comes to the actual test, there are a number of things that you are prohibited from bringing into the test, including:

  • Purses, wallets and watches

    You can bring these with you to the test center but you’ll have to store them during the actual test.

  • Electronics

    You must turn off all electronics and store them during the test.

  • Water bottles and food

    Test centers have water coolers, but you’ll have to exit the test room to access them so I recommend you hydrate beforehand.

  • Jackets, scarves and hats

    Dress in layers because jackets have to be removed and stored during the test.

  • Study materials

    You are prohibited from bringing study materials into the testing room, so leave them at home!

  • Scrap paper

    The test center will provide you will this.

Most test centers provide free lockers for students to use during the test, but you should still confirm with the test center beforehand! ←

Upon arriving at the test center you’ll have to complete the registration process (some test centers require you to print your registration materials beforehand). You’ll begin by signing in – if lockers are available, one will be assigned to you at this time.

Once your belongings are safely stored away you will be required to provide palm scans – which will be retrieved during the bar exam to confirm your identity – and a headshot. Someone will then walk you through the test process and the rules.

Before entering the testing room you’ll be assigned a computer, given a small whiteboard or scrap paper to write notes on and earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. Personally, the noise-canceling headphones were too big for me so I had to suffer through without them – I highly recommend that you bring your own wax earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to avoid that situation.

The exam itself is composed of sixty multiple-choice questions; you’re able to flick back and forth between questions and review your answers before submitting the exam. The computer also has a timer function so you don’t need to worry about looking for a clock.

After submitting the exam you’ll have to raise your hand for someone to come collect you. They’ll confirm your test has been uploaded successfully and then you’ll be free to collect your belongings and flee the test center.

Now, get on out there and crush the MPRE!

How Do You Outline In Law School?

[ Juliana Del Pesco, BARBRI International Legal Manager, Americas ]

It’s a time-honored tradition in law school and one of the most crucial exam preparation steps. If you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about law school outlines.

Outlining simply is synthesizing and meshing course material so you can access details quickly and digest concepts broadly. This process helps you master complex course material by organizing it into something meaningful and understandable for you … and, ultimately, to study for final exams.

A law school outline should consist of things like:

  • the rules from the cases you study
  • your summarized class notes
  • the professor’s hypotheticals
  • any other material that the professor has brought into discussions or alluded to in lectures

Almost every professor will tell you to start outlining early in the semester. Creating your own outline, rather than borrowing, is highly recommended. It may be time consuming but expressing the relevant principles of the law in your own words will help your comprehension and understanding.

Here are our recommended steps:

#1 – GATHER THE FACTS

It’s difficult to build out a meaningful outline without some substance. First, gather all of your foundational information in one place — including your case briefs, class notes, casebook, and maybe a study aid like your BARBRI outline or a handed-down outline. For help acquiring outlines that make the most sense for your classes, you can start by reaching out to your professors. BARBRI also provides great outlines as part of the 1L Mastery Package.

#2 – CREATE A FRAMEWORK

The table of contents in your casebook already has the makings of an outline so you can easily use it as the foundation for yours. It clearly lays out the major area of law, the related subtopics, and where all the cases fit into the discussion. If your professor teaches to a course syllabus rather than following a table of contents, lay out your outline using the syllabus in a similar manner.

#3 – STATE THE RULE, THOROUGHLY

Add a clear and complete statement defining the rule of law (e.g., “Battery is ….”). Do this for each rule based on what has been laid out by your professor, a case you read, information you gathered from a commercial outline (such as the outline in 1L Mastery) or hornbook, or some other source (e.g., Use of the Socratic Method in the classroom). It’s critical that you understand and can clearly state the rule.

#4 – BREAK DOWN THE RULE INTO ITS ELEMENTS

Next, break down the rule itself into its component parts, or elements. Each element then needs to be defined (e.g., List out all four elements of battery and what they entail). The order should follow the way in which the elements were laid out in class by your professor, or how they track in your casebook. It will serve you well on your final exam to take the time to dissect each rule in this way. You’ll likely be asked to write about an element or elements of battery on the essay exam rather than the rule itself.

#5 – FOLLOW EACH ELEMENT WITH SOME HYPOTHETICALS

Law school exams are based around hypothetical situations. The more practice you have, the more comfortable you’ll be in applying law from cases to new hypotheticals when you encounter them on your exams. You’ll have to grapple with unusual fact patterns and be able to determine which rule should be used to solve the problem created by those facts. I personally found the practice of illustrating how the rule works to be very helpful as a way to truly understand and learn the rules of law.

OTHER TIPS AND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Skip the case briefs and don’t include case names or citations in your outline unless you believe your professor will expect you to know this.

Remember, your objective is to summarize the law you have learned in one cohesive review tool that will enable you to be successful on exam day.

If you’re an LL.M. student,  download the free BARBRI LL.M. Guide for more tips.

ABOUT BARBRI

BARBRI has helped more than 1.3 million lawyers around the world pass a U.S. bar exam. The company also provides online J.D., post-J.D., and international programs for U.S. law schools and specialized ongoing training and certifications in areas such as financial crime prevention and eDiscovery.

To help LL.M. students determine which BARBRI course may be best to pass a U.S. state bar exam, check out our blog: BARBRI EXTENDED BAR PREP AND 8-WEEK BARBRI BAR REVIEW: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Character and Fitness is coming…

character and fitness

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

Yes… we are only 2Ls but believe it or not we should start thinking about the character and fitness portion of our bar applications. The Character and Fitness (C & F) portion of the bar application varies state by state, so you will want to check out the rules for the state you want to apply to for a better understanding of the process. Most states will have an example application you can look at, and you should take advantage of this. You might even be able to start your application now and work on it over the next year, updating it as needed.

Why should we be thinking about this now? Because the C & F application and process can be cumbersome, as it requires A LOT of information and preparing for the bar exam is already stressful enough! Do you really want to be tracking all of this down when you could be studying for the Bar exam? Likely not. Reading through the application now might also save you major headaches in the future, especially if you have had any issues in the past. Here are some easy things you can do in your 2L to help relieve some of the pressure you will be feeling in 3L when you start to fill out your C & F application.

First… where have you lived?

You will likely need every address you have ever lived at. If you have moved around a lot, are an older student, veteran, military spouse, or left all of your worldly belongings and backed packed around the world after college graduation, this could be an unexpected challenge. In Arizona, we need to report every address for the last 10 years or since we were 21, whichever is shorter.  A professor gave me a great tip and said to look at your past addresses on Amazon. You will have more than likely ordered something from there to every place you have ever lived, so this could be one way to help find your addresses. If you’re not a fan of Amazon, I am sure there is some other delivery site you’ve used frequently that will have this information for you. You can also start tracking your addresses now, just in case you move frequently during law school. This is important, especially if you live in another town for a clerkship.

Next, where have you worked?

You will likely need to list every placed you have ever worked. Yes, even for those employers you worked at for only a few weeks. You will likely need the address, phone number, and a contact name. Again, this could be relatively simple or a huge issue, depending on how many employers you’ve had. Here, your law school application will likely be helpful. If you do not have a copy, take some time this weekend and log into LSAC.org and print one off. It might also be useful to log onto websites like LinkedIn or Monster.com to find old resumes or job applications. This will likely take more time than you think. If you do it now, your 3L self will thank you.

Finally, what’s on your credit report?

It is easy to get your credit report, and it’s free to do so. To be honest, this is something you should be doing every year anyway. It’s good to get into the habit of doing it. Why do you need this? Because in addition to a background check, your state bar examiners will also request a copy of your credit report. By requesting your report now, you will be made aware of any issues on your report and will have plenty of time to deal with them before you submit your C & F application. You are entitled to 1 free credit report a year, from each of the 3 credit reporting agencies. Here is a fun tip I learned from my mom→ DO NOT request all three credit reports at the same time. Spread it out over the year requesting one every 3-4 months. For example, request one in December, a different one in April and the final one in August and then start again in December. If you see anything negative on your credit report, be sure to take steps to try to correct whatever it is.

While it may seem silly to be worried about this as a 2L, taking these simple steps now, will be beneficial come this time next year!

If you found this Character and Fitness blog helpful or have any other tips to prepare for the C & F application, let me know over at the @The2LLife on Instagram and Twitter.

Note Taking Strategies

note taking strategies

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

Got Note Taking Strategies?

There are as many note taking strategies as there are note-takers. Everyone works a little bit differently and needs a slightly different thing. What you need will likely change from semester to semester, and maybe even from course to course. I have tried probably almost 100 different systems throughout my long educational career, and I can attest that the only perfect system is the one you stick with. Here’s what I have used this semester, and it has worked mostly very well for me.

Reading Notes

I do my reading notes on paper and my class notes on the computer, and then add my reading notes into my class notes as I’m reviewing at the end of the week.

I like handwriting notes for a few reasons. It slows me down while I am reading and forces me to engage with the material more methodically. This is sometimes a con, but most of the time a pro. I give each of the cases in my notes a nickname, which then corresponds with the icon I pick to represent it in Notion.

note taking strategies

I also really like to be able to connect ideas spatially with diagrams and arrows and flow charts. You can do this on programs like One Note, but I like how easy it is on paper.

I wrote before that I highlight only in gray in my case books, but I color code my notes. Cases are pink, rules are blue, vocab is purple, and things I need to finish or ask about are green. I use erasable highlighters, and when I get an answer to my question or finish the unfinished task, I just erase the highlighter.

Diagrams

I love diagrams. Nothing helps me organize processes or ideas as well as a flow chart or a tree diagram. I often write my case briefs in timeline form instead of the traditional paragraph form. I find it is much easier for me to see the important information if I can easily see how it is connected to all of the other information on the page.

note taking strategies

Class Notes

I’ve written before about the wonders of Notion, but I could do a thousand blog posts about how much I love it. My whole life is organized in Notion, from my calendar and to-do lists to meal planning, recipes, personal reading notes, to all of my class notes, case briefs, outlines, and (Also it’s free for students!!)

I have a landing page for school that has all of my assignments for the week. Then each class has its own landing page with all of the info for the semester, the BARBRI Outline, a case brief spreadsheet, and subpages for vocabulary, rules, outlining, and each week’s notes.

I keep all of my case briefs in a chart and link to just that week’s cases in my weekly notes subpages. Notability has little emojis available for different kinds of labels, so I label each of the cases to jog my memory. We’ll talk more about this next week, but here’s a preview!

note taking strategies

I made a template for weekly notes pages that includes the assignment, a weekly checklist, vocab, and rules. I have two columns of notes, one for reading and one for class notes, and then under each, I have a toggle list by subject. My contracts professor is kind enough to post her weekly slides before class, so if I have time, I’ll also import the slides into my weekly notes before class starts.

I love Notion for my class notes because of how easy it is to organize everything. I can hide whatever I am not focusing on in that moment and look at just the main topic or just the one case at a time.

My system took quite some time to perfect, and I still run into snags every once in a while. The main thing is: Find a system that works for you and stick to it. There is no such thing as a perfect system, and it’s far better to have a consistent one than an ever-changing “perfect” one.

I am always curious about what works for people, so reach out and share your note taking strategies with the hashtag #1lLife or on Twitter and Instagram @the1lLife!