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 

Your Honor, may I have permission to screen share?

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

This past week I had my first trial over Zoom. Ok, so it was a bench trial, and for a class, but that doesn’t change the fact that I still had a sitting Judge, opposing counselors, and witnesses present. I was lucky enough to have completed about seven bench trials while I worked in the Prosecution clinic last fall. So, while I was familiar with the bench trial process, this was still a new experience, because I didn’t have a supervising attorney to help me out, plus of course, it was over Zoom. When we were getting critiques, our Judge commented that he appreciated the practice, because some cases might need to proceed over Zoom (or similar platform) in the near future. If you have your mock, basic trial advocacy, or maybe even an actual trial coming up soon over Zoom, here are some tips to help you out.

Make your Desk “Trial Ready”

I am not sure about you, and I have limited in-court experience, but I was very systematic in the way I had the space in front of me set up. Yes, I had a trial set up, I’d even go far as calling it a ritual. On my half of the desk, I had two copies of all exhibits, had my script laid out in a specific way with checklists, notecards, a highlighter, and a pen. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do things like I usually would have in court, so I adapted my desk at home to mimic my set up as close as possible. Because I prefer not printing things and working from a screen, this actually made my life easier.

I have two screens and highly recommend this setup. I put my trial script in front of me on my laptop screen, so that way, I was always looking at the camera. I kept the Zoom screen on the screen to the side. This is also where I also had my exhibits and a short “common objections list.” I also put my original iPad mini to good use and set it up to be the timer to ensure I stayed on track.  I then practiced with this setup to make sure I could do everything I needed to effectively. This included sharing exhibits. Oh, also, as a part of your setup, get a cheap adjustable laptop stand. This allows you to put your laptop at an angle, so the camera is looking at you from eye level, rather than up at you. Also, do not forget water and other necessities. I’ve been sick all week and had lost my voice, so I took a bit of liberty with water and other related supplies on my desk, but the great thing was it wasn’t visible to the court!

Have your exhibits all open in Adobe

Now, for our trial, we had to mark our own exhibits, but one of my favorite things when I was conducting trials for my clinic, was to have all of my exhibits marked as soon as I could, and have them lined up on my desk in the order I was going to present them. I staggered them a bit much like “tabs” in Adobe, so I followed that same process here; just instead of being on my desk, they were on my screen. Whenever I shared, I always first selected the exhibit tab in Adobe, so I could see it on my screen, and then only shared the Adobe window on the screen. Share desktop would have revealed too much, and this kept everything perfectly organized. If I needed to move between tabs to show exhibits I could, without showing any exhibit, I shouldn’t have. It was also effortless to search for a word, highlight the text, and then share it. This was much easier than having to look for an impeaching statement on a paper document.

Use Two Screens

Anticipate Possible Difficulties

So, my computer’s microphone decided it no longer liked working with Zoom but would do so randomly. I, unfortunately, discovered this while I was in a mock pretrial hearing. I thought no problem, I’ll just call in, and then I couldn’t connect to a cell tower, and of course, my headset was also dead, and I couldn’t find another headset that had a mic. I knew this couldn’t happen on the day of my trial, and I did not have the money, nor could a mic be delivered to me in time. I solved this problem by having my wireless headset on the desk in front of me, it acted just like a stand-alone mic. I just connected the headset mic to Zoom, but still used the computer speakers to hear. I did this because I did not want to be wearing a headset in court, plus I knew I wanted to move my hands to speak and to write, and I did not want a cord getting in the way. Obviously, if you have pods or don’t mind wearing a headset, that is a simple fix, but having the wireless headset in front of you also works well and allows you to remain cordless and without the need to wear a headset.

How Did Witnesses Work?

Witnesses were kept in the meetings “waiting room.” This is a security feature that the host can enable. We had the person who hosted the meeting act as the bailiff. They could let people “in” and “out” of the meeting and mute people when needed. This also made it so everyone else could concentrate on the case, rather than the logistics.

How Did it Go?

Overall, it was not that different from a typical bench trial, again, based on my limited experience. While I missed being next to my co-counsel, we could still send private messages to each other. Please note, be aware these MIGHT not be 100% private and downloadable to the host, so texting might be more secure, but be discreet. I am sure the Judge will not appreciate it if noticed. And although I couldn’t approach the witness to show them exhibits, I thought it was just as effective to show them on the screen. You had to be a bit more watchful of body language to pick up on cues for both the witness and opposing counsel, but it could be achieved. I actually liked using my script on the computer and checking off the boxes. One thing I did do differently, was make a card that had the elements I wanted to hit for each witness, that I checked off as I went, just to make sure I got everything. I also thought it was a great way to get witnesses to come, but I do acknowledge, this could present issues, especially in DV court. I also understand that because I have been teaching and tutoring on Zoom for a long time, I am likely more comfortable with the platform than most, but even those that had just been introduced to Zoom were surprised by how smoothly the trial ran.

Have you conducted a Zoom trial yet? How did it go? I am happy to share my experience and Zoom tips with anyone, so feel free to reach out to me @The2LLife on Twitter or Instagram.

Binge worthy TV shows that are not about the law

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

This post started out as a list of great books to binge instead of studying for exams, but then I remembered that we are all exhausted law students who probably need a break from all the reading. I am so glad to live in this golden age of television. Even after being house-bound for 41 straight days, I have neither run out of incredible things to read nor truly excellent television to watch.

I try not to watch legal shows during the semester, just so that I can remember that there is a life outside of the law. Here are some binge-worthy shows that have nothing (or almost nothing) to do with law school, or the bar, or courtrooms, or anything of the sort.

The Shows I watched in One Sitting

  1. Avenue 5 (Amazon) – This is a show that I didn’t know I needed until I watched all of it. Hugh Laurie plays the captain of a gigantic luxury spaceship owned by Josh Gad’s character, who seems to have a dangerously low IQ. If that isn’t enticing enough, about halfway through the first season, the ship becomes enveloped in a literal cloud of feces that are stuck in its gravitational pull.
  2. Bad Omens (Amazon) – Have we talked about how much I love David Tenant? Not yet? Oh, well, I love David Tenant. Just look at that face. He is the central figure in several of my favorite shows and plays a disturbingly un-disturbing villain in Marvel’s Jessica Jones. Anyway, this television version of the Neil Gaiman book is thrilling and hilarious and so, so smart.
  1. Barry (HBO) – Bill Hader as a contract killer turned actor. Let me just repeat that: Bill Hader as a contract killer turned actor.

British Shows that Outrank Almost All American Counterparts

  1. Miranda (Hulu) – This is perhaps the most underrated show ever made. It is probably the only show I’ve ever watched that has made me laugh out loud multiple times while I was watching it by myself. Perks: Tom Ellis is in it.
  2. Killing Eve (Hulu) – Female assassins, government conspiracies, Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, and written and created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. On top of that, it has one of the most unique soundtracks I have ever heard.

Honorable Mention: Dr. Who and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, because obviously.

Shows From the Great Age of Streaming Services

  1. Atlanta (Hulu) – If I had the time and energy to rank every TV show I have ever watched, oh wait. I do. This is one of the top five shows I have ever watched, and I don’t just say that because I have a huge crush on Donald Glover.
  2. The Whole Netflix Marvel Franchise, but mostly Daredevil (Netflix… obviously) – Daredevil technically is about two lawyers (Nelson and Murdoch, Attorneys at Law), but its mostly about a blind superhero who fights big boss crime lords in Hell’s Kitchen.
  3. The Mandalorian (Disney +) – I haven’t actually watched The Mandalorian, because I am a little burned out on Star Wars honestly, but I hear it is absolutely fantastic.

NBC-esque Comedies

  1. Brooklyn 99 (Hulu) – Ok so this one is about the law in that it all takes place in a police precinct, but let’s be really honest. It is actually about Terry Crews’ affinity for yogurt and about elaborate heists that can apparently happen in the precinct because no one is ever working?
  2. 30 Rock (Hulu) – We are all Liz Lemon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The Good Place (Netflix or Hulu) – I cried like a baby when The Good Place ended. It was so smart and so funny, and Ted Danson is the 6,000-foot tall fire squid demon that I have always wanted.

Honorable Mentions: New Girl (Netflix) and Jane the Virgin (Netflix): I hated New Girl when it first came out. Jess, the main character, seemed like a hot and whiny mess. Then I entered the era of my late twenties and found a whole new appreciation for a good leather couch to cry on. Jane the Virgin is very polarizing, I know, but I really love its self-aware absurdity, its telenovela love triangles, and its strong, if often confused, female leads. I also love shows that manage to be bilingual without isolating watchers, which I think this show does particularly well.

I hope you are all hanging in during these last few weird weeks before exams. Let me know what your favorite binge shows are on Instagram and Twitter @the1lLife (unless its Tiger King, and then please just don’t).

The idea of taking a break: Should you stay, defer or restart?

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

This past week I had the amazing opportunity to virtually connect with my fellow BARBRI bloggers – we spent time getting to know one another, and talking about our individual law school experiences.

The paths that we each took to get to law school, and our reasons for wanting a law degree, were so different that it surprised me to find out that we all shared one very unique experience. Each of us, for our own reasons, had to consider whether to defer (or withdraw) from our legal studies. Even more interesting, we each ended up making different decisions with one of deciding to stay, one of withdrawing and restarting their 1L year during the following academic year, and one of us deferring before matriculating.

Deferring and withdrawing aren’t topics that routinely discussed amongst law students; maybe because it’s relatively rare (we think), or maybe because there’s some degree of stigma attached to (which is stupid). Either way, we all agreed that there was a significant lack of information available to help guide us through the decision making process.

It’s not an easy decision – trust me, I know. But sometimes deferring or withdrawing is necessary whether it be for medical reasons, family reasons, mental health reasons, financial reasons, or simply because you want to pursue another avenue or opportunity first. Whatever your reasoning, if you’re considering deferring or withdrawing, with the intention of returning, here are some things we think you should know, based on our collective experience.

Deferring Before Matriculation

  • In order to secure scholarship money and awards, schools will require that you sign a binding contract guaranteeing that when you return to law school, you will return to theirs.
  • It can be tempting to reserve your placement offer and awards with certain schools, however, if it isn’t your absolute dream school you should consider the fluctuating nature of acceptances. You may get into different schools on your second go-around (especially if you re-take the LSAT or pursue career and/or academic ventures). Likewise, you may receive more funding.
  • 1L is hard – law school is hard – so being in the best mental, emotional, physical, etc. state is very important. So, if you have a reason to be worried about your ability to succeed in law school (beyond the general concerns that every incoming 1L has) deferring may be right for you.

Deferring and/or Withdrawing During 1L

  • Your health and wellbeing is the most important thing, don’t let fear over what people will think or say stop you from doing what’s best for you. But at the same time, remember that there are resources available to you if you’re struggling or feeling overwhelmed. That is to say, you don’t have to stay because people tell you to, nor do you need to leave because you feel like you’re not succeeding.
  • Prepare yourself to not come back. It’s incredibly hard to return to your legal studies when you know just how hard 1L really is. The momentum and excitement that you have before entering law school, before experiencing law school, may be gone, and that could impact your motivation to return.
    1. Having a solid understanding of why you want to pursue a legal degree is extremely helpful in terms of motivating yourself to return.
    2. Likewise, acknowledging that law school gets better after 1L is useful to overcome any dread you might feel.
  • It’s a bit socially awkward when you return. If you’ve watched greys anatomy, then it’s a bit like George when he fails his intern exam. You’ll have connections with your former classmates who are now 2L’s and 3L’s, but you’ll also be placed in a 1L section and expected to bond with them. The 1L’s around you will be experiencing everything anew, whereas you’ll be experiencing it for the second time, this may lead to some complications when it comes to forming a relationship.
  • Relatedly, you may be becoming the person that 1L’s come to for help, since they may form an expectation that you know more than them. This can be a bit overwhelming at times, but it goes away eventually.
  • According to your school, your scholarships may, or may not, be impacted. Make sure to check early on.

Overall, our advice is to ignore the social stigmas and do what’s best for you. We each made different decisions when it came to continuing our legal studies, and yet here we all are, making our way through our JD degrees.

If I could ask a 3L anything … about classes, assignments, jobs and more

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

What was supposed to be an interview about asking Mackenzie of the @The3LLife about expectations and advice for 3L, quickly evolved into over a 2-hour conversation between Mara, @The1LLife, Mackenzie, @The3LLife and myself. I don’t think either of us expected that this was the community and the conversation we needed at just that moment, but it was apparent that it was.

We took turns talking about what was happening with our classes, assignments, jobs, life, and more. It was interesting to discover that even though we approach our blogs each week with our own unique perspectives, how similar the three of us are. It was downright surprising, and I think an excellent reminder that we all have more in common than we often realize. When I talked about reaching out earlier in the semester to get to know the people in my class better, it never occurred to me to also reach out to those I am connected to in other ways.

We, of course, finally got on task and asked each other a lot of questions. Here are a few of the tips Mackenzie provided to help 2Ls effectively prepare for 3L.

Left to Right: 3L Makenzie, 2L Stephanie and 1L Mara

Take Classes That Teach Skills

I was relieved that this was the first bit of advice that Mackenzie provided. She said she started taking these classes as a 2L, and the partners at her firm really appreciated how they made her “practice-ready.” The fact that she had advanced writing and research classes really benefited her because her firm recognized that she knew how to research, and that allowed her to help with even more assignments. I had heard the advice about taking advanced legal writing but was encouraged that the aspect of advanced legal research had also benefited her.

Time Classes Well

Another piece of advice Mackenzie offered that had been passed on to her by the first and second-year associates at her firm, is to time your bar related course well. For example, they encouraged her to take Evidence in her last semester because that timing would benefit her most for bar prep.

Pick Classes with Employer Needs In Mind

Mackenzie also suggested that you might want to take a mix of classes, based upon the needs of your firm. If you know you are going to be hired into a specific practice group, you should likely add related classes into your schedule. I know right now that this is a bit difficult because we all do not know what is taking place with our summer positions. I was notified in late March, that my firm was exploring a variety of avenues that could potentially impact my summer associateship program, and that we would be alerted by the end of April. I know many of you are in similar situations. But I also know that some of you have already been informed as to what is happening. For instance, some programs have been modified, others have moved online, and while some have been canceled, some of those cancellations also came with a guaranteed job. Consider reaching out to your future employer or someone who is in the field you desire to be for class advice.

I could go on and on with the valuable advice that Mackenzie provided, but perhaps the greatest lesson I learned is that new friendships and communities are all around us waiting to be discovered. We just need to reach out. As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me at the @The2LLife.

How to thrive during 1L year and beyond: Do your research, be flexible

Do Your Research

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

This week I had the pleasure of sitting down, via Zoom of course, with Stephanie (The 2L Life) and Mackenzie (The 3L Life) to ask them all of our pressing questions about thriving in 1L and beyond. The biggest takeaways: Do your research and be flexible.

Classes

When it comes to which classes to take 2L and 3L year, consider whether doctrinal or more job-oriented classes would be more valuable. Job-oriented classes provide the ability to learn practical research and writing. Don’t be afraid to experiment with things you know you will love and subjects you might hate. This is the time to find out if you are secretly a tax attorney.

Ask during interviews and OCIs what employers might want you to take. During your summer internship, ask other attorneys and supervisors what they would advise you to take.

Jobs

Whether you intern with a firm, a government agency or a public interest organization, don’t be afraid to say that you are interested in a particular type of law but remember that flexibility is key. Broad exposure to the legal field is valuable, and you may miss out on job opportunities if you pigeonhole yourself by focusing too adamantly on one area.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself, wisely. You are looking for an organization that will be a good fit for you just as much as they are looking for a candidate who will be a good fit for them. If you would have to redo everything about yourself in order to fit into the organizational culture, that might be a red flag that you wouldn’t ultimately be happy there.

Extracurriculars

We both did journal rather than moot court or mock trial. Journals offer diverse opportunities depending on the size and subject matter. Sometimes with smaller journals, there are more opportunities such as funding to go to conferences.

If you are trying to gauge how much of a time commitment a journal is, look at two things: First, look at an average article from that journal. You’re going to have to look at all of the sources cited in that article. Second, look at how often the journal is published and how many editors it has. The more frequently they publish, the more of a time commitment. Perhaps most importantly, find where your people are.

Do journals help job-wise?

They demonstrate that you have the ability to research, fact-check, and meet deadlines, all of which are crucial skills in the legal job market. If you are planning on going into further higher education after law school, experience editing and researching for published works is also very important.

What is your top piece of advice for 1Ls?

Remember that the people you meet now are going to be your colleagues. The things you do now can stick with you in the future, and sometimes be detrimental and embarrassing. On the flip side of that, don’t be afraid to branch out from your section and get to know people you may not have classes with. Consider scheduling one day a week where you ask someone outside of your section to grab lunch or a coffee.

Maintain good contacts with professors. Eventually, you’ll need bar recommendation letters, so pick one professor from each semester to try to maintain a real relationship with.

If you have any other questions you would like to ask @the2lLife or @the3lLife, reach out on Instagram or Twitter!

Five questions to ask yourself when selecting 3L classes

[ Mary Apodaca, BARBRI Senior Director of Legal Education ]

As you prepare for all that is to come in your third year of law school, one thing at the top of your list is which classes you will be taking. Should you take bar classes? Practice-oriented classes? Does it matter?

I always felt a bit overwhelmed during the scheduling process. There were so many classes I wanted to take and only so many hours in my day, and deciding which classes would be most beneficial for MY path was never really clear. To make the process a bit easier, I came up with five questions to consider when evaluating classes.

#1 | IS THIS CLASS REQUIRED?

It might not be the class you’re looking forward to most but, if it’s required for graduation, you may want to take it sooner, rather than later. By getting your required classes out of the way, you’ll free up your last year or last semester for electives and any other interesting classes that you want to fit in. You don’t want to have to delay your graduation or take an unexpected summer class because you didn’t get something done.

#2 | IS THIS CLASS KNOWN FOR BEING DIFFICULT?

I’m not suggesting you shy away from challenging classes – some of my favorite classes have been the most difficult. However, I do recommend that you avoid loading up on too many classes that are known for being time consuming or hard, all at one time. If you plan accordingly and spread them out, you will be able to enjoy the class and actually get something out of it, not feel insanely stressed and fall behind due to a crazy workload.

#3 | WILL THE CLASS BE BENEFICIAL TO ME IN THE FUTURE?

Many students think that you MUST take bar classes in law school in order to pass the bar exam. Luckily, this is not true. Your bar preparation program should be more than sufficient to prepare you for the substantive law that is tested on the bar exam. That being said, if you have really struggled in a particular area or are very concerned about a specific topic, more exposure and practice can never hurt. Just know that if there are other classes that you are more interested in, or are more in line with your career path, those will likely be more beneficial to you in the long run.

You won’t be able to completely avoid subject matter that you don’t find interesting. Sometimes a class that doesn’t seem interesting will be the only thing that fits into your schedule or will be a requirement. If you have the option, choose something you think you’ll like or will be useful in practice post-law school. Having an interest in the material makes it a lot easier to focus in class, get the assignments done and achieve the desired grades.

#4 | DO I LIKE THE PROFESSOR?

The professor can make or break a class. Look at who is teaching the class before you sign up.  Think about the last time you took a class with that person. Did you like their teaching style? Did you feel comfortable asking questions or going to office hours? If you haven’t taken that professor before, ask your classmates for their opinions.

#5 | ARE THERE OTHER OPTIONS?

Before committing to a schedule, look at all the options. Maybe you want to work in an internship/clinic, or you might want to do an independent study if you’re a credit or two short. Your school likely has a lot of different ways you can get your credits. Talk to the registrar or your advisor about your goals and what you’d like to learn. Part of their job is to help you, so take advantage of it.

Four “shocking yet useful” things you may not know about Zoom

Schools Using Zoom for Classes

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

Zoom has officially taken over our classrooms, and 98% of our social interactions. To anyone who purchased stock in Zoom pre-COVID-19,  I applaud you.

By now, you likely have a pretty decent understanding of how Zoom works and the basic do’s and don’ts  — i.e. do mute yourself when you’re not speaking;  don’t leave your video on during your bathroom break.

But alas, there’s always more to learn, so here are four shocking and/or useful Zoom facts.

1. Attendee Attention Tracking

Raise your hand if you knew that meeting hosts (aka your supervisor or professor) have a sneaky little feature called Attendee Attention Tracking – I certainly didn’t.

Basically, the feature enables hosts to see when participants spend 30 seconds or longer on another window. So, if you’ve been ‘stealthily’ perusing Facebook during class, your professor probably knows.

2. Quick Unmute

There’s really nothing worse than scrambling to click the little microphone button in the corner of the screen to unmute yourself during your virtual cold call. To make your life easier, simply hold the spacebar on your computer’s keyboard to unmute yourself – just remember to put yourself back on mute once you’re finished.

3. Virtual Backgrounds

Some of us are lucky enough to have home offices or clean white walls, others of us have studio apartments and piles of laundry. If you’re too lazy to clean, conscious of your privacy, or simply just want to have a little fun, you should consider trying out Zoom’s virtual backgrounds. Some law schools have even uploaded their own backgrounds to make you feel right at home.

4. Beauty Filter

You may not be looking your absolute best while in quarantine – and who can really blame you – but Zoom has you covered should you want to at least appear put together for your classmates. By using the ‘Touch up my Appearance’ feature, your video will display with a soft-focus, which is supposedly meant to cover imperfections. Admittedly, I’ve never used it, so I’m not sure of the logistics behind getting it up and running, but there is a Zoom support page about it.