#The2Llife: The Secret is Networking

GUEST BLOG Harrison Thorne,
2L at UCLA School of Law

I had the pleasure of attending Law Preview—a law school “jump start program—as both a student and a student facilitator. I learned a lot, and I think it truly helped me do well my first year.

One of the best things I learned from Law Preview was to be selfish The program’s Success Lecturer told us that during the first year, the key to succeeding would be planning our time and sticking to a schedule. He told us that we would have to say no to invitations, miss out on vacations, and essentially cut ourselves off from the world until after finals.

I did just that (sort of), and I did well. Of course, nobody advocated living like a hermit and/or cutting off contact with friends and family, but the message was clear—you’re going to have to work hard… you’re going to have to turn down fun… you’re going to have to sacrifice.

However, as a second-year student, I found myself wondering what advice I would give to incoming 2Ls. After the first round of finals, most 1Ls are savvy to the degree of sacrifice necessary to do well. And after the entire first year, we all know what is required. Therefore, what is the “secret” for success after the first year?

I have found the secret is networking. Of course, students still need to do well. But outside of grades, the best way to secure summer work, externships, or other opportunities, is by old-fashioned networking.

My strategy has been to hoard my contacts in a Word Document. Each time I meet someone in the legal profession, I store his or her name, email, and phone number. That way, I can always have that information handy.

For instance, last week, I wanted to apply for an extern position, but I knew nothing about the position or the people who worked there. So, I applied, then got to work. I researched the people currently working there. I realized one of the women who would interview me worked at a firm that I was familiar with before starting at her current position. So I emailed a contact from that firm, and got some great info about her. I then spoke to some classmates who had externed for this organization in past years. At that point, I was in a much better position for my interview, and it was all thanks to networking with others.

#The1Llife: Internships and Summer Positions

GUEST BLOG By Lauren Rose,
1L at the University of Detroit Mercy

Now that the crazy midterm studying madness is over, I was able to attend a few events hosted by my law school.

One of these events was hosted by the law school’s career services department. Even though the leaves are changing and the air is getting colder (and it will be probably snow next week – thanks Michigan), summer is not that far away. In about 7 months, us 1Ls will be working at a law office, or with the public defender’s office, or for a judge. Now is the time to start researching positions and figuring out where you would like to be spending your summer.

One tip that the career services department recommended was to begin looking into legal fairs.

For example, if you are interested in patent law, look into fairs for patent law. They said that these fairs offer opportunities to network with law offices from a specific region and even from around the country.

The event also stressed the importance of connecting with friends, family, neighbors, and professors for networking purposes.

A simple conversation with your long-lost aunt may help you land an awesome position for the summer. Reach out to those that you believe may have connections. This will open a gateway for amazing opportunities. Remember to always send a thank you card (or email) to those who have helped you with this process!

Also, the department suggested perfecting your resume now.

Make it a point to stop into your law school’s career office to make yours amazing. It is a good idea to go sooner than later because you will avoid the rush of other law students and you can send your resume to people in your network.

Take your head out of the contracts book and step away from civ pro for a while and start planning ahead for summer positions. You never know where a simple google search, family connection, or career services consultation will take you!

#The3Llife: Serious Networking Part II

GUEST BLOG By Shaun Sanders,
3L at Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law

Last week I discussed some of the fundamental factors to networking that I feel are often overlooked by my classmates. This week, I’d like to talk more about the right “networking attitude” and mindset to adopt when diving in.

Be the Networker you Want to Be

I am known to be somewhat of a social butterfly and am often approached by friends for advice on how to improve their networking. They are usually shocked when I point out that I am, by nature, somewhat of an introvert. I have always enjoyed people, but I am still prone to somewhat crippling anxiety when it comes to public speaking or putting myself into the spotlight. However, ever since I was a child, I wished I was like the kids who seemed to just naturally position themselves into the center of interest. I want to be the type of person who can speak in public, and I want to be the type of person who can meet new people easily. Over the years, I have identified others with networking attributes I admired and then consciously pushed myself out of my comfort zone in a “trial by fire” of social awkwardness. As a result, I am now pretty comfortable with striking up conversation with others and have gotten to the point where people assume this is “just me being me.”

Awkward moments are inevitable. At my law school, there are still a handful of students who are aware of the “Sanders Shuffle.” It was coined after I had completely botched a networking opportunity event at my school. I, and other first-years, were dressed up and mingling with various lawyers, judges, and other professionals from the local legal community. I hung close to a group of 4 friends and, together, we tried to join into groups where the professionals were chatting amongst students. However, every time we attempted to join a group, the professional in the circle was on the tail-end of his conversation and left to join some other group. It was frustrating. I eventually went to the restroom and, when I came back, the group I had been hanging out had managed to lure a professional into its circle. I walked over and stood on its outskirts, but no one made any gesture or acknowledgment that I had come back — and I was determined to actually talk to someone that night. So I sort of “wiggled” into the circle.

Imagine a tight circle of 4 individuals all engaging in conversation when suddenly someone gently forces themselves into your ranks. That was me. I was that guy. The circle went silent. The professional, a respected judge from our county, stared at me with disgust. I realized that I had completely ruined the moment. As conversation picked back up, I noticed the judge made a conscious effort to not make eye contact with me. I didn’t even hear the words that came out of his mouth most of the time, as I was too busy trying to figure out a way to dig myself out of this hole.

When I had a chance to ask a question, I raised my hand. The judge’s eyes scanned across everyone else to see if there were better opportunities for his time, and seemed to begrudgingly acknowledge me. I asked, “Would you have any advice for a first year student who, while at a networking event, chooses to sort of ‘wiggle’ into a conversation and completely embarrass themselves?”

The circle was quiet again. The judge stared at me. Then his smirk and laugh led to the rest of the group joining in. From that point on, he became a good contact of mine and I learned a couple valuable lessons (first, never to try that again… and second, that even in a completely serious setting, a bit of self-deprecation goes a long way to breaking ice).

Build Relationships

Trying to be the networker I want to be has resulted in me realizing how simple networking really is. Sure, there are people out there who will never want to speak with you or spare a moment of their time to exchange even a few words over e-mail, but a vast majority of people want the same thing most of us want: someone else to do the work. We have all met people who, despite being a stranger, manage to make us feel completely comfortable with them. They are usually the de facto life of the party, etc. But what is really going on in these situations?

No one likes to feel awkward or disconnect with others, but few put themselves into a position of being the “ice breaker.” Ice breaking doesn’t take any skill or charm, just the willingness to be the first to extend a bit of hospitality to another. When it comes to professional networking, this often manifests itself as the ability to get to know the person behind the title first. It can be as simple as bringing up a baseball game or some common point of interest between the two of you or, for people like me who aren’t really sports fans, it can be as simple as asking someone, “So, how’s your week gone?”

I have built countless relationships within my network by starting things off with opening myself up as a willing ear to hear their problems, issues, stresses, etc. Mutual venting is a fantastic way to set the tone of your conversation as being more personal and flexible. From that point, with that foundation in place, it becomes so much easier to make the person feel as if a personal investment in you is worth their time or attention… because you’re not just another student, you’re an individual they understand.

Persistence

The final bit of advice I can offer stems from a personal issue I faced in law school. I come from the technology industry where even a CEO is only a text message away. Not hearing back from someone within a few days time usually means there is a problem. But that isn’t how things work in the legal environment.

No matter how interesting you may be, or how good of a relationship is that you formed with someone — law is grueling, and people get behind. As a result, it is on you to keep the ball moving. I often make a point to try to connect with someone once per week when I am trying to schedule a time for coffee or a chat. On its face, sending unanswered e-mails once per week may seem overbearing or even risk annoying the individual… and it may. Fortunately, in the professional world, people who legitimately don’t want to talk to you (or simply can’t due to time constraints) will be forward about it.

There have been three or four times where my attempts to meet someone have ended with a blunt “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you,” or “I don’t have time to speak with you,” etc. The vast majority of times, however, have resulted in me finally being able to get that meeting once the person’s schedule opens up. No animosity, awkwardness, etc. It’s simply business. In fact, but for my persistence my first-year, I would have landed my dream-internship at a large financial investment company. As I would find out later, the guy I was trying to get in touch with had some personal priorities arise that he had to take care of which spanned over two months of time and led to me feeling pretty deflated about my chances of getting in. But persistence worked out.

In other words, unless you are specifically told to stop reaching out to someone — keep reaching out. Keep trying. It can be as simple as replying to the previous e-mail you sent with, “Just touching base again. Hope your week is going well!”

I hope some of this advice has been helpful to you. I know it can be difficult to make the first move, so if you need practice, feel free to reach out to me first.

#The2Llife: Transferring Schools Truths

GUEST BLOG By Harrison Thorne,
2L at UCLA School of Law

TRANSFER UPDATE

Now that school has been in session for a bit over a month, I felt now would be a good time to talk about my experiences so far as a transfer student. I will do so by talking about my fears going in, and whether or not they came to fruition.

1) I wasn’t smart enough

UCLA is a great school. It is ranked much higher than my previous school. Therefore, I figured I would not be able to cut it amongst such brilliant faculty and students.

This has proven to be completely false. While classes are still very challenging, I was, and am, ready to meet these difficulties. I work very hard, but not disproportionately so to when I was at my previous school.

2) People won’t like me

We’d all like to think we are “past” seeking acceptance. However, we aren’t.

I was concerned that I would not fit in at UCLA because I was not “one of them.” However, this, too, has proven to be completely false. People at UCLA have been warm, accepting, and collegial. When I tell someone I am a transfer student, they often ask me if I need help figuring out things (like the complex online student page), or whether I am liking classes. The student body at UCLA has been extremely warm. Moreover, there are approximately forty transfer students, so I am amongst friends, so to speak.

3) Classes will focus too much on ivory tower issues instead of the law

People often say that at higher ranked schools, the classes focus on policy and academic issues over the substance of legal theory. I have found this to be partially true, but mostly false.

First off, it is true that UCLA offers many more policy-based courses than my old school. There are Law & Economic courses, business policy courses, academia-based courses, and similar others. However, the “nitty-gritty” courses, such as evidence, are very much rooted in the practice of law. In fact, many of my professors are and were former trial attorneys, and many of them have a great deal of real-world experience.

Overall, I would say that UCLA, and transferring in general, has been a great experience. I took a giant leap of faith by leaving my comfort zone, but it has definitely paid off. I am working harder than ever, but I love what I am learning, I respect my professors, and I enjoy my classmates. What more could I ask for?

#The1Llife: Legal Writing Meltdown

GUEST BLOG By Lauren Rose,
1L at the University of Detroit Mercy

Well, it finally happened.

I have officially been shot down by a professor. No, not literally, but definitely figuratively. My first critique of a memo by my professor was honestly one of the most nerve wracking things I have ever experienced. Coming straight out of undergrad, I thought I had figured out how to master the art of writing a great paper. However, in law school, writing is not the same. Writing in law school is unlike anything that I have ever encountered in my entire life.

When we were given the task to write a memo, I didn’t think it would be that bad. I was wrong – so very wrong. From what I have learned about legal writing in the last month is that it is strategic, precise, and definitive. There is no use of flowery language and exquisite adjectives to make your writing interesting and exciting to the reader. Every word, every sentence is placed in a particular spot to convey your point clearly and concisely. It’s so different from everything that I have learned before and maybe that’s why I don’t like it so far.

This whole situation has made me seriously question why undergrad institutions do not teach legal writing. From what I understand, some universities offer these classes. I guess I’m just confused as to why these institutions do not make “pre-law” writing classes mandatory if you are on the “pre-law” track. Anyways, I’m hoping that as time continues I will learn how to effectively write for the legal profession, but for now I’ll be in the library freaking out about how to do it.

5 Things to Start Doing Now to Prepare For Your 1L Final Exams

By Mike Sims,
BARBRI President

You’ve figured it out already. Most, if not all, of your first-year grades will depend on your performance on your final exams. And, most if not all, of your finals will consist of essay questions….but law school essay questions are different than what you’ve previously experienced.

It’s not about how much law you’ve memorized. Instead, your job is to solve the problem presented in your essay question. You are being tested on your ability to apply the facts to the rules of law you have learned and explain how you arrived at a reasonable solution and solve the problem.

So what should you start doing NOW to learn the material and position yourself well for final exams?

  1. Read the assignments
    • Always try to get the reading done even if it feels like you don’t understand everything (or anything!).
  2. Always go to class – even on the rare occasions that you are unprepared
    • The most important thing is that you learn what the professor thinks the case said – not what you think the case said.
  3. Write down every fact pattern that your professor gives you in class as you go
    • These are all previews for what will likely be on the final exam.
  4. Consistently review
    • Try a daily review – quickly take 5-10 minutes at the end of each day to jot notes about what the professor said was important in class that day while it’s still fresh.
    • A periodic review at the end of every major topic in each course is a must.
      • The end of every roman numeral in the syllabus is an excellent way to gauge the end of a topic.
      • Review your notes and distill all of the information down to a couple of pages. This overall process is often called outlining, but outlining for the sake of outlining is not the goal. Neither is just re-writing all of your notes. The goal is to learn the material.
  5. Do some practice questions
    • Don’t worry too much about the specific number of practice questions you do, but make sure you do some.
      • Most professors have old exam questions on file. With at least one, sit down and write out a full answer – give yourself the same amount of time you’ll have on exam day for that question, get together with friends, read each others’ answers.
      • BARBRI’s 1L Mastery package also includes practice essay and multiple-choice questions to give you additional confidence. If you haven’t already enrolled in 1L Mastery, do so here.
      • If you have questions as you review, take advantage of your professor’s office hours.

Be consistent with these practices and they’ll pay off big time as you approach final exam time.

#The1Llife: Explaining Law School

GUEST BLOG By Lauren Rose,
1L at the University of Detroit Mercy

Think about the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to explain to someone.

Now think about trying to explain law school to your friends and family. Over the past month, countless family members and friends have asked me questions along the line of: “What’s law school like?” “Is there a lot of homework?” “What do you mean by a lot?” “What’s your favorite part?” If you’re like me, you probably find these questions difficult to answer.

Law school is unlike anything that I have ever experienced before. Even though the students that I went to undergrad with were smart, the students at law school are even smarter. These students are the best of the best and it becomes apparent in every class.

Each and every day, my grandmother asks me if I have homework and how much homework I have. In her own weird way, I know that she is asking me because she cares about my school. However, like every other law student I’ve talked to, it’s difficult to explain the homework load to non-law students because the reading (and amount of it) is unlike anything else. Trying to explain the process of re-reading cases and briefing them is impossible, so in this past month I’ve learned that it is easier to describe my homework in estimated time increments.

legally-blondeWith time I know that I will find better ways to explain the law school process to my friends and family. For now, I’m perfectly okay with just describing it as the need to always be prepared. *Que my interpretation of the scene from “Legally Blonde” where Elle is cold called and didn’t know about the reading*

 

 

#The2Llife: Missing the Forest for the Trees

GUEST BLOG By Harrison Thorne
2L at UCLA School of Law

Law school is very hard. There is more reading than you think possible, and nobody gives you concrete feedback.

During my first year, it was fairly common for me to oscillate between feeling that I had everything under control and freaking out. Ask my family. I would correctly recite case facts during a cold call and feel on top of the world. But then someone would make a comment that I hadn’t thought of, and life was over.

This pendulum drove me to work harder. I always wanted to be on top of the readings, and I never wanted to feel left out of class discussion.

However, it is very easy to miss the forest for the trees in law school. It is great to know every case’s holdings. But the facts and the specific parties to a case are almost completely irrelevant.

The point is to fit all the pieces together, and to synthesize rules that come from cases. The teachers do not care whether you can recite facts on an exam. Rather, they expect their students to analyze the facts given on the test—perhaps by comparing/contrasting the given facts to cases you’ve read.

I think this really sunk in after my first set of finals during 1L. Consequently, my studying techniques changed drastically. I no longer obsessively tried to figure out the procedural posture of cases, or who was the appellant vs. appellee. Rather, I tried to make all the cases fit together in such a way that I could create a framework to analyze new facts on a test.

I suppose this post is inspired by the fact that I just began my evidence and bankruptcy outlines this past weekend. Outlining is a big task. You have to take a ton of information and cases, and actively synthesize rules to figure out how various cases fit into a bigger picture. And that’s not easy—especially for bankruptcy!

Fotolia_62353810_Subscription_Monthly_MHowever, as always, work smarter, not harder. I recently obtained outlines from past years for each of my courses, and have used those to get a broad sense of my courses, and to help guide my own outline. I also use Barbri study guides, as they give a no-nonsense breakdown of black-letter law. Barbri outlines saved my life during criminal law . . .

So, if you are reading this as a 1L, the takeaway is that when reading a case, always think about the facts so that you’re prepared in case of a cold-call. But, more importantly, think about the bigger picture, and how you would apply this case to new facts on an exam.

#The2Llife: Smarter vs. Harder

GUEST BLOG By Harrison Thorne
2L at UCLA School of Law

Smarter vs. Harder, Efficiency, and Having a Life.

During my first year—especially my first semester—I thought working around the clock was a prerequisite to doing well in law school.

Of course there are cycles. Sometimes you’re working to make a deadline, or sometimes you have to play catch-up. This happens, and cannot be avoided.

However, I realized that working longer hours is not always the best use of time. I think this really clicked after my first set of finals during 1L. I had briefed every case (which I still do, and still recommend). But I had also made a flashcard for each case, made two different outlines, and had a list of rules and rule statements printed on a separate document. After realizing exactly what I needed to know, it hit me that I was WASTING MY PRECIOUS TIME.

I will admit that I am a slow reader, and that I find it difficult to “get it” after reading something once. However, here are some tips that have really helped me.

  1. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses. If you know that you have to read something a few times, or that you read slowly, plan accordingly. Be realistic with your process and the amount of time things will take.
  2. Make a plan. I have all my assignments and reading in bullet points on my computer. I start each day with a goal – i.e., finish Assignment 1-3 for bankruptcy, Assignment 2 for evidence, etc. Stick to the plan.
  3. Use the resources available to you. I often used BARBRI lectures to explain big-picture ideas. I used my BARBRI first-year outline book to create outline structures. Use these tools. They help.
  4. Take breaks. I like to set a timer for 45 minutes. I work for those 45 minutes, and then take a break. Avoiding distraction and working without breaks is amazing. You can get a LOT done in 45 unbroken minutes.
  5. Take it easy.

I think #5 is the most difficult. Knowing when to “turn it off” can be very, very tough. But like everything, practice makes perfect. If you want to thrive, you have to keep some semblance of normalcy (in my opinion). I suggest finding 2-3 things you enjoy doing. Once you have those things, DO THEM.

For me, I go to the gym/run, I hang out with friends, and I watch television/read. I do these things regularly, and they keep me balanced.

I also like to keep things light and enjoy other students. A good friend of mine recently started a website, Res Ipsa Whatever, that pokes fun at law school and the seemingly ridiculous things teachers and students tend to do regularly. Never lose sight of your goals, and never lose your humor during the process! http://resipsawhatever.com

#The2Llife: Week One in the Books

GUEST BLOG By Harrison Thorne,
2L at UCLA School of Law

Week one in the books. Literally.

I spent the whole summer eagerly awaiting my return to law school.  I like law school – you meet interesting people, talk about interesting things and learn a lot. But then I remembered that the grass is always greener when I cracked open the Bankruptcy Code!

Yes, I actually do like being in school again. I spent the summer externing for two Superior Court judges and learned a lot about writing. But now I’m ready to get back to learning.

That said, this week has been a bit different. As a transfer, I was given the opportunity to write on to UCLA’s law review. I say “opportunity” because that is what it is. Most people would kill for a spot on a UCLA journal. So instead of whining about doing the transfer write-on amidst tough substantive classes, I got the materials and put my nose to the grindstone.

Well, okay, I did whine a little. Well … a lot. But I am doing the work! In fact, I am in the middle of writing my comment as I write this post.

I think this write-on is indicative of law school generally and, likely, the rest of my life and career: When faced with a seemingly impossible task – like writing a ten-page comment, doing a huge Blue Book exercise and writing a personal statement in four days – there are three choices.

  • Choice 1: Shrivel up and refuse to do the work
  • Choice 2: Complain, waste time and do the work
  • Choice 3: Do the work

I began the write-on process in the Choice 2 category. I complained about how it’s not fair, etc. Then I quickly realized that I’m complaining about the opportunity to write on to one of the most prestigious legal journals in the country. That quickly motivated me and brought me into the realm of Choice 3.

With that, I need to finish this up. So, until next week, thanks for reading.

Follow me @The2Llife!
-Harrison