#barpreplife: Social Isolation

GUEST BLOG by Jennifer Varteressian,
Graduated from The University of Tulsa College of Law

Social Life? I’m confused; What is that?

It has been two weeks since I’ve really started hunkering down for the bar exam, and by God they have been the SLOWEST TWO WEEKS OF MY LIFE. I have a calendar that I place big “X’s” on after each day of bar prep and I feel like I’m climbing up a never ending mountain and have made it about two inches. I have decided that it is time for me to take a step back and make sure to carve out some time for myself.

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My parents have graciously allowed me to live with them as I prepare for the bar exam and get on my feet (a blessing and a curse I assure you). Although I am incredibly grateful for their hospitality I feel sorry for them because they are having to deal with the brunt of what the bar exam is turning me into. I am like an overly caffeinated ticking time bomb ready to detonate at any moment. There was one point this week when I realized that the only conversation that I participated in outside of “Hi, I would like an Americano” was with my parents, and consisted mainly of them asking how my day was and me delivering some form of grunt. I had a come to Jesus meeting with myself today and decided that I cannot go on like this. I will converse like a normal human, I will immerse myself in environments where real, live people are present. (At least once a week 🙂 )

I think it’s very easy to get bogged down in how much material we are held responsible for, and trust me I am not downplaying it. The task that is before us is no easy feat, however, I think that it is necessary for each of us to grasp that there is no possible way for us to master EVERY single iota of material that BARBRI supplies us with. Hello, that’s why the bar exam is pass/fail! BARBRI has spent quite a few decades ensuring that EVERY single aspect of EVERY single subject that could possibly be tested on is included in our materials. It would be impossible for any of us to retain all of this information. I know, this is incredibly hard for us type A personalities to wrap our minds around, but if we don’t submit we will drive ourselves crazy come mid February. Hell, at the rate I’m going I may not understand what social graces are come next week!

Anyway be sure to take some time out for yourself and remember that we can’t possibly do it all. Trust me, your friends and family will thank you.

Until Next Time,
J

#The3Llife: Welcome Back Patient Zero Students

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

Today is my 879th day of being a law student.

83904bb600676e6b889613d24cf227163ad55c9929b2b3628ef3add64676aa65Like academic Pokémon, once my peers and I reach level 1,008 (sometime in late May), we will finally have the experience necessary to spar with the California Bar. For now, though, I find myself attempting to survive the week and a flu that has descended upon my law school… which brings me to this week’s complaint: patient-zero students.

I get it. My law school charges $46,300 per year for tuition, or, roughly, $1,900 per unit. At 15 weeks of instruction per semester, a 3-unit class will cost about $380 per day of class or, roughly, $5 per minute (or $303.60 per hour). So when a student wakes up feeling a little under the weather, whether or not they risk infecting everyone depends somewhat on their generosity. If not for frugality, another major influence on whether or not the Outbreak monkey decides to visit my campus is my school’s mandatory attendance policy. Here, students may not miss more than 3 to 5 classes (depending on units). Most save them for personal days, interviews, or post-party recovering, which further increases the probability of some sickly student basting the hallways in their fluids.

For now, I sail onward towards the white squall of crumpled tissues and Earl Grey tea bags. Further into the flemmy gusts of wind uninhibited by hands or manners. Forward towards that 1,008th day, where the skies may clear just long enough to feel the sun on my brow.

Time to max out on Vitamin-C.

#The1Llife: Back to School

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

A wise man once said…
“Back to school, back to school, to prove to dad that I’m not a fool.”

89c42d8f35e1e3cee88e106dc8b071d3Well, he may not have been very wise, but Billy Madison was a pretty rad guy. For all of the 1L’s this week (or if you are like me, last week) marks the first week back to law school. First off, congratulations! We did it! Not only did we survive our first semester of law school but we also survived (yeah… this is debatable) our first round of law school of exams.

Considering that we’ve survived thus far, now is the time to reflect on all of the things that you didn’t know going into your first semester that you know now.

  1. You’ve Learned How to Brief a Case
    When I started in the fall and someone said, “brief a case,” I literally had no clue what that meant. Literally, I had no idea. Now, all 1L’s know what a case brief is and exactly how to create one! By this point in time, you’ve figured out what you need to include in your briefs and what to exclude. Having this this skill is a major advantage over last semester because at least now you know what you are doing!
  2. You’ve Learned Something About Legal Writing
    During the first semester, it is likely that every 1L learned something about legal writing. You learned how to write an essay using IRAC, or TRAC, or CREAC, or whatever. It’s likely that you also learned how to write a memo, a complaint, or maybe even an answer. Learning how to write for the legal world is a skill. This is definitely something that we should all be proud of ourselves for learning because legal writing is kind of weird.
  3. You’ve learned Something About the Law
    imagesWhile this is kind of obvious, it is still something to be proud of. Ask me for the elements of negligence. I can name them in my sleep. Even though we’re only ⅙ of the way through law school, we have learned a tremendous amount of information in a very short amount of time.
  4. You’ve Learned How to Take Exam
    Law school exams are unlike any other exams. In undergrad, I started studying a few days before the exam and usually ended up with a decent grade. In law school, I started studying a month before the exam. Each student has their own method for preparing to take an exam. Hopefully you were able to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. At the very least, the first semester final exams provided a lesson in how much work is needed to prepare for a law school exam.
  5. You’ve Learned Your Way Around
    Even though my law school is pretty small, it still took me a while to learn my way around the school. Also, I’ve learned my way around downtown Detroit, which is pretty cool. It’s likely that you have also learned a thing or two about the city your school is located in. You’ve probably found a favorite place to go with other 1Ls!

While it is likely that you have learned a whole lot more than the things listed above, it is important to remember all that you have accomplished thus far. The second semester is a time for new beginnings and reflection. To all my 1Ls, we’ve made it this far and we can definitely make it to the end of our first year!

#barpreplife: Lie To Get Through The Day

GUEST BLOG By Jennifer Varteressian,
Graduating from The University of Tulsa College of Law, December 2014

Okay.

So I am not normally someone who is going to preach, or provide a sermon on life problems, but I am a firm believer that there are times in life when we all need a little pep talk. As my mother always said, everything is good in moderation.

Having said that I wanted to share something I experienced this Monday. First I have to give a little back-story for context. When I was a 1L I had a professor that literally scared the crap out of me. He made Professor Charles Kingsfield look like an angel. The first day of class he called on me and screamed “you’re never going to be a lawyer if you don’t speak up! Why are you even in law school if you can’t speak loud enough for me to hear what you’re saying?!” Of course, after hearing this I was MORTIFIED. Going to his class everyday literally made me sick to my stomach. Regardless I continued to go, and thank god for that, because he ended up being one of the best professors I ever had.

One of the things I loved about this particular professor is that he would sometimes look at us and see us for what we really were: sleep deprived, beat down 1L’s. On days like this he would cease with the material we were covering and give testimonials about how to overcome adversity, and maintain your sanity when you are too stressed to go on. I called them his sermons. Throughout law school I made every effort to take as many classes as possible with this professor because I credited the maintenance of my sanity to him during my 1L year.

On more than one occasion I have felt that I have too many things to do to even begin. Sometimes I am immobilized by all my obligations. I am beginning to feel that way now with finals, graduation, and bar prep looming.

 I was feeling particularly immobilized this Monday on my way to insurance law.

It was snowing, I was tired, and my responsibilities seemed to be overcoming me. Lucky for me, when I walked into class I evidently wasn’t the only student to appear this way. My professor took the liberty of providing us with another testimonial. The theme: Lie to get through the day.

His message was that getting into law school is not where we pass the buck, we have to continue to push ourselves, and when you feel like you can’t, lie to yourself until you can. He told us that everyone suffers from depression, life is going to rain on you; the important thing is how you handle that rain. When you feel overwhelmed its ok to take pity on yourself, as long as you don’t let that pity run your life, because life will run over you. Although some could have taken this message to be a bit heavy for 9 am, I could not have been more grateful. My professor is right, in the upcoming months we are going to feel overwhelmed, like life is raining on us, like we cannot study any more, but the reality is we can. We have come this far already, and that proves that we are resilient. Sometimes the best way to get through the day is that old saying fake it till you make it. The way I see it, all of our hard work is a mere few months away from coming to fruition. We can manage anything for a few months right!?

On another note next week is Thanksgiving so if you don’t hear from me, it’s because I’m in a food coma! Happy Thanksgiving, and remember, just keep swimming! We’re almost there and were all in this together!

Until Next Time,
J

#barpreplife: Stuck Somewhere in Bar Exam Limbo

GUEST BLOG By Jennifer Varteressian,
Graduating from The University of Tulsa College of Law, December 2014

 And the Books have arrived.

barbooks I am finally in receipt of my Texas Bar Prep books, Happy Monday to me!

I feel like we have a week or two left in the semester where it’s still possible to remain positive about our impending doom before it all becomes entirely too overwhelming.

Speaking of owning the bar, congrats again to those who passed the Texas Bar Exam!

The wait is finally over and all of your hard work has paid off. December graduates, we’re next!

Regardless, I can’t help but feel like I’m in limbo still. I want to be done with law school because I am tired of all the work, but that means its time to begin bar prep, which I assume I will also grow tired of.

I finished up work last week and feel grateful for the free time that I’m supposed to be using for productivity. (What do people who don’t work in law school do with all of this time?!) I’ve decided that since December bar takers get no break I will be using some of this time to do things for myself. You know like online shopping, getting my nails done, Sunday Funday. Seems productive to me! Besides if you don’t take at least some time out for yourself the upcoming months are going to be unbearable. The last thing you want is to burn out and throw your hands up during bar prep. I mean lets be real, we’ve gotten the hang of law school by now, right?

finals

As the holidays are approaching I want to leave you with one final thought. This is the LAST time that the holiday season will be ruined by impending exams and standardized tests! Soon we will be able to enjoy stuffing our faces with turkey and pie without having to worry about the exams we have not yet prepped for. Black Friday will be an event that can return to our calendars. Children may stop hating us for being Grinches. Hell, next year I’ll be so full of holiday cheer, I may start listening to Christmas music in June. (that is if I pass the bar exam seeing as how that’s when we will finally find out!). All I have to say is AMEN to that!

Happy last few weeks of “freedom”,
J

#The3Llife: Being a BARBRI Rep

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

When I started law school, there weren’t too many things I was aware of out of the gate.

Realistically, law school is unlike just about any experience people may endure. It wasn’t until the first week in when I stumbled across a term I was familiar with: BARBRI. My older brother, currently a patent attorney, used BARBRI while studying for the bar. Likewise, the handful of other lawyer friends I have were also BARBRI students. Needless to say, when the opportunity arose to join the BARBRI team, I was eager to accept.

As I’ve said in previous blog posts, I am somewhat of an information broker on my campus. All notes, outlines, and supplements find their way through me and, at one point, I had a few thousand dollars worth of supplements that had been donated to me by various alumni. Based on their value, I assumed they were the best tools to give me an edge, so I set aside free supplements, including BARBRI’s. It wasn’t until about a month before finals when I realized my error. BARBRI’s supplements and outlines were the most concise, straightforward way to study for exams. It felt silly to have amassed so many resources when, the whole time, I had the best outlines at my fingers.

Luxuries aside, being a BARBRI rep is great simply because I don’t feel like I am a salesperson. Other bar prep courses need to sell — I just need to be there to remind students who we are. I can look at the entire student body at my school and know with confidence that a vast majority of them will end up successfully using BARBRI. I don’t look at myself as a sales rep as much as I consider myself an advocate for the BARBRI brand. It makes it much easier to straddle the line between “rep” and “fellow classmate.”

New Year: New Approach to Outlining

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

Like many law students, I was encouraged to avoid using supplements and create my own outlines.

Admirable as that may be, it is not how I learn. I learn by triangulating information from multiple sources. In an ideal world, the supplements I use would be from the same book, professor, and class that I am taking. The world is obviously not ideal… if it were, I would be too busy sitting on a beach in my underwear to write this blog post.

When it comes to supplements, I have nearly literally tried them all. Through networking and some Craigslist luck, I acquired about $4,000 in supplements from various graduates in my area. Supplements can be great to break down more complicated topics/concepts, but they don’t help much when it comes to a specific class. So what’s a law student to do?

1. Outline Banks

Chances are you have clubs on your campus. Some clubs, like APALSA, lead the pack when it comes to comprehensive outline banks with extensive collections of notes for just about every class/professor combination at your school. Law Reviews and journals also provide some pretty great resources, but may be harder to get your foot in the door (so to speak).

2. Find the Top Students and Ask

I am pretty generous when it comes to my outlines, but it requires 1L and 2L’s to take the initiative to ask me. In fact, the best outlines I have come across were ones that I asked for specifically from top-ranked students. If you don’t know how to find those students, try checking CALI.org.

Aside from being a fantastic resource in general for studying, CALI.org is home of the “CALI Award,” which is an award provided to the top student of every class for just about every law school in the country. Once you locate your school on their website’s CALI Award section, find the semester prior to yours and locate the name of the student who received the highest grade — then get to know them.

3. Online Communities

Most people are aware of forums like Top-Law-Schools.com, but I’ve found that smaller communities are much more helpful. Reddit.com has a section dedicated to law students (/r/lawschool) and, if you are a member there, then you can qualify for their secret/private Law School Outlines section which provides some of the highest quality, curated outlines you will get your hands on.

4. Google-Foo

Do you know boolean? You should. You don’t need to be a pro at how to use advanced search qualifiers for Google, but there are some important ones that can make your life easier.

First: “site:[SITE HERE]”
Example: site:reddit.com

The “site:” qualifier limits a google search to a specific website. This can be helpful for all sorts of things. For example, say you are trying to crowdsource some information for your scholarly writing assignment. Something like “site:reddit.com “topic name”” will isolate your search to Reddit’s community of somewhat-peer-reviewed comments, articles, and links. It can be a great way to generate sources to investigate, etc.

Second: “filetype:pdf” or “filetype:doc”
Example: filetype:pdf Torts Outline

Outlines generally come in either PDF or Word Document form. Thus, telling Google to only search for those types of documents will increase your odds of finding a legitimate outline for free.

Third: “intitle:[Search Term]”
Example: intitle:”Tort Outline”

The “intitle” qualifier restricts your search to the title of a document, which can really help you narrow down your search.

Putting it all together requires a bit of common sense. Let’s say, for example, I am looking for a good Constitutional Law outline. I need to try to think of terms that will likely be found inside of a con law outline. Even if I know nothing of the subject, a simple google search will tell me that one of the most iconic cases from con law is Roe v. Wade and some unique terms for the class are “due process” and “privileges and immunities.”

Knowing this, I can create the following search string:

Roe AND “due process” AND “privileges and immunities”
filetype:doc intitle:outline

In layman’s terms, this search string will look for any WORD document with “OUTLINE” in its title that contains the words ROE, DUE PROCESS, and PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES. Popping it into Google results in almost 500 outlines.

At this point, I would likely try to refine the search by including more words and case names that come from my book until I narrow it down to only a handful of really on-point outlines.

#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.