Dealing with illness in Law School

Illness Law School

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

It would be nice if all of the difficult parts of life paused for the three years of law school, but obviously, that is not how it works. During my first semester of law school, I developed worsening neurological symptoms, extreme fatigue, and debilitating brain fog. I was limping to doctors and specialist appointments between classes and trying to fit in class readings while I was sitting in waiting rooms.

So what do you do when life circumstances, specifically illness, impede your ability to succeed in law school?

Look into accommodations

The process for applying for accommodations can be daunting, but definitely worthwhile. Typically you will need documentation from your treating physician that describes your situation and what accommodations you might need. If you become unexpectedly ill in the middle of the semester you will likely be able to get emergency accommodations that will be in place just through the remainder of the semester.

Get in touch with your school’s Office of Academic Engagement (or whatever the equivalent is) as soon as you think there might be an issue. They can help you figure out the next steps and point you to the resources that are available.

Find Someone you can talk to

Find someone to talk to

Mental health is a challenge in law school even without any other difficulties, but dealing with law school and then having illness or life circumstances on top can be crushing. If you can, find a counselor or therapist who specializes in the area of need. Chances are your university has a counseling department where you can either see a counselor or get a referral to an outside counselor.

Your doctor’s office may also have social workers or counselors who can help you navigate the complicated web of doctor visits, medical bills, illness, etc. Often these resources are not readily apparent, but if you know to ask, they are generally available.

Know when to walk away

When I got sick, I clung to finishing the semester as if my life depended on it. The stress of trying to finish, while experiencing worsening symptoms, ultimately just made me sicker. After two months of doctor’s appointments with no real answers as to why my health was declining so rapidly, I was finally forced to deal with the reality that there was no plausible way I could finish. (I was eventually diagnosed with Lyme Disease and after treatment am obviously back to school!)

Because I had been talking with our Office of Academic Engagement about accommodations and updating them on the progress of my situation, they were not surprised when I decided to withdraw. The process was still multi-step, though. You will likely need documentation from your physician, a written statement describing your situation, and some sort of official form submitted to the university. Be aware of the differences at your university between withdrawing and taking incompletes. There are sometimes financial considerations involved there in addition to the academic considerations.

Coming Back

Hopefully, you will never find yourself in a situation where you have to unexpectedly withdraw from law school. If you do, hopefully, your life circumstances will resolve and you will be able to come back, should you so choose.

Coming back is not without its own complications. If you were in school long enough to have made friends with any of your peers, it may be difficult to start over socially while all of your pals are taking seminars together and moving forward into their career paths.

Law School is a pressure cooker. If you withdrew because of illness, you may have residual or lingering symptoms or a chronic condition that is exacerbated by stress. You may have to say no to extracurriculars and social events that you would like to be involved in, for the sake of maintaining your health.

I know from experience that this is very difficult. There is a long list of things I would like to be involved in, but if I overdo it even a little bit or get less than 8 hours of sleep for just one night, my knees start hurting, my hands start trembling, and my brain just shuts down.

If you have a chronic illness, law school may be an isolating time for you. Everyone is tired and stressed, and the additional fatigue and stress you may feel because of your chronic illness may make you feel weak, incapable, or like you made the wrong decision in returning. Build up your support community – doctors, counselors, understanding friends, family – who can affirm that you are very capable. There are also some great resources and discussions on Reddit, through the NIH, and across the internet.

If you have withdrawn from Law School and returned, I’d love to hear from you. Or if you are trucking through law school with a chronic illness, I’d also love to hear from you (and offer all sorts of accolades and support)! If you have a story you’d like to share, resources that you’ve found helpful, or resources that you think need to exist but do not reach out on Twitter and Instagram @the1lLife! I’d love to hear from you.

Note: Mental illness and other difficult life circumstances may have similar impacts, and this post is about chronic illness because that is my experience.

How to Beat Procrastination

Procrastination

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

Raise your hand if procrastination has a hold of you. You may be reading this right now because you are procrastinating. Honestly, this is being written at the particular moment that I am also procrasti-working. Doing a less-urgent task makes me feel more confident in it and know that it will bring me more immediate joy.

Mara's Dog on Laptop

Making my dog pose for pictures always brings me immediate joy and writing a memo/ starting an outline/ reading for contracts sometimes feels like a slog.

I find that I procrastinate for three main reasons: fear, fatigue, and failure to plan. (“F”- alliteration here to prevent future failure?) This is especially true with large assignments like the open memo, even though of course I know that putting it off will make me miserable and ultimately result in a much worse memo. Sometimes I get paralyzed by the inevitable failure I see in my future. This fear is only exacerbated by the fact that I often don’t know where to start. So I look at the blinking cursor and start to panic about how much work it will take to turn that blinking cursor into a 20-page memo on libel. Then, not only am I exhausted from all of the other classwork and life work, but I am tired from having spent the last 20 minutes panicking.

So how do we kick the three Fs in the face? Here are some tips:

1. Break it down

First Draft PlanMake an overly detailed to-do list. You may not know at that exact moment everything you need to do to have a completed memo (or outline or exam sheet), but you likely know what the next big step you need to take is. Write down and put in order every little piece of that next big step that you can think of.

I use Notion for everything in my life. If it ever ceased to exist, I might also cease to exist. In Notion, I compile a list of everything that I know for sure needs to be done on a project and evidenced-based predictions of how much time it will take. Then I schedule when that task should be accomplished.

Focus on one section at a time, one small task at a time – until you finish that section. If you know what the next big step is, go ahead and map it out. Rinse. Repeat.

Forest AppTiming this process is recommended. I always think I work faster than I do, and it gets me in a lot of trouble. I have been using the Forest app since my master’s program and LOVE it. It helps to look at each category and see if particular kinds of tasks take more or less time than I anticipated.

In April 2018, I spent 5079 minutes working on my thesis. In each little time block, I put in exactly what I had accomplished (i.e. how many pages I read or wrote) so that I could see if there were areas I was spending less time or areas where I was working slower than average.

2. Set specific goals

You can’t write the whole thing at once, though you may be tempted to. And your brain will get tired of writing libel analysis after a few straight hours. Cal Newport – my favorite productivity guru and MIT professor – recommends big chunks of uninterrupted deep work, and from my experience outside of law school, I agree.

The catch for me is that I must have a big enough goal that I am not an hour in and then having to go back to the planning board (which interrupts focus and kills my motivation), but can’t be so big that I end my time with the paralysis described above. Since I know how long tasks generally take me, though, I can usually predict fairly accurately what my plan for a deep work session needs to look like.

3. Get feedback often

We, law students, tend to be perfectionists and have trouble bringing unfinished products to professors for feedback. Please hear me, though. YOU NEED FEEDBACK EARLY AND OFTEN! If you write an entire section wrong or have the criteria for unforeseeable consequences wrong, you are going to expend so much more energy and time going back and correcting that later.

4. Ok, perhaps the most crucial piece of advice I can give: Set arbitrary deadlines

The reality of law school is that you are going to be afraid of failure and you are going to be exhausted. So what do I do? I trick my brain into thinking the deadline is MUCH earlier than it actually is so that if all of my other preventative measures fall through (which they sometimes do), I still am not up a creek without a paddle.

I use the Countdown app to mark the assignments as due a full week ahead of their actual due dates. This way all I have to do is swipe to the control center on my phone and I know exactly how many days I have left to work on things.

Procrastination

Check out some other tips for handling procrastination from the 2L Life Blogger, Stephanie Baldwin. What tools and resources do you use to battle procrastination? I’d love to hear. Reach out on Twitter and Instagram at @the1lLife!

The Law School Bag: What’s in Mine?

law school bag

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

One of the most frequent and helpful pieces of advice I’ve received since starting law school is to treat school like a job. Half of the week my classes get out pretty early, so I take advantage and go home. As soon as I pull into my driveway though, my brain goes into “home mode” and it is pretty much guaranteed that no more schoolwork will be happening.

To compensate for this reality, I spend the other days out of the house, sometimes at the Law School or in another campus building or library and sometimes at a coffee shop.

I really hate being unprepared, so most of the time the inside of my backpack resembles a miniature fallout shelter with compartments for you know, food, medication, toiletries, etc.  Whatever I might need at any point of any day, even though I could get virtually anything I need at the law school café or the drugstore on the corner. I justify the weight of it by telling myself that law school is stressful enough without wondering if I have any ibuprofen with me.

So, without further ado, here’s all of the info you definitely never asked for about how I schlepp my law-school-preparedness kit around.

law school bagThe Law School Bag

I use the previous generation of this amazingly comfortable and well-organized North Face backpack. I carry a 15-inch MacBook, which weighs about the same as a baby orca. Add casebooks on top of that and I desperately needed a bag that wouldn’t destroy my back before I even sit for the Bar. This bag distributes the weight like a hiking pack would and has a built-in ventilation system. This is great because Georgia is a crazy humid place. It also has so many pockets. It’s incredible.

Notebooks

I use a combo of digital and paper notes, so I use disc notebooks to allow for flexibility in shuffling pages around and adding new ones. I use the Tul system because it is relatively less expensive, but the Levenger and Arc systems are also great.

Pens

After years of searching for just the right pens and highlighters, I have settled on Pilot Ultra-Fine pens, Gray Mildliner highlighters, and Frixion erasable highlighters. I have a lot of respect for those who brief their cases in book with a color system, but I cannot handle that much happening on a page. So instead, I use gray mildliners to highlight in-book and use a color-coded system for my notes. (More on that to come!)

Better Together Pouch

If you can’t tell, I really like pockets and pouches. I find that it helps me to always know where everything is, which means I spend that much less energy trying to find things.

law school bag

Inside my pouch, I usually have a clipboard with my weekly schedule and to-do list, loose disc paper, and any handouts I need for that class. I keep my highlighters and two transparent colored reading guides that I use as straight edges (because if I am going to highlight in a book, it better be in a straight line), some sticky notes, tabs, and a small legal pad.

Water Bottle

Because hydration is key and plastic water bottles are dumb and wasteful. I use a very large and dented Hydro Flask that I got many years ago and then proceeded to drop a thousand times. It has held up remarkably well.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Let’s be real – the law library can be a great or a terrible place to work, depending on who else is there. An excellent pair of noise-canceling headphones are so helpful in ensuring the library is always a good place to work. I have a Nuraphone subscription, which has been the perfect option for me.

I also always have plenty of protein-rich snacks in my bag because no one likes a hangry law student.

What do you keep in your bag? Check out the @the1lLife on Instagram and Twitter for even more fun pictures of what I keep in my bag!

The Myth of Law Student Imposter Syndrome

Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law

In the last two weeks I have had probably two dozen conversations with 1Ls at various schools, each of which started with something like this: “I thought I understood (International Shoe, consideration, the noscitur a sociis canon, etc.) but then I got to class and now I am so confused. Maybe I don’t belong in law school.”

I usually respond with a smirk because each person who has said that to me thinks they are the only one who feels that way.

This is the myth of law student imposter syndrome – a pathologized version of what would ordinarily be a healthy humility based on being a novice in the field. I know from experience that law student imposter syndrome can be debilitating, but I also know from experience that it can be overcome.

Here are some tips for how to deal with law student imposter syndrome:

Identify when your law student imposter syndrome is overshadowing or undermining your ability

This could show up in a lot of different ways. At my law school, we just got our diagnostic memo grades back. This is always a tough moment because, for many law students, this is the first time they’ve had reason to doubt their abilities.

Imposter syndrome sits on your shoulder like evil Kronk and tells you that you should have known how to write a memo and your inability to do so perfectly is a sign that you don’t belong here. You will never figure out how to do it well. It is not a skill you can learn, and even if other people can learn it, you cannot. Sorry, sucker. May as well drop out of law school.

These are lies told to you by your imposter syndrome. You are obviously a bright human. You learned a new language when you studied for the LSAT, so you are clearly capable of learning a new language. Now you are just learning the language of Torts, Civ Pro, Leg Reg, Contracts, and Legal Writing all at once. It’s overwhelming, but you can do it!

Rediscover your confidence

Find your groove—I have heard this said as “stay in your lane,” but I think “find your groove” is more fun. It’s a dance metaphor. Dancing is fun, right? We’ll have some posts later in the semester about how to find your groove, but the foundation of it is this:

Figuring out what works for you is a process. That’s ok. I know it feels like there is a lot of pressure to figure everything out right now at this very second. But you will be so much better off if you take the time to figure out what your groove is. How do you study best? What kind of notes work for you? Which classes are most important in terms of what career you think you would like to pursue?

Be an excellent student—You are here to learn, right? You don’t come into law school knowing everything (or in my case, anything) about the law. Embrace the opportunity to learn by being the best student you can. Go to office hours. Join a study group, find a tutor, try to teach the concept to yourself, your dog, your mom, a willing study partner. Find your groove – whatever works for you – and dive in!

Practice every day. First semester of 1L has three classes that use multiple rules. The UCC, USC, the FRCP, the Restatements, oh my. How do you learn all of these rules? Practice them. Flashcards, practice quizzes, supplements, etc. Practice makes permanent.

Engage in things outside of school that you are already good at—painting, running, networking, writing, baking – whatever it is. Law school is not everything. Not only will these things bring you some life because they are not law school, but they will also help restore some of your confidence.

Get some sleep—I have two schticks that I know annoy everyone in my proximity. First, you need to drink enough water. America is chronically dehydrated and that’s real bad folks. Second, you need to just let yourself sleep. There is ample research that demonstrates that lack of sleep can lead to increased anxiety and depression. That’s the last thing you need as you’re trucking through torts.

Last, remember why you wanted to go to Law School in the first place. You may not know your end goal and that’s ok. Reminding yourself that you are here for a reason will help to make the day-to-day struggle more bearable.

Have a story about how you’ve handled law student imposter syndrome? Reach out on Twitter or Instagram — @the1Llife

How I Use the 1L Mastery to Survive the Day-to-Day

Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law

Hi! My name is Mara and now that Stephanie has graduated to the 2L life, I am taking over here at the 1L Life.

If you’re reading this, that probably means you are either my mom (Hi mom!) or that you have made it through the first few weeks of Law School! Congratulations! Ignore the nagging feeling that you understand less about the law than when you started and remind yourself of everything you’ve accomplished. Now remind yourself again. Law school is hard, but you can crush it.

If you still feel weighed down by how little you understand about the law, don’t worry. I get it. That’s one of the reasons I love the BARBRI 1L Mastery Package. Another reason is that just like every other student at Emory Law, immediately after I was sworn into the profession, I also swore undying loyalty to Professor Freer. I have no problems with this, because I am the weirdo who actually loves Civ Pro.

1L Mastery Package is for the start of the semester just as much as for the end.

Jokes aside though, here are some ways I use it in my day-to-day work:

  • To illuminate the overarching concepts that I can’t piece together from the case readings.

I am a global thinker to a fault.

You know the adage, “don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees?” My problem is more like I am standing in a forest and can’t tell that what is in front of me is a tree because I don’t realize that I am in a forest.

For better or worse, we learn the law through inductive processes. That’s extra difficult when you are learning dense material that often seems to defy logic. I often find myself standing right in front of Promissory Estoppel and can’t tell that I am in Contracts. When this happens, I open up my 1L Outlines Book, and instantaneously have the immediate context for every concept. This helps me understand complex topics immensely more than re-reading cases does.

1L Notes
(Photo of study notes: My actual, hand-written notes on Consideration. Not pictured: the vat of coffee just outside the frame)

It also helps me refresh previous concepts. Can’t remember how personal jurisdiction works? No worries. I can go watch that lecture from Professor Freer on the BARBRI website and then take a follow-up quiz to make sure I understand it. (Side note: at Emory, we refer to Professor Freer’s lectures as “The Freer Tapes” as though they are top-secret FBI documents).

  • To define terms succinctly.

Do you remember when you were in elementary school and had to practice using context clues to define unfamiliar words? I often feel like that when reading casebooks. Legal jargon is dense, ya’ll. Sometimes using context clues doesn’t work and looking up terms online is more confusing than just going about my life in ignorance.

Dog reading
(Photo of Charley- I swear I did not bribe him with treats to wear those glasses in front of a BARBRI outline book. I found him like this. Swear.)

And sometimes I go online to look something up and come back to my textbook 40 minutes later with a new pair of boots from L.L.Bean and zero terms defined. That is neither here nor there. The point is that the 1L Outlines Book does a pretty excellent job at defining complex words simply enough that my elementary-school brain can handle it.

  • I’m thinking toward the endgame.

Good 1L Outlines are beefy.

I have held some in my hands that weigh literal pounds. They are intimidating – “A problem for future-Mara,” as I sometimes say. But by exposing myself regularly to very well constructed outlines, I am “photographing two birds with one exposure” (thank you Professor George Shepherd) – I am learning the material I need to learn and teaching myself the language of the outline at the same time!

  • Charley Likes It.

If you’re still not sure about whether 1L Mastery might be helpful to you, give it a try. It’s free for a limited time. Have any questions about how I use it or why I love Civ Pro? Reach out! You can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @the1Llife!

1L Mastery Package Continues To Carry Over | 3L Student Success Story

by Aaron Feld
University of Illinois College of Law | Class of 2020

Aaron Feld, 3L at University of Illinois Law (Class of 2020) | Using what worked with the 1L Mastery Package, I've implemented an effective study strategy. I’m now in my 3L year of law school and I’m totally ready. I just completed a summer of working in a Chicago-based law firm and plan to go full-time with the firm once I graduate from the University of Illinois College of Law in Champaign. My focus will be in the area of Corporate Law with an emphasis in Sports and Sports Facilities. It’s a career path I’m greatly looking forward to. I largely have BARBRI to thank for preparing me.

Right from the start, BARBRI was captivating

I was introduced to BARBRI Bar Review in 2017, when I attended a video demonstration by the BARBRI student representative at the University of Illinois. It was a captivating presentation, and I went on to study using the BARBRI 1L Mastery Package.

It’s an in-depth suite of 1L success resources that includes detailed course outlines and on-demand video lectures paired with ample multiple-choice and essay practice questions.

Online lectures, outlines and practice exams did the trick

I mainly used the BARBRI 1L Mastery Package materials for three classes: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, and Torts. The materials provided a good foundation of each course, especially to bring me clarity in Constitutional Law. I listened to the online lectures prior to studying and creating outlines to learn key principles. The 1L Mastery lecturers were fantastic. And if I didn’t understand a specific topic, I would find a related lecture and listen to it again and again until I grasped it. I could speed up the videos to save time and hone in on just what I needed. This served particularly useful in learning the rules of Civil Procedure.

When it came time to study Torts, BARBRI’s practice exams did the trick. The practice questions were well laid out and exams covered both issue-spotting and multiple-choice analysis. Even the low-hanging fruit, those topics that can often be overlooked during studies, was accounted for.

What I learned my first year in law school, was that there was no set strategy for how things should be done as a 1L. You must first establish what you don’t know, and then figure out how to best learn. BARBRI allows you to be creative in your studies and the scope. You can speed up the video lectures, just read the course book from cover to cover, or work through tons of practice exam questions. All of the 1L success resources are there for you to use in a way that’s right for you.

Using BARBRI study aids as a 1L continues to carry over

Although the results from my July 2019 sitting of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) are not yet posted, I am confident that the free BARBRI MPRE Review prepared me for success on the exam. Everything was online and very convenient. The chapter summaries were compact and the practice exams were helpful in applying the information on the actual exam. Best of all, I was able to implement my own study strategy based on what had worked during my time with the BARBRI 1L Mastery Package materials.

Major OCI missteps to avoid

By Samuel Farkas,
BARBRI Curriculum Architect and Instructor

At some point during law school, every student will attempt to dazzle potential employers as the perfect candidate. Here are few common missteps that will get your resume tossed quickly after you exit – and what you can do to avoid them.

“Surely you’ve heard of ME.”

You may have a stellar resume, grades and smile, but no one – most of all, future employers – find cockiness appealing. They do, however, like to see confidence. You’ll want to deliver “in the middle” with cautious confidence. Remain humble and ready to soak up precious legal knowledge. Present a firm handshake, make eye contact, sit up straight and be assertive in your responses and questions. Showing gratitude for your achievements and accolades, while underscoring how receptive you are to learning and growing professionally, will help you make the right impression.

“I want to work for you because I need a job and money!”

During On-Campus Interviews (OCI), you’re going to get asked over and over again: “Why do you want to work for us? Why would you like to be in [insert city name]?” Unless you’ve had your eye on a firm for a while, you’re probably looking for any good employment opportunity, wherever it may reside. But be honest with yourself. Do you really want to live in the office’s location permanently? If not, don’t waste your time interviewing with that firm. Sure, you can make up stories of relatives who’ve relocated there. However, you’ll do yourself and the employer a disservice. And if the actual office where you are interviewing does not practice the law you are interested in, keep looking. Pick firms where you would actually like to live, and then narrow down the firms you would actually like to work for.

“My apologies … I was actually raised in a barn.”

If you’re lucky, you may have the opportunity to interview with potential employers over a meal or call-back interview. Even though these may feel informal, maintain a respectable level of etiquette. Most students think they have good manners already, even if they don’t – because it’s in bad taste to point out bad manners, you’ve probably never been told that you chew with your mouth open or hold a fork incorrectly. Do yourself a favor, read an etiquette book or take a friend to dinner for a critique of your manners.

“You know like cellophane… ”

One of the worst things you can do in a job interview is to leave no impression at all. Many students try to morph into some expected version of the ideal candidate. This is not a good strategy. Try to stand out in some way. Wear a unique accessory, work in an interesting story or discuss a special hobby. Don’t veer into the bizarre, yet communicate something memorable. Simply allow your true self to shine through, keeping in mind that you need to filter it through a professional lens.

“What firm are you with again?”

The surest way to ruin your chances with a firm is to come unprepared. Knowing the firm name, office locations and practice areas are necessary but not sufficient. Do additional research on your interviewers and read any press the firm has recently received. Talk to former summer associates or clerks to get their experiences. Look at LinkedIn, the Martindale-Hubble Law Directory and other online resources to gather some data.

Be sure to reach out to your BARBRI Legal Education Advisor for additional help and advice on how to refine your job interviewing skills.

Reflecting on the 1L life

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona

It’s hard to believe that I take my last final tomorrow and by the time you read this I will be done with my 1L, and likely so will you!

In addition to the thousands of pages I read, the notes I’ve taken, and papers written, I have learned so much more this past year than just about the law, but about myself and the way, I view the world. So, while this may be a tad cliché, here are the biggest takeaways from my life as a 1L.

I made the right choice.

It took forever for me to decide which school I was going to go to. I was caught up in rankings, prestige, and conflicted about where I wanted to practice. In May I still had multiple seat deposits down, and it wasn’t until I decided that I wanted to stay in Arizona to practice that my choice became clear.  Even though I was closer to a different law school, U of A made the most sense and I was pretty confident I would fit in well there. I am so grateful that I came to this school. It is 100% where I needed to be.

So 0Ls, if you’re stressing, worried about rankings my best advice is to visit schools, sit in on classes and talk to judges and lawyers in the area you want to practice. Their advice is what helped me decide to stay in Arizona and chose my school. If you’re in a similar position or just starting the process, get out there and speak to people in your legal community.

Friends Make Law School 1000 times better…

I honestly don’t know what I would have done this year without my group of friends at school. School is stressful, and sometimes, you can’t avoid outside life spilling over, and my friends have been there through excessive laughter and tears. I can’t thank them enough. Throughout the year I’ve become closer with different groups, ranging from my micro group, the “Fantastic 4”,  to my small section, “the couch crew,” and with others in classes this semester. Special shout out Kevhilanie and to my fellow Watchers of the Law… yep, we have a group that meets to watch the final season of GoT. Yep, I have turned into that person who uses nicknames for friend groups. This is what law school does to you.

I understand that some people approach law school like a lone wolf, and I get it. Law school is as competitive, and you can make it even more competitive if you want to. But law school is also a community. Not only are my classmates my friends, but they are also going to be my colleagues, and just like we support each other now, I am confident we will continue to do that throughout our careers.  At our orientation a Professor said, “Make friends, not enemies” and that advice guided me the entire year and will continue to guide me into my legal career.

I have embraced “It depends”…

Before starting school, I had always prided myself on being able to see “both sides” on most issues, or so I thought. Law school taught me that I was more closed minded than I realized. This has been perhaps the most significant way law school has changed me. I listen better. Through cases, class discussions, and lunchtime events, I have been exposed to more viewpoints than ever. Instead of being closed minded and holding my ground on issues I held dear, law school has taught me to be an even better listener, to see the other side of an issue and try to understand it through discussion. Sure, some of my core ideas haven’t changed, but I feel much more understanding of the views of others and why they have them. So now when someone asks my opinion on something, I realize… it depends.

It’s been great sharing the @The1LLife with you, and I look forward to seeing you all @The2LLife next Fall!

Tips to tackle different Law School Exam types for 1Ls

Student taking exam

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona

I just took my 6th law school exam and my second one for this semester, and so far all of them have been slightly different. Here is an explanation of the different types and some tips to help you prepare.

Closed Book, with maybe an Open Code Book

Essay 3-4 hours

For this type of exam, still create an outline, but memorize it. You might get to use your code book so integrate that into your outline. Also, tabs are your best friend here. You don’t want to waste time flipping through a codebook when you just could have tabbed it. Also check with your professor about what, if any notes you can have in the codebook. The key here is to take a lot of practice exams. If your teacher doesn’t provide them, go online to find some and check out the 1L Mastery  Course from BarBri.

Open Book, Open Notes

Essay 3-4 hours

Here, you can use your book, but it’s unlikely you will ever use it, unlike the codebook in the previous example. Your notes and outline are the most useful thing here. If your school allows it, try to pre-write the rules like you might on the exam and have them in your outline. Double check with your professor if this is ok. All of mine were fine with this, just no copy and pasting into Exam4, which is our test-taking software. The thing is here, make sure you have gone through your outline a lot. As a general note, you want all of your outlines done a few weeks before finals, and if you update them weekly, you can get there. Doing this will also help you create an attack or checklist outline.

Open Universe

Essay and/or Multiple Choice 3-4 hours

These types of tests can be dangerous. I say this because of their “open nature” first because its “open” the professors usually require a more developed answer, because of all of the tools available to you, including the internet. It is also “dangerous” because it can provide a false sense of security, as you may feel like if you’re not 100% on something “you can just look it up.” Let me be the first to tell you this is a TRAP. Sure, looking something up can be helpful, but it can also be a time suck! Beware and prepare like you would for a typical open book/note exam. Anything out in the universe is just a bonus.

Open Universe, Take Home

8 hours within a 24 hour

WOW… I liked this exam type. I felt like I did well because of the time given and my level of preparation. Oddly because I had so much information available, I seemed to have reviewed everything more carefully while preparing for the exam. During the exam, I actually had time to look at my full outline and confirm questions or ambiguities in my notes with the textbook. It was a luxury, that 2Ls seem to know well and then I realized… if I feel this way, so must everyone else…. Oh no…  who knows where I will land on the curve because of this.  My tips for taking this type of exam? Think of all of the resources you have like one big very comprehensive outline and figure out the best way for you to use them to create the most well-developed answer properly. Plus practice using everything together. If you don’t have a good planned, you might get overwhelmed and distracted during the test, and then those 8 hours just became 4. Also, think about when the best time for you to take the exam. Some people think better in the morning, others in the evening. Also consider when you’ll want food and any breaks you need., 8 hours is a long time to be hungry…

Best of luck on finals my fellow #1Ls! As always, if you have any tips reach out over @The1LLife on Twitter or Instagram.

Approaching the 1L Finish Line

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona

Yesterday I attended my last day of scheduled classes. My 1L year is over… well, almost… actually not even close. There is still so much to do. I still have 5 finals, and the law review write on to complete. I am sure you are in a similar situation. Here are some tips to make the most of our final weeks as 1Ls.

Take Advantage of Wellness Week Offerings

At my school, the SBA had many fun events to help us relax a bit before reading work began. We had a ping pong tournament (yes, we have a ping pong room at my school), yoga classes, and more. At my friend’s school they brought in puppies and kittens, and they will have breakfast provided for them each day next week! Whatever your school does, enjoy it! Also, beyond that…

Take Care of Yourself

It’s time for some serious self-care too. You need to be ready for finals and have the energy to make it all the way to the end. Last semester, I only had 3 finals; this semester, I have 5. Yes, 5! I have finals for Legal Writing, where I have to write a closed research memo in 8 hours, an 8 hour take-home final for Criminal Procedure, with strict word count limits, an open note exam for Constitutional Law, an open universe multiple choice test for Business Organizations, and I finish with an open universe Property exam. Whew. Some self-care is essential right now, I went to a concert with some friends on Monday and to be honest, that was the BEST thing I could have done. I left feeling great and ready for finals. Do whatever makes you happy. Go for a hike, cook, get out your coloring book, knit, listen to music, or go for a run. Whatever it is, whatever you do for self-care, make time for it.

Make the Most of the Reading Period

Some people like to schedule their study time according to the credit value of the class, and others want to work on classes they feel they struggle in the most, and some focus on their best subject matter. You know what works best for you. Don’t get distracted or think that because you are doing things differently than others you have to make a change. If you had great results last semester, stick to that plan. If you decided to change things up, have confidence in your choice and stick to it! For me, one thing I did NOT do a good job of was memorizing my outline and creating an attack outline. This semester my outlines are done, and as I do practice problem, I am making a note of the items I use most AND missed to create a good attack outline. Take advantage of office hours and any review sessions being offered too.

Appreciate How Far You’ve Come

I know, I know, super cliché, but seriously. We all need to give ourselves a round of applause. We’ve nearly made it to the end, just a few more steps and we are 2Ls. Think not only about everything we have learned but also about how we perceive things differently now. I can say that before starting law school there were some topics I thought of as very black and white, and now all I can see is the full spectrum of options. I have moved entirely from “Yes” or “No” to fully embracing “it depends” because it is true! It’s incredible to think about how much we have changed already!

Good luck on Finals everyone, we’ve got this! Feel free to reach out on the @The1LLife on Twitter and Instagram with your favorite tips to finish the semester strong!