Reading Week, Finals and a Job Search, Oh My!

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

Job search during finals, are you kidding me? Though Reading Week has arrived, and I am frantically trying to reassure myself that I am prepared and ready to take practice exams, and my actual exams in less than a week. If you are like me, your focus will be exclusively on finals, but don’t forget that with the arrival of December 1 it also means that we can start submitting applications to firms in an attempt to secure our 1L summer positions.

It is VERY accurate that paid 1L positions are rare, but there are a ton of unpaid opportunities out there allowing us to gain experience while also giving back. Many of us will spend our summers working for non-profits, clerking for judges or by supporting government agencies. So rather than wasting your winter break hitting refresh to see if grades have posted, prepare your application materials, update or create your LinkedIn page, and take a proactive approach to land your summer legal position.

First, get your application materials together

This will typically be a resume, cover letter and a writing sample (be sure to pay attention to page limits). The great thing is you can use the resume that you prepared for law school applications, as a jumping off point for your resume. Be sure to update your resume with your law school and add any awards you received, plus be sure to mention when your GPA can be expected. There are a lot of great resources out there for you to find example cover letters, and resumes, but be sure to book some time with your career services for any extra help or advice.

Next, update or create your LinkedIn

If you do not already have a LinkedIn account, now is the time to create one. LinkedIn can be an excellent tool for networking, learning more about law firms, and establishing your personal brand. If you aren’t sure where to start here is a recently published article from Above the Law to get you started. I have used LinkedIn this semester to build my network as I met with people who have visited my law school for lunchtime chats and to connect with visiting students. This has already paid off, as I have received leads on 1L positions! If you’d like to add me to your network, feel free to connect to me!

Finally, reach out to Employers

There are a variety of different ways to do this. Most people will just send their cover letters, resumes and writing samples and wait for a response. That is a sound approach, but don’t be afraid to be a bit more proactive. You can list your resume on career sites like Monster and Career Builder, and do not forget about your law school’s career website. You will likely to need to have a presence on your school’s career site for Spring OCI, so take advantage of winter break to get your account established and to reach out to employers.

job search

In many cases, your school should be your first place to look for opportunities, however, I am also excited to let you know about a new BarBri website to help you look for a job that is just for law students, The Law Preview Job Network. Be sure to check out the link and establish your account today.

As a final point, do not forget the value of face to face contact and try to visit law firms. This is a great move, especially if you will be home for the holidays and you know you want to find employment in that city. Get out there be seen! Good luck on your finals and job search and I will see you next semester!

4 Steps to Forming a “Finals Attack Plan.”

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

Can you believe it my fellow 1Ls, finals are right around the corner! I am lucky and my finals are pretty late, as they do not start until December 10 and I have my last final on December 19. If you haven’t started now is the time to start forming your finals attack plan.

1) If you haven’t started, write your own outline!

If you haven’t started outlining yet, your first tendency might be to use one from a 2L or 3L who took the class from your professor but resist this urge. Instead, grab your syllabus and book and make the framework of your outline from there. This really helped me for midterms, and I wish I had started sooner. This will let you easily organize your notes in the way the professor intended you to.  Don’t worry about how long it is. You will likely end up with one master outline or a “study” outline, then a condensed version of the outline that features fundamental concepts, and then ideally you’ll be able to create an attack outline that will help you on the test.

If you’ve been like me and outlining throughout the semester, now is a great time to start condensing it and creating the attack outline.

2) Fill in the Gaps

Every time I look at my outline I see things missing, or concepts I feel “ify” on. Now is the perfect time to consult the BARBRI Outlines,  and an upperclassman’s to fill in those gaps. Pro Tip:  Be sure to highlight those areas and then make an office hours appointment with your professor to discuss. If you do this now, you won’t be rushing for a spot at the end of the month or discovering an issue during the reading period.

3) Find Practice Exams

Your professor will likely provide these, or they may be in your library. Be sure to find the ones for your professor that have model answers. You will likely not want to start studying with these too early, as you want to be able to answer the entire question being asked. But having these saved to your computer will help you when everyone else is trying to locate them

4) Study Where It Counts During Reading Period

If you have courses with finals that vary in their credit value, then you should spend the bulk of your time on the on the class that is most likely to impact your GPA. This was a great trip that I learned during my BARBRI Law Preview course. It seems that most people dedicate the same amount of time studying to all of their classes, but if you have a Torts class that is worth 6 credits and a Contracts class that is only worth 4 credits, getting a high grade in Torts will have a more significant impact on your GPA. At my school, every single one of my courses with a final is worth 4 credits so I will be spending an equal amount of time on them during our reading period.

How are you preparing for finals? Do you have your own finals attack plan? Any tips you think other 1Ls could benefit from? Let me know over at the @The1LLife on Twitter!

5 Self-care Tips to Help Prepare for Finals

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

Not that you need a reminder, but finals are right around the corner. It is a stressful time for all law students, especially us 1Ls because even if we had midterms, we don’t truly know what it feels like to take a 3+ hour exam final. I am especially nervous about one class because we did not have a midterm. Even with that whirling around in my head, I have to remind myself there are things within my control (besides studying) to make sure that I am in the best shape possible for all of my finals and this starts with self-care. Here are 5 tips I’m following to make this possible.

1) Feed your Brain!

Did you know the dark chocolate and blueberries help your working and cognitive memory? There is a lot of research out there about how healthy eating can improve your testing ability. It is easy with our schedules to forget to eat, or just grab pizza at lunch from a meeting. I am the worst at this, however, I am taking steps to make sure that I have simple meals prepared for the next few weeks. I also brought a bunch of brain-friendly snacks and put them in my locker. Figure out a way to make healthy snacking easy. It will help improve your stress levels and prevent hangry outbursts.

2) Be Mindful!

You may remember in my very first blog I recommended downloading and using an app called Meditation Studio to help manage stress through mindfulness. Even short mindfulness exercises, have been proven through studies to increase your alertness during a test, and improve working memory. This study found those that used mindfulness training during their GRE prep had a 16% increase in their scores. I don’t know about you, but if it lowers stress, and can improve my issue spotting abilities, I am all in!

3) Do something you love!

Maybe it’s hitting the gym, going for a bike ride, or baking. Whatever it is, work it into your schedule. It is easy to lose track of our hobbies and the things we love as we keep up with our reading, work on our outlines and take practice exams. However, take time out of your day to unwind in your favorite way. Not only will you feel better, but taking time away from studying can actually help you retain more of the information.

4) Get those Zzzzzzzs.

Repeat after me sleep is good for you. We all know this, and if you’re like me you are going to bed later and later as I try to get everything done. Research shows that we need good sleep to feed our high-level, innovative thinking and problem-solving abilities. Go to bed!

5) Phone a Friend

Hopefully, you’ve been as fortunate as I have been and have made fantastic friends at school, but they don’t know you as well as your friends before law school. Phoning one of those friends will allow you to escape school, and they likely will be able to give you some perspective and remind you why you started this journey in the first place.

I hope you find these tips helpful and I’d love to hear more suggestions! Feel free to tweet me @The1LLife

Music to Study By

Music to Study By

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin,
1L atUniversity of Arizona

Do you have favorite music to study by? Before law school, I usually preferred to study in silence. However, this all changed when one of my study group friends introduced me to a YouTube livestream, lofi hip-hop radio that always has great music and made it less awkward that the four of us were sitting together without saying anything while we read for our classes. I began asking around for other recommendations and while everyone tastes vary, here are a few of my favorites from Spotify.

“Movie Scores Study”

Created by Haley Stewart—342 songs, 20 hours and 53 minutes.
42,304 Followers

With over 20 hours of music, if you are a fan of movies, this can provide great background ambiance. A few of the songs can be a bit “too intense” for my liking and can be a distraction, but with so many songs included it’s easy to skip ahead and have plenty of songs waiting for you.

Because of this list, I discovered that a few of my favorite songs came exclusively from the movie Up. This soundtrack always seems to put me in a great mood to study, you can find it here.

“Pump Up Instrumental”

Creator: hsheck—17, 107 songs, 5 hours and 28 minutes

Described as “similar to battle music or something you hear in a motivational video” this playlist lives up to its name by putting me in the mood to conquer the reading in front of me. It’s a bit intense, however it does this without being distracting, and I rarely skip a song. I find this to be the perfect playlist for when I can’t quite get into the mood to study or when I find other playlists to relaxing and I need to get reenergized. After a song or two, I am ready to go! It’s the exact opposite of the “Study Music and Calm Music for Studying and Relaxation” playlist included below.

“Study Music and Calm Music for Studying and Relaxation”

Created by trishrock—74, 9909 songs, 342 hours 41 minutes.

This might be the playlist you start, and actually not finish by the end of the year! With a whopping 9909 songs, it features mostly instrumental music and tunes you might find playing in the background at a spa. It sets the mood for a focused and calm study session. Some might find this too relaxing, but multiple people mentioned it to me when I asked for suggestions on Instagram @The1LLife.

“Law School Study”

With a mix of instrumental music found on soundtracks from movies, television shows, and musicals, it provides nearly 40 hours of music, without too much overlap from the “Movie Scores Study” playlist. It has a great mix of mellow and upbeat songs to keep the mood varied enough that I don’t find myself wanting a nap.

“Music for Law School”

Created by Mel John, 51 songs, 2 hours and 44 minutes.

A mix of classical, and instrumental songs, this playlist has quickly become one of my favorites. Its relaxing without being TOO relaxing and puts me into a great frame of mind, plus the playlist is long enough, I will rarely hear repeats and if I do, it’s time to take a break!

Is there a playlist you’d recommend of music to study by that I missed? If so, share it with me @The1LLife on twitter!

1L Supplements to the Rescue!

1L Supplements

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin,
1L at
University of Arizona

Congratulations, Now for 1L Supplements!

We are well past the midpoint of the first semester as 1Ls and finals are just around the corner. Some of you might be like me, and you’ve recently received the results of your midterms, and you need some extra support, or perhaps you realize that finals are less than 4 weeks away and you feel like you want to maximize your understanding to be well prepared. 1L supplements might be just the thing you’re looking for! I spoke to many 2Ls and Law Librarians to see which supplements they recommended to help stay on track and get ahead.

Examples & Explanations Series. (E&Es)

One of the 1L supplements that everyone highly recommended was the Examples and Explanations Series, commonly referred to as E&Es. Since being introduced to the series, the E&E: The Law of Torts, Contracts and Civil Procedure have quickly become integrated into my study plan. They are great for extra clarification, plus I have found that the hypos provided closely resembled what we were asked on our midterms, especially for Civil Procedure. You can purchase these, or often find them in your law library on reserve.

BARBRI 1L Mastery Package & Outlines

Hopefully, you signed up for the 1L Mastery Package when it was free. You might have done this at your orientation, and if you’re not sure, stop by and see a rep who’s tabling and they can tell you. Yes, this is BARBRI blog, BUT the material here is fantastic, especially if you prefer to learn by listening vs. reading. You can access everything on the website, but I prefer to use the app. In addition to the helpful videos, you can also choose to download and listen to the audio version and take it with you!

On the app, you can also find questions to help you study, and pdfs of the 1L outlines. The outlines are great to check against your own, to see if you missed any key concepts. Pro tip: if you see something worded differently in the BARBRI outline that seems to conflict with your Professor, use your Professors methodology. You can also use the BARBRI outlines to help get clarification from your professor about key concepts too. I did this and realized I had misunderstood a statement about a key concept. Without the BARBRI outline, I would have had the wrong information on my personal outline.

1L Supplements

Short and Happy Guides

Want another suggestion for 1L supplements? While not as comprehensive as they E&Es, if you need a quick review of your topic the Short and Happy Guides are perfect for this purpose. I have found the Civil Procedure guide to be helpful. I use it to review what I’ve already learned. Also, before class, I use it to be able to process what my professor is discussing. It allows me focus on her key preferences and application of the concepts.

Hornbooks

On the complete opposite spectrum of the Short and Happy Series, we have Hornbooks. These are long and extremely comprehensive summaries of the law for a particular area of the law. While you might not want (or need to) read the entire hornbook (some appear to be as big as casebooks AND as expensive) you might find a chapter on a specific topic helpful. Again, your law school library will likely have these on hand to help you out and save you a few hundred dollars.

What 1L supplements are you using to help succeed during your 1L? Let me know over @The1LLife on twitter!

Picking Your 1L Elective

1L Elective

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin,
1L at
University of Arizona

At most schools, the ability to choose our first 1L elective course is just around the corner.

While it is exciting to finally have a 1L elective course choice; it can be a bit overwhelming. At my school, we will have to make this decision within in the next few weeks. I spoke to professors, the registrar, and with a few 2L & 3Ls to help me decide. Based upon our conversations, there seem to be five main pathways to determine which elective to add to your second semester of law school.

Test the Waters

1L Elective

We all have aspirations of what we would like to do after law school. Perhaps you came to your law school for their environmental law program. Maybe you are confident you want to be an immigration attorney. The 1L elective can be a great time to “test the water” to see if you are on the right career path. If you take an introductory topic course now, you can either affirm your commitment to your chosen path or self-select out if you decide it is not for you.

Tackle Prerequisites

This approach takes a little bit more planning and research but can have a huge payoff. You may have a requirement for a clinic, or you already know you want to pursue a specific JD certificate. Using the 1L elective to satisfy this requirement can save you time, and may provide you with an advantage to be selected for that clinic, or be attractive to employers since you’ve demonstrated a commitment to your chosen path.

Base it On The Professor

Who do you want to spend your time with for a semester? This is where speaking with 2L and 3Ls can provide valuable insight. Perhaps there is a professor that only teaches a course once every few years that is highly recommended and beloved by all of their previous students. If you are lucky enough to have the class offered during your 1L, do you pass up that opportunity?

Be Open To New Possibilities

Perhaps you have never had an interest in Family Law, but there is it on your 1L elective list. Don’t be too quick to dismiss it. Now might be the perfect time to experiment with different areas of the law. Who knows, maybe you’ll love the subject and have a new career path.

Skip It All Together

This may not be an option at your school, but some people have recommended that unless taking a 1L elective is mandatory, you might want to skip it. This may seem like an attractive move, especially if you’ve found the course load challenging in the Fall semester, but be wary of graduation and other enrollment requirements. Plus, if you want to take the February Bar, this is likely not an option.

I also highly recommend speaking with your registrar to find out how often classes are offered. At our school, for example, one of the electives is offered every semester, while another is available only in the Spring.

What did I decide to do? I am taking Business Organizations. This is a required course for three of the JD Certificates I am considering pursuing and a prerequisite for a few other. Plus many 2L and 3Ls recommended the professor and it will be on the bar exam. How did you decide on your 1L elective? Let me know @The1lLife on Twitter or Instagram!

Got Highlighters?

Got highlighters? I do. I rented or purchased all of my texts books used. So, I know firsthand there are MANY different ways to highlight a textbook.

While most people have settled into their highlighting system, the midpoint of the semester might be a great time to make some adjustments, especially as we review our midterm results and deal with converting our notes to outlines.

The Multicolored Book Brief System

Oddly, not a single one of my books actually was fully book briefed using the multi-color system you hear so much about. However, one of my friends has this process down to a science. Here you can see how judiciously she uses her highlighting system. She color codes it consistently and is able to synthesize the information quickly. In my opinion, it is a work of art and works very well for her.

The Single Highlighter Method

I have two books that followed this method. One of them is so insanely highlighted that it genuinely looks like a kindergartener just went wild. Each case is highlighted in bright orange or dark blue, with margin notes in the same vibrant color. This is pretty much the only way I would recommend NOT to highlight. It has rendered the book practically unusable. The one saving grace seems to be that the previous owner decided to abandon this method later in the book, and there are 0 highlights in the back half of the book.

On the other hand, one of the books I bought from a 2L is the shining example of how single color highlighting scheme paired with, and note margin taking can create the perfect book brief and outlining guide. The book is so amazing that on a day I had somehow missed a case we were assigned to read, I was able to easily survive a cold call.

The Who Needs A Highlighter Method

My legal writing textbook is just underlined in blue pen. No notes anywhere, just a LOT of underlining. It seems like it was the way they kept track of what they were reading. It served no other purpose.

While at first, I didn’t see how that method was useful, I seem to find myself gravitating towards using a similar approach in my casebooks and supplements. I often use color pens to underline important points in my textbooks and then make a note in the margin using the same pen color. For me, this allows me to engage with the text more than if I were to highlight it.

The Electronic Casebook Method

I also have the electronic versions of all of my textbooks, which provides a ton of benefits. Not only do I have my textbooks with me anywhere the internet is available, but they all have the ability to highlight within them. I have the option to create a colorful book brief or use a single color method; it just depends on how I set it up. The significant part about this is the highlights automatically organize themselves into notes, a case brief, and an outline that I can print out or refer to during class as need. I then also can type notes that get color-coded and added to the highlighted section in the margin.

How do you highlight your casebook? Let me know over @The1LLife on Twitter!

A Procrastinator’s Guide to Surviving 1L

procrastinator

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin,
1L at University of Arizona

Procrastination… what Psychology Today calls a serious problem… I call inspiration. I am a procrastinator that thrives under the pressure of a looming deadline. “Diamonds are made under pressure” or “You underestimate my power” are my go-to comebacks when someone questions my procrastination tendencies. So at first, I was comforted to discover that many of my fellow 1L classmates share my procrastinating tendencies.

Like many advanced procrastinators, I do not procrastinate out of laziness. Rather, time and again, I have found my best ideas often come in the final moments before a deadline. To be clear, I never miss a deadline but have I submitted an assignment due at 11:59 pm at 11:58 pm after adding a page worth of edits to a paper I finished the day before?  Absolutely.

Although I have become accustomed to my methods, I knew this was not going to be ideal in law school, especially with so many tasks that have unchecked deadlines like outlining and hypos. So what does a procrastinator, like myself do, when there is no looming deadline to spur me into action? I effectively create them of course! If you find yourself in a similar position, I hope these three tactics work for you too!

1 – Establish Deadlines With Others (Mentors/Study Group/Fellows)

procrastinator

Real deadlines are the key to my success. Merely setting a goal doesn’t cut it, it must be an actual deadline. Arranging meetings with others has allowed me to stay on task, and still thrive creatively under a set deadline. My school has 2L Fellows assigned to most of my classes, and they all host office hours. I set a deadline to meet with them before a project is due to get feedback (as permitted by our honor code). This new deadline forces me to complete the assignment in its entirety, so I have something to discuss or review during these meetings. We also have a writing center, that can assist students with a variety of assignments and provide advice when needed. I am sure you have at least one of these at your school too, and you can use these meetings to override actual assignment deadlines to motivate you into action.

2 – Be Creative with Your Schedule

You might remember my blog about setting up my schedule with built-in reminders and alerts for all of my deadlines. Because I set this up the first week school and often moved UP deadlines, I have to adhere to all of the deadlines in my calendar, because at this point, I do not have time to go back and check the syllabi. So this means I find myself completing tasks early, even when I procrastinate on starting them. This extra time, them allows me to revisit the assignment and add any additional points right before its due, without risking submitting something subpar.

3 – Let Progressive Learning Spur You into Action

Let be real; procrastination hampers progressive learning in law school. It doesn’t matter how creative I become in the last minute if I don’t have the proper foundation to make my argument. Law school is all about progressive learning. All of the tasks build upon each other, and we cannot effectively move onto the next topic if we are still catching up on the old one. I know that if I wait to the last minute, I’m always going to be playing catch-up rather than building upon my recently learned knowledge. Thinking of my assignments, in a progressive manner has helped me to turn the corner on my procrastination ways. Essentially, progressive learning is the panic monster that motivates me into action.

I am still a procrastinator. These tools have allowed me to retain that spark I have right before a deadline. I also stay ahead of actual deadlines. What tips and tools have you used to help stay on task?

Tools for “Mastery” of Your 1L outlines

October means crunch time.

As you flip the calendar, take note of the time between now and finals week. In about six weeks, you’ll need to have reached your highest level of learning, memorization and organization. That’s not a simple task.

Enter the BARBRI 1L Mastery Package.

If you haven’t already, it time to begin your outlines. (So how do you go about outlining, you ask?) This is where 1L Mastery helps tremendously. Starting to outline is like writers block. You stare at a blank Word document for 20 minutes. Literally. When you sign up for 1L Mastery, however, you get instant access to ready-to-use first-year course outlines — great examples that show you how to organize your own materials and even fill in a few blanks (substantive gaps) you may have missed in class or from your readings. Writers block conquered.

 

And the practice questions.

1L Mastery also has multiple-choice black letter law practice questions for every 1L subject. You can gauge your understanding of a topic without setting aside hours to complete. It’s an ideal way to supplement the other types of learning and it can help identify areas where you may need to spend more time. Just finished “offer and acceptance” in Contracts? Take a few practice hypotheticals to help identify when a contract has been formed.

The more hypotheticals you practice, the better prepared you will be when the final exam comes. Those first semester grades are so critical. You need all the material you can to succeed and stand out among your peers. Having access to the plethora of exam questions in the 1L Mastery Package is one its biggest advantages.

You’ve already completed a third of your first semester of law school. It’s zooming by. And things speed up even more. Feel comfortable knowing you have 1L Mastery outlines, practice questions (and video lectures) to back up your learning.

How can you stand out in your law school class? Be a “1L Master.”

Great 1L outlines: It’s about the process

It’s that one thing that looms around every corner of law school.

Maybe you did it some during undergrad, but never quite like this before. It is the bane of your law school existence, yet at the same time, the most crucial piece of exam preparation.

Outlines.

The first month of school consisted of scavenging the right 2L’s and 3L’s for the best outlines out there. Making sure to find those who did very well in your courses – and with your specific professors – is important.

But outlining is about more than just the end result. It’s about the process. Moving your class notes, supplements and handouts to a refined and organized study aid helps you put that critical information to memory. If you just grab from your peers or copy and paste from online sources, you won’t be putting that material in words familiar to you that truly help you understand the rules of law.

Another thing about the “process” … it’s a very long process. It’s time to start outlining (it’s mid-October already). Many schools will have a writing assignment due just before Thanksgiving Break that will require nearly all of your outside time and effort. It’s crucial to be up-to-date with your outlining as soon as (make that, BEFORE) you are given the assignment. This allows you to push aside your other classes, crush that writing memo, then get back to outlining in time to be finished before reading day.

That’s a lot of information. And potentially, a lot of additional stress. But that’s what it takes to get those 1L grades that matter so much.