Surviving the 1L Job Search

1L Job Search

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

It isn’t even the end of January and I already feel like I am so behind on everything in my life. Classes are grueling enough, but now we have job search and job fairs and interviews and cover letters and callbacks. Each task that I accomplish spawns two or three more tasks. Law school is like a hydra – you cut off one head and three more grow back. That look on Hercules’ face – yeah that’s me right now. So, as per my usual, I reached out to those who came before me on this epic law school journey for advice on how to make it through the perplexing job search process.

Disney's Hercules

Be yourself:

I asked a few 2Ls and 3Ls who got their dream jobs 1L summer for their best job search survival tips. The number one piece of advice I got was to be yourself. One of my 2L friends who has a strong public interest background and hopes to work in public interest in the future applied and interviewed for an in-house position at a large corporation (in case you didn’t know, Atlanta is home to a plethora of corporate headquarters). During his interview, it became clear that one of the reasons he got the interview was because of his public interest leanings, but when the interviewer asked if he hoped to continue working in public interest, thinking he should demonstrate commitment to the type of organization he was interviewing with, he said no.

Reach out to Friends:

I know that in some places it is taboo to have your peers read over your materials but having a variety of people who are in the field look over my cover letter has helped me to hone my story and has boosted my confidence considerably. I tend to undersell myself, but my friends are good at pointing out where I am omitting things because I am downplaying them. Reading through friends’ cover letters has given me a cool opportunity to get to know more people’s backgrounds and interests. Also, aggressive affirmation is my worldview, so I jump at any chance to apply it. If you have friends inside the law school who would be willing to sit and listen while you do practice interviews, do it! Eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds (i.e. take the feedback that is useful and leave the rest). If you can’t practice for other people, record yourself answering interview questions and play it back. I did this with my master’s thesis defense, and it helped so much when I got in front of my committee and my mind went blank. Check out other tips for interview season here!

If you know where you want to apply, see if other people from your law school have worked there in the past and reach out. I have asked probably a hundred 2Ls and 3Ls about how they got their previous jobs and for all the dish on what it was like to work where they worked. I have even asked a couple of them for specific language that might be helpful to include in my cover letter or interview. Everyone I have asked has been so helpful and supportive and I feel so much more confident now that I understand a little better what organizations are looking for.

Keep Practicing Self Care:

I have to be really honest. I hate the phrase “self-care.” It feels a little too gushy for me. The idea behind it though is crucial. We all know by this point that law school can be a constant barrage of blows to your self-esteem, and with the competitiveness of the job market, and the short winter days, the 1L summer internship search can be rough. Keep utilizing your mental health resources. Make time to connect with people outside of law school. Make a gratitude or accomplishments journal. Find a hobby that makes you happy and relaxed. Volunteer in a non-legal capacity in your community. If you need more ideas for self-care, the 3L Life has some brilliant ones, broken down by how much time you have.

Think Outside the Box:

The scarcity mindset is rife in the legal profession, and perhaps for good reason. Big Law and Big Public Interest jobs are few and competitive, but there is a whole world of interesting legal jobs out there if you look for it. Rural counties are notoriously short on qualified attorneys and often provide broad, hands-on experience. Non-profits, universities, and municipal governments may not advertise legal internships but often have legal departments that would be thrilled to have an intern. Google is your friend here!

Most of all, remind yourself as frequently as possible that you have made it this far and you are capable of success.

via GIPHY

Ten Law Podcasts for 2020

10 Law Blogs for 2020

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

We are into the third week of the semester at my law school and I have to be honest: I am already a little burned out on reading and class lectures.  So what does one do when they would like to continue increasing their legal knowledge but is running low on energy? Podcasts, of course. Here are a few of my favorite legal podcasts, sorted by average running time just in case you only have a fifteen-minute class break to catch up on your listening.

1. Bloomberg Law

Average Run Time: 12 minutes

Bloomberg Law is a pretty typical news-style podcast. It’s perfect if you want a short but thorough summation and analysis of current legal happenings. It’s not so good if you don’t want your news to sound like news.

Recommended Episodes: Justices Struggle with International Child Custody and Carlos Ghosn Puts Japan’s Legal System on Trial

2. Law to fact

Average Run Time: 25 minutes

Started in 2017 by law professor Leslie Garfield Tenzer as a supplement for her students, this podcast has everything from res ipsa loquitor to getting the right law school accommodations. Professor Garfield Tenzer manages to pack a ton of information into short 25ish minute blurbs, but be warned that if you care about production value, this podcast might drive you crazy.

Recommended Episodes: Rule Against Perpetuities and Thinking about Punishment and the Criminal Law

Podcast being created

3. ABA Journal: Modern Law Library

Average Run Time: 30 minutes

I love this podcast. My fondness for it may be a result of my prior career in a university library system or because the hosts discuss relevant new (and sometimes old) books and talk to incredible and brilliant authors. Regardless of the reason though, I have learned more from this podcast than I probably did in all of high school combined.

Recommended Episodes: How to Become a Federal Criminal and Networking for Introverts

4. ABA Journal: Legal Rebels

Average Run Time: 30 minutes

Legal Rebels hosts a variety of thinkers and experts who specialize in law and technology and are working to innovate the legal profession. I enjoy listening to this podcast, but I am also a little bit of a technophobe, so sometimes I have to take a break from listening and pretend like I don’t know that people are working on AI that can draft contracts from scratch.

Recommended Episodes: Reinventing the Staid Field of Legal Academic Writing and Young Lawyers Can be Technophobes Too

5. Above the Law Thinking Like a Lawyer:

Average Run Time: 30 minutes

Above the Law is probably the most cynical podcast on this list, but it is cynical in a way that is refreshing and filled with profanities. The hosts Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice are the perfect combination of sweet and salty as they discuss current events and legal happenings and have conversations with legal experts and authors.

Recommended Episodes: The Roberts Court is Here and The Many, Many Obstacles to Biglaw Diversity 

6. Law School Toolbox

Average Run Time: 35 minutes

Law School Toolbox is hosted by Lee Burgess and Alison Monahan, both of whom are attorneys. Side note, Alison Monahan also started The Girl’s Guide to Law School, which is also a fantastic resource. Most episodes are conversations about the day to day experience of law school, with occasional “Listen and Learn” episodes sprinkled in.

Recommended Episodes: More on Accommodations in Law School (w/ Elizabeth Knox) and Navigating Networking Events as a Law Student

7. ABA Law Student Podcast

Average Run Time: 20-45 minutes

The ABA has several great podcasts, but this one is unique because it is hosted by law students! It covers topics ranging from what the ABA Law Student Division Council is working on to the O.J. Simpson trial.

Recommended Episodes: What Can you Do with Your Law Degree? and Space Law: The Next Frontier for Lawyers

8. Lawyerist

Average Run time: 40 minutes

Lawyerist is a weekly podcast where the hosts, Sam Glover and Aaron Street, chat with lawyers and legal experts. This podcast is a great resource if you don’t know yet what kind of law you would like to practice or if you are hoping to practice in a small firm.

Recommended Episodes: JDs and ADHD, with Marshall Lichty and Training the Lawyers of the Future at Emory Law, with Nicole Morris

9. Oyez

OYEZ Podcast

 

Average Run Time: 1 hour

Oyez is probably one of my favorite things to listen to when I can’t sleep – Supreme Court oral arguments. I have been listening to this (on 1.5 speed) in preparation for our legal writing oral arguments this semester.

 

 

10. Opening Arguments

Average Running Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Opening Arguments – hosted by a legal expert and comic – is the perfect combination of legal analysis and jokes. Even though the episodes are a bit longer and I often have to listen to them in two or three sittings, I always learn a lot and almost always chuckle a little bit.

Recommended Episodes: Pennhurst and the Voter Purge in Georgia and Who is Jonathan Turley, Anyway?

What law and other podcasts are you listening to? Find me on Twitter and Instagram at @the1lLife and let me know!

The Reality of First Semester Grades

Getting Your First Semester Grades

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

So by now, you’ve probably gotten your first semester grades back. If your law school is like mine, you probably had to wait many agonizing hours on a straggler professor to submit. Hopefully, you were thrilled with your grades, but since only 10% will be in the top 10%, you might be disappointed.

Here are some tips for dealing with disappointing grades:

Give yourself time to be disappointed

If your grades were not what you hoped they would be, it’s definitely important to let yourself go through the grieving process. Go get a tub of cookie dough and curl up in your bathrobe and watch “You’ve Got Mail” or whatever politically incorrect but glorious movie you love. Don’t put on your big girl pants just yet. Wallow for a minute if you need to.

Talk to somebody about your grades (like a professional)

Talk to someone (like a professional)

People outside of law school have a difficult time understanding that getting a B in a law class is not like getting a B in undergrad. The legal profession is crazy competitive, and you spend all of first semester hearing about how important your grades are in determining what jobs you can be competitive for. You may have gotten your grades back and felt like you just saw the future you have been planning for your whole life collapse in front of you. It’s easy to take your grades as a cosmic sign that you are not cut out for the law and that you should just quit now before you incur any more debt.

If this is where you are, trust me, you are not alone. If you know me, you know I am a huge proponent of mental health support in every arena of life, but especially for law students. According to research done by the Dave Nee Foundation, depression among law students is 8-9% prior to matriculation, 27% after one semester, 34% after 2 semesters, and 40% after 3 years. Stress among law students is 96%, compared to 70% of med students and 43% of graduate students. Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.

The reasons for this are myriad but if you are struggling now, talking to a professional will help to set a healthy trajectory for the future. If you don’t know where to turn, start with the Lawyer Assistance Program in your state or reach out to your campus counseling center.

Make a plan for moving forward

After you have given yourself a little time to work through your disappointment and any associated self-feelings, there are two very important steps to take. First, figure out how to talk about your grades in cover letters. Meet with your career advisor, your writing professor, your acquaintance who is a lawyer. Ask them for advice on how to frame your grades in a way that demonstrates why you are an excellent candidate despite what your grades may imply.

Second, troubleshoot your methods. I did a semester review at the end of last semester, based on what I anticipated my grades would be. I averaged right around where I thought I would but ended up doing better in one class and worse in another than I anticipated, so I might go through the process again with that new data. Also, remember that BARBRI 1L Mastery is still available for all your 1L courses.

Most importantly, remember that you are a whole and complete human regardless of your grades.

I know this is often easier said than done, especially when there is definitely still truth to the fact that many 1L jobs do hire based on grades. But you have overcome numerous challenges to get where you are, and you are remarkable regardless of how you performed on a set of tests. If you are in need of more affirmation of how remarkable you are, reach out @the1lLife on Instagram and Twitter!

Winter Break Decompression

Winter Break Decompression

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

Congratulations! You made it through your first semester of law school. Whether you are feeling exhilarated by your overwhelming successes or discouraged by your perceived failures, you did it. This deserves many, many gold stars.

It may be tempting to dive right into job application stress and final grade anxiety, but it’s crucial to take the opportunity to remember that there are things outside of law school, and many of them are wonderful. Family, friends, and 30 Rock, just to name a few. 

30 RockGet a massage

If you are like me, you have study shoulders that resemble the Hunchback of Notre Dame’s from all of the pouring over books you did during exams. I highly recommend Myofascial Release, which is geared toward the oft-neglected fascia instead of the muscles. Magic.

Go to the dentist

(or eye doctor or regular doctor). Get your flu shot. Please for the love of all things that are good, get your flu shot. 

Meal Prep

I admit that during the semester I am very terrible about eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. My diet often ends up consisting of a lot of sweet potatoes and gluten-free chicken nuggets. I noted this in my semester review as one of the balls that I dropped and set a goal to be more intentional with meal prepping in advance. I am planning on trying out these quick meals along with some other meals that can be frozen and popped in the crockpot.

30 Rock Compilation of Memes

Eat, sleep, binge watch 30 Rock.

I know that research seems to indicate that you can’t catch up on lost sleep, but I’m inclined to disagree. Very few things make me feel as happy and rested as oversleeping and watching Tina Fey give herself a thousand high fives or dress as Princess Leia to escape jury duty.

Keep networking and perfecting your job search materials.

You definitely don’t want to neglect the job search and end up with the cover letter and resume equivalent of socks on your hands. Winter break is a great time to get feedback from friends, family, and mentors on your cover letter and to reach out to attorneys in the field for informational interviews. 

30 Rock Mama likesGet your Notebooks and schedule set up

I like to save this for the last week before the semester starts. It gets me back into the mindset of school and helps alleviate any last-minute anxieties I have about the semester starting again. If your first-semester setup didn’t work for you, check out some tips here!

Obviously this whole post was an excuse for me to use my favorite 30 Rock memes, but hey! It’s full of golden comedy and advice.

Semester Review

Semester review while sitting at favorite coffee house

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

One of my favorite things that I learned during my teaching days of long ago is the value of doing a semester review. At the end of every semester, I would schedule an hour to sit at my favorite coffee shop, order my favorite drink, put on my favorite non-study music (thank you, Harry Styles), and write out an inventory of the positives and negatives of the semester with goals for moving forward.

The Negativity Bias

I love this exercise for so many reasons, the least of which are caffeine and British pop music. First, it helps combat negativity bias, which is the idea that our brains remember negative experiences more acutely than positive ones. In law school, when exams loom so large and are the very last memory of the semester, I think this is especially true. Even in the toughest of tough semesters, though, there are always positive things: involvement in an organization, volunteer work, a good friend or two, a system that worked for you.

Here are the questions that I ask:

Positives:

  1. Who are you thankful for this semester?
  2. What are you proud of? Consider 3-4 challenges and how you worked through them.
  3. How did you grow? Be specific.
  4. What systems worked?

Growth:

  1. What was the most difficult obstacle you faced? How did you respond to it? How could you improve your ability to respond to it in the future?
  2. What balls did you drop? How can you prevent similar mistakes in the future?
  3. What systems didn’t work?

After writing out responses to each of the seven questions above, I make a list of goals for the following semester starting with reaching out to the people I am thankful for and letting them know why. Often I’ll just send a text or an email, but I love to send snail mail if I can, because who doesn’t love getting real mail.

The key to the list of goals is making sure they are manageable. It is easy for me to get carried away and want to redo my whole system, and improve in every area that I am deficient, but that defeats the purpose. Small, measurable goals are key.

Do you have any end-of-semester rituals? I’d love to hear about them! Shoot me a message on Twitter or Instagram at @the1lLife!

Breakfast and Other Important Last Minute Exam Prep

Breakfast is Important

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

Well folks, here we are at the end of the semester. You have read and read until you thought you could read no more, but you did it. Now, it’s time for some last-minute suggestions to read. 

The week before:

1. Get your flu shot

Ok, this is only tangentially related to taking exams, but the flu is no joke and law school is a germ cesspool with everyone in close quarters and stress-compromised immune systems. Chances are you can get it at school for practically or literally nothing. Please, I beg of you. Get your flu shot.

I digress.

Time to Get Your Flue Shot

2. Stop Comparing yourself

We all want to know if our outline is adequate and to gauge if we know as much as our peers, but this strategy tends to be counterproductive. We all work at different paces and with different methods, so the data you gather and use for comparison will inevitably be misleading.

Everything about law school is built to tell you that your success is relative to your peers’ success. As problematic as that system is, and as gross of a culture as it creates, it likely isn’t going to change in the near future. So it’s up to you to take steps to guard yourself against the anxiety inherent in the system.

Do some research on how to ace exams. Set goals for yourself in terms of what you would like to accomplish leading up to the exam, and trust that your preparation will serve you well.

3. Get Some Rest

I know this is my schtick, but only because it’s true. Make sure you are getting enough sleep not only the night before your exams, but the weeks leading up as well. Your brain needs it. Really. It does.

On exam day:

All of our school’s exams are at 2:00 pm, which is awesome for me because that is my most alert time of the day. I feel for those of you who are in your afternoon slump at 2:00 pm though, so here is my fifth-grade-EOG advice for you:

1. Eat a complex breakfast and HYDRATE

I’ve written before about what a huge fan of rituals I am. I am also a huge fan of food, so this semester I am going to experiment with an exam day breakfast ritual – something that feels festive, but still has a little bit of protein, some carbs, and a lot of water. If you choose something festive, let me know!

2. Deep breathe

Diaphragmatic breathing lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and can flip your anxious lizard brain back into a human brain. To do it, sit with both feet on the floor, one hand on your chest, and one on your belly. While you are breathing in, imagine that you are blowing up a balloon under the hand that’s on your belly. Breathe in for three, hold for one, breathe out for three.

3. If you have a study ritual, implement it.

You obviously won’t be able to implement every facet of it, but any memory trigger you can activate will help spark those deep archives in your marvelous brain.

Most importantly, remember that you are a whole and magnificent being regardless of how you do on exams. You may not do as well as you hope, and that may force you to reassess your goals, but your grade on an exam is not actually an indicator of your future ability as a lawyer, nor is it an indicator of your worth as a human.

Not feeling super prepared? Check out some outlining tips here and some self-care tips here!

The Productive Art Of Study Rituals

Listening to Music while studying

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

I have been listening to the same album for almost every single study session for the past two years. I know this sounds boring but hear me out. I am the kind of person who struggles to transition from the outer world where life happens, and where shiny things distract me, into the inner mental world where productive studying happens. It took me almost 18 years of education to realize this, but when I finally did, my study life was revolutionized.

Here’s what it looks like:

Noise-canceling headphones

I prefer over-ear ones because, for whatever reason, having my ears covered distances me from the outer world in a kind of perplexing way. I prefer headphones, but if I don’t have them, a hoodie sometimes does the trick. (Is this weird? Anyone else like this?)

Music

My go-to study music for a very long while has been Sleeping At Last’s Atlas: Space Deluxe, the second half of which is all instrumental.

Recently though, I have branched out a little bit and started listening to Yo-Yo Ma’s Six Evolutions – Bach: Cello Suites.

And, this one is a little weird, but it has been working for me: The Monks of the Abbey of Notre Dame Gregorian Chants. I have no idea how I started with these, but they make everything feel a little magical.

Organize work surface

I lose focus pretty easily when I am studying, especially if I am tired. If I get distracted for something even as simple as finding a pen, it sometimes takes me 20 minutes to get back into focus mode. So, I lay out writing utensils, my book, and my clipboard with fresh notepaper on the table and cross my fingers that I didn’t forget anything that I might have to go hunting for later.

Set Tree

After everything is laid out and my Gregorian Chants are playing, I set a tree. (Check out this post if you have no idea what I’m talking about)!

Scents to study by

Scents

Gregorian chants are weird, but the olfactory/memory connection is definitely weirder. I have a tiny roller of essential oils that are supposedly meant to help you with focus, but really I just think they smell nice and I have been using the same one for so long that every time I smell it, I get a boost of study-adrenaline. Before that, I would chew spearmint gum a spearmint mint, which had the same effect.

Obviously this gangly, kind of unwieldy ritual isn’t always possible, but I try to implement as much of it as possible, as frequently as possible if I need to get deep work done. I’m pretty sure I listened to Atlas: Space two hundred and fifty times while I was finalizing my memo draft.

Do you have any unique study rituals? I’d love to hear about them. Reach out at @the1lLife on Twitter and Instagram!

5 Tips to Writing Top-Notch Law School Essay Exams

Tips and advice on Writing Essays

[ Juliana Del Pesco, BARBRI International Legal Manager, Americas ]

A semester of reading, briefing cases and preparing outlines all culminates in one final act: Writing law school final exams. Most law school exams call for essay-type responses as a test of your ability to analyze and resolve legal problems.

You will be required to demonstrate your grasp of the materials you studied throughout the semester, along with your ability to provide lawyer-like solutions to precise legal issues. Your class grade will be largely, if not exclusively, based on your final exam performance, so be sure you are properly prepared with these exam-writing tips.

#1 – READ AND ANALYZE THE PROBLEM CAREFULLY

Read the entire problem through once rather quickly to get a general understanding. Focus on the question you are being asked to respond to at the end of the problem. Then, read through the scenario again, slowly and carefully. This time, evaluate every word and phrase to identify all potential issues. Always keep in mind the specific question you are actually being asked to answer.

#2 – ORGANIZE YOUR THOUGHTS

Organization is critical to writing a strong essay answer. After all, if the professor cannot follow your analysis, how can they grade it fairly and appropriately?

Before you start writing, chart the issues in the manner in which you will resolve them. Again,  make sure the issues are related to the actual question you are being asked to answer. Arrange the issues in the sequence in which you would expect a court to address them (i.e., normally, jurisdictional issues first, then liability, then remedies). Capture the points you will discuss in sufficient detail to prompt you to think the problem through to a fair and practical solution.

BARBRI has developed a quick outlining system called Issue T to help students organize their thoughts for essay writing. In the Issue T, you state the rule implicated at the top, list the elements that comprise that rule on the left side of the “T”, and list all of the supporting, relevant facts on the right side of the “T”:

#3 – START WRITING ONLY WHEN YOUR ANALYSIS AND ORGANIZATION ARE COMPLETE

You may find that you devote a solid one-fourth of the time allocated to reading, analyzing the problem and organizing your answer. That’s okay. A logical organization and clear expression of ideas will strengthen your answer. This purposeful approach may even bolster an answer that’s somewhat weak.

#4 – AS YOU BEGIN TO WRITE, USE THE I-R-A-C FORMAT FOR EACH ISSUE RAISED

Issue. First, state the issue in precise legal terms (e.g., “Did the defendant’s mistake in computing his bid prevent the formation of an enforceable contract?”). Be careful to avoid generalizations or oversimplification of the issue.

Rule. Next, state the applicable law. Be sure to define the pertinent elements of a rule as well as any terms of art. Consider and discuss ALL relevant views, making certain that you express the underlying rationale behind each divergent view or rule of law.

Application. Then, apply the rules to the facts using arguments. Avoid the common error of stating a rule and then jumping straight to the conclusion.. Your professor will not infer a supporting argument for you—you must spell it out. Remember to use the Issue T you created earlier to remind you to discuss  which facts in the fact pattern support (or prevent) application of the rule. Discuss and weigh each fact given and the logical inference to be drawn from it. Be sure to include counterarguments where possible.

Conclusion. Finally, come to a straightforward conclusion on each issue. Make sure you have clearly answered the question asked, and you have not left an issue hanging. If a number of outcomes are possible, discuss the merits of each, but always select one position as your conclusion and state why. In close cases, it is generally best to select the most practical and fair conclusion. Just don’t consider yourself bound by the “general rule” or “majority view” in answering an exam unless the question clearly calls for such.

#5 – OTHER HELPFUL TIPS AND VALUABLE RESOURCES

Budget your time, but don’t be concerned if you notice that others begin writing before you do. Law professors are usually focused more on the quality rather than the length of a student’s answer. They will appreciate that you stick to the issues and emphasize what counts to provide the most succinct, yet appropriate, exam response.

Last but certainly not least, make sure your answer is legible. If your school gives you the option to handwrite or type your exams, I recommend typing your exam. Your professor won’t be impressed by the logic of an answer that cannot be easily read.

For effective 1L school resources, learn about the BARBRI 1L Mastery Package.

For more law school tips specifically for LL.M.s, download the free BARBRI LL.M. Guide.

ABOUT BARBRI

BARBRI has helped more than 1.3 million lawyers around the world pass a U.S. bar exam. The company also provides online J.D., post-J.D., and international programs for U.S. law schools and specialized ongoing training and certifications in areas such as financial crime prevention and eDiscovery.

To help LL.M. students determine which BARBRI course may be best to pass a U.S. state bar exam, check out our blog: BARBRI EXTENDED BAR PREP AND 8-WEEK BARBRI BAR REVIEW: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Brain Breaks

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

Something happened to me last week that has only happened to me a couple of times before.

After many days of 10+ straight hours of deep mental work, my brain just collapsed from exhaustion. I tried to push through it. I drank more coffee. I drank so much coffee. I worked on the less intellectually-demanding tasks while I waited for my brain health gauge to replenish, but the truth was that I had overdone it. The inner-workings of my mind resembled what my house looks like on weeks that I have multiple events at school: absolute disarray. The longer I delayed taking a break, the worse the mess got and the more difficult even the simplest tasks became.

It’s a vicious and inefficient cycle, really. I work slower and less efficiently instead of taking a break, which makes me even slower and less efficient. On and on it goes until the pace is really more like standing still. The time and work would have been better off if I had just stared at the wall for thirty minutes, or better yet – watched some 30 Rock.

We’ve talked before about how learning new information and processes creates and repaves your neurological pathways. The more new information you are taking in, the more “paving” work your brain is doing. As you are paving and repaving these neural pathways, your brain is simultaneously engaged in sorting and organizing all of the new information to relate to the pre-existing information. The more you repeat those same processes and that same information, the more well-trod those pathways become, but only to a point.

Why?

Because brains, like bodies, get tired. We all know this from our primary school days, right? Eat a healthy diet to give your brain energy. Exercise regularly to give your brain energy. Get enough sleep to give your brain energy.

Here’s the law school addition to that: give your brain breaks so that it can do all of that work without turning into a puddle of mush. I am finding that this is harder work than I care to admit. Even when I am not doing school work, my brain is still in on mode – somewhere in my mind I am rehearsing the definition of proximate cause. I am afraid that if I stop rehearsing it to myself, I will lose it.

In a sense, that’s true.

But if I give my brain actual breaks, it will take the definition of proximate cause and organize it. And I might lose it for a bit. But then when I find it again, I will be able to see what folder my brain put it in and then finding it will be that much easier next time.

This is especially important with exams coming up when the temptation to cram study is very high. We study more, sleep less, and retain less.

It’s very difficult for me to take real brain breaks, but here’s what I have found that helps me: boxing, running, and cycling; listening to really loud, fun music; watching trashy sitcoms; reading an engrossing novel; going on a hike with my camera; eating really good food without any other distractions.

I’d love to hear what you do to give your brain a break! Reach out on twitter and Instagram @the1lLife!

Law School Note Taking Part II

Law School Note Taking

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

Last week in the 1L Life cafe, we talked about law school note taking strategies. This week we are following that up with a rundown of my absolute favorite ever all-purpose app – Notion. (remember, it’s free for students!)

If you think this particular note-taking setup would work for you, you can click here and duplicate the template into your own workspace.

Here’s how I have it set up:

I start with a school dashboard that has my to-do list for the week along with a sub-page for each class and activity I am involved in. I update my assignments on Sundays. It sometimes takes a while but having everything right there is so much easier than flipping through the syllabus ten times because I keep forgetting my planner and also what page numbers I am supposed to read.

School Dashboard

Each class sub-page has the info for the course, every assignment thus far, and a sub-page for each week, case briefs, vocab, rules, syllabus, and of course, the BARBRI outline. I use a unicorn cover photo for every Contracts page, because contracts, like unicorns, feels mystical and elusive to me.

Contracts

The Resources pages are mostly spreadsheets, within which each entry exists as a card. I became obsessed with this system of tables a few years ago when I started using Airtable. I am hooked. I use the provided emojis to give myself a little memory jog about the contents of cases without even having to click on them.

Ever-Time Roofing Corp V. Green

Contracts BriefsAs you can see by the sparseness of emojis, I have been a little behind on filling out my Contracts case brief chart. That’s okay, though, because I have a three-step process for interacting with cases. I take hand-written notes, so I do a very short (usually 3-4 bullet points) handwritten brief of each case. Right before class, I transfer my hand-written notes over to my weekly notes document, which refreshes me on the facts. Then, at the end of the week, when I am tidying everything up and making note of what I need to review, I transfer my in-line case notes into my table.

At this point, you are probably pretty impressed by my perfectly refined system but you should know that even though I have successfully tested this system to ensure it works well for me, there has yet to be a single week where I complete the whole process for all of my classes. There have definitely been weeks where I didn’t complete it for a single class. Also, I am fairly certain the case brief up there in that Ever-title Roofing case is actually from Lexis.

Contracts Final Plan

One last little note.

I just started mapping out my Finals plan, which only a little bit terrifying, of course. I have not gotten very far but included it here as well.

2Ls and 3Ls, I beg you for your sage exam-prep advice! If you try out the template, I’d love to know what works or doesn’t work for you. If your law school note taking system is better (or less complex) than mine, let me know! Reach out on Instagram and Twitter @the1lLife.