#The1Llife: The [Cover] Letter

GUEST BLOG by Dani Gies,
1L at UCLA School of Law

THE [COVER] LETTER (Shout Out to Kehlani)

Happy New Year! I hope you had a restful vacation (or if you start late like me, are enjoying the last few days of non-law-school-reading bliss!).

In between waking up late and watching Netflix, you hopefully started preparing your materials for your job search.  Here at UCLAw, we host the Southern California Public Interest Career Day where all of the SoCal schools come to interview with over 150 nonprofits, firms, and government organizations focused on the public interest.  Thus, many 1Ls are scrambling to edit their resume and craft a cover letter. Here are a few tips for getting ready to apply to jobs!

DO: Start preparing early. One pass over your resume to add your new law school will not be enough. Highlight the experiences you’ve had that are relevant to the position to which you are applying, and please remove anything related to high school if you have not done so already.

DO: Tailor everything in your materials to the position. A stock cover letter is not going to pass muster under the eyes of people who have read thousands of applications.  Keep away from stock phrases as much as possible.

cover-letter-guide-2015-capilano-university-student-employment-services-12-638DO: Review your writing. As a 1L, your options are limited for what to use as a writing sample, unless you had previous legal writing experience. If you got feedback on a memo, incorporate it. Just because the memo has been turned in and graded does not mean you should submit it untouched. Tighten it up and even send it to your professor or advisor for another look. Most applications call for a sample no longer than 10 pages, so keep that in mind.

DO: Have someone else review your materials. Your mom or other non-law school loved one is probably not the best choice, however. Even if you have a peer look over your resume for formatting issues and grammatical errors, be sure your materials pass under other eyes before submitting.

DO: Keep your formatting consistent throughout your application. It may seem minute, but the format of your application helps to tell a coherent story about the applicant, a.k.a. you. Different spacing and fonts tells the reader that you didn’t spend enough time on it and that you’re a little scrambled.

DO:  Let your passion for the work shine! If the job is one you really want to do, be sure to make that clear in your cover letter. This is your first impression—make it count!

You’ll notice there are only DO’s on this list.  That’s because you should stay positive and be excited about your upcoming search!  Best of luck, and be sure to tweet me @The1Llife to talk applications, jobs, and other tips!

#The1Llife: Ready, Set, Compete!

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

People at law school are super competitive.

Maybe it is in the water or whatever, but it seems that everyone is out for himself. I think that part of this has to do the with nature of law school. The fact that law schools rank their students from best to worst GPA adds fuel to the fire. I’ve also noticed that many people look for the worst in everything – from other students, to grades, to studying. It appears to me that this has something to do with the competitive design of American law schools.

Interestingly enough, my mom sent me an article from Time, which discussed lawyers and their pessimistic traits. The article says that lawyers are “3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression and more likely to end up divorced.”   Psychology professor, Martin Seligman, said that lawyers are trained to spot issues, which means that pessimism is a skill that lawyers learn and perfect throughout law school and their careers.

This may be my undergraduate psychology major talking, but I think that professor Seligman is right. We are taught to find flaws and to make a big deal out of small things. I believe that I have noticed a slight difference in my general outlook on life since I have started law school. Before, I used to notice a crack in the sidewalk and think that it was just a crack. Now, I see a crack in the sidewalk and my mind goes crazy. I start to think of liability issues, potential injuries, and the like.

In my junior year at the University of Michigan, I took a positive psychology class taught by the late Chris Peterson. Professor Peterson’s mantra was “other people matter.” Seligman (who worked with Peterson in the field of positive psychology) offers a few tips to try and change a pessimistic outlook on life. His advice includes, “count your blessings, only compare yourself to those worse off than you, and tell yourself a positive story about the challenges in your life.”

Law school isn’t easy.

Working in a competitive environment against friends and classmates is not easy. Taking a few minutes out of your day to reflect on positive things in your life is easy. I forgot about professor Peterson’s mantra until a few weeks ago. Those three simple words shed so much light on the positive nature of the human spirit. Even though law school sucks, if we remember that our classmates, professors, family, friends, and neighbors are important, I think that our outlook on life can change for the better.

#The1Llife: Free Food and a Workshop

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

THE BAR EXAM

Three words that make law students (and sometimes lawyers) cringe. Even though I have just begun law school, professors have been stressing the importance of preparing for the bar exam. While it seems like the exam is really far away, it will be here before we know it.

Luckily, BARBRI hosted a Multistate Bar Examination Workshop at my school. This event focused on methods for answering multiple-choice questions. The workshop was open to all 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls. If learning about test taking strategies was not enticing enough, there was a ton of pizza. Like, there was at least 20 boxes of pizza. What law student does not love free food? While the attendees were mostly comprised of 3Ls that are preparing to take the July bar exam, there were a few other 1Ls in attendance. It was reassuring to see a few familiar faces at the event.

BARBRI Professor, Everett Chambers, led the workshop. In an enthusiastic way, he made learning about multiple-choice test taking strategies interesting. He engaged us throughout the presentation with questions and funny antics. It was no surprise that Professor Chambers stressed that you should start any question by reading the call of the question. I recently learned to answer questions by starting with the call of the question, so this was a good reminder. Another informative point that he made was to “question the question.” The point of this is for you to anticipate what the question is about and think of possible categories that the question may fall into. Professor Chambers also stressed the importance of reading the explanatory answers to bar prep questions. I usually skip this part while doing practice questions for exams, but he stressed that this where you actually learn the law. I plan on doing this while studying for my finals this semester.

Overall, the event was really informative. It was very helpful to have someone tell you how you should start answering multiple-choice questions now, so that you know how to answer them in the future. While the bar is still (almost two – yikes!) years away, I am glad that I have started taking advantage of resources available to me now. I would recommend that all other 1Ls take advantage of these resources because it is never too early to start preparing for the bar!

#The1Llife: Conquest

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

Some of the first year law students that I have met are lucky.

Why are they lucky? They are lucky because they have a parent or close family member who is an attorney. I consider these people to be lucky because they probably have something automatically lined up for summer. If you’re anything like me, you are not related to an attorney. So you have to find a summer internship the hard way. The internship search is already underway and some of my classmates have already had interviews with Justices and law firms! Here are a few of the steps that I have taken thus far in my conquest to finding a summer position.

I went to the career office at my law school for information about events. During the meeting, the career advisor was able to tell me about an upcoming externship fair featuring externships with judges, government agencies, and nonprofits. She also told me that if I took an unpaid externship, I would be eligible to receive 3 credits! Who doesn’t love easy class credits – right? At this initial meeting, we scheduled other meetings to go over my resume, cover letter, and interview skills. If you have not yet met with your career office, do it now! The sooner you go and polish your resume and cover letter, the better!

At the next meeting, the career advisor reviewed my resume and cover letter. She provided me with some helpful advice about revising my resume so that it was better suited for legal internships (i.e. getting rid of unnecessary things from undergrad). She also went over my general cover letter and helped me tailor it for different kinds of legal positions. It never hurts to have another person read over your resume and cover letter for clarity and grammar.

The externship fair that the career advisor told me about was last week. It was awesome! There were a ton of lawyers there from all different sectors. Each lawyer was more than happy to answer questions about the internship position that they were offering. This was a great opportunity because it was an easy to way find out about a lot of internships at one time. If your school offers something like this, definitely make it a point to go.

I will be continuing my internship search as I send out my resume. If you’re a 1L going through this process, I would love to hear your thoughts! Tweet me @The1LLife

#The1Llife: Back to School

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

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

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

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

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

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

#The1Llife: Internships and Summer Positions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, the department suggested perfecting your resume now.

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

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

#The1Llife: Legal Writing Meltdown

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

Well, it finally happened.

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

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

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

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

By Mike Sims,
BARBRI President

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

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

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

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

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

#The1Llife: Explaining Law School

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

#The2Llife: Smarter vs. Harder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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