Managing Finals Stress

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

It’s not 1L anymore, but finals are still stressful … especially if you haven’t secured your 2L summer job yet; are applying for a clerkship, or know you want to try to re-do the OCI process during 3L. To add to the stress, as a 2L there’s a higher likelihood that instead of just having straight exams, you probably have a combination of exams, final assignments/projects, and lengthy seminar papers to write. Prepping for each of these finals requires different strategies, but managing your stress throughout should be fairly uniform!

During my first years of college, I was a bundle of stress when it came to preparing for finals. But, over the years I’ve found that five things really help me to stay relatively stress-free during the most dreaded time of the year (for students that is).

One:

Have Something to Look Forward to

It can be easy to feel like you’re drowning in finals stress when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. To avoid this phenomenon I like to plan something fun, like a trip or concert, that I can look forward to throughout the finals season. Having that event in mind makes me feel like I’m working towards something, and gives me a reason to smile and push through when I feel like finals will never end!

Two:

Healthy & Regular Meals

Your body, skin, and mind will thank you for this one! Eating healthy meals regularly throughout exam season gives your body the fuel it needs to be energized so you can push through those late night study sessions. Plus, when you’re living off of junk food and Chinese takeout your body isn’t functioning at its optimal level … meaning your study sessions are likely less efficient than they could be. I also find the simple routine of making a meal to be relaxing, especially since it generally gives me a small break between study sessions!

Three:

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

I cannot emphasize how much time management helps ease stress during finals time, and just generally. If you’re a procrastinator like me, having a schedule ensures that you don’t leave studying until the last minute. It also lets you figure out when you have free time for laundry, grocery shopping, naps, etc. so you don’t end up feeling overwhelmed by the combination of studying and real-life responsibilities and necessities.

Finals

Four:

Take Breaks

Once you’ve figured out a study schedule, make sure you slot in some breaks as well– and I don’t just mean 10-minute intervals. Finals season for most students runs for two-plus weeks, you need to have a few days or half days off during that time to avoid the dreaded burnout. Furthermore, having those breaks added into your schedule not only helps you avoid stress naturally by allowing your body to relax and recharge, but it also gives you something to look forward to during the week.

Five:

Don’t Cut Social Ties

It can be difficult, if not impossible to find time to hang out with your family and friends in the midst of finals season, but that doesn’t mean you need to cut all social ties. When you’re stressed because you feel like you don’t understand something it can help to reach out to your study group, or a friend from class. On the opposite spectrum, however, when you’re just feeling generally overwhelmed it can be beneficial to talk to a friend or family member outside of the law school environment to help ground you.

As a 2L how have you learned to manage your finals stress? Are there any tips or tricks that work particularly well for you?!

Twelve Things the Law Student in Your Life Wished You Understood

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Everyone knows law school is stressful.

But for a law student, it can be difficult to describe how the strains of law school impact your ability to connect with their non-law school friends and family. Often times we suppress our frustrations because we don’t want to insult or be rude to the people we care about. Try as we might, every law student has caught themselves wishing that their non-law school companions understood certain facets of the law student life. To that end, I’ve compiled twelve of the most common things my peers wish their friends knew about their law school life.

  1. Sleep is hard to come by so it’s not unusual for us to prioritize sleep over going out.
  2. It’s not abnormal to have an offer (or a job) after your first or second year.
  3. Exam prep does not last a few mere hours, it requires literal days of hard work.
  4. Just because we don’t have an assignment due doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of work. In fact, readings can be worse than assignments.
  5. On the topic of readings, it can take multiple hours to complete a reading for one class because of the complexity of the subject matter. So we’re not lying when we say our entire Saturday is being spent prepping for class.
  6. Non-class time is not necessarily free time. We have pro bono requirements, board meetings, journal meetings, assignments, etc.
  7. When we visit home we do want to see you, but it may not be feasible since we often have important school work, assignments, and other tasks to complete. Likewise, because law school often requires a sacrifice in the sleep department, sometimes our bodies are telling us to use our break to rest and recharge.
  8. Being a law student doesn’t mean we have the time, or the experience, to solve all of your legal problems.
  9. If we forgot to respond to your text message it’s not intentional. Often we get your messages when we’re in class, and though we mean to respond, the hectic nature of law school sometimes causes us to forget that we didn’t actually press send!
  10. Law school is expensive! Sometimes we can’t financially afford to attend all the events or dinners that you invite us to, so please don’t read anything into our rejection.
  11. In the majority of our courses grades are based on one final exam or assignment, and to make matters worse, we’re graded on a curve – meaning someone has to get a B- while someone else has to get an A. Furthermore, getting good grades is crucial for obtaining decent clerkships and post-graduation jobs.
  12. And finally, the law school workload is not at all comparable to the workload of undergrad, or even the average MBA. In our opinion, the law school workload and expected standard of achievement is much, much higher!

For my fellow law students, what things do you wish your non-law school friends knew about law school life? Likewise, for those non-law school readers out there, are there any questions you have pertaining to the day-to-day life of the law student in your life? Send me your questions and ideas on Instagram or Twitter: @The2Llife!

How to be Eco-Friendly on a Law Student Budget

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Many of us flocked to law school with the notion that we would someday change the world. And though the enormous amount of law school debt incurred may have convinced the majority of us to trade in our hero hats for a seat at the Big Law table, there are still ways that we can make a difference. For instance, through pro bono projects and clinics we can help the local community and beyond. However, for those of us looking for more long-term impacts, adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle is a great (and popular) route to take!

Of course being eco-friendly sounds great … I mean, who doesn’t want to literally save the world? But to many of us it also sounds expensive; seriously, we’ve all seen the prices on the organic products in the grocery store. So how do you balance an eco-friendly lifestyle while living on a law student budget?

Truth be told it’s actually not that hard once you accept that it doesn’t need to be an all or nothing approach. You can still buy your affordable, non-organic produce and cleaning supplies if that’s what your bank account is telling you to do.

To make your life a little more Eco-Friendly simply adopt one or a multitude of these habits into your routine.

  1. Reduce waste by only grocery shopping with a list and meal plan in mind. No need to buy those tomatoes that are just going to sit in the back of the fridge until trash day when you know there’s no meal requiring them.
  2. Invest in reusable containers and use them! Buying lunch and snacks on the go is easy and tasty, but it also contributes a lot of waste over time (and it’s not all the economical either).
  3. Likewise, say goodbye to Ziploc bags and plastic wrap, and instead, say hello to reusable sandwich bags and beeswax wraps. Bonus, since both these products are reusable you’ll save money in the long run as well!
  4. Add reusable cutlery to your backpack or lunch bag – that way you can say no to the plastic forks but still indulge in the free food found around the law school.
  5. Trade in your car or frequent Uber rides for public transportation, walking and/or biking whenever possible.
  6. Switch out your regular light bulbs for energy efficient ones instead. While efficient light bulbs will cost you a little more, they also cut your energy bill and generally last way longer, so really it’s worth it!
  7. Cut down on plastic waste by investing in a good reusable water bottle.
  8. If you’re a hot beverage lover (or iced coffee lover), add a reusable thermos or mug to your bag. Pro tip, many cafes offer discounts to people who bring their own mug!
  9. Keep your counters and dishes clean without the waste! Instead of dish sponges and power towel, use washable dishcloths and a silicone sponge– as an added perk, you can sanitize your silicone sponge as frequently as you like, so bye-bye germs!
  10. And finally, don’t forget your reusable bags when shopping!

These are just a few of my favorite eco-friendly hacks. What are some of yours?

Thanksgiving Ideas for Law Students

Thanksgiving Ideas for Law Students

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

The beginning of the holiday season is upon us. Thanksgiving is only a week away. Do you have plans? What are some Thanksgiving ideas for law students? While 1L’s are encouraged to spend Thanksgiving outlining, creating stacks of flashcards, and pre-reading for courses in an effort to get ahead of the exam craze, there seems to be less pressure on us 2L’s! But wait … if you’re not locked away in the library studying then how should you spend your glorious long weekend?

Head on Home

Thanksgiving Ideas for Law Students

If you live nearby, or if you can score a good flight or train ticket deal, you can almost guarantee that your family and friends will be happy to have you home for a few days (they’ll probably even cook for you as well). Plus, what’s better than catching up on sleep in your own bed while your mom (or dad) cooks dinner?

Friendsgiving

If home’s too far away, or if you’re planning to spend three of your four days studying, you can still take a break to gather with a group of your local friends! Of course, you can simply make reservations at a local restaurant, but why not make it more festive and do a potluck at home instead!

Road Trip

Are you tired of seeing the same streets and buildings every single day? Gather some friends, rent a car, and embark on a road trip. The best part is you can make it as lengthy or short as you’d like!

Shopping on a Discount

If your school is located near an outlet mall, or really any shopping district, try taking advantage of some of the Thanksgiving sales to buy yourself some new fall wardrobe essentials, or to get a jump start on your holiday shopping!

School Dinners

Often times universities or individual social groups will host Thanksgiving dinners for students “stuck” on campus. This is a great way to get to know some new people while enjoying a nice homecooked meal at the same time!

Work it Like a 1L

Of course, just because you’re a 2L doesn’t mean you’re banned from the library during long weekends. If you felt Thanksgiving break was useful study prep time for you as a 1L, it will likely be just as useful now – but do try to fit a little turkey (or your vegetarian/vegan substitute) in there somewhere.

Hopefully, you’ve discovered some useful Thanksgiving ideas for law students with my above list. If you have other ideas, please share them with me on Twitter or Instagram: @The2Llife.

All those small, yet vital, things to do during 2L finals prep

It’s November. Classes are almost over. Final exams are close now.

This semester really flew by. By now, you should have your outlines complete and study questions ready. It is obvious that you should work on memorizing the rules and how to apply them, but what else should you be doing to prepare for exams?  Here are a few suggestions.

  • Keep track of your study hours. This may sound a little crazy, but it is helpful to hold yourself accountable. There are a few ways to do this. You can write down the amount of hours you will study on a calendar. This is a good idea so that you do not schedule anything else during that time. You could also create a spreadsheet to track the amount of time you studied and to track what material you studied. By writing down the amount of hours that you studied, you are able to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment after finals are over. This may also help to create efficient study habits for other exams or even for the bar exam. This is also great practice for the future when you will be billing clients.
  • Ask questions. This is pretty self-explanatory. It is so important to ask questions while you are studying because you do not want to memorize the incorrect rule. So go to your professor’s office hours, shoot them an email or bounce questions off of your friends.
  • Find a study method that works for you. It is pertinent to determine the best study method early on in law school. You may find that studying in a large group is helpful. Or you may find that you like the complete opposite. You may like studying with one, or two, other people because it’s helpful to ask questions. However, it is incredibly easy to get distracted when studying with others, so make sure you try to stay on track.
  • Find a study area that works for you. As important as it is to find out what the best study method is, where you study is almost equally as important. Studying at your house or apartment may be convenient, but it may be full of distractions such as roommates, pets or T.V. You may like studying in the library, a coffee shop or somewhere else where you can zone in and optimize productivity. This could take some trial and error, but by this time in the semester, you should have a few options to use if your main spot is unavailable.
  • Sleep. This cannot be emphasized enough. All-nighters have a bad rap and for good reason. You will retain much more information if you have a decent night of sleep. It is so, so, so important to give your brain a rest from rules and cases.

Healthy fear as the great motivator for final exam success

GUEST BLOG Harrison Thorne, Esq.
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2016
Associate Attorney at Vedder Price

I usually became a nervous wreck around finals. My nerves were a mix of fearing the final exam and comparing myself to others.

Fearing a test is good. Healthy fear will motivate.

However, what is not good is measuring your knowledge against others.

I found that most people gave off an air of knowing everything about every course. My classmates would talk about how they had various topics “down cold” or how they “know that subject like the bank of my hand,” etc. In response, I became extremely nervous. My thinking turned into a checklist of concerns and doubt:

  • Everybody knows everything
  • I don’t know everything
  • Classes are graded on a curve
  • I know less than everybody else
  • I will fail

My saving grace was that, as time passed and finals neared, I worked hard and disconnected from that defeatist mindset. I actively pushed those thoughts down when they came up. And they came up a lot! What I found was that I was not as “dumb” as I thought and I could write a decent law school exam. I also found that the people who felt as I did tended to psych themselves out and under-perform.

My advice to my past self or anyone else about to take their first set of final exams is as follows:

  • Acknowledge the fear. Exams are scary. Especially the first time around. There is no point in denying that fact.
  • Use that fear. Fear can be a great motivator.
  • Come up with an “attack plan.” Get a calendar or download an app and set up a daily to-do list to keep track of what needs to get done.
  • Get it done. Now that finals are coming up, this is the time to put your head down and grind out work.
  • Never, ever, ever compare yourself to others. In fact, it’s probably best to avoid other law students as much as possible at this point. There will be a desire to ask other students what they’re doing, how they’re outlining, what practice exams they have taken. DO NOT do this. Focus on your well thought out and designed attack plan.
  • Use Tools. While everybody else is nervously Googling study aids, thumbing through E+E’s or checking out secondary sources, use no-nonsense tools like BARBRI 1L Mastery and 1L Mastery Pro.

 As an example, here’s a glimpse of how I planned one of my final exam prep days:

6:00: wake up1:30-3:00: Study
6:15-7:30: gym3:30-5:00: Class
7:30-8:15: shower/breakfast/
check emails
5:30-7:00: Study
8:15-10:30: Study7:00-7:30: Dinner
10:30-11:00: zone out, check emails, whatever7:30-9:30: Study
11:00-1:00: Study9:30-10:00:
Pleasure Reading
(never give this up!)
1:00-1:30: Lunch

 

How to Satisfy your Upper Level Writing Requirement

Writing Requirement

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Most law schools require upper-level students to satisfy a senior writing requirement before graduation. Generally, these writing submissions hover around the 25-30 page range, require rigorous research and editing, and are completed under a faculty supervisor. It’s no surprise then that for many 2L and 3L law students the upper-level writing requirement seems daunting.

Part of what is stressful about the writing requirement is figuring out (a) what you’re going to write on, and (b) how you’re going to fit writing a 30-page paper into your otherwise full semester. I’ve compiled a list outlining a number of possible ways that you may satisfy your upper-level writing requirement. Also, this list shows the potential pros and cons of each.

Comment or Journal Note

Pro:

 If you’re a member of law review, or another law school journal, submitting a comment may be a requirement of your journal membership. If that’s the case then you can essentially kill two birds with one stone. Request that your comment or note serve as your upper-level writing requirement as well.

Con:

 According to what journal you’re on, the range of acceptable topics for your comment or note may not align with your interests. In that case, if a comment is not required as part of your journal membership, you may want to consider whether you want to spend the time writing about an issue that is not of special interest to you – after all, 30 pages is not a quick project.

Seminar Courses

Pro:

 If you’re selective when choosing your seminar course(s) you can likely find one that requires a lengthy paper in lieu of a final exam. Many of these term papers can be used to satisfy your upper-level writing requirement. Bonus: you don’t need to spend the time seeking out a faculty advisor since your course professor already fills that role!

Con:

 Often times seminar courses have fewer credit hours then doctrinal courses, meaning you may have to stack courses to fulfill the required minimum semester credit hours. If that is, in fact, the case for you, your semester schedule may not grant you the necessary time to complete a quality lengthy paper. Furthermore, unlike a journal comment which is not completed for credit, seminar term papers predict your course grade.

On Your Own Time

Pro:

 Completing your upper-level writing requirement on your own provides you with a lot of flexibility in terms of selecting your faculty advisor, setting the completion timeline, choosing a topic, and determining your research strategy.

Con: 

If you opt to complete your upper-level writing requirement outside of more formal academic programs, you, of course, miss out on the chance to get course credit or immediate publication in a journal.

Independent Study

(Independent studies are essentially self-directed courses in which students research and write lengthy papers on a narrow topic. Another is where students work with a professor to craft a course on a specialty area of law)

Pro:

 Need a good alternative to completing the upper-level writing requirement on your own time? Find a faculty member interested in your topic. Then, request that they not only supervise your writing but also agree to oversee an independent study on the topic. Not only do independent studies look impressive on a transcript; you also get the chance to work closely with a professor (presumably) of interest to you. Plus, since this is a formal course you, of course, get credit hours!

Con:

 Unlike the ‘on your own time’ option, professors will expect a lot more out of you in terms of scheduling, research efforts, and even detail in editing when they know you are getting course credit, and the added benefit of an independent study on your transcript.

Research Assistant Project

Pro:

 If a professor you are working for, or interested in working for, has a project available (or a series of projects) you can request that your contribution on the project go towards satisfying your upper-level writing requirement. In many instances, you will receive some form of academic mention when the project publishes.  Even if you don’t, research projects are still a great resume booster.

Con:

 Research assistants generally get paid for their work; a blessing as a student. However, as general practice law schools require students to complete research projects without pay when seeking to satisfy their upper-level writing requirements.

Hopefully, the above-mentioned options provide some insight on how you can manage your upper-level writing requirement. As a final note of caution, however, make sure you confirm with your university that a particular avenue is acceptable before you expend too much time and energy on it!

Breaking Down Clerkships

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Post-graduation clerkships are tough to get but professionally rewarding … meaning lots of law students apply for them! For those of you considering it, 2L is the ideal time to apply! But before you send out endless applications, let’s review the types available to you because they’re not all the same!

Federal Clerkships (aka the Ivy league of clerkships)

Part of what makes these clerkships so prestigious is the limited availability of clerk positions. If you can navigate the competitive application process and land yourself one of these clerkships you’ll resume will thank you.

As a federal clerk, you’re guaranteed to have a hectic caseload filled with interesting, and more importantly, well-publicized cases. Furthermore, the judge(s) you’ll work under have stellar reputations, meaning one good reference letter can go far in helping you secure your dream job.

Note: Non-US citizens, unfortunately, cannot clerk within the federal courts.

State Clerkships

While state clerkships aren’t as prestigious as the abovementioned federal ones, they still offer an amazing experience, and often still qualify you for post-competition entry bonuses within most big law firms. Another bonus of proceeding down the state clerkship path? There are more positions available, meaning you have a better shot at getting accepted in the state you most desire!

Note: Some states accept international student clerkship applications!

Specialty and/or International Clerkships

Some states and courts hire specialty clerks for specific departments (i.e. tax). These positions are generally extremely limited. So, if you’re interested you should contact your school career planning office early to determine whether any such positions are currently available.

For dual-citizens or international students, you can also apply for clerkships outside of the US. While such positions may not carry the same prestige that clerking for the US Supreme Court, they can still benefit your career; especially if you’re uncertain whether you’ll want to stay in the US indefinitely after graduation.

Importantly, not everyone immediately starts out by clerking in the Supreme Court. If you know you want the career benefits of a federal clerkship, you can begin with a state clerkship and work your way up through the rings. Not only will this give you the benefit of added networking and experience, but you’ll also become more familiar with the court system and what it takes to stand out as a federal clerkship applicant.

Ten ways 2L Differs from 1L

2L differs from 1L

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Nothing can get worse than 1L right?

I’m not so sure, because 2L differs from 1L. While 2L certainly has its benefits, and I’m apt to say it is marginally better, I also feel more pressed for time – which I didn’t think was physically possible. Maybe it’s not that 1L is worse, or 2L is better, but that they are simply different, and as such, have different impacts.

So here it is … my short list of how 2L differs from 1L:

1. Unlike 1L, where there are countless blogs, books, and student opinions available, hardly anyone talks (or writes) about 2L… meaning you’re on your own in terms of preparing yourself.

2. Re-enter the social life. In 1L you’re expected to live in the library so you really only need to juggle class time/assignments with studying. Conversely, in 2L you’re supposed to branch out, attend events, network, etc., while still maintaining your grades and classroom presence.

3. Case briefing? Unless you’re in all doctrinal classes, you’ve probably forgotten what case briefing is, or at least don’t need to case brief for every single class as you did in 1L.

4. Course selection, aka the holy grail of not being a 1L. Gone are the days of forced enrollment in classes that may, or may not interest you.

5. The whole ‘clerkship’ thing. You may have talked about clerking as a 1L, especially during your summer job hunt, but 2L is the time when you actually have to apply for, and decide whether you want to pursue a post-graduation clerkship. No pressure though!

2L differs from 1L

6. A marginally better diet(maybe). In 1L you almost forced into attending a large variety of Lexis and/or research training lunches, as well as other school mandated events where the food of choice is generally pizza. In 2L you no longer need to attend those events so you can avoid pizza if you want to. Plus, in my experience, most 2L targeted events have a healthy food selection.

7. Journals …we love them for the resume boost, but man are they a lot of work. I think every 2L on a journal has at one point during an edit questioned: “why did I think being on a journal was a good idea?”

8. Navigating classes with new people, a struggle not encountered by the average 1L since the section structuring ensures you’ll have class with the same people for the entire year. While meeting new people is great, there’s also something comforting about getting cold called in front of people you already know which is gone in 2L.

9. You may have been a 1L rep of a student organization, but as a 2L you’re probably now the treasurer or hold some other board member position that grants you more involvement and influence, but requires more accountability, time, and effort.

10. And while I could go on, the most notable difference about 2L is that you enter with a sense of security because you survived 1L– whether that sense of security is realistic or not, we’ll have to wait and see!

Do you have more to add to the list of why 2L differs from 1L? Share them with me on Instagram or Twitter: @The2Llife

Planning for a Law School Clinic

law school clinic

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

For upper-level law students, law school clinic experience is available … if you can secure one of the limited spots.

While many law students feel most comfortable in the confines of their doctrinal classes, law school clinics offer a more hands-on approach to learning. Many employers value and appreciate it. However, before jumping on the ‘clinical bandwagon’, there are a number of factors to consider when determining whether and/or which clinic is right for you.

law school clinic

  1. Time constraints

    Most law school clinics require a HUGE time commitment. It is unlike class where you can (occasionally) skip readings, or show up underprepared. In a clinic, you have a client on the other end expecting, and relying on, your best work and effort. Semester filled with pro bono hours, board meetings, and/or other intensive courses, such as mock trial? Then, push enrolling in a clinic to a semester where your schedule is more open.

  2. Credit Considerations 

    Most law school clinics are offered at a higher credit hour level than the average course. While this is great for satisfying the minimum semester credits, you also need to be careful when registering for courses. You don’t want to exceed the maximum allowable credit hours. Similarly, consider when courses are offered. If this is the semester where multiple required or wanted, courses are being offered, and you’re unsure whether they will be available in the following semester, consider whether it is possible to: (A) take those courses, and (B) commit to a clinic, or (D) whether you should defer enrolling in a clinic.

  3. Employment Considerations 

    So you’ve decided that you have time and scheduling availability for a clinic … now you need to decide what clinic is right for you. One way to narrow your focus is the consider what area of law you are most likely to practice. Find a clinic which compliments that interest. Note: if you have not secured post-graduation employment yet, consider whether enrolling in a particular clinic will stand out to potential employers. Finally, drawing on the abovementioned, when selecting your law school clinic, consider the time commitment expectations and credit hours allotted for that specific clinic.

As someone enrolled in a clinic, I advocate for the benefits that clinical experience offers. However, clinic enrollment is not something to take lightly, you are accountable in a way that differs from doctrinal and seminar courses, so you need to be certain that you are able to adequately balance the workload of a clinic with your other school and social requirements before enrolling. However, if you feel that you can manage the workload, I can almost guarantee that the experience will be an enriching one, both academically, and professionally.