Reflecting on the 2L Life

Reflecting on the 2L life

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

By the time you read this, I will be submitting my final project of 2L. What a ride it has been. The saying is, “1L they work you to death” (true),  “2L they work you to death… also true.” Now… a lot of my “working to death” was all of my doing. For example, I took 18 credits, both semesters. In addition to that, I also completed 300-hour externships both semesters, for no credit. In the fall, I continued working at the government agency I was at during the summer, and in the spring, I had a stipend based externship at a law firm. I was busy, but I wouldn’t change a thing!

I believe 2L is where you can begin to see yourself as a lawyer, and I am so grateful for all of the experiences that enabled me to know I was on the right path. Here are the best decisions I made during 2L.

I joined a clinic

In the fall, I was a 38d (limited practice) student for the City of Tucson. I remember the call I had with my dad when I told him I had won my first bench trial. He said, “that is so great, what did the teacher say? I knew you were nervous.” I responded that I had not told them yet. Confused, he said, “wasn’t she there, it’s a class…” I laughed and said, “No, dad, this was a real case, and an attorney supervised me, as I did the case, in front of a Judge.” I don’t think I will ever forget him going “WHAT!?!?” I learned so much during that clinic, and it solidified the fact that I should pursue litigation.

I entered a closing argument competition

Because of my clinic, I knew I wanted to get some practice making a closing argument before I had to do it in an actual courtroom. This desire inspired me to enter the closing argument competition. I did well and received an invitation to join the trial team. I wrote about this last semester, explaining that I had to turn down the invitation, because well, I just did not have time. This experience taught me to know my limits. Even though I said “no,” I knew I wanted to be on the trial team as a 3L, and I tried out again in the spring and made the team for next year!!

I focused on practical classes

It feels like there are two paths, and no, I am not talking about litigation vs. transactional, but rather to take bar classes or not to take bar classes. For me, I selected the experimental/practical course route. I do not regret this at all, and this decision has really helped me excel at work. During my summer, I realized that while knowing the law is important, knowing how to conduct effective legal research, communicate with clients effectively to build trust, and having the ability to write well is what seemed to matter most. Not only did this prepare me well for my externships, but I discovered this is where I could excel in the classroom as well. I learn best by applying what I learn in classroom simulations, and my GPA got a nice boost as a result.

Young Woman Working while in School

I worked… a lot…

Perhaps it is because I had a career before law school, but having externships during the school year has made my law school experience so much better. Each day I worked, I learned a new skill or more about my working style. I was able to be mentored by seasoned attorneys and learn from my mistakes, safely. Once we graduate, the training wheels are gone, and what we do could significantly impact a client. Working as an extern allowed me to experience many aspects of being an attorney without causing any damage to a case or client. I will be a more effective associate and attorney because of these lessons.

We all choose different paths in school, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to complete your 2L. But my advice is to select a path that will allow you to grow and blossom within the constructs of the legal field. I loved everything I did, but I also could have hated it, and that would have been just as valuable as a lesson, and allowed me to course-correct if needed. Thank you for sharing the @The2LLife with me, and I look forward to seeing you next year in the @The3LLife!

Dear soon to be 1Ls…

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

I am just a week away from finishing up my 2L, and the time has flown by incredibly fast. I see on Facebook and LinkedIn that people are proudly announcing their seat deposits and forging ahead with their dream of law school even in this uncertain time. No matter if we are back on campus or still online, here is some advice about the things you do and don’t need as you get ready to head off to school.

Mac or PC?

It doesn’t matter. My school is half and half, so buy whichever you prefer. All that matters is that you have a reliable laptop with a good battery. Some people use Chromebooks and IPads or tablets. They work too, but make sure that they will work with the exam software that your school uses. I use a touch screen PC, and I love it. I also bought an extended warranty so that it would get me all the way through school. If you’re worried about cost, you can ask for an electronics increase on your 1L loan, just talk to your school.

Mac vs PC

Do buy a bookstand

I have these foldable ones that I could keep in my backpack. They came as a two-pack, so I left one at home and one in my backpack. They made it a lot easier to read books without straining your neck, and made the limited space you have in the classroom work better. These look small, BUT they could even handle Chemerinsky…. You don’t know what that means yet, but this will likely be your 3-pound Con law book!

Do not buy highlighters

I mean it, you do not need highlighters, because they get passed out like candy at school. Now, if we are not back on campus, you might want to pick up a few, but this is entirely up to you.

Do buy an extra power cord for your laptop

You might even want to buy 3. Ok, so I can be a bit forgetful, which often makes me seem over-prepared, but I cannot stress enough how important it was that I had an extra charger in my backpack. I even kept the third one in my locker, just to be safe.  If you have one at home and then keep one in your backpack, you’ll never be without power.

Do not by travel mugs

Seriously… LexisNexis will have you rolling in high-quality travel coffee mugs and water bottles. Trust me on this. They also give out great water bottles, so save your money!

Do buy headphones

Ideally, you’ll be able to buy some noise-canceling ones. It’s shocking how noisy the library can be, and even if you do not like listening to music while you are studying, headphones act as a great “do not disturb sign” to people around you. Ipods or other “in-ear” headphones are also great, but since they aren’t visible, they may not have the same “do not disturb” vibe, as over the ear headphones do.

Do not by earplugs

Again, a massive bowl of these will be available in the law library. Save your money!

Do you have questions about what else you should buy? Current law students, what is one thing you bought that you wish you hadn’t, and one thing you wish you had? Let me know over at the @The 2LLife on Twitter or Instagram!

Ready for a Movie Marathon?

Legal Movie Marathon

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

I think the answer to this question 100% depends on where you are in the semester. If you’re like me and finals are still two weeks away, a movie might be a welcome distraction. If you are in the middle of finals… maybe not so much.

Just in case a social distancing watch party is in your future, and you’ve watched “Legally Blonde” a few too many times,  here are a few of my recommendations based on the classes you may be taking, and who knows you might refresh a concept or two!

Trial Advocacy

If you’re currently in Trial Advocacy or just missing the courtroom, check out “My Cousin Vinny”

Professional Responsibility

“Michael Clayton” might not seem like the obvious choice, but in this movie, a law firm brings in a “fixer” after their lawyer has a breakdown while representing a guilty chemical company in a class-action suit.

Con Law I or Con Law II

Check out “Loving,” a case you likely read, Loving V. Virginia. The Supreme court case, which struck down laws banning interracial marriage were violations of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Environmental Law

“Erin Brockovich.” Based on a true story, not only does it touch on environmental law, but also negotiations, client counseling, and more.

Securities

If you need a spot the issue movie for your securities final, “Wall Street” is likely your best bet.

Criminal Law

You might want to check out the “Lincoln Lawyer.” Not only does it follow a criminal law issue, but it’s also full of ethics issues.

These are just a few of the suggestions I received, so if you have another one, let me know over at the @The2LLife on Twitter or Instagram.

Your Honor May I Have Permission to Screenshare

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

This past week I had my first trial over Zoom. Ok, so it was a bench trial, and for a class, but that doesn’t change the fact that I still had a sitting Judge, opposing counselors, and witnesses present. I was lucky enough to have completed about seven bench trials while I worked in the Prosecution clinic last fall. So, while I was familiar with the bench trial process, this was still a new experience, because I didn’t have a supervising attorney to help me out, plus of course, it was over Zoom. When we were getting critiques, our Judge commented that he appreciated the practice, because some cases might need to proceed over Zoom (or similar platform) in the near future. If you have your mock, basic trial advocacy, or maybe even an actual trial coming up soon over Zoom, here are some tips to help you out.

Make your Desk “Trial Ready”

I am not sure about you, and I have limited in-court experience, but I was very systematic in the way I had the space in front of me set up. Yes, I had a trial set up, I’d even go far as calling it a ritual. On my half of the desk, I had two copies of all exhibits, had my script laid out in a specific way with checklists, notecards, a highlighter, and a pen. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do things like I usually would have in court, so I adapted my desk at home to mimic my set up as close as possible. Because I prefer not printing things and working from a screen, this actually made my life easier.

I have two screens and highly recommend this setup. I put my trial script in front of me on my laptop screen, so that way, I was always looking at the camera. I kept the Zoom screen on the screen to the side. This is also where I also had my exhibits and a short “common objections list.” I also put my original iPad mini to good use and set it up to be the timer to ensure I stayed on track.  I then practiced with this setup to make sure I could do everything I needed to effectively. This included sharing exhibits. Oh, also, as a part of your setup, get a cheap adjustable laptop stand. This allows you to put your laptop at an angle, so the camera is looking at you from eye level, rather than up at you. Also, do not forget water and other necessities. I’ve been sick all week and had lost my voice, so I took a bit of liberty with water and other related supplies on my desk, but the great thing was it wasn’t visible to the court!

Have your exhibits all open in Adobe

Now, for our trial, we had to mark our own exhibits, but one of my favorite things when I was conducting trials for my clinic, was to have all of my exhibits marked as soon as I could, and have them lined up on my desk in the order I was going to present them. I staggered them a bit much like “tabs” in Adobe, so I followed that same process here; just instead of being on my desk, they were on my screen. Whenever I shared, I always first selected the exhibit tab in Adobe, so I could see it on my screen, and then only shared the Adobe window on the screen. Share desktop would have revealed too much, and this kept everything perfectly organized. If I needed to move between tabs to show exhibits I could, without showing any exhibit, I shouldn’t have. It was also effortless to search for a word, highlight the text, and then share it. This was much easier than having to look for an impeaching statement on a paper document.

Use Two Screens

Anticipate Possible Difficulties

So, my computer’s microphone decided it no longer liked working with Zoom but would do so randomly. I, unfortunately, discovered this while I was in a mock pretrial hearing. I thought no problem, I’ll just call in, and then I couldn’t connect to a cell tower, and of course, my headset was also dead, and I couldn’t find another headset that had a mic. I knew this couldn’t happen on the day of my trial, and I did not have the money, nor could a mic be delivered to me in time. I solved this problem by having my wireless headset on the desk in front of me, it acted just like a stand-alone mic. I just connected the headset mic to Zoom, but still used the computer speakers to hear. I did this because I did not want to be wearing a headset in court, plus I knew I wanted to move my hands to speak and to write, and I did not want a cord getting in the way. Obviously, if you have pods or don’t mind wearing a headset, that is a simple fix, but having the wireless headset in front of you also works well and allows you to remain cordless and without the need to wear a headset.

How Did Witnesses Work?

Witnesses were kept in the meetings “waiting room.” This is a security feature that the host can enable. We had the person who hosted the meeting act as the bailiff. They could let people “in” and “out” of the meeting and mute people when needed. This also made it so everyone else could concentrate on the case, rather than the logistics.

How Did it Go?

Overall, it was not that different from a typical bench trial, again, based on my limited experience. While I missed being next to my co-counsel, we could still send private messages to each other. Please note, be aware these MIGHT not be 100% private and downloadable to the host, so texting might be more secure, but be discreet. I am sure the Judge will not appreciate it if noticed. And although I couldn’t approach the witness to show them exhibits, I thought it was just as effective to show them on the screen. You had to be a bit more watchful of body language to pick up on cues for both the witness and opposing counsel, but it could be achieved. I actually liked using my script on the computer and checking off the boxes. One thing I did do differently, was make a card that had the elements I wanted to hit for each witness, that I checked off as I went, just to make sure I got everything. I also thought it was a great way to get witnesses to come, but I do acknowledge, this could present issues, especially in DV court. I also understand that because I have been teaching and tutoring on Zoom for a long time, I am likely more comfortable with the platform than most, but even those that had just been introduced to Zoom were surprised by how smoothly the trial ran.

Have you conducted a Zoom trial yet? How did it go? I am happy to share my experience and Zoom tips with anyone, so feel free to reach out to me @The2LLife on Twitter or Instagram.

If I could Ask a 3L Anything…

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

What was supposed to be an interview about asking Mackenzie of the @The3LLife about expectations and advice for 3L, quickly evolved into over a 2-hour conversation between Mara, @The1LLife, Mackenzie, @The3LLife and myself. I don’t think either of us expected that this was the community and the conversation we needed at just that moment, but it was apparent that it was.

We took turns talking about what was happening with our classes, assignments, jobs, life, and more. It was interesting to discover that even though we approach our blogs each week with our own unique perspectives, how similar the three of us are. It was downright surprising, and I think an excellent reminder that we all have more in common than we often realize. When I talked about reaching out earlier in the semester to get to know the people in my class better, it never occurred to me to also reach out to those I am connected to in other ways.

We, of course, finally got on task and asked each other a lot of questions. Here are a few of the tips Mackenzie provided to help 2Ls effectively prepare for 3L.

Left to Right: 3L Makenzie, 2L Stephanie and 1L Mara

Take Classes That Teach Skills

I was relieved that this was the first bit of advice that Mackenzie provided. She said she started taking these classes as a 2L, and the partners at her firm really appreciated how they made her “practice-ready.” The fact that she had advanced writing and research classes really benefited her because her firm recognized that she knew how to research, and that allowed her to help with even more assignments. I had heard the advice about taking advanced legal writing but was encouraged that the aspect of advanced legal research had also benefited her.

Time Classes Well

Another piece of advice Mackenzie offered that had been passed on to her by the first and second-year associates at her firm, is to time your bar related course well. For example, they encouraged her to take Evidence in her last semester because that timing would benefit her most for bar prep.

Pick Classes with Employer Needs In Mind

Mackenzie also suggested that you might want to take a mix of classes, based upon the needs of your firm. If you know you are going to be hired into a specific practice group, you should likely add related classes into your schedule. I know right now that this is a bit difficult because we all do not know what is taking place with our summer positions. I was notified in late March, that my firm was exploring a variety of avenues that could potentially impact my summer associateship program, and that we would be alerted by the end of April. I know many of you are in similar situations. But I also know that some of you have already been informed as to what is happening. For instance, some programs have been modified, others have moved online, and while some have been canceled, some of those cancellations also came with a guaranteed job. Consider reaching out to your future employer or someone who is in the field you desire to be for class advice.

I could go on and on with the valuable advice that Mackenzie provided, but perhaps the greatest lesson I learned is that new friendships and communities are all around us waiting to be discovered. We just need to reach out. As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me at the @The2LLife.

Virtual Tips and Tricks for Zoom and Citrix

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

We are all starting to settle into what is the new norm with our online classes, and remote workplaces. Depending on how you learn, these classes can either be horrible or a blessing. For me, I like the ability to go back and review classes and update my notes, for others, it is a struggle. The same applies to working at home, while some people struggle, others have discovered how productive you can be.

No matter what you think about online learning or working from home, here are some shortcuts and tips to make your time online a bit more enjoyable.

Spice Up Your Surroundings with a Virtual Background

Stephanie Using a Background
Stephanie Using a Background

I am a self-proclaimed Harry Potter nerd, so I have enjoyed attending class from the headmaster’s office, the quidditch pitch and yes, making my inner Hermione proud by attending from the Hogwarts library. I know this may seem silly, but it really does brighten my mood. Any image will work. You can even create your own. But Twitter never fails and searching “zoom background” will give you a lot of inspiration.

Here are also a few of my favorites:

If you are a Disney Fan check these out:

Use Both Screens with Remote Software

About a week into working from home I realized how reliant I had become on having two screens at work. I was really struggling, as I usually use the “quartile system” to organize my work. I quickly realized if I was going to be successful at home, I needed another monitor. So, after an LSAT tutoring session (yes, I still tutor people for the LSAT), I decided to use that newly found money to buy an extra monitor. I found a deal on Amazon for a 21-inch monitor for only $80 and wow it has helped a ton. What’s been even better though, is that I figured out how to make use of BOTH screens (my laptop screen and my new monitor) when I am in my virtual work environment. This allows me to use both screens just like I do at work, for the cost of one.

First, set your computer to have your second monitor in the “extend” viewing mode. Next open Citrix, or whatever remote client you are using. Once open, make it so this window is small and drag the remote screen in the “middle” of the two screens. This means that a portion of the window shows up on both screens. Now, in your remote screen go “full screen”. Voila, your remote screen now shows up on both screens just like would at work!

Zoom Host Key Feature

As more teachers are locking down Zoom with passwords, I have noticed an interesting trend that sometimes they are not automatically recognized as the host of the meeting. This is likely because they are using Zoom, both at work and to teach, and are not switching accounts as needed. Being the host is important because it allows the classes to be recorded. You can take ownership of a meeting with the “Host Key”. Your host key can be located on the “profile page” of Zoom. If you scroll to the bottom, you will see it. Click “show” to reveal your host key. You can also edit this key. Consider picking a secure number that only you know. Consider making your host key the same for every account you have. That way, if you are ever in the “wrong” account you can still claim the meeting with your host key. Again, be sure to not pick something obvious, to help keep the Zoom secure, but that is one thing you can do to simplify having multiple accounts.

I know there are a ton more tips that can help, be sure to share your favorite one with me over at the @The2LLife on Twitter and Instagram.

Maintaining your Law School Community from Afar

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

Wow… so now we are all online, some of you were required to leave campus dorms, many law school buildings are locked, and while others can remain open, for the most part, we are scattered across different time zones and even the world.

I think one of the best things about law school is our community, and many of us are missing that now. It’s been a rough week for many reasons, but as the dust settles from classes going online, moving, new grading policies, self-quarantining, and more, its time to start rebuilding those connections. Now is the perfect time to not only connect with your regular law school friends but reach out to someone you do not know well.

Last week Mara @The1LLife shared some great ways about how to keep being social, and Makenzie the @The3LLife highlighted ways to stay busy during our time of self-isolation.

Here are my tips on how to bring it all together.

Create Nightly Events so Classmates Can Share Their Passions

Even though we are all apart, this time presents us with a unique opportunity to get to know people in our class that we rarely have interacted with. We all have individual interests, skills, and hobbies. Now it can be a time to share those with your fellow classmates. One of our students lead a Zoom yoga class yesterday, and it was great!

Consider setting up events where each student can lead a class and share a passion, just host a game, or have a demonstration. One of our students wants to host a Bollywood dancing class, and I can’t wait for it. You can use a google calendar or Facebook Events to get a schedule of events established. If one person goes each night, not only will you become closer with everyone in your class, you might also pick up some fun new skills or at least have a good laugh—something we could all use right now.

Host a Virtual House Party

The House Party app is a fun way to host a virtual game night and just chat. You can do this with up to 6 people. I decided to host the first event, and we played games and talked for nearly 3 hours, I was to hang out with people from my class that I had never really met before, and it was a blast. You can just talk, but you can also play Quick Draw!, Chips and Guac, Trivia and Heads Up! Here is my link: feel free to add me!
Host a Viewing Party on Facebook

I believe most schools have a Facebook group set up for each class year. Not only is it a great way to stay connected, but you can also set up a viewing party of your favorite movies. Create a poll; see what you want to watch and start viewing!

Host a virtual Lunch or Happy Hour

Again, Zoom can be great to use here, as you can literally invite everyone to attend. I am not sure about you, but our school hooked us up with accounts that can accommodate up to 500 people! That’s our entire school. Now… having that many people talk would be crazy, but you get the idea.

This week has been hard, and I am sure that by the time this publishes next Wednesday, the world will once again be different. The critical thing to remember is that while you are isolated, your never alone, use social media, and these tools to reach out. And if you haven’t heard from people in awhile, be sure to check in with them. We all deserve kindness right now.

Virtual Lunch

As always, if you have any tips, questions, or suggestions, feel free to reach out to me at the @The2LLife on Instagram or Twitter.

Tips to Successfully Work from Home

Working From Home

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

Each week, I write these blogs about a week before they are published and sometimes, things do not change at all, however, as we all know life is changing drastically day-to-day. Last week I wrote about how many of us were going to be attending school from home for at least 2 weeks. Now, it seems we are all attending what many are calling the “Zoom School of Law” as we finish our semesters online. In addition to that, most of us are also now completing our internships/externships from home by working remotely.

As I wrote about before, this semester I am in for the UArizona Phoenix Externship Program, which is where I normally live (I commute weekly to Tucson most semesters), so I am not faced with the challenge of moving back home. I am luckily already here. My firm has been amazing to work for so far, and this week we transitioned to an online environment. While not all interns can do this, I luckily was able to. Having previous remote work experience was helpful and I want to share some of my best practices in working remotely. Even if you are not completing your internship from home, these tips also work for taking remote classes.

1—Create a Dedicated Workspace

A dedicated space will help you be less distracted and treat the time you spend in this areas more seriously. Even if this is a corner in your kitchen, a storage area, or even a closet, move things around so that you have a space that is exclusively dedicated for work. This will help you realize this is a “workplace” and allow you to focus your energy.

Ideally, this is different from where you do your schoolwork, but if it has to be the same place, consider using different accessories and set when you are working. This will also help you separate “work time” from “school time” by minimally changing your environment. For example, at my desk that I use for both work and school, I use a whiteboard to track my “work projects” and deadlines, but when I am in “study mode” or attending classes on Zoom, I flip this around and use the cork board side to pin up post-it notes. I also have a different desk set up for work, using 2 screens, and when I am in class, to be less distracted, I push the screen back and use a book stand for my book and have an established writing space to take notes. It is a subtle change, but clearly defines when I am in my “workspace” or my “school space”

2—Set (employer approved) dedicated work hours, based on your Productivity Peeks

It can be easy when you are working from home to “work whenever” but it is important to establish dedicated work time. This way you aren’t working excessively, but also are not putting work off. Keep in mind, if you are working remotely you may have more flexibility and you can use this to your advantage. For example, because of my normal school schedule, I work Tu & Th 9-6 and Wed 9-1. But from a productivity standpoint, I really hit my stride when I work from 2-8 pm. You, of course, need to have any changes to hours approved by your employer, but generally, as law clerks, our work is projected based, and we need to hit hours for our externships, not necessarily being present at certain hours. Know what works best for you, and see how that can benefit your work productivity.

3—Get Dressed for Work.

Ok, so there is no need to get your full business attire on, but don’t just roll out of bed in your PJs and “go to work.” Follow your morning routine and at least get dressed. This will help you get into “work mode” mentally. This also applies to attending school, get up get dressed and you will already feel more productive.

4—Remember to Take Breaks

Taking breaks can actually make yourself more productive. I wrote about this as a 1L, but taking breaks every 52 minutes, for 17 minutes is supposed to be the “golden spot” for productivity according to Time https://time.com/3518053/perfect-break/. Sure if you are in a roll, power ahead, but by taking a break you might also be more productive. Also, take short breaks to look away from your computer will help your eyesight and getting up and moving around will make you more productive.

5—Stay Connected to Coworkers (and your classmates)

At my workplace we have Jabber, other offices use skype, Facebook, Microsoft team, slack or other tools. Whatever it is, use it. Stay connected and reach out to people. Don’t be afraid to grab some facetime with a coworker over one of your “mental breaks.” Also, be sure to reach out to your fellow classmates, while we are isolated, we now all have Zoom accounts, so feel free to “meet up” for a social chat or drinks virtually from the comfort of your couch.

6—Set Timers

When you are working on a big project, it can be easy to get lost in your work. This happens at the office all of the time, but when you are working at home one of two things will happen, you will become so engrossed, that you will work for hours on end without even stopping for a drink, or you will be distracted by everything else you will get nothing done. Here, using your phone to set alarms can be a big help. It will make sure you are hitting your timing goals, plus make sure that you take well-deserved breaks. I am a big fan of asking Siri to label my alarms, that way when they go off I know what my next task is (or should be).

7—Have Ambient Noise in the Background

Maybe its music, for me it’s the TV. This has always worked for me, but one of the women in the office said having the TV on at 18 and set to talk TV was the perfect thing she needed to be productive at home. Experiment with the TV or music, but it will help you be more productive than working in complete silence.

8—Set Boundaries If You Are Not Alone

For some people, this next two weeks (likely longer) represents a break… that is not the case for us. We have school, finals and work to deal with. Many of you might also be home living with parents for the first time in years, so make sure you create space for yourself. Set clear boundaries with your family and significant other that when you are in your dedicated workspace you are not to be disturbed.  This is where having a dedicated workspace can be ideal. I know it sounds crazy using a closet, but if that is the only place you can be alone, make it happen.

If you have any tips you want to share, please let me know over at the @The2LLife on Twitter and Instagram!

Tips for Succeeding In Online Classes

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

It appears that my school will have online classes for the next two weeks, maybe longer. Like many of you, I’ve taken a few online law school classes.  I’ve also taught online courses for several years, so I have experience on both sides of various platforms. While I enjoy learning and teaching online, I know the shift to online learning might be a struggle for some. Here are my tips and best practices for thriving in an online learning environment.

Get to Know Your Schools Platform.

The most common platforms are canvas and blackboard, and some schools have custom environments. At the University of Arizona, we use D2L. Here, the move to an online environment will not be too different, because this is how we receive and typically submit our assignments, but if it is new to you, be sure to watch the help videos available from the companies, so you know how to navigate your class.

You will also likely live lectures or a class using either Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Google. Once you know, be sure to download it and play around with it. You can do this by creating your own session. Understanding how the platform works will make you feel more comfortable. Some have chatrooms for students to submit questions; some let you raise your hand. Familiarize yourself with the mute and unmute buttons.

I also recommend downloading the associated apps; it makes the class much more accessible.

Prepare like Normal and Participate Early

Prepare for the class like you usually would. People often think online courses will be “easier,” but that is rarely the case, as they can take more work than a typical class. Keep up on all of your reading and extra assignments. In an online environment, teachers will have quizzes to ensure you completed the reading and required discussion posts that you rarely encounter with in-person classes. While it is REALLY tempting to leave these to the last minute, you will get more out of the discussions (and so will your classmates), if you engage in them early on.

Find your Wifi

If you are accustomed to using school wifi, and you do not internet access at home, be sure to find out where there is free wifi is near you. Here knowing that McDonald’s, Starbucks, and your public libraries all have free wifi can be a lifesaver, and can even be accessed outside, while in your car, if necessary. If you need to stay at home, some internet providers have exclusive deals or even free wifi for students. If you are struggling here, be sure to let your professor know.

Use a Headset/Earbuds During Class

During class, the mute button will be your best friend, but even if you effectively mute and unmute yourself, you will have a better time in class if you use earbuds or headsets while participating. Be sure to check that your headset has a mic. Using a headset/earbuds will eliminate background noise too. Keep in mind, most of these sessions will be recorded. Don’t be the person that makes it impossible to replay the class.

P.S…. Still dress for class…

Ok… so I shouldn’t have to say this, but… get dressed for class… yes… this means wearing pants too. Zoom automatically connects your camera in most cases, so be prepared for that, or simply set the default to not automatically connect during one of your “test” runs.

Did your class move to an online learning environment? Have tips or questions about online learning environments? Let me know over at the @The2LLife on twitter and Instagram.

A Self-Care Spring Break

Self-care Spring Break

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

Spring break has finally arrived, and while most of my law school friends are going off on fun adventures, I decided that I needed to stay home, as I knew I could benefit from 100% downtime. This semester has been a new challenge. Not only am I in a different city, I am taking classes on the quarter system (so I am writing this in the middle of my finals), working 20 hours a week at a firm, teaching this quarter, as well as commuting back to Tucson one day a week for classes so I can still be February bar eligible. Whew. No wonder I decided to forgo going to Florida, I cannot imagine adding travel and packing into this mix. I know a few of my friends also feel the same way, and even though they do not have work or finals this week, their notes were due, so they are just as overwhelmed. So, if you have decided to stay home, or have had your plans canceled because of the outbreak, here are some tips that may help you rejuvenate during spring break. Try one or all!

1) Plan Out the Rest of the Semester

Ok, maybe skip this one if you are completely burnt out, but for me, this helps me to relax. The second half of my semester is less intense. This upcoming quarter I have just five classes, rather than seven and I am not teaching. I will have Fridays free to work on my note and other activities. I want to make sure I do not waste the time I gain back, so planning out the remaining eight weeks will help put my mind at ease.

Wellness by going for a bike ride.

2) Consider a Week of Wellness

Yoga, massages, bike rides, hikes, and spending time by the lake are all in my future.  One of my friends even found a healthy cooking and juicing class for us to go to. Find a new healthy habit to try or return to one that you have neglected so far this semester. Hopefully, you will be somewhere you can get outside and enjoy the great weather. Check your area for ideas, as many businesses, offer spring break specials and events focused on wellness, especially for students.

3) Binge Watch All the Shows

Maybe instead of being active, you would prefer to cuddle up with your favorite blanket and catch up on all of the TV shows waiting for you. If you feel like you’ve been missing out on all of the talk about viral TV shows, now is the time to catch up.

4) Go to the Movies

I haven’t been to a movie in… wow… since winter break. I even bought a season pass to Alamo to try to encourage myself to get to the theatre more often, so next week I am going to use it! There are a few great movies out, and who doesn’t love popcorn?

5) Sleep

Yes… sleep in, go to bed early, take a nap. Get all of the sleep you want. You have nowhere to be!

6) Have a Night Out

Gather your friends and the people important to you and reconnect. It can be wild, or low key, just make sure you get out and enjoy each other’s company.

7) Tidy Up

Depending on if you like to clean, this might be fantastic or torture, but if you’ve also had an insanely busy semester, now is a great time to get your car, closet, room, apartment, or house in order. If clutter has been driving you nuts, now is the time to tackle it. You don’t have to tidy everything, just focus on one area that’s been annoying you and you will feel accomplished!

8) Journal

This is something that I used to do and just started last week, and that is maintaining a journal. Not only is this good for you to help preserve memories, but it also can help relieve stress. If journaling is not your thing, consider writing a letter to your future self for some extra encouragement, or just writing down all of the things you’ve accomplished so far to see how far you’ve come.

9) Create a Vision Board

While I have never done this, my friend John strongly believes that you should do this every spring. He says that it allows you to be creative and set your intentions. Maybe you can focus on the rest of the semester, what you want to have happen this spring, summer, or whenever.

10) Read a Book

Remember what it was like to read something other than a law book, treaties, case, or supplement? No? Well, now is a great time to escape into a favorite book or to find something new to read. Just make sure it isn’t school-related, you deserve a break!

I hope you have an amazing spring break wherever you are! What tips do you have for self-care during spring break? Let me know over at the @The2LLife on Twitter or Instagram.