5 Things Successful Attorneys Did Not Learn In Law School

By Sam Farkas, Esq.,
BARBRI Product Development Manager

1) BECOME AN EFFICIENT PROBLEM SOLVER

Law school may have taught you the framework and skills to solve legal problems, but it did not teach you how to solve them efficiently. Successful attorneys are acquainted with two basic principles: The Pareto Principle that states 80 percent of the effects stem from 20% of the causes and Parkinson’s Law that states work expands into the time allotted for its completion. Focus on investing time on the 20% of your work that brings the most value and reduce the time to complete the remaining work by half. By implementing these two principles, you will work more efficiently, hone your focus and free up more time to live your life.

2) EMBRACE MINDFULNESS

You initially learned law school is a “marathon and not a sprint!” and indeed law school teaches you how to push yourself past your limits and challenge you in a whole new capacity. While such sustained mental and physical exertion is acceptable for a couple of years, most attorneys only ramp up the pace once they begin their practice. Life cannot be one continuous race and also well-lived. Successful attorneys have learned how to become more mindful of stress and negative emotions. They have learned to appreciate life more by controlling time spent on work and developing healthy tools to manage stress.

3) REJECT THE SCARCITY MENTALITY

You learned in law school how to be a scrooge. You learned that to give another student missed notes will mitigate your own success. You learned that one person’s failure is another’s summa cum laude. Successful attorneys, though, have learned to shed this belief in favor of a broader recognition that when you devote yourself to serving others, you get it back two-fold. If you want more, you have to give more. It’s that simple.

4) DEVELOP YOUR “SOFT SIDE”

Law school may have taught you to “think like a lawyer” but it certainly did not teach you how to act like one – well, a good one at least. Most business people are trained in “soft skills” early in their careers. Unfortunately for attorneys, such training is up to you after graduation. Soft skills are essentially people skills or the kinds of personality traits that are associated with a person’s Emotional Intelligence. Attorneys must effectively communicate, offer advice and inspire relationships of trust and confidence with clients. Indeed, soft skills are personal attributes that enhance your job performance and career prospects. Your ability to deal effectively and politely with clients, opposing counsel and even your colleagues may become more important to your success than the hard skills.

5) BE SOLUTION ORIENTED

From your first day in law school, you were effectively trained to identify and analyze all risks to a given problem. What you were never taught, though, was how to pursue a goal while minimizing risk. Attorneys often say, “There’s too much liability here to pursue this,” or “that is not prudent,” when a client wants to pursue a new venture and the project carries some risks. A successful attorney understands how to account for risk by identifying them, while working with the client to accomplish the goal.

#The2Llife: The “Gavel Gap”

GUEST BLOG by Dani Gies,
2L at UCLA School of Law

I went to a discussion at lunch the other day on the “Gavel Gap.” 

Sponsored by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, the Gavel Gap website (gavelgap.org) gives the following description of the study:

In order to address [the] serious shortcoming [of lack of knowledge of state court judges] in our understanding of America’s courts, we have constructed an unprecedented database of state judicial biographies. This dataset—the State Bench Database–includes more than 10,000 current sitting judges on state courts of general jurisdiction in all 50 states. We use it to examine the gender, racial, and ethnic composition of state courts, which we then compare to that of the general population in each state. We find that courts are not representative of the people whom they serve. We call this disparity The Gavel Gap (emphasis added).

The Gavel Gap in my state, California, is unfortunately very pronounced. Overall, California was given a “D” grade. The state population is 31% women of color, 30% men of color, 19% white women, and 19% white men. However, the representation of each of these groups as judges in the state court is much lower.  Women of color make up only 10% of state court judges and men of color are 17%, while 23% of state court judges are white women and a staggering 51% are white men. 

As a woman of color, and person who generally cares about diversity and equity, especially in the court system, these statistics are disturbing. I think law schools can be better about encouraging people of color to aspire to the bench, and lawyers that are people of color need more models to look up to.

#The2Llife: Planning for Spring Classes

GUEST BLOG by Dani Gies,
2L at UCLA School of Law

It may seem way too early to write a post about this, but actually, it may be late.

I planned the spring schedule I thought I wanted during the summer, when I was signing up for fall classes. Well, to be honest, I planned the rest of law school to make sure that I would be fulfilling all of the requirements for my program and specialization, as well as taking the electives I want to take. I will personally be taking Civil Rights, Constitutional Criminal Procedure, and an Immigrant Rights Policy Clinic. I was going to take Professional Responsibility, but I may decide to work or volunteer at a local nonprofit or immigration firm instead. As I’m trying to solidify my schedule, here’s what some of my classmates have said about some of the classes they’re taking:

Advanced Legal Research: You don’t get a lot of opportunities to do research outside of the first-year required course, so this is a great way to supplement your legal education with practical skills.

Business Associations: Take it, even if you’re not interested in corporate law. First of all, it’s a bar class, and second, it’s useful knowledge. 

Constitutional Criminal Procedure: Bar class. Definitely take it if you’re interested in criminal law. Focuses primarily on the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

Evidence: Another bar class. Take Evidence if you want to be certified as a law student to appear in court. (Sidenote: one of my friends is certified now, as a 2L in the fall! In California, must have completed the first year of law school and taken Civil Procedure, in addition to completing or being enrolled in Evidence.)

Professional Responsibility: This is required, so definitely take it. When you take it doesn’t really matter, but be sure you take the right amount of credits for the state you want to practice in, because different states have different requirements.

What classes would you recommend 2Ls and 3Ls take? Let me know on Twitter @The2Llife!

Twinning the Bar Exam with BARBRI

GUEST BLOG by Taylor Friedlander, Esq.
Director of Legal Education

Great minds think alike – especially when they belong to identical twins!

Sarin and Talin share more than just their DNA – they went to the same excellent law school – USC’s Gould School of Law – and also secured positions at the same top tier law firm, Proskauer Rose. Given their track record of going after the best, it’s no wonder they chose BARBRI to prepare them for the most important test of their lives.  “My personal research indicated that BARBRI is the most effective bar review course,” said Talin.

Their decision to go with BARBRI was easy given its extensive resources, which no competitor could offer. A game-changer for them was the BARBRI-exclusive Personal Study Plan. “The personal study plan was exceptionally helpful,” said Talin. “The material tested on the Bar Exam is so vast that having a tool designed to identify weaknesses and focus your attention on them is invaluable.”

BARBRI draws on data compiled by tens of thousands of students enrolled in the course in order to tell students – with unrivaled accuracy – exactly where their strengths and weaknesses are. No other course has enough enrollees to provide precise percentile rankings the way BARBRI does.

Based on BARBRI’s percentile rankings, Sarin and Talin discovered that they had the same strong subjects (Criminal Law and Torts), as well as the same weaker subjects (Evidence and Property). Having this information empowered them to attack their studies and work smarter – not harder. “The personal homework geared my studying toward my personal weak areas, which helped boost my confidence,” says Sarin. “I was studying in a smart and efficient way by following my personal study plan.”

Once BARBRI identifies a student’s weak areas, they are assigned BARBRI AMP memorization modules. Using Nobel-prize winning software, BARBRI AMP turns memorizing the black letter law into an interactive game. It learns what you know, and tests you on what you don’t – until you’ve demonstrated a solid grasp of the essential points of law.

Sarin said, “I used all of the BARBRI AMPs that were assigned. It was an interactive way to learn the rules. I found that I better retained the information using AMP than if I had simply read the outline.” Talin agreed with her sister, “It was a more approachable way to study and it provided for variety, which was helpful when I was studying for so many hours each day.”

I used all of the BARBRI AMPs that were assigned. It was an interactive way to learn the rules. I found that I better retained the information using AMP than if I had simply read the outline.” – Sarin Haroutounian

“I used all of the BARBRI AMPs that were assigned. It was an interactive way to learn the rules. I found that I better retained the information using AMP than if I had simply read the outline.” – Sarin Haroutounian

Another resource that gave the twins a competitive edge was the Essay Architect software. “Essay Architect was such a useful tool,” said Sarin. It operates by taking you through a series of steps so you learn to how to read bar exam essays and craft the exact kinds of answer bar examiners are looking for. Using drag-and-drop features, students can build a practice essay, and then get immediate feedback reinforcing organization and structure. Talin said it was “extremely helpful in organizing a response to a typical essay answer.” The foundation provided by Essay Architect accelerated Sarin and Talin’s essay writing ability. By the time they submitted full-length practice essays for grading by a trained BARBRI attorney, they were miles ahead of the competition.

Essay Architect is available as part of BARBRI’s Early Start Program, an entirely self-directed program that trains students in the most highly tested topics of the bar exam. All before the BARBRI Bar Review course begins. Statistically, students who engage with Early Start 67 days or more before the BARBRI course begins are more likely to pass the bar exam the first time. Plus – much like the BARBRI Bar Review course – Early Start is designed for flexibility, making it easy to fit into your schedule, and make your studies less stressful.

Sarin and Talin agreed that the flexibility of the BARBRI course let them study in comfort. While they could take advantage of the live professor classroom at Loyola Law School, they could just as easily watch the lectures from the comfort of their home. When asked if they would recommend BARBRI to a friend, Salin and Talin responded with a resounding “yes.” “I can’t imagine how I would be able to study all of the material on my own,” said Talin, “and BARBRI helped me study efficiently.”

Special thanks to Sarin and Talin Haroutounian for sharing their experiences!

#The2Llife: Where The Going Gets Tough

GUEST BLOG by Lauren Rose,
2L at University of Detroit Mercy

*Cue the horror movie music*  Finals are almost here.

This is where the going gets tough.  The entire semester leads up to the end, the final exam, the finale. Now is the time to buckle down and start hitting the books. Here are a few of my tips for final exams.

  1. Ask for outlines. It is so beneficial to ask other students for outlines. Ask students who took the class before you for a copy of their outline. Your school may even have copies of outlines in an outline bank. As always, make sure to edit the outline with updated cases and class notes!
  2. Review BARBRI videos. I cannot stress this enough for your main courses. Barbri finds a way to condense an entire semester worth of information into short, informational videos. During 1L year, these videos were a lifesaver.  I am currently watching the evidence video and it has been very helpful.
  3. Review commercial supplements. If you’re in need of more information, check out a commercial supplement. These books break down the subject into incredible detail. I find it helpful to look at supplements when I am unclear about a topic or want to learn more about it.
  4. Find what works for you. I like to write things down. I study by writing, rewriting, and rewriting my outlines 17,000 times. I also make flashcards to memorize big topics. However, I know a lot of people do not like to write things down. Figure out something that works for you and stick to it!

Good luck on finals! Do you have any tips or tricks for law school finals? Tweet me @The2LLife!

#The2Llife: Managing Your Time

GUEST BLOG by Lauren Rose,
2L at University of Detroit Mercy 

One of the keys to being successful (really, I’m just equating success with not losing your mind) during law school is time management.  While arguably this is a key to being successful in life, it is really, really necessary during law school.  Mastering time management during my second year has been essential to my overall plan.

I am involved in two school organizations and I have two jobs.  While I’m not on moot court or law review, I felt the need to push myself into finding two different jobs.  I work better when I am busy because I am forced into managing my time.  While this is often stressful, it is what helps me find balance.

I live by my Google calendar and I use it for everything.  I use it to track midterms, reading assignments, finals, meetings, my work schedules, and outings.  If an online calendar is not your thing, I would suggest getting some type of calendar or agenda to keep track of your life.  I even write down my workouts.  As law students, we are expected to remember the facts and holdings of cases so make it simpler on yourself and write down the date your paper is due instead of trying to remember it.

As horrible as this sounds, I try to avoid watching T.V.  Really, I do this because I don’t have time.  However, I also avoid T.V. because I have been sucked into a binge where I don’t move for four hours.  I will try to watch an episode of How To Get Away With Murder or another show, but I usually record it so that I can watch it when I actually have time.

The point of this post is that managing your time, especially with the use of a calendar, is incredibly important.  If you write something down, you will feel more pressure to actually do it.  While that sounds a little harsh, it is true.  Writing it down will hold you accountable.  So, take it from, someone who learned the hard way, that managing your time efficiently will be crucial to your success in law school.

What are your thoughts? What time management strategies do you use? Tweet me @The2LLife!

#The2Llife: Internships

GUEST BLOG by Lauren Rose,
2L at the University of Detroit Mercy

Internships are important. They are important because this is probably the only time you get to learn about practical, real-world, lawyer things.  Over the summer, I was fortunate enough to have two different internship experiences.  Both experiences were very different, albeit very rewarding.

First of all, I split my summer between two different places.  This is pretty uncommon.  However, I did it based on unique circumstances.  Many law students will intern at one place, which is completely normal and fine!

For the first half of the summer, I interned with a circuit court judge.  This was an eye-opening experience because the judge had both a civil and criminal docket.  I learned the ins and outs of the courtroom.  To make everything run efficiently and smoothly during a court session, there are many things that go on behind the scenes.  Sitting with the clerk and learning about her job and the importance of filing documents properly was incredibly enlightening.  Also, I learned the importance of being courteous to the court and to the court staff.  I saw way too many attorneys get mad over things or act unprofessional.  Remember, the staff of the court are humans too.  They can be your best friend or your worst enemy!

During the second half of the summer, I was awarded a fellowship to work at a non-profit.  This non-profit focused in child welfare law.  Working for a non-profit was not only a rewarding but also a great teaching experience.  I was able to draft many documents, observe court hearings, and meet with clients.  Being at a small non-profit allowed me, and the other interns, to experience the setting of a law firm with the presence and oversight of attorneys who cared about a common cause.  This was a unique experience that provided me with an array of legal knowledge that I will use throughout my career.

Once you find an internship, or start work as an intern, remember that you are the intern.  You still have a lot of learning to do and you need all of the help that you can get.  Here are the three main takeaways from my summer internship experience: a smile will get you a long way; be humble; work your butt off.

#The2Llife: Year in Review

GUEST BLOG by Harrison Thorne,
2L at UCLA School of Law

A lot has happened over this past year.

I transferred to UCLA Law. I became a managing editor of a secondary journal. I also became an articles editor of another journal. I then became the Editor-in-Chief of that journal. I took difficult courses, including business bankruptcy and evidence. I excelled in bankruptcy, and competed in a moot court type bankruptcy competition, and externed part time for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

But most importantly, I learned a lot. I learned that hard work is absolutely essential.

I learned that working around the clock is sometimes unavoidable. I learned that when a deadline is approaching, sometimes an “all-nighter” is necessary. I learned that when I want something, I have to be willing to do whatever it takes to reach the goal.

But I also learned that working hard is not necessarily the same as working smart.

For instance, there is no point in reinventing the wheel when it comes to creating outlines or learning complex material. Many schools have some form of outline bank. Or, students from past classes will give their old outlines to students who politely ask. Why spend hours trying to figure out how the pieces of a topic fit together when you could create your outline using somebody else’s as a guideline? I cannot imagine how much time I saved using past course outlines and BARBRI outlines to create a master outline for myself. And, in turn, I will pass my outlines onto anybody who asks.

I also learned that keeping up with hobbies, interests, family, and friends is absolutely essential.

I am lucky enough to have a very supportive network of friends, a great family, and an amazing girlfriend. I also like to read (I just read all three books by Gillian Flynn—the author of Gone Girl, and I’m about to start a more serious book by the economist John Meynard Keynes!). And when I feel antsy, I go to the gym. Maintaining these interests and relationships has allowed me to stay sane, and, paradoxically, work harder. Many students think that if they “waste” time pursuing anything other than studying, they will fall behind. That’s not the case.

If I could do the year over, I would change a few things, though. I would have been more focused on prioritizing and scheduling. Sometimes I spend too much time on a reading assignment and have to make up other assignments by eating into my personal time. I would have gotten more sleep. A lot of nights when I am ready to go to bed I innocently check what is on television and end up staying awake until 2am. I would have networked more. I definitely did my share, but there is never too much.

Overall, however, I am beyond thrilled with the past year. I went from a nervous 1L, to a strong student at a top law school. I developed strong connections with peers and professors. I secured a top leadership position on a law journal. And most importantly, I had fun while remaining true to who I really am.

If anybody reading this article has questions about anything I have said throughout the past year, or just wants to discuss some things, please feel free to reach out to me. My email is harrisonthorne1@gmail.com. Thanks for reading, and I will be back next year!!!

#The2Llife: Best Way to Outline (IMHO)

GUEST BLOG by Harrison Thorne,
2L at UCLA School of Law

With the semester wrapping up, many students are beginning to outline, or refining past outlines.

The importance of outlining is probably clear at this point—a good outline will be useful during the exam (provided open note exams), and creating it will help reinforce concepts as well as show what you may not know or understand.

However, it can be tough to “know” how to create an outline. After a long semester, most students have reading notes (i.e., case briefs), class notes, and a handful of problems or handouts. How do you turn all these random pages into a workable outline?

My method, which I feel works effectively, is simple. I print out everything I have. I then obtain an outline from a former student in that class, and print it out. Next, I download BARBRI’s outline on the black-letter law. With all these resources in hand, I am ready to go.

AppleLaptopWhen using a BARBRI or former student’s outline, I primarily look for structure. Most classes teach things in a logical flow. However, it can be hard to understand how all the concepts fit together. For instance, in torts, you might learn about negligence per se, then move on to doctrine of chances, then next to but for cause. Seeing an already-existing outline will help you understand how these concepts and doctrines work together, and where they fit in. Using this refined flow will help you create an attack outline or a “steps of analysis” chart.

I like to create my headings and get the flow of the course by looking at the former student and BARBRI outlines. But then I fill in the blanks with my class and reading notes. If there is a concept I don’t fully understand, I reread, talk to my professor, or discuss with another student.

After I have my outline in working condition, I move on to practice problems or past exams.

 

#The2Llife: Externships

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

I externed at a state court, over summer after 1L.

I loved it, and gained a lot of practical experience.

I am currently externing at a bankruptcy court. I took a bankruptcy course last semester, and found it very interesting. It seemed like a unique field, in that practitioners get a good mix of transactional and litigation work.

I wanted to get more involved in bankruptcy, so I began looking for opportunities. I volunteered for a moot court type competition (that will take place next weekend) through the American College of Bankruptcy. We are performing a mock negotiation for a chapter 11 business restructure. Sounds complicated, but take my word – it’s fun!

But the best experience so far has been externing for the bankruptcy court. I love the subject, so that helps.

However, externing is extremely eye-opening. I have learned how to file motions, how and where to check local, state, and federal rules of court, how to interact with clerks, lawyers, and judges, and how to not anger a court!

I would highly recommend that everyone extern for some court during law school. It is truly an amazing experience, and the hands-on approach will really help round out the academic nature of law school.