#The2Llife: My Case-Reading Strategy

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

When I first started law school, reading cases took FOREVER!

It still takes me a while to get through reading assignments. But when I do the reading, I really try to get the most out of it.

My method is a bit different—I think—than others’.

First, I look up the section or topic that the case pertains to. For instance, if I’m reading Marbury v. Madison, I know my teacher assigned the case to show judicial review, and teach about Supremacy, etc.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.08.53 AMMy first step is to consult a secondary source. I love BARBRI’s outlines, as they are concise and allow me to understand the black-letter law. Sometimes I use E+Es or other secondary sources.

Next, I read a case brief. Case briefs can be found online or in various case brief books.

I then read the case. By this point, I know the facts, the background, and the black-letter law. I have found that knowing all these things before reading the case allows me to focus in on the big picture and extract the real case holding. If I just read the case without reading secondary sources and/or briefs beforehand, I find that my initial read-through is mostly a way to understand the facts, and then I have to reread it at least one more time.

While reading the case, I like to highlight important passages, etc.

After all that, I go back over the highlighted portions, and take notes. I jot down the facts, too.

After all that, I then do an “overview” of what I think is important.

When I go to class, I have a much better understanding of the case, and I supplement my notes with anything my professor emphasizes.

#The2Llife: The Secret is Networking

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

I had the pleasure of attending Law Preview—a law school “jump start program—as both a student and a student facilitator. I learned a lot, and I think it truly helped me do well my first year.

One of the best things I learned from Law Preview was to be selfish The program’s Success Lecturer told us that during the first year, the key to succeeding would be planning our time and sticking to a schedule. He told us that we would have to say no to invitations, miss out on vacations, and essentially cut ourselves off from the world until after finals.

I did just that (sort of), and I did well. Of course, nobody advocated living like a hermit and/or cutting off contact with friends and family, but the message was clear—you’re going to have to work hard… you’re going to have to turn down fun… you’re going to have to sacrifice.

However, as a second-year student, I found myself wondering what advice I would give to incoming 2Ls. After the first round of finals, most 1Ls are savvy to the degree of sacrifice necessary to do well. And after the entire first year, we all know what is required. Therefore, what is the “secret” for success after the first year?

I have found the secret is networking. Of course, students still need to do well. But outside of grades, the best way to secure summer work, externships, or other opportunities, is by old-fashioned networking.

My strategy has been to hoard my contacts in a Word Document. Each time I meet someone in the legal profession, I store his or her name, email, and phone number. That way, I can always have that information handy.

For instance, last week, I wanted to apply for an extern position, but I knew nothing about the position or the people who worked there. So, I applied, then got to work. I researched the people currently working there. I realized one of the women who would interview me worked at a firm that I was familiar with before starting at her current position. So I emailed a contact from that firm, and got some great info about her. I then spoke to some classmates who had externed for this organization in past years. At that point, I was in a much better position for my interview, and it was all thanks to networking with others.

#The2Llife: Transferring Schools Truths

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

TRANSFER UPDATE

Now that school has been in session for a bit over a month, I felt now would be a good time to talk about my experiences so far as a transfer student. I will do so by talking about my fears going in, and whether or not they came to fruition.

1) I wasn’t smart enough

UCLA is a great school. It is ranked much higher than my previous school. Therefore, I figured I would not be able to cut it amongst such brilliant faculty and students.

This has proven to be completely false. While classes are still very challenging, I was, and am, ready to meet these difficulties. I work very hard, but not disproportionately so to when I was at my previous school.

2) People won’t like me

We’d all like to think we are “past” seeking acceptance. However, we aren’t.

I was concerned that I would not fit in at UCLA because I was not “one of them.” However, this, too, has proven to be completely false. People at UCLA have been warm, accepting, and collegial. When I tell someone I am a transfer student, they often ask me if I need help figuring out things (like the complex online student page), or whether I am liking classes. The student body at UCLA has been extremely warm. Moreover, there are approximately forty transfer students, so I am amongst friends, so to speak.

3) Classes will focus too much on ivory tower issues instead of the law

People often say that at higher ranked schools, the classes focus on policy and academic issues over the substance of legal theory. I have found this to be partially true, but mostly false.

First off, it is true that UCLA offers many more policy-based courses than my old school. There are Law & Economic courses, business policy courses, academia-based courses, and similar others. However, the “nitty-gritty” courses, such as evidence, are very much rooted in the practice of law. In fact, many of my professors are and were former trial attorneys, and many of them have a great deal of real-world experience.

Overall, I would say that UCLA, and transferring in general, has been a great experience. I took a giant leap of faith by leaving my comfort zone, but it has definitely paid off. I am working harder than ever, but I love what I am learning, I respect my professors, and I enjoy my classmates. What more could I ask for?

#The2Llife: Missing the Forest for the Trees

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

Law school is very hard. There is more reading than you think possible, and nobody gives you concrete feedback.

During my first year, it was fairly common for me to oscillate between feeling that I had everything under control and freaking out. Ask my family. I would correctly recite case facts during a cold call and feel on top of the world. But then someone would make a comment that I hadn’t thought of, and life was over.

This pendulum drove me to work harder. I always wanted to be on top of the readings, and I never wanted to feel left out of class discussion.

However, it is very easy to miss the forest for the trees in law school. It is great to know every case’s holdings. But the facts and the specific parties to a case are almost completely irrelevant.

The point is to fit all the pieces together, and to synthesize rules that come from cases. The teachers do not care whether you can recite facts on an exam. Rather, they expect their students to analyze the facts given on the test—perhaps by comparing/contrasting the given facts to cases you’ve read.

I think this really sunk in after my first set of finals during 1L. Consequently, my studying techniques changed drastically. I no longer obsessively tried to figure out the procedural posture of cases, or who was the appellant vs. appellee. Rather, I tried to make all the cases fit together in such a way that I could create a framework to analyze new facts on a test.

I suppose this post is inspired by the fact that I just began my evidence and bankruptcy outlines this past weekend. Outlining is a big task. You have to take a ton of information and cases, and actively synthesize rules to figure out how various cases fit into a bigger picture. And that’s not easy—especially for bankruptcy!

Fotolia_62353810_Subscription_Monthly_MHowever, as always, work smarter, not harder. I recently obtained outlines from past years for each of my courses, and have used those to get a broad sense of my courses, and to help guide my own outline. I also use Barbri study guides, as they give a no-nonsense breakdown of black-letter law. Barbri outlines saved my life during criminal law . . .

So, if you are reading this as a 1L, the takeaway is that when reading a case, always think about the facts so that you’re prepared in case of a cold-call. But, more importantly, think about the bigger picture, and how you would apply this case to new facts on an exam.

#The2Llife: Smarter vs. Harder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#The2Llife: Week One in the Books

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

Week one in the books. Literally.

I spent the whole summer eagerly awaiting my return to law school.  I like law school – you meet interesting people, talk about interesting things and learn a lot. But then I remembered that the grass is always greener when I cracked open the Bankruptcy Code!

Yes, I actually do like being in school again. I spent the summer externing for two Superior Court judges and learned a lot about writing. But now I’m ready to get back to learning.

That said, this week has been a bit different. As a transfer, I was given the opportunity to write on to UCLA’s law review. I say “opportunity” because that is what it is. Most people would kill for a spot on a UCLA journal. So instead of whining about doing the transfer write-on amidst tough substantive classes, I got the materials and put my nose to the grindstone.

Well, okay, I did whine a little. Well … a lot. But I am doing the work! In fact, I am in the middle of writing my comment as I write this post.

I think this write-on is indicative of law school generally and, likely, the rest of my life and career: When faced with a seemingly impossible task – like writing a ten-page comment, doing a huge Blue Book exercise and writing a personal statement in four days – there are three choices.

  • Choice 1: Shrivel up and refuse to do the work
  • Choice 2: Complain, waste time and do the work
  • Choice 3: Do the work

I began the write-on process in the Choice 2 category. I complained about how it’s not fair, etc. Then I quickly realized that I’m complaining about the opportunity to write on to one of the most prestigious legal journals in the country. That quickly motivated me and brought me into the realm of Choice 3.

With that, I need to finish this up. So, until next week, thanks for reading.

Follow me @The2Llife!
-Harrison

#The2LLife: My OCI experience as a transfer student

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

On Campus Interview (“OCI”) week is unlike anything I have ever done.

It starts with a long bidding process, where you pick which firms you want to apply to based on where you want to work and their threshold requirements. Once you bid, the school’s system spits out an interview schedule. I received 13 interviews. Over three days.

So, I did what any good law student would do. I ironed my suit, dry cleaned my shirts and frantically emailed everyone who has worked at any of these firms. I researched each firm and found out that they are … ALL. THE. SAME

So, after finding one or two differences, and after reciting my “elevator speech” ad nauseam, I was ready.

The interviews were held at a large hotel near my school and everyone was going to be stationed on the top three floors. The first day started great. I arrived early, looked like James Bond in my black suit and black tie, and was ready to take on the world.

However, I immediately spilled coffee on my white shirt. Not to worry, though – I can adapt. I buttoned up my coat and decided it was not coming off all day. Okay. Ready to get after it.

The first interview. I knock on the door, swallow the gum I forgot I was chewing and slowly step in. I’m surprisingly calm. I guess after interviewing at various places for the past few years, I have sort of faked it ‘til I made it.

After chatting for a few minutes, I get the sense that I should ask him some questions. So I do. I feel confident. I’m hitting all my prearranged talking points, and did I mention I look great in my suit? (Except for the coffee stain.)

The next few interviews, and three days in general, were very similar. I interviewed with 12 more firms and spent the remaining time walking into various hospitality suites and dropping off my resume. I probably recycled the same anecdotes and jokes to 65 or more people between Monday and Wednesday.

However, I learned something about myself. I like networking. A lot. I have always been outgoing and I have always liked meeting new people. I never realized just how important these skills would be in my initial job search and, most likely, for the rest of my career.

I also learned that the students at my new school are cordial, receptive and genuine. I was worried that the students would not want to associate with me – a lowly transfer student. However, in the past couple weeks, I have made several close friends and have had nothing but positive experiences. I look forward to starting school, meeting more people and networking harder than ever!

2L to 3L year: Time to plan you future

By Christie Weidemann, Esq.,
BARBRI Manager of Legal Education and Legal Education Advisor

So you are finally wrapping up your 2L year that, if you are like most students, was so busy you did not really have time to stop and think. Not to worry – that is what your 3L year is for.

You finally have this law school thing down and now it’s on to the rest of your life. In the midst of finishing up your classwork, 3L year is about figuring out where you want to live, where you want to work and, perhaps most importantly, where you can find a job.

START SOON ON THE BAR EXAM APPLICATION

You’re still handling school and extracurricular activities, and it is time to determine where you are going so you can register for the proper state’s bar exam by the deadline. Make sure you check your potential state(s) in the fall 3L semester to have plenty of time to complete the bar exam application. You don’t want to risk missing any deadlines.

GET THE MPRE OUT OF THE WAY

Another couple of things to add to your to-do list: take the November MPRE if you have not already and sign up for the free MPRE review course. I always advise against waiting until the spring MPRE because if you happen to miss the required score, you really do not to wait until August to take it again. At that point, you’d have to suffer through another test after just completing a bar exam.

LOCK IN YOUR BARBRI BAR REVIEW COURSE

Also, do not hesitate on registering for your BARBRI bar review course and taking advantage of a locked-in tuition rate. Once you are enrolled, you have time to figure out the logistics of the bar review course location to attend, as well as all the online bar review study resources available.

Despite everything you have going on, try to enjoy your last year of law school. You will not ever have this time back. For most graduating students, work will continue for the rest of your life. Remain in touch with the good friends you have made and soak in all the knowledge you are gaining while you have it!

Don’t Stress. Take Control of Bar Exam Fees.

By Hadley Leonard,
BARBRI Legal Education Advisor

Studies show most law school students won’t begin thinking about the bar exam until their last year. That might mean that you, on the verge of said final year, are feeling the creep of anxiety from the looming expenses: the fees for sitting for the exam, the balance on their bar review account, the living expenses during bar studying. Then the panic begins to set in – where is all this money going to come from?

Create a budget

Budgeting is maybe the least glamorous work in the English language. But it’s also one of the most effective and proven ways to manage financial challenges. No one has ever had fun sitting down in front of Excel and allocating out their income or financial reserves to food, rent and savings. Those who do, however, sleep better at night, in control of where their money is going, rather than their money being in control of where they are going.

Find areas to cut back

After looking at your budget, try to find where you can eliminate spending. I know we all feel like we can’t possibly do this, but really you can. The easiest areas are eating out and entertainment expenses. A good strategy for cutting back: plan to eat out one meal per week. And skip the specialty coffee pit-stops a few days a week. It all adds up.

Save

Determine how much you need to save, how much you need to spend each month in necessities and find an equilibrium. Put it on paper and stick to it. Make sure you start saving as soon as possible; it’s never too late. Whatever your income, save a little each week.

If you were to save only $25 a week, over the course of three years of law school, you would have accumulated almost $4,000. $25 a week is not noticeable; the balance you accumulate (plus interest) is.

BUDGETING PUTS YOU IN CONTROL

This may have been the most un-fun post you’ve read all week (and probably sounds like a lot of things your grandpa used to tell you), but there’s a reason people keep shelling out this advice. It works. Taking control of your income and financial reserves puts you in the driver’s seat and frees you up to invest in what’s best for your future.