Bar Applications Amidst COVID-19

The Bar Exam

[ Makenzie Way, 2020 Graduate at the University of Pennsylvania ]

Makenzie Way, 3L Graduate at the University of Pennsylvania

This was a BIG week for me.

For starters, I officially graduated from law school (goodbye forever issue spotter exams). And then to top it off, I submitted my application for the D.C. bar.

If you’ve followed my law school journey thus far you may be saying “hold up! D.C.? What happened to Boston?” Well, the short answer is COVID-19 happened, that’s what.

In early January I spent a good chunk of my school printing credits printing out the  Massachusetts bar exam application. Unlike many states, Massachusetts conducts its own Character and Fitness test, thus the lengthy application. By the beginning of March my application was complete and sitting in a sealed envelope ready to be mailed when BOOM bar exam delays.

With test dates up in the air, Massachusetts, along with many other UBE states, paused the acceptance of applications. Thus, my beautiful application packet continued to rest, waiting for the day when it could be mailed in. But wait, things got more complicated still.

In late April, Massachusetts announced that they would be giving priority status to applicants who had attended law school in-state and were sitting for their first OR second time; priority status was combined with limited seating capacity. This decision wasn’t unique to Massachusetts, many states followed suit, and I’m sure it’s a decision that has impacted a lot of you. For me personally, this caused some major panic, since of course, I had attended school out-of-state. It seemed unfair that my choice to attend a higher ranked school outside of Massachusetts was now going to impact the career path in Boston that I had spent the last five years working towards … but that’s the way the world works apparently.

After a quick descent into hysterics that my mother promptly dragged me out of, I realized that it was time to take action. I compiled a list of the UBE states whose application deadlines, or late-filing deadlines, hadn’t yet passed, as well as the requirements for each and the associated costs. I ended up with a handful of potential states, including: New Jersey, New Hampshire, District of Columbia, Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts.

Working my way through this list I realized a few important things that may be helpful to anyone else stuck in this boat:

  1. Some states, like New Hampshire, do not allow courtesy seating. What that means practically speaking is you cannot sit for the UBE in New Hampshire if you have no intention of being a registered attorney in New Hampshire. Other states, allow you to transfer your UBE score to any UBE state. Takeaway: make sure the state you register in is either the state you’re planning to work in or a state that allows score transfers.
  2. Many smaller states have limited seating, for instance, Connecticut. Practically speaking that meant my chances of receiving a seat in those states were lower, and thus my cost-benefit analysis had to shift accordingly. Takeaway: if you have a smaller budget, take into consideration the number of seats available versus your priority status when deciding where to apply.
  3. Multiple states have priority seating, for instance: Massachusetts’s priority is for local students, Connecticut’s priority is for local students and students from select Massachusetts schools, and DC’s priority is for recent ABA graduates writing the UBE for the first time. Takeaway: try to apply to states where you’re in the first tier.
  4. Each state has its own unique application process, and they vary with regard to their usage of the NCBE’s character and fitness test, recommendation letter requirements, notarization, and pro bono hours requirements. Takeaway: Make sure you meet the requirements before submitting an application – in most states, application fees are nonrefundable.
  5. Application costs vary greatly between the states. Takeaway: Create a budget and prepare for potential cost increases.

For me personally, New York got discarded because I hadn’t completed the necessary pro bono affidavits and didn’t have time to do them. New Jersey then got discarded because it seemed likely they would receive an influx of applications from worried New York applicants. Finally, Connecticut and New Hampshire got discarded because of their small size, and priority status decisions. Thus, I made the decision to apply to D.C. where I was tier one priority and to apply to Massachusetts when their application opens as a plan B if necessary.

My decision was made *small sigh of relief* but I wasn’t finished yet. Now I had to navigate the D.C. application process. The first thing I noticed is how outdated many of these websites are – it’s 2020, it seriously should not be so difficult to find the information you’re looking for. After awarding myself a Ph.D. in website navigation, I figured out that the D.C. bar application would open on May 18th, that I needed to submit the NCBE Character and Fitness application (but not receive the results) before submitting my UBE application, and that I would need to submit and receive the law school certification form from my university since unlike many states, D.C. does not accept forms submitted on behalf of students by law school officials.

Law school certificate emailed ✓

Now, for the Character and Fitness test.

If you haven’t already completed the NCBE application, be prepared to tell them every minuscule detail about your life from the time you turned 18 until the present day. It took me approximately a day and a half since I needed to track down the contact information for my supervisors from my college jobs; but alas, I clicked submit and then nearly threw up when the $400 price tag flashed in front of my eyes. I quickly reminded myself that if all went well and I got accepted then, (a) it was more than worth it, and (b) my firm would reimburse me.

Next step: UBE Application

Stress levels through the roof, I set an alarm for every hour on the hour from midnight until the application finally opened at 8 am. I expected the application to be grueling, similar to my Massachusetts application which required formatted reference letters, and an attorney signature. In a pleasant turn of events, the application was pretty straight forward. Having already completed the mind-numbing NCBE application, the D.C. UBE application took approximately 20 minutes, asking straightforward questions about when I graduate(d), where I attended law school, my academic conduct during law school, etc. The cost was also relatively low, clocking in around $230 when all was said and done.

After clicking submit and holding my breath while my subpar internet loaded the next page, I was told that my application had been successfully uploaded and would now be forwarded to the committee who would make the final acceptance decision. No real time frame was given, but the confirmation email that I later received said, if successful, I would receive my ticket number and additional information in August. Fingers crossed I hear back before then because if not, I’ll have to decide whether to eat the cost and apply for both D.C. and the Massachusetts offerings to be extra sure that get a seat for the September test.

So, in summary, the takeaway here for anyone in my shoes is this:

  • Research states with open applications: create a list and include any relevant application requirements, deadlines, and costs
  • Create a budget to determine how many states you can realistically apply to, should you want to apply to multiple to be safe.
    • Remember, UBE scores can be transferred, so if you get a seat in a state that allows courtesy seating, you can transfer the score to your desired state later on; meaning, you only need to sit for the UBE once.
  • Complete the NCBE Character and Fitness application ASAP if you’re unsure where you’re applying. They have state-specific applications and a general one for this reason. Include this cost in your budget and give yourself a full day to complete it.
  • Apply as early as possible, even if you are in the first-priority class, to maximize your chances of being accepted.
  • Update your BARBRI bar exam profile, and inform your employer of any changes to your UBE plans.
    • Don’t worry, you don’t require new BARBRI bar books if you’re taking the UBE in a different jurisdiction, the books are the same!
  • Try to stay positive!

Reflections of a Law Student

[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]

My time as the BARBRI Life of a 3L blogger has come to an end, as has my time as a law student – but don’t worry, you can continue to follow my adventures as the BARBRI bar prep blogger.

As I prepare to virtually walk across the stage, I’ve found myself reflecting on my law school experience; both the good and the bad. There are memories that I wince at, and things I would have done differently if I were to revisit them now, but ultimately, I am happy with how I conducted myself in law school. To that end, I’ve put together a list of my recommendations – feel free to take them with a grain of salt, after all, I’m no expert.

Maintain a Balance

My friend group enjoying a much-needed spa night/birthday celebration in 2L

I chose to prioritize friendships and family over my academics. I lost my brother during my first semester of law school, and it radically changed my outlook on life. Prior to his death, I viewed grades as the most important thing – so important that I once broke down in tears in my university library over a poor paper grade. After his passing, I realized that there are more important things in life – when all is said and done, can you really say that getting straight A’s is what you’ll remember about your life? For me, it’s not.

That is not to say I didn’t apply myself, because I did. Like any law student, I experienced late nights studying, grueling cold calls, and an overflowing calendar. However, I am glad my outlook shifted, because funnily enough, it made me a better law student (and person) in the end.

I would urge any current or aspiring law student to take a long hard look at their work-life balance. To a large degree, I think we as law students have a tendency to buy into this notion that we need to be absolutely perfect or no one is going to want to employ us. And sure, to an extent that is true – I don’t recommend skimming through by any means. But I also think it’s important to remember that we’re only human, and it’s okay to prioritize your relationships and wellbeing over your academic pursuits from time to time; it’s okay to say spend thanksgiving not studying, and it’s okay to take a mid-day nap instead of heading to the library. You need to find a balance that works for you, or you’ll burn yourself out.

Special shout out to this girl right here: meeting you was the best part of law school. .

Foster Lasting Friendships

Without a doubt, the best part of my entire law school experience is the friendships I made. I can’t imagine what my law school experience would be like without them, but I know it would have been a struggle. These amazing people sent me care packages when my brother passed away; they made sure I had notes and study aids when I was too depressed to actually study on my own; they helped me move my belongings from state-to-state for summer jobs, and pack my apartment when, due to COVID-19, I was stuck outside the US; and so much more. These are the people that cheered me on during cold calls, inspired me to expand my research interests through their own passions, and blessed me with so many happy memories. So thank you to each and every one of you, and most especially, to my 1L roommate and legal bestie – you all amaze me.

Between orientation events, pre-assigned 1L sections, and the plethora of events, law school makes it easy for you to make friends. That said, I strongly recommend you move beyond those pre-arranged social events. Look outside of your section, and your year for friendships, join student organizations and pro bono projects, or take a trip with law students.

Develop Relationships With Your Professors

If I could go back and re-do one thing in law school, I would focus on developing deeper relationships with a wider range of professors. I came into law school with a solid idea of where I wanted my career to go, and because of that, I focused on establishing relationships with a targeted subset of the faculty. But, now that I’m beginning to look towards the bar and further graduate studies, I do wish I’d gotten to know some of the other professors at my university on the same level.

I took one course, one independent study, and formed NALSA with Professor Blackhawk (to my left). Thank you for all the support and guidance!

There’s a number of ways that you can establish lasting relationships with professors, the most obvious being course enrollment. If you’re unable to enroll in multiple courses with a professor, you can also serve as their research assistant, ask them to coffee to discuss their area of study, join the journal or group that they chair, do an independent study with them, etc. Regardless of how you do it, make sure to connect with at least a handful of professors – you’ll

need them for reference letters for jobs, the bar application, graduate school applications, etc.

Attending a conference on ADR in Tokyo, Japan, with Professor Feldman in 1L.

Make your own outlines

During the first semester of 1L, I really bought into the idea of shared outlines, passed down from previous classes. Some of my friends still swear by it, but for me, it simply did not work in my favor because I benefit from the process of re-reading and re-organizing my notes. Admittedly, I did find shared outlines useful as references – especially during cold calls – but I would recommend that all law students take the time to craft their own unique outline.

The trick I used to make outlining less of a cumbersome ordeal was to start outlining from the beginning. I made use of the table of contents feature in word, and the different headers, to organize my notes as I took them. After each section of the course came to a close I would go back through my notes and make modifications. This helped keep the contents fresh in my mind, and cut down on time when reading week rolled around.

Study how you want, not how you’re told

Similar to outlining, I realized early on that study groups were not for me – which, realistically, was not a surprise since they had never worked for me before. I think the law school environment has a way of pushing students towards certain study methods, which can be harmful to those students who benefit from alternative study methods. I tried to avoid this pressure during my years as a law student, but it was tough at times.

Penn Women’s Ice Hockey Team

Branch out From the Law School

Law students have a way of relating to one another; collectively, we all understand the legal world and the struggles associated with law school, and that can be comforting. Two of the best things I did during my time as a law student were non-law school-related; namely, joining a campus-wide event planning group, and joining the university hockey team. Each of these endeavors allowed me to meet people outside of the law school sphere, which greatly added to my overall experience.

Presenting my final paper for a course on women’s rights to UN WomenNot only is it a good idea to make friends outside of the law school for your own mental wellbeing (sometimes you just need a break from all things law-related), but it’s also a good long-term ‘strategy.’ One of my mentors once told me that the key to being a successful lawyer is being a good networker. You may not view it as networking at the time, but attending non-law school-specific events, making friends with people from other departments or schools, and generally branching out from the law school bubble is a great way to begin expanding your social network.  For instance, through my hockey team, I met a Ph.D. student who, without knowing it, inspired me to apply to a Ph.D. program of my own.

Take Courses That Inspire you

In 1L you really don’t have much choice regarding the courses you take, but in 2L and 3L it’s pretty much a free for all. When 2L course selection rolled around I struggled between enrolling in courses that would be on the bar, and enrolling in courses that were interesting to me personally. Ultimately, I elected to enroll in the courses that inspired me, which, I think was the right choice. I noticed that compared to 1L, I was more energized in 2L and 3L because I was actually excited to attend class. And, since the topics aligned with my interests, I was able to get better grades and write papers that I went on to publish. This strategy also enabled me to create more meaningful relationships with a number of professors and students.

The majority of my pro bono efforts focused on animal rights!

Do Pro Bono Early

I jumped on the pro bono bandwagon within my first months of 1L; by the time I finished 2L I had completed the requisite number of pro bono hours for my university, meaning I could enter 3L (relatively) stress-free.

In 1L I focused on small non-time consuming projects with a few select pro bono groups that interested me. Working on these projects in 1L was a great supplement to my legal writing course; it helped me hone my researching and legal writing skills, and was a great benefit during my 1L summer. Additionally, by beginning my pro bono work early, I felt like I had more freedom to pick and choose assignments that were of interest to me since I didn’t feel pressured to rack up a certain number of hours in a relatively limited time span.

Obviously, you should take things at your own pace, especially since 1L grades are some of the most important grades of your entire law school career. That said, if by the time second semester rolls around, you feel confident enough to take on a few small projects, I say go for it! Alternatively, if you don’t feel comfortable balancing pro bono and 1L courses, I know a number of my friends completed a significant portion of their pro bono hours during their 1L summer.

Budget for a Social Life

I have an irrational – or perhaps very rational – fear of debt. In college, I balanced a heavy course load with two jobs to avoid taking out loans. Unfortunately, the price tag for my law school made it impossible to avoid federal loans, so I opted to live in a cheaper part of the city and limit my outings and Uber rides.

My 1L law school schedule basically consisted of walking to-and-from university, cooking at home, and attending only the most popular events. This was a great strategy in terms of saving money, but I felt like I was missing out on the social aspect of law school. Thus, I re-configured my law school budget for 2L to allow me to attend bar reviews, and partake in a few school trips – my experience that year was SO much better. In 3L, I finally took the plunge and moved into the city, and though it was short-lived thanks to COVID-19, I have to say, I was very happy for those few months.

Looking back at my quality of life in 1L, I wish I had been a little more flexible with my budget from the start. Not only did broadening my social sphere and changing my living conditions help me to socialize more and have a more well-rounded law school experience, it also brought me more joy and helped me mentally as well.

2019 I-trek trip
Participating in the 2019 I-trek trip with a group of Penn Law students

Looking back: My law school highlights over three years

Harvard Law School

[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]

Today, I attended my last law school class, and it finally hit me: after next week, I will no longer be a law student. The realization is bittersweet: I’m ready to be finished with law school, I’m ready to start the next chapter of my life; but I’ll also miss my friends … the familiarity of it all … my campus.

You might say I’ve been feeling a little sentimental these past few days, so it only seemed fitting to take you down memory lane with me. As a 1L it can be hard to look past the intensity of the coursework and the grading curve, but as a 3L I’m able to look back over my three years and see all the good that I have experienced. So, without further delay, here are my highlights.

Orientation Dinner 2017
(Orientation Dinner 2017)

All the Orientation Events:

I’ve always found orientation programming to be awkward and somewhat unnecessary. I’m an introvert, so I’m not a huge fan of mingling with strangers – the feeling held true during my law school orientation. That said, looking back at it, I’m really appreciative that my law school made attendance at orientation mandatory because the bulk of my close friendships were formed at orientation.

Barristers’ Ball:

I studied abroad during my 3L fall semester, so I only attended two barrister ball events during my time as a law student, but they were still amazing. The event itself may have been somewhat disappointing – I always picture Gatsby, but let’s be real, no school can afford to throw a party like that. But the opportunity to see my classmates outside of the classroom, all dolled up with their significant others, and ready to socialize in a non-oppressive setting, was truly refreshing, especially as a 1L.

Barristers Ball
(Barristers’ Ball 1L and 2L)
Final 1L Class
(Final 1L Class)

Receiving 1L Grades:

An odd one right? Usually, when law students think back to 1L exams their thoughts are filled with dread, and trust me, mine are too. But, I also remember that glorious moment when I pressed submit on my final exam of 1L. I remember the minute I received my final grade of 1L and realized that I’d actually done it; I had survived 1L. For me, I don’t think I really believed that I had what it takes to succeed in law school until I saw those little letters on my transcript.

Joining the Hockey Team:

Law school isn’t necessarily seen as a ‘sporty’ place, but the world is what you make it. Sports have always encompassed a huge part of my routine, I’ve been a competitive hockey player since I learned how to walk. I was recruited to play for the Penn Women’s ice hockey team in November of my 1L year, and it was a blessing. The smell of a hockey rink in the wee hours of the morning has an insane calming effect on me (maybe it’s a Canadian thing); practices and games became my therapy and helped me keep my head on straight.

Joining a Hockey Team
(Left: Penn Women’s Ice Hockey Goaltenders. Right: Hockey Team)
Summer Job
My 1L Summer Job: I LOVED my 1L job – like seriously, I loved the people, I loved the work, I loved the clients … I just really, really loved it. I had worked in legal settings before, but this job really solidified that I had made the right career choice.

My 1L Summer Job:

I LOVED my 1L job – like seriously, I loved the people, I loved the work, I loved the clients … I just really, really loved it. I had worked in legal settings before, but this job really solidified that I had made the right career choice.

Spring Break:

With the exception of 3L, which was filled with the uncertainty of COVID-19, my spring breaks have been absolutely fantastic. During 1L I attended a conference in Tokyo, Japan, with a small group of law students. Not only did this give me a chance to further explore one of my favorite cities in the world, but I also made international friendships that have lasted well beyond that one week. Likewise, in 2L, I participated in I-trek with a group of Penn Law students – it was honestly one of the best weeks of my life. I highly recommend taking at least one programmed spring break during your time as a law student.

Spring Break during law school
(Penn Law Transnational Program Participants; Tokyo, Japan)

Softball Tournament:

If your university participates in the infamous softball tournament at UVA, go to it. It doesn’t matter if your athletic, or if you’ve never held a baseball bat before in your life … well, maybe it does if your school participates competitively. I am admittedly terrible at softball (yes dad, I finally admit it), BUT the softball tournament is so much more than what happens on the field. In reality it’s one big party for law students from across the country.

My 2L Summer Associateship:

After loving my 1L summer in public interest so much, I was somewhat worried that I wouldn’t fit in well at my big law firm; thankfully, I was wrong. When I pictured my career as a lawyer, I pictured myself practicing in big law; it felt amazing to have that dream come true. I accepted my offer for post-graduation, but even if you don’t, there’s no denying that the summer programming in big law is superb. You’ll gain at least ten pounds from all the food and alcohol, but they more than makeup for that by planning extravagant outings.

(Women’s Association Event: Proskauer)

3L Study Abroad:

If there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I live to travel. If I could get paid to just travel the world and explore new cultures, I would throw my law degree to the wind. In fact, part of the reason I wanted to become a lawyer in the first place was the flexibility the career offered in terms of traveling (in big law, we have offices all over the globe, and we get opportunities to visit those offices from time-to-time. Plus, US law degrees are transferable, meaning you can seek entry into a range of countries after a few years of practice). Taking that into consideration, it should come as no surprise that spending the fall semester of my 3L year in London filled me with insurmountable joy.

Graduation:

It hasn’t happened yet, but call my psychic because I know my graduation (the real in-person one, not the virtual slideshow) is going to be the topper on the cake that is law school.

What have your highlights been so far? Let me know on Instagram!

College Grad
(Since I didn’t get law school photos, here are my grad photos from my masters)

Graduation Gift Ideas

Graduation Gift Ideas

[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]

So the time has finally come, your favorite law student is about to graduate and you have no idea what to buy them! With commencement ceremonies being pushed online, and in-person ceremonies being postponed, the law student in your life is sure to appreciate any gift you decide to give them … that said, if you want it to be something extra good, or extra useful, here are few ideas!

  1. Every aspiring lawyer needs a nice briefcase to tote their belongings and casefiles around. Try to stick to long-lasting materials like leather, and neutral colors, to ensure your soon-to-be-attorney gets the most use of it.
  2. Scrounging around in your purse or pockets for a business card isn’t very professional. Save your soon-to-be-lawyer from the embarrassment and buy them a business cardholder. Bonus points if it’s engraved with their school name or their initials.
  3. Diploma frames are expensive ($150 – $300), and yet they’re almost universally wanted by graduating students. Reach out to your law grad and offer to purchase, or pitch in, for the diploma frame.
  4. The most classic gift of all might be the whiskey tumbler and decanter set, or wine glasses.
  5. If your grad isn’t a big drinker, you can also buy some fun coffee mugs and/or travel mugs – trust me, we like our caffeine.
  1. Business attire! We’re all going to have to wear it, and you can really never have too much. Make sure to get a gift receipt in case something doesn’t fit, or go the safe route and buy an accessory like a tie.
  2. Speaking of business attire, what’s one staple of the American lawyer’s outfit? A watch. Sure, your law grad may have an apple watch, but do they have a nice professional looking watch? If not, consider gifting them one for graduation.
  3. Books. What law student doesn’t like books? This idea is pretty broad, you can go the legal route and buy them a Barnes and Noble collectible edition of the Constitution – it will look lovely on a bookshelf – or you can go the sentimental route and buy them ‘Oh, the places you will go’ or you can even buy them a book of legal jokes. The world is yours.
  1. You can never go wrong with a gift card, especially during this new virtual (and online) reality we’re all living in. Same goes for cash.
  2. Your soon-to-be-lawyer will likely appreciate a funny, or puny, legal t-shirt. It can serve as their bar studying attire.
  1. If you’re really feeling the funny gifts, and I mean why not, we could all use a good laugh right now. Consider putting together an entire care package. Grab your puny t-shirt, your favorite law inspired mug, a book of law jokes, and a few extras, like this fantastic ‘divorce papers’ scented candle, and gavel foam stress toy (great for bar studying stress).
The Smell of DivorceStress Gavel

BONUS: BARBRI has some cool stuff on Zazzle.com — zazzle.com/barbri 

Binge worthy TV shows that are not about the law

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

This post started out as a list of great books to binge instead of studying for exams, but then I remembered that we are all exhausted law students who probably need a break from all the reading. I am so glad to live in this golden age of television. Even after being house-bound for 41 straight days, I have neither run out of incredible things to read nor truly excellent television to watch.

I try not to watch legal shows during the semester, just so that I can remember that there is a life outside of the law. Here are some binge-worthy shows that have nothing (or almost nothing) to do with law school, or the bar, or courtrooms, or anything of the sort.

The Shows I watched in One Sitting

  1. Avenue 5 (Amazon) – This is a show that I didn’t know I needed until I watched all of it. Hugh Laurie plays the captain of a gigantic luxury spaceship owned by Josh Gad’s character, who seems to have a dangerously low IQ. If that isn’t enticing enough, about halfway through the first season, the ship becomes enveloped in a literal cloud of feces that are stuck in its gravitational pull.
  2. Bad Omens (Amazon) – Have we talked about how much I love David Tenant? Not yet? Oh, well, I love David Tenant. Just look at that face. He is the central figure in several of my favorite shows and plays a disturbingly un-disturbing villain in Marvel’s Jessica Jones. Anyway, this television version of the Neil Gaiman book is thrilling and hilarious and so, so smart.
  1. Barry (HBO) – Bill Hader as a contract killer turned actor. Let me just repeat that: Bill Hader as a contract killer turned actor.

British Shows that Outrank Almost All American Counterparts

  1. Miranda (Hulu) – This is perhaps the most underrated show ever made. It is probably the only show I’ve ever watched that has made me laugh out loud multiple times while I was watching it by myself. Perks: Tom Ellis is in it.
  2. Killing Eve (Hulu) – Female assassins, government conspiracies, Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, and written and created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. On top of that, it has one of the most unique soundtracks I have ever heard.

Honorable Mention: Dr. Who and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, because obviously.

Shows From the Great Age of Streaming Services

  1. Atlanta (Hulu) – If I had the time and energy to rank every TV show I have ever watched, oh wait. I do. This is one of the top five shows I have ever watched, and I don’t just say that because I have a huge crush on Donald Glover.
  2. The Whole Netflix Marvel Franchise, but mostly Daredevil (Netflix… obviously) – Daredevil technically is about two lawyers (Nelson and Murdoch, Attorneys at Law), but its mostly about a blind superhero who fights big boss crime lords in Hell’s Kitchen.
  3. The Mandalorian (Disney +) – I haven’t actually watched The Mandalorian, because I am a little burned out on Star Wars honestly, but I hear it is absolutely fantastic.

NBC-esque Comedies

  1. Brooklyn 99 (Hulu) – Ok so this one is about the law in that it all takes place in a police precinct, but let’s be really honest. It is actually about Terry Crews’ affinity for yogurt and about elaborate heists that can apparently happen in the precinct because no one is ever working?
  2. 30 Rock (Hulu) – We are all Liz Lemon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The Good Place (Netflix or Hulu) – I cried like a baby when The Good Place ended. It was so smart and so funny, and Ted Danson is the 6,000-foot tall fire squid demon that I have always wanted.

Honorable Mentions: New Girl (Netflix) and Jane the Virgin (Netflix): I hated New Girl when it first came out. Jess, the main character, seemed like a hot and whiny mess. Then I entered the era of my late twenties and found a whole new appreciation for a good leather couch to cry on. Jane the Virgin is very polarizing, I know, but I really love its self-aware absurdity, its telenovela love triangles, and its strong, if often confused, female leads. I also love shows that manage to be bilingual without isolating watchers, which I think this show does particularly well.

I hope you are all hanging in during these last few weird weeks before exams. Let me know what your favorite binge shows are on Instagram and Twitter @the1lLife (unless its Tiger King, and then please just don’t).

The idea of taking a break: Should you stay, defer or restart?

[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]

This past week I had the amazing opportunity to virtually connect with my fellow BARBRI bloggers – we spent time getting to know one another, and talking about our individual law school experiences.

The paths that we each took to get to law school, and our reasons for wanting a law degree, were so different that it surprised me to find out that we all shared one very unique experience. Each of us, for our own reasons, had to consider whether to defer (or withdraw) from our legal studies. Even more interesting, we each ended up making different decisions with one of deciding to stay, one of withdrawing and restarting their 1L year during the following academic year, and one of us deferring before matriculating.

Deferring and withdrawing aren’t topics that routinely discussed amongst law students; maybe because it’s relatively rare (we think), or maybe because there’s some degree of stigma attached to (which is stupid). Either way, we all agreed that there was a significant lack of information available to help guide us through the decision making process.

It’s not an easy decision – trust me, I know. But sometimes deferring or withdrawing is necessary whether it be for medical reasons, family reasons, mental health reasons, financial reasons, or simply because you want to pursue another avenue or opportunity first. Whatever your reasoning, if you’re considering deferring or withdrawing, with the intention of returning, here are some things we think you should know, based on our collective experience.

Deferring Before Matriculation

  • In order to secure scholarship money and awards, schools will require that you sign a binding contract guaranteeing that when you return to law school, you will return to theirs.
  • It can be tempting to reserve your placement offer and awards with certain schools, however, if it isn’t your absolute dream school you should consider the fluctuating nature of acceptances. You may get into different schools on your second go-around (especially if you re-take the LSAT or pursue career and/or academic ventures). Likewise, you may receive more funding.
  • 1L is hard – law school is hard – so being in the best mental, emotional, physical, etc. state is very important. So, if you have a reason to be worried about your ability to succeed in law school (beyond the general concerns that every incoming 1L has) deferring may be right for you.

Deferring and/or Withdrawing During 1L

  • Your health and wellbeing is the most important thing, don’t let fear over what people will think or say stop you from doing what’s best for you. But at the same time, remember that there are resources available to you if you’re struggling or feeling overwhelmed. That is to say, you don’t have to stay because people tell you to, nor do you need to leave because you feel like you’re not succeeding.
  • Prepare yourself to not come back. It’s incredibly hard to return to your legal studies when you know just how hard 1L really is. The momentum and excitement that you have before entering law school, before experiencing law school, may be gone, and that could impact your motivation to return.
    1. Having a solid understanding of why you want to pursue a legal degree is extremely helpful in terms of motivating yourself to return.
    2. Likewise, acknowledging that law school gets better after 1L is useful to overcome any dread you might feel.
  • It’s a bit socially awkward when you return. If you’ve watched greys anatomy, then it’s a bit like George when he fails his intern exam. You’ll have connections with your former classmates who are now 2L’s and 3L’s, but you’ll also be placed in a 1L section and expected to bond with them. The 1L’s around you will be experiencing everything anew, whereas you’ll be experiencing it for the second time, this may lead to some complications when it comes to forming a relationship.
  • Relatedly, you may be becoming the person that 1L’s come to for help, since they may form an expectation that you know more than them. This can be a bit overwhelming at times, but it goes away eventually.
  • According to your school, your scholarships may, or may not, be impacted. Make sure to check early on.

Overall, our advice is to ignore the social stigmas and do what’s best for you. We each made different decisions when it came to continuing our legal studies, and yet here we all are, making our way through our JD degrees.

Four “shocking yet useful” things you may not know about Zoom

Schools Using Zoom for Classes

[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]

Zoom has officially taken over our classrooms, and 98% of our social interactions. To anyone who purchased stock in Zoom pre-COVID-19,  I applaud you.

By now, you likely have a pretty decent understanding of how Zoom works and the basic do’s and don’ts  — i.e. do mute yourself when you’re not speaking;  don’t leave your video on during your bathroom break.

But alas, there’s always more to learn, so here are four shocking and/or useful Zoom facts.

1. Attendee Attention Tracking

Raise your hand if you knew that meeting hosts (aka your supervisor or professor) have a sneaky little feature called Attendee Attention Tracking – I certainly didn’t.

Basically, the feature enables hosts to see when participants spend 30 seconds or longer on another window. So, if you’ve been ‘stealthily’ perusing Facebook during class, your professor probably knows.

2. Quick Unmute

There’s really nothing worse than scrambling to click the little microphone button in the corner of the screen to unmute yourself during your virtual cold call. To make your life easier, simply hold the spacebar on your computer’s keyboard to unmute yourself – just remember to put yourself back on mute once you’re finished.

3. Virtual Backgrounds

Some of us are lucky enough to have home offices or clean white walls, others of us have studio apartments and piles of laundry. If you’re too lazy to clean, conscious of your privacy, or simply just want to have a little fun, you should consider trying out Zoom’s virtual backgrounds. Some law schools have even uploaded their own backgrounds to make you feel right at home.

4. Beauty Filter

You may not be looking your absolute best while in quarantine – and who can really blame you – but Zoom has you covered should you want to at least appear put together for your classmates. By using the ‘Touch up my Appearance’ feature, your video will display with a soft-focus, which is supposedly meant to cover imperfections. Admittedly, I’ve never used it, so I’m not sure of the logistics behind getting it up and running, but there is a Zoom support page about it.

Virtual tips and shortcuts when using 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.

Passing Time While Self-Isolating

Learn Some New Cooking Skills

[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]

The world seems to be falling to pieces around us: our campuses are shut, classes are online, we’re being told to self-isolate and quarantine where possible, and to practice social distancing when engaging with the public.

Now, as a law student, there have been times that I have literally dreamed of being trapped in my bedroom for days on end to partake in lengthy Netflix binges and much-needed nap sessions. But, after only four days of being confined solely to my childhood bedroom (aside from the occasional bathroom break) because of my recent travels, I have to admit I’m beginning to go a little stir crazy.

If, like me, you are questioning how to survive the boredom resulting from the necessary measures to combat the further spread of the Coronavirus, then read along as I reveal some interesting – and free – resources that you can utilize to help pass the time.

Virtual Museums

1.   “Go” to the museum

While the museums themselves are all, for the large part, closed due to the social distancing requirements, many notable museums have launched FREE virtual tours. Travel and Leisure has a fantastic article outlining all of your virtual museum options, which you can access here. My personal favorites from their list include the following:

  • British Museum: where you can view hundreds of artifacts, Egyptian mummies, and the ancient Rosetta stone.
  • National Gallery of Art: featuring two online exhibits; one highlighting 17th and 18th-century American fashion, and the other showing works from Johannes Vermeer.
  • Van Gogh Museum: showcasing countless works from the famous painter himself as well as hundreds of personal letters.

2.   Netflix Party and Games

You may be physically distanced from your friends and family, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. Technology (thankfully) allows us to host gatherings from the comfort of our own self-isolated bubble.

If you’re in the mood for a movie, try using Google Chrome’s Netflix Party extension, where you can sync your screen with friends and share snarky comments via the chat feature.

If, on the other hand, you’re feeling more of a game night, then head on over to the following Boston Culture article for lots of virtual game night options – including the oh so popular Settlers of Catan and Monopoly.

3.   Get a workout in

Gyms may be closed but many fitness centers are offering virtual workouts for members, or for free to the general population. For instance, CorePower Yoga is offering On Demand yoga and KIC gym is offering virtual workouts on Wednesdays and Fridays. Check with your local gym providers to see if they are offering similar virtual services! Ps. If there are no offerings accessible to you then don’t forget to check out YouTube.

4.   Read all the books

Most academic libraries have begun making their resources available online, and many coursebook providers have agreed to make textbooks and study aids available for free. But don’t just limit yourself to academic reading, instead take advantage of this time to check off some of those novels that have been on your radar for ages – bonus points if you pick something by a self-published author since times are tough. And remember, Ebook sites have a great selection of free and low-cost books to choose from if you want to avoid going to the store.

5.   Work on your cooking skills

Since eating out is pretty much off the table right now, it is officially the ideal time to perfect your culinary skills – provided you can find the necessary ingredients amidst the frenzied bulk buying. YouTube has some fantastic cooking channels – such as the Rouxbe Online Cooking School – to help you achieve your dream meals.

International Law Student: Employment and Bar Exam Considerations

[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]

When I decided to attend an American law school I knew I would most likely be sitting for a US bar exam and accepting an employment offer in the states – it was simply a necessity if I wanted to be able to pay off my heavy student loans following graduation, since the Canadian legal pay is not equivalent to America’s in any way, shape, or form.

Now that I’m a 3L and graduation is just around the corner, the reality of what it means to stay in the USA is finally settling in – or should I say, slapping me in the face. Maybe I was naïve, but I expected the process to be more clear and much easier.

  1. First and foremost, if you’ve accepted an employment offer from a US employer you need to confirm their ability, and willingness, to sponsor you for a visa if you’re unable to secure one independently. Without appropriate sponsorship, your work visa options are severely limited.
  2. Once you’ve confirmed that your employer can, and will sponsor you, you need to then confirm what the application process looks like, and their involvement therein. I was under the impression that my firm would handle my visa forms for me, but unfortunately, that’s not the case, and it may not be the case for you – so check in now if you haven’t already.
  3. Unless you’ll be leaving America shortly after graduation and not returning anytime soon, except as a visitor, you’ll need to figure out what to do visa wise after graduation. You have 60 days after your F-1 visa expires to depart or obtain a new visa or depart, or 30 days for J-1 visa holders. You should consult with your school’s international office and your employer, but popular choices include the following:

a. OPT: you must apply for OPT before you graduate (it can take up to 3 months to be approved, so start now) and you do not need a job offer to apply. OPT lasts for a maximum of 12 months, and the OPT start date must be no later than 60 days after graduation. You are permitted to remain in OPT status for 90 days unemployed, after which time you either need to begin working in a legally relevant job, or depart the US within 60 days, or get a new visa.

b. H1B: you are not able to apply for an H1B visa independently, rather your employer must file a petition for you (meaning you must have a job offer). Getting a visa isn’t necessarily easy since there are caps and a hierarchy in play, but if you win one you’re able to stay on the visa for a total of six years.

c. NAFTA: Canadian and Mexican professional workers can stay for up to 3 years under TN nonimmigrant status with a job offer in an appropriate field. The application process is fairly straightforward.

Again, when it comes to visa applications make sure to consult your law school, your employer and/or an immigration attorney. Also, note that different visas have different policies relating to spousal visas.

  1. Annoyingly, many employers seem to be hesitant to give an exact start date for new hires. You may need to push your employer to set a start date, or at least provide a tentative start date for immigration purposes.
  2. In addition to permanent/temporary work visa considerations, you’ll also want to ensure that you have a visa in place for writing the bar exam. My university has advised me that as I Canadian I’m eligible to enter under a visitor visa for the week that I’ll be in the USA for the bar exam, but you’ll want to confirm based on your home country’s entry eligibility. No matter what status you’re entering under (unless it’s a permanent status) it’s a good idea to have your employment offer, a letter from your law school, and your bar registration forms on hand.
  3. Since there’s a chance you’ll be studying for the bar outside of the USA (which admittedly I hadn’t considered previously), you’ll need to ensure your bar course offers a sufficient online study option. Some also offer limited international course offerings so check into that.
  4. You can also expect the bar application process to be somewhat more complex since you’ll need to obtain international transcripts, language proficiency certifications, and in some states, provide access to your international criminal record, etc. alongside your American records.
  5. Once you’ve figured all that stuff out (a piece of cake, right), you’ll then have to figure out housing, banking, and taxes. The ability to get loans and mortgages from US banks can be limited for non-green cardholders, so keep this in mind when deciding whether to rent or buy. While we’re discussing banks, it’s also worth noting that if you have foreign loans that you need to pay regularly then you’ll want to consider the best way to make payments without paying high foreign transaction fees every time. Finally, switching from nonresident alien status for tax purposes, to a resident alien means you’ll have to submit different tax forms during the next tax season in the USA and you’ll need to apply for exemption from your home country’s taxes to avoid double taxation.