Fall Break = Self-care Time

Self Care

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

When I was a 1L, Fall break was a relief. I had just taken 3 midterms, and was exhausted like the rest of my fellow 1Ls! After I darted off to Vegas for a friend’s wedding, then traveled to the east coast for a baby shower. I remember also having to work on my memo because a first draft was due when we got back to school. While it was fun to see my friends, I didn’t really get a “break.”

This year, I am on fall break right now, and I took a completely different approach. I stayed home. Boring, I know, but it was what I needed. I also had a few summer and spring employment events to attend, so staying home was ideal, so I didn’t miss those.  But to be honest, I still would have stayed home!

Last year was too much between traveling, airport delays, and schoolwork for me to really relax, and since today is World Mental Health Day (October 10), I wanted to share my Fall break self-care tips.

Check-in with yourself!

No seriously. This seems like something obvious to do, but it’s surprising how often we ignore what is going around us or put things off that should be a personal priority. Ask yourself, what do I need right now at this moment? Today? This week? For me, school-related issues always come to mind first, then work, then family and friends, and then last, me. But fall break is a great time to put your needs first.

For example, before the semester started, I had started making plans for fall break, but then I remembered what I felt like last year, and I told everyone I would have to see what the midterms schedule would look like. Then as I thought about it more, I realized I would need some serious downtime.  Even though it would have been a ton of fun to visit Florida with friends, I would have been exhausted. I put “me” first, and while my friends were disappointed not to have me join them, they were 100% supportive. They even included me in their adventures through Facetime and Snapchat. It was fun to watch their adventures… from my couch!

Catch Up With Non-Law School Friends

I wasn’t completely self-sequestered during fall break. I also took the time to reach out to my non-law school friends to meet up for brunch, breakfast, and happy hours. During the school year, I find myself playing phone tag with many of my friends, so I made it a priority to connect with them this week, even if it was just by phone. It is always good to have a reminder of your “previous” life. Fall break is the perfect time to reconnect!

Take Time To Breathe!

Take Time to Breathe!

During each day, this could be something as simple as using the “Breathe” app on your apple watch, or if you don’t have a similar watch, just do the 4 – 7 – 8 breathing method. This is when you inhale for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and then breathe out for 8 seconds. Doing this helps lower your stress levels and can help you focus. Making a point to do this each day during fall break, can help make this become a habit, and can help during those stressful days at school. Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic about how breath can help you de-stress!

Change your Scenery

For some, fall break can be the perfect time to getaway. I loved watching my law school friends adventures in Hollywood, Sedona, Hong Kong, Paris, and New York… again from my couch. A change of scenery doesn’t mean you have to go far. It’s a great time to go for a hike, a day trip, or even a great drive. For me, I love driving, I love stargazing, and this week there were two meteor showers.  I could have taken a trip to Sedona or Flagstaff or even back down to Tucson, but I know of this perfect little place in Phoenix that has great views of the night sky. I drove there one night to catch the showers. It was perfect, and 100% relaxing!

Stars at night in Arizona

Start New Habits

Fall break is also a great time to put some new habits into place. I hate cooking. There I said it. However, this Fall break, I made it a goal to learn how to cook 3 new things that would be easy to make while I was down at school. It was simple, but this week gave me some time to experiment, and it was fun finding recipes I liked that I could master.

I think the big thing is that self-care doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and all of these things can be done during the school week. Fall break just provides a wonderful opportunity to focus on self-care!

What are your favorite self-care tips? Let me know over @The2LLife on Twitter or Instagram.

Legally Fantastic Halloween Costumes

Halloween Costumes

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

Fall is upon us, and you know what that means, right?

HALLOWEEN COSTUMES!!

Now, you could go as your favorite superhero or TV character, admittedly that’s what I normally do. But, if you’re looking to let your inner legal nerd out, below are some ideas to get you started!

1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Why not go as the queen herself, and no I don’t mean Beyoncé!

2. Judge: RBG not doing the trick for you? You can still grab a black robe and gavel and dress up as your favorite TV judge, movie Judge, or supreme court justice (or a judge plain and simple).

3. Elle Woods from Legally Blonde: Curly blond hair and a matching skirt suit or the classic pink dress are all you need to transform into this movie character!

Ruth Bader, Legally Blond and Hamilton Costumes

4. The Founding Fathers / Hamilton: Every law student knows about the founding fathers, just as nearly every law student wants to see the famous play, Hamilton. Why not grab some fitting apparel and dress up as one of them yourself?

5. Lady Justice: If you’ve ever wanted to hold to scales of justice, now is your time! A classically simple costume.

6. A Law Firm Billboard: Put your legal writing to work and transform yourself into one of those highway-legal billboards – just make sure not to violate the rules of professional conduct.

Salt and BatteryMy Cousin Vinny Costume7. ‘Salt and Battery’: A perfect couples or friends costume for those who love a good play on words.

8. My Cousin Vinny Character(s): Also a great couples costume – or as a solo costume. After all, what’s more iconic than Vinny’s stellar courtroom performance?

9. Law Student: For those of you who don’t have the energy or motivation to dress up, this is the perfect Halloween costume for you! Throw on some wrinkled clothes – bonus points if there’s a coffee stain somewhere on the shirt – forgo undereye concealer and let those dark circles shine, stick a BARBRI highlighter in your pocket, and a coffee cup in your hand and you’re ready to go.

Dealing with illness in Law School

Illness Law School

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

It would be nice if all of the difficult parts of life paused for the three years of law school, but obviously, that is not how it works. During my first semester of law school, I developed worsening neurological symptoms, extreme fatigue, and debilitating brain fog. I was limping to doctors and specialist appointments between classes and trying to fit in class readings while I was sitting in waiting rooms.

So what do you do when life circumstances, specifically illness, impede your ability to succeed in law school?

Look into accommodations

The process for applying for accommodations can be daunting, but definitely worthwhile. Typically you will need documentation from your treating physician that describes your situation and what accommodations you might need. If you become unexpectedly ill in the middle of the semester you will likely be able to get emergency accommodations that will be in place just through the remainder of the semester.

Get in touch with your school’s Office of Academic Engagement (or whatever the equivalent is) as soon as you think there might be an issue. They can help you figure out the next steps and point you to the resources that are available.

Find Someone you can talk to

Find someone to talk to

Mental health is a challenge in law school even without any other difficulties, but dealing with law school and then having illness or life circumstances on top can be crushing. If you can, find a counselor or therapist who specializes in the area of need. Chances are your university has a counseling department where you can either see a counselor or get a referral to an outside counselor.

Your doctor’s office may also have social workers or counselors who can help you navigate the complicated web of doctor visits, medical bills, illness, etc. Often these resources are not readily apparent, but if you know to ask, they are generally available.

Know when to walk away

When I got sick, I clung to finishing the semester as if my life depended on it. The stress of trying to finish, while experiencing worsening symptoms, ultimately just made me sicker. After two months of doctor’s appointments with no real answers as to why my health was declining so rapidly, I was finally forced to deal with the reality that there was no plausible way I could finish. (I was eventually diagnosed with Lyme Disease and after treatment am obviously back to school!)

Because I had been talking with our Office of Academic Engagement about accommodations and updating them on the progress of my situation, they were not surprised when I decided to withdraw. The process was still multi-step, though. You will likely need documentation from your physician, a written statement describing your situation, and some sort of official form submitted to the university. Be aware of the differences at your university between withdrawing and taking incompletes. There are sometimes financial considerations involved there in addition to the academic considerations.

Coming Back

Hopefully, you will never find yourself in a situation where you have to unexpectedly withdraw from law school. If you do, hopefully, your life circumstances will resolve and you will be able to come back, should you so choose.

Coming back is not without its own complications. If you were in school long enough to have made friends with any of your peers, it may be difficult to start over socially while all of your pals are taking seminars together and moving forward into their career paths.

Law School is a pressure cooker. If you withdrew because of illness, you may have residual or lingering symptoms or a chronic condition that is exacerbated by stress. You may have to say no to extracurriculars and social events that you would like to be involved in, for the sake of maintaining your health.

I know from experience that this is very difficult. There is a long list of things I would like to be involved in, but if I overdo it even a little bit or get less than 8 hours of sleep for just one night, my knees start hurting, my hands start trembling, and my brain just shuts down.

If you have a chronic illness, law school may be an isolating time for you. Everyone is tired and stressed, and the additional fatigue and stress you may feel because of your chronic illness may make you feel weak, incapable, or like you made the wrong decision in returning. Build up your support community – doctors, counselors, understanding friends, family – who can affirm that you are very capable. There are also some great resources and discussions on Reddit, through the NIH, and across the internet.

If you have withdrawn from Law School and returned, I’d love to hear from you. Or if you are trucking through law school with a chronic illness, I’d also love to hear from you (and offer all sorts of accolades and support)! If you have a story you’d like to share, resources that you’ve found helpful, or resources that you think need to exist but do not reach out on Twitter and Instagram @the1lLife! I’d love to hear from you.

Note: Mental illness and other difficult life circumstances may have similar impacts, and this post is about chronic illness because that is my experience.

The Law Students Guide to Thriving at Legal Conferences

Legal Conferences

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

Legal Conferences Preparation

Last year I had the opportunity to attend a legal conference in Washington DC as a representative of my journal. It was an out-of-state conference and I wasn’t sure what to expect, or what to pack.

Since then, I’ve had the chance to attend multiple legal conferences on behalf of various student groups. With a handful of legal conferences under my belt, I’ve begun to understand how best to prepare and conduct yourself when faced with such an event.

Conduct

When it comes to conduct, you should treat a legal conference much like you would treat a law firm networking event. Attendees, ranging from professionals to academics, will judge your group, journal or school based on your conduct. So much like a firm event, you need to put your best face forward. Furthermore, just like a firm networking event, it’s important to talk to a range of people throughout the conference to make a lasting impression and maximize your chances of securing relationships for your group (or yourself).

Who You Represent

Throughout the conference, you’ll want to make it clear who you’re representing (whether that be your school or a group), and subtly note that you’re available as a resource should they have any questions. That said, you don’t need to spend the entire time trying to sell yourself. There’s a thin line between self-promotion or group-promotion, and annoying the attendees around you – try not to cross it.

Be Forward

Finally, do be forward with attendees or speakers whom you find particularly enticing. It’s expected, and even complimentary, at a conference for student representatives to pull select people aside to express their group’s interest in working with them. You shouldn’t be overly pushy; rather, you need only state why it is you’re interested in them; why you believe they would be a good fit for your group; and how best to get in touch should they want to take you up on your offer.

Now that you’re ready to kill it at your next conference, see the packing lists below to make sure you’re fully prepared.

Legal Conferences
Businessman walking with his luggage

Suitcase Essentials

Assuming you’ll be heading out of the city, or the state, you’ll need to pack a small suitcase. If you know the dress code of your conference then you can alter the clothing to match that information. However, since often-times conferences have no official dress code, you’ll want to pack a range of formal and business casuals outfits.

For a three-day conference a base-line packing list should likely include the following:

One or Two Neutral Suits and Matching Dress Shirts:

  • Obviously, if the dress code says formal you’ll want to pack at least two suits. However, even if the dress code says casual, you don’t want to risk being underdressed. Bring at least one suit in case you need it, worst comes to worst you can remove the blazer, or you can wear it with your business casual outfits below when you’re feeling a little chilly.

Three Business Casual Outfits:

  • You’ll probably end up wearing these to the conference, but if not, you’ll likely want to change into them for evening social events with people you meet at the conference. Note, if you’re staying at the same hotel as the rest of the attendees you’ll also want to wear these when you’re wandering around the common areas since they really don’t need to see you in your sweatpants.
  • If you’re low on space, try to match your business casual shirts to your formal suit(s) to save yourself from having to pack three shirts as a backup in case the conference ends up being more formal.

Comfortable Dress Shoes:

  • Though conferences may seem like the perfect time to break in new shoes since you’ll be seated a fair amount, I strongly urge you not to wear something that you can’t stand/walk-in for a few hours? In between sessions, you’ll find yourself running to and from different rooms or buildings, and there will also be periods of standing when you’re expected to network. Don’t be that person asking for band-aids.

Comfortable Walking Shoes:

  • Staying on target, if you have to commute to the conference every day and don’t plan on taking an Uber, consider bringing a comfortable pair of sneakers or flats to walk to and from the conference in.
  • Bonus: if you’re athletic you’ll want to bring these anyways so you can take advantage of the hotel gym.

One Fancier Outfit:

  • Often conferences end with a “formal” event. Men can easily re-wear their black suits, while women may want to pack to a dress – though a suit is fine too!

One Spare Outfit:

  • I’m all for precise packing, but a conference is not the time to pack only three shirts. Just imagine, it’s day one, you’re eating breakfast at the hotel and BOOM you spill strawberry jam smack dab in the middle of your white shirt. Now you’re forced to wear the shirt you had planned for day two, meaning you’ll either need to re-wear a shirt, purchase a new one, or pay to wash it.

A Presentable Purse or Briefcase

  • Conferences come with a lot of handouts. You’ll want to have something more professional than your backpack to store them alongside your water bottle, wallet and other day-time necessities.

­­A Rain Jacket or Umbrella

  • I don’t care what the weather forecast is, do not go to a conference without a rain jacket or umbrella. Trust me, I was once the girl who got stuck in a torrential downpour without an umbrella on my way to an interview. Dripping hair and a see-through shirt is not a good professional look – learn from my mistakes.

Day-Bag Essentials

Whether you’re attending legal conferences on campus or three states over, you’ll want to bring a well-stocked bag to make it through the day. You know yourself best, but most conference attendees tend to pack the following:

  • Notebook and pen (preferably a presentable one)
  • Battery charger for your phone
  • Umbrella (see above)
  • Snacks – to tide you over between meal times
  • Water bottle
  • Business cards
    • If you have these then they’re a fantastic edition. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked for my card at a conference! Personally, I ordered a basic 100 pack from VistaPrint for around $6.
  • Tide To Go pen
  • Advil – because nothing’s worse than sitting through hours of speakers with a headache
  • Wallet, complete with a government photo ID and your student ID for registration

Do you have anything to add to the legal conferences’ packing list that I may have forgotten? Please share it with me on Twitter or Instagram: @The3Llife

FOMO: Knowing When To Say No

Fomo

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

FOMO Law Student Style

I think, as law students, we can suffer from a unique form of FOMO(osa)… the fear of missing out (on school-related activities). Unlike in the past where our FOMO might have been about social events, now, at least for me it has a focus on law school-related events, with a special emphasis on those special “gold star” law school opportunities like journal, moot & trial court, clinics, and similar activities.

We know that these activities are important for our resume building, in fact sometimes essential, depending on the sector we want to work in after graduation. Plus, we know how difficult it can be to earn these special “gold star” opportunities. For this reason, I think it can be unthinkable to turn down any of these opportunities. But sometimes we need to, and this is one of those moments for me.

As I talked to some of my fellow 2Ls, we talked about how difficult it was to navigate these decisions and how it could feel like a huge mistake if we didn’t say yes to every opportunity presented. The truth is, sometimes we need to say no. Here are some tips to help you navigate these experiences.

First, Be Honest With Yourself

Here, I was pretty sure I needed to say no. Not because I couldn’t take on the challenge, but just because it would be too much. But, as a first-generation student, I did not want to say “no” without realizing what I was saying no to. Does that make sense?

To be honest, this was a big step for me. I think it is hard to admit when you do not know something, which is why seeking advice is important. Then beyond that, you have to be really honest with yourself about when you can and cannot take on more in a very objective way.

I did not know the “ranking” or importance of my competing activities, so it was essential that I reached out for help, to make sure I did not make a naive misstep.

Fomo

Next, Reach Out to Those Who Have Been There Before

If you are struggling and are not sure which opportunities to say yes to or decline, turn to your trusted allies. I am a first-generation law student, so there is no one in my family I can turn to for law school advice. Beyond that, I do not even have any family friends who are lawyers. So, for me, this is why creating relationships at my school and within my legal community have been essential, and likely why I blog about it so much.

As soon as I was offered this opportunity, I was immediately torn. I want to do it, I knew the prestige attached to the activity. But the sacrifice and potential impact on my other activities would have been substantial. While I am usually a person who is always willing to rise to the occasion, this time, I realized that this might be something I couldn’t problem-solve my way out of.

I reached out to two professors, my bar association mentor, and my career advisor (who is an alumnus who had experience with what I was contemplating). I sent them a detailed letter about the pros and cons and asked for their advice. All of them were happy to respond and provided phenomenal advice. They also all commented that they could tell I already knew the answer. Which was to decline.

Saying No

Saying No, May Open Other Opportunities

It is SO easy to become overextended in 2L, plus for me, I think saying “no” is hard in general. Add in the fact that you know you may be turning down an amazing opportunity. Or something you are really interested in, it makes saying “no” even harder.

I think that it is also difficult to recognize that as a law student, we do have limits. But I think learning to say “no” is a part of our professional development and something we have to learn. It’s great to participate in activities, but we have to understand the “cost” of participation. I recognize that saying no to this opportunity at school will have its costs. But I also know by saying no, I am opening up the possibility of other doors that could lead to permanent things outside of school. Plus… there is always 3L and I think that can be easy to forget! As one of my wise professors said: “give each opportunity its own full moment!”

Have you had a similar FOMO struggle? Let me know over @The2LLife.

How to Beat Procrastination

Procrastination

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

Raise your hand if procrastination has a hold of you. You may be reading this right now because you are procrastinating. Honestly, this is being written at the particular moment that I am also procrasti-working. Doing a less-urgent task makes me feel more confident in it and know that it will bring me more immediate joy.

Mara's Dog on Laptop

Making my dog pose for pictures always brings me immediate joy and writing a memo/ starting an outline/ reading for contracts sometimes feels like a slog.

I find that I procrastinate for three main reasons: fear, fatigue, and failure to plan. (“F”- alliteration here to prevent future failure?) This is especially true with large assignments like the open memo, even though of course I know that putting it off will make me miserable and ultimately result in a much worse memo. Sometimes I get paralyzed by the inevitable failure I see in my future. This fear is only exacerbated by the fact that I often don’t know where to start. So I look at the blinking cursor and start to panic about how much work it will take to turn that blinking cursor into a 20-page memo on libel. Then, not only am I exhausted from all of the other classwork and life work, but I am tired from having spent the last 20 minutes panicking.

So how do we kick the three Fs in the face? Here are some tips:

1. Break it down

First Draft PlanMake an overly detailed to-do list. You may not know at that exact moment everything you need to do to have a completed memo (or outline or exam sheet), but you likely know what the next big step you need to take is. Write down and put in order every little piece of that next big step that you can think of.

I use Notion for everything in my life. If it ever ceased to exist, I might also cease to exist. In Notion, I compile a list of everything that I know for sure needs to be done on a project and evidenced-based predictions of how much time it will take. Then I schedule when that task should be accomplished.

Focus on one section at a time, one small task at a time – until you finish that section. If you know what the next big step is, go ahead and map it out. Rinse. Repeat.

Forest AppTiming this process is recommended. I always think I work faster than I do, and it gets me in a lot of trouble. I have been using the Forest app since my master’s program and LOVE it. It helps to look at each category and see if particular kinds of tasks take more or less time than I anticipated.

In April 2018, I spent 5079 minutes working on my thesis. In each little time block, I put in exactly what I had accomplished (i.e. how many pages I read or wrote) so that I could see if there were areas I was spending less time or areas where I was working slower than average.

2. Set specific goals

You can’t write the whole thing at once, though you may be tempted to. And your brain will get tired of writing libel analysis after a few straight hours. Cal Newport – my favorite productivity guru and MIT professor – recommends big chunks of uninterrupted deep work, and from my experience outside of law school, I agree.

The catch for me is that I must have a big enough goal that I am not an hour in and then having to go back to the planning board (which interrupts focus and kills my motivation), but can’t be so big that I end my time with the paralysis described above. Since I know how long tasks generally take me, though, I can usually predict fairly accurately what my plan for a deep work session needs to look like.

3. Get feedback often

We, law students, tend to be perfectionists and have trouble bringing unfinished products to professors for feedback. Please hear me, though. YOU NEED FEEDBACK EARLY AND OFTEN! If you write an entire section wrong or have the criteria for unforeseeable consequences wrong, you are going to expend so much more energy and time going back and correcting that later.

4. Ok, perhaps the most crucial piece of advice I can give: Set arbitrary deadlines

The reality of law school is that you are going to be afraid of failure and you are going to be exhausted. So what do I do? I trick my brain into thinking the deadline is MUCH earlier than it actually is so that if all of my other preventative measures fall through (which they sometimes do), I still am not up a creek without a paddle.

I use the Countdown app to mark the assignments as due a full week ahead of their actual due dates. This way all I have to do is swipe to the control center on my phone and I know exactly how many days I have left to work on things.

Procrastination

Check out some other tips for handling procrastination from the 2L Life Blogger, Stephanie Baldwin. What tools and resources do you use to battle procrastination? I’d love to hear. Reach out on Twitter and Instagram at @the1lLife!

Spending 3L Abroad

spending 3L abroad

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

Considering Spending 3L Abroad?

A few years ago you sat down and picked a law school, decided on a city to call home, and then set off on your law school journey. Maybe the city isn’t all you dreamed it would be; maybe there’s something missing from the course options at your school; maybe you just love to travel.

If any of the above describes you then it might be time to consider spending 3L abroad!

The Application Process

Generally speaking, study abroad programs are offered exclusively to 3L’s. They range from semester-long programs to full-year programs – with full-year programs often culminating in an earned LL.M., or similar executive law degree.

You’ll need to start researching study abroad options now. Applications are generally due at the end of the fall semester or in early spring, so you’ll want to ensure that you have enough time to complete the application, request necessary documents, and get written letters of recommendation.

The applications themselves will likely vary from school to school, but to give you an idea of what you can expect I’ll walk you through my application for the London School of Economics.

  1. First, I submitted an application for consideration to my home university. Within this application had to rank a few programs for consideration. I also had to provide a two-page statement of interest, my law school transcripts, my resume, a degree progress report from the registrar’s office, and a pro bono progress report.
  2. After submitting my applications I was called into my school’s international office for interviews. These interviews took place only for the programs that had limited enrollment capacities.
  3. Around February, I received my offer to formally apply to one of my ranked programs. I was given one-week to formally decide whether to continue with my application.
  4. Next, I had to complete the formal application for the London School of Economics. This application once again required my law school transcripts, resume, and a statement of interest. In addition, I had to provide two letters of recommendation, and complete an online application, and submit proof of language proficiency (this is waived if the teaching language is your first language).
  5. I received my formal offer letter from the London School of Economics approximately three weeks later. I then had to submit a study abroad worksheet to my international office outlining my study abroad plan and goals.

Preparing for the Move

HOUSING
Sooner than later you’re going to need to decide what to do with your current apartment. If you’re studying abroad for one semester then you can choose to sublet or terminate your lease. If you’re studying abroad for a full year you’ll likely want to terminate your lease and find something short-term for graduation.

If you’re subletting then woohoo, all you need to do is find a subletter, confirm with your landlord that you’ve followed the protocol, and move any items you don’t want to be left into your apartment home or to a small storage unit. If you’re terminating your lease, you’ll want to give to your landlord ample notice. You’ll also want to book a moving van, movers and a storage unit at least one month prior to your move date since prices will go up the closer you get. When renting a storage unit, make sure to ask about long-term discounts.

Spending 3L Abroad

After you’ve figured out housing in the USA, it’s time to find housing for your time abroad. Figure out early on if your school offers on-campus housing for visiting students, and if so, whether you’re interested in living on-campus. Keep in mind, many schools have mixed graduate and undergraduate dorms.

If you’re responsible for finding your own housing, start looking early. It may be tricky to find an apartment that’s (a) furnished, and (b) available for less than 6-12 month leases. Personally, I ended up splitting an Airbnb with a friend for our three months in London – if you didn’t know, Airbnb offers great discounts for monthly stays, and your utilities are included!

FLIGHTS
While you’re busy figuring out accommodations, don’t forget to keep track of flights. Since international flights can be expensive it’s a good idea to book early. If you’re okay with booking through a third party, you can set up price alerts on sites such as Kayak or StudentUniverse. When booking, make sure to calculate checked baggage if you need more than the allotted amount.

TRANSPORTATION
Research how to get from the airport at your destination to your new home abroad. In big cities like London, airports aren’t necessarily located within easy driving distance of the airport. It’s good to know whether Uber is financially feasible (or even available) and/or whether you need to book train and/or shuttle tickets in advance.

Likewise, you’ll want to research internal transportation methods since this may impact where you decide to live. For instance, in London tube fares are based on zones, with zones 4-6 being incredibly expensive.

London Taxi

VISA REQUIREMENTS
Lastly, and most importantly, begin to determine whether you require a visa for your study abroad. Visa applications can take anywhere from two weeks to three months, so make sure you give yourself ample time to both apply for and receive your visa.

The Benefits and Downfalls

Before you jump feet first into the whole study abroad experience, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons. Consider what you’ll be giving up at your home university, whether that’s a position on a board, law school events, personal functions, job loss, etc. Likewise, consider what you truly have to gain from the experience, and how it will benefit you personally and professionally.

For me the pros included the following:

  • Advanced or specialized courses in areas of interest to me;
  • The opportunity to live abroad in a city that I love;
  • Increased networking opportunities;
  • An opportunity to research Ph.D. programs at UK universities;
  • Benefits to my mental health; and
  • Increased travel opportunity (also a mental health benefit).

The cons have included the following:

  • Limited courses that will assist me on the bar exam and/or in practice;
  • Confusing registration process on campus in London;
  • Increased living expenses;
  • Inability to attend multiple functions/events at home and at my home university;
  • Difficulty juggling independent studies, journal, and pro bono / social group responsibilities from abroad.

With that said, nearly one-month into my program, I can honestly say my decision to spending 3L abroad was worth it. The pros greatly outweigh the cons, especially since I have the added perk of being able to embark on cheap European weekend trips! Through my program I’ve managed to connect with so many talented people, including diplomats, practicing foreign lawyers, and academics that I otherwise would not have been exposed to. Plus, the courses I’m enrolled in here aren’t available at my home university, so academically speaking I feel motivated to learn as much as I can.

Deciding to Study Abroad: Is it right for you?

  1. Have you taken all required courses for your degree program(s)?
    a. Not even close
    b. They’ll be finished by the end of 2L
    c. Most of them, but I know the missing ones are available during 3L
  2. Does your journal require 2-years’ service?
    a. Sure does
    b. Nope, I’m free to leave!
    c. It does, but they’re flexible
  3. Have you finished your writing requirement (if required)
    a. Haven’t thought about it yet
    b. Yes /or/ it’ll be finished shortly /or/ it’s not required
    c. I’m planning to do it via independent study or through my journal
  4. Are you on track for Pro Bono?
    a. Ugh, I need so many hours
    b. I am a pro bono wiz!
    c. A few hours left, but I’m not worried!
  5. Financially, how are you doing?
    a. Law school’s expensive … need I say more
    b. I’ve got a fair amount of savings
    c. My loans cover my costs and I haven’t fully maxed them out yet

Mostly A’s: A study abroad probably likely isn’t feasible for you. If you’re dead set on doing one you’ll likely need to increase your workload during 2L. Some things you can do to increase your odds of being accepted into a study abroad program include: registering for any/all required courses available in the spring semester; registering for the spring or summer MPRE; cutting back financially or getting a part-time job; completing some major pro bono hours!

Mostly B’s: Looks like you’re in prime shape for an exchange program! Start researching your options now so you can maximize your chances of getting the program you want. To be extra safe, check in with your registrar’s office and your journal to see if there’s anything you need to resolve before applying.

Mostly C’s: Spending 3L abroad seems quite possible for you. To put yourself in the best position possible, you may want to do the following: check off a few more pro bono hours; register for any remaining required courses or papers during the spring semester; register for the fall or summer MPRE; begin financial planning for a study abroad. You may also want to meet with the registrar’s office and your journal early on to get a head start on the application process.

The Law School Bag: What’s in Mine?

law school bag

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

One of the most frequent and helpful pieces of advice I’ve received since starting law school is to treat school like a job. Half of the week my classes get out pretty early, so I take advantage and go home. As soon as I pull into my driveway though, my brain goes into “home mode” and it is pretty much guaranteed that no more schoolwork will be happening.

To compensate for this reality, I spend the other days out of the house, sometimes at the Law School or in another campus building or library and sometimes at a coffee shop.

I really hate being unprepared, so most of the time the inside of my backpack resembles a miniature fallout shelter with compartments for you know, food, medication, toiletries, etc.  Whatever I might need at any point of any day, even though I could get virtually anything I need at the law school café or the drugstore on the corner. I justify the weight of it by telling myself that law school is stressful enough without wondering if I have any ibuprofen with me.

So, without further ado, here’s all of the info you definitely never asked for about how I schlepp my law-school-preparedness kit around.

law school bagThe Law School Bag

I use the previous generation of this amazingly comfortable and well-organized North Face backpack. I carry a 15-inch MacBook, which weighs about the same as a baby orca. Add casebooks on top of that and I desperately needed a bag that wouldn’t destroy my back before I even sit for the Bar. This bag distributes the weight like a hiking pack would and has a built-in ventilation system. This is great because Georgia is a crazy humid place. It also has so many pockets. It’s incredible.

Notebooks

I use a combo of digital and paper notes, so I use disc notebooks to allow for flexibility in shuffling pages around and adding new ones. I use the Tul system because it is relatively less expensive, but the Levenger and Arc systems are also great.

Pens

After years of searching for just the right pens and highlighters, I have settled on Pilot Ultra-Fine pens, Gray Mildliner highlighters, and Frixion erasable highlighters. I have a lot of respect for those who brief their cases in book with a color system, but I cannot handle that much happening on a page. So instead, I use gray mildliners to highlight in-book and use a color-coded system for my notes. (More on that to come!)

Better Together Pouch

If you can’t tell, I really like pockets and pouches. I find that it helps me to always know where everything is, which means I spend that much less energy trying to find things.

law school bag

Inside my pouch, I usually have a clipboard with my weekly schedule and to-do list, loose disc paper, and any handouts I need for that class. I keep my highlighters and two transparent colored reading guides that I use as straight edges (because if I am going to highlight in a book, it better be in a straight line), some sticky notes, tabs, and a small legal pad.

Water Bottle

Because hydration is key and plastic water bottles are dumb and wasteful. I use a very large and dented Hydro Flask that I got many years ago and then proceeded to drop a thousand times. It has held up remarkably well.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Let’s be real – the law library can be a great or a terrible place to work, depending on who else is there. An excellent pair of noise-canceling headphones are so helpful in ensuring the library is always a good place to work. I have a Nuraphone subscription, which has been the perfect option for me.

I also always have plenty of protein-rich snacks in my bag because no one likes a hangry law student.

What do you keep in your bag? Check out the @the1lLife on Instagram and Twitter for even more fun pictures of what I keep in my bag!

The Downlow on Clerkships

clerkships

Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Clerkships Consideration

To clerk or not to clerk … clerkships are a popular debate amongst law students. I myself have not clerked, nor am I planning to clerk, partly because I’m an international student (blog post to come), and partly because I’m just too eager to start my law firm job.

Since I’m by no stretch of the imagination an expert on clerkships, I sought some out! No, I didn’t just swing by the career planning office and ask a few questions. Rather, I found real people, each at a different stage in their legal career, with opinions and advice that may come in handy if you’re thinking about clerking or are already headed down the clerkship path.

clerkshipsFirst up is Kirsten Valania, a 3L from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. As a 1L Kirsten served as a judicial intern at the Delaware Court of Chancery. Prior to law school she worked as a Paralegal at Gordon, Fournaris & Mammarella, and was a Marketing Assistant for the Wilmington Blue Rocks. As a 3L, Kirsten has accepted a clerkship with the Delaware Court of Chancery where she will work under a Vice Chancellor for two years. After clerking she’ll transition to firm life at Abrams & Bayliss LLP in Delaware. 

Q: What made you decide you wanted to clerk after law school?

A: I wanted to clerk after law school for two reasons: (1) I was a judicial intern for a Vice Chancellor and realized just how much there was to do and learn as a clerk that one would not be able to do or learn from the litigants’ side of the bench; and (2) just about every attorney I spoke to in Delaware suggested that I clerk.

Q: There’s no shortage of courts or judges, how did you narrow down the selection field when applying for clerkships?

A: I think I am unusual in that I only wanted to clerk in one court, the Delaware Court of Chancery, and nowhere else. Prior to law school, I was a paralegal in Wilmington doing fiduciary litigation, which means that I got pre-law school exposure to the Court of Chancery, the Delaware Superior Court, and the Delaware Supreme Court. My favorite work as a paralegal related to actions before the Court of Chancery. My preference was solidified after being a judicial intern for a Vice Chancellor in the summer after my 1L year. As far as which judges to whom I applied, it is custom to apply to all of the Vice Chancellors and Chancellor when one applies to be a Chancery clerk.

Q: Explain the application process? Is there anything you wish you knew now that would have made it easier?

A: Fortunately, the career office connected me with former clerks who accurately laid out the application process for me. As I mentioned above, a Chancery clerk applies to all seven jurists, typically. With the application, you include two to three references, a writing sample, and your transcript. After a few weeks, you are invited to schedule a number of interviews with different Vice Chancellors (or the Chancellor). These interviews are about an hour long with the judge and may also include an interview with the current clerks, a Bluebook exam, and a writing assignment. You may not get an interview with every Vice Chancellor, but you can still get an offer from one with whom you did not interview.

The Court is small and there is a lot of collaboration in the hiring process. I wish I had a better idea of the overall timeline, because the waiting can be stressful! I knew that applications were due in early February, so I started communicating with the career office and several professors from the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester and by January I had my writing sample proofread and my reference letters finalized. What was unexpected to me is that my interviews were not scheduled until March. My offer was extended in early April 2019. I had heard that the process was fast, but I don’t think I necessarily had a grasp of what “fast” is in the clerkship world. In reality, it is much faster than the process for federal clerkships!

Q: Did you get a sense that any particular area of your application was more important than the others – i.e. grades, recommendation letters, courses taken, past experience, law school ranking?

A: I got a sense that after exhibiting a clear aptitude and preference for Delaware corporate law, by courses, grades, experience, or otherwise, the next most important part of the application were references with connections to the Court. I also got the impression that the application is largely wholistic in the sense that an applicant can compensate for one part of their application with another.

Q: Since you received your clerkship offer after accepting a 2L summer job at a law firm, can you explain the process you went through with your law firm?

A: After getting my clerkship offer, I asked if I could check with my firm and immediately called to ask if they would be amenable to me clerking what would be during my second and third years as an associate. They were very supportive, so I was able to contact my Vice Chancellor and accept that same day.

Q: What are hoping to get out of your clerkship experience?

A: I am, first and foremost, hoping to get an intimate understanding of how Delaware corporate law is developed. I know it will be a very intensive two years of clerking and I will have the opportunity to be immersed in various aspects of this very niche area of law. I do truly view it as an opportunity. My firm is a boutique that only does Chancery litigation, so this will be directly applicable to my future practice. Secondly, I am hoping to become a better writer. The job certainly requires a lot of writing, which must be digestible and precise. Finally, I am hoping to develop a lasting relationship with my Vice Chancellor. I really respect and admire her; I hope to be able to have her as a professional mentor going forward.

Next is a second-year transactional associate at a law firm who prefers to remain unnamed, because privacy matters!! Prior to entering a law firm, this associate clerked for a judge at a state court of appeals.

Q: Thinking back to how you felt before beginning your clerkship, how do you think the experience matched or differed from your expectations? Would you still recommend it?

A: I was less prepared than I expected, and I think that is the case for every first-time clerk. There is no class or practice that prepares you to participate in the legal and (even more so) the operational work of a judge’s chambers. I would absolutely still recommend it, as it is the only way to see that aspect of law besides being a judge.

Q: What’s one thing you wish you’d known about clerking before applying?

A: I’m not sure anything could have better prepared me for the work and I really enjoyed the full year. My successor was surprised that our court system paid every two weeks rather than twice a month, which reduced the paycheck noticeably – check with HR about insurance and payroll to make sure you know what your finances will look like.

Q: Explain the transition from clerking to big law.

A: As a transactional attorney, there was no connection between the work. It has helped me answer a few questions in my first year of practice, and I believe I was a better legal writer and thinker thanks to the clerkship, but otherwise I was starting from ground zero at the firm, just like a first year.

Q: In what ways do you think clerking has helped you in your legal practice?

A: My writing improved significantly, and practice made me much better at breaking apart the facts, law and application in each case, and synthesizing them into a proper analysis.

Q: Regarding mentorship, describe your relationship with the judge whom you clerked for; did the mentor relationship continue after your service ended?

A: I have stayed in touch with my judge, and she helped me with my job search while I was still in chambers. Equally important, I am still communicating with fellow clerks and the interns that came through our chambers – it is a fantastic network.

Q: If you could offer a few pieces of advice for students entering clerkships, what would they be?

A: Read opinions by your judge from the past year, and if you can access the emails between your judge and prior clerks, see what edits the judge offered to their writing to align your drafts with the cambers’ standards. Expect to make big mistakes – every clerk does, and no matter how the judge responds, she knows it is part of the process. Get to know clerks in other chambers to help advise on how to handle issues around the courthouse.

clerkshipsFinally, Mark Batten is a partner in Proskauer Rose LLP’s Labor and Employment group and co-head of the Class and Collective Actions Group. He also writes and lectures on employment-related matters. Prior to joining Proskauer, Mark was a partner at Bringham McCutchen LLP and a trial attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law School, Mark clerked for the Honorable Richard L. Williams in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for one year.

Q: Let’s start with the basics: how do you feel clerking has benefited or impacted your legal career?

A: It was an invaluable experience, particularly at the start of my career, in two respects. First, every litigator’s job, until reaching a jury, is to persuade a judge. And this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see how arguments are received. Second, over the course of a year, you get to see a lot of different lawyers, with very different styles, arguing their cases to the judge and trying their cases to a jury, and you also get to study a lot of different approaches to written advocacy. Watching those different styles and seeing what is effective is extremely valuable in crafting your own style.

Q: Looking back on your own experience, can you honestly say you would recommend clerking?

A: I absolutely would recommend it, for the reasons described above. I intentionally sought a district court clerkship rather than an appellate clerkship because I wanted to be a litigator, and it seemed as though clerking at the trial court level would be the better experience. I’m sure appellate clerkships have their own value, from the experience you get at a more abstract, legal level, and because of their prestige. But I think the in-the-trenches experience was more relevant to what I now do day-to-day.

Q: Mentorship is important throughout your legal career, did your judge serve as a mentor for you? If so, explain how the relationship helped you.

A: During the clerkship, he did. He had lunch with his clerks every day at the bank cafeteria across the street, and we talked about what was going on in the cases, what arguments were working or not working, and career possibilities. My judge was also a great storyteller, and we learned a lot from that.

Q: Many law students and junior associates are concerned that accepting a clerkship will mean sacrificing or risking law firm employment. In your opinion as a partner at a law firm, how do you think clerkships impact hiring decisions?

A: My impression is that a clerkship can only add to the perceived value of an applicant, for the reasons described in response to the first question. I gather that some clerkships go on for more than a year, and I’m guessing that there are diminishing returns from those longer clerkships in the eyes of law firms, but a clerkship of a year or even two can only be beneficial, I think.

Q: Relatedly, what value do you think clerkships bring to a law firm or to your practice area specifically?

A: It brings associates with some real-world (or, more precisely, real courtroom) experience which gives them a leg up in the advocacy that is essential to a litigation practice.

Q: Are there any tips you can offer soon-to-be law clerks to help them thrive during their clerkship?

A: Spend as much time as the judge will allow in the courtroom, so you get to see the oral advocacy. When you have time, make similar visits to other courtrooms, both trial court and appellate, to see as much as you can.

Advocating for the Use of Supplements

Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona

Last year, I wrote about the different type of supplements that are available to law students. This year I want to talk about how you can use them effectively. Last week the 1LLife wrote a great article about one of the supplements I have previously talked about, the 1L Mastery Package. Like many other 1Ls nationwide who watched Professor Freer (who presents Civil Procedure in the 1L Mastery series), I must give credit for him contributing to my understanding of the subject. My only regret is I didn’t watch him sooner, as it would have helped me with class so much! My professor was amazing, but I always felt a little behind because I was trying to both learn and understand her takeaways at the same time, and I could have used supplements to have avoided that, which leads to my first tip…

Use of Supplements Before You start the Topic in Class.

One of the arguments against supplements is that they are different from what or how the professor might teach. This can be true, however, having a different perspective can be helpful, and the black letter law or rule itself rarely changes from how each professor discusses it. My greatest regret is not watching the 1L Mastery series as classes were going (rather than before finals), as I felt it would have made me better prepared for class.

This year I am using the 2L/3L Mastery series in addition to my textbook to help me better understand my subjects, including Evidence. I am lucky enough to be taught my Professor Mauet, who very likely wrote your evidence book. He is regarded as one of the national experts on the topic and is an amazing professor, but I am still watching the BARBRI videos before class. I am doing this because it allows me to have a good grasp of the material before he presents the topic. It allows class to almost be like a review session, and I focus exclusively on HOW he presents that material rather than WHAT he is presenting. In other words, I can take my general understanding, and tailor it to the way he wants me to understand the subject or rule.

The Reading Portion

The same can be said for reading the portion of the supplement that is relevant to class before going to that lecture. Just like the videos, a written supplement will help to clarify what you have read from the textbook, allow you to focus on what matters, and then listen differently in class. I think that was a big thing that I didn’t grasp well in my first semester, I was listening to learn rather than listening to understand what my professor wanted me to take away from the lecture. Grasping this in second semester is a big reason why my grades improved.

Use the Supplement to improve your outline.

Some supplements include outlines or have recommended checklists. Modify these and create your own based upon how your professor teaches. Again, this is something I did not figure out until my second semester of 1L. Something I underutilized during my finals was the use of an “attack” outline. In many cases, this is a checklist to help you hit all of the bullet points on your essays. Using an example from a supplement, really helped me understand how to create these for my classes.

Do not let myths about using supplements get into your head

One of the best students I know actually recommended this topic for a blog because of all of the negative things he has heard said about the use of supplements. Namely, that only “bad” students need to use supplements. I can tell you that is simply not true. Most of the top students I spoke to recommended supplements to me last year, and they said they were “key” to their understanding. I think it is important to remember that they are just supplements, in other words, they can help you understand, but just supplement your efforts. You still need to go to class and engage with your professor, but supplements can elevate your understanding of a topic and help you excel in class.

What are some of your favorite supplements? Let me know over at the @The2LLife on Instagram or Twitter.