BarPrepLife: The Results Are In — I passed!

passed

GUEST BLOG by Katie R. Day
Quinnipiac University School of Law, J.D. Candidate 2018

This is a blog post that I have been waiting over three years to write.

Since I started law school, I’ve been thinking about the day I would finally become a practicing attorney. As I struggled through 1L classes, tough internships, and an intense bar prep study program, I kept my eyes on this light at the end of the tunnel.

And now it’s here.

I can finally say I PASSED THE BAR EXAM!!!!

passed

A huge congratulations to all of my fellow new attorneys! I’m so proud of the hard work we put in and the great attorneys we’re going to become.

The bar exam was a hard process. I’ve never studied harder, stressed more, or had as much self-doubt as I did in the months leading up to this exam. But I can say with confidence that it was the best decision I made.

For the law students taking the bar in the coming year, and for my friends who will be taking the exam again, I promise you all the hard work, the late nights, and the occasional tears are worth it. Keep the faith. Keep pushing through. And next bar exam season, your name will be on the pass list!

Christmas Wishlist

wishlist

Guest Blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

The semester is “over.”

No more exams… No more studying… No more intense studying… at least for a while. I’m super excited to finally have a break. This semester has been challenging in more ways than one, but I’m super excited to spend a few weeks at home, uninterrupted, with my family.

For law students, Christmas can be a very interesting holiday. You always get those really weird legal questions, but that just comes with the territory. At any rate, I thought it’d be fun to create a wishlist of the best Christmas gifts a law student could receive (and actually use).

Here are a few Wishlist ideas:

  • Pencils, pens, and highlighters
  • Gift Cards (BARBRI (yes, please!), restaurants, grocery stores, gas, boutiques, iTunes…all of it!)
  • Blankets
  • Mugs
  • A Picture book (Hey, it gives your brain rest.)
  • Money (because…money)
  • Headphones

Some of these may be unconventional and not very “Christmas-y,” but they’re usable nonetheless. Ha!

Merry Christmas and I’ll talk to you next semester!

Managing Finals Stress

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

It’s not 1L anymore, but finals are still stressful … especially if you haven’t secured your 2L summer job yet; are applying for a clerkship, or know you want to try to re-do the OCI process during 3L. To add to the stress, as a 2L there’s a higher likelihood that instead of just having straight exams, you probably have a combination of exams, final assignments/projects, and lengthy seminar papers to write. Prepping for each of these finals requires different strategies, but managing your stress throughout should be fairly uniform!

During my first years of college, I was a bundle of stress when it came to preparing for finals. But, over the years I’ve found that five things really help me to stay relatively stress-free during the most dreaded time of the year (for students that is).

One:

Have Something to Look Forward to

It can be easy to feel like you’re drowning in finals stress when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. To avoid this phenomenon I like to plan something fun, like a trip or concert, that I can look forward to throughout the finals season. Having that event in mind makes me feel like I’m working towards something, and gives me a reason to smile and push through when I feel like finals will never end!

Two:

Healthy & Regular Meals

Your body, skin, and mind will thank you for this one! Eating healthy meals regularly throughout exam season gives your body the fuel it needs to be energized so you can push through those late night study sessions. Plus, when you’re living off of junk food and Chinese takeout your body isn’t functioning at its optimal level … meaning your study sessions are likely less efficient than they could be. I also find the simple routine of making a meal to be relaxing, especially since it generally gives me a small break between study sessions!

Three:

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

I cannot emphasize how much time management helps ease stress during finals time, and just generally. If you’re a procrastinator like me, having a schedule ensures that you don’t leave studying until the last minute. It also lets you figure out when you have free time for laundry, grocery shopping, naps, etc. so you don’t end up feeling overwhelmed by the combination of studying and real-life responsibilities and necessities.

Finals

Four:

Take Breaks

Once you’ve figured out a study schedule, make sure you slot in some breaks as well– and I don’t just mean 10-minute intervals. Finals season for most students runs for two-plus weeks, you need to have a few days or half days off during that time to avoid the dreaded burnout. Furthermore, having those breaks added into your schedule not only helps you avoid stress naturally by allowing your body to relax and recharge, but it also gives you something to look forward to during the week.

Five:

Don’t Cut Social Ties

It can be difficult, if not impossible to find time to hang out with your family and friends in the midst of finals season, but that doesn’t mean you need to cut all social ties. When you’re stressed because you feel like you don’t understand something it can help to reach out to your study group, or a friend from class. On the opposite spectrum, however, when you’re just feeling generally overwhelmed it can be beneficial to talk to a friend or family member outside of the law school environment to help ground you.

As a 2L how have you learned to manage your finals stress? Are there any tips or tricks that work particularly well for you?!

Reading Week, Finals and a Job Search, Oh My!

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona

Job search during finals, are you kidding me? Though Reading Week has arrived, and I am frantically trying to reassure myself that I am prepared and ready to take practice exams, and my actual exams in less than a week. If you are like me, your focus will be exclusively on finals, but don’t forget that with the arrival of December 1 it also means that we can start submitting applications to firms in an attempt to secure our 1L summer positions.

It is VERY accurate that paid 1L positions are rare, but there are a ton of unpaid opportunities out there allowing us to gain experience while also giving back. Many of us will spend our summers working for non-profits, clerking for judges or by supporting government agencies. So rather than wasting your winter break hitting refresh to see if grades have posted, prepare your application materials, update or create your LinkedIn page, and take a proactive approach to land your summer legal position.

First, get your application materials together

This will typically be a resume, cover letter and a writing sample (be sure to pay attention to page limits). The great thing is you can use the resume that you prepared for law school applications, as a jumping off point for your resume. Be sure to update your resume with your law school and add any awards you received, plus be sure to mention when your GPA can be expected. There are a lot of great resources out there for you to find example cover letters, and resumes, but be sure to book some time with your career services for any extra help or advice.

Next, update or create your LinkedIn

If you do not already have a LinkedIn account, now is the time to create one. LinkedIn can be an excellent tool for networking, learning more about law firms, and establishing your personal brand. If you aren’t sure where to start here is a recently published article from Above the Law to get you started. I have used LinkedIn this semester to build my network as I met with people who have visited my law school for lunchtime chats and to connect with visiting students. This has already paid off, as I have received leads on 1L positions! If you’d like to add me to your network, feel free to connect to me!

Finally, reach out to Employers

There are a variety of different ways to do this. Most people will just send their cover letters, resumes and writing samples and wait for a response. That is a sound approach, but don’t be afraid to be a bit more proactive. You can list your resume on career sites like Monster and Career Builder, and do not forget about your law school’s career website. You will likely to need to have a presence on your school’s career site for Spring OCI, so take advantage of winter break to get your account established and to reach out to employers.

job search

In many cases, your school should be your first place to look for opportunities, however, I am also excited to let you know about a new BarBri website to help you look for a job that is just for law students, The Law Preview Job Network. Be sure to check out the link and establish your account today.

As a final point, do not forget the value of face to face contact and try to visit law firms. This is a great move, especially if you will be home for the holidays and you know you want to find employment in that city. Get out there be seen! Good luck on your finals and job search and I will see you next semester!

Exam Period: Just Keep Studying

Guest Blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

If you’re reading this, you may be studying for your finals.

First off, CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve finished this semester. Whether you’d classify it as a “strong” finish or not, you’ve finished and that’s something to celebrate.

Now, the REALLY fun part begins. If you’re like me, you’re prone to get really stressed out during exam periods. It’s like no matter how many encouraging words and cheers you get from the outside, you always tend to find yourself freaking out about the exams on the inside. Trust me, I get it. Here are 2 pieces of advice:

  1. Study hard and understand that you’ve got this. No, seriously, you’ve got this. Do you know how many people have taken the very classes you’ve taken and passed with flying colors? It’s possible. You can do it, too.
  2. Just do the work. You have the notecards. You have the outlines. You have your notes. You have the textbook. Just keep studying! Just keep studying! *cue Dory from Finding Nemo:)*

Studying can be very tedious, but understand that it won’t last long and before you know it…it will all be a faint memory, especially for the 3Ls.

So, stay strong. Hold on.

Everything will be fine.

Happy Studying!!

Twelve Things the Law Student in Your Life Wished You Understood

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Everyone knows law school is stressful.

But for a law student, it can be difficult to describe how the strains of law school impact your ability to connect with their non-law school friends and family. Often times we suppress our frustrations because we don’t want to insult or be rude to the people we care about. Try as we might, every law student has caught themselves wishing that their non-law school companions understood certain facets of the law student life. To that end, I’ve compiled twelve of the most common things my peers wish their friends knew about their law school life.

  1. Sleep is hard to come by so it’s not unusual for us to prioritize sleep over going out.
  2. It’s not abnormal to have an offer (or a job) after your first or second year.
  3. Exam prep does not last a few mere hours, it requires literal days of hard work.
  4. Just because we don’t have an assignment due doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of work. In fact, readings can be worse than assignments.
  5. On the topic of readings, it can take multiple hours to complete a reading for one class because of the complexity of the subject matter. So we’re not lying when we say our entire Saturday is being spent prepping for class.
  6. Non-class time is not necessarily free time. We have pro bono requirements, board meetings, journal meetings, assignments, etc.
  7. When we visit home we do want to see you, but it may not be feasible since we often have important school work, assignments, and other tasks to complete. Likewise, because law school often requires a sacrifice in the sleep department, sometimes our bodies are telling us to use our break to rest and recharge.
  8. Being a law student doesn’t mean we have the time, or the experience, to solve all of your legal problems.
  9. If we forgot to respond to your text message it’s not intentional. Often we get your messages when we’re in class, and though we mean to respond, the hectic nature of law school sometimes causes us to forget that we didn’t actually press send!
  10. Law school is expensive! Sometimes we can’t financially afford to attend all the events or dinners that you invite us to, so please don’t read anything into our rejection.
  11. In the majority of our courses grades are based on one final exam or assignment, and to make matters worse, we’re graded on a curve – meaning someone has to get a B- while someone else has to get an A. Furthermore, getting good grades is crucial for obtaining decent clerkships and post-graduation jobs.
  12. And finally, the law school workload is not at all comparable to the workload of undergrad, or even the average MBA. In our opinion, the law school workload and expected standard of achievement is much, much higher!

For my fellow law students, what things do you wish your non-law school friends knew about law school life? Likewise, for those non-law school readers out there, are there any questions you have pertaining to the day-to-day life of the law student in your life? Send me your questions and ideas on Instagram or Twitter: @The2Llife!

4 Steps to Forming a “Finals Attack Plan.”

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona

Can you believe it my fellow 1Ls, finals are right around the corner! I am lucky and my finals are pretty late, as they do not start until December 10 and I have my last final on December 19. If you haven’t started now is the time to start forming your finals attack plan.

1) If you haven’t started, write your own outline!

If you haven’t started outlining yet, your first tendency might be to use one from a 2L or 3L who took the class from your professor but resist this urge. Instead, grab your syllabus and book and make the framework of your outline from there. This really helped me for midterms, and I wish I had started sooner. This will let you easily organize your notes in the way the professor intended you to.  Don’t worry about how long it is. You will likely end up with one master outline or a “study” outline, then a condensed version of the outline that features fundamental concepts, and then ideally you’ll be able to create an attack outline that will help you on the test.

If you’ve been like me and outlining throughout the semester, now is a great time to start condensing it and creating the attack outline.

2) Fill in the Gaps

Every time I look at my outline I see things missing, or concepts I feel “ify” on. Now is the perfect time to consult the BARBRI Outlines,  and an upperclassman’s to fill in those gaps. Pro Tip:  Be sure to highlight those areas and then make an office hours appointment with your professor to discuss. If you do this now, you won’t be rushing for a spot at the end of the month or discovering an issue during the reading period.

3) Find Practice Exams

Your professor will likely provide these, or they may be in your library. Be sure to find the ones for your professor that have model answers. You will likely not want to start studying with these too early, as you want to be able to answer the entire question being asked. But having these saved to your computer will help you when everyone else is trying to locate them

4) Study Where It Counts During Reading Period

If you have courses with finals that vary in their credit value, then you should spend the bulk of your time on the on the class that is most likely to impact your GPA. This was a great trip that I learned during my BARBRI Law Preview course. It seems that most people dedicate the same amount of time studying to all of their classes, but if you have a Torts class that is worth 6 credits and a Contracts class that is only worth 4 credits, getting a high grade in Torts will have a more significant impact on your GPA. At my school, every single one of my courses with a final is worth 4 credits so I will be spending an equal amount of time on them during our reading period.

How are you preparing for finals? Do you have your own finals attack plan? Any tips you think other 1Ls could benefit from? Let me know over at the @The1LLife on Twitter!

Reflections: What I’m Thankful For

Guest Blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

Around this time of year, I tend to get very reflective.

The Thanksgiving season always helps me put certain areas of my life into perspective. It’s cheesy, but I always like to take a moment and really identify what I’m thankful for.

This year, as a 3L, I am thankful for the opportunity to attend law school. In the midst of all the reading, the work, and the studying, I tend to forget that there was a moment in time where law school was just an idea, a possibility. I can remember applying to schools and trying to decide which one was the best fit for me. It was such a grueling and tedious process, yet here I am…about to graduate.

Photo: Lance Murphey

Having the opportunity to attend law school and, furthermore, become a lawyer is such a significant experience. More specifically, being an African American woman, I know that many of my ancestors never even thought that this was possible. To be here in this position is TRULY incredible.

Yes, law school is tough, but when I think about the historical issues African Americans faced (and still face), it’s such an honor to be graced with the opportunity to do something that not many people get to do. I actually have an opportunity to “have a seat at the table.” Amazing!

This year, I’m just REALLY thankful for this opportunity. Graduation is right around the corner and I’m sure we’re all ready to finish. Nonetheless…just for a moment…I encourage you to reflect on this great opportunity we have and really appreciate this journey.

How to be Eco-Friendly on a Law Student Budget

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Many of us flocked to law school with the notion that we would someday change the world. And though the enormous amount of law school debt incurred may have convinced the majority of us to trade in our hero hats for a seat at the Big Law table, there are still ways that we can make a difference. For instance, through pro bono projects and clinics we can help the local community and beyond. However, for those of us looking for more long-term impacts, adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle is a great (and popular) route to take!

Of course being eco-friendly sounds great … I mean, who doesn’t want to literally save the world? But to many of us it also sounds expensive; seriously, we’ve all seen the prices on the organic products in the grocery store. So how do you balance an eco-friendly lifestyle while living on a law student budget?

Truth be told it’s actually not that hard once you accept that it doesn’t need to be an all or nothing approach. You can still buy your affordable, non-organic produce and cleaning supplies if that’s what your bank account is telling you to do.

To make your life a little more Eco-Friendly simply adopt one or a multitude of these habits into your routine.

  1. Reduce waste by only grocery shopping with a list and meal plan in mind. No need to buy those tomatoes that are just going to sit in the back of the fridge until trash day when you know there’s no meal requiring them.
  2. Invest in reusable containers and use them! Buying lunch and snacks on the go is easy and tasty, but it also contributes a lot of waste over time (and it’s not all the economical either).
  3. Likewise, say goodbye to Ziploc bags and plastic wrap, and instead, say hello to reusable sandwich bags and beeswax wraps. Bonus, since both these products are reusable you’ll save money in the long run as well!
  4. Add reusable cutlery to your backpack or lunch bag – that way you can say no to the plastic forks but still indulge in the free food found around the law school.
  5. Trade in your car or frequent Uber rides for public transportation, walking and/or biking whenever possible.
  6. Switch out your regular light bulbs for energy efficient ones instead. While efficient light bulbs will cost you a little more, they also cut your energy bill and generally last way longer, so really it’s worth it!
  7. Cut down on plastic waste by investing in a good reusable water bottle.
  8. If you’re a hot beverage lover (or iced coffee lover), add a reusable thermos or mug to your bag. Pro tip, many cafes offer discounts to people who bring their own mug!
  9. Keep your counters and dishes clean without the waste! Instead of dish sponges and power towel, use washable dishcloths and a silicone sponge– as an added perk, you can sanitize your silicone sponge as frequently as you like, so bye-bye germs!
  10. And finally, don’t forget your reusable bags when shopping!

These are just a few of my favorite eco-friendly hacks. What are some of yours?

5 Self-care Tips to Help Prepare for Finals

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona

Not that you need a reminder, but finals are right around the corner. It is a stressful time for all law students, especially us 1Ls because even if we had midterms, we don’t truly know what it feels like to take a 3+ hour exam final. I am especially nervous about one class because we did not have a midterm. Even with that whirling around in my head, I have to remind myself there are things within my control (besides studying) to make sure that I am in the best shape possible for all of my finals and this starts with self-care. Here are 5 tips I’m following to make this possible.

1) Feed your Brain!

Did you know the dark chocolate and blueberries help your working and cognitive memory? There is a lot of research out there about how healthy eating can improve your testing ability. It is easy with our schedules to forget to eat, or just grab pizza at lunch from a meeting. I am the worst at this, however, I am taking steps to make sure that I have simple meals prepared for the next few weeks. I also brought a bunch of brain-friendly snacks and put them in my locker. Figure out a way to make healthy snacking easy. It will help improve your stress levels and prevent hangry outbursts.

2) Be Mindful!

You may remember in my very first blog I recommended downloading and using an app called Meditation Studio to help manage stress through mindfulness. Even short mindfulness exercises, have been proven through studies to increase your alertness during a test, and improve working memory. This study found those that used mindfulness training during their GRE prep had a 16% increase in their scores. I don’t know about you, but if it lowers stress, and can improve my issue spotting abilities, I am all in!

3) Do something you love!

Maybe it’s hitting the gym, going for a bike ride, or baking. Whatever it is, work it into your schedule. It is easy to lose track of our hobbies and the things we love as we keep up with our reading, work on our outlines and take practice exams. However, take time out of your day to unwind in your favorite way. Not only will you feel better, but taking time away from studying can actually help you retain more of the information.

4) Get those Zzzzzzzs.

Repeat after me sleep is good for you. We all know this, and if you’re like me you are going to bed later and later as I try to get everything done. Research shows that we need good sleep to feed our high-level, innovative thinking and problem-solving abilities. Go to bed!

5) Phone a Friend

Hopefully, you’ve been as fortunate as I have been and have made fantastic friends at school, but they don’t know you as well as your friends before law school. Phoning one of those friends will allow you to escape school, and they likely will be able to give you some perspective and remind you why you started this journey in the first place.

I hope you find these tips helpful and I’d love to hear more suggestions! Feel free to tweet me @The1LLife