You Never Forget Your First Oral Argument…

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law


Image from the ABA for Law Students

First, we had research projects, then memos, and finally we’ve reached the oral argument stage of our law school careers. For most, this is a stressful time, especially for those who do not like to speak in front of others. Even if you have a lot of public speaking experience, it is not uncommon to be nervous, but our professor has reassured us that the nerves can actually be helpful. Here are some tips I’ve learned as I prepare for my first graded oral argument.

Handle the Nerves

A 2L told me if I wasn’t nervous before my oral argument “I wasn’t doing it right.” It was also reassuring to have our professor share that even experienced attorneys, with decades of experience, still get nervous before an oral argument. The “good part” of nerves is that they keep us on our toes. The “bad part” is, if not managed, they may impact our performance. Great…

The best advice I can give is to find a coping mechanism for your nerves. Some people like to visualize their performance, and others wear a favorite clothing item or hold something in their hand. For me, it’s applying pressure to my pinky finger. I know it sounds weird, but I acted as a kid, and this was a trick an experienced actor showed me. It’s easy to conceal, and I can’t even explain why it works, but it does. It is a small thing that helps me overcome my nerves and helps me focus.

The point is, you just need to discover what works for you. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it helps you to stay focused and calm. The ABA also has a great article for students here about managing your nerves.

Make A List of Questions

Make a list of questions you might be asked during your oral argument. You may have done this in class, but if you haven’t, I found it REALLY helpful! To make your own list, think of 3 questions you want to be asked, 3 questions you assume you will be asked, and 3 questions you hope you don’t get asked. You can then use these question to practice your oral argument and shore up any weaknesses you might have.

Find the Organization Method that Works for You.

There are a lot of different methods to use during your oral argument to help you stay organized, and they usually involve some type of folder system. Some recommend multiple folders, others a single folder system. In my class, we watched this video from UMKC about how to use a single folder with notecards. I liked this method, and it is what I will be using.

Practice! Present Your Argument To Someone

As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. You can present to yourself by recording your argument and reviewing it. I also recommend practicing in front of other people. Consider working with someone familiar with all of the facts. Since they know the material, they might not pull punches and ask tough questions. The other option you have is to work with your opponent. Some people might think this is crazy and unrealistic, and it might be off limits at your schools. At mine, it is encouraged, as it will challenge the way we look at our arguments and allow us to improve our memos before we submit them.

Best of luck with your oral arguments! Let me know how they went over @The1LLife on Twitter and Instagram.

Don’t Have A Summer Job? It’s Time To Get Resourceful And Here’s How

By Chris Nikitas, Esq., BARBRI Director of Legal Education

Alright, you don’t have a summer job. It’s stressful. Whether you’re a 1L or 2L student, this is a rather scary position to be in, honestly. First thing’s first … “don’t panic.” Especially in your first year of law school. Not having a legal job during the summer isn’t an end-of-the-world scenario. I hosted bar exam trivia during my 1L summer. A prominent scholar I know taught tennis lessons. The fact is, you can make up for not having a summer job in a number of ways and here are a few ideas.

DON’T THROW IN THE TOWEL

When final exams wrap up and you still don’t have a job, do not give up. Get out there. Go to legal aid societies, public interest firms and non-profit organizations to start handing out resumes. Don’t be shy. Pass them out, whenever and to whomever you can, like they’re flyers for a local band. Even if you get an opportunity, you may be getting a late start, but you’ll still get to add a valuable line to your resume. That’s all that matters. Even if nothing comes of it, you’ll have your name circulated and show potential employers that you’re determined and driven.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF NETWORKING EVENTS

One of the biggest benefits of a summer job is the networking opportunities; however, you can still network outside of a summer job. There will be networking events all summer for young lawyers and law students. Do some investigating, find a few to attend and start slinging around business cards like they’re candy. You’ll be surprised how quickly these networking moments (and just handing over a business card) can turn into possible employment leads in the future.

MAKE UP FOR IT DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR

Your school has opportunities to provide you with experience during the year: Field placements, internships and externships. Talk with your career services office to find out what they can offer you as far as placement help. You’ll get some course credit at the same time, too. Consider taking a litigation or drafting class for some realistic experience that you can add to your cover letter and resume.

SPEAK WITH YOUR PROFESSORS

One of your professors may still need research assistants or may introduce you to someone who would like some summer help. Your professors might even have more sage advice on how to find that elusive summer job.

Above all else, remember, this is not by any means the end of your law school career. Part of my 1L summer, I worked for career services during On Campus Interviews, serving as a runner between the interview rooms. I ate lunch with the attorneys and spoke with them more each day than anyone they interviewed. As a result, I left that week with a stack of business cards that turned into valuable new contacts. I was able to utilize them in the coming years. Just keep at it!

Spring Finals Coming In Hot: Useful Lessons Learned From Last Time

The spring semester of your first year is flying by incredibly fast. You’re at a point now when another set of final exams are on the radar, approaching rapidly. What you need to do is take the time to pick your own brain: latch onto those study habits and tips that worked best for you from the first go-round of finals back in the fall semester.

With that in mind, here are a few of the things you may have learned already on you own and other recommendations as you prep for May.

Look To Those Who Have Outlined Before You

For most law students, the process of outlining is not all that fun. Usually because most wear out their keyboards and highlighters, ending up with way too many pages. It’s hard to scale back, especially when everything seems important enough not to leave out. This typically happens when you start from scratch, so don’t. Instead, try to get your hands on a course outline from an upperclassman. (Remember, the answer is always no if you don’t ask. What have you got to lose?) It will provide guidance on what to put in your own outline. Also, it can help clear up substantive confusion and fill any gaps in the material. Remember, too, if you have access to BARBRI 1L Mastery outlines, those are a great resource of prepared outlines vetted by experienced subject matter experts.

Use Old Final Exams: The Past Is the Key To The Future

Check to see if your law school has copies of old final exams on file. If they do, use them. Sure, professors may toss a change-up any given semester on what they’ll cover or how they present questions. Yet, spending time with the old exams can help you get familiar, or even spot patterns, with their techniques. It will also test your knowledge of subjects while you are studying. Bring your practice answers to a professor or T.A. for feedback and guidance. Should your school not have old exams available, look to supplements. Many have problems in them. BARBRI 1L Mastery’s online practice questions are a convenient alternative to lugging around a book and provide answers immediately.

Start Early, Start Early, Start Early

That’s not a typo. You’ll come across this advice often. You’ll make a mental note several times throughout the year. Best intentions and all. Start studying “yesterday.” You really don’t want to cram for a final exam. The risk is too great. First year law school grades are too important. Sounds like a no-brainer; however, starting early with your finals prep is definitely easier said than done. Here’s what you can do about it: Create a study schedule or some other type of plan that works for you. Be honest with how you organize your time. Be disciplined in following through. And be sure to build in activities that aren’t spelled s-t-u-d-y … go work out, watch some t.v., hang with friends.

Keep your sanity … stay on top of studying … and you’ll Own 1L Finals!

Spring Break Destinations

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

As we submit our memo drafts, attend OCI interviews and try to stay afloat with our extra classes, it is easy to forget that Spring Break is just around the corner. Look no further than your favorite 1L class for travel inspiration.

Pick your favorite 1L course to discover your spring break destination!

Torts

If you enjoyed torts, travel to Phoenix, Arizona for the Cactus league or Tampa, Florida for the Grapefruit league. Both destinations will keep you warm and let you work on your tan this Spring Break. Just be aware of those warnings from torts class and keep a look out for flying hot dogs and bats! If you are not a baseball fan, consider a trip to your favorite amusement park or take a cross country railroad journey. Just be prepared for falling packages!

Property

If property is your favorite class, you are going to New York. That’s right folks, one of the cases we have all read, Pierson v. Post, took place in the “wasteland” that is modernly known as the Hamptons. Treat yourself and indulge in the lavish lifestyle for the week. Alternatively, if you are looking for something a bit more adventurous, check out properties for rent in Costa Rica or Hawaii!

Constitutional Law

Philadelphia awaits! Sure, it may not be your typical Spring Break destination, but you are not the typical spring breaker. Surround yourself with history with visits to Constitutional Hall and the Liberty Bell. Run up the “Rocky” stairs, and decide if Pat’s or Geno’s wins the war when it comes to Philly cheese steaks.

Criminal Procedure or Criminal Law

Some schools teach criminal procedure as a 1L course; others have criminal law. No matter which subject you have, if this is your favorite class, your spring break destination is San Francisco! Of course, you should visit Alcatraz and experience all of the other fabulous sites this great city has to offer. Plus, you 100% deserve a trip to wine country, too.

Contract Law

Sign on the dotted line and book yourself a cruise to the Bahamas. You’ll be surrounded by contracts, at every turn and activity on a cruise, but you are well prepared for all of that fine print! When I posed this question to my professor, he mentioned the contracts related to space tourism would be fascinating, but I think that trip might have to wait until after graduation.

Civil Procedure

Good ole common law. If you’re looking for an international getaway, Hong Kong, England, New Zealand, and Australia (just to name a few) all follow common law and would be exciting spring break destinations. If you’d like to stay stateside, consider Washington D.C., visit the Supreme Court and more. As a bonus, if your spring break is in late March or early April, you will be able to experience the Cherry Blossom festival.

What other destinations pair up nicely with our 1L classes? Let me know on Twitter or Instagram @The1LLife.

3 Ways to Help Prioritize Sleep, The Secret To Higher Quality Work

GUEST BLOG Harrison Thorne,
Graduate of UCLA Law

As a 1L, I really prioritized sleep. I’d get in bed at a certain time, no matter what.

As a 2L, I did not prioritize sleep. I got distracted doing various things, and before I realized, I would only catch five to six hours, tops.

Comparing my day-to-day operations from 1L to 2L year, I can definitively say that I noticed a huge difference. Well rested, I was more alert, focused better and was much more efficient. Conversely, when I was chronically tired, the opposite was true.

My advice, looking back, is to rededicate yourself to sleeping. I did. What worked for me 1L year and what I started implementing again was simple when I followed these three steps:

Fotolia_74211266_Subscription_Monthly_MStep 1: Watching television before bed is a bad idea. Sometimes I would take in a show before bed (I’m not perfect), but when I read for pleasure before turning off the lights, I found it much easier to fall asleep.

Step 2: I enjoyed some “sleepy time” tea before bed. It really helped relax my body as well as my mind.

Step 3: I liked to do some form of meditation before turning in. I really think that is a game-changer for me and would recommend it to anyone.

These three steps were pretty consistent in helping me get to sleep faster, sleep deeper and sleep more hours.

With all this in mind, there’s one thing I’d like to point that seems extra productive initially but ultimately counterintuitive to being able to perform at your best. A lot of people in law school would talk about how to get less sleep – usually in order to get more done or have more workable hours. However, after some of my own experimentation, I learned without a doubt that it’s actually better to miss out on an extra hour or two of work, if the work you do is of a higher quality (because of the extra sleep).

3 Steps to Create a Shell Outline

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

One of the major things I decided to implement much earlier this semester was outlining earlier and reviewing it frequently. I struggled with this last semester and by midterms I discovered what I should have done!

The answer for me was creating a “shell” outline. Though, I learned about this in my BARBRI Law Preview class, I didn’t think this was going to work for me. I was I wrong! Using this method, last year, right before midterms was so helpful. I committed to making sure that I did it this semester before I hit week 4. The followers of @The1LLife were interested in the process so here it is. How you create a shell outline in 3 pretty easy steps.

First, let me explain that a “shell outline” is an outline that combines the casebook table of contents (which are usually organized by topic and cases) and your professor’s outline. The goal of a “shell outline” is to have each case and major topic that covers from the beginning to the end of the course. Yes, I am talking about creating an outline now that will go to the end of the class.

So instead of creating an outline as you go, with a “shell outline” you fill it in as you go. The advantage of this is that everything is well organized. You don’t have to think about what to call each area, as it is already done for you. Since you are just filling in the details as you go, it makes it much easier to keep your notes organized. If you use the headings feature you can create an attack and concise outline at the same time, but we will talk about using the heading feature at a different time.

Now is the perfect time to create your shell outline and fill it in! Here is how to get started:

Step 1 – Gather the Required Materials

To do this, you will need your professors course outline and your casebook table of contents. I have most of my books in a digital format, so this is easy for me to copy and paste from. If you do not have digital versions, never fear. You simply need to go to the publisher of your textbook and look for the index, they often supply this on the student resources page. If you can’t find it there, you can just google it. For Aspen published book, you will usually find this on the companion website. Here is the master list: http://www.aspenlawschool.com/

Shell Outline

Step 2 – Merge the Documents

The next step is to merge your professors outline and the casebook table of contents together. I prefer to have the table of contents from the casebook to be the “base” of the outline. I will usually copy and paste this either from the digital casebook or from the index pdf into a google doc or word doc. Then copy and paste the headers from the professors course outline. This will provide you a document that has all of the major headers from the textbook and your professor, plus all of the cases. This will take some time, but as you go through the professor’s outline, you can delete cases you will skip and sections of the casebook you will not cover.

Step 3 – Begin Filling in the Shell Outline

Voila! The shell outline has not been created through the end of the semester! Now the final step is to start filling in your notes from the previous weeks. For cases, be sure to note the Rule, Determinative Facts and any other information your professor likes you to know. Once you have caught the outline up, you can use this shell outline to take notes the rest of the semester. 

If you follow this method, you will have an outline that has every major case, organized by topic in a way that matches the structure your professor intended. You can also organize the outline using various headings, so you can also create an attack outline as you go. 

If you have any questions about this you can reach me @The1LLife on Twitter and Instagram

Healthy fear as the great motivator for final exam success

GUEST BLOG Harrison Thorne, Esq.
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2016
Associate Attorney at Vedder Price

I usually became a nervous wreck around finals. My nerves were a mix of fearing the final exam and comparing myself to others.

Fearing a test is good. Healthy fear will motivate.

However, what is not good is measuring your knowledge against others.

I found that most people gave off an air of knowing everything about every course. My classmates would talk about how they had various topics “down cold” or how they “know that subject like the bank of my hand,” etc. In response, I became extremely nervous. My thinking turned into a checklist of concerns and doubt:

  • Everybody knows everything
  • I don’t know everything
  • Classes are graded on a curve
  • I know less than everybody else
  • I will fail

My saving grace was that, as time passed and finals neared, I worked hard and disconnected from that defeatist mindset. I actively pushed those thoughts down when they came up. And they came up a lot! What I found was that I was not as “dumb” as I thought and I could write a decent law school exam. I also found that the people who felt as I did tended to psych themselves out and under-perform.

My advice to my past self or anyone else about to take their first set of final exams is as follows:

  • Acknowledge the fear. Exams are scary. Especially the first time around. There is no point in denying that fact.
  • Use that fear. Fear can be a great motivator.
  • Come up with an “attack plan.” Get a calendar or download an app and set up a daily to-do list to keep track of what needs to get done.
  • Get it done. Now that finals are coming up, this is the time to put your head down and grind out work.
  • Never, ever, ever compare yourself to others. In fact, it’s probably best to avoid other law students as much as possible at this point. There will be a desire to ask other students what they’re doing, how they’re outlining, what practice exams they have taken. DO NOT do this. Focus on your well thought out and designed attack plan.
  • Use Tools. While everybody else is nervously Googling study aids, thumbing through E+E’s or checking out secondary sources, use no-nonsense tools like BARBRI 1L Mastery and 1L Mastery Pro.

 As an example, here’s a glimpse of how I planned one of my final exam prep days:

6:00: wake up1:30-3:00: Study
6:15-7:30: gym3:30-5:00: Class
7:30-8:15: shower/breakfast/
check emails
5:30-7:00: Study
8:15-10:30: Study7:00-7:30: Dinner
10:30-11:00: zone out, check emails, whatever7:30-9:30: Study
11:00-1:00: Study9:30-10:00:
Pleasure Reading
(never give this up!)
1:00-1:30: Lunch

 

Tools for “Mastery” of Your 1L outlines

October means crunch time.

As you flip the calendar, take note of the time between now and finals week. In about six weeks, you’ll need to have reached your highest level of learning, memorization and organization. That’s not a simple task.

Enter the BARBRI 1L Mastery Package.

If you haven’t already, it time to begin your outlines. (So how do you go about outlining, you ask?) This is where 1L Mastery helps tremendously. Starting to outline is like writers block. You stare at a blank Word document for 20 minutes. Literally. When you sign up for 1L Mastery, however, you get instant access to ready-to-use first-year course outlines — great examples that show you how to organize your own materials and even fill in a few blanks (substantive gaps) you may have missed in class or from your readings. Writers block conquered.

 

And the practice questions.

1L Mastery also has multiple-choice black letter law practice questions for every 1L subject. You can gauge your understanding of a topic without setting aside hours to complete. It’s an ideal way to supplement the other types of learning and it can help identify areas where you may need to spend more time. Just finished “offer and acceptance” in Contracts? Take a few practice hypotheticals to help identify when a contract has been formed.

The more hypotheticals you practice, the better prepared you will be when the final exam comes. Those first semester grades are so critical. You need all the material you can to succeed and stand out among your peers. Having access to the plethora of exam questions in the 1L Mastery Package is one its biggest advantages.

You’ve already completed a third of your first semester of law school. It’s zooming by. And things speed up even more. Feel comfortable knowing you have 1L Mastery outlines, practice questions (and video lectures) to back up your learning.

How can you stand out in your law school class? Be a “1L Master.”

Great 1L outlines: It’s about the process

It’s that one thing that looms around every corner of law school.

Maybe you did it some during undergrad, but never quite like this before. It is the bane of your law school existence, yet at the same time, the most crucial piece of exam preparation.

Outlines.

The first month of school consisted of scavenging the right 2L’s and 3L’s for the best outlines out there. Making sure to find those who did very well in your courses – and with your specific professors – is important.

But outlining is about more than just the end result. It’s about the process. Moving your class notes, supplements and handouts to a refined and organized study aid helps you put that critical information to memory. If you just grab from your peers or copy and paste from online sources, you won’t be putting that material in words familiar to you that truly help you understand the rules of law.

Another thing about the “process” … it’s a very long process. It’s time to start outlining (it’s mid-October already). Many schools will have a writing assignment due just before Thanksgiving Break that will require nearly all of your outside time and effort. It’s crucial to be up-to-date with your outlining as soon as (make that, BEFORE) you are given the assignment. This allows you to push aside your other classes, crush that writing memo, then get back to outlining in time to be finished before reading day.

That’s a lot of information. And potentially, a lot of additional stress. But that’s what it takes to get those 1L grades that matter so much.

Tips for Having a Productive Law School Study Group

Law School STUDY GROUP

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin,
1L at University of Arizona

I was on the fence about joining a law school study group before school started. I can be very social, but I did not want the social aspect of a study group to cause a reduction of valuable study time. I also knew that success on exams comes from issue spotting, and having different perspectives would offer me an opportunity to learn different ways to spot issues I might overlook. A law school study group seemed like a perfect solution to this issue. Plus it is a built-in support system for the challenging first year.

Luckily for me, my study group seemed to create itself. In our legal writing class, we were already assigned a micro group of 4 for group assignments in that class. We were a great fit, so it made sense to work on other classes together. We had two more people ask to study with us, and our group was set.

While 6 people is a bit large for a study group, it seems to work for us. We started meeting the 3rd week of school, which was a brilliant suggestion by one of our members. Even though we weren’t sure what we wanted to do, we quickly formed some rules and guidelines.

We are still new to the process but here are the guidelines that have helped us stay on track:

Have a Specific Start and End Time

Our study session begins right at 6 and ends at 8 pm. This is important because it keeps us focused. If we want to socialize, we show up early or stay after. Having a set time period helps us stay on track, be respectful of each other’s time, and keeps the small talk to a minimum.

law school study group

Establish Goals for Each Session

This may vary week to week for your law school study group, or you may have different goals throughout the semester. Our group started with a general review of basic concepts. As midterms are quickly approaching, we have placed a greater focus on outlines. Eventually, as finals approach, we will work on hypotheticals together.

Understand Expectations

We have a set schedule for what we will be discussing each week. We used our midterm schedule to help set our plan. We started with Contracts, tackled Civ Pro last week, worked on Torts this week and will be reviewing outlines next week. Each week, one person is the designated leader. They present the big takeaways from each case and highlight important issues for the class. The other members of the group are expected to ask questions, and anyone in the group can answer. Using this method has helped us quickly identify problem areas, and if we are not able to explain a concept well, we go back to the basics until we are all solid. If we are still in doubt, we designate someone to go to office hours on behalf of the group.

Hold Each Other Accountable

This applies not only to doing the prep work for each session but also during each session. If one person disagrees with the group, we each have an obligation to speak up. This helps avoid “group think” and challenges each person to back up their claims.

So far I feel like we have all benefited from our group and I am really looking forward to next week. What suggestions do you have for a successful study group? If you implement any of these in your own group, let me know over at the @1LLife on Twitter or Instagram.