Understanding Graduation Requirements

graduation requirements

Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona

Graduation Requirements?

Do you know what your graduation requirements are? I know it seems ridiculously early to be concerned with this. We are just first semester 2Ls after all, but I’ve got plans! When I told a few people about this weeks blog topic, they mostly fell into two categories. Either they were like OMG I need to do this too, or they said I was giving them anxiety just thinking about it.

If you fall into the second category, I’m sorry… but perhaps it is better to glance at these now, then to realize that you can’t do something you want to in the future, because of something you did in 2L. I recommend visiting your Registrar or your school website to glance at your graduation requirements, this way you at least know what is ahead! For me, like I said I have big plans… or would at least like the option of big plans! Maybe you also have similar goals. Here are mine!

Goal 1: Be February Bar Eligible

First off, I’m not sure if I want to take the February Bar, but I might want to. I realized this past week if I wanted that to be a possibility, I had to make some changes and fast! Arizona allows students to take the February Bar if we need 10 credits or less in our final semester to graduate. I’m not a fan of summer school, so I needed to see if I could do this without it. It turns out I could, but the February Bar requirements were not my only problem…

This semester I originally took many practical classes. I have pre-trial litigation, ICN (Interviewing, Counseling & Negotiations), a 38(d) Criminal Prosecution clinic, Evidence, PR (professional responsibility), plus a seminar. Essentially, I have 18 credits, but only 10 are for grades. At my school, you must have 37 credits grades after 1L, with 88 credits total, and 64 of those most come from classroom instruction, so my journal and externships do not count. This meant I was in a jam. However, with a few minor changes, I was able to set myself up to be on track to hit all of my potential goals.

Graduation Requirements

Goal 2: Study Abroad

Yes, I know this seems crazy, but I have heard so many wonderful things about doing a study abroad program, especially in law school. I know I want to have this as an option, and ideally, while most 3Ls do this in their Spring semesters for me, I would love to do this in the Fall of 3L. Like I said at my school, we have well-defined graduation requirements, and I wasn’t sure how a study abroad would factor into the 37 of graded hours requirement.

It turns out that the classes convert to pass/fail, but the school reduces the amount of graded credit required so you can still meet this requirement.  The other fabulous thing is my scholarship will cover specific study abroad programs! I also found out that study abroad credits would count as classroom instruction, so I also get to count those towards the 64! If you want to do a study abroad, check on the deadlines to decide, for me, I have to put a deposit down by March.

Goal 3: Participate in an Externship Program away from school

Many schools have established programs in DC, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, and more. You can also set these up on your own by finding externships and taking online classes. At my school, for the first time, we will have an established externship program in Phoenix. This means we will take in-person classes in Phoenix and then work for a Phoenix-based employer as well. These classes are taught by Arizona Supreme Court Justices, renowned experts in their field, and more which is fantastic. But these are specialized legal topics, rather than doctrinal subjects. We also have the option of having them be graded or pass-fail. Because I have a place in Phoenix, I want to do this program twice, so I needed to make sure I could do that and complete some or all of my other goals.

The good news? I figured it all out.

I am admittedly an Excel nerd. My friends laugh when I tell them that spreadsheets calm me down, but it is true. I created a spreadsheet that laid everything out for me, and I did have to make some changes to this semester’s classes to make sure I used my credits efficiently. This semester I am still taking 18 credits (10 graded), and 18 credits next semester with 12-16 graded credits). This leaves me with 20 credits required to graduate, with 11 – 15 graded credits required over 3L. Woo hoo! Who knows if I will do all of these goals or just some of them, it depends… yep, I said it. IT DEPENDS!!!

Have you already taken a look at your requirements? Do you want a copy of my spreadsheet? If so send me a message @The2LLife on Instagram or Twitter!

Paying it Forward 2L Style

2L

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona

Paying it Forward 2L Style

We’ve all been there… and now it is time to pay it back, by paying it forward by helping 1Ls. Often, I talk to my fellow 2Ls to find out what I should write about each week. My friend Katrina suggested this topic and also provided a meaningful quote that is the inspiration for this week’s blog. She said, “As a 1L I thought any advice or words of affirmation from 2Ls felt like a life raft. It is our duty to pay it forward.” She is so right!

I have already taken a few 1Ls “under my wing” by giving advice, and even going as far as getting some second-semester books off our free bookshelf for them. YES!  UofA has a free bookshelf in the library that often has textbooks on it! There are a lot of ways you can pay it forward by helping 1Ls. You might already be doing this through your club, as a BARBRI rep (pssst…. check out the 1L Mastery package), or in some other way. I know I talk a lot about networking and forming relationships with class members, but recently I met with an attorney and they urged me to not only form relationships within my class but at a minimum with the class above and below me as well. For now, let’s just focus on the 1Ls.

Join the Mentor Program

Ok, this may seem obvious, but be on the lookout to see if your school has a formal mentoring program, if they do, sign up. But, if you don’t feel like you have the time to dedicate to the program, be a mentor in other ways. For instance…

2L – Just say hi!

At lunch, make the 1Ls feel welcome. You will likely see a few at the lunch events and if it is on a special topic, you might share similar interests. This is the perfect time to strike up a conversation.

Share your Wisdom

Think about how it felt last year, not really knowing anything about the classes or professors. Now, we’ve been there and done that. You are a wealth of information! For example, you could give:

  1. Advice on Professors
    Share tips on preparing for class, surviving cold calls, or exam tips.
  2. Share Your Outlines
    Have a great outline, or know a resource that can help a 1L out? Let them know and share!
  3. Recommend Clubs
    Help a 1L navigate the plethora of student organizations and clubs. You know who has the best lunch offerings, which clubs have the best events, and provide the best support.
  4. Give tips on having a life outside of law school
    Law school often seems life-consuming, but one of the tips I heard over and over again was to find something else to do as well. Sarah, a fellow 2L, recommended to “Get a hobby that isn’t law school-related. I did Yoga that helped me have friends outside of law school and that was so important!” Share your secrets…

Also, Share Your Struggles

No matter where you are ranked, we all shared struggles during our 1L. It could have been school-related, like the fear of the first cold call, or the impact of living in a new city. I remember seeing 2Ls and it seemed like they may have breezed through 1L, so it was great to hear about their struggles. It made me realize what I was going through was not unique, and that I was going to be ok!

Let me know how you’re paying it forward on Twitter or Instagram @The2LLife. I would love to hear from you!

2L: Back to the Classroom

2L

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona

2L Study Mode?

As I talk to my fellow 2Ls, the biggest struggle right now (besides the job hunt) is moving back into “study mode” after working all summer long. It can be a difficult transition. Especially when there seems to be such a focus at the beginning of the semester on OCI, and our 2L summer jobs. Here are some tips to help make the transition back into the classroom a little easier.

Pick Up Some New School Supplies

No matter how many times you’ve had a “first day of school”, for me, there is always something great about getting new school supplies to get me back into the mood for school. Think about what made you successful last year. What changes do you need to make? Grab some school supplies to help you reach your goals. I personally love taking notes in different colors.  I learned last year, that I actually remember what I need to learn better if I handwrite it versus typing it. So, when I found myself dragging the first week of school, I decided to go buy a colorful pen set and dedicated notebooks for each class. This made my second week of school so much better! I also reorganized my backpack using my Ipsy bags (pens in one, computer cord and mouse in another). This has already made my semester better (and more organized).

Reflect On 1L

Maybe you had a great 1L, maybe you struggled a bit. No matter how you felt you did, take time to reflect on your successful classroom habits and where you need to improve. Doing this now, might help you get back into your good study and classroom habits from last year, and maybe help you avoid some pitfalls. For me, this means more studying at home instead of in the library.

Use What You Learned At Work

This summer most of us worked in the legal field for the first time. I spent my summer with the trial division of a government agency, and it confirmed that I want to be a litigator. This led me to change up my schedule a bit this semester. Now I am taking classes that are focused on interviewing, pre-trial litigation and more. Use what you did this summer to help you refine your class schedule now that you have some legal experience. Perhaps you loved what you did, maybe you hated it. One of my friends was going to take a course load full of business law. They have since changed to a family law focus. Tailoring your classes will likely make you more engaged in the classroom. It will help you hone the skills you will need for your future career.

Consider Pro Bono Work

If you really enjoyed what you did this summer, and are missing it, see if you can add a clinic, externship or fulfill your school’s pro bono requirement by using your new-found talents. A 3L told me the hardest part of starting 2L was feeling like they “regressed” from being a productive, contributing member of the law community back to a law student. They felt that by doing pro bono work, that helped bridge that gap between their professional and academic careers.

I wish you a successful start to the school year! How are you transitioning back into the classroom? Feel free to send your tips to @The2LLife on Instagram and Twitter!

The2Llife: Reflecting on 1L Summer

GUEST BLOG by Dani Gies,
Attorney Advisor at Los Angeles Immigration Court
(written as a Rising 2L entering the start of the fall semester, exclusively for BARBRI)

It’s time to take stock of what happened during the summer.

I worked for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (a component of the Department of Justice) in Immigration Court. The Court was attached to a detention facility, so all of the respondents in court were detained. I served as sort of the clerk to the clerk, since there was only one law clerk for the four Immigration Judges. Since there were only two of us, I got tremendous legal research and writing experience, and also learned substantive criminal immigration law along the way. I also made really meaningful personal connections. All in all, I had the best 1L summer job experience I could have hoped for.

Did you have a great summer, too? Tips to keep floating on Cloud Nine:

  • Thank your supervisor and those who made your experience possible. An email is nice for a coworker with whom you worked a couple of times, but I recommend a handwritten card for your supervisor. After all, taking on an intern is a lot of extra work for an organization and for the person supervising you. Furthermore, let them know that you really enjoyed yourself.
  • Keep in touch and follow up. If someone in the office offered their help to you in the form of a letter of recommendation, reference or just making a connection, be sure to follow up. While you are back in school living the good life, they’re still on the work grind and may already have another intern. Send an email to confirm their willingness to be a reference or remind them of the connection you were hoping to make.
  • Be introspective. Did you expect to like your work? If so, was it the content of the work or the type of work? Did you enjoy an aspect of the work you didn’t expect? How does this inform the types of work opportunities you will look for in the future?

Was your summer not as great as you had hoped? Consider this:

  • Thank your supervisor and those who made your experience possible. An email is nice for a coworker with whom you worked a couple of times, but I recommend a handwritten card for your supervisor. Even if it was not the best experience for you, taking on an intern is a lot of extra work for an organization and for the person supervising you. Furthermore, just because you left with a bad taste in your mouth does not mean you should leave the organization with one in theirs.
  • Keep in touch and follow up. If someone in the office offered their help to you in the form of a letter of recommendation, reference or just making a connection, be sure to follow up. Although the organization you worked for may not be the best fit, if you are candid with someone there, they may be able to refer you for a job better suited to you. Send an email to remind them of the connection you were hoping to make.
  • Be introspective. Did you expect to like your work? If so, what made you dislike your experience? Was it the content of the work, the type of work, the environment, the people? Did you enjoy any aspects of the work? How does this inform the types of work opportunities you will look for in the future?

If you didn’t cheat and read both sections, you’ll notice I gave the same advice, although worded slightly differently. This is because I firmly believe that it is just as important to learn what you don’t like as to learn what you do like.

You’re not married to your 1L summer job or your 2L summer job or the first job you get after graduating. Thus, every experience gives you more information about what work makes you happy and what gets you down in the dumps, leading you ever closer to the job that is right for you. I hope you’re able to view your summer experience in this light.

3L Year “Distractions” And Figuring Out What You Can Do Differently

GUEST BLOG by Harrison Thorne,
Associate Attorney at Vedder Price
UCLA Law graduate

After transferring to UCLA Law as a 2L, I met new people and learned a lot. It was a great experience. However, I also found myself wasting a lot of time and that made me wonder what I could do differently my final year of law school. To be honest, I was frequently distracted by Facebook, Gmail, Gchat, iMessage and the other usual culprits when I was supposed to be reading or paying attention in class. Something had to change, but I didn’t quite know the steps to take (but I would eventually).

For starters, I made a “strong” decision: enough with these distractions. There are many people, it seems, who can use sheer willpower to avoid the temptations of, for example, surfing the web during a (particularly boring) class. I was not one of them. My renewed focus meant leaving the computer in my office and bringing only a notebook and pen to class. Cold turkey.

And here’s what I figured out and did differently as a 3L:

WRITING NOTES BY HAND LEADS TO GREATER RETENTION, FOCUS

At first, I worried that I would miss so much of the lecture trying to force my hand to writer fast(er) in keeping up with the lecturer. I actually found the opposite to be true.  I retained a lot more from lectures, and it is significantly easier to stay focused.  I have even begun taking reading notes by hand.  I use my computer a lot less, which has helped alleviate the constant headache I get when staring at a screen all day.

READING A WEEK AHEAD HELPS ELIMINATE ANXIETY, FEELING RUSHED

During the semester, I made a plan to read over the weekend for the following week’s classes. On Saturday/Sunday, I would read for my courses the coming Monday through Thursday. Before doing it this way, I found that reading right before class was causing me a lot of anxiety. I read slowly and sometimes can’t put enough attention into a reading assignment if I know class is about to start in 30 minutes. By reading ahead, I was much less worried and rushed.

Another benefit of reading ahead on the weekend, by the way: you can dedicate Friday to outlining from the previous week’s readings and lectures.

CUTTING OFF WORK/STUDY AT A SPECIFIC TIME GIVES BACK MORE TIME

During my 3L year, I had four classes, was Editor-in-Chief of the Entertainment Law Review and mentor to another transfer student, and was juggling various other commitments. It would have been easy to get bogged down in all this. However, I made the choice to stop working/studying at 5:30 pm, unless I absolutely needed to push that self-imposed deadline a bit further.

My thought was: If I could successfully read for the following week, there should be no need to work past 5:30 pm. Law school tends to breed a culture of constant, around the clock “half-work” in which people are always reading or writing something but always with a lot of distraction. I was determined to work really hard during the day, leaving my nights open to spend time with my family and friends.

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!

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).

All those small, yet vital, things to do during 2L finals prep

It’s November. Classes are almost over. Final exams are close now.

This semester really flew by. By now, you should have your outlines complete and study questions ready. It is obvious that you should work on memorizing the rules and how to apply them, but what else should you be doing to prepare for exams?  Here are a few suggestions.

  • Keep track of your study hours. This may sound a little crazy, but it is helpful to hold yourself accountable. There are a few ways to do this. You can write down the amount of hours you will study on a calendar. This is a good idea so that you do not schedule anything else during that time. You could also create a spreadsheet to track the amount of time you studied and to track what material you studied. By writing down the amount of hours that you studied, you are able to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment after finals are over. This may also help to create efficient study habits for other exams or even for the bar exam. This is also great practice for the future when you will be billing clients.
  • Ask questions. This is pretty self-explanatory. It is so important to ask questions while you are studying because you do not want to memorize the incorrect rule. So go to your professor’s office hours, shoot them an email or bounce questions off of your friends.
  • Find a study method that works for you. It is pertinent to determine the best study method early on in law school. You may find that studying in a large group is helpful. Or you may find that you like the complete opposite. You may like studying with one, or two, other people because it’s helpful to ask questions. However, it is incredibly easy to get distracted when studying with others, so make sure you try to stay on track.
  • Find a study area that works for you. As important as it is to find out what the best study method is, where you study is almost equally as important. Studying at your house or apartment may be convenient, but it may be full of distractions such as roommates, pets or T.V. You may like studying in the library, a coffee shop or somewhere else where you can zone in and optimize productivity. This could take some trial and error, but by this time in the semester, you should have a few options to use if your main spot is unavailable.
  • Sleep. This cannot be emphasized enough. All-nighters have a bad rap and for good reason. You will retain much more information if you have a decent night of sleep. It is so, so, so important to give your brain a rest from rules and cases.

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

 

The MPRE may have an “easy” reputation, but don’t fall for it

The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam. The MPRE. The pièce de résistance.

What you’re up against: 60 multiple-choice questions. Ten of them will go unscored. You have two hours to complete it all. While nowhere near as long or as demanding as the bar exam, the MPRE is definitely in a category of its own. It can be complex and tricky. All by design. It’s meant to task you with thinking like a lawyer when ethical situations aren’t so clear cut. And it’s a different exam format compared to law school. Even though it has the reputation as being “easy” and “not a big deal,” you’ll want to study. Especially if you’re a 3L student with only a few more opportunities to pass it before taking the bar.

Almost every state/jurisdiction requires that you pass the MPRE for admission to the bar, so be sure you have this requirement checked off your to-do list.

Download the free BARBRI Bar Exam Digest for all the state-by-state MPRE scoring information.

Many students opt to take the MPRE after completing their law school’s Professional Responsibility (PR) class. This is a good idea; however, do not rely solely on your PR class notes as a way to streamline your MPRE preparation. It won’t work well. The MPRE tests on the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, whereas some law school courses may focus on state-specific rules of professional conduct or teach a combination (ABA and state). Plus, the hypos you encounter in PR class are likely to be quite different than the scenarios presented in the MPRE questions. To borrow a phrase, it’s “like comparing apples to oranges.”

If you can swing a few days off work or school to study for the MPRE, do it. You need to devote the time — it’s a bar admission requirement so you’ll want to take it seriously (regardless of the exam’s reputation). Consider the free BARBRI MPRE review course. Taking a legal ethics or PR class in law school won’t guarantee a passing score. The BARBRI MPRE Review covers everything about ethics, is highly organized and always current on legal ethics information. The course has a video lecture component and a ton of practice questions. In case you like to take practice exams by hand (which is not a bad idea because the test is in scantron format), there is a book that has sample exams.

Overall, the MPRE is an exam that requires knowledge of the rules and the application of the rules. Studying for one night is simply not enough. It is best to take some time off and really dive into the material. Your hard work will pay off in the long run.