WE MADE IT!!

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

We endured the fiery darts of the first year of contracts, criminal procedure, and property. We successfully tore down the walls of second-year con law, business orgs, and sales. Then, we soared through the obstacles of third-year externships and clinics.

We’ve stood the test of time and completed a journey that many fail to even attempt or only wish to accomplish.

I’m so proud of us!

As our law school journey comes to an end and we embark on this new adventure of preparing for the bar exam, I hope you take the time to reflect on all of your accomplishments. I hope you take the time to take in all of the congratulatory remarks and the love you’ll receive. I hope you take the time to remember why you started this incredibly difficult journey. I hope you take the time to be present in every remaining moment.

Moving forward, I hope you take a small break before taking on bar prep. Additionally, I hope you find that bar prep is endurable. Study hard, but remember to take mental and physical breaks when needed.

I have thoroughly enjoyed our blogging journey and I don’t consider this a goodbye. We’ll see each other again on the other side of the bar.

Until next time, friend…

Character and fitness: Not just virtues, requirements

By Mike Sims,
BARBRI President

If you are a graduating 3L student, you can probably relate to these tweets:

You never realize how many addresses you’ve had for the past 10 years until you fill out the bar’s character and fitness. #lawschoolproblems

It’s fun listing employers like Show-Me’s and Tequila Wyld on my bar application #lawschoolproblems

If not, let me welcome you to Character and Fitness season.

In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, third year law students are making preparations for graduation and beginning to think about the bar exam. Finally, after almost three years of law school, the end is in sight … almost. But now these soon-to-be-lawyers must complete the dreaded character and fitness application.

THE QUESTIONS ARE MEANT TO CHALLENGE YOU

Most people outside the legal profession would probably be surprised to learn that lawyers have to pass a character and fitness test (either before or after the bar exam, depending on the state) prior to becoming a licensed attorney. Or they might joke that lawyers have to prove we have bad character. Or we’re out of shape from sitting and reading all the time. Well, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Depending on what state you’re being licensed in, you will be asked some challenging questions. When I applied for the Georgia bar exam, I had to list every credit card I had ever had and the current balance on each of those cards.

Here’s another example: Pennsylvania applicants are asked to provide pages of information that include:

  • Everywhere you have lived, worked or attended school for a period of more than six months since age 16 (not just cities, but exact addresses)
  • Everywhere you have ever held a driver’s license or had a DUI or been a part of a serious traffic violation
  • Financial history – bankruptcy, delinquent on taxes or child support, past due accounts
  • Academic records – any discipline
  • Criminal history – everything except minor offenses
  • Civil proceedings – everything except divorce or minor motor vehicle accidents

A good place to start is by downloading the free BARBRI Bar Exam Digest, which includes all you need to know for every bar exam in every state.

THEY WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU

And they want to know it in the next few weeks. Keep in mind that some states require you to submit this application before you can take the bar exam and other states allow you to submit it afterward. If you have previously submitted a character and fitness application, you may need to submit an update depending on your state’s requirements.

As you begin completing your application, give yourself plenty of time. The last thing you want to do is miss the deadline because you could not come up with all of the information by the deadline.

AND REMEMBER THAT CANDOR IS KEY

Nothing upsets a character and fitness committee more than discovering something about you that you failed to disclose in your application. It is far better to disclose and explain something from your past than to try to hide it. If you have a question about whether or not to include something in your character and fitness application, you can contact the bar examiners in your state. Your law school’s Dean of Students can also be an invaluable resource during this process.

There are definitely #lawschoolproblems out there. With a little time and a lot of thought, your character and fitness application does not have to be one of them.

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

 

Law School Cold-calling. The Socratic Method. Here’s 3 ways to bring it on.

Law School Cold-calling

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

From talking about difficult Supreme Court cases to trying to stay alert for law school cold-calling, being prepared for class can be a daunting task. Everyone has their own preparation process. After having a conversation with a fellow classmate, I figured I’d share my preparation style.

How I read the case

I was a journalism major in undergraduate school. So, I’m prone to focusing on the high-level facts. When I read cases for the first time, I just need to know the facts, the rule, the holding. Generic online case briefs are helpful in this sense, but I wouldn’t rely too much on them.

While it can be easier said than done, I try to stay out of “the weeds” of the case. The fact of the matter is that the case represents a specific topic. So, I try to ascertain what the case signifies as it relates to THAT specific topic. Example, if we’re covering the Administrative Procedure Act and the case mentions a tort doctrine, I don’t spend 30 minutes trying to understand the tort doctrine.

Law School Cold-calling

When I read the case

I also find that when I read the case matters, as well. For some classes, I can read the day before and be fine with a quick review right before class. For other classes, I have to read right before class or I won’t retain the information. Nonetheless, to be on the safe side I’ve always tried to schedule classes where I had about 30/40 minutes between classes for this specific purpose.

Case briefing

The final thing about preparing for class is briefing. I’ve probably written a full-fledged case brief 3 times in my law school journey. It just doesn’t work for me. Instead, I might highlight the rule in the casebook or make notes in the margins. Very rarely do I formally CREAC or IRAC a case. I just think that’s too much work, but I also know people who do it for every case. So, if it works for you, by all means, have at it! All in all, you’ll be ready for law school cold-calling.

Make school easier, less expensive — without the trial-and-error.

When entering law school, many students don’t know what to expect. They haven’t been able to attain relevant advice and aren’t sure of the ways, if any, law school varies from undergraduate. Most students plan to dive in — and hope to succeed — using trial-and-error. That’s not really the wisest approach. Here are several more proven ways to help make law school life much easier.

STARTING FAST AND GETTING AHEAD.

First year law school grades are by far the most crucial. A high GPA is a requisite for big firm jobs and many law reviews and journals. If you fail to do well your first year or even just your first semester, it is incredibly difficult to bring up your GPA.

There’s always the opportunity to catch on faster and get ahead for what’s coming next, what to do and how to do it. At any point during 1L year, you can still take BARBRI Law Preview to better position yourself for success. In just a week, it teaches proven academic strategies and how to take law school exams. It also gives an overview of 1L classes and offers personal service and support throughout law school. Essentially, to use a metaphor, students who use Law Preview are typically the first out of the gate, while other students are still learning to run.

SAVING MONEY ON SUPPLEMENTS.

Many students will wait until the last minute to enroll in or think about a bar review course. But keep in mind all that you’ll be getting: BARBRI offers a laundry list of study aids and resources. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of first-year students who spent an extraordinary amount of money on supplements. You don’t need to do that. Simply enroll in BARBRI and sign up for the 1L Mastery Package (free for a limited time) to start using highly-effective study tools — ready-to-use outlines for all first-year classes, on-demand video lectures for all 1L subjects, plus essay and multiple-choice practice questions. Download the BARBRI Mobile App, too, for added convenience and flexibility in how and where you want to study.

MAKING SURE YOU GRASP THE MATERIAL.

In school, there are always a few professors with whom you might not mesh well. In those situations, you’ll often feel that you don’t fully comprehend the material after lecture and must teach yourself the information. BARBRI professors delivering online video lectures (with 1L Mastery) offer a third alternative. Chances are that if a professor at your school does not fit your learning style for a particular subject, a BARBRI professor will.

STAYING ON TRACK EVERY YEAR.

BARBRI doesn’t just offer material for your 1L year. We also have all the same resources for many of your 2L and 3L classes, such as Evidence, Constitutional Law, and Criminal Procedure. Additionally, BARBRI has a free MPRE Review course to help students pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) that’s required by almost every state and jurisdiction.

Getting a head start on law school by using Law Preview and then using BARBRI’s materials can help you lower your stress and financial expense, get you on the right track immediately and help you stay ahead of the curve throughout your law school career.

3L Study Habits

Back To Law School

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

3L Study Habits – I’m Already Changing

I’m a 3L. WHAT?! How insane does that sound? I feel like I JUST got acclimated to the beast that is law school. I feel like just last week I’d sent out my applications. My, how times have changed. 

Reminiscing…

Last year this time I’d evaluated my 1L year and decided that I need to change my study habits. In fact, I did just that. During my 1L year, I’d often take work home. During my 2L year, however, I determined that I wouldn’t bring books home and I would, instead, finish all of my work at school before leaving.

Looking back, I’d say that worked quite well for my schedule, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that this semester.

Homework in Library

Looking ahead…

I’ve been in school for about a month, now. Two weeks in I saw that the “No homework” stuff might not work. After being assigned two completely different 25-page papers I QUICKLY realized it WON’T work…at least not this semester.

I have no choice. Back to my 1L ways, I go.

Luckily, however, I know how the game goes. So, I won’t have a lot of that anxiety and worry that I had my 1L year. If there’s anything that I’ve learned in this law school journey it’s that flexibility is key! Sure…you may have an elaborate, aspirational plan, but, as I’m sure you already know, that plan may not always work. So, remember to stay flexible!

Nonetheless, here’s to our final hurrah! Let the countdown begin!

#The3LLife: Making Your Schedule

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

As this current semester wraps up (we’re over halfway through!) it’s likely that you’re thinking about what classes you’ll take next semester.

I always felt a bit overwhelmed during the scheduling process. There were so many classes I wanted to take and only so many hours in my day. To make the process a bit easier for myself I came up with a few questions to consider when evaluating classes. Take a look and let me know how you decide what to take!

Is this class required?

It might not be the class you’re looking forward to most, but if it’s required for graduation you may want to take it. By getting your required classes out of the way, you’ll free up your last year or last semester for electives. Plus, it’s always a good idea to get requirements out of the way as soon as possible. You don’t want to have to delay your graduation or take an unexpected summer class because you didn’t get something done.

Is this class known for being difficult?

I’m not suggesting you shy away from challenging classes–some of my favorite classes have been the most difficult. However, I do recommend that you avoid loading up on classes that are known for being time consuming or hard. You want to be able to enjoy the class and actually get something out of it, not feel insanely stressed and fall behind due to a crazy workload.

Am I interested in the topic?

You won’t be able to completely avoid subject matter that you don’t find interesting. Sometimes a class that doesn’t seem interesting will be the only thing that fits into your schedule or will be a requirement. With that being said, if you have the option, choose something you think you’ll like. Having an interest in the material makes it a lot easier to focus in class and get the assignments done.

Do I like the professor?

The professor can make or break a class. Look at who is teaching the class before you sign up.  Think about the last time you took a class with that person. Did you like their teaching style? Did you feel comfortable asking questions or going to office hours? If you haven’t taken that professor before, ask your classmates for their opinions.

Are there other options?

Before committing to a schedule, look at all the options. Maybe you want to work in an internship/ clinic time or you might want to do an independent study if you’re a credit or two short. Your school likely has a lot of different ways you can get your credits. Talk to the registrar or your advisor about your goals and what you’d like to learn. Part of their job is to help you, so take advantage of it!

Negotiating Your First Job Offer: Salary, Benefits, Reviews and More

GUEST BLOG Katie R. Day,
Quinnipiac University School of Law

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for since you started going on job interviews. You got a job offer!

There’s nothing more exciting than landing your first job after law school graduation. But once the excitement wears off, you realize that you need to evaluate the offer and decide whether or not to accept. I know it can be tempting to just say yes immediately, but there are a few things you should consider before committing.

Evaluate your expenses

Take some time to sit down and make a list of all the expenses you have: rent, car payment, insurance, food, student loans, utilities, etc. Add up all these expenses and see how much you actually need to spend on a yearly basis. Chances are it will be higher than you thought. At the very least, you need to make sure that the offer will give you enough to cover all of these expenses with some left over. You’ll want a bit of a cushion for unexpected costs (I’m looking at you, cracked windshield).

Research salaries at comparable jobs

You want to see how your offer compares with the industry standard. Sites like Glassdoor, PayScale and USA Wage have helpful ranges that take into account your location, experience, firm size and type of law.

Play around with these sites and see where your offer falls. If you feel comfortable, you may also want to ask a friend who recently graduated about their starting salary. More information is always better.

Look at benefits

Salary isn’t the only part of your offer you’ll want to evaluate. Does your employer pay for health insurance? How much will they contribute to a 401(k)? How many vacation days do you get? Think about the things that are important to you.

You may be willing to accept a salary that is a bit lower in exchange for great health coverage or the opportunity to work from home and spend more time with your kids.

Be aware of the possibility for re-evaluation

This is a starting salary and you’ll want to have the opportunity to get a raise based on your performance. Be sure you know when your firm will be doing evaluations or performance reviews and when you’ll have the opportunity to get a raise. Setting up an opportunity for re-evaluation up-front will set expectations and save your from a potentially awkward conversation down the road.

At the end of the day, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to job offers. If the offer works for you, and you’re happy with it, then accept. It’s all about what you want in a job and whether the offer is meeting your needs and goals.

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#The3Llife: Making An Effective Outline

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

Today is my last day of classes!

While I no longer have to sit in class, I can’t totally put the semester behind me yet. The next week is going to be full of outlining for all of my law school final exams, some open book and some closed.

Outlining can be a challenge and a lot of law students are tempted to make a “template” outline that they can fill in with class-specific material. While that sounds like a timesaver, it’s actually really detrimental. Every class is different, every exam focuses on different things, and therefore each outline should reflect those differences.

Think about how the professor organized the class.

You should have the most information in your outline about the topics that were discussed the most. Don’t get caught up trying to thoroughly analyze something your professor just mentioned in passing. If you’re unsure if you understand something enough, meet with a classmate or your professor and talk it through. You can also ask if your professor will review your outline. I’ve had several who are happy to take a look and make note of things that are missing or over-emphasized.

Aside from tailoring your outline to the structure of the class, also tailor it to the structure of the exam. Open-book exams require very different outlines from closed-book exams. For a closed-book exam an 80-page outline isn’t going to do you much good since it’s unlikely you can memorize that much info. Try to condense the rules, cases, and concepts as much as possible so they are easy to memorize. Depending on your learning style you may want to make flashcards or create mnemonic devices.

Since you’ll have your outline with you in an open book exam, it can be a little longer and more substantive. The key to using your outline effectively during the exam is organization. The answer may be in your outline, but that’s not helpful if you had to spend 20 minutes flipping through to find it. Organize your outline in a way that makes sense for you and then think of some other ways you can make it easy to search through. For a longer outline, you may want a skeleton outline or table of contents you can quickly skim. I’m a big fan of adding tabs that note the different rules and highlighting key cases or concepts.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you’re thoughtful about how you’re making your outlines and what will work best for you. It may seem like a lot of work–and it is–but the benefits of having a strong outline are well worth the trouble!

What are some of your tips for outlining? Share them with me on Twitter @The3LLife!

#The3Llife: What Type of Law Do You Want to Practice?

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

This past week I registered for my spring semester classes.

So far, throughout internships and classwork I’ve been focusing on intellectual property law and while I find it interesting, I’m not sure I want to continue down that path after law school. As I see job postings for first-year associates and take more diverse electives, I’m realizing that I may be interested in a lot more than I had thought.

That’s why I struggled with my spring schedule. There are so many areas of law I’d like to explore and only one semester left to do it. I’ve spent so much time worrying about not having a niche or a specialty, that I feel I may have missed out on some opportunities.

As I tried to determine what to take, something my law school professor told me popped into my head. He said that when anyone asks him what he does for work he says he’s an attorney and goes out of his way to avoid labeling himself as a “corporate attorney.” When I asked him why, he told me that he didn’t want people thinking he was only interested in corporate law, despite that fact that he’s done a lot of work in that area. He always wanted to keep his options open and welcome opportunities that may be outside his comfort zone.

I think the point of his story is important to remember, especially in the law school environment where we are constantly asked what type of law we want to practice. It’s okay to have a broad focus or no focus at all.

In an effort to keep an open mind and explore new things, I registered for law school classes that were completely outside my comfort zone. This spring, I’ll be putting intellectual property on pause to learn about international law, in-house work, and asset management/ financial advising. I even registered for Quinnipiac’s externship program and am excited to be placed at a firm where I can be challenged! While I may end up sticking with intellectual property law, I’m not going to rule out the other options, and who knows, maybe I’ll find my future career in something unexpected!