Reflecting on the 1L life

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

It’s hard to believe that I take my last final tomorrow and by the time you read this I will be done with my 1L, and likely so will you!

In addition to the thousands of pages I read, the notes I’ve taken, and papers written, I have learned so much more this past year than just about the law, but about myself and the way, I view the world. So, while this may be a tad cliché, here are the biggest takeaways from my life as a 1L.

I made the right choice.

It took forever for me to decide which school I was going to go to. I was caught up in rankings, prestige, and conflicted about where I wanted to practice. In May I still had multiple seat deposits down, and it wasn’t until I decided that I wanted to stay in Arizona to practice that my choice became clear.  Even though I was closer to a different law school, U of A made the most sense and I was pretty confident I would fit in well there. I am so grateful that I came to this school. It is 100% where I needed to be.

So 0Ls, if you’re stressing, worried about rankings my best advice is to visit schools, sit in on classes and talk to judges and lawyers in the area you want to practice. Their advice is what helped me decide to stay in Arizona and chose my school. If you’re in a similar position or just starting the process, get out there and speak to people in your legal community.

Friends Make Law School 1000 times better…

I honestly don’t know what I would have done this year without my group of friends at school. School is stressful, and sometimes, you can’t avoid outside life spilling over, and my friends have been there through excessive laughter and tears. I can’t thank them enough. Throughout the year I’ve become closer with different groups, ranging from my micro group, the “Fantastic 4”,  to my small section, “the couch crew,” and with others in classes this semester. Special shout out Kevhilanie and to my fellow Watchers of the Law… yep, we have a group that meets to watch the final season of GoT. Yep, I have turned into that person who uses nicknames for friend groups. This is what law school does to you.

I understand that some people approach law school like a lone wolf, and I get it. Law school is as competitive, and you can make it even more competitive if you want to. But law school is also a community. Not only are my classmates my friends, but they are also going to be my colleagues, and just like we support each other now, I am confident we will continue to do that throughout our careers.  At our orientation a Professor said, “Make friends, not enemies” and that advice guided me the entire year and will continue to guide me into my legal career.

I have embraced “It depends”…

Before starting school, I had always prided myself on being able to see “both sides” on most issues, or so I thought. Law school taught me that I was more closed minded than I realized. This has been perhaps the most significant way law school has changed me. I listen better. Through cases, class discussions, and lunchtime events, I have been exposed to more viewpoints than ever. Instead of being closed minded and holding my ground on issues I held dear, law school has taught me to be an even better listener, to see the other side of an issue and try to understand it through discussion. Sure, some of my core ideas haven’t changed, but I feel much more understanding of the views of others and why they have them. So now when someone asks my opinion on something, I realize… it depends.

It’s been great sharing the @The1LLife with you, and I look forward to seeing you all @The2LLife next Fall!

Quotes to get you Through Finals

quotes

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

Motivational Quotes

My Littleton fellow in 1L (a type of student teacher and mentor at my school) began our first class by having each of us say one motivational quote. When 1L exams came around our “class mom” printed the quotes and gave one to each of us as motivation to make it through finals. Since 1L I’ve learned that sometimes you really do just need that little extra motivation to get you through.

With that in mind, here are some motivational quotes to get you through finals! Write them on your mirror as a reminder, text them to a friend in law school as a pick me up, or use them as a catchy caption for your finals Instagram posts.

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere 
with what you can do”
—John Wooden
“There’s a light at the end of every tunnel”
—Ada Adams
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. 
The most certain way to succeed is always 
to try just one more time”
—Thomas A. Edison
“You’ve got to get up every morning with determination 
if you’re going to go to  bed with satisfaction”
—George Lorimer
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. 
You have exactly the same number of hours per day 
that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, 
Michelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, 
Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein”
—H. Jackson Brown Jr.
“Your positive action combined with 
positive thinking results in success”
—Shiv Khera
“The best way to finish an unpleasant
task is to get started”
—Anonymous
“School is tough, but so are you”
—Anonymous
“Don’t stress, do your best and forget the rest”
—Tony Horton
“You are so close to the victory, don’t you 
dare give up now”
—Anonymous
“If you believe in yourself anything is possible”
—Miley C

9 Tips To Keep Your Over-Stressed, Over-Worked “Lizard Brain” At Bay

When law school graduation arrives, it’s time to relax … right? Not so fast. Not when the bar exam is on the not-so-distant horizon. One last hurdle to becoming a licensed lawyer, your ultimate personal and professional goal.

WE’RE ONLY HUMAN … WITH A “LIZARD BRAIN”

There’s so much pressure surrounding the bar exam. Passing means everything – mostly the opportunity to actually practice law and make a decent living doing it. Before that becomes your reality, you have to deal with the major stress of preparing for the bar exam. You are now on a deadline because the bar exam is happening on time, as scheduled, whether you are ready or not. You fear failure, which is totally normal. All this causes chronic sympathetic nervous system arousal – in other words, “lizard brain.” It’s a fight-flight-freeze survival mode that goes way back to our prehistoric days as Paleolithic humans.

YOU KNOW WHY, NOW THE SYMPTOMS

It’s likely that you may already have experienced chronic stress during law school. According to the Mayo Clinic, “lizard brain” symptoms include headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, increased illness, upset stomach, chest pain, sleep disturbances, anxiety, lack of motivation or focus, irritability, restlessness, depression, angry outbursts and social withdrawal.

IT WANTS TO DRIVE YOUR BUS

Considering the laundry list of symptoms, your body expends quite a bit, if not all, its energy to keep you going. It’s survival, literally. And that level of energy consumption doesn’t leave much for anything else, especially when you need to be able to memorize black letter law, take practice exams or simply remain upright during lectures. The lizard is driving your bus with the pedal to the metal. As you might imagine, a frazzled lizard driving a bus can be detrimental to everyone and everything nearby, including the bus itself (that’s you).

9 TIPS FOR TAKING BACK CONTROL

  1. Be Grateful. Every day, find time to reflect on 3-5 things you appreciate. Lawyers tend to be world-class pessimists. Remembering things that really matter can help you focus on the positive and, in turn, improve your overall physical health and much-needed energy levels.
  2. Make time for family and friends. Stay connected with the important people in your life. Your support system will help you feel less alone, or isolated, and keep your outlook positive.
  3. Smile. Research has shown that the simple act of smiling can slow your heart rate and reduce stress. Smiling more may even help alleviate depression.
  4. Meditate. Take a few minutes each day. Be still and focus on your breathing. Research has shown that meditation can help prevent mind-wandering, increase focus, reduce stress, improve sleep and strengthen the immune system. Om … Om … Om …
  5. Plan the day. Map out time for studying, eating, sleeping, fun activities and exercise, for example. You’ll feel prepared and ready, less anxiety, greater control and, ultimately, get the most important things completed. It will save you time, too.
  6. Eat, sleep, play. Smart food choices, enough sleep (seven hours minimum) and exercises that you enjoy (could be a nice walk outside or dancing at home, when nobody’s watching) are important to your health.
  7. Be your own cheerleader. We’re often quite critical of ourselves. Become aware of your self-talk, challenge it and replace it with a positive mantra. Research shows that people with a positive outlook can fight off colds, handle stress better and – bonus! – even live longer.
  8. Laugh. Laughter has shown to lower cortisol in your bloodstream, relax your muscles and improve your overall well-being.
  9. Eat 1.4 oz. of chocolate: Doing this every day for two weeks can actually lower your stress hormones. How much is 1.4 ounces of chocolate exactly? Google it and you’ll see there are many choices and brands you may like.

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!

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

 

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.

Go commercial? Ask upperclassmen? Create your own?

Outlines. Outlines. Outlines.

It’s all everyone seems to be talking about … but what exactly is a law school outline? Place the emphasis here on “law school” because how you approached your outlines during undergrad won’t compare as to what you’re about to embark on this first semester of law school. As a baseline, your law school outlines are essentially study guides for each of your 1L courses. There are a couple of ways to get started.

  • You can invest in ready-to-use commercial outlines. For example, you get free 1L outlines when you sign up for the BARBRI’s free 1L Mastery study tools. These outlines will, at the very least, help spring board your own process and help fill in the substantive gaps from what you’ve read in textbooks and casebooks and heard from your professors in class.
  • You can also ask 2L and 3L students to pass them down to you. Law school is known for being competitive and your effort to lobby upperclassmen may not work — but you might get lucky. Finally, there’s the art of doing it all on your own. Blank slate, roll up your sleeves and put in the time.

Whatever works best for you, do that. Not necessarily just one way or another. Cover all your options. For example, get your hands on a commercial outline and then see if an upperclassmen will share their old outline for the same course. Now you can work with both to build your own robust outline for the final exam.

Additional, important tips to remember.

  • Try to make your own outlines first. While commercial outlines and upperclassman outlines are helpful, they should be used primarily as supplements while making your own. And by creating your own outline, you are able to review the material while working it into a format that makes sense for you. If you’re stuck on something, then simply refer to the commercial outline. This goes back to filling in any substantive gaps.
  • Don’t procrastinate. It’s definitely easier said than done. Even if you are only able to tackle one section of your outline at a time, it’s better than waiting until the last minute.
  • Ask for help. No, your professor will probably not review your outline with you. However, they will probably answer specific questions. If you start early, you can go see your professor during office hours to discuss and clarify any material before the madness of final exams begins.
  • Use resources available to you. You might consider signing up for the free BARBRI 1L Mastery study tools, which come with online, on-demand video lectures for all 1L courses. This is another extremely helpful way to supplement your class notes. Also, check out the books in your law school’s library. There are bound to be some type of supplemental materials available to you there, as well.