: Texas State University – San Marcos (SWTSU to us old guys)
: Plano, TX
: Part-Time Evening
5/9/12 - After four years of blogging, this is my final installment. As I approach graduation this week, followed by Bar exam prep and the long wait for grades, I feel a mixture of relief, joy, anticipation, and anxiety.
I am so excited to attend graduation and see all of my friends who started with me finally cross the finish line. For all I care, the ceremony can take five hours, because I plan on soaking up the sights and sounds of the event I have worked so hard to attend. While it will be bittersweet to see many of my friends for possibly the last time, I will not let that dampen my mood.
While I wait in excited anticipation for graduation, I wait with anxiety for the Bar exam. Grades from the February exam posted last week and I was truly saddened to see some names missing from the list. Notice that I focused on the missing names. Unfortunately, it is my nature to see the negative and expect the worst first. Make no mistake, I was elated to see the names of my friends who passed; I could not wait to congratulate them. But those missing names struck fear in my heart because my day is coming soon. I must have faith, though, that the Lord has taken me this far and blessed me with a perseverance that will not allow me to do less than my best in exam preparation and performance. When I remember that, I feel confident I will succeed.
In closing, I want to say that law school has been everything I expected and more. It has been challenging, to say the least. Beyond that, apt adjectives run the gamut from frustrating and disappointing to exhilarating and simply fun. Suffice it to say, I loved law school; now, I am ready to move on. I have had my fill of academics and I am ready to take on new challenges where the bullets are real, so to speak. The time has come to leave behind my student trappings, acknowledging that we are always students, and take up the professional mantle I have pursued over the last four years. Only one exam lies in the way. I am grateful for the education and experiences Texas Wesleyan Law provided me over the last four years, and I am ready to put them to use. So long, Texas Wesleyan.
4/25/12 - My final class was last Thursday and life is good! I know trouble is coming in the form of Bar exam prep, but right now I am loving the fact that school is practically done. I only have one exam now. I have watched more TV in the last two weeks than all of the previous four years---at least, it feels that way. I have actually done house work and loved it. I tell you, I could get used to this one-job lifestyle. I forgot how much fun living was. Okay, enough gloating. If any of my law school friends still doing time read this, they will hate me.
In other news, our outgoing Student Ambassador Board conducted our last training last night. It was great to see the new board and a new batch of excited ambassadors. I still love seeing new students express as much enthusiasm for our school as I feel. Texas Wesleyan Law is a great school! I know I will miss extolling its virtues as a student, but I am looking forward to telling everyone how the school prepared me for practice.
Finally, as my tenure as a software developer draws to a close in the next couple of months, I am really starting to get excited about moving on. Over the last few months, I have been a bit schizophrenic about my coming clerkship, but I was recently convinced to trust in God. There is nothing more effective at robbing us of the joy in following our calling more than fear. Serendipitously, or by divine providence, depending on your predilections, that was just the message I received last Sunday. Thus, with so little time left in the technologist’s world, I have resolved to put fear behind me and move forward in boldness and faith to fully embrace the blessings that await me as a clerk and eventually as an attorney.
4/11/12 - The word for the day is: illness. With my last semester coming to a close, I think I am suffering the most serious illness of my law school career. Last week, I came down with the flu and this week it appears I have a sinus infection. Fortunately, I only have one class; otherwise I would be more stressed about missing school. I can't say the same for work, though. With all of my absences over the last two weeks, I fear I am pushing the limit of my employer's patience. My lesson this week: flu shots work after all. I didn't get mine this year, the first time in the last six, and now I am paying the price.
Illness aside, I am finally starting to enjoy looking forward to graduation. I dropped my Contract Drafting class and we are done reading for Pretrial Procedure. Thus, I am starting to relax and refresh. I was told to rest up for Bar prep and I am trying to do just that. This is my first time to drop a class, and I must say that I enjoyed it more than I expected. I learned a lot in the class, so I feel like I got my money's worth. Not needing the hours, I decided to lighten my load and I am glad I did. Now I can focus on only one law school exam and get a head start on Bar prep.
In other news, I am gradually realizing that I will miss my job once I quit this summer. It is ironic, because my lack of satisfaction with software development is one factor that led me to law school. After attending a training class on agile software methodologies this week, between sick time, I realized that I will miss seeing my company transition to a sophisticated software shop. As unsatisfied as I have been for years, I must admit that sometimes, given the right environment, software development can be quite fulfilling. No looking back now, though. I must have faith that the Lord is leading me to a new venue.
3/28/12 - It has been another week of not much to say. I have just been working, doing husband and dad duty, and trying to avoid studying. Frankly, I have a bad case of “senioritis.” In fact, it's so bad that I am considering dropping a class. Fortunately (and unfortunately), I have more classes than I need for graduation. So, for the first time, I am thinking of dropping a class. Honestly, I doubt that I will drop it because I am so stubborn, but I am thinking about it.
Other than that, I have been busy with my research assistant work for Professor Sahar Aziz. After further thought, I do have more to say. I have really enjoyed working for Professor Aziz. After several expedited technical edits of article drafts over the last couple of months, I have determined that I really enjoy editing. I had no idea that I loved editing so much until now. There is something about taking a rough draft, reading through it, and polishing it that I enjoy. It is very fulfilling to take ownership of a draft, invest in it, and see the improved final draft. That being said, all of this editing has made me much less tolerant of bad writing. I am certain this editing experience will serve me well when I start working at the court this fall. It's funny that I didn't recognize that aspect of the job when I started this position last fall. I guess God is in charge after all.
3/7/12 - There isn’t much interesting to report this week. I am just muddling through my studies and working. The only moderately interesting event since my last installment was filing my Law Clinic client’s case. It was nice to go to the clerk’s office knowing just what to do. I actually felt a little like a lawyer going right to the clerk, with the correct documents, knowing just what I needed. Now we wait the statutory period. While waiting, I will start drafting the decree. I am hopeful that I will get to finalize the case before I graduate, as it would be nice to get in front of a judge just once while I have backup.
The only other activities of note have been Law Review and SART (Student Ambassador Recruiting Team) board elections. I had fun going through the process of selecting successors, but I feel sad that this is my last go ‘round. I felt especially sad when we selected our new Law Review Board because this has been such a successful year for our Board. I actually had fun helping our writers complete their articles and seeing all of our first-time accomplishments. While I am glad that we will leave the Law review in a better place than where we found it, I am sad to leave. I am hopeful that I can help keep the momentum as an alumnus.
2/22/12 - This week has been all about making plans for the future. And, for the first time since starting law school, the future is certain--at least the short-term future is certain. I have been hired as the next law clerk for the Honorable Bob McCoy with the Second Court of Appeals. Thus, I now must plan my exit strategy for my current job. Fortunately, my employer has been expecting this day since I started, so the negotiations should be smooth.
More difficult than planning change from software developer to judicial clerk are my plans for Bar Exam prep. Because judicial clerkships pay so little, I am trying to work out a study schedule that will allow me to stay at my job as long as possible. In order to develop a workable schedule, I have been soliciting advice from my friends who recently took the Bar.
Unfortunately, opinions vary widely. Some people say that working during exam prep is suicide; others worked until the last three weeks. Thus, developing realistic expectations is proving difficult. That said, my current plan is to work part-time for the first five weeks and devote all of the second five-weeks to exam prep. Of course, this is all a moot point if my employer doesn’t go for it. Hopefully, I will know more in a couple of weeks.
Having said all of that, I must say that my employer has been a fabulous blessing throughout my time in law school. As most evening students know, it is a real blessing to work for an accommodating employer. While my employer’s accommodating nature is an aspect of its corporate culture, I also attribute my experience to my decision to completely disclose my law school commitment when I hired on back in 2009. Anyone thinking they can keep this thing a secret is doing themselves a disservice and may never realize what a blessing their employer could be. My only regret from disclosing my plans when I hired on is that I will miss working there when I am gone, despite my yearning to move on.
2/8/12 - New developments this week consist of my turning another year older, Bar exam review students scaring the heck out of me, and picking up a new case in law clinic.
In case you missed it, I turned 47 last week. It isn’t a national holiday yet; maybe someday. While I have been feeling my age lately, I also received a couple of supportive comments from attorneys telling me that my age is an asset in this market. I certainly hope they are right. Aside from the potential advantage my advancing age offers, there is one definite benefit this year: I can now start accumulating Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits. Because Bar Association membership renews annually on your birthday, members can start earning credits after their birthday immediately preceding admission. I plan to take advantage of law student pricing and rack up as many CLE hours as I can stand between now and November. Happy birthday to me!
Because many of my friends graduated in December and are prepping for the Bar in the evenings, I have an opportunity to ask them what it is like. So far, I don’t like what I hear. One of my friends, a Navy submariner, told me that he puts Bar exam prep on par with his “Dolphin” qualification. For those who know what that takes, you understand why this comment scares me. For those who don’t, Google it. Suffice it to say that “Dolphin” qualification is an extremely rigorous program. Well, forewarned is forearmed.
Last, it looks like I may finally have a challenging case in the Law Clinic. With so many false starts and cases that never developed, I started to feel like I had a Law Clinic jinx. From the time I started school, I have anticipated the day when I could serve those in need through the Clinic. Thus far, I have been stymied. Now, I have a wonderful client and I hope that I can serve her by seeing this case through to resolution. I hope this is my breakout case.
1/25/12 - In a rare taciturn moment, the words for this entry escape me. There simply aren't many new developments and I have grown tired of discussing the same old chestnuts of jobs, decisions, and classes; I am sure you are tired of them too. So, instead of giving you another day-in-the-life recitation, I will use this space to further answer a question I recently received.
While interviewing candidates this week for our Student Ambassador Recruiting Team, I was asked whether I am able to leave “school” at school when I go home at night. Now, that is a question I have never heard. After winding my way through a predictably protracted response, I realized how much I am going to miss school.
The fact is, after four years, I do not leave school at school when I go home. For better or worse, law school has become a part of me. Some quantum of it follows me everywhere. Whether it is a stray supplement in the trunk of my car, a copy of the Bar journal on the dinner table, an email from the Registrar's office, or the supply of highlighter refills in my desk, law school is with me where ever I go. Frankly, I like it that way. I seriously don't know how I will react when it is all over, but I know I will miss it.
Of all the expectations I brought when I started, I never expected to miss it when it was over. I have met, and still meet, so many great people. I also never expected it to change me so much. I am amazed at how this experience has changed my perspective on almost everything. Law school has definitely given me clarity I never had. Yes, law school has matured even a hoary fellow like me. For that, I am grateful. I believe no thinking person should go through life without testing his or her understanding. While I will miss many aspects of law school, I hope to take the testing with me in order to maintain that clarity.
So, do I take law school with me at the end of the day? Yes, I am imbued with it.
1/11/12 - This is the first week of my last semester and I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am glad that school is almost over. I am really tired of studying and piling up debt. On the other, I am apprehensive because of what lies on the other side of graduation. These conflicting emotions should make for an interesting graduation. I really want to be excited, but I am not sure I will be.
As for the semester itself, I have a nice light load, and I hope to keep it that way. I doubt it will stay so. While I am not competing in Moot Court (yes, I finally said "no") I am working in the Law Clinic again and working as a research assistant. Oh yeah, the day job is still there too. It was hard to leave Moot Court. Despite the stress, I really love it. But, when your wife lays down the law, you'd better respond. She has happily accommodated my extracurricular activities so many times that when she finally said "enough," I knew it was enough. So, I declined.
So, this semester is dedicated to gaining some real-world experience. I hope that Law Clinic will get me before a judge or two and I plan to observe some lawyers in action. So far, I have discovered that attorneys really do like to share their experiences with law students and they are very accepting of free assistance. I plan to make the most of this attribute this semester as I plan for the distinct possibility that I will be self-employed by year end.
12/14/11 – It is so nice to have no books. After three and a half years of school, I have finally reached the point of saturation. And, while I still have other academic pursuits, I am so glad to have no books. I know this is a fleeting situation, so I am going to relish it while it lasts.
While schoolwork is on hiatus, I find myself engaged in a new legal endeavor. I am working for Professor Sahar Aziz as a research assistant. Through the work I am doing for Professor Aziz, I am finally delving into a subject I had hoped to work in from the time I started school: civil rights. Specifically, I am helping her find sources for her article on gender and religious discrimination. I will also be assisting with edits. While I am only a week into my assignment, I love the work. It is great to finally work on issues near to my heart. In addition to doing satisfying work on the article, I received some great advice from Professor Aziz during my interview.
Not unlike many who pursue a law degree, I came to school with a desire to affect change and a passion for a particular issue. For me, that issue is religious liberty. Along the way, I determined that it is virtually impossible for a new graduate to work exclusively in civil rights. The domain does not lend itself to steady income and, thus, is dominated by public interest organizations. Usually, only the best and the brightest are chosen for positions with the organizations. Professor Aziz told me that I should chart a course that takes me to a reputable firm after graduation, regardless of the law I practice. She said that it is critical that young lawyers wishing to practice in civil rights develop an ethical reputation. And the best way to do that is to work for a firm known for its high ethical standards. Once you establish that reputation, you can easily study and transition to the legal domain of your choice. I hope I have the opportunity to try out this advice. For now, I am enjoying my research.
11/22/11 - Finals prep is underway and I am thankful that I only have two classes. Given that I am so far behind on my studies, any more classes might be fatal to my GPA.
As promised, I will tell you that the Moot Court competition did not go well. That is all I will say. This disappointing experience leaves me feeling like I have stayed at the Moot Court party too long, thus I will not compete this semester. Instead, I will try to get some of that coveted real-world experience. While I hate to leave Moot Court on a sour note, I know that one more trip to the rodeo would be vanity. No, the time has come to move on and make room for someone with the energy and time to do it well. Next semester, you will find me back in the Law Clinic working real cases!
In other news, the job search continues. I have a meeting with an intellectual property lawyer tomorrow and I hope to learn a lot about the practice. I will definitely report my findings in the next blog entry. I am so scattered regarding my post-graduate plans. I honestly have no idea where I will end up. I never thought that I would consider IP law, yet here I am. It’s funny, I used to avoid conversations with jaded lawyers who only cared about getting paid. Now, here I am trying to find a way to get paid. It just goes to show how naïve I was. That said, I refuse to give up the ghost of the champion of justice. Not yet, anyway.
As far as my studies go, it is nice to know that this will be the last compromised Thanksgiving holiday. I am already looking forward to gorging myself and falling asleep in front of the TV next year, instead of eating light and skulking off to the bedroom with my books while the rest of the family lives it up.
11/16/11 - Not much to report this week. Finals are around the corner, Moot Court competition starts tomorrow, and I am still looking for a bite on the legal-career fishing line.
Despite having only two finals this semester, I am pretty stressed about getting ready. I won’t belabor my Moot Court woes, but I am way behind and I don’t like it. My Family Law exam will be a chance for me to redeem myself from a poor showing a couple of years ago in Children and the Law. Thus, I am not too happy to find myself so far behind with so little time to study. The exam is the Monday after Thanksgiving, and that is too close for comfort. I feel better about Bankruptcy, a week later, but I am behind there too.
As for Moot Court, we compete this weekend. I am starting to finally get excited to see how our brief scored and to see whether our boys can shut down the competition. It would be a great Moot Court send-off for us to return to New York for the finals. I’ll let you know how we did in my next blog entry.
On the career front, I have started reaching out to lawyers for advice, and it is looking promising. While I haven’t met with anyone yet, I have two meetings scheduled for next week and a commitment from a third attorney. Right now, I am canvassing anything - Criminal Law, Intellectual Property, Family Law. I may even consider Bankruptcy---practice, that is. I have even started talking to some attorneys about solo practice. At this point, I am looking for any port in the coming storm.
Finally, I got to see (virtually) some of my classmates sworn in as new attorneys last week. While my swearing-in is still a year away, I got butterflies seeing the pictures. As surreal as it was seeing those pictures, I am certain it will be even more so when I am standing there with my hand in the air!
11/2/11 - Be warned, this blog contains candid observations from the night-student perspective. These are my observations and each student’s experience will vary.
After three-and-a-half years in school, I have determined that working full-time while attending school at night is not the optimal approach to law school. While the night program offers a chance to attend law school to those of us locked into day-jobs, it also prevents us from participating in some activities that I deem necessary to secure a post-graduate job, namely summer clerkships.
When I started school, I was not concerned with summer clerkships because I planned a non-traditional route. I hoped to work in public interest law or work for non-profits defending specific constitutional rights. That was a pipedream. With graduation only seven months away, and my dreams of working as a poor public interest lawyer dashed by the economic realities of today’s marketplace, I find myself playing catch-up with those who were on the traditional track all along.
While the evening program is equivalent to the day program in many respects, working full-time while attending school at night puts you at a disadvantage when competing for jobs - many employers only consider candidates from their pool of summer clerks. Employers naturally prefer experienced employees; this preference becomes a necessity in a tough economy. This preference puts night students at a handicap because most, like me, cannot take a leave to work for free. I am gradually discovering that most employers won’t give you the time of day unless you clerked with their firm. They want to know you before they will consider hiring you. After twenty years in the business world, I understand this mentality. As a graduating law student, I resent it.
Consequently, the prospective night student should carefully balance the factors before committing to law school. Unless you have the flexibility to take a lengthy leave of absence or have a legal job locked up, be warned. You may end up sprinting from the back of the field by the end of the race and, speaking from experience, you won’t realize how many people are in front of you until you hit the final straightaway.
10/19/11 - At the outset, I apologize for all of the Moot Court talk lately, but it has literally occupied every spare moment - and some moments that weren’t spare - for the last three weeks. That being said, here is some more Moot Court commentary.
Last week, one of my teammates said that we were entering “hell week.” While I thought that was a little extreme, I now agree with him. On Monday, we worked until midnight to finalize and serve our brief; I didn’t get to bed until 1:30 AM. Consequently, I was useless at work the next day and I went home after lunch to sleep. Aside from working on four hours of sleep, I found out that we had errors in our brief service. Frantically correcting the errors spent the last of my energy. I am just now getting my energy back.
Looking back on this semester’s brief writing process, I am not sure it was a good idea to volunteer again as a team writer. This was the most exhausting experience of my law school career, bar none; I have taken days off work, and, yes, skipped class to get this brief done. My teammates made sacrifices as well. For some reason, this was a very difficult brief to write. And, despite our best efforts, I still think we left points on the table. With all of the sacrifices, struggles, disappointments, and mistakes, this was also my most humbling law school experience. I hope it has made me a better writer and more diligent with details, as I hate to let an experience like this pass without changing my behavior.
A question night students often get is: “Can I do this?” My pat answer is always, “Yes, if you take it seriously.” With respect to Moot Court competitions, my answer has evolved to, “Maybe.” This time around, unlike competitions past, my job definitely got in the way. Pulling eight hours out of my day really put me and my team at a disadvantage. Even with my light class schedule, I still did not have sufficient time to produce the best product I could. Will I compete next semester? Maybe.
10/5/11 - The theme this week is stress and rejection. Stress, because it’s Moot Court brief time, and rejection, because they just keep rolling in.
In a fit of panic, I recently asked myself, “Why do I keep volunteering for Moot Court?” It is such a stressful time, and it seems that this round is worse than the previous two. Work has been crazy and this Moot Court problem ain’t no picnic. Pile on Bankruptcy class reading and I am beyond maximum capacity. I think last semester’s success has caused me to subconsciously apply more pressure, too. I really wish I could just make the world stop for a few days. I never advocate skipping class, but sometimes, you have to set priorities.
Oh, the answer to the question: because I love it.
Rejections, rejections, rejections. I see a pattern developing. I gather from my classmates who graduated last May that the pattern persists for some time and, so far, I am batting 0-15. That’s zero interviews for fifteen applications. I know that fifteen applications seems relatively light for most law school graduates, but there aren’t that many early-hiring programs. Even among this batch of programs, I hoped to garner at least one interview by now. In all honesty, several of those are still pending, but most have closed. So I may still get an interview, but it isn’t looking good. As for my job prospects in general, this is my rule of thumb: if I don’t secure a clerkship with a judge or other special program before February, I will not be able to secure a job until bar scores post in November. Based on conversations with friends, that is a reasonable rule; it’s not a good rule, but it’s reasonable. I am preparing myself for the distinct possibility that I will still be writing code at this time next year, and I should be happy to do it. I must resign myself to the Lord’s plan. He brought me this far; He will take me the rest of the way.
9/21/11 - The doldrums are behind me - this week brings Moot Court and job search business.
On the Moot Court front, we received our problem on Thursday night and I have been hitting it hard ever since. Receiving your problem is always both exciting and frustrating. It is exciting because all of your pent up energy finally gets released as you sink your teeth into the problem and start digging to find the rule for your argument. Pouring over cases, you divine the policy and a rule emerges. Then you get to let your inner advocate loose to craft an argument that will leave the other side breathless. Man, it is fun. I love the camaraderie that builds within the team through legal discussions. It is very energizing.
The downside is the work. Right in the middle of the semester, you basically take on another class for a month while you write the brief. My team always establishes an ambitious schedule of deliverables in order to spur on the writing process. While this schedule helps ensure that we have a quality product at the end, it adds a lot of stress. During this time, I usually start to resent my job (my paying job, that is), because it is hard to sit at work while the minutes tick by without making any progress on my brief. It is hard to maintain the proper perspective; namely, that the brief is an academic pursuit, while work is a necessity. When I start to get frustrated, I remind myself that I chose this path. That usually helps, but the stress never relents until I finish the brief.
On the job front, I have big news. I received unexpected closure this week on three job applications. As I mentioned previously, no news is bad news in most legal endeavors. However, I actually received three rejection letters this week! I know you are thinking, “How is that GOOD news?” Well, it is good because it means they actually read my application rather than simply “filing” it. I can now move on to the next opportunity with a clear head. Next step, get an interview.
9/7/11 - The law school doldrums have set in. It's that time of the semester when everything settles into a routine, making me antsy. I really am addicted to constant change. This round of the doldrums is particularly difficult to take because the end is in sight. Thus, each passing moment is almost palpable; each passing day brings me closer to graduation and reduces the prospect of employment. Am I getting nervous? Yes.
While waiting for my future to unfold, I have been awaiting the results of four “competitions” I participated in this summer. Supposedly, law students are well-adapted to dealing with delayed gratification; I'm not proud to say that I still struggle with this concept. That said, I finally have the results of these four endeavors, some of which started back in May. By the way, I use the term “results” loosely. Many times, no news is bad news. For some reason, protocol among legal types only demands confirmation of success; failure is often a message silently received. So, as the final competition notice deadline silently passed on August 31, I determined that I scored a dismal 1-3 for the summer. Needless to say, I hoped for at least a .500 average. Such is life. You have to move on; that is a law school fact of life I have learned to accept.
Next week holds the promise of phone screens for judicial clerkships. Let's hope I beat my summer batting average.
8/24/11 - The life of a night-time law student can be a bit strange from time to time. Lately, the signs have been telling me that I have overstayed my welcome and it is time to go.
Frankly, I’m ready…maybe.
One sign, which I expected, was my diminishing peer-group. Since last spring, my friends have been graduating. That coupled with the influx of new students has left me feeling a bit out of place - like a plodding old dinosaur amid a new generation of nimble mammals.
I felt more integrated with the new class last year because I was working as a writing TA. Close contact with the new students and my old comrades made me feel right at home. Those days are gone. Sorry to sound so dismal, but I fully expect to feel even more like an outcast after I bid farewell to even more friends this fall.
I received another sign last week as our new Board of Advocacy sent a message to all members of the Moot Court Honor Society informing us of pending and completed society requirements. While I knew that I already completed the requirements, I still punched up the spreadsheet, just to make sure. When I opened it, I noticed a conspicuous omission.
MY NAME! There is no better sign that you have overstayed your welcome than finding that your name has been removed from the guest list. I guess I should be thankful that I am still on the email list.
In one respect, it is nice to see the end approaching so gradually. By the time it gets here, I’ll be ready to let go. That said, it still makes me sad to know that the law school life I knew and loved is already a memory, and this year will be nothing like the last three. I guess it is just another cycle of growing up. Soon, I’ll enter another cycle and all of this will seem so adolescent. That sounds nice, but the fact is, I don’t want to grow up. I never have.
8/17/11 - My last first week is underway and things are starting off well.
First, I am experimenting this year with note-taking on my new iPad. Taking the lead from one of my classmates, fellow blogger Antonio Allen, I have ditched the paper notebooks and I am now using the iPad for handwritten notes. Because I can also view my typed notes on it, I don’t even need a computer in class. I am hoping that the reduced desk clutter will lead to better attention and resulting grades. I’ll comment further on this experiment as the year progresses. So far, I like it.
Second, I attended the annual new member gathering of the Eldon B. Mahon Inn of Court last night. If you are not familiar with the Inn, it is a mentoring/networking organization that draws together lawyers and judges who are interested in elevating the profession. You can read more about Inns of Court here: http://www.mahoninn.org/. Every year, the Inn elects ten or so law students as “pupils.” I was fortunate to be one of this year’s elect. I am really looking forward to serving on the Inn, especially since meeting so many Texas Wesleyan Law grads who are Inn members. It gave me confidence to see so many of our grads achieving success and contributing as mentors through the Inn.
Third, I finally received my summer grade and it did not disappoint. I am so happy to have finally had an academically successful summer - and it only took three years to do it. This grade is just the boost I needed as I enter the hiring season. With On-Campus Interviews (OCI) and judicial interviews coming up in a month, I am thrilled to have a nice cherry on top of my transcript.
8/10/11 - Well, here I am on the verge of yet another year. It is hard to believe that there I only have nine months left in my law school career. I know it’s not a popular opinion among my classmates, but I am going to miss it. I’ve met so many wonderful people here that I hope I can maintain those relationships.
So, what’s on the agenda? Law Review starts our three-day orientation today, and I am looking forward to meeting our new candidates. It is an exciting time for them to finally arrive in this place they all sought, and it is exciting for me to help them with the assimilation process. Something I have learned during my time in school is that I love to teach and guide people. Thus, I anticipate a fun fall as I help our candidates work through their writing topics.
In other news, I picked up an additional class this fall, but it’s not a traditional one. I am taking a “Spanish for Lawyers” class at the Dallas Bar Association. It fit neatly into my schedule and it will allow me to brush up on my Spanish for my spring internship with Legal Aid. It’s amazing how some things work out so perfectly when you seek your calling. This is just another one of the many blessings I have received since I started this journey.
Finally, my wife got some GREAT news yesterday. She was hired to teach in a private school for special needs children. We are both so excited - she has been pursuing her calling to teach special education and this school is a perfect fit. Considering the state of the economy and the number of unemployed teachers, this can be none other than the Lord’s work.
7/27/11 - Summer has finally arrived, sort of. With classes behind me, I finally took a vacation last week; it was great. We went to Santa Fe and Taos. It was great to get a break from the heat. My brother-in-law said it feels like we live on the Sun. I agree. Now I have settled in to doing a little housework and a lot of Law Review grading.
The Law Review staff is in the middle of grading the write-on submissions for next year’s incoming class of candidates. Grading each submission is a tedious task because you want to give each candidate a fair review. Thankfully, I will be done by Friday and I can spend all of next week repairing as many things around the house as I can before the fall semester starts. Good times!!!
I have also been preparing job applications this summer. The interview period for most judicial clerkships and honors programs starts in September, so applications must be submitted before the semester starts. It is both exciting and scary to work on these applications. It is exciting that the time is coming when I will be an attorney, but it is scary because I have no idea where I will land. The best I can do is pray and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have been blessed so far on this journey and I have no reason to believe that will change as I close in on graduation.
7/6/11 - Sorry for being such a downer last time. My hope has been restored and I am ready to move forward; this despite receiving my first job rejection yesterday. I commented to my friends that it made me feel like a new lawyer already. It may have been the first rejection, but I know it won’t be the last.
In order to facilitate further rejections, and hopefully at least one acceptance, I have been preparing a round of cover letters and updating my resume for the upcoming judicial clerkship season. Most judges interview law students for clerkships a year in advance. Thus, I will start sending my applications next week to get ahead of the rush. I know it’s a long-shot, but I am including the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals among the clerkships I am targeting. God willing I will land one of these clerkships. If I do, don’t think for a minute that I won’t apply with the United States Supreme Court once that one is done. I know that is an even longer shot than the Fifth Circuit, but you can never succeed if you don’t try. What a coup it would be for an old Texas Wesleyan grad like me to land a federal clerkship! What a grand coup to end up at the Supreme Court!! Man, I love this stuff!
6/22/11 - I am suffering a crisis of faith. Perhaps it is because of the extra time on my hands this summer, or maybe the fact that I must now begin to face my destiny. Regardless, I am starting to question whether I can do this. Am I ready? Will I pass the bar exam? Will I find a job?
If I do, will it meet my goals? The last thing I want is just another job. I have one of those and that is why I am in law school. One thing is certain, I have virtually no skills and, with time slipping away, I must acquire some before I graduate. I know it isn’t healthy to think this way, but sometimes I feel like my job is holding me back. I shouldn’t complain. My employer has been very good to me and I am grateful for a job.
But, with my eyes on the next horizon, I sometimes feel shackled by my current situation.
I am sure that I will discover that these are emotions of my own making and these shackles are of no consequence (or even a blessing), but that doesn’t change how I feel now.
On a lighter note, I am taking a vacation this summer. Yes, a REAL vacation with long drive, family, and an entire week off from work. While planning our trip, it occurred to me that we haven’t taken a vacation since the summer of 2008, before school started. We are WAY overdue.
6/3/11 - My final year in school has begun! I probably shouldn’t use the exclamation point, though; I am not that excited. A year is a mighty long time. But I must remember to eat the elephant one bite at a time.
That said, I am looking forward to the summer. I am only taking one class and, so far, the load is allowing for plenty of down time. Additionally, I have some editing to do on our Law Review summer publication. That work is pretty light, though. Speaking of Law Review, I am looking forward to reading the write-on candidates’ submissions and working with the new staff on their notes and comments. I enjoy helping people with legal writing and I am going to have plenty of chances to do just that this fall.
Aside from my accomplishment of finishing three years of law school, my wife just completed the last of her requirements to become a certified teacher---and not a moment too soon. The last year has been torturous. Unfortunately, her year-long internship was with a rural school with limited resources. Thus, she had to figure out a lot of things on her own while teaching math and science to thirty fourth-graders. Add to that conflicting requirements from the school district and certifying organization, and this year will not be missed by anyone in our family. She has earned a vacation and then some. Unfortunately, she is married to a law student, so a long weekend on the coast will have to suffice.
5/11/11 - Last night, I took my last exam this semester. Unfortunately, it was not my LAST law school exam. It was, however, my hardest exam yet. I only hope the pass/fail students “mailed it in” for those of us with no pass/fail hours to spare.
While I still have one paper to write before I can officially bid this year adieu, I will do so now, unofficially. This has been a very difficult year. Starting with an overburdened and dismal performance last summer and continuing through a scattered fall and spring, this year’s ups and downs have left me wondering if I have what it takes to finish the course. I know in my heart that I will make it, but my body is telling me something else. This bumpy year has definitely brought my limits into sharp relief.
Those limits became apparent early last summer when I loaded up on classes and Law Clinic. A word to the wise; keep an eye on the drop date and prepare to pull the trigger if you feel you are in over your head. Of course, you first have to recognize the water rising around your ears to do that; I missed that warning and paid the price academically. Also, never underestimate the work required to participate in the advocacy programs. While these programs are great for developing skills, they will inevitably take more time than you expect. Writing for a Moot Court team two semesters in a row taught me that lesson. Yet somehow, I keep coming back. Did I mention my addiction?
The other major endeavor I underestimated was the impact that last fall’s internship would have on my schedule. While the work itself was well contained in the sixteen hours a week I dedicated to it, switching contexts between the court and my regular job proved difficult. That taste of the legal life made work that much more distasteful. I suspect everyone around me sensed by frustration.
Despite these difficulties, I managed some successes this year. And that is what makes it all worthwhile. One more year down, one to go.
4/27/11 - Unlike semesters past, the weekend before finals was wonderfully restful and productive. With the kids out of the house, my wife and I relaxed and took care of a little homework. We also attended the law review and moot court year-end parties.
The Law Review party was on the rooftop of the Reata in Sundance Square. The event serves both as a send-off for the graduating staffers and board, and as a forum for announcing which student articles were selected for publication. I was surprised to find that my article was one of six selected. This honor on the heels of my Moot Court success has made this a VERY humbling semester. For a guy who’s writing over the last twenty years consisted mostly of software code, I am shocked to find my hidden talent. Let that be a lesson to those who lack literary credentials. Law school can make a writer out of almost anyone, if you apply yourself.
The Moot Court party is a much more casual affair. One of our fabulous coaches hosts it at his firm’s office at the Centerfield Office Building at the Ballpark. Because we don’t have much time to get together as a group, the party is an opportunity for all of the teams to get together for a few laughs. And the setting is awesome! Rangers won too!
These activities reminded me of a question someone recently asked me: Does law school get harder as you progress? I said that it doesn’t get harder, it just gets different.
Now that I think about it, I guess it gets harder too. As you advance, your experiences broaden beyond the classroom. Writing or arguing for Moot Court, editing and writing for Law Review, and handling cases as an intern are very different from the classroom experience. By requiring you to apply your budding legal abilities to unsolved problems, these activities bring a different kind of stress. It is a good stress, but it is hard.
However, with each brief, argument, technical edit, client interview, and hearing, you develop real-world skills that you don’t get in the classroom.
4/20/11 - This installment of my blog finds me running around like a chicken with its head cut off. In fact, this is one of the few times I missed my deadline. Work has been hectic and I hardly had time to take a bathroom break from the time I arrived at school until I left for home. Needless to say, I can't wait for this semester to end. While it has had some high points, it has been quite stressful, and I know I will need all of the dead week to prepare for finals.
That said, this summer is shaping up to be pretty active as well. My dream of taking a vacation may devolve to a long weekend on the coast. I hope it doesn't, but Law Review, summer school, and Law Clinic are likely to keep me running. I fear my addiction is showing, and I wonder if I can break it after graduation. Fortunately—I guess—I have a year left to find out. Speaking of graduation, I have been getting graduation-related emails from the school lately. I laughed and reminded the administration that, while I am a 3L in terms of hours, we night students take a little longer to finish than the day students. While I know there was no intent, there was a cruel irony in receiving emails discussing what needs to be done in the final days before graduation while I still have another 365 or so before mine. I guess I should take it as a subtle reminder that my day is coming; and in not too long.
4/6/11 - I experienced my first interscholastic law school competition last week when my Moot Court team and I went to New Jersey for the John J. Gibbons National Criminal Procedure Moot Court Competition. For those who don’t know, Moot Court is an appellate advocacy program where students practice oral arguments and persuasive writing. Most teams consist of two oralists and a writer, though sometimes oralists do double duty as writers. Various schools and organizations like the ABA host interscholastic competitions. These competitions draw teams from all over the nation, and some draw international teams.
While we had a good time in Newark and New York City, the outcome was bittersweet, as our team was defeated in the quarterfinals. However, my brief won Best Respondent Brief. Despite masterful arguments in the last round, we lost by .1 point. Our guys were so good! The close ones are the hardest to take, because you don’t know exactly what made the difference. I take solace, however, in the fact that the team that beat us in the quarterfinals placed second overall.
Aside from the heartbreaking loss, we had fun in NYC. I had only been to NYC once before and I never wanted to return, but my attitude has changed after this trip. The city is such a beehive of activity that I can only take it in small doses. Nonetheless, I’d love to return next year if I get the chance to compete.
Naturally, the trip has set me way back on my studies. Consequently, this week has been exhausting, and it doesn’t look like it is going to let up. I have at least one extracurricular activity scheduled for each of the next two weekends. Before you know it, finals will be upon me and I won’t be ready. No time for rest yet.
Thanks to the dedication of our Director of Advocacy and our coaches, Texas Wesleyan Law has developed quite a track record competing against some pretty formidable schools. Check out some of our notable accomplishments:
3/23/11 - Spring Break was wonderful, but too short. Despite being behind on my reading and cramming to finish up my Moot Court brief, I managed to fit in a four-day weekend away with my wife. I almost felt like a regular citizen again. Alas, all good things must come to an end.
Lately, I have been increasingly hearing the question, “How much longer do you have?” and I feel like people are surprised at my lackluster response. When I tell them that I have a year left, most people say, “That’s not so long.” From my perspective, however, three years into law school makes one year look like an eternity. So, I publicly apologize for my somber outlook. Spend three years in law school and you will understand.
As far as school itself goes, things are status quo. Despite recently receiving disappointing news I would not have the chance to attend a class that I had hoped for, all else is copacetic.
Lately, my increased exposure to real practice has, however, revealed to me that I know next to nothing about the logistics of lawyering. This fact hit home when I wrote a federal complaint for my Litigation Practicum class. While I cited the correct federal statute for federal court jurisdiction, I completely forgot to cite facts supporting my claim that the court had jurisdiction. When you file a complaint, you must state why you believe the court can hear the case and cite facts that support that claim. Federal courts cannot hear just any claim; you must demonstrate that your claim meets federal jurisdictional requirements. It was a stupid omission on what was otherwise a pretty good complaint. Transferring classroom knowledge to practical action is painful. Fortunately, the bullets are not real.
I hope I can pick up some of that lacking experience by picking up a law clinic case this summer and interning for Legal Aid next spring. I understand that Legal Aid interns get a lot of courtroom and client experience. Clearly, that is just what I need.
3/9/11 - As the seasons of law school life run from relaxed to stressed, I find myself back in the stressed season again. I know it seems like I am always in the stressed season, or at least it does to me. I keep hoping that it will end some day. I am concerned, however, that I will be addicted to it and keep finding new ways to fill my time in order to feed the addiction. For now, I just need to get this Moot Court brief done.
In other news, it looks like my decision to pull back on my Law Review involvement was a wise decision. My wife has been undergoing testing for MS and the results are starting to point in that direction. She has been struggling for many years with autoimmune disease, so the diagnosis will be more of a relief than most would think. When you are sick for so long and the doctors don't know what you have, any diagnosis is better than another round of inconclusive tests. Anyway, it looks like I will need to start pulling more weight around the house. Fortunately, I loaded up on hours in my second year so I can lighten my load next year. It's funny how my naive plans turned to dust but provided me the chance to use my time elsewhere. Divine providence, I suppose.
On the lighter side, I decided to attend the Barrister's Ball, a.k.a. the Law School Prom, this year. After skipping it the last two years, I decided I should check it out. It will be a nice diversion for my wife and me. I only hope I am not the only tired old 3L in the crowd. Even still, it will be good people watching. There is nothing that makes for better people watching than taking a bunch of stressed out law students, dressing them up, serving alcohol, and opening the dance floor. It should be a fun time.
2/23/11 - The semester is heating up and my schedule is necessarily following suit. I guess it is my own fault. I always think I am building a more sane schedule, yet I still volunteer for more activities. Right now, Moot Court is the culprit. I knew the problem would come out last week, thus I planned to have my schedule ready. In fact, I thought I was actually prepared. But here I sit, learning the same lesson again: you can’t really predict how much work you will face each semester. Despite my best attempts, I am already behind on my goals for my brief. Thus, I sing the familiar law school lament: “I am always behind and I never have enough time.” After three years of it, you think I’d be used to it by now, but I am not. If anything, I am more frustrated by my inability to prepare better. Maybe there is no preparing. Maybe this is just the way it is. Either way, I am frustrated, again.
In other news, I got the Law Review board position I hoped for! While I really wanted to run for an executive position, I made the wise decision (take note, it rarely happens) to opt for Notes & Comments Editor; I guess some of my plans did work out. This position requires me to assist new Law Review members with their articles. In this role, I will help them organize, choose a topic, and I will review their work. I am really excited to have the opportunity to help next year’s incoming class. It will be fun to see what topics they choose.
I also decided to push off graduation until May 2012. With my election to the Law Review board, this decision will have to stick as I need to commit to one year on the board. I may still take the bar exam in February, though. That decision can wait. For now, I have to get this brief written and study for THIS semester’s exams.
2/9/11 - Aside from the abundance of snow days, this has been a fairly uneventful semester. The prospect of make-up days really takes the fun out of snow days, and now we have so many classes to make up. The good news is that I was able to make the most of the snow days and get my Law Review article done. It looks like I will be able to make my goal of getting done before my Moot Court problem comes out. I am ready to get the semester back on track.
I recently came to a decision on my legal career. Now that I have settled on graduating in December, I felt like I needed to start plotting a course. I think I have a solution to the problem of merging legal aid and appellate work. After attending yet another Legal Aid seminar, I spoke with Dean Errisuriz from Career Services. He suggested that I stay the course on pursuing the clerkship at the Second Court, because that is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Since I am graduating in December and taking the bar in February, I will have a lot of time between graduation and the time the clerkship starts, assuming I get it. During that time, I can intern at Legal Aid. This plan is perfect – it will allow me to graduate early, still pursue the clerkship, and get some great practical experience. If my employer will permit me to come back on a part-time basis after the bar, I can even preserve some of my income while waiting on bar results. It feels really good to have a definite plan. I was beginning to worry about how I would preserve my goals and still earn a living. Now my goal is in sight.
Today, however, I just want to get back to school. I actually miss it.
1/26/11 - Yet again, family matters have me assessing my priorities. It seems I can’t get a break. I know I shouldn’t complain, but sometimes you just need to vent. The latest issue involves my wife’s health. While I know there is nothing to do but focus on what’s important and move forward, it is hard to let go of things I hoped to accomplish. I have to believe that this is a test. I have to believe that I am being prepared for something. I suppose it could just be chance, but considering that I believe that I was called to follow this illogical path through law school, I don’t believe in chance. Nonetheless, it is frustrating to change focus yet again.
So what does all this mean? I have scaled back my plans to pursue a Law Review board office and I may move my graduation up to December 2011. While that may sound inconsequential, it is far from it. The two main considerations are maintaining income and taking enough bar-related classes.
On the money front, early graduation means an early exit from my current job. In this market, that is a BIG deal. Even assuming I am hired as a clerk with the Second Court, that job won’t start until September 2012. What does an unlicensed law graduate do while waiting on bar scores? Before you answer, remember that the law graduate has a family to support. Additionally, I must strike a balance with the need to get some experience, something I am NOT getting at work. You see my dilemma.
On the class front, one summer and one semester is not a lot of time to cover the bar subjects I am still lacking. While I know that BarBri will cover what’s important, I really don’t want to see it for the first time after graduation. It’s all a lot to think about.
But what should you, the innocent blog reader, take from this? I guess the message is that life continues for the law student and school doesn’t get easier the longer you study. The problems just change and, in some cases, grow.
1/12/11 - Hello, my name is Chuck, and I am a law school addict. I feel like I need to confess my law school addiction because so many people are groaning and moaning at this time of year. I can’t help it, I love law school and I am happy to be back. While the break was nice, I am glad to be back at school. I fear what this means for me once school is over, however. But I will cross that bridge when it comes. Right now, I am just enjoying a new semester. I also have one of my favorite professors, Professor McGrath, for Secured Transactions. It feels like old times without the 1L panic. It’s going to be a GREAT semester!
Speaking of the break, it was both restful and productive. I played a lot of Wii and renovated our kitchen; it looks pretty good, if I do say so myself. Additionally, I got almost my entire law review article written. I had hoped to complete it, but that was probably a pipe dream anyway.
Aside from all the doings over the break, I came to a decision on graduation. I decided to stay until May 2012. Originally, I wanted to graduate this coming December, but after reviewing finances, opportunities, and my sanity, my wife and I decided it would be best to stay another semester. This way I can serve on law review, take fewer hours, and rest up for the bar. Friends have warned me to rest up for bar prep and I have decided to take that advice. Additionally, when you are a part-time student with a family to support, you need to draw that good paycheck until the last possible moment. Thus, early graduation isn’t necessarily a good thing. The downside is that I feel like I will be turning out the lights as I graduate. With so many of my friends leaving early, I feel like I will be the last one at the party. I know, poor me.
12/15/10 - Shocking news today interrupted our break. Our Evidence grades were posted. “Shocking" is an apt description, because it is highly unusual for grades to post before January. Since this was a multiple-choice test, I hoped grades would post sooner, but I never expected this. When I got the notice, I was completely unprepared mentally to check the grade. Our Evidence exam was so difficult, I had no idea what to expect. Nonetheless, I summoned the courage and checked. Much to my glee, I made an A-. I am delighted to know that my summer experience was an anomaly. I may change my tune once my Wills and Estates grade comes out, but, for now, I am back in the saddle.
In other news, my break has been AWESOME!!! It is just what I needed. I have been sleeping ten hours a night, playing with the kids, and tending to housework. Oh yes, and working. I feel like a normal human again. I can literally feel my batteries recharging. And I have a new toy.
With two young kids, I have always been averse to game consoles. I think they are evil. Kids don't need yet another excuse to sit in front of the television. It is against this backdrop that my wife proposed that we get a Wii for Christmas. At first, I protested; eventually, I relented. So the day after my last final, I went to Sam's and bought one. Then, considering the strife I endured over the last year and considering that this was my wife's idea, I decided the Wii should be an EARLY gift. I took it home, plugged it in, and we have been playing every night. I must admit, it is a lot of fun. And I dominate at Mario Kart.
Finally, today I was looking at some graduation pictures my friends posted on Facebook. As I looked at the pictures, I was struck by the realization that some of my friends are leaving. They are done. I am happy for them, yet I am sad that I will not see them anymore. I have known others in previous classes, but these departing friends affected me more, because I have known these folks for three years. It’s funny, I didn’t know I would feel so sad knowing that I am about to part ways with my classmates. Of course, I contemplated my own coming graduation and I almost don’t want it to end. I know I won’t feel that way in a couple of months, but I probably will again at the end of the next semester as even more of my friends graduate. We have been through so much together. I guess it is true what they told us at orientation: you will forge bonds with your classmates that will stay with you into your career. Law school classmates share an experience that others really can’t appreciate. Only those that run the gauntlet know; and that creates a bond among comrades. Farewell graduates. I’ll see you on the other side.
11/23/10 - Finals are upon me and I feel like I can’t remember a thing we covered this semester.
Also, after five semesters of school, I can physically feel my mind slowing down. I feel like a runner reaching down for that last burst of energy to reach the finish line. The problem is, my finish line isn’t so close. I still have at least one year left. While night school does have the advantage of allowing people like me to keep working while studying for a new career, it also wears you out. I plan to make the most of the upcoming break, but I still have to hold it together for just one more week.
I enjoyed having the day off yesterday. Monday was my last day of work at the court and I am not planning to resume full-time work until after finals. So, I had a restful and productive day yesterday. I completed my Evidence outline and had lunch with my kids at school.
Evidence is such a strange subject. Although everything is discussed in abstract concepts, the exam presents concrete scenarios. Thus, you can’t really outline the rules, memorize them, and simply apply them to facts similar to those you studied. While there is an apparent order to the rules, once faced with a scenario, everything turns to mush. I have five days to fix that problem.
In other news, I decided to throw my hat in the ring for another round of Moot Court writing this spring. After my last experience, I wasn’t so sure that I had enough time or energy to make it through another competition. But, after seeing that my brief was just out of the money, so to speak, my competitive side wanted another shot. God willing, I won’t have any family crises to handle and I can focus on writing a winning brief. I am actually pretty excited to write again, and I hope I can bring home some hardware for the school this time.
11/17/10 - It’s been pretty quiet lately, so there isn’t much to report. About the only unusual occurrence is that I went to jail yesterday.
Actually, I went on a jail tour.
Sorry for the lame joke; I just couldn’t resist. A group from the court went on a tour of the Tarrant County Jail. It was fascinating. Our guide was a veteran corrections officer who knew lots of great historical information about the jail and the ways the staff works with the inmates. We even got a look at the old jail, and Alcatraz-style facility. I was particularly impressed by the close quarters. It was a very dangerous place for the officers. I was also impressed by the new open-style jail, which actually makes for more compliant inmates.
As the officer pointed out, most people don’t think about what happens once an inmate passes through the jail doors. But, as I discovered, conventional wisdom is flipped on its head by the realities of inmate management. I likened it to working with grown-up twelve-year-olds. Put them behind bars or glass and they develop a turf mentality; my turf is in here and yours is out there. Consequently, they develop very antagonistic attitudes. Put an officer in the room with nothing but a line on the floor and everything changes. Suddenly, everyone becomes much more civilized. Even without weapons. Naturally, the officers cannot carry weapons since they would just end up in the hands of the inmates. As it turns out, they don’t need them, even with a 75:1 ratio. Let’s just say that jail isn’t what I expected. It’s no picnic mind you, it is jail after all, but it was much more civilized than I expected.
Other than that, I am going through the usual end-of-semester exam prep. I am also wrapping up my internship. It will be a bittersweet departure. While I will be glad to return to a more normal schedule, I will miss the court. God willing, I will be back after graduation.
11/3/10 - I am feeling pretty disorganized right now. I keep filling space in my schedule with more stuff. I guess it is a self-imposed problem. Last week, I happily discovered that my writing professor canceled my TA sessions for the next three class periods. Rather than using the extra time to get caught up on my notes, I, rather impulsively, offered the time for Moot Court practice. Since the days until the competition are waning, I figured I’d offer my time to the team. Naturally, they accepted. Now, I am overbooked again. I guess I shouldn’t complain - it is for a good cause. Our Moot Court program is great and I am humbled to be a part of it. They just better win next weekend!
Other than that, I am just trying to gear up for finals. It’s about time to get my outlines started and begin running through my exam prep material. I am also looking forward to the end of my internship. Not that I am happy to go, but it will be nice to have a couple of days off work to study. I timed my return to work so that I could have a few days off. No pay, but quiet study time is like gold. I will miss the court, though. I hope that it will just be a temporary absence and I will return to clerk after graduation.
I am also looking forward to the break. As I mentioned previously, I haven’t had a real break for a year and I am exhausted. This crazy schedule has finished me off. I find myself longing for the days of reading and note-taking. But, such is the life of a 3L. I know that I need to keep up my skill development, but I still have a lot of law to learn. The balance is precarious - too much skill work and your grades can suffer, too much studying and you graduate with no experience. ARGH!!!
I had better stop now before I start whining. There is no whining in law school, you know.
10/20/10 - Ok, I am not going to continue my rant about how stressed I am. Things are starting to ease up. I sent off my Moot Court brief this weekend, and I am completing the last intermediate deadline on my Law Review paper today. So the rest of the semester is dedicated to getting A’s.
Moot Court has given me a new perspective on writing. Since my first memo, I have lamented the fact that we always have to write in a vacuum. When you are writing, you can only talk to non-lawyers and non-law students about your paper. That is tough for a budding legal mind - you really don’t know whether your arguments are any good. Thus, Moot Court is the first time I have been able to write collaboratively.
More importantly, it is the first time I needed to write something for someone else. While I have written a couple of small items as a clerk, I always had the supervising attorney to edit my work, so I really didn’t "own" it. In Moot Court, however, I own everything I write. And it better be good, because my team is relying on it. I did not anticipate that kind of pressure. I only hope that I am a better writer because of it. But, for now, I have to await the judges’ answer.
I am so thankful to have all of this semester’s writing behind me. It has been a great learning experience and it has really tested my resolve. With so much to do in such a short period, I really started to question whether I was good enough to be here. I know it seems like it’s a little late in the game for self-doubt, but I felt it. Will I do it again next semester? I don’t know. While it was extremely difficult, I do love the feeling of completing a challenge.
10/6/10 - October seems like a strange time for a retrospective. But, with all that has recently happened, it is appropriate. The last year has been bittersweet, filled with joy and sadness, victory and defeat. In the last year, I have lost my dog, my mom, and, two weeks ago, my dad. I suppose this latest loss prompted this retrospective. I experienced the best semester and the worst of my law school career. Thankfully, my wife and family are still by my side. I still have my health and my job, though I daily begrudge working instead of studying or clerking. I learn the same lesson every day; be thankful that I have a job since many people are without. Such is the condition of the impatient law student.
But where am I today? Stressed, as usual. After rushing from appointment to appointment yesterday, I lamented to a fellow student that I am constantly behind schedule. I have so much to do and never enough time to do it. Doing everything as fast as I can produces only frustration and poor results. I pray that my schedule will settle down in two weeks, since most of my stress is due to two particular deadlines occurring within two days of each other. I certainly hope it does, since I am not concentrating on my class work as much as I should.
When the semester started, I pledged to put my class work at the top of the priority list in an effort to recover from a disappointing summer. I knew, however, that this convergence of Moot Court and Law Review deadlines would come. As my class work slips from number one, I am reminded that legal writing, as much as I love it, is a VERY intensive process. It demands such concentration that it is difficult to do little else when the deadline is looming. But I must remember: this too is a gift. I must be thankful that I am writing, that I have a deadline, and that what I write matters.
Most people will never know the joy of a well-written brief.
9/22/10 - I feel like I am finally starting to get in the groove this semester. Ironically, since I am starting to see some progress on my Law Review article and since my Moot Court problem came out, I feel less stressed.
I’m glad that my school anxiety has abated since I have new developments at home. My wife has been putting in long hours with her new job and my father’s health is declining. I certainly don’t need that right now. Unfortunately, there is no “pause” button for law students. However, I have such a wonderful support system that I must have faith that the Lord will provide sufficient energy and peace to see us through the tough times ahead. This isn’t the first family crisis I’ve experienced since school started. My mom died over Christmas break last year. We made it through that event and I’m sure everything will work out fine now.
In other news, you may have seen that I was awarded a scholarship a few weeks back.
Just goes to show you that you can’t win if you don’t apply. And that is about all I did. I wonder why law students have a hard time applying for scholarships <sarcasm>. Of course, I know why. There is no time. But when your professor says “apply,” you’d better find time.
I had a surreal experience this week during my TA time in LARW I. As Professor Hambleton lectured on authority and rule synthesis, I sat in the back and researched cases for Moot Court. During his lecture, it occurred to me that I use this stuff every week at the court of appeals. In fact, I was using it while he was talking. As I listened to the class struggle with the concepts, I conjured up my own 1L writing frustrations. Just then, a strange confidence washed over me. I realized that I knew the answers to their questions, not because I had read it in a book, but because of my personal experience. It appears I may have learned something after all.
9/8/10 - School must be in session - my stress level is pushing the limit. I hate to start this blog with such a negative opening, but, hey, this is real life.
While this is the second half of my legal education, I feel like I am starting over. This is mainly due to the extreme change in perspective. Once you attain a certain level, you become eligible for a new set of experiences. It seems a bit like mountain climbing. Not that I have ever climbed a mountain, though the Discovery channel does a great job of putting you in the action, but I sense that it is something like climbing towards the crest only to discover that it is a false summit - the real summit is WAY higher than you thought. All of that is to say that I now have the real summit in view and the work ahead of me is intense.
Some of this perceived intensity comes from the unknown. When you are studying for classes, you know exactly when you are done. You read till the end of the assignment, take notes, and celebrate victory. With writing, the workload is unknown; at least, somewhat. You know your deadline, but you don’t know exactly what it will take to get there with a quality product. Herein lies the stress.
I keep reminding myself to take it one day at a time, like eating an elephant. But it is hard to avoid the big picture and focus on the task at hand when there are so many. The other bug eating at me is self-doubt. Despite having produced decent work in the past, I still doubt my ability. I desperately wish I could shake the feeling, but I fear that as long as I am a student, it will linger. Maybe once I start getting paid for my work I’ll feel more confident. Having been paid once, I can say that praise from practicing lawyers helps.
Alas, it seems this is just another aspect of the education. Hopefully, my perspective will mature and I will crest the summit a better writer.
8/25/10 - Well, the fall semester is underway, and not a moment too soon. After the summer I had, I am glad to get back to a regular school schedule. While I am still running low on fuel, I have some new experiences to buoy me.
I started my internship at the Second Court of Appeals last week and it is GREAT! I absolutely love working at the court - except for the shoe removal at the security station. I am working on a great case and, best of all, my desk is in the law library. I know it sounds weird, but I love the smell of the books. Plus, it is wonderful to read through a brief, question the lawyer’s authority, walk over to the stacks, pull the statute, and check it. Westlaw and Lexis are great for finding authority and checking precedent, but nothing beats the books for readability. Plus, you can have several open all at once. Try doing that on Westlaw or Lexis. I wish I could work there every day, but I still have bills to pay.
Additionally, my classes are quite engaging. I must admit, however, that I am only taking two. With my internship, Moot Court, and Law Review, I figured I’d have my hands full with writing. I took a lighter load to avoid a repeat of my summer performance.
Speaking of Law Review, I am past the freaking-out period. I didn’t know how much work we would be doing on our own notes and comments this semester. While I knew that each candidate had to write one, I didn’t know that most of our work would be done this semester. With our topic selections due last week, I spent the first week of school drifting in a sea of emerging legal issues. Ironically, I found that many of the subjects that held my passion prior to law school have lost their appeal. I prefer to think that my view of those topics has matured because of my legal education. My new passion is writing a note that hasn’t been preempted by someone quicker than I.
8/4/10 - It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing while expecting a different result. Apparently, I am insane. I didn’t learn my lesson the last time I overextended myself and I did it again. BIG TIME!
It all started when I finished my best year in school. Riding a streak of A’s into the summer, I gave hardly a thought to the load I was taking on. I just kept the pedal to the metal and maxed out my summer schedule. Gotta graduate as soon as possible, you know? I had no idea what I was getting into.
Once the term started, I felt the load immediately. Leaving work early two days a week and staying late in the clinic two days a week was killing me. I was trying to figure out the clinic’s office procedures while still trying to study for class. It was exhausting, but, for some reason, dropping Children & The Law never occurred to me. Well, I paid the price with my lowest grade yet - a “C.” I was horrified and embarrassed.
The good news is the wake-up call worked. I have dropped one of my classes this fall and I already feel lighter. I have also pledged to keep my head up and plan to get back on the “A” train for the rest of my time in school. By writing this, I hope everyone reading it learns from my stupidity. Never forget that this stuff is hard. Just when you think you have it figured out, you will get slapped with a hard reminder that you haven’t.
7/28/10 - Summer school is finally over! Sort of. I still have a couple of things to write, but thankfully, classes are over. Last week was, hands down, the most exhausting week of law school so far. I took a week of vacation in order to take a compressed Negotiation and Interviewing class.
When I registered for the class, I thought it would be a nice diversion from the norm. I figured I’d be busy during the day, but have my nights free. I am behind on a writing project and I could kill two birds with one vacation – school during the day and writing at night. What a beautiful plan!
Boy was I mistaken. This class took what little energy I had left from six months of constant pressure and left me flat as a pancake. Between the role playing and homework, there was scarcely time to sleep. It was three hours of credit crammed into one week and I felt every one of them. And I am still behind on the writing project. I guess if there is one constant with law school it is this: you never get caught up.
Aside from exhaustion, last week brought some wonderful news. My wife landed her first teaching job. She will be a fourth grade teacher this fall and I am ecstatic. Not only does it stabilize our income going into my fall internship, but it means her transition is complete. I am SO excited. She is going to be a GREAT teacher!
7/14/10 - In an effort to round out my blogging perspective, I am adding some home stories.
Despite my hectic summer schedule (which has finally come to an end), I have been able to spend more time with the family. I know my wife is pleased, as she told me as much. She is staying home with the kids this summer while she looks for a fall teaching job. All that time with the kids naturally leads to confrontations. So, she is glad that I am home more often to keep them in line. What can I say? It is dad’s job to discipline the kids and I love my job.
At the end of the month, we are taking a very short “staycation” to the Great Wolf Lodge. With such a short summer break and a lack of funds, this about all we can afford. The kids love it and it will be nice just to play for a weekend with no reading hanging over my head. I’d like to go to the beach, but since I am going part-time at work this fall to accommodate my internship, we have to conserve our resources.
Hopefully, my wife will land a teaching job that will provide benefits, but one way or another the Lord will provide. I have been given more than I could have imagined since I started this quest, so I have no reason to believe that this fall will be any different.
6/30/10 - I am ready for summer school to be over. I don’t mean to sound negative, but I am tired. Fortunately, there is only one week left. After that, I can take a breather. I am also really looking forward to my vacation/Negotiation Clinic. I’ve always wondered what it feels like to be a day-student.
In my last post, I lamented the loss of one of my law clinic clients. Well, I have a new one now, and it looks like I might make it to court before the fall term starts. In a week or so I will be making my first trip to the courthouse to file the petition. I am really excited at the prospect of my first courthouse experience. I am also excited to have the opportunity to help my first legal client. THIS is what I came to law school for. As I told my supervisor last night, I want to see this case through from start to finish -I was called to serve, and that is just what I intend to do.
In addition to class and clinic, I have been doing some writing on the side. Last week was particularly hectic as the lawyer I have been writing for called me with a rush project. I had to write what amounted to a one-subject trial brief. We met on Saturday and he gave me six days to get it done. Then he called on Monday afternoon to say he needed it in 36 hours in order to serve the opposing party in time for the hearing. Oops! Naturally, I told him that I would make the deadline.
After freaking out while driving to class that night, I settled down, shifted my priorities, and knocked it out with several hours to spare. Much to my delight, my boss was well pleased; so was I. While it was quite stressful to write such an important document with so little time, I was happy to find that I could do it. Now I am chomping at the bit for the next assignment. This stuff is fun!
6/16/10 - Summer is here and it feels like the spring semester never ended. I am still going to school four nights a week, but the studying is much lighter.
I wish I could say that Law Clinic has met my expectations, but I can’t. It isn’t the clinic, however, it is the cases. Unfortunately, I had to let a client go and I won’t be in court any time soon. The instruction, however, is quite good. It has given me an even greater appreciation for the fact that there are two sides to practicing law: the analytical and the mechanical. All those classes teach you how to analyze the law, but they don’t teach you the mechanics of practice - Law Clinic does. And it makes my head spin. Now I understand why most grievances result from lack of client communication. There is a lot to communicate and a lot of procedure to keep up with. But I know I am in good hands and I will get to court eventually.
Aside from fighting off fatigue, summer has been good so far. My wife told me how much she loves having me around on weekends again. I love it too. Despite my hectic weekday schedule, I do enjoy playing with the kids and getting projects done on the weekend. I may even play golf next week. I haven’t picked up the clubs in almost three years, so it might be a bit frightening. I just hope it doesn’t reawaken my addiction. No time for that.
5/19/10 - I know it is obvious, but I am glad that finals are done. This semester was the hardest yet. Twelve hours without a writing class is a heavy load.
This series of finals was particularly brutal. Since I am saving my vacation days for a compressed class this summer, I was only able to take a few hours off work to prepare. I felt quite disorganized as a result. Waiting until classes were over to outline worked out pretty well, though. I was able to review all of the areas we covered in class while condensing my notes. However, the time crunch was worse than expected. By the time I got to my Civil Procedure exam, I was cramming up to the last minute. While that wasn’t a lot of fun, one benefit did arise. In the waning hours prior to the exam, some classmates and I worked through a difficult concept. As it turned out, that exact question was on the exam. I silently shouted with delight when I saw it. I feel pretty certain that we got it right.
With finals behind me, I have been completing some pending home projects and spending time with my family. It is great to do handy work around the house, but law school certainly makes for sensitive hands. While I have enjoyed these precious few days of freedom, my glee has been tempered by a new project. I mentioned in my last post that I was meeting with a local attorney to discuss a writing project.
Well, we met and the project is now underway -- so much for a lengthy week-long decompression. Now I have the pressure of a REAL writing assignment hanging over my head. I take solace knowing that this is my first project, and the first project is usually the most difficult.
It looks like I have started climbing that legal learning curve. With this project, a summer in the Law Clinic, and writing for Moot Court this fall, I am in for a writing-intensive year. AWESOME! To paraphrase my eminent Torts professor, a lawyer’s fortunes rise and fall with his writing ability.
5/5/10 - Finals are heating up and I am getting stressed. It seems like every finals season brings with it a different experience. Last fall, I was relaxed and everything seemed to fall into place. Last spring felt a little like this one. I was very disorganized and my grades reflected it. Prior to that, I got laid off the day before my first exam. This semester, I have the opposite problem. Too much work. I have been under pressure at work to complete a project by the end of the week. Thus, I can't afford any time off. While I am taking a half day for my Property final tomorrow, I have taken no time off to study. Consequently, I am very stressed about my exam tomorrow, to say nothing of the two exams scheduled for next week. Additionally, I am extra stressed since this is the end of my lockstep classes and I want to do well in order to garner an invitation to Law Review.
In other news, it looks like I have picked up a gig as a writer for an appellate attorney in town. A law school colleague of mine referred me and the interview went well. We will meet up after finals to discuss the details of the first project. I was more than a little nervous to commit to the project, but I figured that it is better to accept and see if the Lord provides the time versus denying the opportunity and regretting it. It will be great to work on some real research and writing. I am very excited.
With the addition of this writing gig to my growing itinerary, it looks like this will be my transition year. I can't wait to get started. But for now, I must return to memorizing my outline for the Property exam.
4/21/10 - With the flourish of activity here at the end of the semester behind me, I am psyched about finals prep. While the reading has dissipated, I have been involved in extracurricular activities. As a member of the Moot Court Honor Society board, I had to work the intramural competitions last weekend. While I wanted to argue, it was fun to help organize the event. I always like entering the courtroom as bailiff and shouting, “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez.” I guess I am still a child at heart.
On the finals front, we had our first test of the season last night. I call it a test because it isn’t significant enough to qualify as an exam – semantics. It was a fill-in-the-blank test for Civil Procedure. As our professor says, “You can’t become a lawyer by memorization, but you can’t be a lawyer without memorization.” With that behind me, it is time to get serious about finals.
In addition to the Civil Procedure test, we also had to take a sample exam for Constitutional Law. That was eye-opening. I knew the exam would be hard, but WOW! The fact pattern was ten pages long and contained four independent hypothetical cases. The exam called for a discussion of all cases and issues tangentially related. I wrote for an hour and a half and only covered the first case. If Constitutional Law is the granddaddy of law school subjects, I expect the exam to follow suit. After that experience, I changed my mind about the take-home nature of the exam. While I am not sure if the word limit will be a blessing or a curse, I know the exam will be exhausting.
With the heavy scent of finals hanging in the air, it may seem strange to be distracted by anything else. However, I find myself somewhat distracted by the prospect of summer law clinic, Moot Court, and my internship in the fall. I have to remind myself to play the shot before me. If you look too far down the course, you will fail to execute the shot at hand. Yes, I am a golfer.
4/7/10 - I am tired. The reading this semester is really taking its toll. We had 100 pages this week in just one class. But, it is almost over. I am actually ready for finals. By that, I don’t mean ready to take them. I mean ready for the reading to end. I have to temper my attitude, though. As I have told some of my colleagues lately, “You paid for this privilege, so you shouldn’t complain when the going gets tough.” I am tired, though.
In other news, my fall semester is shaping up nicely. While I will still push the maximum load (got to get your money’s worth), I will have a significant amount of time for writing. If all goes well with finals this semester, I will be on Law Review. Additionally, I hope to be a brief writer for one of the Moot Court travelling teams. Consequently, I am only taking ten hours of classes. I am also planning to work as a TA for one of the 1L writing classes. It should be a very fun semester.
On the home front, my wife just completed a major step toward securing a teaching job this fall. She is hoping to teach elementary special education and just became “highly qualified.” Our plan is for her to secure a position at the upcoming job fairs so I will have more flexibility with my schedule, since I need to start getting some legal experience. Occasionally, I step back and marvel at the fact that we are both going through so many changes at the same time. The funny thing is that it feels so natural. I guess that is what it feels like when you follow your calling.
We are also preparing to throw some more fun on to the pile. According to our adoption case worker, CPS usually kicks placements into high gear during the summer. Since was have been approached with several children over the last few months, we expect to receive some new members of the family this summer. This is going to be a revolutionary year for us. The best is yet to come!
3/24/10 - I didn’t get caught up over the break. But, I was fairly productive and I am not too far behind. My wife did me a HUGE favor by visiting my sister and dad; I was alone all week to work on my Moot Court brief. It was awesome, and quiet. As I mentioned last time, I decided to write for the Upper-Level Moot Court competition. When I started, I immediately regretted the decision. I could feel all of the impending reading and note taking hanging over my head. But, I persevered, reminding myself that every writing assignment is an opportunity to improve my skills. Plus, I had committed to it and I don’t like quitting. While I don’t think it is my best work, I do like my argument. Regardless of the outcome, I am proud to have started and finished an appellate brief in one week. That is my personal best. Writing is so much fun.
In other news, I met with Justice McCoy prior to spring break and…got the internship. I have to wait till August to get started, but I am EXCITED! It feels great to have a new direction for my career. I was concerned about where the previous rejection would leave me and I am delighted to see that this is it. I really want to be an appellate lawyer and I am more confident than ever that I can do it. Of course, I may be freaking out once I get down to the Second Court of Appeals. I hope not.
My study plans are holding up pretty well. While I haven’t had notes prior to every class, I have most weeks. As for my outlines, I am trying to decide when I should start. Next week may be a good time since we have about four weeks left. If I start too early, I will have too much to review again when I am done. Also, I want to wait till I have time to draft complete outlines instead of piecemeal. I can’t believe the semester is almost over.
3/10/10 - The law school doldrums continue, but I feel a change in the weather coming. I have an interview with Justice Bob McCoy next week for a fall internship. Additionally, Spring Break is next week and the work load has been letting up. In fact, last week I had an extra hour and a half to catch up on my Constitutional Law notes as my Property class was canceled. This week, I have an open Thursday as my Constitutional Law class is canceled as well. I should go into the break completely caught up.
I have been trying to decide how to spend the break. While I am tempted to work on my outlines, I think I am going to stick to my plan and hold off outlining till the end of the semester. I have found that outlining too early allows the information to get stale. My modus operandi is to keep my notes up to date as I go along and outline all at once. My theory is that I learn it once by reading, once by taking notes, and again by outlining. So, I am planning to use the time over the break to write a brief for the Upper-Level Moot Court competition. As a board member, briefing is optional. But, I want to get as much experience as possible. You only get better by writing. I am also planning a weekend getaway for my wife's birthday. No books and no kids. Ah, heaven!
In other news, summer registration was last week. I am registered for nine hours. After registration, I reviewed my course plans and discovered, much to my delight, that I could complete the ninety hour graduation requirement by August 2011. That would allow me to have a relaxed last semester devoted to bar prep. I figured that I would be cramming right to the end in order to complete school in 3 1/2 years. It is nice to see that I won't. Now, if only I can find the right upper-level classes at the right time.
2/24/10 - I am feeling the mid-semester doldrums. Everything I have been learning over the last few weeks is starting to collect in an oatmeal sort of way. The result leaves me feeling very unsure about everything, and renders me rather mute in class. I know the feeling will pass, but, in the interim, I am feeling pretty confused.
I had hoped that out-of-class assignments and distractions would be kept to a minimum this semester, what with all the reading to be done. That was not to be so. Our Constitutional Law professor asked us to break up into benches of nine to address justiciability of the Bush v. Gore case. We met last weekend and I have been playing catch-up all week. Our Civil Procedure professor asked us to break up into small groups to prepare two discovery requests. My partner and I will meet this week to complete the assignment. Hopefully, I can stay up with my reading. Did I mention the oppressive reading this semester?
Another surprise came last week when our Constitutional Law professor announced that our exam will be a 24-hour take-home test. Now, some of you might be thinking that this sounds like a good thing. I do not. I would much rather sit through a four-hour grilling than to have that much time to work on an exam. But, I will survive.
In my last blog, I mentioned that I was waiting for word on a summer internship. Well, word came and I was not selected. While I am still disappointed, I am still looking to the future. Additionally, it gives me one less avenue to merge. Now, I only have two directions to manage. The good is that it looks like I will be participating in our Law Clinic this summer. I am so excited to work with actual cases. Ever since I worked intake for DVAP last summer, I have been waiting for my chance to do Law Clinic. It will feel great to make a difference.
2/10/10 - I am happy to report that I have almost recovered from losing study time two weeks ago.
My goal this semester was to return to my first semester practice of fully briefing all cases prior to class. With a full work load and increased reading this semester, that is a tall order. It doesn't leave much room for error. Two weeks ago, my wife and I had to take a class for our adoption certification. That meant I missed almost an entire Saturday of study. I also caught a cold. Thus, the last week was high-pressure cramming. But, I have just about made up the ground. And, I am happy that my plan is still intact
In other news, I applied for a fall internship. I have been grappling with the question of how I will move from my day-job to get some legal experience. I still don't have the answer, by the way. But, I have decided to move toward my goal and see what the Lord brings.
The internship is with Justice McCoy at the 2nd Court of Appeals of Texas in Fort Worth.
It would be a great experience, since I hope to practice appellate law. The great thing about it, aside from the appellate experience, is that Justice McCoy is one of the few judges that still hires law clerks, and he does so exclusively from Texas Wesleyan. Thus, interning in his court provides a great opening to obtaining a clerking job.
Additionally, I am awaiting word on a summer program that I applied for. It is a great constitutional law program that involves a three week seminar and a six week internship.
Notices go out near the end of the month, so I will know soon whether I have been accepted. If so, I have some difficult decisions to make. I only hope my employer will be flexible. It is kind of funny that I have been chomping at the bit to get started, and now that the opportunities are near, I am scared they will say “yes.”
1/27/10 - Today is my birthday and I am spending it at home sick. Not exactly what I had hoped for. I lost some sleep last week due to an infection in my gums. Combine that with the rigors of constant studying and I caught a cold. That is the one aspect of school that I hate most. It is VERY difficult to find time to recover from an illness. You get caught in a vicious cycle of trying to keep moving so that you don't burn time off because you need it for finals. In the process, you stay sick longer and studying becomes more difficult. I feel especially vulnerable to illness this semester since I have four classes that all require lots of reading. Constitutional Law and Land Use alone push the limit of 200 pages a week. That said, I think I am recovering. While I did not sleep much today, I also did not read. It is a sad commentary that I must take a sick day in order to get some rest.
Ok, enough whining. Classes are great so far. I encountered something this semester that I didn't expect. In retrospect, it shouldn't have been a surprise. I have reached a point of critical mass in my legal knowledge where previously disconnected strings are coming together. I am encountering the same concepts in Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, and Land Use. It really feels great to encounter a familiar issue while reading a case for a completely different reason. For the first three semesters, I felt like I was assembling a flat earth - like the law was just expanding in all directions. It is very intimidating to see that endless void being filled and thinking that you will need to know it all for the bar. Now, it is starting to feel like the ends of the map are curving in on themselves and the void appears to have limits. There is a beautiful logic to the whole thing. It really feels nice.
1/13/10 - School is back, and not a moment too soon. This has not been a good break. I had big plans to get a bunch of reading done, complete some house projects, attend some DVAP clinics, and possibly write a scholarship essay. I read some, did a little work on our kitchen, attended no DVAP clinics, and didn’t write a single word on the essay. We had a death in the family to attend to. As a result, I am not well rested, but ready to get back to a normal, albeit frenetic, schedule.
Before I tell you about my classes, I must say that my fall grades were awesome! Yesterday was the last day for grades to be submitted, and I received my last two yesterday. I feel very blessed to have done so well. Now I need to keep it up. For us night-students, law review invitations don’t come until after two complete years. So, I need to do well this semester to ensure that I get an invitation. I really don’t want to write on, but I will if I must because law review is important for those of us hoping to practice appellate law.
I am excited about my classes this semester as they have finally turned us loose on Constitutional Law. This is the class I have been waiting for. The textbook is massive, and the stories of classes past have put the fear of God in me. But, this is where I hope to practice and I am fascinated by our Constitution. I have attended one session of each class so far and things look good.
12/16/09 - Finals are over and I feel fine. This finals season has given me new direction for next semester. I have already started reading ahead for Property and listening to PMBR Civil Procedure recordings. I expect my Constitutional Law books any day and I will start on them when they arrive. Additionally, I am going to get back to my first semester note-taking style. I think I got too lax toward the end of the semester. Since I don’t have a writing class, I should avoid the mid-semester time crunch. But, we’ll see.
Having now completed a year and a half of school, this is a good time to review my experience. A year of school has definitely changed my attitude. I am much more confident that I can do the work. However, I do suffer from laziness as a result. Last year, I took off two weeks for finals, or planned to until I was laid off. This year, I only took two and a half days off. While I did complain in some prior posts about being too disorganized, my exam prep was more directed than it was the first year.
My professors gave me a good idea of what would be on the exam. I also remember spending time figuring out how to write an essay that first semester. Now, legal writing comes much more easily – a fact that some in my office have noticed. Apparently, I write like a lawyer all of the time. I can’t say that’s a bad thing. You have to practice good writing every chance you get.
All in all, it was a good semester. I managed my time well, turned in some well-written assignments, and have some definite changes to implement. There is also another big development that comes with the close of this semester. I am now a 2L! Strangely enough, it feels different.
I am already enjoying my free time as well. I attended the monthly DBA Pro Bono Committee meeting today. It was great to see all of the people on the committee. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make it to any DVAP clinics. But, I know that I will before our break is over. I love getting involved in anything legal and I can’t wait to do it full-time.
12/2/09 - Finals are underway and I am not freaking out. I completed my Civil Procedure final on Monday and I think I did well. Of course, you never know until the grades come out. That is the frustrating thing about law school finals – the curve. Thus, I abstain from predictions. This exam is particularly hard to predict since much of it was covered in great detail during the review. Thus, I expect one of two scenarios: Either the professor will nit-pick keywords to separate the grades or there will be a bunch of B’s. Either way, it is difficult to say how I did. I have two more finals coming up next week on back-to-back days. Thus, I have a bunch of studying to do between now and Wednesday.
Unfortunately, I had to take last night off as one of our family dogs fell ill unexpectedly and had to be put down. It was a dark night around the house the rest of the evening. Such is life; although, I seem to have more turmoil around exam time than usual. Gotta just suck it up and move forward.
As I close in on the end of the semester, I am putting more thought into my plans for getting a law job. After this semester, I will officially be a 2L with thirty-six hours. My hope is that I will be more marketable as a result. I have already started looking and applied for one job. I know that I am going to have to cast a much larger net to catch anything. Thus, I am planning to attend some events at the Dallas Bar Association over the break and work a couple of Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP) clinics.
You really have to meet people in order to separate yourself from the masses. While I am not yet ready to make the move (my wife still needs to nail down a teaching job), I am getting started because it will likely take some time to find a job. Unfortunately, patience is a virtue of which I have a short supply.
11/18/09 - Finals came early this year. This is an unusual development for me, since all of my doctrinal classes to this point have had just one exam. However, we have two exams in Civil Procedure. Our first is tonight. I am not too worked up about it, though, as it is just a fill-in-the-blank test. Any trained monkey can memorize a few rules. As our professor says, you can't be a good lawyer by memorizing, but you also can't be a good lawyer without memorizing. So, we have our first test tonight.
On a personal note, I am over my cold. Good thing too, since we have just two more classes till cram time. I am a little stressed out about finals from the perspective of my outlines. I have to get them updated and figure out how I am going to allocate my time studying. I have one final on the Monday after Thanksgiving, then I have back-to-back finals on December 9th and 10th. I have put in for a few vacation days, but I am not sure that I will use them as there is a delicate balance between having too much time to study and not enough. I know myself well enough to know that I get distracted when I don't have adequate pressure.
Speaking of outlines, I am considering not making one for Property. This class has been unlike any of my other doctrinal classes in that we have studied only a few cases. Rather, we have done a bunch of problem solving. Most of the class has been taken up with future interests - one of the few black-and-white areas of the law. Thus, I am currently planning on making up flash cards instead of writing an outline.
I am excited to see the end of another semester as I will FINALLY be a 2L!
11/11/09 - Finals are almost here. It is hard to believe that this semester is almost over. I have to say that twelve hours wasn't as hard as I expected. Of course, it may be the class selection, but I still feel pretty good about my progress. Next semester I will have Constitutional Law with my twelve hour load. We'll see what I have to say about that in April.
Last week we started oral arguments in my Appellate Advocacy class. We have another round this week. It was fun to argue in front of the bench again. Before I participated in the Moot Court competition, I wasn't too sure whether I would enjoy oral arguments. Now, I love it. The give and take with the bench is fun. I also love the protocol. Maybe appellate advocacy is for me after all. But, I don’t think I would be a very good litigator. I'm not cut out for the theater of court.
On a personal note, the cold season caught up with me this week. I stayed home from work today and didn't get much school work done. Being sick on school days isn't much fun. I naturally want to take advantage of a day off from work and get some studying done. Unfortunately, I have to leave for school by 4:00 PM, so I don't get a full day to rest. Such is life as a law student.
Also, the bar exam results came out last week and Texas Wesleyan exceeded expectations with a 93.29% pass rate. It was very exciting to see Texas Wesleyan ranked ahead of SMU and UT. It was also nice to see some of my friends pass. I was at the same time excited for them and jealous. I can't wait for my turn. It seems so surreal that one day you are just an ordinary civilian and the next you are a lawyer. That is so amazing.
10/28/09 - The past couple of weeks have been light enough to allow me to catch my breath, but I can still feel law school like a lead jacket. The constant race to catch up takes its toll. But, I press on by putting one foot in front of the other. Lately, I have been plagued with the feeling that I’ll never get to the end. After reviewing my priorities, I fear that I will not be making the switch from software developer to law clerk any time soon. That has left me feeling a little down lately.
Now that I have sufficiently depressed the room, I’ll see what I can do to liven it up. Classes have been getting a little more interesting. Tonight, our Civil Procedure class is taking a field trip to the federal courthouse in Fort Worth. I am looking forward to meeting Judge Means and hearing his lesson. It is always fun to go to the courthouse.
In addition to our field trip, I am on the cusp of a new writing assignment. We are writing a brief in support of a petition for a writ of mandamus; that’s a mighty long name. This will be the only significant writing assignment this semester, so I am putting my best effort into it. For those who don’t know, a writ of mandamus is an order given by an appellate court to a lower court. Because it disrupts the trial process, it is a fairly uncommon procedure requiring extraordinary circumstances. In a nutshell, it is used when a party feels like a trial judge has abused his discretion resulting in serious harm to the party. In such a situation, the party will stop the trial and appeal to the court for a writ of mandamus ordering the judge to change his course to avoid injury to the party. Our particular case deals with compelled discovery of confidential information. Obviously, no one wants to disclose confidential information, much less to a competitor.
As with my prior writing assignments, I enjoy the process. I much prefer researching and crafting an argument to reading for class.
10/14/09 - I am still swamped. I was able to get caught up last week, but now I am behind again. However, I am not entirely innocent. Last weekend, I competed in the Lower Level Moot Court Competition. As a result, I had to sacrifice some study time. Plus, after the competition, I was exhausted. It was all I could do not to sleep the rest of the weekend. Thus, I am behind again. What’s new?
In case you don’t know, Moot Court is one of the many advocacy skill-building activities the school promotes. The goal of law school is to prepare students to practice. While you do need to learn the law and how to analyze it, you also need to learn how to argue and write. That is what these programs do for you. They are voluntary, but I think that students who forego the opportunity are selling themselves short.
Moot Court is all about appellate advocacy, which requires certain skills. One skill is the ability to argue before appellate judges. This type of argument is very different from trial advocacy - the facts are settled, so it is all about legal interpretation and application.
Thus, the judges are very critical of your courtroom demeanor. Don’t use your hands too much. Don’t make faces. Pay attention while you are not standing at the podium. Answer questions to the entire bench and not just the judge that asked. Button your coat. Don’t use personal pronouns. And above all, NEVER point at the judge! I learned that one pretty quickly. The whole experience was both highly stressful and invigorating.
The competition consists of five arguments, the last of which is before a panel of five judges. Our final panel was heavy duty. We had three appellate lawyers, one constitutional law professor, and one appellate justice from the Texas Second Court of Appeals. I was mentally wiped out by the final round, but I apparently gave them what they wanted - I ended up with a third place finish out of a field of thirty-nine. Not bad for a first-timer. I will definitely come back for more.
10/1/09 - Remember how confident I felt two weeks ago? My schedule was humming along and I was ahead of my reading. Well, forget it. I am way behind now. That is the way it goes in law school. Just when you get everything under control, your professors change pace or assignments come due. For me, it has been a little of both.
The assignment that has affected me the most is my judicial opinion. Yes, we are writing judicial opinions even though we aren’t even lawyers yet. You would think that it would be easy to write one since I have read so many over the last year, but it isn’t. Like all legal writing, there is a formula. Funny thing is, many judges don’t follow that formula. Of course, when you are a judge, no one is grading your work. I should be further along with the opinion, but I slacked on it for some reason and now I am behind the eight ball.
Add to that my impending appearance in Moot Court next week, and I am starting to sweat. The good thing is that I don’t have to write a brief. I just have to prepare for oral arguments. I am excited as this will be my first competition. I hope I do well since this what I want to do when I graduate.
Another exciting event is my internship with an attorney for National Adoption Day (NAD). I just finished our petition and related documents. While it was mainly a bunch of fill-in-the-blanks, it was still very cool to be writing real legal documents. My attorney told me that she wants me to prove up the adoption on NAD. I am already beside myself and the date is more than a month away. This stuff is so cool! I can’t believe that I will be speaking in court. While all of the testimony on NAD is just a formality, it will still be exciting to be in front of the judge, calling witnesses, and proving up the adoption. Did I mention how cool this is?
9/16/09 - So far, so good. It has been a good semester thus far. I have been able to keep up with my reading, I have my outlines started, and I am ahead of my writing assignments. I don’t know if it is my time management skills or just a slower pace, but I am not complaining. I have started getting involved in a couple of activities as well.
I have to participate in a community service project as a member of Phi Delta Phi, so I am participating in the Teddy Bear Immunity project. This is a great opportunity for students to contribute to charity while getting out of in-class discussions. Students buy a teddy bear from Phi Delta Phi, the money collected is given to charity, and the students can use the teddy bear to opt out of class discussion if they are called upon. It is actually kind of fun when a professor calls on you and you simply toss the teddy bear to him.
I am also participating in the Moot Court Honor Society competition this fall. While I am a little nervous about the oral arguments, it is an honor to be invited and it is a great opportunity to develop my skills for appellate practice. As part of the Society, I will also get to work on the undergraduate Moot Court competition. I am really hoping to be a judge. Maybe it is the dad in me, but I love intimidating young people.
Aside from in-school activities, work has been going well. However, I am planning my next move. I am gradually realizing that I may never be able to participate in a traditional internship since I will always need to keep money coming in. Thus, I think that I will try to cobble together a part-time job in software and a part-time job with a firm – a non-traditional plan for a non-traditional student. Now that I have passed the MPRE, I am ready to start sending resumes.
9/2/09 – I am back in the swing of studying now. Last week I was pretty tired. I am still getting used to going to school four days a week. However, I am doing well with my reading. It helps that some of the reading has been sent to us in PDFs. I had a nice weekend since I am not feeling the pressure of constantly trying to catch up on reading. I hope I stay there.
Last week, our Business Association professor gave us a nice talk about our future. In a nutshell, it is never too soon to prepare for your career. You must take care to involve yourself in activities and seek jobs that fit into the picture. According to him, you should always consider how you answer the question, “Why did you choose that activity?” It prompted me to review my plans. I think I am choosing well, but I do have two somewhat disconnected goals.
I came to law school with designs on becoming a low-paid constitutional law attorney litigating First Amendment issues of free speech and religious liberty. However, now I am also being drawn to Legal Aid and working as at attorney ad litem for kids in CPS custody. I had been struggling with ways to tie the two goals and Prof. Snyder's talk brought to light the importance of using your law school time carefully to prepare for your impending interviews. So, now I am trying to figure out which internships, fellowships, and volunteer opportunities I should pursue.
So far classes are interesting. I am really enjoying my Civil Procedure class. Some people think the rules are boring, but I think it is fascinating to see how the notion of jurisdiction has evolved. I guess I am not cut out for criminal law. I also don't think I am cut out for property.
Things on the home front are going well too. They are going so well, in fact, my wife and I are going to expedite our adoption process. We are adopting through CPS and were concerned about being approved in the middle of the semester. I think we are coming to grips with our calling. I just hope the Lord provides.
8/26/09 – I can’t believe that I am already back in school. It has been great to come back and see all of my friends. However, it is a little bittersweet, as some didn’t make it back and one transferred. Just the same, I am reinvigorated to be back in the saddle again.
Over the summer, I took two classes and sat for the MPRE. You’ll have to tune in later to find out whether I passed or not; I don’t have the grade yet. For those who don’t know - and I didn’t until I started law school - you must pass two tests to become a lawyer. The MPRE is one of them. I wanted to get it out of the way since I expect to ramp up my hours from here on.
As I said, I took two classes this summer. One was preparation for the MPRE and the other was Family Mediation. That was a great experience. While I am not planning to focus on family law as a lawyer, I do plan to work with Legal Aid and most of their cases are family cases. We also studied the effects of family conflict on children, a nice addition to the CPS adoption training my wife and I are taking. I was also able to work on a project for the Tarrant County Drug Court. It was great to see what the county is doing to help drug addicted mothers clean up and keep their kids.
Enough about the summer. School is back in session and I am pleased to announce that my schedule is working and I am ahead of schedule on my reading. I am taking twelve hours this semester, so I had better stay on top of it. One of my classes is Appellate Advocacy, which is an appellate writing class. From what I have heard, it is a two-hour class that feels like four. So, I better stay on top of my reading to leave plenty of time for writing. By the way, I have already been called on in class. I think I did ok. Very exciting!
5/20/09 - What a year it has been. I can't believe that I have completed one year of law school, sort of. I am far from being a 2L, but I still feel like I have accomplished a lot. I attended a couple of events for incoming students over the last month and it is funny how far away those first days of law school seem. However, it hasn't really been that long.
I remember the trepidation that I felt back in August. I had no idea what lay ahead. And that is just as well. I think that if I did know, I might not have taken it seriously enough. I don't mean to say that it hasn't been as hard as I thought. But, it certainly hasn't been as strict as I expected and I have loved the professional atmosphere that some of the professors have fostered. I guess that is the old man in me.
Speaking of the unexpected, this semester has turned out to be much more difficult that the last. However, I don't think that was entirely because of school. I had a lot of changes to deal with. As a result, I never felt like I hit my stride in the same way I did in the fall. I don't know if my grades will be affected by it, but I will not be surprised if they are.
The one thing that brought me the most strife this semester was my job. Don't change jobs until you are ready to retire from your day job and start working in the law. That is my advice to the working law student. Of course, I had no choice in the matter. Taking on a new job requires a mental focus that is very distracting to your studies.
I could reiterate all of the same advice that I have offered over the last year, but that wouldn't be a very good use of this space. And, I really don't have much else to add. Suffice it to say that I survived the first year and my marriage is still intact, my kids still recognize me, I still wish I could quit I.T. and clerk somewhere NOW, and I LOVE law school. If you dream of being a lawyer, but are afraid that there isn't enough time or money to get it done, fear not. I am here to say that it can be done. While I am not done yet, this year has shown me that it is possible.
5/14/09 - Finals took their toll on me. In fact, this blog is a little late because I have been laid up with bronchitis for a couple days. I guess my finals planning did not go as well as I had hoped. I took a vacation from work last week to prepare, and I didn’t think that I pushed myself too hard, but I guess I did.
My wife wasn’t too happy with my attitude either. I was definitely feeling the pressure from not following my schedule for the prior two weeks. This is something that I am not happy about and plan to correct immediately. I think the combination of a trial brief that took more work than I thought and having two makeup classes in contracts put me behind. That is bad planning, as I should have expected this trial brief to be difficult, and I knew in advance about the makeup classes. But, we all live and learn.
The good news is that I am on the mend and finals are done. Before I give you my impression of my performance, you should know that I never feel like I performed well until the grades are in. That is especially true with law school exams - you may feel good about your work, but the subjects contain so much gray area that you don’t know how well you did until the professor shows you where the lines really are. Having said that, I think I gave it my best effort. So, if I fell short, at least I don’t feel like I left any points on the table (as they say).
4/29/09 - Classes are over, and it is time to buckle down for finals. It is amazing how fast the semester flew by. I think it is like traveling somewhere you've never been. The trip seems to take longer the first time. Since I've been down this road before, it seemed to go much more quickly.
I definitely don't feel like I am entering finals prep with as much knowledge as I did last semester. My wife says that it is all in my head, and I was just as concerned last semester. She has a better memory than me. That aside, I still feel very concerned that I am not further along. While I am where I should be with the outlines and notes, I don't think I have absorbed as much knowledge as I should have.
So, it is time to turn it up. From here until May 11, I will be sequestered, when I am not working. I am taking the next week off from work and plan to do some old fashioned cramming.
On a personal note, I took an unplanned day off last weekend when I took my kids to our Cub Scout Pack Campout. While we did not stay the night, we did spend an entire day at the camp. We had a good time, and it was a nice respite from law school. It also provided a much needed stimulus to return to my studies.
4/22/09 - I am not as tired this week, but not by much. We are halfway through our second four-day week. The good news is that it is almost over. The bad news is that I am far from ready for finals. It is time to buckle down and make it happen.
Last week’s oral arguments were fun. While we didn’t have the time to make complete arguments, it was still fun to get in front of the judge. I did pretty well, aside from forgetting to breathe. It is funny how nervous you get even though it is just your professor on the bench.
Interestingly, I just met an appellate attorney that said he still has the same problem. I met him at the Northwest Texas Legal Aid open house luncheon today. He is a Wesleyan graduate, has been practicing for 10 years, and still gets nervous before his arguments. The good news is that it gets better once you get started. I felt the same way. I am looking forward to doing it for real.
In other news, the lowly 1Ls finally got to register for fall classes. I am taking 12 hours so I guess I’d better get used to four-day weeks. I am excited about registration since we can finally choose some of our classes. I have decided to take appellate writing since it will specifically support my end goal. This law school thing keeps getting better and better.
4/15/09 – I’m tired. I have been really busy with school work lately, and I can’t find a moment to catch my breath much less get ready for finals.
We turned in our trial briefs last Thursday, but I took little relief from it as I fear that mine is terrible. Self-deprecating to the end.
This week we have been preparing for oral arguments. Let me tell you, reading through my brief again didn’t make me feel any better about it. Naturally, there hasn’t been any reprieve from our regular studies during this time either. In fact, we have three classes of contracts this week and next week to make up for lost days. All of this combined with my commitment to the DVAP committee at the DBA leaves me quite exhausted. But, there are only a few weeks left. So, I need to suck it up a little longer.
This is a nice segue to comment on extracurricular involvement. As a law student, you are bombarded with innumerable opportunities to participate in various groups. Be careful. I attended an informational meeting of P.L.A.Y. last night, and we received an invitation to join the Alternative Dispute Resolution competition. Both of these have GREAT appeal for me given my goals. However, I had to bite my tongue and decline them both. Earlier in the semester, I had to drop out of the Innocence Project as well. I keep relearning that the most valuable asset to a law student is time.
4/8/09 - What a week. I have gone from feeling very stressed to great relief. Last week, I was very stressed out about my trial brief as I did not have a handle on the rule. It was a mess. But, by the end of the week, I had something that was workable and had some of my argument done. By Sunday, I was in proofreading mode. So this week has been much better.
It is funny how changing from predictive writing to persuasive writing throws everything in to turmoil. I am not the only one - most of my class has been in a bit of a panic for the last week, too. The professor barely got out of class on Tuesday before our contracts class started. As soon as we finished talking about last minute proofreading, he was assaulted by a mob of students with questions. I was one of them.
Hey, it’s all part of the law school experience. Plus, this is our last writing assignment. While we do have two more writing classes to take before we graduate, this is our last lockstep writing class and our last assignment. So, while I can’t speak for everyone else, I want it to be my best work. Now, it is done.
So, it is off to Malone’s for a night cap tonight, and then I start the uphill climb to finals. I have a long way to go to get ready, too.
4/1/09 – I’m tired. This has been a very rough week. I am behind schedule on my trial brief and very stressed out. I stayed home from work yesterday and worked on my trial brief all day. By the end of the day, I felt like I had written enough words to have completed it twice. However, I only had one feeble argument completed (about a fourth of the whole brief).
Things got a little better after class last night. It was a nice break from brief work, and the exercises we did in writing class gave me a different perspective on things. I have mainly been struggling to figure out what a trial brief looks like. I thought it was different from our memos. It turns out that it is basically the same, only more persuasive. Legal writing is very structured. Every statement belongs somewhere. Turning an objective memo into a persuasive brief has become a difficult task.
Aside from the stress surrounding my trial brief, I had a good weekend. I attended Law Day for our incoming students and enjoyed meeting them. I particularly enjoyed talking with them about managing law school and a day job. There is something satisfying about seeing so many people wanting to make a difference and telling them that it can be done, while staying employed.
I have a busy week ahead. I need to finish my brief by Sunday, I am short on sleep today, and I have a Lexis/Westlaw class tonight. However, I take solace in the fact that it won’t last forever.
3/25/09 - I was able to make good use of the break from school last week. I updated my outlines, met with my study partner, transcribed my notes, read and researched my brief. It may not sound like it, but I did find some time for fun, too. My wife and I shipped the kids off to granny’s house and we went away for a night. So, it was both restful and productive.
This week has been energizing. While the break was nice, I am glad to be back in school. I have taken all of the slack out of my schedule to allow for brief writing because I think I am going to need more time than I did for my last memo. With the memos, we were merely informing the reader and predicting the outcome. With briefs, we now move into persuasive writing. Like predictive legal writing, there is a formula. I expect to need more time to refine my argument so that I don’t cross the line and stray from the formula too far. One mustn’t upset the judge.
On a more personal note, I am finding it harder to maintain focus at work. Lately I feel like I am in jail waiting for release. It seems like I am surrounded by legal stories these days. Since it was my passion for certain legal issues that drove me to law school, I am finding it hard to plod along at work when I would rather be in the fray.
3/11/09 - It's been a rough week. Over the weekend, my wife and I met and decided that some activities had to be cut from our schedule, lest we lose our collective minds. Thus, I resigned from WIP, quit my study group and declined a couple of extracurricular activities. With the “new” worn off of law school, I started taking on more than I could handle, and my studies have been suffering from all of the activity.
It is funny, but I can actually feel the release of pressure from learning to say “no.” It is very liberating. One of the things I learned last semester is that law school is a job. For some reason, I forgot that. You really have to keep law school near the top of your priority list. If not, you are doomed to failure. I think all of the extra activities clouded my vision because I feel like now I can clearly see the task ahead for the rest of the semester. That feels good.
Changing the subject, a funny thing happened after criminal law this week. Some of us were discussing the results of an in-class exercise with the professor after class. One of my colleagues brought up a particular argument she used in the exercise. As it happened, I used the same one. For some reason, the professor told me to write up the argument and send it to her. You never know when Kingsfield is going to show up.
3/4/09 - Today I am suffering through a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that I have a day off from work and can get some studying done. The curse is that I am sick. With the endless parade of sick people I have been around lately, it is no wonder that I finally caught it. At least I am suffering the worst of it today and not on a school day.
As school goes, things have been heating up. The work load has been growing, and so has my stress. My wife and I are planning to go to lunch together on Saturday! That will be a nice treat as we haven't been seeing much of each other lately. And it has been several days since I have spent even an hour with my daughter. All in all, it is a tough time. I am looking forward to spring break so I can slow down a bit, get ahead on my outlines, and see my family before we hit the sprint to the finish.
In other news, my study group met on Sunday and last night to shore up our Homicide chart. It looks good. We registered for summer school last week and, while I was a little disappointed at the selection for night students, I am still looking forward to getting some extra hours in this summer. The Innocence Project got our first case last week. It will probably not amount to much, but it is great to be involved in a real case.
2/25/09 - It has been a busy week and I feel like I am falling behind. It doesn’t take much to fall behind in law school. Part of the problem is that my wife and I are working on a project that has forced me to sacrifice some of my study time. I am planning to use spring break to get ahead, and I have to stay on schedule between now and then. Thus, I will be sacrificing some family time over the next two weeks.
In LARW, we are shifting focus from analyzing rules for memos to making arguments in preparation for our trial brief. So it is time to make some room in my head for new stuff. Some of my classmates took the opportunity to participate in Moot Court last week to practice their argument skills. Unfortunately, I did not have time to participate. So, my first chance to argue a position will come at the end of the semester when we argue with our professor. I am really looking forward to seeing how well I do on my feet.
The other big activity this week is summer school registration. Since the lowly 1Ls have to wait until Friday to register, I am planning to be here before school opens. Two of the classes I want to take have a limited enrollment and I don’t want to risk missing out. I will draw the line at camping out, although it does feel like getting in line for concert tickets.
2/18/09 - My memo is done. I love writing, but I am such a pessimist about my own work. I am never sure that it is any good until I get the grade.
But, it is so much fun to use what I have been learning. It is also mildly amusing to watch everyone running around in a frenzy to get it done. Is that mean of me? Maybe. Anyway, my plan is working so far. I am on track and managed to keep up with my reading while getting my memo done.
This semester definitely feels different from the last. It feels much slower. I am hoping I don’t have a false sense of speed and won’t get run over at the end. But, there isn’t as much reading as there was in the fall, and the material is more interesting. I am really enjoying all of my classes; criminal law is a bit gruesome, though.
On the extracurricular front, our Wesleyan Innocence Project (WIP) team should be getting our first case soon. I can’t wait to do work with a real case. While I don’t expect to be too useful at first, I am just excited to be working in the law.
I almost forgot ... a funny thing happened at church this weekend. The congregation got a letter informing us of the disposition of a recent lawsuit involving the church. IT WAS A CONTRACT DISPUTE!!!! I devoured the information in the letter. My wife laughed. Did I mention that I LOVE law school?
2/11/09 - It has been a busy week with our memo due next Thursday. I was happy to get all of my reading done on the weekend, even though I did not get all of the cases briefed. I am still trying to brief them all because I cannot remember enough details to discuss them in class without the briefs. However, I did get six pages of my memo started - I say “started” because I will probably rewrite most of it. The language of this case does not lend itself to smooth writing. Also, since this is our first research memo, I am not too confident that I have found all of the relevant authority. I am thankful for our Lexis and Westlaw reps. They are very helpful.
On a personal note, I had the misfortune of getting into an auto accident last night while coming to class. Fortunately, no one was injured and it wasn't my fault. But, now I have to deal with getting the car fixed. Funny thing about law school, life still goes on. That is the hardest part of being an evening student. You never feel like you have time to take a breath until the semester is over.
2/4/09 - I finished the last review of my fall exams yesterday. After meeting with my torts professor on Monday night, I met with my TA before class yesterday to recap. I am glad that process is behind me. I was told that you should review your exam with your professor, even if you did well. That’s because there is always something more to be learned, and if you don’t ask, you will never know what you did wrong.
Last night I attended my first Wesleyan Innocence Project meeting, and I was super excited to be involved in such a great cause. While I was between jobs during the Christmas break, I had a chance to scan case documents for WIP at the Dallas County Courthouse. It was a great experience that motivated me to get more involved with WIP. I really did not expect to be able to do much with WIP until next year because I figured that they wouldn’t have much use for a 1L. I was wrong.
After last night’s meeting, it looks like I will be able to do as much as I can handle, and I can’t wait to dive in. WIP is such an important project. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in jail for a crime you did not commit.
It is funny where the Lord leads you. While I was curious about WIP, I never thought that I would actually be involved in it. But, here I am.
1/28/09 - I am starting to get back into the swing of things. Thanks to a gift from God (in the form of a snow day), I am now caught up on my reading, I have my schedule laid out, and I am refocused. I am grateful for the day off because my lack of direction was stressing me out. I am embarrassed to say that I had already fallen behind in my reading. With all of the life activities that I had been dealing with, I had not really engaged in school. So my wife and I had a talk, and we committed to cutting out the distractions so I can get back to work. Yet another reminder that law school is a team sport.
While I am still getting comfortable with my new job, it isn’t as much of a distraction as it was last week. I am sure that will get better as the weeks go on. As for school, I am looking forward to writing the first memo. We are doing our own research and I am enjoying the search for the proverbial needle in the haystack. It is a little frustrating to be a novice with the search tools. I am also finding the concepts in our contracts class to be a little more difficult to grasp than last semester. I am sure that it will start to sink in eventually. As Judge Spurlock says, it is all shifting sand. As soon as you think you get it, it slips away. Isn’t the law wonderful?
1/21/09 - This is a tough time. While it is nice to have a job again, it has added stress to my studies. With the new job comes the stress of learning what to do, trying to fit into a new group, and hoping that my work will be well received. This is proving to be quite a distraction. While sitting in LARW class last night and listening to Professor Hambleton talk about our research memo, I was thinking, “Will I have enough time to do this?” Frankly, changing jobs prior to getting my first legal job was not in my plan. Thus, I am not exactly excited about my present situation; I should probably stop whining as there are many people out there with no job and no prospects.
In other news, I met with a newly formed study group last night. Some of us who studied in smaller groups last semester decided to join forces. While the group is pretty large, I feel confident that we are all dedicated to achieving our best. So, I am hopeful that we will stay on track. With such limited time for studying between work and school, none of us can afford to join a social club.
My classes so far this semester have been a little slow to get moving. I am well ahead in my contracts reading and right on target for criminal law. I am enjoying the material, especially criminal law, as I am finding the rules and their history particularly interesting.
1/14/09 - It is great to be back in school. It may sound funny, but a month off from school is enough. I am so glad to be back in the collegiate environment with all of the anticipation that goes with the start of a new semester. A lot happened over the break. I lost my job, put in some unexpected pro bono hours with the Wesleyan Innocence Project, cleaned the house a lot, and found a new job.
Another unexpected treat was the posting of our grades. We were told from the beginning that we would not see any grades until February. However, right before the start of the semester, we received our torts grade, and contracts followed soon after. We received our writing grade last night. Let me tell you, it is nice to start the semester knowing your fall grades. However, it is hard to maintain my rule of not discussing grades with colleagues. As for my grades themselves, I met my goal.
While I expected a better grade in torts and thought my contracts performance was lacking, the grades came out reversed. My writing grade exceeded expectations, so in the balance, I am where I need to be.
My performance has proven to me that I can do the work. With that confidence, I am eager to stop talking about grades and get started. If the first case in criminal law is an indication – maritime cannibalism – it should be a lively semester.
12/17/08 - You know how they say that time flies when you are having fun? Well, I can’t say it was all fun, but time has flown and I enjoyed most of it. I really can’t believe that the semester is already over. It seems like last week we were just getting started. It is funny how memories fade. I have to focus to remember how anxious I was at the beginning of the semester. I also had forgotten those feelings of never getting caught up on the reading, until I went back through the last four months taking inventory of all that we have been through. And I must say, I finally feel like a law student and I love it.
Regardless of my grades, I consider this semester a success. I managed to get through the semester with my marriage intact, my kids still recognize me, and I did not get fired for studying on the job. The advice that proved the most effective came from the academic support folks. They told us at the beginning of the term to treat this like a job. Make a schedule, stick to it, study everywhere you go, find a study partner, but don’t feel like you have to study with a group. Basically, take it seriously. I am proud to say that I never went to class unprepared, I never missed a reading assignment, I never missed a TA session (VERY important), and I never missed a class. Whether that will show in my grades, I don’t know. But I can say that I did everything I could to do my best.
I loved the law school final exam experience. That may sound strange, but I love the challenge of performing under pressure. Finals prep was also a lot of fun. My partner and I would meet each day and review sections of our outline, work through sample essays and study guide questions. A word of caution - be careful of study guides. They are great to give you a bunch of hypothetical scenarios. But the answers don’t always match what you are being taught. So it can be distracting to weed out the misinformation. As for the exams themselves, I wasn’t in top form on the contracts exam; I was laid off the day before. But I really enjoyed the torts exam. It is fun to read the fact statement and try to pull out the causes of action. It is like a puzzle. It was a blast.
I remember being told at the beginning of the year that we would be thinking differently by the time we hit the end of the semester. I am not sure if that has happened to me; you’d have to ask my wife. But I know that I look at problems differently and I have developed a much more critical eye for written material.
I have to admit that there were times during the semester when I questioned whether I was doing the right thing. Whether I was good enough or had the time to do it well. In those times, I am glad I had my most important asset. My wife. If you have a family and are considering law school, I have said it before and I will say it again, make sure that they are on board. Not just following you, but beside you. Because you will not be the only one who is sleep deprived, irritable, and stressed. Your family will be too. Make no mistake, law school is not for the faint of heart. But with the right attitude, it is a lot of fun.
12/3/08 – Finals are here and I am ready ... to get them over with, that is. I am not sure that I am ready for the exams themselves. This week is contracts and next week is torts. My study partner and I have been working through past exams and lots of hypotheticals. We met today for the last time before our exam tomorrow, and I am as ready as I can be.
Following my TA’s advice, I am only going to study a bit tomorrow and stop well in advance of the exam. My plan is to get there early and reserve a seat. Then my study partner and I will go to the library to study torts and read some scripture. No studying within the last four hours before the test. If you don’t know it by then, you are not going to learn it. Also, stay out of the room prior to the exam. My TA said that there will be a bunch of panicky people that will take you down with them. So, reserve a spot and get out. That is my plan.
Other than exam prep, my week has been uneventful. Oh, except for getting laid off today. That put a kink in my focus. While I am a little depressed about it, it was no great surprise. And I know that God will provide. Who knows, this could be my opportunity to move out of I.T. and into law. I hope.
11/19/08 - Exams are closing in and this week has been a little strange. The reading has dissipated and the stress of keeping up is gone. It feels weird. I now have to switch gears and start trying to relearn everything that has been crammed in my head this semester. Actually, I am looking forward to going back through everything we studied. I feel like this is the real learning part of law school. To borrow a sports analogy, everything up until now has been the regular season. This is the playoffs, where your performance really counts.
We also finished our second memo this week. While I gave it my best effort, I am not sure it is good enough. But, I imagine that you never feel like it is good enough. I had a hard time not nit-picking it too much yesterday. And once it was in the envelope, I had a hard time not looking at it any more. But, I managed to do so. The strange thing about it is, you feel like it is a weak memo with pitiful arguments, and it is. But you have to accept that it is an academic exercise that will not be as solid as you would like, not at this point anyway. Maybe next semester we will produce more substantial work.
Speaking of next semester, it is weird to think that we are almost done with this semester. I am starting to feel like I am really a law student.
11/12/08 - Despite my best efforts to stay healthy this semester, it looks like I am catching a cold. This has been a tiring week and the reading is wearing me down. I actually enjoy working on the memo because it gives me a chance to do some analysis of the cases, rather than just reading for class discussion. I think the worst part of the reading is the briefing, which is really slow for me. I want to get all of the juicy parts from the judges' opinions into my brief in case I need it for class. That slows me down. So, I guess I enjoy the reading but not the briefing.
My study group has been touch and go. One of our group had to miss the last two meetings, and last night we had just two of us. We are hoping to meet more often prior to class and during the break before exams. I think it has been a good practice to quiz each other with sample exam questions. It helps to think through the different scenarios with someone else to make sure that you are considering everything.
Following my TA's advice, I will be staying home for Thanksgiving while my family will be traveling to see my sister that night. My wife and sister have a Day-After-Thanksgiving shopping ritual that cannot be missed. So far, I have tried diligently to follow every bit of advice offered by my TA and I am not going to stop now.
11/5/08 – Exam prep has started. I made a calendar this weekend that will carry me through the end of the semester and, let me tell you, it is full. I have started integrating some exam Q&A into my daily reading. Last night, our study group met after class and quickly discovered that we are sorely lacking in our UCC knowledge. It is easy to get a false sense of security with an open-book test. But I am not planning on using the book; so, I have got to know the UCC and Restatement (Second) of Contracts.
Since we last met, we received our grades for memo one, and I must admit that I did better than expected. Now the pressure is on to repeat the performance.
Tomorrow we have our contracts practice exam and I am looking forward to trying out the Electronic Blue Book and my outline. I enjoyed taking the torts practice exam and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I have actually retained some of this new knowledge. The main difference between the contracts exam and the torts exam will be the need for specific case, UCC, and Restatement references. That means more memorization, in addition to better understanding the rules and policies. Unfortunately, case reading is much more engaging than reading code.
So far, my family and I are holding up well and I am starting to get excited about the flurry of activity we are about to encounter here at the end of the semester.
10/29/08 – So far, this week has been better than the last. I am neither tired nor grumpy (sorry about that). That may all change next week when I start incorporating exam prep and Memo #2 work. But, for now, I am doing well.
Our TA told us on Monday that we should start integrating some exam prep into our schedules. From here on out it gets VERY busy. I can't believe that we only have a few more classes left. On the one hand, it is surprising how manageable it has gotten, but on the other hand, it is scary to think that exams are so close.
I have started to feel the sense of competition heating up. In observing the class, I have started assessing where I am likely to fit in the curve. I won't tell you where that is. But it is interesting to see who is dedicating the time and who is not. Our TAs told us at the beginning of the year to take this seriously and treat it like a job. And I think I have done just that.
Our study group started going through the short answer questions in one of the exam prep books last night. I think this type of practice will pay dividends because it is better to work from fact statements than just to read the outlines. This technique led to some spirited debates last night that helped us nail down some unclear principles.
10/22/08 – Today, I am tired and grumpy. Last night was the first meeting of our study group, so I got home pretty late. We are meeting every Tuesday after class until finals. I am not sure it will be enough to matter, but we are trying. I have to admit that it feels like the blind leading the blind. No one really knows how this study group thing is supposed to work, but we all feel compelled to do it. It is kind of like a bunch of salmon swimming upstream. If they had a conscience, they would probably ask the same question:
Fish 1 - “Any of you guys ever done this before?”
Fish 2 - “Nope, but I think this is how it is done.”
Fish 1 - “Ok. I guess we'll know if it works when we get there.”
Of course, by then it is too late.
We also received our second memo assignment last night. So, it’s back to the grindstone. I figure that I will be reading like my life depends on it for the rest of the semester. This assignment is much more demanding than the last. There are twice as many cases plus statute research, and we will be writing a complete memo, not just a discussion. It is pretty ominous.
The good news is that work has been REALLY slow. As a result, I have been able to get my notes and outlines up-to-date. I am thankful for that.
10/15/08 – MEMO ONE IS DONE!!! It is so nice to have the first memo in the bag. I feel like I can breathe again. Now, maybe I can get my schedule under control. I am hoping to get ahead of my reading this week so I can start internalizing contracts and torts. I hate the term “memorizing” because I feel like I need to become one with the subject, and not just stuff it in my head for regurgitation. My first chance to test my oneness comes tomorrow.
I am taking the torts practice exam tomorrow, so I plan to spend the evening updating my notes and outline. The school offers practice exams at three different times, and I am taking the evening exam to simulate the actual test conditions – I am an evening student. My TA told me that the practice exam is a nice kick in the pants to get you to step up your game for finals. In other words, don't be surprised when you don't do well.
Last night we had an opportunity to quiz our professors on their testing techniques and what to expect on the exam. It was very informative. The academic support group here does a great job supporting us. Last night's session took some of the mystery out of the final exam, and the professors did a great job explaining how the curve works.
10/8/08 – Remember last week how I told you that the pace was picking up? Well, it isn't letting up, and taking a day off from work really paid off. I am caught up on my torts reading and my contracts outline is completely up-to-date. I still need to get my torts outline updated and start test prep for next week, since we have a practice torts exam on Thursday. I am looking forward to the practice exam, as it will tell me if I am studying correctly.
The school holds mid-term practice exams as a way of letting the students experience taking a real exam, without the pressure of grades. It is an opportunity to check your outline and get a feel for what a law school exam looks like. Even though it is not graded and is only a fourth of the length of a real exam, which for torts is four hours long, you want to do your best and treat it as a real test.
We also have a panel discussion on testing next week with some professors. It should be a lively discussion, if our impromptu exam discussions mean anything; any time class discussion turns to exams, it is almost impossible to get back on track. Everyone is quite anxious about the exam and rightly so. The thought of spending a whole semester studying for one test is pretty intimidating. You have one shot to show what you know.
10/1/08 – Can you keep a secret? I probably shouldn't admit this, but I am playing hookie today to get caught up on my reading and outlines. I sensed last week that I was getting into trouble because I was starting to cut out sleep and that is a fatal flaw. You must find time to rest or everything will start to disintegrate. But the weight of the work is becoming a real problem for my schedule.
We had a week and a half of torts last week and we just got our memo drafts back; mine looks like St. Patrick's day (green is not good when it flows like it does on my memo). So now I have to revise my memo before I start working on the second draft, which is graded, catch up on my torts reading, and get my outlines up to date, all while still reading contracts and updating my class notes. Something has to give. Today, it is work.
So you think you want to go to law school? Get ready to shut down the rest of your life. As I said in my previous entries, I knew a storm was coming and it is starting to blow. I don't expect it to let up much between now and finals as I will eventually have to find time in my schedule for exam prep (maybe take a short leave of absence).
No time to chat. Got to get back to work.
9/24/08 –The big story of the last week was “Reading, and lots of it.” My torts book has been my constant companion for the last week, because we are covering a week and a half of torts this week.
That aside, it has been a good week. Work has been slow and, as a result, I have been able to keep up with the onerous amount of reading this week and make some progress on my outlines. I have also been making some changes to my briefing technique. As the semester has progressed, we have gradually shifted focus to the court's reasoning in case discussions. Knowing why the court decided a case the way it did and what the parties were claiming on appeal is important to understanding how the rule was applied. Of course, all of this is meshing with what we are covering in our writing class. It’s almost like they intended it to work this way. Weird, huh?
Contracts is much less stressful than torts at this point. The concepts seem more cut-and-dried; or maybe I am blissfully ignorant. We just completed the first chapter in the text and I am planning to outline it this week. I hope that I can keep my focus on contracts exam prep in the face of the “open book” exam. I am old enough to know better than to assume that it will be easier because of this. But, it is still there.
9/17/08 – We finished our first memo assignment this week. Even though it is not a graded assignment (the real memo will be due in a few weeks), it still gave me a good test of my study schedule. It held up pretty well, for the most part. I will, however, have to put in more time reading during every spare moment. Thus my mantra: Take a book everywhere you go.
Our professors started ratcheting up the intensity this week. Fortunately, I anticipated this. We have been in school for four weeks and now we should be able to more thoroughly analyze the court's reasoning in the cases we are reading. It is no longer sufficient to recite facts and rely on the professor to flesh out the rules. Actually, it is a nice change as the classes are starting to get a bit stale and uninteresting. Professor Spurlock challenged us last night with this type of discussion and it occupied the entire class with one case, D & G Stout, Inc. v. Bacardi Imports, Inc.. It was great. My carpool mate and I debated PE/DR doctrine all the way home.
While I am starting to feel the drain of the seemingly endless climb to finals, I am also getting more and more excited about school. I love the sensation of my mind being expanded to consider the world in new ways.
9/10/08 – It is appropriate that it is hurricane season because me thinks we're in for a blow, gar. With all of the talk this week in our TA session about outlining and the impending FIRST MEMO, I am starting to worry whether my work/school/life balance will withstand the coming storm.
This week, our TA discussed outlining and put us through a little outlining exercise. As a result, I think I know what my outline will look like, which has given me comfort. While I am concerned about getting the first memo done and adding outlining to my already busy schedule, I am trying to take it one day at a time.
When I step outside myself, I see the comedy in the flushed anxiety of most of the 1Ls. And it is easy to get worked up about how things will play out in the future (2nd memo issue, exams, etc.). But I think that there is no point in fretting about that stuff when I am still trying to fit this week's work into my already full schedule. I know, however, that God will provide.
My wife and I had a heart-to-heart today and she is feeling it, too. At the spouses’ orientation session, they pointed out the importance of tending to your relationships. It has only been four weeks since school started, and I can already tell you that this is a crucible; not just for me, but for the whole family.
9/3/08 – It occurred to me that my last entry gave a false impression about my marital status. Not only am I a father of two, but I have a wonderful wife. In fact, I don't think I could make it through school if it weren't for her. One of the lessons that I am learning is that law school for the married person is a corporate affair. My wife, while not shouldering the school work, is shouldering a significant load. My advice to the married person considering law school is: make the decision a joint one and don't underestimate the commitment.
School this week has been light. The quiet before the storm. We were spared Torts as Monday was a holiday and our professor is out on Thursday. I tried to read ahead this weekend only to find that my old study habits haven't changed. I cannot focus unless I have to. While I was able to complete all of the necessary reading for this week's classes and fit in a short out-of-town visit with my family, I did not take full advantage of the long weekend by getting ahead of my Torts reading.
I did get some other good work done this weekend, though. Last week, our TA suggested making flash cards for rule memorization and I did. They work well, and are great because you can take them anywhere, which is critical. Be prepared to study anywhere. You never know when you will have a down moment to fill.
8/27/08 – With all of the excitement last week, I neglected to introduce myself. If you are like me, you are hoping to find someone like you in these blogs. So, let me help.
I am the father of two small kids (a girl of 8 and a boy of 10). Prior to entering the furnace of law school, I was active in a number of volunteer activities including Cub Scout Den Leader, ESL teacher and numerous church activities. Since enrolling in school I have stepped back from almost all of them. My day job as a software developer keeps me fairly busy and I am already feeling stress from leaving promptly at 4:00 p.m. on school days. I think this is causing some friction on our team.
So far law school is about what I expected. On Monday, our Contracts professor assigned some unexpected reading for the next class. No problem... if you are a day student. Fortunately skimming the case and book briefing was sufficient. It was an easy case to understand. My study schedule is holding up well and I am genuinely excited about studying and going to class. Some of my classmates and I worked on our first research project together in the library after class last night. It was a blast. I forgot how much I loved the collegiate environment.
I am sure that I will not sound so perky once I get under the full weight of the 1L experience. But, for now, I am loving it.
8/20/08 – So there you are standing on the edge of the pool, thinking, "That looks cold." You don't want to jump in, but it will be better than easing in. You've come this far – bathing suit on, kids are already in the pool. Its funny how you feel peer pressure from people half your size. So you jump. "YIKES!" The actual experience is worse than you imagined. But if you hang in there, the water gradually feels warmer.
Welcome to my first week. Anticipating this week, I spent the summer reading about the 1L experience. I even watched The Paper Chase; probably not a good idea. Despite the anxiety, the first week was great. I don't mean that it was easy or that I feel prepared. It wasn't and I don't. But, it was less scary than I expected; maybe the water is getting warmer. Regardless, I feel pretty good about my prospects. The faculty genuinely wants me to succeed and the staff (YEA STAFF!) is great. Having said that, the work is overwhelming.
I realize that my reading notes and case briefing need improvement. Taking academic support's advice, I built a detailed weekly schedule that has given me confidence. While it is intimidating to be in the presence of such great minds, the professors are approachable and I am already getting addicted to this stuff.
I hope I can do the work and still maintain focus in my day job; I work for a living but I am passionate about the law. Well, got to get back to work.