: Texas A&M University
: McKinney, TX
: Full-Time Day
8/4/10 – Well, summer’s over. School hasn’t even begun yet, and I am uber-busy. For current and new students who don’t know (because I didn’t know), you can see if you are eligible for a book voucher from the Business Office and the funds will be deducted from your financial aid disbursement. This way, you can get your books before class starts without having to knock over a liquor store.
My advice is to get used books. Yeah, they’re not pretty, sometimes they fall apart, there’s stuff in them - who cares? They’re less money and it’s very likely that you won’t get to ditch them for very much at the end of the semester if you buy new books anyway. So if you’re like me, and you’re not here on someone else’s nickel, every dollar you can save helps.
As a parting insight, I’d say start your outlines now - as in, right now. Get the shell done and just add to it as you go along. I use the table of contents and modify as needed. I didn’t put as much effort into it last semester as I should have, and I paid for it in the end. I’d advise you against doing the same.
7/21/10 - Four weeks until school begins. I can feel the pace getting faster. In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten some pretty hefty work assignments as a research assistant, moved into a new apartment, done my internship, gone on two trips, and had assorted miscellaneous adventures. I have no idea how I’m going to fit it all together when school begins. My schedule this coming semester is more convenient in terms of the time spent at school, and maximizing the blocks of time I’m not in class, but I’ll be adding the workload of being an Academic Support Aid and a Research Assistant to the mix. I guess I can sleep when I graduate.
When the spring semester was winding down, I planned on reading for leisure during the summer, and I even purchased a few books I’ve been meaning to read for quite a while. I was mistaken. I read absolutely nothing between my internship, working, and (of course) goofing off. I disappointed myself, but perhaps I can squeeze some in before class begins. Its amazing how much I miss reading (for fun), now that I can’t do it daily.
7/7/10 - Summer is halfway over and it's moving too fast. Seems that I'm busier now than when class was in session. Thankfully, I’m busy doing things I want to do.
The break is good because it's giving me a chance to step back and recharge for the coming semester. I didn't do well last semester, so it's essential to have some time away so I can come back focused. Ideally I'd like to get my Con Law book and begin reading, but I'm a little short until financial aid comes in, so that's out.
Before it's all said and done, I plan on a short jaunt to another mini trek, perhaps a peak in Colorado. That would be a great finish to the summer.
6/23/10 - My summer internship with the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office ends this Friday and I must say it’s been interesting. Since my last blog, I’ve gotten to see yet another high profile murder case from start to finish. The process is fascinating from the inside looking out. Even though I haven’t had Criminal Procedure yet, the trial process is making much more sense than it would if I were not a law student.
Last semester’s grades are in and it was very much a 10-8 round for class. Very GRRR! So I’m doing what any intelligent student who errs does; I’m trying to make the most of my summer! Ideally, I’d like to visit my brother in the Grand Tetons, so I’ve been diligently scheming with my buddy to make this trip happen before the grind of school begins again. I’m also moving back to Fort Worth on the 1st of July. The commute is doable but it seriously impaired my ability to study. So here we go again with the packing and the moving. I must be part gypsy.
Other than that I’ve been working for Academic Support as a research assistant. That’s pretty cool. I make my own hours, learn stuff about the Bar Exam, no one talks to me, and I can rock out to my iTunes.
6/9/10 – School’s been out for a few weeks now and somehow I’ve gotten busier than when class was in session. Fortunately, it hasn’t been bad busy. After doing my initial “School’s Out” dance, my summer internship with the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office began.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got there, and truth be told I was a little wary. I’ve learned stuff in law school to be sure, but these people are actually practicing law and a lot rides on their knowledge and ability. What I’ve discovered so far is that they’re not out to get you (at least where I’m interning), and the work is very similar to what we’ve been doing in school. I’m only part way through my internship there and already I’ve seen two murder trials. Needless to say, those cases were very interesting and exciting. The stakes are high, and after my first year of school, I feel like I can understand almost everything that is going on - very encouraging.
The research skills that were taught in Legal Writing came in very handy when my managing attorney asked me to help him draft a motion. I’ve heard from my contemporaries that they too have put their legal research and writing skills to use immediately during their internships. I’ll take that as indicative that those are good skills to have.
5/19/10 – Well, this is my final blog for my 1L year now that class, papers, and exams are over. I have two more insights to share with you, my faithful readers. The first is, get an internship somewhere, even if it doesn’t pay. I began my first day with the Dallas County Public Defenders’ Office today, and I can honestly say that just being in court and around attorneys helps me put it all together. It’s a great opportunity for experience and a great resume booster.
The second is, do your best and let it go. Some of my compatriots are agonizing about what they think their grades may be. I ask: why? Worrying won’t improve the grade, so killing yourself over it is a useless effort and wasted energy. Do I wonder what I got? Sure. Am I worried? Not a bit. I did what I could do and now it’s over. If I do well, then I know that what I’m doing is working, and if not, then I know I need to go back to the drawing board.
That’s it people. I hope this was helpful, and maybe even sometimes amusing. If you’ve got questions, you may always email me.
This is Lt. H, sole survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.
5/12/10 - One more final of my 1L year. It’s been interesting to say the least. I’ve learned a lot: some good and some less than. Here’s a brief list. Some I learned and some I confirmed.
• Do try and learn it as you go.
• Don’t over think it all.
• Do keep your goals and life in perspective.
• Don’t live in the ‘hood.
• Do listen to the voice in your head.
• Don’t fall behind.
• Do take advice, but don’t follow blindly.
• Do believe the hype, but don’t let it rattle you.
• Don’t buy highlighted books if you can help it.
• Do learn to use Westlaw and LEXIS early.
• Don’t pay full price for supplements, but do use them.
• Do as many practice exams as you can.
• Don’t change who you are.
• Do make sure your brain to mouth filter is always on—we’re not all alike.
• Do know the law isn’t what you thought it was.
• Don’t worry that the law isn’t what you thought it was.
• Do participate, but don’t be a gunner.
• Do listen to classmates and study groups, but don’t assume they’re right.
• Don’t give up your other interests.
• Do save money where you can.
• Don’t wait until the last minute.
• Do tip Ed well at Malone’s.
• Don’t take my word for it.
• Do figure out what works best for you
4/28/10 - Classes are over. Stage one complete. Moving right along to stage two: study like a madman. Exams begin on the third - they are so far away and yet so near all at the same time. Personally, I’m a “take your medicine now” sort of guy, so I am not a huge fan of large time gaps between classes ending and exams. However, there are advantages to it: First and foremost, you can study all the stuff you didn’t happen to learn the first time around. If that stuff happens to be massive in quantity you’ll have your work cut out for you, but at least you get some time. Ideally what happens is you take that outline you’ve been updating all semester and read it about a trillion times, work on hypotheticals, write practice essays, and visit with professors to clarify gaps.
For those that didn’t keep up with their outlines all semester, the reality ends up being scrambling to complete their outlines now. For some, that helps them study. For others, it’s really a last ditch effort to try and make up for lost time that would be better spent actually reading over condensed and synthesized information. Moral of the story, of course, is to stay as current with your studies as you can throughout the year: It’s a marathon not a sprint. That’s it for now.
4/21/10 - If there was any doubt about whether or not all of the material would be covered, I assure you - it’s all going to be covered. Or rather, it’s all on the test. Just wow. The last few weeks have accelerated the reading and case load by a large margin. Couple that with a trial brief, oral argument, citation exams, make up classes, registration, practice exams, and trying to begin exam preparation, and you’ve got a recipe for a very exasperating April. I don’t know about the rest of my classmates, but the last 30 days has been supremely aggravating in general, mostly because there are simply not enough hours in the day to complete all of the things that are required. But ahead we go.
Last day of class is on Tuesday. This is of great relief to me. I want to start really focusing on practice problems, and reading new material is hampering my efforts. I’d like to tell you I have more to say than that, but presently I’m behind on doing my Contracts hypothetical questions, so I’m going to sign off for now.
4/14/10 - My final writing assignment for the year is turned in. Our classes will, however, have one more thing to do with that assignment: oral arguments. I think it sounds fun and a nice change of pace from just writing. Some people are good writers and only want to do transactional law. But I think if you ever want to see the inside of a courtroom, a person should be well versed in oral argument. Practicing oral arguments will help rhetoric and delivery, so I think this exercise is going to be pretty interesting.
It’s nice to have that assignment out of the way so that I can focus on studying for exams. The workload has increased this semester, so there’s more material and less energy all around. All the more reason to be glad the research and writing portion is finished. My study group is going to start turning up the intensity and meeting every morning at 8 AM from now until exams - we want to fill the gaps in learning that have accumulated while trying to keep pace. Thankfully, there’s a few of us, so where one is weak the others can fill in and vice versa.
It’s good to find study partners early in the year so that you can get a system down. Pick people that mesh well with your personality; it’s key. It’s not so much that you’ll be best friends, but that you can work effectively with one another to get the job done.
4/7/10 - I’m so busy that I forgot to write this blog yesterday. So let’s see: trial brief due on Tuesday, make up Property classes next Monday and Wednesday, final round of practice exams, selecting classes for next semester, finalizing my internship for the summer, attempting to set up a paying job for the summer, hypos and practice essays for impending exams. All of these things combined with a latent disposition to rebel against structure and productivity tend to produce interesting results.
Kidding aside, the pace is definitely getting more chaotic. We don’t have much time in the semester left and it seems like the work and material are getting denser. I would like to offer some insight into all of it right now, but alas, my faithful reader, you will have to wait until this trial brief is complete. No hate mail please.
3/31/10 - Four weeks left to go before exams. It’s time to really turn it on now. I’d be lying if I said that I felt as confident about this semester as I did last semester. The good news, however, is that I still have four weeks to go.
This time around I’ll be changing my study tactics significantly. For starters, I’ll be far less concerned with perfecting my outline and much more focused on doing repetition and application through hypothetical questions. I will also likely be writing out some full length practice essays under test conditions to determine how many words I can put to paper and still have time to outline the issues.
My scores last semester demonstrated that my weakness is on multiple choice questions so that will be the primary focus. Multiple choice is different from essays for obvious reasons, but it’s also different because it tests specific nuances of law as opposed to testing more broad concepts of substantive law. From what I’ve learned from Academic Support, there’s a skill to answering multiple choice questions, so I’m working on rectifying my academic ineptitudes. It’s a slow and irritating process to be sure, but it’s necessary because a large part of the bar exam is multi state multiple choice. Wish me luck.
3/24/10 - Spring is finally here! And by “Spring” in DFW I mean three inches of snow and tank top weather in the same diurnal cycle. At the very least, it’s not consistently raining and freezing.
I’d like to say that Spring Break was stellar but in reality it was closer to dimly luminescent. I tried to catch up on all the stuff that didn’t readily stick from class the first time around. Not surprisingly, the stuff I didn’t/don’t know from this semester can just about fit in the Grand Canyon. It’s pretty disheartening, but at the same time it’s a good barometer of how much I need to step it up for finals. So the good news is that we’ve got a little over a month to go before exams begin so there’s still time for diligent pursuit of good grades.
By listening to my peers, I’ve also learned that searching for an internship early is a great idea. I had the fortune to secure one early, but I’ve heard stories of some of my contemporaries that waited. A good strategy is to take stock of your first round of lockstep classes after the first semester, and then begin sending probes out during the winter break. With some effort and a little luck, one can have an internship by the time the spring semester begins.
3/10/10 - Spring Break is nearly upon us and with that comes the inevitable quandary of what exactly to do for the break. Does one nerd-out and use the ten unobstructed days to study without the distraction of class; or does one do something fun and forget school for ten days? I’ve heard both plans in the making from my peers. For my part, I aim to do a little of both, though my “fun” will consist mostly of not studying rather than actual fun.
Truth be told, the break is a great opportunity to study and learn things that up until now have been vague notes. On the other hand, it’s equally persuasive to argue that a fun break is a much needed recharging of the academic batteries. Both perspectives have merit, and both have benefits and drawbacks. I think the break should be a realistic assessment of the first semester performance taken in contrast with the burn-out, and then doing the average of the two.
Studying has obvious advantages, but taking time off is less apparently helpful. It is my personal (read: not official policy) that a break can get you reinvested in doing well because it’s a scheduled goofing off that won’t necessarily put you behind. Obviously, if you’re already behind then you remain that way if you take the time off. But if you’re about where you need to be, then I think the time off can be equally beneficial.
3/3/10 - Spring Break is approaching and so is registration for next semester. Since I’m not likely doing anything fun for Spring Break, we’ll talk about scheduling. The 1Ls had a mandatory meeting about scheduling last week and it was both informative and unsurprising. Essentially, the advice we were given was to front load the monster classes, so that by the time you’re a 3L, you’re sure to have all your required classes AND also you’ve at least seen the majority of the bar exam subjects.
Additionally, if someone were to take too many electives, that person would have to teach themselves that subject to prep for the bar. Needless to say, I am opposed to this prospect. Although I tend to agree with the strategy, it doesn’t make the prospect of choosing classes all that exciting when I’m going to take only bar prep classes. It’s OK though; my goal in coming here was first and foremost to pass the bar exam so I’m not too disappointed.
Spring Break will likely be an opportunity for me to actually learn all the stuff I’ve failed to learn thus far this semester. Lame? Yes. Prudent? Also yes. The good part is that I can do that at my pace so I hope to get out of town for a day or two and if I’m lucky, take in a title fight (WAR GSP!).
2/24/10 - I am now officially a commuter student. On the one hand, it’s pretty cool because I’ll get to live with a friend, I can split bills, I won’t have to have “aggressive negotiations” with potential intruders, et cetera. On the other hand, it’s inconvenient because downtown Dallas is over 30 miles away; anyone who’s ever driven in downtown Dallas can attest that 30 miles going through downtown takes an inordinate amount of time.
The bright side is that some of my fellow commuter students have sung the praises of the TRE light rail. It will take approximately the same amount of time to go the same distance but there are benefits other than time saved. For instance, I can read on the train, I save a lot of gas, I save a lot of wear on my car, I cut down the odds of one of the Epsilon class drivers hitting me on the way, and of course the train is always on time (and if it isn’t, then there’s a bigger disaster at hand than being late for class). Like any good American who doesn’t live in NYC, Chi-Town, or ‘Frisco, I’ve never taken advantage of mass transit - quite frankly, it’s often pretty useless due to our infrastructure. Thankfully, I now live 3 miles from a train station so it all of a sudden becomes a boon to me. I am looking forward to being able to utilize the train and even more so that I don’t have to sit in traffic.
2/17/10 - For those that don’t know, the DFW Metroplex got some record snowfall this past week. It was interesting to say the least. Aside from snowmen, ice luging on the highway, and massive power outages, we also got two days off from school. I approve. So this week it’s back to work plus whatever we missed. I sort-of-approve.
Memo 3 is due on Friday and I’ll be glad to be rid of it. I’ve been done since Monday but I feel as though I need to keep editing. And though I am sure I have incalculable errors, I am no longer seeing them, so it’s better to just be done with it and turn it in. It will be a welcome, albeit fleeting, respite from a major writing assignment when it’s gone.
Today was Equal Justice Day at school and a variety of representatives from public interest sectors were on hand to talk about summer opportunities and beyond. I would recommend attending any event like this during your time here because it’s a great way to see what’s out there, meet some decision making people, and perhaps land an internship if you’re lucky.
In other news, I’m moving out of the burglary magnet that is my present apartment. I won’t tell you publicly where it is for fear of defamation complaints but if you’re moving to Fort Worth and care to know, feel free to email me and ask.
2/10/10 - Time is really flying by this semester which is definitely a double edged sword. On the one hand, it’s nice because the mystique of law school is gone and we’ve all sort of found our groove. On the other hand, the mystique is gone and we’ve all kind of found our groove.
Honestly, I feel like focus in the second semester is more critical than the first because it is easy to try and cut corners now - the workload goes up, the social circle expands, and some of the apprehension is gone. I’m trying to streamline the process of learning and it’s somewhat uncomfortable because it’s different from what I’ve done in the past.
For me, it is critical to turn up the intensity at the right time rather than try to maintain a sprint all semester. It’s a little unnerving - sometimes feels as though I am not working as hard, when in actuality I’m pacing myself to retain the maximum testable material. I’m also taking tips from 2L’s regarding my outlines and changing my note-taking strategy. In essence, it took a semester to accumulate enough knowledge about law school to know if I need to change my study habits.
2/3/10 - Instead of Torts this semester our class has Criminal Law. I’ve heard it’s a really difficult class, but it has been interesting so far. That being said, I’ve decided to try and apply what I’ve learned in Crim Law to my own life. Lucky you; I’m going to let you share in my misadventure AND show you how to brief cases. Picture me rollin’:
Common Law burglary is breaking and entering the dwelling of another, at night, with the intent to commit a felony therein.
Mike is at home like a good boy, diligently working on a legal memo and listening to Pandora.com. Suddenly, there is shouting and a tinkling of glass. Upon inspection there is a boot-sized hole in the front window. The time is 9:37 PM.
Whomever so foolishly attempted said stunt did in fact “break” into my dwelling and I’m sure any “reasonable” person would conclude that the person’s subjective want was to unburden me of material possessions or perhaps even deprive me of my natural liberty—which is probably a felony. The time was 9:37 PM so there is no real dispute as to whether the event took place at night. Therefore, the case should turn on the element of “entering.” Sadly, it appears that this miscreant has the courage to “pluck at the beards of dead lions” but not live ones, and so did not “enter” upon realizing that I was home. Ergo this cannot be burglary.
It appears I have advanced a theory which any 1L should defeat—a court will likely find that this person did not burglarize my apartment. Luckily for me this is my exercise so I will also plead the “Close Enough” doctrine in the alternative—and my court finds this argument persuasive. Guilty. Judgment suspended until such time that sentence can be executed in a manner not inconsistent with this opinion…
P.S.—yes, this is the second time in three months.
1/27/10 - Last week I mentioned that my Legal Writing class was assigned to do a research memo. I’d like to keep offering suggestions of useful skills for you to acquire before you go to law school, at least on a cosmetic level. My tip of the week – you should learn to touch type. It is without a doubt the most useful class I ever had in high school and it’s also the most often used. As a law student you’ll use this skill every single day unless you’re among the growing minority who insist on hand writing everything (I won’t debate the merits of either but I prefer typing).
You’ll need this skill for typing briefs, notes, outlines, class notes, memos and tests. Consider this: my final exam in average word count last semester was 5,000 words (estimated and averaged). These tests are usually three hours. Most tests allocate anywhere from sixty to ninety minutes for the essay with the remainder going to multiple choice. Assuming a ninety minute essay, that is an average word count of 56 words per minute (and time is very tight on the exam). It would be very beneficial to be able to type that quickly before you got to the exam—that is unless you aim to write the aforementioned items by hand.
1/20/10 - Well it’s not been a full two weeks back and unsurprisingly we’ve been assigned our first research memo. To say that it’s an upgraded version of our previous assignment would be an understatement. This time around we’ve got to start utilizing previously untapped research methodologies (untapped for me anyway) to provide us with the applicable law and a context to use it in. I will admit that although it is a lot of work, I kind of dig it because it appears to be the most “real world” of all the classes we’ve had so far. Oh yeah, and we get half the time of the previous memo to complete it.
If any of you readers out there have experience in the legal field, or you have access to it, I highly suggest becoming acquainted with some of the tools you’ll end up using once you’re in law school. The ones that come to mind first are LexisNexis and Westlaw. These are the two most powerful database search engines that I (note I didn’t say “they are” I said “that I”) have ever seen or heard of. I can’t rightly say how it is out in the world, but it’s becoming apparent that knowing at least something about how to use them would be an advantage before you get here (I myself had never seen them).
1/13/10 - Back to school. Hard to come up with a three word sentence that is more irksome, perhaps: “guilty as charged.” OK, I’m mostly joking. The break was nice but it’s time to do what we came here to do and study this stuff.
Grades are in and I must admit to you my faithful reader—I did less stellar than I had hoped for. My grades were good-ish mind you, but that phone call from the Attorney General searching for the perfect intern may take some doing now. So it’s time to do what any smart person does when they fall a little short - figure out how to do it better next time. First and foremost, the amount of studying is equally important to what you study. Not everything will be on the test.
Second, learn to study the material as it will be presented on the test. For example, it does you absolutely no good to be able to spot trigger words in a multiple choice question if the question is an essay.
Third, study consistently. In other words it’s an endurance trial not a 100m dash. I made the mistake of attempting to absorb every single thing for every single day of the semester. By the time the dead week to study rolled around I had reached muscle failure (the muscle being my brain in this case) and I have no doubt that it hurt my score.
12/16/09 – Well, the first semester is at last behind us. Our last exam was on the 10th and since then I have done absolutely nothing--and to quote some pop culture wisdom, "doing nothing is everything I've thought it could be!" The break has been nice. No gnawing feeling that I'm behind or that I should be reading or studying.
By many accounts, this is supposed to be the hardest semester. If that's truly the case then I'm glad because all in all it wasn't really that bad. Sure there was a lot of work but it is after all law school. The grades don't come in until January so as of now I can only speculate on how I did. Once the grades come back I'll be making adjustments accordingly, now that I've got this 1L thing under control. Some of the advice offered at the semester's beginning will be kept, some will not. But at the very least, now I know what works for me and what doesn't.
Truthfully, I doubt next semester will be easier. I think it'll be more work than the first semester but theoretically we're supposed to be better at it now. So that's all I've got to offer at this point; I think we just get better at being law students but the work stays steady. For now, I'm going to enjoy the break that I've got and reload for January 10th.
12/9/09 - One to go. It’s nice to only have to study for one thing at a time. For my part I think that exam week is way less painful than the rest of the semester. There’s only one objective and one focus rather than five different classes to juggle. Then when the exam is over, I can just put it out of my mind. So all the work that we’ve done thus far comes down to these final few days. I guess we’ll see how it turns out. I can say that at noon on the 10th there will be a whole lot of the opposite of studying going on. That much is for sure. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to it.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Not much else to say or do except to finish strong.
11/25/09 - Ah. Today was the last day of regular classes. I had planned to take the afternoon off and watch a movie before the real studying began, but alas sometimes even the most seemingly trivial plans of mice and men…
So I approach my door and what’s this?! My Spidey Sense tingles like Icy Hot in a pair of your favorite pajamas—my door is ajar. I’ll save you the dicta and skip right to the holding: all of my stuff that could be taken by hand was stolen out of my apartment. The silver lining you ask? Well my laptop and iPod were on my person so I still have those. My books also remain because thieves are likely illiterate.
As a finer nuance of annoyance, I know that the thief was alone because my TV is still here. But once again, Mistress Fate is a clever girl and saw fit to have this miscreant steal the remote. So even if I had cable, an antennae, or ever watched TV (none of which I have or do), it would be irrelevant since this 40lb paper weight can’t be operated without the remote. By now you must wonder, “How does this relate to law school?” Ah, but it does! So here’s a penny’s worth of free advice:
Take your laptop everywhere because your car is less likely to be broken into than your apartment when you’re at school.
Hide your money in your books since it’s the last place a thief will look.
Don’t live in the hood if it can be avoided even if it costs you more in financial aid.
Perhaps most importantly, remember that Texas is a “Castle Doctrine” state!
11/18/09 - Memo 2 is turned in. I am glad to be rid of it; it’s kind of like ending a bad relationship - sadly there will be a sequel, like many bad relationships, in Memo 3 and beyond next semester. There were many of my classmates that were noticeably fatigued today, either from staying up all night to finish the memo, stressing out about the memo, stressing out about exams or any combination of the three. I thankfully didn’t stay up all night doing mine because I went in staggered stages. My natural inclination is not to draft multiple revisions of the paper, but I am far too careless to do it in a single try. Therefore, I did my first draft very early and then kept editing it. In the end it worked out just fine for me (or at least I think so, but I’ll let you know in January when I get my grades).
Personally, I would rather write another memo by the end of the week than do the citation examination we have on Friday. I think I mentioned this but I detest Bluebook citation work. Looks like I’ll be using the remainder of the week to prep for the inevitable annoyance on Friday. At the very least I can scratch the memo off the list.
11/11/09 - Well my home internet picked a prime time to stop working. It’s a little aggravating because there are so many things I need to use the web to do. Luckily I’ve been backing up all my stuff on a separate hard drive, so if my computer decides to be ridiculous I still have my Memo 2 at its latest stage.
Classes are winding down. I suspect much of next week will be review and last minute material. There’s a visible change of pace among the students because we can see the end of what everyone says is the hardest semester. The library has more people in it and I suspect it’ll get more packed as time goes on.
Personally, I think the workload has dropped since the amount of new material has decreased, and I’m not concerned with reading ahead now. Instead, I do practice exams and questions, so it works out well for me. As soon as Memo 2 is turned in then there won’t be much left to do except drill for the exams. I’m looking forward to it; I’d rather do it and get it over with than delay it longer - it’s a welcome change.
11/4/09 - As a class, we’ve gotten our first memorandum back with a grade. Aside from the Torts midterm, this is the only grade we’ve gotten so far. I did well, but not as well as I would have liked. In some ways it’s disappointing - I did more revisions of that paper than all of my undergrad papers combined. On the other hand, I look back at the first draft of it and see how much I’ve improved, so that’s encouraging. Another upside is that I can use it as a roadmap of “what not to do” on the second memorandum. It should prove useful especially considering the second memorandum is worth 50% of the grade in the class.
As the semester winds down, the workload has shifted. There’s a little less reading and way more drilling. Truthfully, it’s kind of a nice change of pace. It seems like there’s more time in the day - while I’m drilling I can listen to music and move around. That is far more relaxing than sitting still and reading for three hours at a time.
10/28/09 - We’ve officially got less than four weeks until exams begin. The workload hasn’t increased in official assignments but it’s getting more cumbersome because it’s time to start really learning the material. I don’t say that to suggest that we’ve not been learning it as we go but it’s a building process so we keep reading ahead and becoming familiar with the next concept to come rather than really cement the rules and theory into the head. So now as we round the bend to the home stretch we’re tasked with continuing to learn the new material and beginning to memorize and cement the past material. It won’t be long before exams now.
Also, the Innocence Project exonerated yet another person from wrongful imprisonment which is very exciting to me. I can’t verbalize how awesome it is to see the success of a program like the Innocence Project.
Finally, Halloween is this weekend and I must say that I wish I were doing something somewhere other than Fort Worth but I’m sure there will be something to do. It’ll be a switch from the last two Halloween’s I spent working on 6th Street in Austin. At least I’ll be less likely to get myself into trouble or spend money that I don’t have, both of which are always a good thing.
10/21/09 - We’ve officially rounded the corner; we’re over halfway through the first semester of law school. The work has become much more manageable because I’m learning which study techniques and times work best for me. I think it’s safe to say that the rest of my classmates feel the same. This is very fortunate, since the readings have gotten longer and the memorandums have increased in length and complexity. The bright side is that they didn’t just drop us in the crucible. I can honestly say that I’ve learned a lot so far. The most tangible evidence of some of the skills I feel I’ve improved on is legal writing.
Academic Support TAs will be holding a practice Torts exam on Thursday. It will be good practice for Torts in particular, and test taking under simulated conditions in general. To my knowledge there will be a practice exam in every subject - excellent. It’s a little unfortunate that it’s coming at lunch time, because there’s a professor debate and meeting for an extracurricular activity at the same time. Ideally I’d like to attend all three, but if I have to pick just one, I’m going to pick the practice exam (sorry Prof. and team leader).
10/14/09 - Last week the Texas Wesleyan Innocence Project (WIP) sponsored a Criminal Law Week. There were a variety of activities to attend. Sadly, I was not able to attend all of them due to scheduling, but the one I did get to go to was the exoneree luncheon. WIP had three exonerees come tell the students their stories of imprisonment for very serious crimes that they had not committed. Combined they served approximately fifty six years in prison. It was stunning to hear about the injustice they all suffered, and inspiring to hear about how WIP helped to set them free. WIP seems like a great program and it is a feather in the cap of every Texas Wesleyan Law student.
Memo 1 Part 2 is due tomorrow, and unlike Part 1, this one counts. I did several drafts so hopefully I caught all of my errors—or at least most of them. This will be the only graded assignment I’ve had other than my Torts I midterm, so I’m curious to see how I do. Soon there will be a Memo 2 - that one will likely not have as many “training wheels” in the assignment to help us out. It’s so important that we get informative commentary on our papers, because Memo 2 is worth much more than Memo 1. I guess this one is the warm up.
10/7/09 - It’s a good thing I built what I like to call the “Oh No!” time into my schedule. Due to certain non-school related administrative ridiculousness and a variety of miscellaneous misadventures, I’ve managed to allow the syllabi to catch up to me. In other words, now I’m right where the next class is going on the syllabus. Some may disagree but in my humble estimation this is decidedly less advantageous than being a week ahead.
The grades for the Torts midterm haven’t come back yet, and most people I’ve spoken with are relatively anxious to see how they did. Admittedly, I’m one of them. But while I’m waiting for that, Memo 1 Part 2 has been handed out. It’s due on the 15th (read “not doing much this weekend”) so I hope to have my first draft done by Friday night so I can rewrite it again before Tuesday. I got the first part of the memo back - it wasn’t an epic tragedy but it was far from good enough. Luckily it was a completion grade to prepare us for Part 2. Hopefully, I catch more of the errors in proofreading.
That’s it for now. I have a lot to do.
10/1/09 - Section one has their first midterm this week in Torts I. The anticipation I’ve heard varies from “moderately worried” to “we have a midterm?” I marked it on my calendar so I’ve put in the time with my study group, so all I can do now is wait and see how I do. Thankfully I don’t suffer from test anxiety, so making sure that I do the requisite study time is my key to maximize my chances of success.
This midterm is particularly fortuitous because it is a significant portion of the grade overall but not so much so that it detracts from the gravity of the final exam. Torts I is a four credit class so it’s advantageous to diffuse the weight a little so that a high final score is more plausible as opposed to having only one exam (which is typical) and having it worth more than the rest of the classes also.
This exam is also good because it’s a gauge of how effectively I’m absorbing the class material AND the effectiveness of my study habits, techniques and outlining. It’s sort of like a dress rehearsal minus the enormous time suck of studying for all four exams in December. Thankfully the test is short and the testable material so far is limited. That makes for a narrower scope of review which is never a bad thing. Here we go…
9/23/09 - If I haven’t mentioned it before I’d like to take the time to say it now: citation exercises for legal authorities are extraordinarily irritating. Yes, yes I know that they are quite necessary for a variety of reasons. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t both useful AND irritating (in law school we call this “conjunctive”).
Truthfully, they aren’t that difficult but they are very exact. There’s a whole book of rules that one must diligently sift through to get them right. In fact there’s a workbook that teaches how to use the citation book. Some people are good at this type of thing. I am not because I’m generally too careless to get it right on the first try. So I growl menacingly at my laptop while my casebooks silently stare in mocking amusement because they know I’ve got to read them too before the day is out. Sadly, it’s a skill we all have to have so it’s no use fighting it.
I’m sure that this, like all the things we’re learning now, will become very useful to me long after they’ve become elementary. That’s the hope anyway. I’ll just keep practicing them with that in mind.
9/16/09 – Where do my weekends go?! I had some commitments to fill this weekend, and those combined with studying pretty much made time move in fast forward.
Well Memo1, Part1, is due at 9:00 AM on Tuesday and I am going through final checks right now. I’m curious to see how I do in comparison to the first mock assignment. Mine was admittedly terrible. I practiced on another example from the book because it was similar and I feel like I did better. So after some classroom instruction, a lot less speed and a lot more drafting, I hope I will have a marked improvement - especially because this one is graded.
At this point we’ve actually learned just enough to start picking up the pace in most of the classes. At the end of this month I’ve got a midterm in Torts, and at the end of this week I’ve got an optional midterm for Civil Procedure. I’m surprisingly happy about it. Yes, I said that. As strange as it sounds, I’m actually very excited for the opportunity to gauge how much more I need to step it up before finals. I’m sure both will be a good indication of where I’m weak, so the exams will hardly be the anathema they were in undergraduate. I hope that they give me the practice I need.
9/9/09 – Labor Day has come and gone and it was nice to have a three-day weekend. Truthfully I didn’t do too much, but it was refreshing to have the break from classes so that I could do all the admin stuff around my apartment that has fallen very low on my list of things to do. The best part about having a three-day weekend on a Monday is that you’re one day closer to next Friday AND you missed a Monday. If you have a three-day weekend where you get Friday off, it’s still great, but I feel a little cheated because I already made it to Friday.
We got our first memorandum exercise in Legal Analysis, Research & Writing (LARW) last week. It’s a short but comprehensive exercise to test what we’ve learned about citation, legal analysis, and legal writing up to this point. Despite the short page length it is still very time consuming. The problem wasn’t filling up the pages but rather cutting things out to make it all fit. It’s kind of funny how that changes from undergrad. I think that LARW will be the most challenging class I have all year, when it’s all said and done.
I really tried to get as much of my work done as early as possible last week, so that I could build in time to relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend. It paid dividends in the end, and I got to visit some friends and do non-law school tasks for a few stretches at a time. Now it’s back to class - but at least I missed a Monday.
9/2/09 – Week two is in the books and we are picking up the pace. The first two weeks got us familiar with the essential skills we would need just to study law, i.e. briefing cases, online resources, vocabulary, basic premises of law, where is the bathroom, etc. This week the assignments and cases have increased in volume and are building in complexity, which is to be expected.
I have friends that are alumni of Texas Wesleyan Law, and I’ve known quite a few friends that have gone on to be attorneys, so I had a relatively good idea of what would be asked of me when I started. That being said, I haven’t done much in the way of non-school related activity since I started and I don’t imagine I’ll get much else in besides exercise before Christmas. I think that is the consensus among 1Ls as our biggest shock: the diminished (though not non-existent) social life aspect that was present in undergrad.
One of the most interesting things to discover has been the range of perspectives of law and its study that my fellow classmates and I share. Given that we are from a myriad of backgrounds, many of us approach the law with different eyes. For my part, I’m a single, twenty-nine year old guy that just decided that this was worth doing. I grew up (mostly) in McKinney, Texas and did my undergraduate (again mostly) at Texas A&M University in College Station. So I suppose you could say I had a fairly traditional undergraduate experience but I represent only part of the student body since many have families and former professions. It’ll surely bring a pretty diverse set of elements to our studies.
8/26/09 – Well week one as an “official” law student is in the books and I’m still alive. I wouldn’t dare imagine that I’ve got the hang of it, but it seems like if you do the work, it’s manageable. I do however have the sneaking suspicion that the professors are taking it easy on us, so I’m waiting with bated breath for the inevitable hand grenade of a seemingly impossible task list that I’m sure will come in due time.
What stands out most to me is that everything you’ve heard about the huge time demands that come with earning a J.D. is true. For once the hype lives up to the reality (if you’re taking it seriously, that is). That being said, I’ll share what a super green 1L has learned about being a law student in the last eight days.
What works well in terms of keeping up with your schoolwork is treating school like a job (or rather job training if you will). Basically, I clear my calendar from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. (at the minimum), just as if I were back at work, and I stick to it. If you consistently do that, you can get everything done, and still review the information before class. It’s worked so far, and luckily it also builds in some “oh NO” time as well.