Skip to Content
Texas Wesleyan School of Law
San Angelo, Texas
Fulltime, Day student
I think I did okay on the criminal law and property exams. My civil procedure exam is open book so that means it will be very difficult and will require a lot of analysis. The contracts exam will be hard because there are so many rules to remember and apply.
One of the reasons I wanted to go to law school was so that I could be stretched academically. I wanted to explore beyond the boundaries of my limited knowledge and experience. That is exactly what has happened. I've tapped into a universe of knowledge that is amazingly vast. The mysteries abound, but I'm being equipped to sort out the puzzles or at least use the pieces to my client's benefit.
It's been a great year with some highs and lows. Any personal sacrifices I've made have been worth it. The best part about law school is the wonderful people I've met. In my classmates, I have found ambition, tenacity, and laughter. In the staff and administration, I have found professionalism, support, and attentiveness. In my professors, I have found wisdom, brilliance, enthusiasm, encouragement, and great expectations.
I learned a long time ago to enjoy people while you have a chance. When it's all said and done, we won't even remember the grades and other insignificant things. But I will always remember meeting new people and getting to know them.
This has been a wonderful place to begin living my dream.
Studying for finals is an angst ridden process. Taking finals and taking the bar are just rites of passages, crossing the burning sands to become an attorney. In real life, no attorney would try to work through client problems from blind memorization of rules. The practice involves open book research and constant continuing education.
I don't mean to complain. It's just that I'm in the middle of trying to remember the difference between second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter when courts use recklessness to describe both. It's actually fascinating stuff. The problem is that I don't have time to ponder in fascination. My first final is Monday! Criminal law, of course.
So Criminal Law is Monday, Property is Thursday, and then we repeat the same days for Civil Procedure and Contracts next week. Civil Procedure is the only open book exam which makes sense because the subject is based on archaically written rules. The only advantage to having books and notes is that you can get the rule right, but the problem is being able to fully analyze the problem in a short amount of time.
The countdown has begun. The pressure is on!
The trial brief was a long process. I was so relieved when I turned it in last week. Since then I've been completing my outlines and trying to implement an effective study strategy for finals. Last semester I just tried to remember everything I could. This semester I can be more selective about what I have to drill into my head through rote memorization because some things come more naturally.
Everything was so new and foreign last semester. Now that I've dipped into legal waters, I'm not ready for the deep end, but I'm learning to float and even go beneath the surface some. I had to set aside things I thought I knew to make room for new concepts and information. I used to think it was just a witty cliché when I read and heard about "thinking like a lawyer." Now I understand the basics of what that means. When you study something intensely, you really do begin to think differently.
I never thought I'd have to say good-bye to a classmate so soon. My friend, Matthew Dunn, passed the Bar before any of us. He passed from time into eternity to stand before the only Judge who really matters. As the angels sing to welcome him, we grieve our loss and stand in support of his family. He was such an easy-going guy who loved to laugh and entertain us with great stories.
Since I always like to talk about controversial issues like racism, classicism and sexism, last semester Matt engaged me in an interesting conversation about how he came to an understanding of racial issues. I had made certain assumptions about him because he grew up in Georgia. My opinion got even more skeptical when he told me he had a nanny who was a black woman. But the cool thing was that he told me he didn't see his nanny as different. He said he knew her skin was darker than his, but it never occurred to him that the difference in their skin color meant anything.
In school, he made friends with everyone regardless of color. I asked him about the school cafeteria thing where you have the white table, the black table and the Hispanic table. He said that he sat at every table because he had friends at every table. He found out in subtle ways that everyone didn't agree with how he embraced all people. He began reading history books about racism in America and only then did he realize why his outlook was unconventional.
Nevertheless, he continued the trend when he went into the military, and he said he was always the only one who sat at every table. I told him how great it was that he was a person who could remind us that our differences should not separate us. Matt's wonderful spirit transcended the differences. Now he can sit at one Table where everyone is united.
I'll always remember Matt.
We did our presentation in criminal law today. I enjoyed working with my group, especially because we had creative members who were willing to do something different. We took a shot at arguing the case rather than just presenting the information. I'm not afraid to speak in front of people, but I enjoyed the opportunity to work on my persuasive presentation skills.
We only have four more weeks of classes and then finals start. I know I've learned a lot, but I haven't begun to really assimilate it all. As I organize my outlines and begin making study aids like flash cards, it should all come together.
This week we received the schedule of classes for next year. We all have to take Constitutional Law as well as another semester of writing. The rest is up to me. Some classes fill up quickly, so I need a back-up plan for every contingency. It was so easy when they just handed us our schedules as 1Ls. Hopefully, I'll end up with a good schedule with no classes on Fridays.
I get such great feedback from this diary, and one of the most frequent questions comes from parents who are wondering about balancing law school and family life. To me, the best answer is that it will all work out once you step out and just do it. It is amazing how things just line up when you endeavor to do a thing.
The bottom line is that you will not know all the answers before hand. You may not have a pre-flight itinerary, but you do have directions to the airport. There is no way for you to know the details of your time management plan, but you at least know the steps to take to get into law school. There are tons of books with tips on how to get through the first year, but you may not know how your particular situation is going to work out until you are in the midst of the journey.
While it is a major consideration, being a parent has not made law school more difficult for me. In fact, it has enhanced my experience by making me more focused and organized. I put in a lot of hours studying, but I also take my children to doctor's appointments, Chuck E. Cheese's, museums, etc. As far as what my children think about the time sacrifice, my son is only 21 months, so his comments are limited to "book." My daughter seems to appreciate my hard work, but she is focused on the end result and the promised trip to Disney Land after I graduate.
The semester has gone by so quickly! This will be a much needed break. I'll take some relaxing days and not worry about studying for a while. By the end of the week, I'll begin reading again, but at least I won't be in the library. I'll be in Houston, so I'll have to find a good place to read and work on outlines. I'll either set up my study office somewhere in the spa-like atmosphere of my best friend's home or go down the street to the Barnes and Nobles. But that will come after some rest and relaxation. Happy Spring!
Spring fever is in full effect for me. The days are so beautiful that I have to force myself to spend time in the library. The weather has influenced me to find alternative places to read and study. Sunlight and blue skies make it a bit easier to process hard cases, like the criminal law case where a 15-year-old brutally murdered his mother so he could force girls to have sex with him. Strange? We just completed insanity defenses.
We get our trial brief assignment on Monday, so I'll definitely have work to do over Spring Break. During that wonderful week off, I plan to discover the Fort Worth museums with my children. We're actually starting our museum tour with the National Cowgirl Museum tomorrow.
This semester seems to be flying by. Very soon, I will no longer be a bright-eyed, innocent 1L. Next year I'll seem like a cool, upper-level student who knows what's going on in this place. I'll soon graduate, pass the bar, and the next thing you know (say the rest with a British accent) I'll be a competent attorney with an excellent knowledge of our great system of laws.
Now that the spring semester is half over, I should be trying to secure a job for the summer. I've revamped my resume, and I'm working on a cover letter. I have an idea about the kind of work I want to do. I might not get paid, but I'll get some good experience.
If you're thinking about going to law school, just know that in the middle of your second semester, there will still be so much work to do. If I really wanted to slack off, I probably could. There is a way to coast along, grab the general idea, and avoid spending a lot of time in the books. The problem with my doing something like that is I'm just too inquisitive not to know what's really going on. For me, the big pay-off is not just a good grade, but the knowledge and understanding that results from reading and working through the concepts. I don't know if I would have felt the same way straight out of undergraduate studies.
On the recreational front, my big plans for Spring Break morphed from a cruise with my best friend to quality time with my children. If I can talk my daughter into getting on those rides again at Six Flags, I'll have a blast watching her go from screaming terror to loads of laughter. We'll see how many Chuck E. Cheese's, Putt-Putt, and theme park activities we can fit into a week. If we get our trial brief assignment, I guess I'll be working on that as well. What fun!
Wow! The research memo was interesting. I think I got the point and did a good analysis of the issues, but I'm usually a little over confident. At some point, I got the brilliant idea to do something as simple as put the cases in date order. After that, the issues didn't seem as complex or confusing as they did at first. The simple things confound the "wise."
Now it's time for me to shape up my outlines and make sure I'm understanding the concepts in all my classes. I had classes at UT that I absolutely cannot remember today, and it's not just because I graduated so long ago. I just never had to apply the information to anything. In law school, the substantive information is not only important for finals, but also for the bar and law practice (at least it is for the lawyer who actually wants to be licensed to practice). So transferring my written notes into my outline on the computer seems like a mundane process but it's actually a building block for a greater understanding and application.
My point is that everything you do in law school is important. If you blow it off, you'll regret it later. I can't really take credit for this bit of wisdom. It actually came from a former student I met in the library. She impressed upon me the importance of learning in the classroom so I won't be cramming in bar prep classes and on my own in preparation for the bar. If I play my cards right, a lot of the information will be helpful review and refreshers when it's time to prepare for the bar.
My plan is to make sure I'm learning the information, to practice writing essay exams and to practice multiple choice problems. It's more of the same hard, but rewarding, work.
I was shocked that I actually know someone who didn't know who Coretta Scott King was. I just didn't believe it when I heard on the radio that if you don't say "wife of Martin Luther King, Jr." along with her name, (young) people will not know who you're talking about. Apparently our history education is lacking more than I thought. Since this isn't a forum for the importance of a well-rounded American history education, I'll talk about what's going on in law school. (And I'll have faith that history will not repeat itself for lack of knowledge.)
Our memos are due Wednesday, and I have a pretty good idea what I'm going to write. We learned more about how to use citations to enhance our analysis, so for me, a lot of the work will be in implementing those new principles. I liked the process of reading the cases and coming up with the lines of reasoning, and I have a brilliant study partner who is great at bouncing around ideas and analyzing issues.
I reviewed my torts final and got great news from the professor. Even though my grade wasn't as good as it should have been, all my test-taking problems are fixable. I don't know what grades I'll end up with, but I know I'll perform better on the Spring essays.
As a writer, I always have story ideas and every day events generate fictional vignettes in my mind. This week the plot development for one of my novel ideas has been playing in the background of my consciousness. This weekend, I'll create a word document for these ideas because as much as I want to practice law, I'll always consider myself a writer of fiction (which seems to work together somehow). I'm glad that law school has not dampened my creativity. It has actually stimulated it. The novel will have to wait, but the ideas are still flourishing. And that's a good thing.
Writing this weekly update always makes me reflect and think about what is important to me right now and what I want to convey to others who may be going through this or thinking about subjecting themselves to this rigor. I've already explained how demanding the work load is and how difficult it is to grasp some of the concepts. You need a global plan and a specific method for each class. The most important thing is finding out what works individually and being flexible and willing to try various methods.
Besides the management of the academic side, there's the family and relationship side that could be strained because law school takes up so much of a person's time and mental space. One of my wise lawyer friends told me that law school is a wonderful experience for most people, but what causes problems most of the time is life outside of law school.
Oh, the drama! I've had my share, but my family and friends are so supportive that I've been able to persevere. I think I compartmentalized my life outside of law school and forgot that it could really have an impact on my grades and test performance. I picked up my class rank today, but before I did, I told my friend that no matter what the number said I would not let it speak to who I am. I could have been pretty disappointed, but instead I reflected on all the things outside of law school that I went through last semester, and I was just thankful that I'm still here.
We have to stand up to speak in Criminal Law. That means it's really important to be prepared for that class because when you're standing up, it just seems like you're speaking with a higher level of authority.
A law firm near the campus gave a welcome dinner for students last semester, and one of the founding partners doled out some great wisdom. One of the things he shared was that there's never an excuse for being unprepared for a trial. I try to apply this principle to my class preparation.
An interesting thing about law school is that for some people it really changes them. If I had gone to law school straight out of undergrad, I don't know what kind of changes I would have gone through. I think I'm too old to be changed much by the pressures of this experience. One aspect of my personality is outgoing, people-loving and capricious. Another aspect is driven, focused and intense (with workaholic tendencies). It usually balances out okay, but I can think back all the way to first grade and see how this manifested. I would run out onto the playground and scream, "Make way for Renea!" and then I would gather my friends around and tell them the rules to whatever game I was making them play.
Over the years, I've learned to temper my leadership tendencies and maintain friendships, even though I still may agree to a last minute lunch invitation with enthusiasm and then back out as we're walking to the parking lot and, instead, head to the library to prepare for Criminal Law.
I am now back in the swing of things. I really appreciate the feedback I get from this diary. I hope I encourage others as much as I am encouraged.
This semester, instead of torts, we have criminal law. We're studying homicide for the next few weeks, and it can be really gruesome and difficult. My professor has a warm, gentle teaching style that guides you calmly through the elements of various crimes, making it somewhat easier to wade through the hard facts of specific cases.
We got our memo assignments, and I think I received enough guidance and feedback last semester to at least know what's expected. I remember feeling like I was underwater in the midst of the last memo when I was trying to edit to meet the page limit. This time, we have some preparation work that will help me focus and either not go over the page limit or know what to cut if I do.
It's hard to believe we only have a week left in January. I've started contacting law firms in the Arlington area for a summer position. I should probably expand my search if I want to end up with a paid position. I've heard that 1Ls don't usually get paid positions, but I don't believe it. If I contact enough firms, I'm sure I'll find something.
Getting your first semester law school grades can be quite an experience. My grades place me squarely in the pack, and I didn't feel badly about them until I started talking to my classmates. I had resolved that my grades didn't say anything about me as an intelligent woman with a good head on her shoulders, but when I talked to people who made better grades than I did, I felt dismissed, as if they were eliminating me from their realm of a higher knowledge of the law. I've learned from one of my wise classmates that it is better to keep your grades to yourself.
To remedy this spiral of depression, I spoke to some of my mentors, including upper level students and professors. They were all so encouraging that their words are working to curb the negative effects of grade competition. The bright side is that I've looked at some of my tests, and the problems are easily remedied. My journalistic writing style does not work at all on a law school exam. The editor in my head is indeed conclusory and much too terse.
Now that I've had my reality check, I'm ready to tackle new information and enjoy the learning process. This is still not easy, but I'm having the time of my life!
You could have studied hard, memorized all the rules, understood what the professor was asking and still be stumped on quite a few questions on the Torts exam. For the multiple choice, we got one single give-away because the last choice on one of the questions was "the gorilla wore a pink tutu," or something like that. Otherwise, we were on our own to sort through the maze of difficult answer choices. In the short answer section, the answers could rarely be short. Although the essay seemed straight forward, I could have missed something. I'll see how it turned out next month.
I'm now preparing for my Civil Procedure exam which is at 1 p.m. It's open book. Does that mean it will be easy? No. We can have our outline, book, and supplement, but I'm trying to prepare for some overwhelmingly challenging questions.
The Property final is Monday and Contracts is Thursday. After that I'll relax and enjoy the holidays.
This first semester of law school has been the most demanding time in my academic experience. It has also been the most enjoyable and rewarding. I'll apply the lessons I learned this semester and hopefully improve next semester.
After the memos were over, I felt a huge relief. Now, I'm strategizing for the Torts final. There are certain things that just have to be "rememorized" (as my six-year-old would say). Most students will know the elements of the basic principles from pure memorization. I think the bell curve works because some students will present their arguments better than others. As I'm forming the big picture as a law student, I see that there is rarely an absolute "right" answer. After a contracts practice exam, I asked the professor if I had tanked it because I forgot about some U.C.C. clause. To my surprise, he said the alternate route I took was valid, and the key was to support my position well using the rules I presented.
As a law student, you just have to remember that every case you study has at least two sides. That's why the case ended up in court in the first place. It follows, that any concept you study can be looked at from many different angles. One of the earliest lawyer jokes I heard once I started school was something like this: if you put 20 lawyers in a room, you'll get 30 opinions about an issue. I'll take this philosophical view into the finals, and when I can't remember the elements of some concept, I'll just make the best argument I can and move on to the next question. No need to panic. No time for anxiety attacks.
We finally got our second memos back, and I'll just say that I have plenty of room for improvement for the third memo. I feel like I have memo fatigue, and that I'm spending way too much time laboring over every sentence when I need to prepare for finals. Writing can only be improved through writing, editing, and rewriting many times. So I'll spend the entire weekend on the memo and just spend Thanksgiving studying as much as possible. I probably won't be the only 1L in the country memorizing rules over turkey and dressing.
I'm not moved by the competitiveness that's prevalent as finals approach, but I do want to do well. I tend to avoid the people who are the most competitive to avoid the anxiety that comes along with trying to keep up with someone else's learning style. Some people "get it" the first time they hear it. Other people have to deliberate over things before they really sink in. Me, I get it on the surface at first. Then my subconscious seeks to pull the ideas down to a foundation of understanding, and consequently I can build on the foundation. If I can speed this laborious process up, I should do well on the finals.
Some people have gotten their Memo 2 grades back, but our section has not. In a way, it's a good thing for me. If I do better than expected, I may relax too much on Memo 3 which I am currently laboring through. If I do worse than expected, I may get too distracted and waste time trying to figure out where I went wrong on Memo 2. In any event, we'll have our grades on Monday, and I just need to stay focused no matter what the grade. I actually told one of my classmates that I'd rather learn something than make a good grade. I was really tired and just talking too much when I said that.
As time winds down to finals, I'm becoming a bit restless and pensive. When I think about the information in the various classes, I'm overwhelmed with how little I feel I've retained. I know a bunch of words like battery, assault, negligence, subject matter jurisdiction, due process, defeasible estates, fee simple, offer, acceptance, and consideration. But do I know the principles and rules behind the words? Sometimes I think I do. Sometimes I think I'll forget the most basic things when it's time to communicate what I know on an exam. When I'm in class, I understand what's going on. I've kept up with the reading and have an outlining system. My professors still relay the information with the same degree of excellence I described earlier in the year. What I'm experiencing must be test preparation anxiety. I'd like to work through it so it doesn't turn into test anxiety. I wouldn't want to find myself playing tic-tac-toe in my blue books in December.
I hope my classmates and professors won't mind my sharing some of my favorite quotes from the semester. Laughter is like medicine so here's some levity in brevity:
After listening to a student's lengthy explanation about something, the professor says, "You could think that. . . but you would be wrong."
Class has just started and the professor randomly calls on a student to discuss the first case assigned for the day. The student's reply: "I didn't get that far in my reading."
A student offers a pretty good discourse about an issue. The professor seems to like the reasoning and asks a follow-up question. The student's reply: "That's all I've got."
We have our assignments for our third memo, and although it's going to be a lot of work, I at least know what is expected as far as the analysis, format, and writing style is concerned. We haven't gotten our grades back for the second memo, but as long as I do as well as or better than the first memo, I won't go into shock. I can't guarantee what my reaction will be if I did worse. (But I will try to remember my bright ideas about staying calm in all situations.)
Taking practice exams has shown me what my weaknesses are and what to work on before finals. More than anything I learned that if you at least show sound reasoning and analysis, you may have a chance to perform in the upper 50% of the class. Of course, you have to spot all the issues and complete as much of the test as possible. We'll see how that goes.
Balancing motherhood and school has been quite an experience. I've learned that it's virtually impossible to read Torts while my one-year-old is awake. The last time I tried to read at the same time I was trying to put him to sleep, he maneuvered his body until he was actually sitting on my book and staring in my face. I got the message, put the book down, and showered him with attention until he fell asleep.
Our second memo brought out some revelations for all students. For the next memo I will begin working on it as soon as we get the material. Working on a writing project for as long as possible is key for me because it allows me to come up with the best possible presentation of what I want to say. At least I hope that's how it turns out on the next memo, which is 45 percent of our grade in the writing class.
Some students missed classes, bought immunity so they wouldn't get called on in class, and just didn't do their reading for the other classes. I was certainly pressed for time, but I was able to keep up with all the reading and attend all my classes. Part of the reason may be because I have more experience handling deadlines and work overload. It just never crossed my mind that I wouldn't be able to do all the work. Some people may say it's just a matter of time management; but even before that, I think you just have to stay calm and level-headed even in the most stressful situations. Now I'll just have to remember that when I get my grade back!
As I've always said, I enjoy the learning process, and I'm glad I'll be in a profession in which you have to continue your education as long as you practice.
This was a good week! The practice exams showed me that I could at least talk about the ideas presented. Issue spotting, quoting the rule and applying the hypothetical facts to the rule are truly skills that can be learned through practice and some memorization. It sounds simple enough, but what makes it so hard is the volume of work and complexity of some of the concepts in various classes. Even in torts--the class I understand the most--I'm challenged by the process of integrating the information without confusing the concepts. Sometimes the cases make the journey easier by clarifying the concepts, but sometimes the cases make the concepts even harder to extract and comprehend. Then my mind may start reasoning in a circular pattern that cannot lead anywhere. Those are the times when I just write some questions and hope the professor will make things clear in class and set me in the right direction on the journey.
The week was also memorable because we had the law school dedication and the honor of experiencing Justice Kennedy from the Supreme Court. From the class he taught to the keynote address he gave at the ceremony, he was informative, humorous and gracious. Some of my classmates marveled with me that we are at the law school at this historic time. Even in the midst of briefing cases and learning how to do legal research and writing, it's good to ponder on the future and wonder how we are going to make our marks on the community. For me, the law school dedication highlighted the fact that lawyers have great responsibilities not only to their clients, but also to society at large.
I'm still enjoying my professors, my friends, and learning in general. It's a lot of work, but it's also fun and stimulating. My children are doing wonderfully, and I've been spending time with them regularly. There's nothing like the greeting you get from a one-year-old (Mommy! Mommy! he screams as he wobbles toward me in his wide-legged run) and a six-year-old (Hey! Mom's home!) after a long day at school. I pick them both up in my arms and squeeze until they wriggle free, laughing with joy. After dinner, a recitation of a day in first grade from my daughter, and chasing the baby around to see what he's put in his mouth next, and after everyone else has gone to sleep, sometimes I sit at my desk and study just a little more to make sure I'm prepared for the next day's journey.
Anyone with children may have experienced the laborious process of cleaning up a car seat after a baby loses the entire contents of his stomach. First, I had to clean up the baby. That was the easy part. Going back out to the car armed with paper towels, water, cleaning spray, Lysol and a trash bag was harder than facing my practice exams. Having children has toughened me up a bit, but I still have a pretty weak stomach. The worst part was that I got sick the next night with whatever 24-hour bug causes things to come right back up. After struggling through Torts on Friday, I immediately went home to get better.
I missed some issues on my contracts practice exam, but I was able to write about everything I did spot. We got our first memos back, and although I'm pleased with my grade, I hope to do better on the next one. At this halfway point, I'm where I'm supposed to be: working hard with much room for improvement.
We have a contracts practice exam on Monday. It will give us a good preview of what to expect on our final, but it’s only an hour long. Contracts concepts are fairly straightforward and the material so far has been understandable. Preparing for the practice test will allow me to test my system for outlining. We’ll see how it works out.
Studying law requires you to learn a new process of integrating information. I have ideas about justice and truth and then find out that justice can be usurped because some lawyer didn’t file a suit in the right court or at the right time. Or we’ll study an early case where a decision was made in favor of the big corporation, and later in a similar case, the decision was for the consumer. And then you have contradictory outcomes in various jurisdictions, not to mention the different outcomes that may come out of a state court versus what may happen in federal court. And what about that? Some cases cause me to tremble with fear when the issue of state’s rights comes up. Anyone who knows just a little bit about American history (hint: I’m a black woman who grew up in the south) understands what I’m talking about. My point here is that when you’re learning law, you have to press on against the hard issues because your sense of justice and truth will be challenged often.
On a different note, I’m thoroughly enjoying the friendships I’ve developed. Generally, you get to know the people who sit around you in class, but you also make other connections for various reasons. I’m a firm believer that friendships develop
naturally. You don’t have to force genuine connection. To me it is beautiful to watch relationships form and grow.
Our first memos are due on Monday. While the memo does not raise my stress level, it does take much time and effort. As I've mentioned, my writing instructor is excellent, so his suggestions have been extremely helpful to me. In my previous profession, my writing was always critiqued, so learning a new writing style and getting corrected is just more of the same for me. I guess the best advice he gave was something like, "consider what you mean to say and write it clearly." This seems like simple advice, but although I've written a
, I still struggle with this process. How do I get the content of my mind communicated to you in a way that you know exactly what I mean? Is there an infallible way of doing this? The fun in fiction writing is that you can leave much to the interpretation of the reader. Legal writing rarely allows such delight.
I've never surfed, but I feel like I'm on a surfboard heading toward the shore, but there's a giant wave getting ready to crash down on me at any moment. What's in the wave? OUTLINES!!! And if I don't get a handle on things, the outlines will crash down in a jumbled heap of class notes, case briefs, corrected case briefs, book notes, grocery lists, understanding property diagrams, contracts flow charts. . . . And then what will happen? I certainly won't be sipping a drink on the beach. Hopefully, I'll avoid this nightmare. I'll know for sure how organized or disorganized I am when I prepare for the contracts practice exam, which we'll be taking on October 10.
Did I mention how much work there is to do in law school? Although I’ve come up with a way to make the work somewhat manageable, I could still use a few more hours in each day. I need more time to ruminate on all these new concepts. Reading, briefing and outlining is good work, but I’ve come to realize that what helps me absorb the new ideas is to think about it at some length and talk about it outside of class. But who has time for that? Hopefully, I’ll get hooked up with a good study group before finals start.
A couple of my best friends are in Houston, hoping to weather hurricane Rita without any loss. They are in northwest Houston so this is supposed to bring me some comfort. What it has done is cause me to pursue minute-by-minute updates from them and from the media. This has been a big distraction for me this week, but I’ve still been able to stick with my study plan somehow.
This has been an amazing four weeks. We have an absolutely wonderful TA who gives great advice. She is genuinely interested in helping us succeed. At first, I was skeptical because I thought teaching assistants were just exceptionally gifted students who wanted to get extra credit for trying to help 1Ls. At orientation, the academic support director, made it very clear that the positions are not paid, and the students who take on the tasks are sincere in their desire to help. I was still skeptical until our TA began really sharing helpful information. It still boils down to the plain fact that you have to do the work. However, our TA has told us about timesaving techniques that can make the load more manageable.
I mentioned my PrepPlan in my first entry. It’s still serving me well, and I continue to modify it for each week of work, changing my strategy as I learn more about the subjects and how I’m processing information.
I find myself a little ahead in Writing (actually Legal Analysis, Research and Writing) and Civil Procedure, but this has nothing to do with whether these classes are easier than others. None of the classes are easy. Everything is very challenging, but some of the professors move at different paces depending on the concepts covered. Just because I’ve done the work for the class doesn’t mean I’ve really grasped the concept. This becomes quite evident during class time and I see that what I came up with in my notes or exercises is totally wrong. I’ve learned that it’s okay to just put a huge question mark in the margin of the book and see if the professor answers the questions in class. He usually does.
My classmates are wonderful and supportive. I generally like people anyway, but I’ve met some cool people, and I hope we continue our friendships beyond these three years.
Law school presents a brand new set of challenges that often seem overwhelming. At the same time, life is still happening. As a mother of two small children, I am tremendously blessed with wonderful family members who are willing to make sacrifices for this endeavor. They are making all the difference for me.
As far as classes go, the material is always interesting. The key is not simply to know what happened in a case, but to be able to identify the issues, laws and policies in the cases. The class in which I have the most clarity is Torts. Hopefully, I'm properly identifying the important rules of law from cases and placing them in my outline in a way that will be helpful at test prep time. I also can see pretty clearly in Civil Procedure class, mainly due to the professor's teaching style. He's very illustrative and works through problems with us to facilitate our understanding.
In Torts and Civil Procedure, if I read the material and cases and work through the problems in the book, at class time I can be reasonably sure that I know what's happening when the professors start with the Socratic method questioning.
However, in Contracts and Property, there is a substantial certainty that the complexity of the issues will baffle me. It takes more time for me to understand the issues in these classes. Although it seems counterintuitive, I've been told that I may end up doing better in those classes, I guess because of the extra work and background research I need to help me understand the concepts.
On a more personal note, as a mother and older student, I knew that the only things that would keep me from being prepared for class would be family issues. I have a couple of issues that are at crisis level going on in my family right now. Nevertheless, my family is pulling together and allowing me the time I need to study. Although I'm the one doing the actual work for the law degree, it feels like a joint effort among us. I will never forget the love and support of my family during this challenging time.
Two weeks! There's so much in my mind about this experience that I don't know where to start. I must say that I have met some wonderful people here. During orientation, I conversed with a woman who said she always thought law school was beyond her reach. Once she had children, she realized she had to reach for this goal because she wanted to teach her children to reach for what seems unreachable in their own lives. Many people have wonderful stories about how they came to this place, and as a (somewhat) older student, I have found Texas Wesleyan to be most accommodating in their efforts to make a law education accessible without compromising the quality of education.
What is it really like? In my first entry, I spoke of the teaching talents of my professors, and now I'll be more specific about their various styles. My writing professor is excellent. His goal is not to take us on a journey through a maze of hypotheticals filled with probabilities about what a reasonable person would do. The writing professor's goal is to teach you how to research, analyze and write as a legal professional. Thus, he tells you where to find information, how to break it down in analysis and how to write about it. For me, this class is such a relief.
The challenge in my other classes (the doctrinal classes to use the local parlance) is making the information manageable in order to assure that I've learned it. The common law school way to do this synthesis is through making outlines. Outlines are used to cull the information that will be needed when test time comes. The challenge in constructing outlines is that there is a huge amount of information given both in class and in the textbooks.
As I've said before, there are numerous study aids you can buy and even outlines available for free on the Internet. However, there is nothing like working through information for yourself. Any short cuts will more than likely short-circuit the actual learning of the information. I followed advice given by two and three Ls and already started outlines.
So there is a big difference between my writing professor and my doctrinal professors. The torts, contracts, civil procedures, and property professors have a large body of information to relay to students. Besides giving of information, the professors must teach us how to think about things a certain way. Many words we use every day have totally different meanings in law. There are new concepts, new words, old words with different meanings, so much to learn! Although their styles are very different, all of my professors have been careful to set a pace for the dissemination of information. If anything, we as curious, bright students, tend to want to jump ahead.
All of my professors have a sense of humor. One is very dry and, if quirky, still entertaining. One has a very quick wit and can make you laugh through the entire class. One has a contemplative, likeable style that keeps you interested. And one has a youthful, interactive mode of teaching. What does a sense of humor have to do with learning in law school? Believe me, it helps. There's so much reading and cases and books and handouts and online exercises and just loads of stuff to do! Being able to laugh in the midst of it every now and again has been refreshing.
The study of law is a fascinating thing. It is everything I dreamed of and more. The exceeding of my expectations is clearly due to the excellence I've observed in the staff and faculty here. This is not just for brownie points. I am really impressed.
The staff is exceptionally helpful, and I'm sure I'll be able to make better use of their knowledge once I get over this initial euphoria and find out the right questions to ask. But so far, they've done an excellent job of guiding me through the administrative aspects of this journey.
My professors are outstanding! Not only are they some of the smartest folk I've ever met, they possess the requisite pedagogic skills to retain my attention and facilitate my eventual understanding of the various areas of law.
This first week has been exciting and challenging. I knew there would be tons of work to do, but couldn't grasp the extent until I actually started classes. On Thursday, I was feeling overwhelmed, so I came up with a solution to my problem. I call it my Preparation Plan (PrepPlan), and it allows me to see, at a glance, all my work for the upcoming week for every class. When I'm filling in the PrepPlan for the next week, I get a preview of the things we'll be discussing in class, and I don't feel so overwhelmed when approaching reading and briefing assignments. I'm somewhat of a visual learner, so this has been a tremendous help for me.
Looking at study aids and the gazillion things available on the Internet is okay, but I appreciate each professor's teaching style and their guidance in the learning process. I was an honors student in high school and did all right in my undergraduate studies at UT in Austin. In other words, I'm used to making good grades. But I've decided that in this study of law, it is more important for me to be wrong and learn something than to be "right" and gain nothing.
Barbara Jean Pitre
Chelsi Lake Reichenstein
Peter Duque De Estrada
About Texas Wesleyan Law
Scholarships & Scholarship Retention
Transfer Credit Policy
Transfer and Visiting Student Requirements
Consumer Information ABA Std 509 Reports
Law Student Blogs
Order a Transcript
Planning Your Course of Study
Faculty Speaker Series
Faculty Scholarship Repository
Faculty Expertise and Interests
Alumni & Friends
About Career Services
Dee J. Kelly Law Library
News & Events
About the Law Library
Using the Law Library
Faculty Scholarship Repository
Your Chance to Practice Law
For Potential Clients - How We Can Help You