Undergraduate School: Saint Leo University
Undergraduate Major: Criminal Justice
Hometown: Savannah, GA
Status: Part-Time Evening
4/24/13 - Another “dead week” is upon us and that should mean increased studying for me. However, so far whenever one void is created (not going to class) something quickly steps in to fill it. In this case, my job wasted no time in jumping in. I knew when I took this job that I would have a huge undertaking to be successful, but I think I underestimated the task. I feel like I’ve stayed on top of my reading fairly well this semester and have been active in class participations, so I’m hopeful that my work during the semester can carry me through.
This semester I will be partaking in my first take home exam. Our professor is adamant that this is a 3 hour exam, although we will have 24 hours to work on it. Mentally, I am struggling with how I could work on this exam for anything less than 24 hours. The professor recommended that we download the exam the night before we take it, briefly review it, and actually complete the exam the following day. Originally I felt like I should download and complete the exam in one sitting, but after further thought I think that reviewing it and completing it the following day will work best for me.
I’ll only have two more exams to complete and I can start getting ready for my summer class, which will be for my rigorous writing requirement. I haven’t had to write a lengthy paper since my first semester, so hopefully it will be like riding a bike.
4/17/13 - It’s the time of the year when full burnout begins to settle in. We’re finally nearing the end of the semester and the weeks of reading, writing, and in my case, commuting are taking their toll. The end of my semester has really been tough with a job change during the last few weeks of the semester. In addition to adding 45 minutes onto my commute, I have an entirely new level of responsibility and I’m running on empty.
One bright spot was the Barrister’s Ball. I’ve never been one for social gatherings like this, but for some reason when a group of my classmates were discussing it I decided I should go. I spend so much time with people at school that I feel like we all know a lot about each other and our significant others, but for the most part we’ve never had all of us in the same place at one time. The Ball was held on a Friday and since I started a new job, I couldn’t leave early. I’m not sure which traffic jam I was sitting in when I felt like my decision to go was the wrong one, but attending ended up being one of the best decisions I made. I got to meet and interact with a lot of really great people and my wife commented on the high quality of people I attend school with.
The downside to using the weekend for a social event is that I fell behind on a writing assignment. The assignment is for a one hour class, which I should have learned last semester is not indicative of the amount of work involved. So it’s a little after midnight the night before the paper is due and I’m just now finishing up. I think I would much rather take a 4 hour exam versus the 10-12 hours I spent writing this paper. Well I have to be up in about 4 hours, but I can see the light at the end of the spring semester tunnel.
3/27/13 - A few weeks ago, I wrote about the reputation you create and how you never know how your present actions/interactions can affect your future. I had a supervisor in my job that recently left for a better opportunity with another company. While we did not always see eye to eye, we maintained a professional working relationship and maintained a mutual respect for each other. Shortly after leaving, I received a call from my former supervisor about a job opening he had and wanted me to submit my resume for consideration. I applied and interviewed shortly before Spring Break and found out while on my cruise that I received the job. The great news is that I have advanced my career; the bad news is that the job location is at the opposite end of I-30 compared to school.
As part of my new position, I am responsible for selecting some of the company’s outside vendors. During my first week on the job I had a pre-arranged meeting with a vendor. The name of this vendor has been stuck in my head for several years due to the unprofessional manner in which the owner of this company acted towards me previously. By contrast, another vendor in this field has always acted professionally, even when we could not reach a mutual agreement. When it comes time to select a new vendor, you can probably imagine who I will choose and what factors will guide my decision.
My job field, like the legal field, is one that is adversarial by nature. Despite living in a large metroplex, the world really is a small place and I cannot emphasize how your actions can come full circle for your detriment or benefit.
3/6/13 - The summer schedule recently came out and it made me realize how quickly this semester is moving along. The summer semester is probably my favorite one - it’s only 6-7 weeks of intensive work and then it’s over, compared to much longer fall and spring semesters.
Everyone has their own plan on how to get through law school – some want to be done as soon as possible while others are fine taking the maximum amount of time. I want to be done as soon as possible, but I have learned that I must accept reality and that I have limits. On par with my last post regarding balancing, I knew that I could take 6 hours this summer (half of my full load) and it would help my goal of graduating early, but there would be a trade off somewhere. In my case, I would not be able to focus as much on the summer classes and would miss valuable time with my family since my oldest will be out of school for the summer.
Further, if I decided that I wanted to make some career changes, then an increased summer school load would detract from that part of my life. After much consideration, I decided to let fate have a role in my decision. I signed up for two limited enrollment classes (3 hours total) and figured that if I made it into both of them then I would be happy; a few days later I found out that I was accepted to both classes and my summer schedule was set. Although I will miss out on additional hours, I still stand a chance to graduate early and I get to have a more balanced summer.
Next week will be Spring Break and I decided that another cruise would be in order. What I didn’t plan on was that the last boat I took recently made national news for becoming disabled in international waters. I’ve taken a good bit of ribbing about my vacation selection, but dollar for dollar I think I chose well for my Spring Break vacation. Hopefully, I’ll return to Texas on my scheduled date and time to close out the second half of the semester.
2/20/13 - I’m sure many of us have heard a friend or associate say that he/she is going to do something and they do not care what anyone thinks about him/her. I agree that it’s a good idea to not be overly sensitive to what others think about you, but if one literally does not care what others think, then irreparable damage can be done to their reputation. Professionally, you are your own brand, or business, and how you carry yourself can determine the success or failure of that business. In law school, the way that I respond to a certain situation or the way I treat someone may be the one thing that a classmate remembers. If I’ve responded or treated someone poorly, it’s a safe bet that anyone aware of my actions would not recommend me as an attorney. (Side note: If you don’t wash your hands when leaving the restroom, people might notice that too). No matter if you are attending law school or interacting with others, make sure to have the self-awareness that others are watching you and can have an effect on your future successes.
I’ve written about the difficulties of balancing life, school, and work before. Again, I find myself in another quandary with that balance. My employer has been relatively understanding with my work and school schedules. I could remain in my present position for the next two years and likely not have to face any surprises during that time. At least one of my mentors has recommended that route and I cannot say that it’s bad advice. However, something inside of me pushes me to see what else I can take on or how I can move to the next level. During the next month or two I will likely be facing several decisions on what to do about my job while working through law school.
2/6/13 - The last couple of weeks have brought me some highs and lows. Probably the highest note is one of my former classmates adopted his foster daughter. This classmate started law school with my “group”, but received a great job offer during the first semester break and he and his wife decided to adopt a child through CPS. Since I’m in the same industry as my former classmate, we’ve stayed in touch. A couple of years ago, I would have had no idea about the foster to adoption process, but my friend chronicled his adventures on a personal blog. I cannot imagine the emotional roller coaster he has been through, but it was nothing short of amazing when he could finally announce the official adoption.
As I mentioned last time, law school is a good motivator for exercise, but my real kick-start came when I decided I wanted to enter the military at the ripe young age of 36. One of my biggest obstacles was my weight, which was not helped by recovering from shoulder surgery, a desk job, three hours of commuting, and sitting in a class for 3 hours each night. I really put a lot of work into getting into shape that would allow me to be an outstanding candidate for a commission. Unfortunately, I found out last week that the commissioning board did not select me. I still have some options, but “Plan A” didn’t go exactly as I had hoped.
I did build on the health kick that I started when I began that journey. I’m definitely in better shape now than I have been and took the next step to eliminate my tobacco use. I’ve used smokeless tobacco (dip) for the last 18 years, quitting several brief times along the way. I always said that once I finished law school I would look at quitting again, because there would be no way I could handle the pressure of school and the agony of quitting. Although I’ve been difficult to be around at times, I’m proud of the steps I have made and really hope I can stick with it. It’s a very empowering feeling to not let negative “crutches” have a hold on your life.
1/23/13 - This weekend is my daughter’s birthday, which means we will be taking our annual trek to a local indoor water park/hotel. I can’t contain my excitement for Con Law, Crim Pro, and hundreds of kids inside an 85 degree water park. In all seriousness, my family has been great at giving me a hall pass when I have to crash a special occasion with my early exit to go read for school. I do enjoy the moments that I get to spend with my family in between work and school, it just stinks that I have to miss as much of their lives as I do.
Like prisoners in jail finding religion, some law school students seem to find exercise as a coping mechanism. I noted a few months ago that I completed a half marathon, something I never thought possible when I was taking almost 15 minutes to run a single mile. I’ve managed to stay somewhat in shape and have now picked up biking in addition to running. As long as I don’t become a hood ornament, I think I’ll enjoy biking and hopefully can meet and achieve some goals in the near future. I can tell you that not having some kind of release during the semester drives me nuts and maintaining a fitness routine has been very beneficial.
1/9/13 - So far, I’m pretty happy with my schedule for this semester. I only have to attend class three days each week and three of my classes are related to a field that I have either direct knowledge or an interest in the subject. The other class, Constitutional Law, is one of my remaining lockstep classes. I’m not quite sure what to make of the class so far, but if our first class is any indication I’m just hoping everyone can at least be friends when it’s over with.
The first night of class we were instructed to act as a senate, responsible for passing a law related to firearms. We received this instruction about a week prior to class and immediately talk began on Facebook with each “side” of the gun control issue working to prove their point. I’m certain that more responses were generated on Facebook within the last week than all of our posts since we started school last year. With the passion generated within folks about gun control, I can only imagine the passions that other Constitutional debates will inspire.
The various seasonal ailments have begun to go around the school – flu, strep, and “crud”. The student body received an email indicating that if you are sick, you should not come to class. Ordinarily this makes perfect sense, however one of our classes has a very strict attendance policy. If you are late, you’re considered absent. And you’re only allowed three absences before your grade drops one letter. I’ve probably only been late to class one time since I’ve been in school, but I have a commute that is 45 minutes on a good day and can take close to an hour on a bad day due to traffic. Add the tardy policy together with an absence or two due to “life” that doesn’t stop for law school, and where do you think I will be, assuming I’m not in a hospital bed?
Although I’ve never been one to be habitually late or absent, I hate having a policy that seems so strict. As a class, we all have a pretty good idea of who has what responsibilities outside of law school. When someone is late or absent, we usually know why without even having to ask and it’s never been an interruption to us when these folks are late. It’s not like they’re college freshman that were out partying too late, they’re working adults and breadwinners for their families, trying to improve their situation. Unfortunately, we did sign up for this and the rules are the rules.
12/19/12 - In my last blog, I wrote about the joys of waking up the following morning without having to worry about studying or anything school related. A few hours after I wrote that, my job decided to step in and take the place of school in a huge way. I worked the weekend after finals and have worked until about 10 PM every night since. The big vacation time I planned is slowly starting to look more like a dread...but they tell working students to make sure you have plenty of vacation time saved up for bar prep, so I’ll be a couple years ahead of the curve. And to top things off, I didn’t do anything with my Christmas tree, so I have a 10-foot version of the Charlie Brown tree in my living room.
I did manage to find time to complete a few projects around the house, which gives me some sense of accomplishment. The one project that could probably wait, but drives me nuts, is the painting in my office at home. My wife and I decided to paint the office before I started school and we didn’t do the best job. Most people probably wouldn’t notice, but when you sit in a room studying all weekend and turn to the gods of case briefing, you start to notice all kinds of things, such as the corners not being painted in a perfectly straight line. If nothing else, studying in law school will motivate you to do everything else not related to law school.
Well, it’s back to work for me. Maybe if I put in enough 14-15 hour days I’ll be able to enjoy a little bit of vacation.
12/12/12 - Tomorrow morning, I can wake up and not have to worry about studying, writing a paper, or anything school related…and what a joy that will be. During the semester, every time I decided to take some time to do something for me I was unable to enjoy it because I felt guilty that I wasn’t studying, but not tomorrow. Heck, not for at least the next two weeks.
My attention can now turn to deciding what to do about a dead, dry Christmas tree. I know it sounds somewhat trivial, but if you think about all the work that goes into decorating a Christmas tree, and undoing that work, and doing it again, it’s really a bummer. So my quandary for the last few days has been trying to figure out the probability of the tree catching on fire if I keep it, or if I want to get another tree and start over. Sigh, law student problems.
I was hoping for a solid exam season and unfortunately I think I turned in a “meh” performance. After my second exam, I had high hopes for my exams, but after walking out of my last one I’m not so sure. My last class was a tough one because the answer to the essay question involved a lot of subjectivity. I had a good plan going in, but the format of the question quickly changed that and I ended up throwing more spaghetti at a wall than a 2-year old at Olive Garden. I would like to think that a decent amount of what I threw out will stick, but unfortunately it will be another month or more of waiting for grades.
Going back to the good news, my mom comes into town this weekend and will be here for about a month. It’s always good when she comes into town because I get a built in babysitter and get to experience actual dates with my wife again. To make this holiday season even better, I’m taking more vacation time than I’ve ever taken from work and only have five more working days this year. Have a great holiday season!
11/28/12 - Despite my attempts to avoid “the sickness” it caught up with me. I’m hoping it’s over and done with before the actual exams start and that it doesn’t get any worse. You face such a dilemma of whether to go to class and potentially infect others, or to not go to class and possibly miss review information. Either way, the fact that I know this semester is winding down gives me a light at the end of this tunnel…hopefully it’s not a speeding locomotive headed my way.
My Thanksgiving Day was super productive. I completed my last two outlines, which is a first, and started studying for a portion of one of my exams that we took on Monday. I hated the pressure of having to study for something so soon, but I like having the relief that one step has been taken towards completion of the semester.
Hopefully all of my preparation for this semester pays off with some good grades on finals.
11/20/12 - Right now I think I would rather sit next to someone who has worked in a rain forest without showering for a month than to sit next to someone who is getting sick. I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t been sick this semester, but I worry that the combination of my luck running out and the increase in sick people at school will result in my turn. Finals time is not the time to be sick, so I’m doing everything I can to avoid the infected ones and getting my tuition’s worth of money out of the hand sanitizer machines around the building.
While many will be enjoying time with their families this week, I’ll be trying to avoid them at all costs. I know that at least two of my professors will have exams that require very detailed answers and there’s so much information they will want. It’s fair to say that I’m close to freak out mode. It just seems like there’s so much information to try and squeeze into my head that I have no idea how I’ll be able to remember it. Since my classes last year had subjects I was familiar with, it seemed easier to memorize rules that went with each issue. This year, the issues are more procedural, and it seems like there are millions of rules or tests for each rule. But with a little luck, I’ll be hunkered down for the next four days and will emerge with all (or most) of the information crammed into my head.
11/7/12 - At this point in the semester, a class cancellation is equivalent to little morsels of manna raining down from the heavens in the middle of a famine. Luckily, we had our first class cancellation of the year and it was so needed. I would love to say that I used the time to update outlines or do additional reading, but it was the last softball game of the year for my daughter and that won out by a landslide. Again, the work/school/life balance continues to take shots at me during this journey.
I left out any mention of my half marathon training because I got hurt just over a month before my race. In the weeks leading up to race day I ran a total of less than 6 miles and I was seriously debating whether or not to show up. I’m not sure if it was the challenge or the fact that I had shelled out $85, but I decided that I would give it a shot. Things went will until about 3 miles to go. I had to hobble across the finish line, but I did it. In some ways it seemed to parallel law school - just when things are looking good, I seem to have some kind of setback, but somehow I’ve been able to cross the finish line.
Speaking of finish lines, we’re finally reaching the home stretch of this year. Of course I’m stressed about finals, but at least I have an idea what to expect this year. Last year it wasn’t so much of not knowing the correct answer, but making sure that I wrote my answers the correct way. I seem to have improved on my essay writing, so I’m hoping for good things this semester.
10/24/12 - I think I’m entitled to a certain amount of words to whine about working and going to school, so I’ll take this opportunity to use a few of them now.
I was in an interim position at a higher level within my company. I’m not sure what qualifies as “interim,” but I was in the position for 2.5 years. Although I dealt with higher-level issues and was responsible for more people, I did have more flexibility in my day and overall my day wasn’t as intense.
With the downturn in the economy, the position was eliminated and I moved to a new position managing adjusters over some of the Eastern states. In addition to a busier workday with less flexibility, one of the states I manage is a complete beating for one reason…lawyers. In a nutshell, in a particular state, lawyers have made it so plaintiff-oriented that, despite my best efforts, a small, irrelevant detail missed on something can result in big penalties for my company. I am often reminded by my colleagues at work of the irony of my aspirations to join the field of professionals that makes my life so complicated.
Apparently, there’s a secret (known to many, but new to me) that a 2 hour class isn’t a lighter workload. My Saturday class is 2 credit hours, compared to the regular 3 or 4. This is one of the reasons I selected the class - I didn’t think a shorter class would require as much work. Of all of my classes, this one has taken the most time away from school. The good thing is that I absolutely love the material we’re covering, so the reading and assignments are enjoyable instead of being a chore. I had some apprehensions about giving up some of my Saturdays to drive to Fort Worth for school, but I’ve actually enjoyed being there. Traffic isn’t nearly as bad as the weekdays, and I find there’s an overall laid-back atmosphere at the law school. Also, I can always find somewhere to sit down and read for my other classes. I will certainly plan to take additional classes on the weekends in the future.
Scheduling seems to be the hot topic amongst my friends right now. I started out with a somewhat aggressive plan, but after much consideration, I will likely take a reduced load this semester. My main reason is that my grades have suffered from trying to balance this lifestyle. I think I can use the reduced load next semester to help my GPA. Since I took a summer class last semester and plan to continue that trend, I should still be on track to graduate within 4 years. One of the biggest benefits of my planned schedule is that I only have to drive out to school 3 days a week, and believe me, that one day will make a big quality of life difference.
9/26/12 - With On-Campus Interviews taking place and my own recent interview for a position at work, the topic of interviewing has been on my mind lately. Many years ago, someone told me that character is built by what you do when nobody is around to see you do it. This statement has stuck with me and I tend to view things with that in mind.
For example, if someone gave a large sum of money to a charity anonymously and then told everyone that he or she did it, I would view the act as a kind one, but question some of the motivation. So, if you live your life doing things that are not required of you simply because you view it as the right thing to do, you can find yourself in a dilemma when it comes to interviewing.
The interview is the one place where you are supposed to sell yourself and it’s always been a struggle for me. I’ve interviewed many people that have no problem filling an hour by selling themselves, and it’s a challenge to discern if you’re dealing with a great candidate or an egomaniac.
In my view, if you have specified job duties and you do things outside of those duties because they simply needed to be done, it’s just part of doing what you’re paid to do. However, I’ve learned that those things outside of your core job duties are the things that can separate you from other candidates in an interview.
So, if you are looking to enter law school or advance your employment, I recommend keeping a “me” file and forcing yourself to regularly take notes of everything you do exceptionally well, tasks outside of your specified job duties, and every commendation for a job well done.
9/12/12 - In a football analogy, they say that the more experience a quarterback gets, the more the game slows down. Unfortunately, school does not seem to be slowing down for me. I’m a step ahead of where I was last year, but I still haven’t found a comfort zone…and maybe I’m not supposed to. The two procedural classes still remain somewhat of an enigma to me. I see lots of trees, but I’m not seeing the forest yet, so I’m struggling to see how this will all tie up in a pretty bow come exam time. In speaking with some of my classmates, I think they are experiencing some of the same feelings, so I’m not ready to hit a panic button yet.
During my first semester last year, despite not having time to eat many meals, I managed to pack on some pounds. About midway through the second semester I decided that I had some other avenues in life I wanted to pursue that require a certain level of fitness. As such, I began a diet and some regular exercise. What started as a goal to be a little healthier has turned into over 40 lbs of weight loss and me registering to run a half marathon in November.
See what I’ve done there…I am putting my commitment to do something on the “interweb” so I’ll have to be accountable for it. It requires a good deal of commitment to be running at 5 AM after getting home at 11 PM and to turn down the free pizza on campus, but it’s definitely been worth it. I’m crossing my fingers that my other avenues turn out like I’m hoping.
By the next time I write, I should have had a Saturday class so I can share some insight into the pluses and minuses of going to school on a weekend.
8/29/12 - I got some redemption with my summer class, but I didn’t do as well as I felt I could have. After spending even more time with the professor going over this exam – and taking a third class with him – I’m pretty sure we could be considered married in some states. Once again, I received good feedback and he only had one “huh?” comment on the exam.
This semester is a little different in that two of my classes are more about procedures instead of a specific area of law. During the past two semesters, we had classes where you would use the facts and history to determine the likely outcome of the case. I guess it would kind of be like watching Maury and only finding out the method of the paternity test, instead of who the father is.
While the first week of school went off without a hitch, the second week has started with some hitches. I started getting sick last week, and by Friday I was flat out miserable. I ended up missing the photo session for the website, so you may be stuck with my car salesman pose for a little longer. One thing that I have taken from last year is that I don’t feel overwhelmed. I know what I need to do to catch up – and what the consequences are if I don’t.
The only “new” thing I’ll be doing this year is taking a Saturday class. Saturday is typically one of my days for reading, briefing, and outlining so I’m interested to see how I work a class in on top of that. Overall I’m ready to see what this semester has to throw at me.
7/18/12 - I just finished my summer semester final and for once I feel pretty good after taking a final. Actually, this is the best I have felt since entering law school and it’s pretty scary. The summer semester worked out perfectly for me – it’s only one class, only two nights per week going to Fort Worth, and the whole semester is around two months. This schedule fit my attention span perfectly. If my grade reflects a fraction of my optimism, I’m going to end up having a really good summer.
As I mentioned last time, I really bombed one of my final exams last semester. So I signed up for the Texas version of the same class, with the same professor. Either I’m a glutton for punishment, or I’m ticked off that I want redemption…or both. I can’t say enough about how much time the professor gave to me during the semester in order to help me realize my mistakes from last time. Hopefully this time he doesn’t have any comments on my exam answers such as “huh?” or “what??” That’s never a good sign.
By the time this gets published I should be on a very large boat in the Caribbean somewhere. My family has put up with a lot from me this past year and it will be great to spend some “island time” with them.
6/13/12 - “Just remember, it’s only how you did one time at telling one professor what they wanted to hear.” Those are the words someone told me about exams and I’m starting to think that maybe that’s the mantra for “Things students who didn’t get an A say” crowd. We now have all of our grades and so far I’ve been accurate when predicting my grades. Unfortunately, I nailed what one of my grades would be and it’s by far the worst I’ve done in school. There were a couple of factors that went into my poor grade, the biggest being the same problem I’ve had with other exams: essay questions.
There’s a Kaplan audio review in which the presenter only talks about multiple-choice questions. His reasoning is that by this point in your academic career, you should be able to adequately complete an essay question. This hasn’t rung true for me yet. I like things to be very precise, without unnecessary explanations. The essay questions on our exams require you to explain an answer as you would to an intelligent 12-year-old. My preference doesn’t always match with my professors’ preferences, so I’ve continued to struggle with getting all of my points on essay questions.
What I will say is that most of the professors will bend over backwards, or forego their home cooked meal for a microwave meal, in order to review each detail of your exam with you. I’m hoping for better a better result on my next exam, but until then I’ll remember that it was only how I did telling one professor what he wanted to hear one time.
5/25/12 - I’m glad that I decided to take a summer class. I think back to how hard it was to get back into the school groove before the spring semester, and with only two weeks off between spring and summer classes, it has been almost as difficult to get back in school mode. So far I’m enjoying the summer class. It would be great to go through law school taking only one class, if only it wouldn’t take roughly 50 years to graduate. I attend school two nights per week, the train schedule allows me to do all of my reading during the week, and I didn’t have to buy a book for this class.
The decision to take only one class was a struggle. I really want to wrap law school up as quickly as possible, but I felt like I was approaching my “burned out” threshold last semester. I ended up getting the full 12 hours for the fall, so I know I made the right decision by only taking one class over the summer. Only six more weeks to go and I’ll have another break of just over a month.
One observation that I’ve made at the beginning of each semester is that seating charts can confuse even the brightest folks. If you’re entering law school in the fall, you can almost guarantee that someone will mess up the seating chart. It seems like a fairly simple task to complete, but make sure to look around at your classmates when it is handed out.
5/9/12 - Family, work, school - that juggling act that employed night students with families face. It would be great if you could satisfy all of those wants/needs with 100% effort, but I do not think it’s possible. If you fall into the category described above, you will have to make sacrifices somewhere. So where do you make those sacrifices?
You automatically sacrifice some family time when you sign up for law school. You will not be home to eat or attend the mid-week events (games, programs, etc.) that you normally would be able to be there for.
Having a family and not being independently wealthy, I need a job. In order to maintain employment, your work product has to meet certain requirements. Again, by going to law school, you can expect that you will not be able to provide everything to your job that you used to, whether it’s because of needing to be in class at a certain time or an upcoming assignment.
Finally, there’s school. You’re paying to be here, you need to understand the class material, and like work, you will not maintain your enrollment if the work you produce does not meet certain standards.
No matter where you decide to make cuts, you will be compared to students that do not have work and family responsibilities. Being graded on a curve, and subsequently ranked against other students, you could conceivably perform well but not have a great class ranking. If your class ranking or GPA is not at a certain level, you automatically are excluded from applying for certain internships and interviews.
I am still struggling to find where I can make the cuts to try to have my pizza (because I’m a law student) and eat it too. While I am struggling to squeeze in an hour of study time before the train comes, my counterparts might be at home in bed. While I grind away at work, my counterparts could be at home studying (perhaps pajamas with fuzzy bunny feet built in). In addition, while I am focusing on school or work, my family is going about their life without me.
In reading the above, it sounds like I should be, or presently am in, a state of depression. In actuality, I’m fairly happy with where I am. My grades are not at the level I had hoped, but I look back and can see how much I have put into the last year. I feel that my experiences during the last year have prepared me for the future years, and that will result in improved grades. I hope that potential employers will recognize the mountain that I and my fellow classmates have to climb to reach their summit.
4/25/12 – "Dead week", it sounds so misleading. It’s great to have a solid week in which you don’t have to go to classes, but it’s filled with finalizing outlines and doing everything you can to study for final exams. I think that I’ve felt like every week was a really stressful week, but in the overall scheme of the semester, those were just practice weeks for final time. I still don’t know how I feel about everything riding on one exam. On one hand, when handling a case for a client, everything will turn on that one case. But on the other, if you have followed all of the guidelines and acted in good faith, your career does not turn on that one case.
I think I’ve emphasized ad nauseum how ready I am for the semester to be over and this post is no different. Not having to drive to Fort Worth this week for classes really makes me look forward to heading North everyday when I get off of work, instead of the daily cattle drive to the West. Although commuting has never been a fun part of this experience, the last few weeks have been pretty rough. There are several road construction projects underway that all kick off about the time I leave class. It’s been a challenge to find a way home that won’t leave me stuck in traffic for an extra hour. I’ll sum up my thoughts about my first year on my next post. I will say that despite my grumblings, I am enjoying the ride.
4/18/12 - Ahh, the last full week of classes. I’m not sure if I feel relief that the end of the semester is in sight, or anxiety because of final exams. I’ve really enjoyed our professors this semester and feel like I’ve learned a lot, but you never know what the final exam will consist of. My first exam is today, my Bluebook citation exam. There’s no way to mitigate how much I despise this exam. I really cannot think of one aspect of the exam that I like and it kind of starts exam season off on a sour note. You will be tempted to skip studying/practicing for this exam your first year -- after all it is an open book test -- but with the time constraint and some tricky problems, it doesn’t take much to get a poor grade.
Although I could really use a break from school this summer, I think it would be counterproductive. For one, I found out after the first semester break that it is easy to get out of school mode and hard to get back in. I imagine that a couple of months away from school would really set me back in the fall. Also, I imagine that only taking one class would be ideal because I will not have other requirements distracting me. I am looking forward to the short break we do get.
4/11/12 - Turning in my last memo relieved a lot of stress. No matter what, I’ve had a memo of some sort looming over me all year, so it’s nice to know that I’m finally done. We had to present oral arguments about the case earlier this week. I typically do not get overly nervous talking in front of others, but I was the first one up and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I made it through without any major hiccups and now I only have a citation exam to study for in my writing class.
I think I have my schedule set for the summer and next fall. Although I’m not going to have my dream schedule, I think I have a suitable alternative worked out. In order to get the hours I was hoping for, I plan to take a shortened winter class. This should put me on a pace to graduate one semester early if I keep up my present workload.
The school has hosted several events lately for admitted students, and I strongly recommend going to them if you are considering attending Texas Wesleyan Law. I especially recommend attending if you are not an overly social person, like me. Make it a goal to connect with at least one person at one of the events. It makes a big difference to walk into your first day of class and at least see someone you talked to in the past.
4/4/12 - As other 1L’s moving up to 1.5L’s or 2L’s have written, we are now given the flexibility to choose a portion of our classes next semester. I was really looking forward to having this option, and after attending a presentation by the school I really felt like I had a flexible plan in place. My goal is to graduate in less than 4 years, have a good sampling of bar subjects, and take a class or two that could help me with a potential internship.
Unfortunately, those in control of making the schedule do not share my same vision. It is recommended that we take 11-12 hours each semester and we are automatically enrolled for 7 hours. In looking at the schedule, I really don’t have much freedom at the moment. I can go 10 hours by taking a 3-hour class that I need, but it falls short of my goal to graduate early. I looked at two 2-hour classes, but in order to accommodate the mandatory classes, I would feel like I was wasting time and money on at least one of those classes. I will let you know what I decide…
3/28/12 - This semester has really flown by. I’m not sure if the intensity has made time go by so fast or what, but I can’t believe there’s only a few more weeks before we’ll be sitting for our exams. In a way, I’m looking forward to a semester without a large writing assignment. The downside is that the writing assignment will be replaced by heavier reading for class. Speaking of our upcoming writing assignment, my frustration grows every day that I think about it.
I alluded last week that I could not get a first draft written over Spring Break because we were awaiting additional instructions. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why we were assigned something due weeks in the future, but not able to fully work on it. We could do some of the research and have some rough ideas of the direction we want our paper to go, but it really felt fruitless to do much more. I struggled with the format most of Spring Break because I was determined to get an early start. Now, as we’re learning the correct format, most of the work I did complete will have to be re-done.
The one benefit of this semester going by so fast is that it’s almost over. I’m really looking forward to some time off and a reduced course load for the summer.
3/21/12 - I fully expect that the CDC will take possession of my house at some point in the near future and condemn it because of the germs contained inside. On the average, I get sick maybe once or twice a year; my wife never gets sick. I’m not sure if it’s the Petri dish called daycare or what, but my house has been an infirmary this year. For the last three weeks I was able to avoid being sick, but my number was called the day after Spring Break. Being sick is no fun, but being sick in law school is so much worse.
There’s the dilemma of whether or not you should go to class. Normally I would just decide to go to class and be miserable, but there are about 70 people in my class who would probably disagree because they don’t want to get sick. Obviously missing class puts you behind, and when you fall behind it’s a pain to try and catch back up...especially when another writing assignment is due.
I thought I would have my writing assignment completed over Spring Break. Unfortunately we did not receive instruction on how the assignment was to be formatted before the break (we will learn that over the next week or two), so I was stifled in my ambition. I’ve scheduled some time off from work in the next couple weeks and I’m hoping my plans this time go better than they have in the past.
3/7/12 - I thought this semester would be easier, and in some respects it has been. I don’t have the anxiety I had last year, but I haven’t really found a routine that makes me feel like I have solid footing. It’s like I’m in the middle of the ocean - if I stop swimming, I’ll sink. The thing is, eventually you wear out and either sink or find something to keep you afloat. I scheduled a meeting with Academic Support with the intention of discussing last semester’s final exam, but I ended up talking about my study habits instead.
The conversation was almost like talking to a psychiatrist; the more I talked, the more I ended up identifying problems that I had not addressed. Because I work during the day, I do not have the opportunity to spend several hours each day reading before class. I felt like the only time I could study was on the weekends, which has resulted in me locking myself in my office at home for hours on end each weekend. After working for 40 hours and sitting in class for another 19 hours each week, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that 16-20 hours of reading on the weekend isn’t the best way for me to learn the material.
I now have a new plan in place that at least makes me feel like I can stop swimming. It’s one thing to stress about learning new things, but it’s a bigger deal when you don’t feel like you have the foundation in place to learn.
2/29/12 - I recently read that there is a group of students suing their respective law schools because of their difficulty in finding employment after graduation, or what they felt was deceptive about the job placement of the school’s graduates. I don’t proclaim to know all of the contentions in the suit, but I do think the students should bear the bulk of the responsibility when making a decision to spend what can be $100,000+.
I chose to go to law school because I know I will get a six-figure job, complete with a sports car and a vacation house in the Caribbean when I graduate. Law firms will seek me out and fawn over my brilliant legal mind and my abilities. I could probably put myself on eBay so that a worldwide audience can bid on me.
Sorry, I dozed off for a minute and started narrating my dream.
The truth is that the economy is not great right now. If you choose to go to law school, you will have to work to find a job. Maybe your GPA and school activities will open some doors for you, but a chance meeting with a stranger could be just as key to you finding a job. If you are thinking about law school, make sure to consider that a high paying job does not get handed to you when you receive your bar card. And law school is expensive - you might be paying school loans for some time to come. I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from attending law school, but make sure you do it for the right reasons.
2/22/12 - I recently met with one of my professors from last semester to review my final exam. Our Academic Support TA’s strongly encouraged us to meet with our professors, no matter how we did on the exam. I had mixed feelings about taking the time to go over something that occurred during the last semester. On one hand, I felt like it was just one exam, testing what one professor wanted to see, and wouldn’t help me with what a different professor in a different subject area would want this year. On the other hand, I’m a big believer in seeing what mistakes you made in the past, so that you have the opportunity to learn from them going forward. Luckily, I chose to listen to the advice of my TA.
The particular exam I reviewed was my lowest score, which was surprising to me because I felt I had a good grasp of the subject. Upon reviewing the exam, I confirmed that I did have a solid knowledge of the subject, but I apparently turned into a bonehead once the exam was handed out. I marked correct answers on the exam itself, but entered the wrong responses (yes, plural) on my answer sheet. I failed to read the entire context of the questions, resulting in more wrong answers. And on one essay, I completely missed the call of the question. It was comforting to know that I did gain an understanding of the material, but it was aggravating that my mistakes caused me to lose points. All of that aside, the value of knowing where I need to improve is immeasurable.
2/15/12 - I’ve felt behind the curve this semester, so I have been trying to make some changes to help me get it in gear. I took the Trinity Railway Express (TRE) a couple of nights each week last semester, but for one reason or another, I have been driving to school every night this semester. Driving is an activity that does nothing but stress me out, not to mention it can get expensive. So in an effort to relieve some stress and save money, I started taking the train to school two nights a week. The TRE was my first foray into public transportation and is (for the most part) enjoyable. I do get home a little later, but the benefits usually outweigh the detriments.
They say, although I’m not sure who “they” are, that exercise releases endorphins and can help give you energy. I had shoulder surgery before I started law school last semester. Since school takes up a good bit of time, it is an understatement to say that my physical activity has been limited. I have provided consistent support to my local gym and decided that this would be the week to release my endorphins and increase my energy. I woke up about an hour earlier (4:30 AM) than normal, went to the gym, and admittedly there was a feeling of accomplishment when I left. Unfortunately, that feeling has been replaced by sore muscles and a lack of sleep. So wish me luck as I try to incorporate some exercise back into my life!
2/8/12 - Right now, I’m at a loss for creative words. I finished the rough draft for my memo on Sunday night, and actually felt that I had a pretty good first draft. In fact, I felt like it only needed a couple of hours of editing and it would be spectacular. Then I went to Monday’s LARW class, and I’ve been re-writing ever since. I had a case or two that needed to be replaced, which then led to looking over additional paragraphs that, for some reason, didn’t have the same appeal they had at 2 AM Monday morning. So those paragraphs needed to be changed.
I would like to think that maybe I’m just being a perfectionist, but I don’t get that feeling at the moment. I’ve written and re-written parts of the memo for the last two days, and I don’t know that I have much more to give. I’m at the point right now where I have to hope that what I’ve done is enough.
What really drives me nuts is how my mind thinks: The memo is 20% of my grade. If I do great, I probably won’t take much solace in my grade because “it’s only 20%” of my final grade. On the flip side, if I don’t do so well, I’ll be up in arms because “IT’S 20% OF MY FINAL GRADE!” Sometimes being me is a beating. Either way, I’m hoping that I can focus only on reading this weekend with the memo out of the way.
2/1/12 – This past week, I know I have been down more rabbit trails than Elmer Fudd. When we wrote our memos last semester, I remember thinking how much easier this would be if I could just search for my own cases and statutes. Well, I got what I asked for and it’s been a long ride so far.
The good/bad part of online research is that you can search a statute, find related cases within that statute, and simply click on the case to go to it. While in that case, you can click on another case, repeat, and repeat. This ease of access is great if you know how to limit your search, but it’s terrible if you have ADD, and then find cases and subjects that are more interesting than the present assignment. And right now everything seems more interesting than my present assignment. One of the difficulties I’m facing is that my memo is on a statute with which I have no familiarity, in a state I’ve never even visited.
After surviving hundreds of screaming kids in a closed environment last week, I am looking forward to my first Daddy-Daughter Dance this weekend, although I don’t dance. Attending the dance will be two weekends in a row that I have taken a large part of the weekend for family issues, but with as many sacrifices as my family members have made for me, it’s certainly worth it. After completing this memo, I’m hoping to still have a few words left in my vocabulary for next week’s blog.
1/25/12 - I had this week planned perfectly – work from home Thursday, and since my class was cancelled, I could start my research. On Friday, I took a vacation day so that I could get started on my memo, and Friday night we’re going to the Great Wolf Lodge for my daughter’s birthday. It was the perfect plan that would allow me to spend time with family and make progress on school work. It was perfect until Tuesday night.
When I got home from school Tuesday, one of my girls was sick. Last year, she had a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV, a virus which should add another letter and become a true 4 letter word). She started showing similar symptoms again on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, they were worse this time, so after a late night call to her pediatrician, we decided to take her to the emergency room.
After getting her an X-ray by putting her into a contraption that looks like a medieval torture device, she had to have what was termed a “good cleaning” of her sinuses. I’m not sure why they use the word “good” to describe the cleaning, because it was probably the worst experience I’ve had with my kids. At first, we were concerned that she might have pneumonia and would need to be admitted. Luckily, she was discharged around 3 AM and doesn’t have pneumonia.
Although my best-laid plan went askew, I’m happy that my baby’s home. Now it’s time to work on my back up plan and make sure that my oldest daughter has a great birthday weekend.
1/18/12 - My second semester hasn’t started with the bang I had hoped for.
First, I got sick the week before school started, which meant that doing my reading the weekend before class was an exercise in futility. Whereas I had experience with my course subjects from last semester, spring classes Property and Contracts are new to me and I have a bit of a learning curve to overcome.
Second, in Criminal Law last semester, we were split into groups and luckily I ended up in a group with 4 other people with whom I meshed really well. Before we reached the mid-point of the first semester, one student withdrew from classes, but I still had three great classmates to learn with. This semester, there are only two of us left.
Finally, the break allowed me get into a routine of spending time with my family. Unfortunately, being back in school, I only get to see my kids awake three days of the week. I know things will improve, but it’s been a struggle.
On a brighter note, I had to consult a local firm for a coverage opinion. The Texas Wesleyan Law alum that I had lunch with some time back co-wrote an awesome opinion. It was neat on two fronts, first that I was able to see a real world example of how our memo assignments will be beneficial in practice, and second because a Texas Wesleyan graduate wrote it. So much of undergrad was filled with classes that you knew you would never use, so it’s refreshing to take classes that you know will have real world implications.
1/11/12 – Apparently, we had a one month break from the beginning of December until now. It seems like just last week we met up at Malone’s to celebrate finishing our last exam of the first semester. I had visions of myself during my break, kicked back in my recliner, watching football, with someone to bring me frosty cold beverages.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to catch up on a whole lot during the break because of the holidays and family coming into town. Heck, I didn’t even have time to get a haircut, so now look like I have “Bieber Fever”. Overall though, it was nice to be able to spend time with my family and see everything I’ve been missing out on at home.
No 1L blog would be complete without some mention of grades. Since this is our first semester, one bad test could make us ineligible to return to school. Not having all of your grades on the first day back makes it even worse – everyone has to return with the hope that they did pass. For the most part, I performed pretty much as I expected. I didn’t set any law school records for exam high scores, but I made the cut.
I’m excited to be back with a group of people that I genuinely like, and what seems to be an awesome group of professors.
12/14/11 - Before starting law school, you consistently hear that if you have a significant other or family, then you are all going through law school together. You hear it so much, that you almost tire of hearing it, and doubt the impact that law school really has on your family life. By becoming so engrossed in my law school world, I forgot that life for my family has continued. While I was looking forward to my big break from this past semester, my wife wasn’t scheduled for a break.
After being back in the real world for a couple of weeks, it’s almost comical that people have commented how hard it must be to work and go to school. Don’t get me wrong, it is, but I know that it is a million times harder for my wife to maintain a family of four without the benefit of me helping out.
As far as my impressions of my first semester, it has definitely been three of the most rewarding months of all of my educational experiences. It’s certainly not a cake walk, but it’s not an impossible mountain to climb either. I’ve been lucky in that I have had friends and family outside of school that have helped with the non-law school facets of my life, and that we have some really amazing people in class that have contributed a lot to my educational growth as well. Getting past the angst of the first semester should allow me to actually enjoy my next 3.5 years, instead of worrying about all of the ancillary things that I did coming into this year.
The one person I do need to specifically thank is my wife. She is the one who encouraged me to finish my undergrad, to take the LSAT, who allowed me to bring my LSAT prep books into the labor and delivery room, and has shouldered the burden while I’ve been chasing my dream.
12/7/11 - My first day back to regular life…oh yes, that relaxing life. As my reward, I was allowed to stop at the grocery store on the way home, pick up one of the kids, cook dinner for everyone, AND clean the kitchen. Normally, my mood wouldn’t be great after completing my “chores,” but it felt great to head home after work without having the pressure to study for something. Most importantly, I had a night where I was with my family.
I left both of my exams not feeling like I did great, but not feeling like I did awful either. Most importantly, I didn’t feel like I should have done something else or that my effort was not 100%. I think I’m a part of a great study group and we seemed to really click. I owe all of them a huge “thank you” for helping make me a better student.
Assuming all goes well with my grades, I’m really looking forward to next semester. I spent the first part of the semester trying to decipher what was a hole in the ground and what was…not. Once I figured out the difference, the learning part became a lot easier. I’d like to have some kind of closure on my first semester, but waiting for grades takes my complete enjoyment away.
Well, I’ve got to go whisk the couch and continue enjoying my break.
11/22/11 - I know its cliché, and I cannot stand cliché acts, but during this week of Thanksgiving, I am very thankful for being in law school. I remember a time, about 10-11 years ago, when law school was a pipe dream for me. At the time, I wasn’t even close to being a college graduate, much less in a mindset where I could realistically think about law school.
As I was walking through the lobby today, I remembered the first time I came to a presentation hosted by Texas Wesleyan, still not confident that I could make it in the doors as a student. I remember checking the website multiple times per day to see if I had been accepted, and feeling so excited when I found out that I finally was.
Now that I’m at the end of my first semester, it’s time to show myself that I do belong. It’s hard to see everyone outside of law school looking forward to a 4-day weekend while I’m looking forward to 4 days of studying without working. I’ve known all along that one test will decide my fate, but now that the days are quickly approaching, I can feel the pressure increasing. So to my fellow 1L’s, enjoy the study brea…err holiday break.
11/16/11 - The last full week of classes and the week that the final memo is due is not a good time to be a “gunner.” Yes Mr./Mrs. Gunner, we’ve had a few moments where we found your insights actually insightful, but mostly we patiently tolerated your questions about trespassing unicorns and negligent jack-a-lopes. This week though, I think your class participation grade is safe, I promise. I’ll even volunteer to give a fraction of my participation grade to you if you would just let me sit back and not have to listen to a question that begins with “Well, what if…” or “Well, what about…”
Outside of that plea, it’s exciting to be so near to the end of this semester. For me, turning in the memo was very stressful. I kept feeling like maybe I should read it one more time. My angst came to fruition when I realized I cited all of my cases improperly about two hours before it was due. Luckily, I was able to get all of them corrected before the deadline, but the added stress wasn’t appreciated. Actually, having the memo completed felt like a huge relief because I could finally just concentrate on studying. I never thought I was be excited about having to study, but studying is a much better alternative than having just short of 200 pages of cases, rough drafts, and writing books spread out over a 36 square foot area. Just two classes and two finals to go and this semester will be over.
11/9/11 - A couple of weeks ago I mentioned my interaction with a law firm where a Texas Wesleyan graduate worked. I emailed the attorney, gave a brief introduction of myself, explained that I attend Texas Wesleyan, and asked if she would mind answering some general questions about law school and careers. I know I have a long way to go, but I figured it’s never too early to start plotting points on my career road map.
Since I had never met this person, I didn’t know what kind of response (if any) my email would bring. I was pleasantly surprised when she offered to answer anything I threw at her, and then replied to my questions with answers to questions I hadn’t even thought of. She ended the email with an offer to meet me for lunch AND to contact a few members of her graduating class (who are currently in practice) to see if they would attend.
This past week, she emailed me and said that two of her former classmates would be free this Saturday to meet for lunch. I’m not sure how I can put into words how much appreciation I have for three complete strangers that are all willing to drive about an hour each, on a Saturday, to meet with me and discuss law school and careers. What’s even more exciting for me is that they all work in fields in which I have an interest. Although I doubt she reads the law school blogs, I want to say “thank you” to Jennifer for setting this up!
11/2/11 - This last week was filled with many sports lows, but some school highs. I think everyone was really at a point where they were struggling to make it through the grind of law school. On top of that, the Rangers were in the playoffs, and based on the constant checking of smart phones and laptops, we have some baseball fans in our class. Admittedly, I’m one of them.
So after this rough week, we were faced with our “long” night of classes, when our professor surprisingly let us out a little early to go home and watch the Rangers game. It certainly wasn’t an entire, or even half, class that we missed, but I think the extra time to spend doing non-law school stuff was very much appreciated by everyone. Unfortunately, the Series didn’t go as expected, followed up by a meltdown by the Cowboys.
The other high from school last week was that we finally received our memo grades. We had a general idea of where we stood based on our rough drafts that were turned in several weeks prior, but it makes a difference to see what your first “real” grade is. While I didn’t ace my memo, I was able to see a big improvement from my first draft. I even received a grade that I don’t mind putting on the refrigerator next to my daughter’s spelling test (although she aced her test).
10/26/11 - Despite a few stressful moments, I haven’t felt an overwhelming amount of pressure so far. Granted, we have only had one assignment to turn in for a grade, but we were (or so it seemed) a long way from needing to start prepping for finals. This week I’ve really started to feel the pressure building, with no end in sight until December. Thanksgiving seems so far away, but knowing that in the interim I will have to complete my final memo and study for my two final exams, it seems like it will be here tomorrow. I think it is a blessing that in a few weeks I will be able to sleep late (7 AM would be late right now), but also a curse in that I could use an extra week to feel adequately prepared.
There are two areas of law that I knew coming into law school I would not want to practice - family law and patent law. Want to take a guess what the subject matter for my first two memos has been? Family law and patent law. If you view the cases solely as a document where you are trying to identify the issue, holding, and rationale it seems like “real” lawyer work. On the other hand, having to read 13 cases on patent law really serves as a cure for insomnia. When you’ve been up since 5 AM and you’re poring through cases at midnight, it’s a beating.
10/19/11 - Whenever I look at the law firms with which my company conducts business, I always review the attorney profiles looking for Texas Wesleyan Law graduates. My reason for doing this is twofold: I want to see where Texas Wesleyan graduates are working, and I want to see if the opportunity exists for some type of “networking.” I’m not a great networker - I’m very reserved around large groups of people.
Not long ago, I emailed a Texas Wesleyan Law grad who works as an attorney at one of our defense firms. I had no expectations for a response, but she completely blew me away with her generosity and guidance. Not only did she give me advice about law school and my career, she offered to introduce me to two other Texas Wesleyan Law graduates that practice locally.
In addition to her email response, I had a luncheon scheduled with two attorneys from her firm about a work-related issue. The luncheon went well and (of course) I mentioned that I am in law school (passive networking?). During the course of the conversation, they mentioned that a Texas Wesleyan graduate worked for them, and that if she was any indication of the quality of graduates Texas Wesleyan produces, something’s being done right in Fort Worth.
I didn’t necessarily walk away from any of my interactions with expectations of a future opportunity, but I did receive confirmation about the quality of people that graduate from my school and the positive light in which firms are viewing Texas Wesleyan graduates.
10/12/11 - I finally finished off my last wedge of cheese that I had with my whine last week. After a weekend of nothing but the memo, I could use some actual wine…except I have never tried it. I would like to say that the memo was a challenging, yet rewarding experience, but I have not quite reached that place. My biggest take away is that I am better at recognizing passive voice now (and that I write in it…A LOT).
Cynicism aside, my half of a semester in law school has been more rewarding than I imagined. Issues that I used see one-sided have magically shown another side. Cases that I read for work now begin to make sense and have some applicability. And if I ever move to Iowa, I have a decent amount of knowledge on what would constitute a common-law marriage.
I do feel the need to comment on the people at Texas Wesleyan Law. The students, professors, and Academic Support volunteers have been wonderful. I feel confident that I have used 2/3 of my email inbox space corresponding with them, and not once have I felt like I put them out with my questions.
10/5/11 - I’m pretty much in grind/survival mode. My drive time is really starting to wear on me. I basically drive in a triangle each day - from home to my office, my office to law school, and from law school back home. Each section of the triangle is a 45 minute to 1.5 hour drive (dependent upon traffic), and at the end of a hectic work day it flat out stinks to know that I have two more trips to make.
On top of my drive, I don’t spend much time with my family during the week and it’s really taken a toll. The upside is that when we do spend time together (Friday nights are family nights), we make sure it’s quality time. It just kills me that I get 10 minutes in the morning to see my kids and that they’re both asleep by the time I get home. My oldest has started asking questions and making comments, showing her displeasure with my choice to go back to school. Frankly, I’m at a loss to explain my choice to return to school on a level that she can understand. My youngest seems to forget about me during the week, so I spend the weekend rebuilding our bond. At this point, it’s like the movie Groundhog Day playing out each week.
If I hadn’t thought about all of these issues in advance, it might be an easy decision to quit. Not to be redundant, but I can’t express enough how much thought needs to go into the decision to go to law school.
9/28/11 - I’m not sure what the limit is for punishment you can inflict on a child, but my 8-year-old has begun to share some of my pain. I’ll admit that I’ve been lazy at times while in school, and succeeding in law school doesn’t mesh too well with laziness. In the past, when reading, if I came across a word where I wasn’t quite sure of the meaning, I would make an assumption about it and continue reading. I’ve found that technique doesn’t work so well in law school, especially with professors that will ask you about the definition of a word. If you start with the phrase “I think…,” you’re on a long, dark road that you don’t want to be on. I understand the implications of making an incorrect assumption about the meaning of a word, and what effects this could have for you as a lawyer, but it’s still something I’m getting used to. Another expectation I have had is that if you ask a question, you get a solid answer. In law school, the “answer” you receive is another question.
This past weekend, I was helping my daughter with her homework. She read a word that I figured she didn’t know and I got to ask her what it meant. She stumbled, and then finally admitted she didn’t know the meaning and I referred her to the dictionary. After finding the definition, she asked what the sentence meant. My answer…a question about what she thinks it means.
As a side note, this technique does not produce desirable results when used with a spouse.
9/21/11 - I’ve found closure in two areas this week. One was completing my Interactive Citation Workstation (ICW) exercises. It’s just a fraction of everything I have to do, but to be able to have completed SOMETHING was a relief. The other accomplishment is that I know for sure that I’m not one of the people who just “gets” law school. Fortunately, Academic Support is more than willing to work with me, so I plan on making their office a second home.
Despite feeling lost and facing some challenges, I am enjoying law school. The diversity amongst my peers is enlightening and has definitely broadened my perspective. We finished our first plea bargaining exercise in Criminal Law. The exercise was a nice break from “school” stuff, but it was still very interesting. For some reason, I thought that all of the groups would reach the same outcome, but our outcomes varied quite a bit. When we discussed how we each arrived at our plea bargain, it was eye-opening to hear the various trains of thoughts.
Another observation from this past week is that we have lost two students. You know coming into law school that not everyone will be there at graduation, but when you know the work that people have put into being here, it’s disheartening to see them gone so early. If you’re considering attending law school, make sure to do all of your homework before making all of the sacrifices to get here.
9/14/11 - Completing my first memo…I guess I relate it to potty training your son. Before you start, there are words of encouragement, some specific rules, and some very general guidelines. Once everything starts flowing though, it’s a full blown mess and you’re just hoping that you’ve hit some of your target. Afterwards, there is some sense of accomplishment because you did hit some of those targets, but you know that there’s plenty of cleaning up and you can only hope the next time is better.
With the memo out of the way for a few weeks, it does allow me to focus on some of the areas in which I have been slacking. I had begun to treat law school like an undergrad class, remembering topics for the next class as needed, then tucking them away to be reviewed again sometime in November. This week, we’ve been questioned more on how our past topics relate to our present topics. We were asked how many of us do practice problems at home each week when we’re studying, and exactly zero hands went up. I think that class served as a wake-up call: the information we are learning now will be necessary throughout the rest of our careers. I know that my weekend studying will take longer per subject, but I should have a good payoff come finals time.
9/7/11 - We received our first memo assignment, which by past student accounts begins a laborious process. Add this to the other pressures we have already been facing, in addition to some personal scheduling issues, and the schedule I had previously set for my studying has been obliterated. I would normally gripe/moan/complain about what I’m facing, but this upcoming week/weekend is different than other “normal” weeks.
I’ve lost touch with a lot of the goings-on in the world, even with sports, which I typically keep up with. The TV was on the other night and there was a documentary about the children of 9/11 that caught my attention. The only dates I had paid attention to for September were the 7th, my daughter’s first birthday, and the 13th, because it’s when my memo is due; I had completely lost track that this was the 10 year anniversary of 9/11.
As time goes on, things seem to move further back in your mind. I remember where I was when 9/11 happened, but I hadn’t thought about the effects of that day had on many people. I read another article today about the passengers on Flight 93, that again reminded me of an event that I saw and felt impacted by in some way, but isn’t a part of my daily life. The thing about problems is that they’re all relative. Unfortunately, there are those who will forever be without a loved one as a result of that day, and frankly, my stresses about school are nothing compared to what others are going through.
8/31/11 - I guess I should have used my first post to give some background on myself, so here goes.
I’m married and have three kids – a son in Georgia, and two daughters who live with me (one will be celebrating her first birthday this weekend). My “real job” experience started in law enforcement, and for the last seven years I’ve worked in auto insurance claims.
My education took a non-traditional path. When I graduated high school, I knew that I should go to college, but neither my heart nor mind was into it. I had a scholarship that paid for everything, so I put forth a half-hearted effort, enrolled in school, and my results reflected my lack of effort. In two years I was still a freshman on academic probation, obviously without scholastic funding. I quit school and started working full time.
Several years later, I realized the error of my ways and re-entered school. Whether it was maturity or the fact that I was footing the bill, my grades were much better the second time around. With a hectic schedule, I wasn’t always able to take a full-time load, but I pushed through, and 12 years after starting college, I finally graduated. Three years later I earned a Master’s degree, and now I’m in law school. I had forgotten about my educational past until I submitted my LSAC packet and was pleasantly reminded of how your past can sometimes serve as a sharp reminder of the mistakes you have made. Fortunately I’ve learned from my past, rather than lived in it.
8/24/11 - Week one of law school is on the books and I keep having a recurring thought…being pepper sprayed is less painful than law school.
In a prior career, I had to be “certified” in the use of pepper spray. Certification meant looking down the nozzle of a can of pepper spray and being sprayed in the face. Now before I had to go through this certification process, there was talk that some people are “immune” to pepper spray, so everyone held out hope that they might be one of those lucky few. When I was sprayed, my mind processed many thoughts in about 1.5 seconds – paramount was the fact that I wasn’t burning and I was one of those lucky few. After the 1.5 seconds, I learned that I wasn’t one of those lucky few, and the sinus cleansing magic of oleoresin capsicum took over.
During my first week, I’ve been on a roller coaster - I have brief moments of thinking that I could be one of the lucky few that just “gets” law school, followed by longer moments of wondering if I even read the same case that’s being discussed in class. The difference between the two experiences is that when I was pepper sprayed, I knew where I stood almost instantly…with law school I get to wait until potentially next year to find out the results. I’m an instant results kind of person – I like to see the fruits of my labor quickly, so not knowing if I’m headed to Houston when I should be headed to Oklahoma (so to speak) is going to drive me nuts. Alas, I do look forward to the journey ahead!