Undergraduate School: University of Miami
Undergraduate Major: Criminology
Hometown: Miami, FL
Status: Part-Time Day
4/24/13 - This past week, the phrase I heard the most from many of my classmates was, “this is the last law school class I’ll ever take.” I don’t remember hearing it so often in the past. Probably because I was not around many students who were getting ready to graduate and were finishing up their very last semester. Although I am still one semester away from saying it myself, I can’t help but share their enthusiasm and excitement. I also have a number of things to be immediately enthusiastic about, like my summer clerkship.
At times, I can’t help but think about how much this one summer can change my life. Deciding to go to law school wasn’t a very difficult decision for me. Working full time and attending school part time was a ton of work, but for me that was the safe decision. The hardest decision I made was when I decided to resign last May and devote all my attention to law. Since I was 16, I have never left one job without having another one lined up. A successful summer clerkship means that I made the right decision and I don’t have to worry about it anymore. Although I have a lot riding on this clerkship, the truth is that I am more excited about it than nervous. I intend to give it my best and make the most of the experience. I expect it to be challenging and fun, and I can’t wait to get started. (Now, back to finals prep.)
4/10/13 - I am less than one month away from wrapping up another semester, and I can’t wait to put this one behind me. At this point, I feel like law school has prepared me well enough for the real world and for passing the Bar. I am definitely not saying that I am ready to take the Bar tomorrow and hit the ground running the following day. But I feel that law school has done enough to prepare me for the next step, which would be formal Bar prep and on-the-job training.
I also realize that things are moving at a good pace and I’ll be a lawyer soon enough, but for as wonderful an experience as law school has been, I am ready get started on to the next chapter of my life. Well, at least my last semester should be my least demanding semester. Actually, I can’t say that for certain. I only need eleven credits to graduate, which I have divided into four classes. Three of these classes are skills courses which do not have a final exam, and the last class has a take-home exam. It was not my intention to put together a semester with no traditional final exam – that’s just the way it happened. I will have other graded assignments in lieu of a final, but that is usually less demanding (“usually” being the operative word).
3/27/13 - The time has come to figure out what classes will compose my final semester of law school. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. BUT, I also have to constantly remind myself that I’m not there yet. I still need to fight off complacency and daydreaming about life after law school, so I can get through this semester. Nonetheless, I am excited about selecting my final 11 credits. At this point, I’m really not trying to challenge myself with another massive academic undertaking. In fact, I’m trying to balance a comfortable daily schedule with a leisurely amount of coursework.
It is fun planning my last semester and thinking about graduation, but as I mentioned earlier, I really need to get this semester under control. Tax has gotten pretty difficult in the last couple of weeks, and I’m not where I should be with accounting. I’m planning to devote some serious study time this weekend and hopefully get back on track. I’ll probably also have to start tapering off how many hours I spend at the Law Clinic. I’m already over the minimum hourly requirement for the clinic, but we have some interesting cases coming up that I can participate in. I would hate to miss out on more courtroom time, but getting through finals is still the priority. I might be able to taper off hours around cases as they go to trial, giving me more time to study while still making the most of the clinic experience.
3/6/13 - I am no longer surprised by how quickly semesters come and go. This one is no exception. We’re past the middle mark and rapidly approaching finals. Turning in my Law Review paper did lighten my workload as I anticipated it would, but that alleviation was short lived. As I start outlining now, I’ll start to feel the pressure of a typical semester again. Spring break is next week and hopefully the break from receiving new assignments will give me the opportunity to get a good start on some of these outlines. Maybe not, since it looks like I might be working on a home improvement project between trips to the courthouse, since our bathroom tile buckled and since the courthouse will not be celebrating Spring Break.
That’s about it for now. . . The tempo of law school has definitely changed for me. It’s become much more of a routine. I focus less on grades, even though grades remain important. I think by now I figured out how to be consistent and I have streamlined the process to where I can make the same grades with a little less work. My main focus now is on gaining practical experience and hopefully, locking in a job before I graduate. I like to think that if I maintain the path I’m on, that everything will work out.
2/27/13 - I turned in my Law Review article, and I am so glad to get rid of it. This semester has been unique in that the workload has been front-loaded. Unlike typical semesters, where demands ratchet up the closer you get to finals, this semester has been a sprint from the start. A big reason for that was this paper. It’s a huge relief not to have to worry about it anymore, and specifically not to have the paper competing for time with other important projects. Now, I can get caught up on my Accounting and Tax courses, which have become exponentially more difficult in the last few weeks. Although strategically, the paper is out of my mind, it will not be completely out of my mind until I know that it met the required standard. At least now, I can focus on other things.
I was set to first chair a sentencing hearing at the prosecution clinic last week. It was the perfect hearing for me, as a student, to test my mettle. There was probably nothing I could have done that would have resulted in a lesser sentence than what was offered. For this reason, I felt no pressure. The worst that would have happened was that I make a fool out of myself, which I would prefer over sinking a case. Of course, I didn’t want to look like a fool, so a prepared intensively for the hearing. I knew all the facts inside and out, and when it came time to shine, I got the real prosecutor experience – he took the plea.
2/13/13 - In my last blog, I said I probably wouldn’t consider a certain ethical dilemma we discussed in Professional Responsibility until the end of the semester when I begin preparing for the final exam. I was wrong. I attended an Inn of Court meeting last night where the table discussion was exclusively about ethics. Well, I just came to realize that this PR class, which is not only a required course and segue for the required national ethics exam, is actually practical material that attorneys apply every day they practice law. In fact, this might be the most practical course I take in law school. I guess I’ll have to start taking better notes in class…
Another recent epiphany comes from the prosecution clinic I’m taking this semester. I underestimated the complexities of trial procedure. I imagined that once the time came to enter the courtroom, I would bone up on a few rules and be fine. That was the second dumbest thing I’ve done in law school. (The first was taking a writing seminar because I thought writing a rigorous paper would be easier than taking a final. That turned out to be a LOT of work for only 2 credits). Anyway, getting involved in courtroom litigation has opened my eyes to how complicated it can be, IF you want to do it well. The nice thing about this experience is that given my background, I have a leg up on the substantive law, which allows me to focus more on the procedure. Well, that’s it for now. I have to get back to work.
1/30/13 - We had an interesting exchange in Professional Responsibility this week. Professional Responsibility, as the title implies, involves the code of ethics that attorneys must follow. A well known ethical conflict that sparks much debate is the scenario of the attorney representing a (criminal) client that the attorney knows is guilty. Anyway, that was the topic of our class discussion this week. The discussion was centered on the true case of a serial killer who, while in custody for one murder, revealed the location of the bodies of several more of his victims to his attorneys. As the story goes, the attorneys were torn between their morals and professional ethics. The other victims were missing, and no one knew if they were still alive or dead, except for the client and his attorneys. Revealing this information would breach confidentiality and not be in the best interest of the client, and therefore, a violation of the code of ethics.
The practical truth is that although this scenario inflames passions and sparks debate, (among law students mostly, if not exclusively) it is a well-settled matter. Every attorney knows that breaching confidentiality, even under the most horrific of circumstances, could lead to sanctions including disbarment. And that is precisely why the attorneys in this real life case did not disclose the information. Nonetheless, the information came out in trial and then everyone knew that the attorneys had known along. They were essentially driven out of the city under a barrage of community hostility. So, this makes me wonder if there isn’t a better policy, something that could reconcile what society as whole considers right and what attorneys consider right. . . It was on my mind, so I wrote about it. I doubt I’ll think about this again until I’m studying for the final.
1/16/13 - This does not feel like the second week of a semester. Usually, semesters begin slow and gradually pick up steam as we get closer to finals. This semester hit me like a ton of bricks. I have several projects and commitments due towards the beginning and more that keep popping up every couple of days. My only consolation is that I think it will taper off in six to eight weeks, but even if it doesn’t, another 4 weeks after that and the semester will be over and then the summer will begin.
I am very excited about my summer clerkship. I was planning to take a vacation after the clerkship is over and before my final semester begins, but seeing how this semester is going, I think I might try to squeeze one in before the clerkship begins. I think it would be good to head into it rested and rejuvenated. Besides, I watched Jaws last night and Amity Island made me homesick.
That’s pretty much it. I’m finding it hard to stay motivated as I round off my law school experience, even though I am not that close to the finish line. I feel ready and anxious to close the chapter on law school and begin the chapter on law practice. This is another reason why I am really excited about this summer. Well, I’m sure this semester will fly by like all the others and I’ll be working in no time.
1/9/13 - This Christmas break seemed shorter than past Christmas breaks, but it was a relaxing stay nonetheless. Our families from opposite coasts came to Texas to spend the holidays here, which is quickly becoming tradition. I did not expect to escape school work completely during the break.
I had intended to finish writing my Law Review paper so that I could put it behind me and concentrate on the new semester’s coursework. At first, I planned to work on it before family arrived, but instead I found myself wrestling an ever-expanding to-do list in preparation of our family’s arrival. After family arrived and I had not even opened the file, I figured I would work on it in the mornings before things got going. That did not work out either. Finally, I decided I would just put it off until family left and dedicate a solid three to four days to get it done.
But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I now decided not to corrupt my vacation with school work. No worries though, the paper is not due until sometime in February or March so I have plenty of time (I thought!). But I was wrong. I have another draft due in 5 days! I guess I will not be easing into this new semester. I need to hit the ground running and make sure that this paper doesn’t bog me down.
12/18/12 - I did not realize how tough this semester actually was until I started preparing for finals. It felt as if my three most difficult finals in all of law school were given to me this semester.
Well, I did what I had to do. I put in the time and effort to get through it. But that can only provide so much solace. You can never truly know how you are going to come out in one of these exams, because of the curve. You could feel like you bombed it, and the curve might put you on top. Or, you can feel like you aced it, but 10 students aced it better. Either way, it feels great to have this semester behind me!
I am looking forward to spending Christmas with my family, doing a few projects around the house, and getting my Law Review paper written. Well, I’m really NOT looking forward to working on my Law Review paper during the break, but it will be much harder to find the time if I put it off until the new semester begins. I’m trying not to ruin my break by thinking about the start of the new semester, but I cannot avoid this paper. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get it done without sacrificing too much R&R.
11/28/12 - I am in full finals prep mode. I can’t free my thoughts from a prison of hearsay, fiduciary duties, irrevocable trusts, and about a thousand other legal concepts.
I’m also facing a unique situation for me. This is my first normal semester as a full time student. When I was working full time and going to school, I had no choice but to break up my study routine, because I had to work at some point. Work was actually a break from studying. As much as I complained about having to go to work when I felt like I should be studying, work gave me a chance to catch my breath.
Now, it’s up to me to balance study time with (just a tiny bit of) down time. Usually, I’ll study until I find myself staring at word for minutes, and then I realize that now is a good time for a break. I’ll take a quick break, and get back to it. I can’t wait for this semester to end! A few more weeks and I’m home free. . . until January.
11/14/12 - I can finally feel the pressure of finals breathing down my neck. The funny thing about it is that it has become a rather comforting feeling. That pressure helps me stay focused and make the best use of my time. And as always, time is at a premium, but particularly this semester since I have 2 finals scheduled on the first 2 days of finals. This means that very soon after classes conclude, I’ll be taking my first 2 finals.
In the past, I’ve been fortunate to have more time between the last day of classes and the beginning of my exams. My time has also been consumed by the Property Seminar paper I have to write. I spent about 75% of my weekend revising and editing this paper, and it still reads like I just started.
I think the best part of the last couple weeks of the semester is the sense of relief I get when it’s all over. It’s a relief that feels great mostly because of the massive amount of hard work that goes into preparing for finals. When it’s all over, I feel like I really earned a break, and it makes the break that much more enjoyable. As usual, I started a list of things to do during the Christmas break. I sometimes find myself distracted as my thoughts drift towards the break and all the things I’m looking forward to doing. Making a list of these things to do during the break helps snap me out of day-dreaming and back to work.
10/31/12 - I know I have said this before, but I mean it this time more than ever – this semester has flown by. Finals are one month away and I have a ton of work to do to be ready. I should be worried, or nervous, or at least stressing about trying to find the time to get ready. But I’m not, for two reasons.
First, I think I have become accustomed to the never-ending demands and looming deadlines. And I have gained confidence in myself to somehow get it all done. (I seriously hope it’s not a false confidence.)
Second, without having to split my time between work and school, I can literally devote 24 hours a day to school if I have to. Of course, I do not want to place myself in a position where I have to pull all-nighters, but I can definitely stretch my days out to get a little extra school work done.
Aside from finals, I also have one paper to complete. I don’t know why I thought taking a seminar class where the grade is based on a paper would be easier than taking a traditional course with a traditional final. But I did, and I was wrong. I wouldn’t say it’s more work, but it’s definitely not less. At least the class has been enjoyable. It’s a small intimate class where we (students) provide feedback and constructive criticism to each other, with regards to the development of our individual papers. Well, that’s all; I’m one month, three finals, and one paper away from Christmas break.
10/17/12 - I still have not come anywhere close to being caught up. In fact, I spent two entire days working on a Law Review draft that will not be graded. The deadline for the draft was closing in and I was able to get it done well before the deadline. But, I couldn't help feeling like I was mixing my priorities by spending all that time on something that has no bearing on my grades this semester. After all, I could have spent those two days working on the paper that will be graded, or working on any one of the three outlines that don't contain much more than a header. I suppose that in the end, I have to get it all done anyway, so really prioritizing one task over another is not as important as simply getting it all done. Anyway, now that the draft is done I can put it out of my mind until after the semester.
That's pretty much it. I’m reaching that point in the semester where everything else that calls my attention away from school is drifting away (temporarily). The closer I get to the end of the semester, the smaller my world becomes and the more focused I become on getting through finals. I think that point in time is crawling closer to the end of each semester the farther along I get. My first semester, I reached that point in Orientation, before classes began. I’m just getting there now, with six weeks to go before finals.
10/3/12 - I cannot believe that we are going into week seven of this semester! I was so distracted with the summer interview process that I completely lost track of time. I have been able to keep up with Law Review assignments and (most) reading assignments, but I have not started a single outline. Somehow, I convinced myself that I was only 3 weeks into the semester and had plenty of time to catch up. I didn’t realize how far along we were until one of my classmates commented on it.
Well, at least the time I spent interviewing paid off. I accepted an offer from a midsize Fort Worth firm. I am very excited about the opportunity! It is my understanding that the summer clerkship program is designed to simulate work life at the firm for an actual associate. That way, you really get a good sense of what to expect should the firm decide to extend you a permanent offer after the summer. I cannot wait to get started! I am looking forward to the challenge and the chance to get to know the attorneys better. I had a great time interviewing there. The attorneys made me feel comfortable, while at the same time, exciting me about my future in law.
Now, I need to put this all behind me, get my head out of the clouds, and really buckle down to get caught up at school. I still have enough time to get where I need to be this semester, but only if I can avoid getting sidetracked with distractions.
9/19/12 - I’m having a difficult time concentrating on my classes this semester. I believe I’m distracted by the prospect of a summer associate position and general complacency that consumes most third-year students. To make matters worse, although I’m beginning my third year, I will not graduate until December of 2013 – until recently, I was enrolled in the part-time program. My complacency has set in a bit early. I can shake it, but I’m having a difficult time not thinking about next summer.
I just completed a call-back interview today, and I should know in about a week if I’ll be getting an offer. I have another call-back next week, but I don’t know how long after that the firm will need to decide to whom they will extend offers. Either way, whether I receive a summer offer or not, I still need to maintain my grades. So, it really shouldn’t be such a distraction. But it is.
I need to feel like I have control over my destiny, and right now, I don’t. At this stage, I don’t believe there’s anything more I can do. I have to wait and see if what I have done is enough to get an offer. I believe the lack of control is the cause of my distraction. Well, at least I’ll have an answer soon. I hope that regardless of the answer, I’ll be able to regain my focus.
8/29/12 - I think this has been the busiest start of a semester for me yet. During the first week of classes, I had several interviews lined up for summer associate positions, two lunch meetings, two orientations, a Law Review assignment, and of course all the normal reading necessary to prepare for class.
There’s a short window of opportunity for summer associate positions with law firms. That window is open now. My best chance of securing a position with a law firm is to participate in the series of on-campus interviews and job fairs that are currently (and temporarily) in progress. So, I’ve made this my priority, for now. I’m still getting everything else done too, but I’m a little closer to deadlines than I would like to be.
As much as I complained about summer classes, I have to admit, I had a great summer. I kept busy academically, gained some great experience, met some great people, and built a massive deck (that is still under construction). I recently noticed that I feel just as busy as I felt before, when I was working full time and attending classes part time. But the big difference is that I can focus on one thing, and it feels great to not be distracted! I also noticed that I’m getting more sleep. Actually, I’m getting a normal amount of sleep now. All in all, I haven’t suffered any withdrawal after leaving my job. I’m excited about my future in law, and I’m a happier person now that I can consolidate my efforts towards being successful.
7/25/12 - This summer has not felt much like a break. I’m not complaining now, but I was complaining those last few weeks leading up to finals. Summer school was more difficult than I anticipated it would be. Part of me expected (and hoped) that professors would go easy on us since the courses were only 7 weeks long. But there were no short cuts. If there were short cuts, it certainly didn’t feel like there were. I believe we covered as much material as we would have covered in the normal 14 week course. I could never get ahead, and the last 2 weeks leading up to finals were brutal. Every single day during these last 2 weeks, I questioned my decision to take summer courses. And then poof… one day – 2 finals, and it was all a memory from that point forward. At the conclusion of the last final, I had no more regrets. It was worth the extra effort to earn 6 credits in half the time.
The judicial externship has been a great experience. I’ve been working on my research and writing skills, and I’ve had the opportunity to observe a wide variety of federal court hearings. Just recently, I observed a trial from near the beginning, to the very end. I was fascinated by the whole affair, especially the exchanges between the attorneys. Even though they were locked into heated litigation, they each maintained their composure and came off very professionally. I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but I think I might enjoy litigation.
6/27/12 - Apparently there was a rumor floating around that Texas A&M was buying Texas Wesleyan Law. I heard the rumor for the first time one morning before class. I didn’t give the notion more credence than any other rumor, and I didn’t have to dwell on it long. A very short moment later, a press conference confirmed it … well, sort of. The deal is still pending some kind of approval I don’t quite understand, but it sounds like it will go through. I think the consensus among us current students is that this can only benefit us. In fact, I haven’t heard a single negative. I admit I don’t know all the factors at play, but I can only imagine this raising the stock of our degree and hopefully propelling us higher in the rankings. Does this mean I will have two separate law school diplomas to hang on my wall? (It’ll make me look smarter.)
Big news aside, I have little else to report. I’ve had several people ask me if I miss police work. The truth is that I haven’t had the time. I’ve been keeping busy with school and externships, and I haven’t had a moment with nothing to do. With that said, it feels great being able to concentrate on one task! It was sometimes frustrating having to go to work when I really felt like I should be studying. I hope I can keep my grades up, because I’ll have no excuses now.
**A Note on the Letter of Intent between Texas A&M and Texas Wesleyan - Legal Disclaimer**
5/30/12 - My final day at the police department came and went, and to be honest, I haven’t given it a second thought. I haven’t been sitting around with nothing to do, wondering if I made the right decision. I’m just as busy as I was before. But at least now, I have a somewhat normal schedule and only one activity to concentrate on. Although I am keeping busy with 2 summer courses and 2 summer externships, I feel relaxed and focused. I feel like I can handle quite a bit more.
Summer classes are long and fast. The classes are 3 hours long, or twice as long as the typical class. I found that if I’m engaged in the material or even slightly interested in it, the time in class moves quickly. Although, I am interested in the classes, I have on occasion looked up at the clock, expecting it to read less than 5 minutes left, but finding that we still have an hour to go. I’m thankful that both my professors are animated and entertaining - this would be torture, otherwise.
I’m also making an effort to outline early, and to keep my outline updated. We’re covering so much material so quickly it would be extremely difficult to start putting it all together mid-semester. I’m scheduled to take both finals on the same day. I haven’t had 2 exams on one day before. I don’t think it will be a huge detriment. It is definitely easier to spread the exams apart, but the Bar is going to cover a ton of different topics over 3 consecutive days. I might as well get a taste of it now.
5/9/12 - I only have a Property final left. It’s a 24 hour take home. From the time I download it, I’ll 24 hours to upload an answer. I have all my notes laid out across my desk. I’ll give it several more hours of review, and then simply get it done, or “gitter dun”. Off topic, I was recently contacted by one of my childhood friends. He was in the company of several other close friends I grew up with in Miami, and that I haven’t spoken to in years. They were making fun of the way I talk. They said I sound like a cowboy, after being in Texas for a couple of years. I don’t hear it, and if it’s true, it’s certainly not intentional. I keep thinking of how cheesy Madonna sounded when she developed an English accent after being in London for about a month. Anyway, I guess I’m stalling. I really need to focus, do a little review, and then slay this last test and put this semester to rest. . .
. . . It’s about 24 hours later, and I just completed my last exam. I think the hardest part of the take-home was not quitting. I kept imagining a little imp sitting on my shoulder telling me the sooner I turn it in, the sooner this semester ends. I didn’t give in. I gave it an honest effort and made use of most of the 24 hours… And now, the semester is finally over! It felt like it would never end. I must be getting burned out. Well, I have a tropical vacation before summer courses begin to recharge my batteries.
When the summer semester begins, I will officially be a full time student. I hope I made the right decision. It’s hard not have doubts when lots of magazines have published at least one article about the overabundance of attorneys and the few legal jobs they’re all competing for. Everyone seems to agree that the legal landscape is changing, but I don’t know what that means, or what it will mean for me. In spite of my doubts, this still feels right. I want to be a lawyer, and it will be nice not to have any distractions.
4/25/12 - Well, I resigned... I will no longer be working as a police officer. It’s not easy to walk away from something that I’ve been a part of my entire adult life. And, it sure isn’t easy to walk away from a steady paycheck. I’ve been working since I was in high school, and I never left one job without having the next job secured. I am definitely outside of my comfort zone.
But, I think (and I hope) everything will work out. By switching to a full time school schedule starting this summer, I can finish about 9 months earlier. This wasn’t an impulsive decision driven by the desire to be done with law school. My wife and I discussed it thoroughly and came to the conclusion together, after reconciling pros and cons. But, the calculated reasoning leading up to the decision does little to take the edge off. I think I’m just not comfortable not working…
At least I have finals to take my mind off of things and to help me transition into this new role as a full time student. The truth is that with finals charging at me like a freight train, I haven’t been thinking much about anything else. I still have quite a bit of work to do before I feel prepared to take my exams. In fact, I need to stop working on this blog and get back to it…
4/18/12 - Well, it finally hit me. It’s that familiar realization which comes every semester about a month before finals, “Where am I going to find the time to study?” To make things more interesting, I’ve been scheduled for three court appearances this month - that’s in addition to my normal work schedule. I haven’t had a single court appearance the entire year, but I got slammed with three during finals prep time. It shouldn’t be too difficult to reschedule them, or otherwise get out of it altogether. But, it sure doesn’t help having something else to compete with my much needed study time.
Anyway, I’m ready for this semester to end. I’m looking forward to the brief break I’ll have before summer courses begin. We have a trip planned and a few minor projects around the house. It’ll be a nice repose from law school. But, as much as I’d like to see this semester end, I wish I could push finals back another two weeks (or more) just to prepare.
Off topic, I received a judicial externship this summer. It’s for the second part of the summer, which means I’ll have to coordinate the judicial externship with my CLEAT externship to make sure I work the required hours to receive the full three credits. That’s something I need to figure out soon, but it might have to wait until after finals. I’m excited about both externships, and I’m looking forward to getting some hands-on experience and seeing what practicing attorneys do.
4/4/12 - I was doing well and staying on schedule with my study plan. With only 3 weeks of classes left, I’ve been feeling the pressure of impending finals. But, the pressure seems to feel lighter with every proceeding semester. I was afraid I might have been getting complacent, not giving school the attention it requires. But I realize now that I’ve been doing everything I’ve done in the past, even though I haven’t had that fear of failing to drive me. After speaking to an upperclassman friend of mine, I’ve come to the realization that the edge simply wears off. I no longer need a fear of failing to drive me. I only need to stick to my schedule, and I should be prepared for finals.
Only a tornado could knock me off of my schedule, and that’s exactly what happened… I was called into work as the tornados were still terrorizing the city. I had my day all planned out, but instead, I spent the next 14 hours at work handling calls for service. Now, I’m back at school, with 3 hours to read for 2 classes tonight. Never mind prepping for finals, I’m not ready for class.
I really can’t complain though, because my inconvenience is extremely minor compared to the families that are now displaced because of the storm. I might still get called in to work more mandatory overtime. I hope not. I’m still recovering from the 1 day I lost.
3/21/12 - I got another average grade in a Property assignment. It’s especially frustrating because I know the law. I’ve missed points, not because of substantive mistakes, but rather technical mistakes. Although, I suppose those technicalities are substantive, since they cost me points. Either way, I’m worried that I won’t do well in this class since I’m having such a difficult time giving the professor what he wants.
I’m taking steps to correct this discrepancy. I’ve met with my professor, and he gave me some advice and offered to grade some practice exams. So, I plan to write out several practice exams, and take him up on his offer. This semester is crucial, because my grades for this semester will determine if I get on Law Review, and getting on Law Review is one of my goals. I don’t necessarily worry about it too much. All I can do is prepare to the best of my abilities and hope it’s enough.
Well, I guess I have nothing else to report … Except, that I’m looking forward to the summer and to getting some practical experience in an externship. In fact, I have an interview this afternoon, after my first class of the day. So today I have to dress appropriately. Usually, the last thing I do before leaving my house is get dressed. That way, there’s less of chance for one of my dogs or cats to do something that forces me to change my clothes. I broke my rule today, and got dressed first. I then spent the rest of the time dodging animals like roving laser beams. But, the cat got me – he clung onto my thigh like he was climbing a tree. No harm done, I still made it out in a presentable fashion.
2/29/12 - As a police officer, I can’t say how many times I’ve walked into a location and heard “He DID IT!” It’s one of those dry jokes that people seem compelled to blurt out every time they see a cop.
What I’ve never heard (which would be original and hilarious) during the course of a pat-down search, is “you’re getting warmer… warmer... warmer…”
Anyway, I’m sure every industry has similar phrases or questions that outsiders always ask. When people hear I’m in law school, the question everyone asks is, “What kind of law do you want to practice?” And, the next question is almost always, “Do you want to practice criminal law?” Why wouldn’t I? After all, I have a strong base of experience that would benefit me in this field. But, I’m not necessarily drawn to criminal law or any other field at this time.
I’ve been thinking about it lately, probably because I need to start thinking about what courses to take during the summer and fall. In fact, I need to register TODAY for the summer semester. Tailoring my education towards practice in one field doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll be better qualified or more competitive in that area. So, for now, my registration strategy is to diversify and take classes in different areas, with an emphasis on those classes that will prepare me for the Bar. I would also like to take classes that offer practical experience and I’m hoping to do an externship in the summer. Well, I guess I should start looking at the course catalog, since I need to register today.
2/15/12 - I learned early on, that generally, to do well on exams, it’s imperative to argue both sides of the argument. In fact, almost every professor I’ve had has specifically stated that they give little credence to the actual decision chosen, and much more weight to the analysis behind the argument. In other words, professors generally don’t care if you chose “guilty” or “not guilty,” they want you to make strong arguments on both sides.
Until now, this hasn’t been an issue for me. I’ve always been open minded and empathetic to competing interests. It’s natural for me to place myself in the shoes of another and see things from their perspective. So, it’s also been natural for me to make arguments that clash head on with each other.
Criminal Procedure is turning my world upside down. Nearly every case we study in this class involves some sort of police action. I never realized how “pro-cop” I actually am. I find myself disagreeing with every single decision made that goes against law enforcement. Of course, the issues should not be simplified to “pro-cop” or “against-cop.” The legal issues are all matters of Constitutional law involving the balancing of public safety and personal rights. Nonetheless, I’m having a hard time being objective. I find myself taking heavy notes, only on the opposing arguments. I’m trying to train myself back to being objective, but on this topic, it goes against my grain.
2/1/12 - This is the first semester that I have more than one 4-credit class. Generally, the 4-credit classes are more work because we cover more material. But in the past, I haven’t felt that the 4-credit courses were more work than my other courses, probably because I don’t tend to separate the work load by course. It all has to get done, regardless.
This week, I had to read about 200 pages to prepare for class, most of it thanks to the two 4-credit courses. That’s a heavy load, and a lot of material to cover in a short time. I’ve been keeping up with the reading, but I haven’t been able to get ahead.
I learned early on that the key to keeping stress at bay is to stay ahead. I don’t need as much of a cushion as I did when I first started. As long as I can get all my reading done for the week before Monday, I should be fine. I’m also making outlining a priority this week. We’re covering so much material so quickly, if I don’t start now, it will be almost impossible to get caught up later on.
That’s pretty much it…just more of the same…school – work – work – school…and so on for 14 weeks. I’m not complaining. It’s only hard work, and it will be well worth it in a couple of years. I hope…
1/18/12 - I received my first full night’s sleep since the semester began. I was worried that I’d have a difficult time staying up for work, but to my satisfaction, the nights have been moving along rather quickly. I have worked midnights before, but it’s been a while and I didn’t remember much about the experience.
The most trying thing about it isn’t staying up, it’s getting sleep. I’m so tired by the time I make it home, that I can barely keep my eyes open as I pull into the driveway. My body begs for repose, and I’m out before my head hits the pillow. A solid 7 hours of coma should do the trick, but 4 hours later I’m awake. And it’s pointless to fight it.
This was my primary concern about working midnights - that the lack of sleep might slow my mind down to absolute uselessness. But that hasn’t happened. I’m getting my school work done, and as time goes on, I adjust a little more.
I am scheduled to take my Civil Procedure final exam at the end of the semester at 9:00 AM. Taking a final at this hour might be pushing it. I don’t expect to be functioning well at 9:00 AM four months from now, so I’ll be submitting a request to take the exam later the same day. That’s plan A. I don’t have a plan B yet, other than to just take the test exhausted, which is a horrible plan. I hope the request gets approved.
1/11/12 - The Christmas break was a blur. I remember having some family come in, smoking a turkey, and spending four days renovating the barn, which was flooding with every heavy rain. I remember having a great time, but it feels like yesterday the fall semester ended, and today the spring semester began.
I also had a chance to visit my mother in Key West. She’s doing well. She’s energetic and moving forward as if nothing happened, although slightly melodramatic. (She’s always been melodramatic, that had nothing to do with the cancer.) Anyway, she’s a strong woman and I draw inspiration from her unyielding positivity.
I received my grades. I didn’t do as well as I had hoped in Con Law, but I did as well as I expected after the exam. I choked, plain and simple. I knew the material better than I conveyed it, and I knew at the conclusion of the exam that my performance was lacking. My other grades were pretty good, so my GPA shouldn’t drop too much.
I also started working the midnight shift on Monday night. My first shift came after eight hours at the law school. It wasn’t all classes - I have a class at 1:30 PM, then a three hour break, followed by two classes. The last class ends at 9:15 PM and I start work at 10:00 PM. This is probably my longest day since I started law school, but it’s definitely manageable. At this point in the game, I know how to juggle the demands of both work and school.
12/14/11 - I was going to ask for a pass on this blog. I am generally not reluctant to speak of personal matters, but I am disinclined to post these matters in a public forum. I guess I never really jumped in the social media bandwagon. Anyway, during finals I learned that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She told me it was caught early and she would require a minimally invasive surgery. The procedure would be outpatient, and she had plenty of support in Key West where she lives (1,500 miles away from Fort Worth). She pleaded with me not to lose focus and to concentrate on finals.
I don’t feel confident that I crushed finals this semester. I ran out of time in Con Law, and I had to rush through the last analysis. I know I left points on the table. My other 2 finals went well enough, I guess. I just don’t have the same feeling of confidence I’ve had in the past.
I’m not making preemptive excuses should my GPA dip. I truly believed that my mother’s prognosis was positive and that the procedure was as habitual as a haircut. I now learned that she’ll need a second surgery, a full mastectomy, followed by radiation or chemotherapy. She seems to be taking it better than I am.
Enough about that… I met someone very helpful at the Office of the Attorney General. He’s really gone out of his way to help me. I was accepted into the OAG’s summer clerkship program, but they don’t have any offices in Fort Worth that can handle a clerk. I need to stay local because of work. We’re still working on a solution. I hope everything falls into place and I can get some practical experience this summer.
11/22/11 - Ever had an adrenaline rush? I have, and not necessarily from risky behavior. I have felt that burst of chemical energy during a workout, pushing myself to run faster or lift heavier. And I’ve experienced the rush at the bottom of a rappel tower, after overcoming a fear of heights. The rush hits you like a tidal wave of energy. You feel invincible and ready to take on any challenge. You feel limitless and bound only by your decision to halt.
Well, I just experienced an adrenaline rush studying Constitutional Law! (What is happening to me?!) I got really excited after coming up with a strategy for answering Con Law essays. I chest bumped the cat in celebration. This is the same rush I’ve felt in the past under very different circumstances… I need to get out more during the semester. Just two more weeks and I’ll be done with the Fall of 2011. Hopefully, I can regain some semblance of normalcy before the new semester begins.
I’m still not feeling nearly the same level of stress that I felt in the past around this same time. I’m waiting for it to hit me, and carry through until the semester is over. But, it might not happen. I know what to expect, and how to prepare, and so that variable of the “unknown” might not be in play. As in earlier semesters, what I am feeling now is a hint of relief. Two more weeks of all-out effort, and then I have a month to be selfish, and carefree.
11/9/11 - It’s that familiar point in the semester where finals are peeking around the corner, and you can feel them watching you. You start organizing all your notes and begin tweaking your outlines. Then, you realize that you have a TON of information to process. You begin to doubt that it’s even possible to retain all that material, much less understand it all well enough to articulate a logical and reasoned answer to an essay question.
And, as you’re sifting through it all, trying to make sense of it and organize it in your mind so that you can draw from it when necessary, you realize…we still have 5 classes left! There are still 5 classes of new information to process, understand, and file away in your mind. If we stopped covering new topics right now, and I had nothing to do but study, I might have enough time to get it all down before finals.
We all feel the same way - we just want classes to end, and to be left alone to think. The closer I get to finals, the more that the law monopolizes my thoughts. I recently woke up from a dream where I was arguing with myself about state rights versus national rights. For me, it’s this last month that really makes me feel like I’ve earned a vacation from school.
10/26/11 - I’ve noticed a change, a change not just in myself, but in my circle of classmates. We don’t discuss grades or dwell on them as much as we did the first year. Now I don’t mean in any way to say that grades are no longer important, but other activities have become equally important to us as grades, and therefore GPA has to share the center stage.
My first year was solely a push to make the grade. Now, externships, internships, activities that create exposure are all equally important. From what I can gather, grades used to be all one needed to land a great job at graduation. But now, of the top students I know, only 2 have already landed summer associate positions without some family connection to the firm. Both of them are not only top ranked students, but also devoted considerable time to meeting attorneys and getting their names out there.
I’m not knocking the system. In fact, I don’t see much difference in competence between top ranked students anyway, so why not give the job to someone you know (especially if you don’t sacrifice quality by doing so)? Unfortunately for me, I know no one. My grades are where they need to be, but I am slightly concerned that might not be enough… I am only slightly concerned though …I have an overwhelming feeling of comfort that as long as I continue on this track, everything will fall into place. Nonetheless, I will be attending more events and meeting more attorneys, as this seems to be the prevailing method for landing a good job.
10/12/11 - Generally, I get most of my reading done over the weekend in preparation for the week. This lessens my load during the week and allows me to concentrate more on class. But, this weekend, I spent most of my time preparing for a Criminal Law TA session. The Crim Law students have a midterm this week and I, along with another research assistant, was asked to hold a review session for them. Although it was a lot of work, I enjoyed standing up front of the class and running them through hypos and practice questions. I hope the review session was beneficial.
This week is going to be slightly hectic. Since I devoted most of my time to the review session, I only prepared for Tuesday’s classes. For Thursday, I have 11 cases to read for Con Law and a practice exam to complete for Legislation and Regulation. I could skimp on the practice test, but that’s just a poor strategy - any opportunity to practice for the final is gold.
At work, we’ll be bidding for shifts and days off soon. The bid goes by seniority and will take effect in the beginning of the new year. Every semester so far, I have had some moderate conflict between my school schedule and work schedule. Luckily, I’ve had cooperation from both school and work, and each has compromised, allowing me to do both. As it stands now, I’ll probably bid for a midnight position, which should put an end to any future conflicts. I’m not looking forward to staying up all night, but it seems to be the best option. We’ll see… I still have some time to think about it.
9/28/11 - I just came out of our Constitutional Law midterm, which was all multiple choice. In true law school fashion, any given question might have had four good answers to choose from or no good answer to choose from. I never imagined multiple choice questions could by designed to torture.
Anyhow, I don’t think I failed it, but that’s pretty much the extent of my post-test analysis. We should have the grades by next week, which is great because I’ll spend less time thinking about it. I have a number of questions swirling around in my head, and I can’t necessarily look up the answers. Nor can I necessarily decipher the answer discussing it with classmates. I think it’s typical to do both, but in the end, you still don’t know what the correct answer was on the test. Many times, the correct answer is the “best” answer, and the best answer is debatable.
Up until now, the semester hasn’t been too trying. Previously, semesters would be difficult in the beginning weeks, as I tried to get into a rhythm, and of course, most difficult in the final weeks, as I prepared for finals. But this semester hasn’t been too rough, up to now. I believe this test marked the point where I’ll have to ratchet up my efforts. Preparing for the midterm reminded me of how much work is required to take one test. To avoid an overload in the final weeks, I’ll have to start preparing now. I realized early on that the only way to get through law school while working full-time was to never fall behind.
9/14/11 - It still amazes me how fast time goes by. We’re already five weeks into the semester, and only two weeks away from a Constitutional Law midterm. Con Law is by far the most politically influenced area of law I have studied so far. It seems that courts decide how they want to rule, and then conceive an argument to support the ruling. I find the arguments clever and entertaining, and I’m really enjoying the class. I’ll have to bring my outline up to date soon and start preparing for the midterm.
Recently, an ABA newsletter contained an article claiming that there are 100 attorneys for every 1 attorney job. If this is accurate, then 2.5 students in my class should expect to find jobs after graduation. I can’t imagine this statistic is correct. In fact, I know that more than three students are getting hired after graduation. The article also mentioned that the legal industry is the most difficult industry in which to find a job at this time. That assertion, I don’t doubt. There’s no point in worrying about it now. Hopefully, the economy as a whole will pick up as I’m getting ready to graduate. It’s easy to get discouraged by these types of articles, but it for me, it motivates me to work harder, and hopefully stand out as a job applicant.
8/31/11 - Today, several of my classmates came into class dressed in suits. This isn’t uncommon, but it still prompts curiosity. I wondered what event required them to look their best. In this case it was an OCI (On Campus Interview).
Large firms are in the process of recruiting 2L students for summer associate positions. Those students selected to be summer associates often make up the pool of applicants from which the firms will eventually hire. Generally, these types of job offers are made at the beginning of your 3L year. I can only imagine what kind of a relief it would be to enter your last year and already know that a prestigious and highly coveted job is waiting for you after you take that last final exam.
I bid for a few interviews, even though it was premature, given my status as a part-time student. I will still have 2 summers to go before I graduate. I was advised not to get discouraged if I didn’t get called for interviews, since the timing is off. But as I see my classmates vying for these positions, I can’t help getting a little discouraged, or even jealous.
A lot of this probably has to do with my close association with full-time students with whom I attend day classes. They’re on a different track, a track that for some will lead to a very carefree 3L year.
I’m just anxious to get started, and I get even more restless when I see guys I started with getting ready to enter the field. The truth is, none of us are entering the field any time soon, but time in law school seems to fly by.
8/17/11 - Well, here we go again! I have now attended one session of each of my new classes. My first impression is that Constitutional Law looks like it will live up to its reputation of being a challenge. But, I think the topic is interesting and the professor is highly regarded by friends of mine who had him last year. For me, a difficult class that is both interesting and taught by a good professor makes the course enjoyable, even if it requires a large amount of work. I don’t know what to think of Legislation & Regulation after our first class. The subject matter we covered wasn’t very complex, but I know it’s just a matter of time before it becomes a beating. At least that’s what I’ve heard. And finally, Electronic Research Practicum appears to a hugely beneficial class with a very entertaining professor. I feel fortunate to have gotten into it as a 2L. Most of the students in the class are 3Ls.
I’m only taking 3 classes this semester, but I’m also a teaching assistant and a research assistant. And, I’m still working full time. So all in all, I plan to be as busy as I was last year. Everyone says the first year of law school is the toughest. I don’t see that this semester will be any easier than the previous ones, but at least now I know what to expect and how to manage my time.
8/10/11 - As I type this, I’m at the airport, waiting to catch a flight to Virginia. We’re visiting my wife’s grandparents. I’ll be meeting them for the first time.
An announcement was just made informing us that our flight will be delayed while crews repair a cockpit door problem.
Another announcement comes over telling us that a fluid leak has been discovered in the nose, and crews will need more time to complete repairs.
Again, the voice comes over the PA system. The crews estimate the repairs will be completed in about an hour. This brings us to a total delay of nearly 3 hours. I’m not complaining. I’ve travelled through Baghdad International Airport, and even worse, Chicago O’Hare!
Now, the voice says the mechanics cannot make the repairs as they first believed, and the plane must be transported to a hangar for repairs. But not to worry, they are in the process of finding us a replacement plane, and should have arrangements made within another 20 minutes.
Less than 20 minutes go by and we hear; “Bad news folks, we have no other planes available, the flight to Richmond, Virginia has been cancelled.”
I’m not as upset as I thought I would be. My wife and mother-in-law are scrambling to get us on another flight, and really, there’s nothing for me to do. I feel light and carefree. I have about a week before schools starts again, and once it does, “carefree” will become a foreign concept. Even with that in mind, I can honestly say that I am looking forward to the new semester. But for now, I’m enjoying my last few moments of blissful apathy.
7/27/11 - Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about legal careers. I feel uneasy because I don’t have a clear path to follow. Full-time students typically take summer internships or summer associate positions, which lead to a job after graduation (hopefully). I’m not sure how part-time students prepare for a transition into the legal industry. One disadvantage to being a part-time day student is that I don’t know many other students in my situation. I really don’t know what other part-timers are doing to make the transition.
I want to know what I can do now to maximize my opportunities upon graduation. I’m trying to be efficient with my time. At first, I only felt starved for experience. Now, I’ve come to realize that I can keep myself extremely busy carrying a full course load, working as a Research Assistant, a Teaching Assistant, joining the Law Review, interning, and still working a full-time job. That’s plenty of experience for a law student. But, indiscriminately taking every opportunity that crosses my path is likely to do more harm than good.
I believe I’ll get more out of law school if I can focus my efforts toward a clear goal. I’ll admit though, I could use a little help identifying this goal. I’m planning to make an appointment with our Career Services department to get some of my questions answered.
7/6/11 - It’s 11:00 AM and I just woke up. I vow to make this my last unearned lazy day of the summer! I’ve been keeping busy this summer, but not as busy as I should be. I’m off from my day job today, but I still have quite a bit to do for my part-time job, plus endless chores around the house.
During the school year, I was determined to find an internship or part-time job that would give me some legal experience. I planned this summer to be the only summer I don’t take classes, so figured this would be my only opportunity to intern. Then, after the trench battle that was finals, I decided to take this summer off completely from anything law related. I planned to recharge my batteries and hit it hard when the semester begins again.
But, I got antsy. I was suffering from withdrawal, legal withdrawal or torture withdrawal, (I can’t say for certain). So, I sought out and obtained a research assistant position. I am very grateful for it. It’s a coveted position that will help me in a number of ways. But it’s also a good amount of work, and waking up at 11:00 AM to start my day is just sabotage. Granted, I had a taxing week thanks to my day job, but I won’t make excuses. If I manage my time properly, I should be able to get everything done and still find a little time for R & R.
6/22/11 - My final grade came in. Overall, I suppose I did well. I boosted my GPA a bit. I could have done better in one course, but I'm sure I was simply outclassed, rather than unprepared. Law school exams are similar to sporting events, in that as much as you prepare, your opponent is doing the same. One team might play a stellar game with little or no mistakes, and still lose to an even better opposing performance. I plan to review the exam with my professor and learn what I could have done better.
Speaking of sports… I was born and raised in Miami. I even attended the University of Miami. When the NBA Championship came down to the Heat and the Mavericks, of course I was rooting for the HEAT! And, I was catching a lot of heat for it, mainly from my colleagues. I told them I was going to attach Miami Heat flags to my marked police car windows and wear a James jersey over my uniform. I decided against it, because it would have probably been the most dangerous thing I ever did (and because they lost before I could do it)…
I’ve been hired on as a research assistant by my Criminal Law professor. Almost immediately after taking the position, I felt the familiar weight of trying to balance a ton of responsibilities with limited time. As my wife suggested, I will have to manage my time well to ensure I can keep up with all my endeavors, and hopefully maintain my sanity.
6/3/11 - I’ve been having a great summer so far. I got married and had an amazing time at the wedding. The ceremony was small, but long. We rented out a ranch and our families came in from out of town to stay there for the weekend. I’m glad I had the opportunity to spend several days getting to know her family, rather than simply meeting them for an evening and parting ways until the next reunion.
The most interesting family character had to be Uncle Ricky. After a couple of drinks during the wedding reception, Uncle Ricky decided that he wanted pet the miniature donkeys that were secured in their pen. He was rushed by a gaggle of little donkeys the size of large dogs, who ran through him to freedom...
I received two out of three grades so far. I did well. I hope the final grade comes out soon and isn’t a disappointment. The truth is that grades and GPA alone aren’t that important. Rankings are what carry the weight. I find myself curious to see what my grades are, but anxious to see what my ranking is. The rumor is that by mid-June we should be ranked.
Other than that, I have nothing law related going on this summer. This will probably be my only summer off while I’m in school, so I’m going to try to make the most of it.
5/11/11 - I took my last final on Monday. I was typing up to the very last second! That exam had more issues to analyze than could be thoroughly covered in the 3 hours we had. I could have spent another 3 hours working on it. I think that was the point though. I’ve heard of professors designing exams with so many issues to discuss, that it simply can’t be completely covered within the time limit…
Anyway, I felt the relief immediately after hitting the enter key. It truly felt like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I also felt lost for a split second, as though I had nothing to do now. Of course, that’s not accurate at all. I have plenty to do and many things I’m looking forward to doing, but I had buried all non-academic ventures deep into the recesses of my mind so I could focus on finals. And for a split second I thought, “Well, now what?”
I’ll tell you what! A wedding, barbeques, pool, horses, honeymoon in Jamaica, projects around the house (which I enjoy doing), working out (again finally), fishing, hunting, AND RELAXING. I’m excited that my first year of law school is over, and I’m excited about this summer. I receive more enjoyment from the things that I work hard for than those things that are easy to attain. I feel like I worked hard for this summer break, and I’m going to make the most of it.
My fiancé has been so supportive during this semester, and so understanding during finals. I can’t wait to marry her in 10 days! What a great way to kick off my summer!
4/27/11 - This semester is a blur. It feels like we just started and finals came out of nowhere. I’ve been having a little bit of trouble concentrating on studying for finals, but it’s nothing I can’t overcome... I can’t help but think about this summer. I have a lot to look forward to and I need to compartmentalize this summer to the back of my mind, and keep finals in the front…
I’m getting married about one week after finals. We have family coming in from both coasts to meet in Texas. It’s going to be a small wedding, but we’ll all be together for several days. I’m excited about starting this chapter of my life. And I’m excited about spending a couple days together with family I rarely get to see. AND, I’m excited about our Caribbean honeymoon. I miss the salt in the air, the sand beneath my feet, and the warm waters.
I haven’t tried too hard to find a summer internship. I’ve become divided on the issue. I will be working as usual, so an internship would keep me as busy as a regular semester. I like the idea of working around the house, and spending the summer with my new wife, and simply socializing a bit. It gets tiring always having to decline invitations. I could still pick something up that’s relatively noncommittal and gain some legal experience. Now, I just need to put all this in the back of my mind and keep studying.
4/20/11 - The semester is winding down fast and finals are going to be here in no time at all. As I finalize my outlines, I realize that I know nothing. At least, that’s how I feel… This is a familiar feeling. I went through the same phase last semester. As I continue studying, and practicing, I’ll get comfortable with the material and hopefully be prepared for the exams.
On a whim, I submitted my trial brief for the Moot Court Team tryouts. I didn’t have the time to prepare for actual tryouts, so I didn’t even consider the team to be an option. But the tryouts for a brief-writer position only require a sample writing to be submitted. I have nothing to lose by submitting it… Specifically, I don’t lose any time by submitting it, since the paper I’m submitting is the same paper I turned in for a grade.
Before sending the paper, I thought I would correct a few citation errors. I found even more errors! I’m so disappointed in myself for making noticeable mistakes. I devoted quite a bit of time to it, and I started early. Regardless, I didn’t finish until 3:00 am on the day it was due. By that time, I wasn’t thinking clearly, and I hadn’t separated myself from the paper enough to notice all the minor mistakes… I have to put that behind me for now and focus on finals…
4/13/11 - One of our professors said it best, “you never finish those writing assignments, you just abandon them.” I feel like I went 5 rounds with that assignment (that’s UFC talk, as opposed to the 12 rounds of boxing analogy…UFC is better!). It feels great to have it done (or abandoned). But, I can’t really celebrate too hard. Finals are fast approaching, and I still have a number of scattered assignments to complete.
Registering for next fall has been a real challenge. I want to hit the maximum number of credits, which is 12 for part-time, but I also need to make sure I can handle the load. One of my strategies was to take a few courses that don’t have finals. In these courses, finals are generally substituted with a rigorous writing assignment. This benefits me in 2 ways: not only would I escape a few finals, but I would also continue writing, which is an essential skill in and out of law school.
I had next semester all planned out. 12 credits total between 4 classes, only 2 finals and 1 writing assignment, AND it all accommodated my schedule… That didn’t work out. I overlooked the prerequisite requirement for one class, which I’m not eligible for.
Another class filled up before I could get a spot. As of now, I’m registered for 12 credits between 4 classes... and 4 finals! This is exactly what I was trying to avoid… I’m still working on it.
4/6/11 - Five days left before our trial briefs are due. I have to work four out of those five days, and I’m not close to having a finished product. I’ve written and re-written the brief several times by now. It’s just not clicking. I wonder if anyone else is having such a difficult time with it. I started working on it pretty early on. I didn’t put it off till the last minute, but somehow I still managed to turn it into a race against the clock.
I think at this point I might be overanalyzing and overcomplicating the paper. I was getting to that level of frustration where you simply give up, raise the white flag and turn it in, only so you never have to think about it again. But, I was able to regain my composure and renew my spirit. I continue to struggle with formulating a coherent argument, but I am making progress (I think), albeit at a horribly and tortuously slow pace.
I have completely ignored all other classes to finish up this brief. I worry about focusing all my attention to one assignment (at the sacrifice of my other courses), but I see no other viable option at this point. It’s triage. This brief is worth 50% of my grade, and its due on the 11th. I might fall a little behind in my other courses, but hopefully I’ll have the time to catch back up before finals...
3/30/11 - I think I finally started to feel a little pressure from an ending semester. We still have about 5 weeks before finals, but this time last semester, I was freaking out about how I was going to find the time to do all the studying I had to do. I am by no means in a panic, but I am anticipating all sorts of schedule conflicts that will affect my studying. And I’m sure I’ll run into other conflicts I didn’t predict. That’s fine though, because I need a little pressure to get me going.
Last semester, I was scared of the unknown. I didn’t know what to expect from my efforts, or if I was doing enough, or doing too much. Hell, I didn’t know anything. The fear of the unknown kept me motivated… I guess I have it all figured out now - I am way too relaxed. I need a little chaos to keep me focused… Maybe if I write everything down that I need to do, I’ll realize the urgency of not wasting a single minute. Here goes:
• Trial brief (due in less than 2 weeks)
• Study citations
• Citation assignments
• Contracts outline
• Read contracts supplements
• Contracts practice test
• The other contracts practice tests
• Criminal law outline
• Read Criminal law supplements
• Criminal law CALI Lessons
• Criminal law practice tests
• Research firms to apply to this summer
• Write cover letters for each firm
• Plan my course of study
Yeah, that did it…
3/23/11 - I intended Spring Break to be an opportunity to get ahead, but I’m starting to realize now that getting ahead is simply not realistic in law school. I might get ahead on my reading, or might get ahead on a particular assignment, but always at the sacrifice of some other school related responsibility. So, in keeping with the status quo, all the time and effort I dedicated to school this Spring Break did NOT result in me getting ahead. I’m not complaining! I must have read over fifty cases in researching our current writing assignment, and I drafted an outline for my argument. I also came pretty close to catching up on my study outlines and submitted my resume to Career Services for review. None of this would have been likely if we didn’t have a week off (or if my fiancé didn’t do my resume for me).
In my first class back Monday morning, my classmates mentioned that we had a Criminal Law assignment due the following day. The assignment required observation of a criminal trial, and I completely forgot about it. I couldn’t believe I could be so careless. If not for this chance conversation, I would have shown up for class empty handed and blown 10% of my grade. As much as I hate missing class, I had to skip Contracts to catch a trial. I really got lucky... wish I could depend on that kind of luck to get me through school, but I know better.
3/9/11 - My future in-laws came into town and spent the weekend with us. I enjoyed having them around. Both my fiancé and I are transplants from other states, so we don’t have much family nearby. It’s nice when they visit; our home feels more like a home.
I still haven’t been able to knock loose one hour a day to work out or ride my horse. I shouldn’t make it sound like it’s impossible. I could drop whatever I’m doing and take an hour for myself, but I have such a difficult time pulling away from schoolwork that continues to pile up. I’m not abandoning my hopes of routinely making it to the gym. I feel better overall when I maintain a steady workout schedule. And, the more time I spend sitting down in front of a computer, the more important it is for me to stay active. I’m trying to convince myself to hit the gym first thing in the morning. This is a dreadful idea since I’m not a morning person, but it might be my best option.
Spring Break is next week. I can’t say it has nearly the same meaning it had during my undergrad days. The thought of forsaking all decorum on a beach somewhere hadn’t crossed my mind (until now), but those days are behind me. Spring Break (hopefully) will give me the opportunity to bring my outlines up to date, work on my trial brief (or at least figure out how to write a trial brief), read some supplements, rehash my resume, and plan my course of study... We’ll see.
3/2/11 - I hadn’t been feeling as much pressure this semester, compared to my first semester last year. I figured that either I became more efficient with my time, or I simply became accustomed to the demand. The truth is, I hadn’t realized that the semester is half over... I’ve put in the time, but I haven’t made as much progress as I had hoped. My outlines aren’t up to date, and the assignments keep coming.
Anyway, I couldn’t find a pair of pants for work and pitched a fit… a silly childish fit over a pair of pants. That’s what tipped me off to the stress. It’s funny how the mind works. I became aware that my studies were not where I wanted them to be by mid-semester, but consciously I was fine. I can pick up the pace. Then I thought about how I haven’t kept a steady work out routine since school started, and it’s going to be even harder now. But again, consciously I was fine - I know I’ll find an hour three times a week to hit the gym. Then I thought about how I hadn’t ridden my spirited horse in a month, and all the progress I made was surely lost. But consciously I was fine. I can find just one more hour a week to work with him. Well, apparently my subconscious was taking a beating, because when I couldn’t find my pants, I blew it all out of proportion. Now that I’m aware, I’ll take some measures to ensure I get caught up, and not distracted by stress.
2/23/11 - We had to attend a mandatory presentation on planning your course of study. The staff video records the presentations for students who are unable to attend. I was considering just checking out the DVD recording, only because it is mandatory. (I would have watched it in fast forward.) I figured it didn’t apply to me since I’m a part-time student, and I’ll still be placed in lockstep courses next semester.
Well, I’m glad I went, because although I will be placed in lock step courses, that only comprises 6 or so credits. I’ll still have to pick some classes. I haven’t given this any thought at all. I figured it would be another year before I was choosing classes. I could easily spend a week over-analyzing what to take, giving consideration to class times, classes of interest, level of difficulty, bar prep, and some other stuff they mentioned which I already forgot. (No worries, it’s all online.) To be honest, I don’t think I’ve narrowed my interest to a single field of law. I find it all stimulating, at least for now... I don’t want to over-think this, but I’m afraid I can’t help myself. It’s in my nature to over-think minor issues and come to quick conclusions on the major ones. I might have to rely on the tried and true dart method. I’ll simply pull up the course schedule online and throw a dart at the screen...
2/16/11 - On my drive to work, I saw a cowboy standing on the shoulder of a major highway. He was dressed in full garb (hat, jeans, and boots), and held a large cardboard sign with bold black letters reading “SECEDE!” I love Texas! I’m glad I made it to Texas before they close the border…
Our memos have been submitted, and now they’re off to the races. It’s such a relief to have it done. I never stopped working on it. In fact, I probably would have continued to work on it if the deadline had been pushed back further. Every time I read it over, I changed something. I lost track of the changes and felt like I was dragging my argument through an Escher staircase. After stepping away from the memo and allowing some time to clear my mind, I gave it one last proofread, only to make sure it was coherent. Now, I wonder if all the changes I made diminished the paper, in the same way that changing a multiple choice answer lessens your chances of getting it correct.
With that out of the way, I can focus a little more on my other courses. Criminal Law is going to be a challenge. We will be finishing “murder” this week and starting “rape”. I’ll devote some time to understanding murder, before we move on, otherwise it’s going to be difficult catching up. This sounds sad, but I’m looking forward to Spring Break just so I can get more school work done.
2/9/11 - One thing I’m doing differently this semester is accepting the fact that my schedule is volatile. Last semester, I stressed quite a bit when I couldn’t envision finding the time to complete a memo or update an outline, let alone study for finals. I was trying to plan way too far ahead, so I was constantly running into conflicts. Now, I set study goals no more than a few days ahead. And often, I won’t really have a plan until the night before. My daily goal is to prepare for the next immediate class, and then do a little bit more work (outline, read a supplement, and so on). I would prefer to have a steady schedule that could support a routine, but that doesn’t seem likely for now.
My schedule for the Super Bowl changed 4 times. The last update came about 10:00 PM on the Saturday night before the game. They told us to come in at 12:00 PM on game day, which was 3 hours earlier than the previous update. No end time was provided. This contributes to the reality that I need to stay focused on short term goals. The snow storm which closed the school for the entire week helped a little, but that storm also meant more work for me. It also caused our research memo deadline to be pushed back. At first, I was regretting the extra time, because I won’t stop working on the memo until I have to turn it in. But now, I realize that I could use the extra time.
2/2/11 - I am having the most difficult time pulling myself away from this research paper. I felt confident in my research. I felt secure in my analysis. But when I started writing, I discovered holes in my reasoning. I felt like I was plugging one hole in a dam with my finger, simply to have two more holes sprout water. The only remedy is more research, more analysis, more reasoning. I want this paper to be a solid argument, down to the very last detail. Of course, I’ll never turn in a fool proof paper. But if I find the fault, I can’t leave it alone. The result is a mass consumption of my time. I haven’t been giving my other courses as much time as I would like. In fact, I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time on citation assignments as well, which are part of the same writing class as the memo. I don’t know if I’m still rusty from last semester or if these citation exercises are more difficult than the ones we did in the past, but I can’t seem to knock them out expeditiously. I really need to devote more time to my other classes, but I’m not sure how to go about it. I guess I’ll just keep chipping away at it. That seems to work for me better than any extravagant time managing plan. Well, it worked for me last semester.
1/26/11 - I’ve heard repeatedly that the first semester of law school is the hardest. That might be so, but I don’t remember feeling as much pressure three weeks into my first semester as I do now, three weeks into this semester. I think it’s probably because we were given our first writing assignment of the semester during the first week of class. These writing assignments usually consume quite a bit of time, but this one is focused on research, which has dramatically increased the amount of time required. Not only do we need to learn how to conduct research, we also need to learn when to stop. This is particularly difficult for me; I’m a research black hole - I keep sucking cases in never to be seen again. Consequently, I haven’t started the actual writing yet, or gotten as far ahead with my other classes as I had hoped.
Sunday was to be the day I got a handle on everything, not just my research memo, but outlining, reading supplements, and briefing one class load ahead (per class) as a safety cushion. At least that was my plan. I forgot about two measly citation exercises that would be due soon... not a problem; I can knock those out in less than an hour… Well, five hours into the citation exercises, I’m seeing stars. Those citations have drained me of every last bit of concentration. I got them finished, but they finished me too. Maybe next Sunday I’ll pull ahead.
1/19/11 - I thought I would hit the ground running this semester. After all, I knew what to expect and there would be no surprises. As it turned out, I was surprised ... by my failing recollection of how demanding law school is. Sunday night before the first day of class, I was reading 90 pages of material, because I had completely underestimated the demands which I should have been well aware of. This whimsical approach to school didn’t last long. In fact, it didn’t last past that Sunday night. I remember now… struggling to stay ahead, then struggling to keep up, then struggling not to lose my mind as I juggled an ever-changing work schedule with an ever-demanding school schedule.
As finals were quickly approaching, I wasn’t able to take as much time off of work as I had hoped. I was fairly confident that if I had the time to study I would do alright, but I had no confidence that I would be able to get the time. Somehow everything worked out. I felt comfortable taking finals, and even though the curve prevents an accurate self-assessment, I still felt like I passed. Relief came slowly at first, but it came nevertheless. When I received my grades I thought to myself, “I can do this, it’s not so bad.” I quickly forgot the energy devoted and the social sacrifices made.
It all came back to me that Sunday night during the course of my read-a-thon.
1/12/11 - We lost an Officer during the Christmas break. She was twenty-four years old and fresh out of training. She was investigating an incident of domestic violence where the male suspect had left the residence, leaving behind the female victim and her eleven year old daughter. While conducting her investigation, the suspect returned, now armed with a .357. He shot Officer Jillian Smith twice then turned the gun on his eleven year old daughter. Jillian, wounded but resolute, lunged in front of the gun and took the bullet the suspect intended for his daughter. The gunman then killed the child’s mother before taking his own life. Jillian died, but the child survived.
The funeral was more a celebration of her life, than the mourning over her death. There is some consolation in this perspective, but I can’t imagine her family’s pain dulling too quickly through the belief that she is now in a better place.
I have considered the risk of my profession, as probably every Officer has. I don’t try to understand such tragedies. They simply occur. If I were to fall one day, I’m comfortable with the notion that such is my fate. I look forward to the next adventure. I will never feel sorry for myself. But, if I were to fall one day, the thought of the pain my family would suffer wrenches my heart. Usually it’s this thought, this empathy for the Officer’s family, which breaks down even the saltiest veteran. What makes this tragedy even more agonizing is the fact that she was so young, so new, so untarnished...
Jillian, her family, and that eleven year old child are in my thoughts and prayers…
Back to work! It’s going to be a challenging 14 weeks.
12/15/10 - My vacation to California has been a wonderful reprieve. In fact, I’m still in California, having a great time with my fiancé and her family. I haven’t thought much about school. I’ve been able to relax and enjoy my free time. We visited Monterey Bay, went to the beach, and did some tide-pooling. We also went to the famous Monterey Aquarium, shopped on Cannery Row, and I ate the best clam chowder in existence.
Today, our last day of vacation, we’re headed into San Francisco. On the agenda… a tour of the infamous Alcatraz prison, devour more seafood, search the bay for Great White sharks, and scan the streets for a Rice-a-Roni car. Being a native Floridian, I really miss the ocean, fresh seafood and the salt in the air. Although I have never been to California before, I feel right at home (politics aside).
I’ve heard from other students that towards the end of a break, you’re looking forward to getting back. I’m not there yet, but I understand what they’re saying. The thought of starting up again excites me, but honestly, I’m not thinking about it much. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to turn off study mode enough to truly enjoy my break, but that hasn’t been the case. I hope I can turn it back on as easily as I turned it off.
12/8/10 - My first semester of law school is over. I was expecting to feel a huge relief at the conclusion of my last final exam, but the relief came gradually. It’s an odd feeling not knowing how you did, because you really can’t predict where you’re going to land on that curve. My mind remained focused on the exam for some time after it was over. Although I fought the urge, I could not help thinking about different arguments I could have made to score more points. Not surprisingly, these bouts of tester’s remorse did not last long. There’s no sense in worrying about the past... just keep moving forward.
And for me, forward means a nice break from school, a vacation to California with my fiancé to visit her family, and a visit from my family. I’m very excited about my Christmas break. I promised my brother (who is 17) that we would build a fire together, in the fire pit. I realize most Texans don’t consider this activity to be much more than work, but we’re from Miami, where most of our fires involve stolen cars. At any rate, I have 2 obvious goals. First, not to chop any limbs off (mine or his), and second, I want the fire to be visible from the sun.
11/23/10 - Today was the last day of class. In seven days, I will take a Contracts final. Seven days later, I take a Torts final, and that’s it for the semester. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I also see another tunnel at the end of the light... It feels like we just started the semester and I can’t explain the source of all the legal data swimming inside my head. It reminds me of The Matrix. It’s like I received a massive and instantaneous download of Torts and Contract law, and Kung Fu... Another two weeks of hard labor and I get a temporary pass.
Actually, I’m becoming increasingly excited about the Christmas break. I’ll be visiting California with my fiancé and we’ll have family visiting us that I haven’t seen since I left Florida in 2009. I have a growing list of projects to do around the house (which I generally enjoy) and plenty of free time to socialize, relax, and ride Lonestar, my horse. I rode him for the first time last week. I had been on a horse twice before. A friend of ours who’s an experienced horseman had worked with him to improve his behavior. It’s shameful watching another man ride your horse because you can’t handle him. My inexperience is no consolation. After my fiancé saddled him up (I still don’t know how to do that), I jumped on. We had a great ride. He only tried to buck me once.
11/17/10 - Memo 2 was due today. I had it done with one whole day to spare, which I planned on using to edit and make minor modifications. Instead, I spent the whole day rewriting a section of it. I feel better about the paper than I did before, but by no means confident that it will be returned with a big green “A” on it. (Our professor uses green ink. I guess he thinks it’s less discouraging than red... Green has become the new red.) Anyway, it’s a relief to have it done, even though I keep thinking about minor changes I could have made... Now I can concentrate on finals.
As a blogger, I attended a Texas Wesleyan Law Day event for prospective students seeking information about law school. I enjoyed it. It wasn’t too long ago that I was attending similar events as a prospective student. I’m not implying that I’m a salty veteran of the law school experience, but I can now answer some questions. In fact, I was answering the same questions that I was asking four months ago. I also enjoyed representing Texas Wesleyan and participating in something school related.
The semester is almost over and I’m looking forward to the break. My to-do list is getting longer and longer. Recently, I’ve added a trip to California to visit my fiancé’s family, ride my horse every day I’m home, and mow the lawn.
11/10/10 - I am feeling much more pressure this week than I was last week. Upperclassmen are telling stories of past finals preparation, devoting countless hours a day to studying, where the only non-academic activity involved eating. I have classmates that are falling into this regimen as well, spending up to twelve hours a day in the library. The source of my stress is that I simply don’t have this kind of time to devote. I have five study guides (ancillary to our required text) which provide great practice questions and another level of understanding, and I can’t imagine when I’ll be able to find the time to use them all before finals.
I can’t solve the time puzzle. It’s easy to allow this stress to become a distraction, which devours even more time by inhibiting efficient study. It becomes a cycle: time constraints lead to stress, which affects your studying, so you get less done, which leads to tighter time constraints, and more stress, and so on…All this rambling is therapeutic. Balancing law school with a full time job is a challenge. But, I’m not the first to do it, nor am I the only one doing it. I always feel better when I have plan. My plan now is to stop wasting time and effort worrying about how I’m going to fit all this studying into the time I have left, and simply make the best use of the time I do have.
11/3/10 - A couple of months ago, I would feel the relief associated with the conclusion of a week. TGIF... I reveled in the notion that I had two Fridays instead of one, the conclusion of my work week and the conclusion of my school week. My schedule this semester hasn’t accommodated a complete day off during a seven day week, but I maintained a positive outlook and enjoyed my two day break from either work or school.
But now, the days seem to never end, they just roll into the next. Before I know it, another week has gone by. It’s hard to believe the semester is almost over. I watch the calendar with the same perception one watches a clock. I see the days ticking away like minutes, getting closer to finals. And there aren’t enough hours in the day (or days in the week) to be fully prepared and have a complete and comprehensive understanding of ALL the material we have covered. This doesn’t worry me (too much). I’ll prepare the best I can and hope it’s enough.
I’ve already started making a mental list of all the things I want to do during the Christmas break between semesters. I would like to read the new Forrest Griffin book, cook a meal, organize the garage, take a shower… I am too easily distracted. Back to work!
10/27/10 - Most days after class, I’ll be in the library by noon and get about 90 minutes of study time before heading off to work. Generally, I’m one of only a few people in the library on Fridays. This last Friday, there seemed to be more students present than before. As I was leaving for work, even more students were arriving. That’s when I realized the semester is almost over. We start taking finals in a month. I guess most everyone is feeling the pressure, and we’re still a month away!
When I think about everything I need to know for finals, from the first day of class to the last day of class, from the final memo due soon that is worth 50% of our grade to the citation exam which will incorporate about 22 zillion rules for citing cases, I do start to feel a little overwhelmed. Add to that the Rangers going to the World Series, which is a great thing but will likely require a greater demand for my time at work, and I start doubting my ability to be prepared for finals in a month. My fiancé has been very supportive so far, and has insisted that we postpone any projects around the house until after finals. I hate neglecting my home, but it’s the prudent decision for now. Besides, a 4 hour project takes me about a week to complete. After finals, I’ll take a day or two to change the light bulb in the foyer.
10/20/10 - We got our grades back for the Torts midterm, and I scored 3 points under the highest score. I knew after taking the test and discussing some of the questions with classmates that I missed one multiple choice answer because I overlooked a key fact. I also missed a few points each on the short answers because I failed to provide a counter argument. That’s an easy fix...
Scoring well has actually made me more nervous about future performance. Some students are going to be more motivated than they might have been during the midterm. Other students might tweak study habits to perform better on the exam, now that we know what to expect. I don’t know if I can keep up with the increasing level of competition. We are, in fact, in competition with each other. Grades are issued on a curve, so there is a limit to how many A’s will be given in any class.
One thing I’ve noticed in spite of this competitive atmosphere is that students will not hoard information, tips, or advice to get an edge. My classmates have exhibited a mutual regard for each other to promote learning as a whole and to elevate us all in our understanding of the law. Coming from a professional background where teamwork is not only revered, but relied upon to keep you safe, I find comfort in this small facet of the law school experience.
10/13/10 - Being a part time day student is a bit of an anomaly. By far, most part time students attend night classes, and full time students attend traditional day classes. Since all my classmates are full timers, I can’t help but compare the workload and imagine what it would be like to attend full time. The custom is to devote 3 hours a week of outside class for every hour you are in class. A full time student taking 15 hours should be prepared to dedicate 45 hours of studying a week, in addition to the 15 hours of class a week. I’m taking 10 hours, so that’s an additional 30 hours a week of studying…60 hours total full time versus my 40 hours part time, but then add another 40 hours of employment to my schedule and I’m back in the lead. Considering that the full timers have 5 classes competing for brain space, while I only have 3, probably makes it a draw.
Memo 1 is due today, and it counts for 20% of our grades. Yesterday, about a quarter of the class was absent, presumably working on their memos. I had my memo submitted at about 1:00 am, with 9 hours to spare. I had to work until 11:00 pm and figured I’d be up all night editing. After about an hour of minor revisions, I felt comfortable turning it in. Of course, I am now second guessing myself. Nothing left to do but hurry up and wait for the grade.
10/6/10 - Since my regular days off from work are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, yesterday (Monday) was my Friday. I completely forgot that I still had school in the morning. It didn’t occur to me until I was in bed about to fall asleep, and I checked my alarm to make sure it was off so I could wake up at my leisure. I was a little disappointed to realize that I needed the alarm on. I guess I could use a day off from everything. I think I might have one in November.
The midterm went well. None of the questions seemed foreign or cryptic. I was as concerned with managing my time as I was with the material itself. I have a tendency to over-analyze, so I can easily get stuck on one question by putting too much thought into it. I needed to ensure that my paralysis by analysis didn’t run down the clock. I managed my time by setting general benchmarks based on the suggested amount of time for each section: 25 minutes for multiple choice, 25 minutes for the short answer. I didn’t want to time myself on each question, so I aimed to finish half of each section in 12 minutes. This created pressure to keep me moving through the questions, but not so much pressure that I felt rushed to scribble an answer. We haven’t gotten our grades back yet, but it’s out of my mind. I’m focusing on the present and the future.
9/29/10 - We have a Torts midterm tomorrow that is worth 20% of our grade. The other 80% will be determined by a final. I’ve been preparing for it the best I can, but since I don’t have any past tests to use to gauge my preparation, I don’t know if I’m doing too little or too much. My first instinct was that I could not over prepare, but the reality is that I do not have endless time to devote to just one test. I have to be judicious and prioritize my time for maximum benefit. I am still getting assignments from my other classes, and even Torts moves on. I briefed 8 cases for this week’s class that will not be covered on the midterm.
Last week was stressful, falling behind and trying to prepare for the test. But I’m back to being at least one day ahead of readings and I have managed my time to allow for at least some devotion to the midterm each day. Preparation seems to be the key to minimizing stress. This is not my revelation. During a panel discussion with all the teaching assistants (TAs), they were asked to describe 3 factors they each attribute to their success in law school. Every single one included preparation. Speaking for myself, I feel a tangible difference in my state of mind when I stay ahead of all the assignments. They keep coming, so if I don’t stay prepared, I’ll be facing a snowball effect of schoolwork.
9/22/10 - I have fallen behind a bit. I’m not really behind, but I am living paycheck to paycheck with regards to my assignments. So, I am making use of every spare minute I have to get back to my comfort zone of a 1 to 2 day cushion before deadlines.
I woke up early to get to school so I could do some reading before class begins. Someone crashed on the only highway that I travel to get to school and traffic is worse than ever. I’m trying to come up with a solution to salvage my morning. I realize that if I opened all my books and spread them across the dashboard, then attached my notes to the sun visor and windshield, and duct taped my laptop to the steering wheel, I could probably still drive safer than the inconsiderate jerk who decided to crash today, and tie up traffic. I’m starting to freak out because all I can think about is how much I could be doing if I wasn’t stuck here. I’m thinking that because of some driver’s negligence, I’m missing out on a very valuable hour of study time. He should be held liable to me for my loss of time. Can I file a law suit and recover damages? I don’t know...
That’s my point. If I had that hour of study time I might be able to answer that question.
9/15/10 - This week I started a new schedule at work. I’ll be working from 3:00 to 11:00 PM and have Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. I realize it sounds pathetic, but it’s actually a blessing. I’ll have three long days a week, instead of the four I previously had. My long days begin at about 8:00 AM for class and don’t end until midnight, unless I get stuck on a call that runs into overtime. Which happened to me this Monday, the night before our first Memo was due.
Although this memo is only a draft, it feels like I am about to make a first impression that will stick with me for the rest of law school. Every professor seems to agree that Legal Analysis, Research & Writing (LARW) is one of the most important classes and most important skills to learn in school. We constantly hear from staff and upperclassmen that employers are looking for lawyers who can write...the pressure is on.
I tried to follow the path of least resistance with choosing a position. The proper stance seemed obvious at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I discovered how deviously down the center this hypothetical case was engineered. I revised and edited the case so many times, the words lost meaning. I felt like I walked into a perfume store and smelled every perfume on the shelf... I’m sure I did fine for my first legal writing assignment.
9/8/10 - My girlfriend brought home a horse - actually, its two horses. She learned to ride soon after learning to walk. I, on the other hand, had been on a horse once roughly 20 years ago, and he was being towed by a circus clown. She tells me that my horse is a little wild and probably not ready to be ridden by a novice, and she reminds me that I don’t know how to ride. Between school and work, I don’t have time to take things slow, so I planned to jump on and hold on. It really doesn’t seem that complicated.
That plan got vetoed. The new plan is she’ll work with the horse until I finish the semester, and then I will learn to ride on a trained horse. I don’t know if I’ll make it until the end of the semester without jumping on his back at least once...
As is turns out, I seem to be doing fine scheduling my time. It doesn’t feel like it, because the work does not stop coming, so I get the sense that I’m not making any headway. But the truth is that I am usually a couple days ahead of my deadlines, which is imperative, considering the unpredictability of my job. I have also been getting pretty accurate at estimating how long it will take me to do certain assignments or prepare for class and this has helped me budget my time as well.
9/1/10 - I woke up at 6:00 AM. The alarm was set for 8:00. Immediately, my mind switched on. I was thinking clearly and lucidly. At this very moment, seconds after deep REM sleep, I had an epiphany. I recognized a pattern between all the intentional torts, a Rosetta stone that gave me perfect understanding of this concept of law. This brought peace and my mind shut down, and I was asleep again.
8 AM the alarm goes off, and I can’t make any sense of what the heck I was just talking about. What a disappointment, waking up to realize it was just a dream... I remember when my disappointing dreams involved winning the lottery!
I still haven’t taken control of my schedule the way I feel I should, but I am keeping up with the reading and assignments. I find myself planning out entire days for several days, and then an event not considered derails my schedule. Recent setbacks encountered so far include a broken pool pump, a check engine light, underestimating how long it would take to read and brief every case in a chapter of Torts, and laundry. I’ve been getting dressed out of the dryer for the last several days.
8/25/10 - I imagine some background is in order. I am a part-time day student and full time Police Officer. I was a Detective in South Florida and moved to Texas in October 2009 to be an Officer. Seniority doesn’t transfer from agency to agency, which means I am at the bottom of the totem pole. Seniority is a luxury I especially miss with every school event I can’t attend because of my work schedule.
I’ve been keeping up with my assignments and reading, but I still don’t feel like I have total control of my time. I like having a plan and I constantly make lists to follow, but I have so much going on between work and school that I’m having a difficult time seeing farther than a few days ahead. That makes me uncomfortable. I’m hoping that the more I become accustomed to school responsibilities, the easier it will become to manage my time.
On a side note, I had to drop my car off for repairs and was given a loaner, to be more specific, a Mini. I begged for something else, but they insisted it was all they had. I can barely fit my books in it. I can hear the guys now, “Nice car, do they make it for men?” Oh well, if that’s the worst thing I have to complain about, then life is good.
8/20/10 - I can’t help getting excited about beginning this chapter of my life. I am a bit nervous about the time commitment, financial burden, reading workload, demanding schedule, extracurricular commitments, and the complexity of the subject matter. But otherwise, I’m ready to go…
Orientation was a nice way to ease into the semester. The speakers were motivating and the LARW classes provided an intro on what to expect. I was still a little lost though. It seems it is necessary for every successful student to master the skill of briefing cases and writing outlines. Even after reading several documents on briefing, I was not sure I was on point. And I still don’t know what an outline is.
My first TA session was a great relief. I feel fortunate to have had it in the beginning of the week. The TAs really clarified briefing and told me not to worry about outlining just yet. (That’s all I needed to hear, outlining is out of my mind for now.) The TAs even provided some tips on how, what and when to read. Their confidence is reassuring and I know they have our best interest in mind. It feels great to have them in my corner.