Undergraduate School: Texas A & M University – College Station
Undergraduate Major: English
Hometown: Austin, TX
Status: Full-Time Day
4/24/13 - I’m done with my last law school class. It’s not as exciting as I thought it would be. That’s probably because I have two in-class tests, two take-home tests, and a paper to wrap up. Meanwhile, my wife—who is finishing up her MBA—is ecstatically counting down the days until graduation. I keep telling her I’ll be more excited when those tests are done! Speaking of that last paper, it have to say, it has been a blast to write. I have had more fun writing this paper than my Law Review paper that I wrote last year. And I am positive this is a better paper, too! It is incredible to me how much I have changed in the last 2 years. Over the last two years of law school, I completely changed from wanting to practice in commercial torts to intellectual property. I think that it is only fair that a large portion of the blame for that change goes to Professor Megan Carpenter.
I don’t think I’ve talked about her in my blog before, but Professor Carpenter is one of the best professors I have had in my life! I am wrapping up my third class with her! She is extremely knowledgeable about IP law, and you can tell that she truly cares about educating and entertaining her students! Her lectures frequently include videos and pictures that make the legal theories we are learning really practical. For example, in copyrights, when we learned about new technologies and how they play into Copyright law, she showed us this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xL4BNaYvABI.
She has a great way of making each class interactive and practical like this. But even more impressive, in our last class yesterday, she gave each of the 8 students a small gift related to the student’s paper! I received a copy of 2 Live Crew’s album As Clean as They Wanna Be, which was featured heavily in my paper. Right up there with all the friends I have made and will miss when I graduate, professors like Professor Carpenter will be one of the things I miss most in just a few short weeks!
4/10/13 - I’ve talked a lot this semester about how I have more papers during the semester this semester and fewer final exams. Well, I’ve finished the rough draft of my IP seminar class, and this week I gave a presentation to the class about it. It was very satisfying to finish the paper, and even more satisfying to present the paper to my class. The paper was about the Supreme Court parody case, Cambell v. Acuff-Rose. I found it fascinating (of course, since I wrote it!), but I realize that to other’s it’s probably pretty boring. My sweet wife and sister-in-law offered to read it, but I spared them—knowing that 28 pages of in-depth copyright parody analysis would not be an enjoyable read for them. So, to have a captive audience for my paper presentation was very fun! At least someone had to listen to me talk about my paper, and it wasn’t even the professor! Honestly, I think it was legitimately an entertaining presentation complete with Album art from 2 Live Crew’s As Nasty as They Wanna Be. I also practiced the presentation with some classmates from other classes, who all said it was a good presentation. All this to skip out on a final!
This week, the school announced that it is now accepting runners for the graduation speaker, which we, the graduates, vote on. High off my Advanced IP success, I considered running for graduation speaker. I even prepared a campaign poster and talked to numerous classmates about it. Though they all said I’d be good and they would vote for me, I ultimately decided not to run. I think that I’ve done enough during law school. For graduation, I think I will just sit back, not worry about creating a good speech, and enjoy the show!
3/27/13 - Professor Penrose invited some high school students onto the campus last week to give them a taste of law school. I was in another class for most of her presentation with them, but I did walk by as she was finishing feeding them pizza. She lured me in to the room with the thought of getting some free leftover pizza (Professor Penrose and I are cool like that). Little did I know that she had other ideas in mind...
As soon as I grabbed my two slices, she announced my arrival to the room and had me tell the room my name, class, where I went to undergrad, where I’m from, and why I came to law school. I had no problem with the initial questions. I’ve answered those plenty of times, and it’s easy to spit out factual information. But I had some difficulty with the last question. There are a few people who come to law school knowing they want to follow in a family member’s footsteps, or there is a certain cause that they feel drawn to, or there is a particular area of law they are passionate about. Most of us, including me, have none of that, so I couldn’t rely on any of those answers for my response.
I was stumped on that one for a few seconds until I said that I went to law school so that I can solve peoples’ problems for them. You never know what might come up; it might be “I need help starting a business” or “I got bit by a dog” or “my neighbor’s tree is growing into my house.” Anything might come up! So, it’s nice to know that I can solve these people’s problems they can’t solve for themselves. Even if they spent the next year trying to completely fix this problem themselves, they couldn’t. Outside of just liking the particular area of law that I want to practice, I think that is really the best thing about the practice of law for me personally.
The more that I thought about this, the more I see that I really like problem-solving in general. It’s like people come to me and pay me to do Sudoku puzzles that’ll take days to do that they can’t solve for themselves. “Help me, George Elias Emery! You’re my only hope!” And I will be more than happy to jump to their rescue!
3/6/13 - Working out during law school is hard! Working out is hard in general—that’s probably why people have so many health problems—but it’s really hard in law school.
To illustrate how different it is in law school, I’ll tell you this story: during the summer after my first year of law school, all I did was work for the Dallas County District Attorney’s office. I remember coming home every day super relieved not to have homework! It was very refreshing. After the first week, I started working out in the evenings when I got home. I continued that throughout the summer, and consistently worked out for the first time since high school—6 days a week! Now, during the school year, it’s a struggle to do 4.
I figure pretty much everyone talks about working out. I remember before law school, in the professional world, we would often trade tips and pointers about which workout videos were the best, where we played in sports leagues, etc. The same types of conversations go on here, coupled with, “I took a study break between my 5 hours of class and 6 hours of reading to go for a jog!” When I asked a 22-year-old classmate what types of working out she did, and she responded that she didn’t really work out, I was very quick to let her know how envious I was of her!
2/27/13 - I’m a little nervous right now. The Texas Bar exam started yesterday, is continuing today, and it’ll conclude tomorrow! Several of my friends, including my two best law school friends, are taking it right now! I’m not nervous thinking they’re going to fail or anything, just nervous for them, you know. It’s the most important test of their lives. Of course, you always can take it a second time—or even more after that—but no one wants to worry about that! Don’t get me wrong – each time the Bar results come around, it seems that you know someone who didn’t pass. But you definitely want to pass it the first time so you can go ahead and start your career!
Having people from my actual class taking the Bar is yet another reminder that 1). I’ll be taking it soon and 2). My time in law school has absolutely flown by! Last week, I even paid off the 3,000$ for my bar review course. (No, that’s not a typo! It was a little over $3,000 and it goes up every year!). The week before that, I paid the State of Texas about $800 to register to take the exam and reserve computer software to do so. Add in the $200–$400 for recommended hotel fees (nearby the testing center so that you never fight traffic to get to the test), and you’re looking at over $4,000 in Bar exam-related fees! While I’m not in law school for a big paycheck, I certainly wouldn’t mind if there is one at the end of all this!
2/13/13 - Now that the end of the academic year is in sight, it’s that time of year when student organizations have began the process of choosing next year’s leaders. I know that the Real Property Journal has chosen its Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor for next year, and they’ll start picking the rest of its board soon. The Law Review has sent out our applications for next year’s board, and we’ll make those selections in early March. And last week, the Student Ambassador Recruitment Team (SART) welcomed its new members; soon, we’ll begin our discussions for the next board! My readers may also recall that I am an Academic Support Teaching assistant, too, and those applications will be going out soon as well, I’m sure. I have even had two lf my 1Ls say that they are very interested in being Teaching Assistants next year, and I think these two would be great at it!
There is something incredibly nostalgic about even thinking about handing down the reins to the next class. When I think about some of Texas Wesleyan’s former students who handed down the reins of various student organizations to me—people like Scott Thompson, Lisa Waters, Lindsay Newell, and Antonio Allen—I hope that I carried on the torch well and moved the various organizations I’m involved in forward in the way they hoped they’d move forward. And to end my time on the Law Review Board, as an Academic Support TA, on the SART Board, I hope that I help pick great new members that will carry on the torch next year (and they the following year and so on and so on. . .!)
1/30/13 - Well, it looks like I will not be externing at Funimation after all. Unfortunately, the department that needed help, the piracy department, was supervised by an attorney only three years out of law school, and the externship requires that the supervisor be 5 years out. I can understand the requirement. The school wants to make sure that we are doing substantive legal work if we want to receive class credit, and making sure that the supervising attorney has a moderate level of experience is a reasonable way of ensuring that. (“Reasonable?” I probably said that word just a handful of times before law school, but now I see it all the time! It is a pretty much a law school staple word! That and “probably.” If you go to law school, you’ll realize this very quickly!)
So, there is a good and a bad side to not having the externship. The most obvious bad side is that I will not get the class credit and experience this opportunity. Also, I will not graduate earning an IP certificate from the school. Honestly, not being able to fulfill my goal of obtaining the IP certificate is probably the saddest part of this for me, though I will definitely miss out on the experience, too! But, the good thing is that I get much more free time here in my last semester! Now that some of my friends are preparing to take the Bar (blazing the trail ahead of me), I’m starting to realize that bar studying will probably not be the cakewalk I have been expecting all during law school. In particular, Stephanie Gerber keeps telling me how monotonous it is to get up every day, 7 days a week, go to a lecture for 3 hours, then study for 4 or 5 more hours in the evening, even though you know you need to do it. She said that working out every day can be the highlight of her day just to break up the monotony! That sounds horrendous! Anyways, a lighter load in my last semester before graduation will be a welcome addition pre-bar studying monotony!
1/16/13 - Last semester, I wrote about how I took classes with lots of work and papers during the semester, which resulted in fewer final exams. I enjoyed that so much that I’ve decided to repeat that pattern this semester.
I am taking a seminar class called Advanced Intellectual Property, which will require me to write a (roughly) 25-page paper. My paper topic is due in less than two weeks! Right now, I am leaning towards writing my Seminar paper on the topic of Parodies and Satires under Copyright Law’s Fair Use Doctrine.
Another way that I am getting more hours but not taking a final is by taking an externship, which is basically working somewhere in the real world and getting class credit for it. My externship will take place at Funimation, Inc. It’s an anime’ company that distributes a famous show called Dragonball Z, among other things. I am really excited about this opportunity because I will be working specifically on protecting their intellectual property, which is exactly what I want to do for my legal career! It is a pretty small legal department—I think they have three attorneys—so I hope that will translate into lots of really hands-on, practical experience.
You may have noticed that those are two IP-related “classes” that I am taking. Well, I am taking one more in addition to that this semester! I am also taking Patent Litigation, which meets all day on one Saturday every month! That obviously will be a strange class meeting time! That class will have a normal exam, but I mentioned it to point out that these last 6 hours of IP “classes” will allow me to obtain an IP certificate from the School of Law upon my graduation!
I am really excited about the certificate, because I hope it will convey to employers that I’ve specialized in IP over the course of my legal education and they’ll have less to train me on if they hire me in an IP department. I kind of talked with Professor Carpenter about this, and she pointed out to that my IP journey largely stated with me wondering into her office one day and asking a couple of general IP questions—including “do you assign a lot of reading?—trying to access whether I should take her Copyright class!
1/9/13 - I am starting off my last semester of law school! Well, “starting off” is a loose term, because I’ve been sick with the flu for nearly a week and have had to miss the first three days of classes! I’m mostly over it now, and can actually start my last semester of school tomorrow—three days after everyone else.
I am really looking forward to my lightened course load this semester. I do not have any classes on Wednesdays or Fridays, and am taking the fewest number of hours that I have taken all of law school! I think I’ve earned a lighter load this semester. I really think I’ll appreciate that once it comes time to start studying for the bar!
One thing that will be very strange about this semester will be that my two best law school friends won’t be here with me because they graduated in December. For this one semester, I’ll need to find new people to study with, new people to sit with, and new people to generally hang out with for a few months while they’re studying for the February bar. Thinking of them reminds me of the many friends I’ve met during law school, and how I made them. I remember being pretty worried about knowing how to pick a study group, whether I’d find people my age to hang out with, etc. I think for most people, you naturally find people to befriend in law school, just like you do anywhere else. I personally made my two best friends after a large group of us went out lunch one day. I overheard their study plans, thought they sounded good, and asked if I could join. The rest is history! And now, I’m stuck for a whole semester of law school without them. Oh well, at least it’s a lighter semester—hopefully that will make the coping easier!
12/18/12 - I am in vacation in Northern California very much enjoying the time off between semesters. We're staying with family friends, and last night, I had a wonderful conversation with a middle-schooler about the Constitution. She is studying it in her social studies class by reading it, studying its amendments, and by watching the movie National Treasure. Minus the movie, it's kinda similar to my Constitutional Law class from last year!
We quizzed each other on what the different Amendments and sections of the Constitution talk about. I was amused by her shock when I told her I had one whole class in law school where I studied just the First Amendment, and a whole other class for basically the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments, in addition to my regular Constitutional Law class.
Looking back at it that way, this was the first time that the depth of some of the things we learn in law school is simply astounding; and yet, every attorney tells us that you don't come out of law school with enough knowledge to practice law! Perhaps if more law schools incorporated movies like National Treasure into the curricula…
12/12/12 - I passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam—the so called MPRE! I‘ve been describing that as basically the “ethics” portion of the Bar. I didn’t blog about it earlier, because I didn’t want to blog about it and make it public knowledge if I took it and failed. And it was a legitimate fear that I could have failed, too.
It sounds like it is easy, right? I mean, how hard could it be to be ethical? Wrong! I know people who didn’t take the MPRE seriously enough to study for it, failed, and had to take it a second time. It’s not as easy as it sounds, because it tests things like, “When do you have a duty to report what your client does versus when may you report him/her?” “When may you withdraw from representing your client, and when may you not?” It’s easy to know when things are really unethical and avoid them. It’s not so easy to know the lines of those ethics. Anyways, I passed it, and I am one step closer to being a licensed attorney!
Along with being one step closer, I finished the semester this week, too! That means that I’ve finished five semesters of law school and I have only one left. Still, next semester can’t come and be over fast enough! Several of my friends took summer school and so are graduating early, this week. It is going to be very surreal to see them graduate without me, and to have a semester without them. But I know we can overcome missing each other by being proactive about staying in touch with each other next semester and for the rest of our careers.
11/28/12 - Yesterday, my study group and I met in Arlington to study for our final exams because that was a central location for all of us. Since I was in the neighborhood, after we finished I took a detour to UT Arlington, where I had worked towards an English M.A. for a while before law school. The four years that have passed since I went there have flown by! I seems like it has been so much longer! I was surprised and proud of myself that I could walk through and navigate the campus without a map and went straight to the library and the English building--my old stomping grounds. I stopped in to see my favorite professor during my time there, and she remembered me, and we talked for a bit! It was nice to catch up with her and an overall pleasant visit.
I mention this trip because it was a good blast from the past for me. In talking with the professor, it was clear how much things had changed over the last four years. For example, my last year there was her first year, and she is now the director of graduate studies there. Some of my former classmates there are now faculty and staff as well! It's hard to describe, but over the last 2.5 years of law school, I've lived in this kind of law school bubble, spending most of my time with lawyers, professors, judges, and law students, with little thoughts about my life before law school. It's amazing how invested I was towards earning an M.A., and how drastically that has changed in just a few short years. It's amazing how things didn't just stay the same way I left everything 4 years ago, too. It's amazing how people who taught me how to properly use semicolons and about deconstructive literary theory now ask me for my opinion on legal matters (*the proceeding is not an invitation for inquiries about legal matters, nor did I give legal advice on my visit)! Overall, I'm trying to say this as un-egocentrically as I can, but maybe it's best to just come out and say it: how/why on earth did the outside world move on without me knowing about it?!
I guess it is weird for me because there have been so many other situations where things have stayed the same. You go back home for holidays, and home is basically the same. You go visit your old college, and things stay the same. You go visit old friends, and yeah they have kids or are older, but they're still the same! And we say things like that all the time: "You/he/this place has not changed one bit." It was very strange to not have that same feeling of familiarity yesterday. But, it was really a wonderful visit.
11/14/12 - In a lot of ways, this has been a pretty strange semester. It's different because I have a lot of unconventional class hours this semester. Two of my hours are Law Review, two for my Trademarks writing class, and two for my Trademarks regular class that was scheduled to end early because of the professor's pregnancy. The result of this unconventional schedule was twofold:
1). it made for a much busier much more hectic schedule than normal throughout the semester from Law Review in the multiple substantive assignments in the Trademark classes that you normally do not get throughout a law school semester.
But on the other hand,
2). I only have two final exams to study for. Through the horrible pains and strains that this semester has been, I am really excited about how much simpler my final exams and final exam studying will be this time around compared to normal! Plus I got a really good grade on my Trademarks class. So I'm really excited for that!
10/31/12 - It’s hard to believe it, but I’ve registered for my last semester of law school! As the conclusion to this incredible three year journey comes to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to note what I’m glad I did versus what I wish I’d done differently as far as my class schedules are concerned.
1. I probably should have taken at least a little summer school. It didn’t kill me not to, and it didn’t seem like a big decision a year or two ago, but just one or two summer classes would have made a big difference this last year. If I had taken a summer class or two, I wouldn’t be going at the same breakneck page this year as I have been the last two years. I have some classmates who have even taken enough summer courses that they’ve been able to go part time for this last year! While I think that is a little overkill, here in the middle of this overwhelming year, I can’t help but envy my now part-time classmates.
2. I am very glad that I took all the required classes that I could early on. Because I did that, in my last semester, I only had one required course to take, and I filled the rest of my required hours up with Bar-tested subjects and classes I found interesting. Oh, and speaking of classes I found interesting…
3. I wish that I had discovered my Intellectual Property passion earlier. After next semester, I will very rarely have the opportunity to have people lecture me about my favorite area of the law. Instead, all my learning will have to come from my own independent research. If I’d known from the start that I would enjoy IP, then I could have taken more classes early on and spread them out, instead of trying to cram them all in before I graduate.
Overall, I have a very nice last semester ahead of me: I escaped having to ever take a night class, only had one class before 10 AM, and will hopefully earn an IP certificate on my graduation! Here’s to my victory lap semester!
10/17/12 - It’s been a long time—well, three years feels like a long time right now—since I’ve been out in the real world, so maybe this holds true for everyone, but I don’t know how you can make it through law school without a smartphone. Before law school, I remember getting my first smartphone and thinking of how convenient it was. Now, my smartphone is completely essential to every single area of my life, especially law school. Let me explain how essential a smartphone is to my daily survival.
1. I use it for scheduling. I know that other phones have calendars in them, but they don’t sync with the Internet. The means that anytime I change my calendar on my computer, or someone sends me an Evite, it shows up on my calendar. If I’m taking notes in class, and the professor says, “I’m having a review session,” then I can enter it on my computer’s calendar, not whip out my phone in the middle of class, and have it show up on my phone calendar without re-typing it. This may seem like a small deal, but the very first thing we teach first year students is that time management is essential to success in law school. So, if you have one master calendar that syncs to your various electronic devices, it is much more convenient and less confusing than carrying around multiple calendars and checking to make sure they’re all up to date.
2. Email is probably the biggest reason anyone has a smartphone, but it’s even more important in law school. You never know when a class will be cancelled, a room number has changed, or someone sends you a new assignment that’s due in a week, but you need to plan your whole week around that assignment and you’re out at dinner when that email comes. As I type that, I realize it sounds OCD, but 1). I have like 0% OCD in me and 2). it goes right along with scheduling. The more information you have and the faster you can get it, the easier it is to schedule. For example, I had a tire blow out last night on my way home. As soon as I changed the tire, I emailed my study group to tell them I’d be late to our study session this morning replacing the tire. Having a smartphone allowed me to email them before 10:00 PM (or later) when I got home, so they could make their plans accordingly.
There are many other great things about having a smartphone during law school, but these are definitely the biggest and most important for me.
10/3/12 - Today is my birthday!!!! How did I spend it, you ask? Well, first I went to Secured Transactions, then I went to Trial Advocacy. Unfortunately, there is no “birthday pass” for law school—at least not one that won’t affect your grade. Yes, I’m a 3L and I’m still worried about my grades; only about half of us are anymore. Not only is it my birthday, but this will be my last birthday during law school. Law school has been such a huge part of my life that that is very hard to believe. By this time next year—when I turn 30—I will no longer be a law student, and hopefully, I will be a practicing attorney! There’s something incredibly terrifying about that!
I hope to have some birthday celebrations this weekend, even if they consist of just doing something with my wife. I honestly haven’t given it much thought, because I haven’t had time. I’ve mentioned before several times already that I feel very, very busy this semester. Luckily, it’s inevitable that I’ll be much less busy very, very soon. Tomorrow is the last day that my Trademarks class will be meeting. It was scheduled to move at a faster pace and end early this semester to accommodate Professor Carpenter’s pregnancy. While its hectic schedule has been murder for my, well my schedule, having that class wiped off the slate for the rest of the semester will be a huge relief! Sure there’s that small matter of having to take the final exam in the middle of the semester, but after all the hard work it’s taken to make it this far into the semester for that class, the early final is welcome and appreciated!
9/19/12 - If you look back at some of my past entries and many of my fellow bloggers’ entries, you might get the impression that law school is a lot of work. DUH! If you don’t get that by now, then you haven’t been reading our blogs. So, if you would like to hear about how busy law school is, then feel free to look at my past entries and other bloggers’ entries.
Law school keeps us busy. There. Hopefully I’ve emphasized that enough.
This year more than ever, I have really enjoyed getting to know more people around the school. During the first year, all of our classes are selected for us, so I spent that whole year around the same groups of the same people. My second year, I branched out some by participating in various student activities. Now I am basically in the same activities, but I am in a more accessible role in some of them as a senior member—like on the Law Review Board and as the Chair of the Student Ambassadors. And even in the organizations that I’m not a senior member, there are just new faces and new people to know.
Accordingly, I’ve begun to build my legal network, starting with my fellow Texas Wesleyan Law students. Most of all, it has been a blast working with the other Articles Editors on Law Review. Our professors tell us occasionally that law is often a collaborative profession, requiring you to work closely with your peers. While I am not an attorney that can attest to that yet, I can say that certainly rings true in law school.
The other Articles Editors have been invaluable to me to help me work with my staffers, assist me edit, and overall make the Law Review a better organization. Plus, we 3 Articles Editors are basically the backbone of the Law Review—evidenced by the work we do and the… “spirit” we bring to the group. All in all, I think that the Law Review’s 2012-2013 Articles Editors are the most collaborative, most lively, best members that Texas Wesleyan’s Law Review has ever had, and I am proud to be in that group.
9/6/12 - I am finding that the more Intellectual Property courses that I take, the more I like that legal area and want to practice it. Beginning in my first year Property class, we just spent one week learning about Intellectual Property, and I already found it interesting. Then, when we could select our own courses for our 2L year, I took the Intellectual Property survey course and found that I liked it a little more. However, at that point, I was still in love with and wanted to practice Torts or general Civil Litigation. I remember that distinctly because we talked about it in our study group.
The big change happened the following semester when I took Copyrights (think of people’s rights related to artistic things, like music, sculptures, paintings, movies, etc.) as a course on its own. There are probably a number of contributing factors to the change that happened then. For one thing, it was really nice to delve so deeply into Copyrights, which is probably the single, specific area that I most want to practice. I tend to think that Copyrights are rights that are easily and frequently exploited, and I would really like to protect them for clients in my future. So, overall, it was a very enjoyable class. Also, during that semester, the school brought in a guest speaker who covered some very interesting trademark issues. During his talk, I distinctly remember something switched on in me that made me suddenly aware that I really want to do IP.
That brings me to today: now I am taking two more Intellectual Property courses and I am on path to earning an IP certificate from the school. Also, next week I will become Professor Megan Carpenter’s research assistant to help her write an article concerning trademarks and copyrights. I want to simply immerse myself in IP, because I know that is what I want to do. And I really hope that I get to do it.
8/29/12 - I know that I've blogged about this in the past, especially as a new semester begins. The saying goes, “The first year they scare you to death, second year they work you to death, third year they bore you to death.”
Before my first year, I thought, "Okay, they're just going to try to scare me. I can do this if I just get myself accustomed to it." Before my second year, I thought, "Okay, this is gonna be rough, but others have done it before me, I have a good support system, and I can do this." So it's only natural that before I started my third year, I thought, "I've paid my dues, and now it is time to sit back and coast through this year."
Well, one week into my third year of law school, it seems like, for the first time, the statement is has let me down. So far, my third year seems like an extension of my "work you to death" year. I am hoping that this is just a case of getting back into the groove of attending classes and reading. One thing I can definitely look forward to is that my Trademarks class will only last for half the semester. Surely that will free up some time right?
One thing different about this year is that I am one of the three Articles Editors for the Law Review’s Board of Editors. My job is to make sure that everything that we publish uses proper grammar, punctuation, is logical, etc. In order to do that, I have some law review members assigned to me to which I give editing assignments. I am relating this whole process to get to this point: part of the Articles Editor territory is that I get a lot of questions from my staffers! Luckily, not one of those questions has been a dumb question. However, that does not change the fact that sometimes, my reading is put off to make sure my staffers have the tools and information they need in order to do their editing tasks. Hopefully over the coming weeks, I will become better and better accustomed to balancing these supervisory duties with managing my own duties.
7/25/12 - I like watching movies… a lot. So, when everyone said that going to law school would ruin movies for me, I was really not looking forward to it. I am glad to say that until this weekend though, that hasn’t been the case for me. It took about a year, but I think that I’ve learned how to shut my legal mind off and just enjoy the rest of life at appropriate times—for the most part.
Sometimes, especially since the school has done such a good job of teaching us to think like lawyers, legal thoughts creep in and I just can’t help it. I think my wife would disagree, but overall, I have yet to watch a movie or TV show and think that the whole plot was ruined because the writers didn’t understand the law or the legal system. That said, there have been more than a few times that I have been reminded of a minor legal detail or pointed out something (incredibly interesting) about the law related to a movie—which my wife thoroughly enjoys, let me tell you.
But, that all changed this weekend. I was at a friend’s party when the host flipped on the TV to The Minority Report. I was casually watching it and commenting how great a movie it was, when all of a sudden, the number of things wrong with the Pre-Crime Division in that movie hit me like a ton of bricks!
Suddenly, the entire plot became impossible and obviously unconstitutional! It was maybe the most depressing thing that’s happened to me as a result of law school, and I just wanted to share that horrific experience with my readers; hopefully I have earned your sympathy. One piece of advice from me: either watch and enjoy The Minority Report before law school ruins it for you or learn how to turn you legal mind off when you’re not in the classroom, office, or books.
6/27/12 - I wrapped up my internship at the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Civil Division yesterday. It was truly a valuable and enjoyable experience.
One of our professors—I can’t remember who exactly at the moment—once told us that you will be amazed by the types of things you’ll get to do and see as an attorney. I only hoped that was true. On the other hand, you often hear that new associates are given few responsibilities in their early years. Especially in “big firms,” new associates are rumored to never see the courtroom, never stop writing memos for the partners, never leave the office, etc.
That was certainly not the case at the Civil Division this summer. While I was there, I watched and assisted the attorneys with an exhumation at the cemetery, an autopsy (my wife didn’t think I would be able to handle that, but I took it like a pro!), an appeal, employment cases, and I even had a jail tour! All that was between a very organized program that kept me researching and writing numerous issues for the County. All in all, it was a wonderful internship, and I know I would enjoy working for the Tarrant County Civil Division in the future! If not there, then I hope to work somewhere where I am given as much responsibility as I was given there.
5/30/12 - My second law school summer is well under way. I am midway through my second week of interning at the Tarrant County District Attorney's Civil Division. That's basically like the advisory department for Tarrant County. I have enjoyed it immensely thus far, even more than last summer's experiences! I have loved how dynamic my time here has been. I have attended some hearings, been to the Texas Court of Appeals in Fort Worth, written a great deal, and even observed very serious events like the process of the County committing people to the mental health hospital! I have also been promised the opportunity to watch an autopsy and a tour of the county jail, both of which I am a little nervous/very excited about! Finally, the people here in the Civil Division have been wonderful! They have been immensely interested in my development here, extremely pleasant, and always helpful. I REALLY hope that my future permanent employment will be like this. If that is the case, I have a great career ahead of me!
My wife and I are both in school right now. She's pursuing her MBA right now and will graduate the same week I do! We have very different thoughts about graduation. I've said it before, but I'll remind my readers: I am really enjoying law school. I enjoy it so much that I sometimes fear that being an actual lawyer won't be as fun! So, I am a little wary of my graduation. I will miss the people I have built relationships with but will inevitably fall out of contact with, the student organizations I'm in, my professors, etc. There are many things unique to the law school experience that have been an integral part of my life the past two years, and I’m not looking forward to leaving them. My wife (and many of my classmates to be perfectly honest) cannot wait for graduation! For them, it can't come soon enough. I know I'm the weird one here, but I actually can't relate to that.
5/9/12 - And like that, I’m a 3L! I just took the last test of my 2L year yesterday, and now I’m done. It already seems like forever since I started law school; I can’t imagine how it will feel this time next year!
It’s fun to look at all the 1Ls’ Facebook posts saying they’re excited that their first year of law school is over. Then I look at the 3Ls’ posts saying they’re excited to be done with law school. Sitting right here in the middle of both, I feel close to both. It seems like such a short time ago when I was visiting law schools, deciding which one to attend, then making law school friends, learning how to brief a case, etc. Time has flown by. Realizing that makes me aware that I will be graduating before I know it and law school will be over.
Practicing attorneys tell law students all the time to enjoy law school because it is a short period in life that will be over before you know it and you’ll never be able to get it back. That is not a piece of advice that I particularly need, because I am keenly aware of how great law school is! I was reminded of that this week when I had two finals at 9:00 AM on two consecutive mornings. I haven’t had to be anywhere at 9 AM for a long time, but I know that’s normal for the rest of the world. I have just one more year to enjoy not being at work every morning at a normal time, and I am going to enjoy it as much as I possibly can. I know the time will fly by and be gone before I know it!
There is one thing I am really looking forward to about this summer: finally being able to talk about my Criminal Procedure final! One nice thing that Professor Penrose has been practicing for the last couple of years is giving a take home final exam which students can take any 24-hour period within final exams’ time. That is fantastic because you can choose to take it as a convenient time. There is one bad part of that though, at least for me. I’ve mentioned before that some people like to talk about tests after taking them, while some don’t. I like to talk about them so that by the time I get my grade, I pretty much know what I missed and why I got that grade. To prevent people from hearing about the exam before taking it, Professor Penrose makes you sign a form promising you won’t discuss the test until final exams are over! The effect of that is that I took her test 8 days ago and I can’t talk about it for another 2 days! It’s absolute torture! So, one of the things I am most looking forward to this summer is being able to finally discuss that exam. The suspense is killing me!
4/25/12 - I’ve been reminded lately how true it is that no matter what situation you are in, you do not attend law school alone. Your loved ones attend it with you to a greater extent than nearly any other endeavor in life.
My wife Rachel got a promotion at work a few weeks ago! She is now the manager of a team of managers at her job. But while she used to have a normal schedule, she now works from 1 PM until 10 PM. We talked long and hard about the pros and cons of her even applying for the position, and ultimately decided that it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Also, there is a lot of good that comes with the position and shift change. At any other time in our lives, I am sure we would have been much more opposed to her taking such an odd shift; in fact we’ve talked about it hypothetically before. But with me in law school and her working until 10 PM, I get uninterrupted time to study when I get home from class (at 1 PM some days, or at 5 PM other days) until Rachel gets home at 10 PM. That has worked without a hitch thus far! I even got to get in some basketball one night when I finished studying early. Naturally, my team dominated!
The major challenge this brings is that with all that uninterrupted study time, it is a compelling goal of mine to normally be finished with my school stuff by the time she gets home. It’s also important for me to do more during the week so that we get more weekend time. Like any other life adjustment, there have been some rough days so far, but overall, it has been a great transition! And like I said at the beginning of this post, then changes in my study habits due to her change in schedule are reminders that law school is a group endeavor between the student and his or her family and friends.
4/18/12 - Before law school, I was under the impression that the first year of law school would be the hardest. I’m not sure if this idea came from movies, other law students, or what, but there was the idea that once you get over your first year, then you’re used to law school and it’s all smooth sailing from there. Even during your first year, you’ll occasionally have 2L’s and 3L’s tell you that you’ll get used to it, and things will get easier. Fully adhering to this belief, I even remembering telling my wife that we would get so much more time together during my second year than my first, because I would be a pro a law school by then. I was sorely mistaken. For the most part, these are ALL lies that I would like to disavow any readers of right now.
The more accurate belief is what I’ve said already: first year, they scare you to death; second year, they work you to death; third year, they bore you to death. The only thing that gets easier your second year is that your reading speed goes up and you can digest the same number of assigned reading pages in a shorter period of time. Unfortunately, the other duties you are likely involved in will more than make up for the few minutes of reading you save.
As I have also said before, nearly everyone gets involved in multiple organizations during law school. Either you came into law school with an area of law that you want to practice and you find an organization focused on that, or something piques your interest during first year and you join it second year. One of these two is nearly inevitable, and the more you like it, the more you’ll be involved in it. Most people find numerous things they like during second year, and that is how the second year of law school tends to “work you to death,” no matter what other myths you may have heard otherwise.
4/4/12 - This round of class registration is unique for me and many of my classmates because it is for the last year of law school! While that is undoubtedly exciting, there is plenty of stress that comes along with it, too.
When we were first allowed to pick our own classes in our third semester, it was exciting to see the whole metaphorical plain of law school classes laid out before us. Whatever areas of law we could possibly think of or had any interest in were available to us. I remember thinking about how much time and how many classes and options were really laid out before me. Now, most of my classmates and I have just a few more required courses that must be taken before graduation, plus a few classes that we really want to take before graduation. It is stressful trying to fit them in.
As if just trying to get our graduation requirements wasn’t stressful enough, it adds to the pressure of trying to balance classes with organizations, jobs, etc. It really brings to a point that we’re nearing the end of law school, which, needless to say, brings up mixed emotions for us all.
3/21/12 - Sometimes, I read my fellow bloggers’ entries to come up with topics to write about; this is one of those weeks. After reading Jason Wright’s blog from March 7 (Jason, you’re welcome for the plug), I can totally relate.
I am regularly asked, “What kind of law do you want to practice?” The truthful answer would be, “Well, I liked all of my Torts class, and could see myself practicing any of that. I really enjoy Constitutional law. Oh, and I have enjoyed my Intellectual Property class so much that I have taken multiple classes in that area and plan to take more…” And this would continue until I would have literally named half of the classes I’ve taken in law school.
Of course, this is not what I say to any potential employers. To them, I name the area that most closely mirrors what they/their firm specializes in. I think Jason raised some interesting issues: to whom do I give the narrow speech and to whom do I give the broad answer? If I give the broad answer to the wrong person, then potential employers could think that I don’t know what I want to do or that I have no ambition, or any other detrimental thoughts for my legal career. Or what if I give the narrow answer to a potential employer and he/she thinks that is not the area they practice in or don’t have a position in that area to fill at that time?
Thus far, I’ve defaulted to more commonly answering as if I had a bullet to my head (a more interesting question might be, “Why are so many gun-toters so interested in forcing out answers to hypothetical questions?”) and had to pick only one area of law: it would be Intellectual Property Litigation. That’s what I usually answer, because you never know who might be a potential employer, and I would rather err on the side of naming an area different from what the employer wants than appearing unambitious or unfocused.
So, if any potential employers are reading this, “I would like to practice intellectual property litigation. My past life in English academia gave me an interest in copyright law, and that interest has grown to a passion for all of IP and to participate in its protection.” To everyone else, “I love Constitutional law, civil litigation, intellectual property, civil rights, probate, some family law...”
2/29/12 - I have been selected to be a member of next year’s Law Review Board of Editors! My specific position will be “Articles Editor,” so my job will be to edit the articles (hmmm, that seems redundant, but yet, so descriptive) that we publish to make sure that they are well written, use proper grammar, punctuation, etc. For a guy who really enjoyed diagramming sentences as a child, this is going to be a really exciting job!
I don’t know what my deal is, but I have apparently forgotten how to save files on my computer. This new development has already gotten me in trouble twice in the past few weeks. When we had the rough draft due for our Law Review paper, I had it saved—but not backed up—on my computer. Then my hard drive crashed and I lost about a week’s worth of work that I had to make up for in one weekend. That was not a fun weekend! So, I bought my first external hard drive and started backing things up. Lesson learned right? Wrong!
A month after that, our final paper was due on a Monday. The Saturday before, I had the paper written, and spent about 6 hours editing it to perfection. I closed it out, thinking I would do a quick glance (by “quick,” it probably would have been an hour or two) over it on Sunday. I opened it up Sunday to find that none of Saturday’s work had been saved! Luckily, I had all day Sunday to make up for that, but I know that Sunday’s work was not as good as what I’d done Saturday. Besides that, I was very sick of my paper by then and was as concerned with getting it over with as doing a good job on it. In spite of the horrible wrap-up to my Law Review paper, it was HUGELY refreshing and satisfying to hand it in. I was proud to have boiled down about 7 months of work into one document. My hope now is that it will be selected for publication!
2/15/12 - I am very excited to announce that half of my summer employment is booked! In my last blog, I talked about the value of networking. Well, I landed a summer internship with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Civil Division, and I have networking to thank for it! During that internship, I’ll be helping the County attorneys in their role as pseudo-general counsel for Tarrant County. I’m very excited for a number of things about the position, including having my very own office for the first time!
We finally received our class ranks! Everyone that I have talked to about their rankings stayed basically the same as they were last semester. For example, I personally moved down 1% in my overall class rank. Mathematically, it isn’t surprising that few people move very much - as time goes on and we accumulate more credit hours, individual semesters’ work seems to carry less and less weight. It also makes sense that people don’t move much because we’re all pretty much set in our habits from the first year of law school. By this point, most of us are content with where we fall in class rank. For anyone who is thinking of going to law school or is in their first year of law school, take this as a word of caution: it is hard to move your rank and to change your habits after the first year. Make sure that during your first year you are doing the things you need to do in order to get the goals you’ve set for yourself. I can honestly say that I am happy with where I fall in the rankings, and it’s due to the habits that I formed during my first year.
2/1/12 - So I’m in the middle of my second year of law school. Way before we really need to think about taking the Bar, before we register for my last year of classes, many of us have began making decisions about what we’ll be during our last year. Since the 3rd-year students will be graduating and moving on in just a few short months, the leadership positions they filled will soon be vacant. The result is that applications to be on student organizations’ boards have been released already! I have applied to be on the board for the Law Review and for the Student Ambassador Recruitment Team. I know that both will be a big time commitment, but I feel like this is the only time I’ll be able to take advantage of opportunities like this.
I keep reminding myself that I am in law school ultimately to get a legal job, and one of the best ways to do that is to make good grades. But another great way to get a legal job (and arguably, a more effective way) is to network, and participating in student organizations is a great way to network! While it sometimes seems like student organizations take time away from your ultimate goal—and they certainly can, if you let them—they can also help facilitate it, too. Like I’ve said before, the vast majority of my classmates will be my legal colleagues for the next 30-60 years. Being in organizations with them helps facilitate our relationships. Not only that, but many organizations allow us to communicate and work with practicing attorneys that we otherwise would not be able to reach. So yeah, I’m applying to be on the boards!
1/18/12 - This week, I’m going to blog about the fine art of visiting your professors. I visited a couple of professors during my time at Texas A&M, mostly the ones I liked just to say “hi” or to complain about a grade I felt was too low. In law school we are encouraged to visit our professors for several reasons.
I think the most important and most common reason to visit a professor is to discuss grades. But even the discussion process is different from undergrad. First off, your grade won’t get changed, so you’re not going in to negotiate a higher grade… if you’re wise. Instead you go to discuss your final exam in order to figure out what you did poorly and what you did well. What do I need to improve on to beat my classmates next time? What do I need to continue doing to continue to beat the classmates I’m beating now? These discussions help to pin down problem areas for me to focus my studies on, so I can ensure that I’m always improving my law school exam performances.
Also, it’s good to visit professors to build contact with them. The vast majority of us will be practicing attorneys in just a few short years in the Dallas area, like most of our professors are or were. In just a few years, we’ll be joining their profession and their ranks. Many of our professors have pointed this out to us. Sure, they might want to make our lives a living hell with their exams, but I think they think of it as a rite of passage we must go through before we join them as professional colleges. Until then, many of us will be their research assistants or assist them with their projects. And maybe one day, ten years from now, when I need to ask Mary Penrose for a professional advice, I may be really glad I stopped in her office that one time to talk about being a better law student.
1/11/12 - Halfway through the first week of school, this semester is seems to be going really well for a couple of reasons:
1. I made a few mistakes in my studying habits and time management last semester that are easily correctable and have been corrected.
2. I love all of my professors. This semester, I’m taking classes from four professors that all have reputations for being some of the school’s best, including my personal favorite.
3. I really like my schedule this semester. My classes end Mondays and Wednesdays at 1 PM, and at 4 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays! That should give me a lot of time to study and read at nights. So far, it’s worked out really well and I’ve been able to get stuff done without feeling overwhelmed. Speaking of getting stuff done. . .
4. I’m close to finishing the rough draft for my Law Review paper! The rough draft is due next week, and it’s amazing to me to think of how far I’ve come from when our Board of Editors first assigned the paper. I remember the big struggle I had in even choosing a topic, then in narrowing it, then checking to make sure no one else had written on the same topic. And now, I’m close to finishing! While the ultimate goal is for my paper to be selected for being published by our Board, I will have a huge sense of accomplishment for simply having it done. And speaking of the Law Review Board. . .
5. The Law Review Board applications are due this week, too! In just a matter of weeks, next year’s Board will be chosen and will begin the tasks involved with publishing next year’s issues! I’m going to apply for a couple of board positions; I really hope that I get to be a part of the Board next year!
Overall, I’m expecting really good things from this semester, particularly with Law Review and the next couple of weeks! I’ll keep you posted!
12/14/11 - The semester is over, I’m officially halfway done with law school (and that time has FLOWN by). Now I am on a well-deserved vacation in Washington D.C.! On our first full day here, we went to the Supreme Court. It is definitely my favorite building in D.C.! It is so clear here in our nation’s capital that law school has completely changed me.
For example, if I had visited the Supreme Court before law school, I would have focused on the architecture and the justices enshrined there and appreciated it all from a historic and patriotic perspective; now I can look at the justices enshrined there and appreciate the gravity of some of their individual decisions, and I also realize that not every decision handed down from this hallowed building was a good decision. The biggest difference is that that while I will probably never sit on this particular court, I am part of the elite club this building represents.
When we visited the U.S. Capital, thoughts of what our Congressmen Constitutionally could and could not do flashed through my head. When we visited the Library of Congress, which emphasized the nation’s conflicts in drafting the Constitution, I realized a greater appreciation of the delicate balance of federalism the drafters chose.
We have more places to visit, and I’m sure that I’ll have more of these thoughts in the days to come. I truly believe this is a noble field I’ve chosen to be a part of. I’m proud to be a law student and one day, a lawyer. I am so blessed to be on this vacation at this time, to be able to reflect on the law in our nation’s capital.
Besides my vacation, I am anxiously awaiting grades. These grades will be my first for upper-level classes! Like I expressed in an earlier blog entry about being in class with 3Ls, I am very nervous about being graded against 3Ls! I feel okay about my final exams this semester, and actually feel good about one of them. That doesn’t mean I won’t be on pins and needles until each grade comes in though! Waiting for grades is the absolute worst part of law school for me! I’ll just try (I won’t be successful, but I’ll try nonetheless) to keep my thoughts distracted on D.C. for the next month.
11/22/11 - The end of the semester is here. I’ve read my last assignment and attended my last class of the semester! Especially for Constitutional Law, I feel very accomplished for that! There is something incredibly surreal about the knowledge that I am halfway done with my law school classes, and in just two weeks, I’ll be completely halfway done with law school. Even though I’m not done yet, I completely understand the lawyers and graduates who tell us that our time here will fly by faster than we realize!
Thanksgiving is this week and I need to spend the week catching up on things. I’ve scheduled out the week’s studying and have carved out a couple of hours to spend time eating with family, but will be using most of my time preparing for final exams. Sadly, I was much more efficient and had much more done at this point last year than I do this year, so I have more finals prep to do this Thanksgiving break. You can probably tell from my blogs, but this has been a much busier year than last year. My position is not unexpected, nor is it rare, based on my conversations with other classmates.
Maybe this is unique to my experience, but one major way that law school differs from undergrad is that this time of year completely centers around final exams. During my undergrad, I made extensive travel/eating/football plans for Thanksgiving week, then worried about studying for final exams (if I studied) the week after. In law school, we all have to fit in as much studying as much as we can stand, and fit in fun things where/AND IF we can! For me at least, it’s a totally different Thanksgiving experience!
11/9/11 - Last week, we had to register for classes. This was my second round of doing it, so by now I’m a pro… or so I thought. I had my classes all picked out, woke up on time, and got exactly what I had “planned.” Then, I went to class that day and talked about the courses I’d registered for. After hearing about certain classes and professors from other students, I decided to make substantial changes. Here I am now, a week later, still trying to get my schedule settled!
As if my choice of professors wasn’t hard enough, what’s making the decision harder is trying to find the proper balance between taking heavily-bar tested courses vs. non bar-tested courses that I just find interesting. That’s where I am now: I’m trying to decide on taking Texas Trials and Appeals, a class that is heavily tested on the bar vs. taking Copyrights, which I find fascinating, but is surely an area that will not be on the bar at all. Older, wiser people continually tell us that while you want to take a couple of classes that interest you, it’s very important to take a significant amount of bar-tested courses. That way, when you’re studying for the bar, you’ll be learning just a small amount of new material and refreshing a large amount of material. So that is my goal.
But this is Copyrights! I’m so torn that I went so far as to speak with the professor that is teaching that class to try to glean from her reasons why I should take her class. I didn’t help; now I just want to take her class more, but don’t know what I should do!
This decision also led me to be reminded of the fact that law school is not a journey you take alone. I brought this information all to my wife, who has nearly an equal vested interest in law school as I do—especially once we write the check for the bar course! She was very helpful and made some really good points about the decision. It was very nice to be reminded that I’m not in this journey alone and to get help from my outstanding support system!
10/26/11 - Just so you know that going to law school doesn’t completely make you a zombie, I thought I’d talk about what I do for fun—you know, in my one hour of free time every week. Just kidding! A maxim that is continually passed down in law school is that the better you become at scheduling, the more efficient you become and the more free time you have.
This subject is on my mind because my birthday just passed. I was one of those kids, aw heck, I’m still one of those kids, who makes a wish list of what I want about two months before my birthday. It’s really for the good of my loved ones, you know, to make it easy on them! Anyways, this year, for the first time, I only asked for … money! The reason why? Well, Nintendo announced their next system will be coming out next year, and I want to get it as early as possible! So yeah, a lot of my free time is spent on video games and movies.
This weekend, my wife and I went to the shooting range with a couple of friends, and I’m sad to admit she was a much better shot than me this time. Lots of my classmates go to bars together or take trips together. I am planning on playing poker with some classmates this weekend, AND I’m doing fantasy football for the first time… and dominating! Most of us are in prime marrying age, so we regularly attend and participate in weddings. Oh, and of course, lots of people, including professors, have been to a baseball game or two lately to watch our Texas Rangers in the World Series!
The point of all this is to say that as hard as law school is (and make no mistake, it’s not easy to find time for the fun stuff), as much as it’ll change your thinking and take up nearly all your time, your life and the things you enjoy will continue; you just have to be proactive in balancing and making time for it all!
10/12/11 - Being on Law Review is deceiving. Everyone said that it is hard and a big time commitment - I only half believed that. Before school started this year, we had Law Review training for three days, and the Law Review editors (3Ls) told us about our duties, requirements, etc. What I heard was, “You need to log at least 60 hours of Law Review—which averages out to about 5 hours a week—work and write a paper.” What I should have heard was, “You need to start working on your paper now. And (luckily) we don’t trust you all to get started on the paper now, so there will be paper checkpoint periodically. And the 60 hours? Yeah, with the work we’ll be handing you, you don’t need to worry about not reaching that; just make sure to keep track of your hours.”
Earlier in my blog, I wrote that there isn’t a ton of reading in law school—it’s just that it’s a continuous stream of a moderate amount of reading. Law Review is kinda the same: editing articles doesn’t always take a huge amount of time (though several of my classmates and I have had some eight-hour assignments that required travel to other schools), the deadlines just come along week by week, regardless of what other obligations you may have in other clubs, regardless of what class reading assignments you have, etc.
So why do we do it? Well, it is the one thing that you can put on a law school resume that impresses all legal employers to some extent, though different firms value it differently. After you’ve logged all those hours writing and editing, it’s a tell-tale sign that you have had significant training and experience honing your legal writing skills. But without a doubt, for me, the most enjoyable part of Law Review is writing my paper. Yeah, it’s long, and I’ve always had a problem writing long papers, but to me the paper is my opportunity to cater a significant amount of work to precisely the area that I want. Rather than being led to write something by a teacher’s test, or being told what to write about by an employer, now I get to spend hours upon hours writing a paper on a topic completely up to me!
Not only that, but my editors have to read it. And if you ever get to law school or do anything else requiring significant amounts of writing, you'll understand how hard it is to get people, even family, to read what you write! And it gives me an opportunity to get published before I’ve even graduated from law school. In spite of the late nights and the occasional tedious parts of Law Review, this experience is absolutely worth it!
9/28/11 - When I signed up to take Constitutional Law, I thought the class was going to be all about our first amendment rights—freedom of religion, press, speech, assembly—you know, all the famous ones. Throw in some Miranda rights (you have the right to remain silent…), and some of John Marshall’s (our 4th and probably most important Chief Justice) cases, and boom: Constitutional Law in a nutshell!
Boy was I mistaken! We have yet to mention the first Amendment or Miranda, and now we’re 6 weeks into the semester! And we’re nowhere near them either! The only thing I was right to assume was that we’d look at some of John Marshall’s cases (we did). I am completely shocked at how little I knew about the Constitution before taking this class!
It’s kinda funny how revered the Constitution is to most Americans. It has this hallowed place in our hearts and it has a position of sacredness to many of us, as it probably should. But what’s funny is that a lot of what we (or maybe it’s just me, but I doubt it) think is in there is not in there, and there is a lot more in it than we realize.
For example, we read a case where Congress wanted to stop a restaurant from its “separate but equal” practices. The only way for Congress to be able to do that was with some Constitutional authority that allowed them to regulate restaurants. Personally, before taking Constitutional Law, I would have thought there was some Constitutional provision that allows Congress to stop racism wherever it exists. Nope, the way Congress stopped this restaurant’s “separate but equal” practices was to say that since the restaurant buys its meat from out of state, Congress has the power to regulate it because Congress has the power to regulate commerce between the states!
If you don’t understand what I just said, don’t worry, we spent two weeks on that concept alone! The astounding part to me was how poorly equipped the Constitution (which we all hold so dearly in our hearts) seems to be for handling blatant racism within the United States. That’s just one of the many eye-opening experiences I’ve had thus far in Constitutional Law.
9/14/11 - I was a sophomore in high school when George W. Bush was first elected president, and at the time I had no interest in politics. I had eyes and ears, so I heard all the jokes about Florida, all the conspiracy theories about the election (years later, I even watched Fahrenheit 9/11!), and all the political commentary about what was going on, so I had common knowledge of what was happening. In the years since then, I’ve developed more of an interest in politics, and therefore learned more about that election. This week, we had to read the entire case for my Constitutional law class.
Let me pause here and say that in law school, it is extremely rare that we read an entire case. Instead, our textbooks (called “casebooks”) excerpt the important parts out of cases for us to read. So, when I say that we had to read all of Bush v. Gore, know that this was a very long, very rare experience for us!
Getting back to my point, I have to say that reading it, especially from a constitutional law prospective, brought up totally different issues in the case than I’ve ever heard discussed in the past. My Constitutional Law professor keeps telling us that we are Constitutional scholars now—at least in the areas we’ve covered—and that we’re equipped to discuss those issues as well as she could. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as smart as she is, but I am definitely more knowledgeable about the Constitutional issues involved in that election than I was before law school.
I bring this all up only because it is so illustrative of how much my mind has changed in law school. A maxim of law school is that they’re teaching us how to think like lawyers; Bush v. Gore is the perfect example of this, when I look at the difference in how I looked at it before law school vs. in law school. Whether I like it or not, they’re screwing with my mind! I gotta say, though, I’m thoroughly enjoying it; I’m on my way to being a Constitutional Law scholar!
8/31/11 - You wouldn’t think it was possible, especially after the second semester last year, but my days are much more filled than last year. As a reminder, my extracurricular activities are Law Review, Academic Support, and a member of S.A.R.T. (Student Ambassador Recruiting Team). Student organizations can really take a toll on your free time. Almost everyone is involved in them, so my situation is certainly not unique. Any extra time that I gain from a year’s worth of experience and expertise in reading and preparing for class is consumed by participating in these organizations, but I wouldn’t trade any of them in for anything. I am enjoying them all immensely, and I know that these remaining two years will be the only time that I can participate in clubs and organizations as a student, so I’m making the most of it while I can!
Also, I’m hoping to get over this eventually, but for now it’s intimidating as anything to be in class with 3L’s! All the fears I had 1L year of saying something dumb during class have returned, though slightly modified, with the fear of saying something dumb in front of these seasoned vets! To use a sports analogy, yeah, I know I’m not a rookie anymore, but I’m still just in my sophomore slump going up against seasoned veterans! Not only is there a fear of “talking dumb” in class in front of them, but the knowledge that I’m competing against the brightest minds in the school for A’s is slightly terrifying. For example, I have at least two board members of the Law Review in all of my classes! I constantly remind myself that not every 3L is automatically smarter than me, the A’s aren’t all reserved for them, and there might be dumb 3L’s too!
8/17/11 - The last time I wrote, I discussed about how my schedule was set for the semester. I was so confident…so mistaken! It changed before classes even started! I went to Law Review training the week before school started and as soon as they discussed our requirements for the semester, I seriously reconsidered the idea of working during this semester. After discussing it with my wife, I put in my two week’s notice, and I will not be working this semester! Luckily, my boss was very understanding; he even said that it was commendable that I was involved in all of my activities, and that I am welcome back when/if my schedule gets better. As I started planning out my schedule in detail without a job to worry about (still remembering Law Review, Academic Support, being a Student Ambassador, and 14 hours of class), a gargantuan wave of relief overwhelmed me! I will miss the real-world experience, but not the stress of balancing it!
Even without work, this first week of class has been hectic. There’s a saying that’s frequently passed around law school: your 1L year they scare you to death, your 2L year they work you to death, and your 3L year they bore you to death. I’m just one week into my 2L year, and the saying is 100% accurate so far! What’s nice about this second year is that I see and recognize professors and classmates, and that level of familiarity helps to alleviate a lot of the nerves and stress of law school. That said, the professors are not going easy on us like they did last year. They all just jumped right in, expecting a certain level of comprehension and preparedness from all of us. I think I had a handful of classes in my undergrad with homework due on the first day, and I certainly did for my 1L year. But the first day of class 2L year blows them out of the water. I’ve had one late night already this week, but thankfully, I’m not behind. I will definitely be working on law school this weekend. If nothing else, this week has taught me a valuable lesson that I’ve practiced in the past, but neglected this semester: do not wait until the first week of school to start reading for the first week of school!
8/10/11 - My 1L summer is at an end and preparations for school have officially begun. Class starts in a little less than a week. For the rest of this week, beginning tomorrow, I will have Law Review and Academic Support teaching assistant training. Tomorrow, I’m also planning on getting my books and beginning to plan for class. I have family visiting this weekend - I know it’s the last chance I’ll get to see them before jumping back into the grind. All in all, things are winding down for the summer and gearing up for law school year 2!
I feel a lot of satisfaction for what I accomplished this summer. I watched the Harry Potter series for the first time (it was pretty good, but I couldn’t help thinking that jedi would kick all these wizards’ butts the entire time), I started rereading the Lord of the Rings (hmmm, I guess there was a definite fantasy theme for a large portion of the summer), I gained a lot of experience from my time at the Dallas County District Attorney’s office (where I got to meet the DA himself, a Texas Wesleyan Law alum who makes me very proud), and am gaining even more experience a law clerk for CAN insurance! Like I said, I feel very accomplished, but I am more excited about school than all my summer activities. I’m excited to be on Law Review, to see all my friends again, to take my second class from my favorite professor…I just couldn’t imagine being anywhere else right now!
7/27/11 - The summer is almost over and I am craving school! I am really excited and anxious to get my 2L year under way. My classes, job, and activities are all in place; it's now just a matter of counting down the time until my second year of law school starts! It is crazy to think of where I was this time one year ago. I was preparing for my first year and was much more nervous. Instead of nervousness, now I am just excited; it is amazing what a year under your belt will do for you!
I spent the whole summer working and gaining real-world legal experience. The one thing I've realized most of all is that I still have a lot to learn. Not only that, but it seems like most of my learning will occur after law school. It seems like you learn skills and reasoning in law school, but you won’t know how to be a lawyer until you do it for a while. One thing that I know for sure is that no matter when I'll feel like I finally get it, I am definitely enjoying the journey getting there! For the first time in my life, I can genuinely say that I know that I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I'm supposed to be doing. And I've gotta say, that feels really good!
7/6/11 - Today, I'm starting my second job of the summer with CNA Insurance. During my last few weeks of working at the DA's office, they contacted me, saying that they'd found me on LinkedIn, a networking site, read this very blog, and thought I might've been a good fit for a law clerk position they have open! A few weeks later, here I am! While the DA's office experience was invaluable, it is very nice to get paid! I was not expecting to start earning money this early in my legal career, but I am one of the lucky ones in this situation. It's a commercial and professional insurance company, and I'll be working with their attorneys by helping out with tort claims. I'm very excited to be able to research and write court motions in torts because Torts has been my favorite class in law school thus far!
We also finally had our class rankings come out this week. I moved up the rankings from last semester, and I am very satisfied with where I ended up. They say that the first year's grades are the most important, and I've definitely met my first-year goals. I will admit though that I'm still not number 1, and I'm even more anxious to climb the ranks to get there than I was last semester!
6/22/11 - My first law school summer is halfway over. It has been very relaxing for me. I’ve spent the last few weeks interning with the Dallas District Attorney’s office, and even though I’ve been pretty much on my feet all day, it has been incredibly relaxing to come home and have no homework and no guilt from not getting ahead in classes! I’ve done some reading (Lord of the Rings, if you’re curious; I haven’t read it since high school), had time to go to movies, and played lots of video games.
At the District Attorney’s office, I spent my time assigned to a Dallas prosecutor and got a first-hand look at the work there. I helped him out meeting victims, (which was very sobering, to say the least), see plea bargains in action, and watched a ton of court proceedings. Without a doubt, the highlight of my time there was meeting Dallas’ District Attorney, Craig Watkins! There are dozens of prosecutors in the District Attorney’s office who rarely see Mr. Watkins, so it was a rare treat that I got to meet him. The best thing about him is that he is a Texas Wesleyan Law alumnus! The next best thing about him was how personable he was! I just talked to the man for five minutes and I feel like we’re best friends! He is doing such a good job as a DA and he’s really cool on top of that; he’s doing my law school proud!
6/3/11 - It is so surreal to think that my first year of law school is done! It has flown by faster than any other period in my life that I can think of. The rate that this first year went by makes me realize that those lawyers and older students who have told me that my time in law school will be over before I know it were absolutely right!
Our first two grades have even come in, putting the final stamp on Property and Criminal Law. As we wait for our other three grades to come in, I’d like to say a few things about that process. If I haven’t said it yet, you should know that most of the time, your grade in a law school class is based solely on the final you take in the class, though some professors adjust it slightly with class participation. So, after 4-5 months of studying, going to class, and taking one 3-hour test, all your hard work comes down to that one letter that appears on the screen about a month later.
My school section created a Facebook group to keep in contact with each other, so whenever a grade is posted, invariably one of the ninety students in the section is checking grades at that time and announces it on Facebook. A flurry of comments and texts circulate for the rest of the day as we all check. It is undoubtedly the most interesting grading process I’ve ever experienced in my life!
5/11/11 - What is there that’s left to say? I’m taking a break from the last final (it’s a take home) of my 1L year to write this blog! I guess I’ll start by talking about this final. It was made available to us at 10 am this morning. I started it then and have worked on it throughout the day. I skipped lunch and finished my rough draft about 4:45. I’m taking a dinner break and will start editing it afterwards. It’s tough, but once it’s done, I’ll be done with all the work from my first year of law school!
It’s crazy to think of where I was just 10 months ago! I stopped working, made a lot of life-long friends, stopped having free time, and did some studying. There were some surprises about law school:
1. I thought that the professors would be like the professors in the movies. None of mine were. The professors are out to teach you, not to embarrass you. If you come to class prepared, that’s no guarantee that you’ll get every answer right, but you won’t be embarrassed.
2. I thought I’d study alone. I never studied with others in my undergrad, but I’ve found studying with others completely invaluable. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I knew something only to be set straight by my study group. Not everyone who does well here studies with others; I don’t know how they do it.
3. I thought I was fairly organized before, but law school forced me to be much more proactively organized. Many of my late nights happened because of a lack of planning/organization, and life is easier and more enjoyable when I am organized.
But I had a couple of things right:
1. Keeping date night (or making time for whatever support system you have in place) is important for your sanity and theirs too.
2. Listening to Academic Support and others who’ve been successful in law school is the key to success. There are a couple of methods and structures that work well for success. The school places every law student into an Academic Support group, so most of my competitors are getting pointers, tips, and practice for success, too.
Other than that, I’ve learned a lot of law, and I know that I’m only 1/3 of the way done with that. I’m really going to enjoy this summer, but I’m also sure that halfway through it, I’ll miss my classmates and long for August to come!
4/27/11 - I have officially attended the last class of my 1L year! All that remains now is two weeks of studying for and taking final exams. It seems next year is just over the horizon!
What saddens me most about next year is that I’ll miss my classmates. I pointed out to Stephanie Gerber earlier this week (fellow blogger and study-group member; shout-out!) that the class we were sitting in could have been the very last we’d have our whole study group in! After almost a year of going to class every day with the same 90 people, it’s going to be strange to be in class with others. I’m also intimidated because I will be competing for grades against 3Ls! I’ve heard that by the third year, they’re all so burnt out that the 2Ls actually have an advantage (and care more) over them, but that is not going to be any less intimidating that first day of class when I see that half of the class has been in law school a year longer than me and we’re all competing for the limited A’s that’ll be given out.
Overall though, I am really looking forward to next year: I’m excited to choose my own classes, to be an upperclassman, and most excited for all the opportunities available to 2Ls. I hope that I get into Law Review, Moot Court, and Academic Support, but if I don’t, there are a TON of other opportunities out there available to me!
4/20/11 - Well, now our oral arguments are done. All of us first-year students had to give an oral argument of the trial briefs we turned in last week in front of our writing professors. Like most people, I took speech classes in high school and took even more in college. In spite of that prior experience and training, I was very nervous to do my oral argument. Other than my shaky left hand and occasional looking up toward the ceiling, I’m told it went well.
I feel like it went well, too. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I will be trying out for the school’s traveling Moot Court team this week! I feel like a shark that’s tasted blood and wants more. I am really anxious to get back in the courtroom! That’s not to say that I won’t be nervous next time; I KNOW that I will be. But, having played lots of organized sports, there is something incredibly tantalizing about having pre-game jitters and the chance to perform!
So here’s to doing well in my try-outs! If I get placed on a team, then I get to participate in our very successful Moot Court tradition, get great courtroom practice, and something great to put on my resume. Here goes nothin’!
4/13/11 - Well, I’m officially done with researching and writing for the 3rd circle of hell we call “the trial brief”; it’s officially been turned in. I can’t express how relieving and freeing this week has been since turning it in! I know that I have 4 final exams ahead of me, but after finishing the trial brief, I feel like I can take on the world!
The difference (to me) between writing the trial brief and our other final exams is this: if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing in normal classes, then you’ve read and outlined throughout the semester, so that the final examination is a test of how well you familiarized yourself with the material throughout the semester. Preparation for finals, ideally, is a refresher on everything you’ve studied the whole semester, mixed in with practicing test-taking.
Writing the trial brief, on the other hand, means having to keep up with all your other classes, plus getting an assignment for an area of law and being asked to write a 15-25 page motion on it. Keep in mind that whatever area of law is chosen, it will be an area that requires hours of researching, then after you research, hours of organizing, then after organizing, hours of writing, then after writing, hours of editing. All on top of making sure you don’t fall behind in other classes. So, yeah, I’m VERY relieved that’s over and done with!
4/6/11 – Sigh. Writing our trial brief has kept me up every single night this week and it’s wearing on me. We’re entering the final stretch of the semester now, and I think of this trial brief as the first of our final exams for the spring semester. I’m a little behind in my writing schedule, but I think that I’ll be able to catch up and get to where I’d like to be tonight or tomorrow. It really helps to think that I’ll be turning it in in less than a week. It will be a huge sigh of relief for us all, I’m sure, to have that off our plates.
What makes this more tiring for me is that I’ve been sick for about a week now. Let me explain to you how sick I am: there was a stretch in elementary and high school where I did not have a sick day for about 5 years. I’ve never taken a sick day from work either. I took a sick day from school last week. I’m still coughing, but I’m feeling much better—though I’m sure that several of my classmates would prefer that I leave my coughing at home. Many of my classmates are also sick right now, so I don’t feel alone; my coughs are rarely the only ones in the room! Hopefully, though, I’ll continue to get better; also, I’m sure that turning in my trial brief will be great medicine!
3/30/11 - The future looms over this week. The school informed us that the fall schedule has been released, and everyone has been planning what courses, class times, and professors to take next semester. I have my ideal schedule all mapped out. I still need to decide what back-up classes I'll take in case I don't get my first choices. Registering for law school classes is similar to most undergraduate schools: the upperclassmen get first pick at classes, and us 1L's are last. So, we're being reminded frequently that we should have back-ups planned out ahead of time. I really only have one class that I will be disappointed not to take next semester, so I'm very open to having to choose back-ups.
I also have some good news: I got a position with the Dallas County DA's domestic violence division for half of the summer! I am very excited about it. Although I'm not looking forward to the drive from Keller to Dallas every day, this will be an incredible opportunity to get some real-world legal experience.
I’m also excited to put it on my resume, because if I have a couple of legal work experiences with good grades throughout law school on my resume, I know that more opportunities will open up for me in the future. I already started planning on other possible places to work, and I found a government agency where I’d like to work next summer. Right now, I feel like the sky is the limit!
3/23/11 - Well, Spring Break has come and gone and it was simultaneously the most relaxing and most hectic Spring Break of my life. It was relaxing because I got to spend time with family, and I got to play a lot of video games. And because it came during my second semester of law school, no break has ever been more welcome in my life. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to weed out quite enough video game playing, but I’m close. Still it was very nice to sleep in, go to bed late, and not have consequences for it.
That said, I did a little bit of work every day. I caught up on all my class outlines, took a practice test, then continued my summer job search. The outlining and practice were easy; the pressure of finding summer opportunities made that the more difficult task. There is only just over one month left in this semester, so the end of Spring Break was my personal deadline for a number of tasks. I was able to accomplish all of them over the break so part of me feels content that I was able to accomplish that and still have relaxation time, but that does not shake the feelings of anxiety that have persisted throughout the semester, and I’m now pretty sure those feelings will continue until I finish this semester’s last final exam.
3/9/11 - Well, for me, the decisions about what law school activities to do next semester has started. There are three things that I am seriously contemplating doing during law school: I want to do Moot Court, Law Review, and be an Academic Support teaching assistant. The Academic Support applications just came out. After speaking with a couple of upperclassmen, I’ve decided to apply. Law Review and Moot Court decisions will have to be made later, if at all, but for now, I’ll go ahead and submit what’s available.
A little on Academic Support: it’s a program that the law school has in place in which a group of students (mine is 18) are paired with two upperclassmen to have weekly meetings to help with law school. The meetings are optional to attend, and I have attended all but one or two sessions for this whole first year. I have found the program invaluable, and I know that my grades would have been substantially lower had I not gone to the sessions and received the training and feedback that I did from them. So, I would very much like to be able to pass that experience along to the next class—and possibly the next after that—of 1L’s. I love that our school has the program in place; we’re the only school I’ve heard of that has anything like it, and I would proudly enjoy contributing to the program! So yeah, student organization application #1, here I come!
3/2/11 - I am so tired. So, so, so tired. More tired than I was when we turned in any of our memos, more tired than when I was having the general schedule issues earlier this semester. Now I’m tired because I’m job searching along with my legal studies.
Across the board, my whole class is scrambling to find what they’re doing for the summer. Very few of us have anything set up now, but we’re all looking. People are contacting old employers and other connections, applying for posted positions, and networking, networking, networking. It seems like there is another networking opportunity a couple of times every week. Our professors and others keep telling us that networking is the most effective way to job search, so most of us are taking that to heart and investing some substantial time in going to these networking events. I’m trying to go to all that I can, but on top of all our class work, it can be exhausting!
It helps motivate me to remember that law school is not the end; it is the means to get a legal job. It doesn’t matter how many clubs I’m in or how high my grades are if I can’t land a job later, so I’ll keep investing my time in searching for summer opportunities. I know most of my classmates are doing the same.
2/23/11 - I remember when my dad taught me how to ride a bike without training wheels, how there were mixed feelings of joy and excitement at the thought of it. I feel the same way now that the school has announced that we’ll be registering for next fall’s classes soon.
See, all of our classes for the first year are decided for us; we didn’t pick a single one, nor did we have any say in planning our schedule. Soon, the training wheels will come off! Yeah, I know I did it all though undergrad, but the feeling that these scheduling decisions could have a direct affect on my Bar performance and on the rest of my career is daunting to say the least. On the other hand, I get to pick classes that I’m interested in. Even though there are a couple of “boring” required classes that I’ll have to stomach before graduating, I have a lot of leeway in being able to choose classes in areas of law that interest me. Not to mention, if I do start feeling overwhelmed with the decisions, there are plenty of 2 & 3L’s and other staff who can help give me some direction in my future scheduling.
In the end, like learning to ride a bike, no matter how daunting it may seem sometimes, I know that once I have my tailor-made schedule in place, it’ll be well worth it!
2/16/11- Well, it only took a couple of weeks, but we were sent our class ranks this week. In many ways, the class ranking is more important than our grades, because it matters more how you compare to your other classmates than what grade you received. Our future employers won’t be able to tell from our grades how many A’s this professor, or this school gives out, but that one simple number—the class rank—is historically so important for your future. I ended up ranked exactly where my goal was, so I’m very happy with it. Others didn’t meet their goals, so they’re not as happy. While I’m very excited about my class rank, it also makes me nervous to think that there are classmates who didn’t do as well as they hoped, and that they will be extra motivated to do better this semester.
I can see how achieving my goal in class rank could tempt me to rest on my laurels and simply continue to do what I’ve done thus far to get me here, but I know that won’t work. I know there are classmates ranked behind me who want my rank that’ll work their butts off to get it. Also, I’m not ranked first in my class, so there is room and motivation for me to work even harder to get to the top of the class. That could be compulsive of me, but I think most people in law school are the same; we all want to be on top!
2/9/11 - I know I’ve mentioned it before already, but adding 1 more credit hour to this semester has had a dramatic effect on my daily free time. For the most part, if I worked hard most days last semester, I could get a couple of hours of free time away from law school. This semester, if I don’t work hard AND plan ahead for the week, that free time is lost. It’s so much more important this semester to plan assignments ahead of time.
The danger is not so much that you won’t finish the work; you can always work until midnight or later to do what you have to do. The danger is that if you don’t plan ahead, then you won’t have any free time scheduled to maintain your sanity. This semester, I’ve been much more proactive in planning ahead and have been able to consistently work out almost every day. With the habit in place, that workout time is starting to become an enjoyable time for me to enjoy being away from school. I think that planning ahead to get more playtime is an important skill that I’ll continue to develop throughout my legal career…for my own sanity’s sake!
2/2/11 - I can’t decide if I like snow days or not. Due to a crazy winter storm 2 nights ago, school has been closed for a couple of days and they’ve announced they’ll be closed tomorrow! Part of me is overjoyed because I get more time to write this semester’s first memo and have more time for class work in general. The other part of me is dreading the make-up classes that’ll be forced on us later. My Property professor announced that we won’t be having class this Friday on his syllabus, so coupled with three consecutive snow days, Saturday and Sunday, I am in the middle of a 5-day weekend that will end with the Super Bowl! Yeah, who am I kidding? I’ll take the make-up classes!
Honestly, with the memo due next week, everyone I’ve spoken to made very good use of these days off from class. As hard as writing our previous memos were, with this semester’s schedule and increased work load, we’ve all been pretty strapped for time writing this memo. Rather than finding time, the challenge now will be finding the focus and discipline to do it! I keep finding myself being tempted (and sometimes falling to the temptation, to be perfectly honest) to take things a little easier and enjoy these days off, but I know that I’ll only regret it later if I do. So, here’s to working hard for 3 more days so I can enjoy the Super Bowl guilt free!
1/26/11 - Now that our grades are all in and we’re in our second semester, we’re all looking into and participating in more outside-the-classroom activities. This weekend, the school is holding a 1L mock trial competition, the school is now conducting interviews for Student Ambassadors for recruitment purposes, the Wesleyan Innocence Project has had several meetings this week… With the semester as busy as it’s been thus far, I’m starting to wonder when I’ll ever have the time to add more on my plate! One thing that should help will be the speed-reading resources that my academic support TA’s gave us today. I’m definitely gonna check those out as soon as I can!
I remember realizing this in my undergraduate classes, but for some reason didn’t think it would apply in law school: who you have as a professor makes a big difference on how much you’ll enjoy the class! It’s no coincidence that my favorite course last semester was taught by my favorite professor. I was foolish enough to believe it was coincidence, and that I liked the course because I liked the material, but this semester, my favorite professor is teaching a relatively dry class. Because of this professor’s teaching style and personality, it’s the class I look forward to every day we have it! We’ll see how my grade turns out in this professor’s class, but if it’s anything above a B, I will definitely be enrolling in his/her future classes at every opportunity that I get!
1/19/11 - Why are we all exhausted already? What is it about one more credit hour that causes the class, myself included, to constantly complain about late nights, long reading assignments, and constant tiredness the second week of class?! Tuesdays and Wednesdays are particularly hard this semester because we have three classes on Wednesdays. For most of us, that means having an extra-large reading load on Tuesday nights. For all of us, that means spending a long time in class on Wednesday and less study time Wednesday night. After finishing a Wednesday’s worth of classes, it feels like such a good accomplishment that it’s time for the weekend! Unfortunately, we actually still have classes on Thursday and Friday to read for and attend.
Not everything about this semester is bad, though. It’s great to get back to regularly seeing my classmates again. In the few months we’ve had together, we’re much more familiar with each other than when we began. To illustrate, we have two new classes where you have to stand up and address the entire class as you speak. Despite the inherent fright that comes with having to do that, a classmate pointed out today that speaking in front of our entire Contracts class was not intimidating because she recognized familiar faces around the room, which was very different from speaking in Contracts a few months ago! I guess that goes to show that even though we have quite a ways to go, we’ve come pretty far already!
1/12/11 - All last semester, I prided myself on not turning in my blog entries late. I only turned in one late blog entry during the whole semester. I am writing this blog entry a day late, as we speak. You might wonder what would cause me to start this semester off so uncharacteristically. Let’s just say that I’m already experiencing the phenomena that our Academic Support describes as, “this semester, they’re upping the ante.”
For the most part last semester, I was able to stop studying each night between 7 and 9 PM. One night this week I studied until 10, and until 12:30 another night, and the week isn’t over yet! It’s abundantly clear already that what worked for me in our study habits (and everything else associated with law school) won’t work for me this semester. I know for sure, the very first thing I’m changing is my weekend studying! I could not last a full semester with sleep habits like this first week!
Last semester’s grades have slowly trickled in for about a week now and it’s been a wild ride! They were one by one made available to see online as each professor graded the final exams and submitted them to the school. Everyone has received all of their grades, except for myself and my classmates in my Legislation and Regulation course; we’re still waiting for that one. It’s a very interesting dynamic to ask but not ask your classmates about their grades, I believe, because of the ranking system in law school. Once you and your classmate receive grades, there is inherently a comparison of “where do I stack up against you,” which can lead to some particularly awkward situations.
I did pretty well this first semester grade-wise, but I am more nervous about this semester than last semester! I know that I have classmates who were not pleased with their grades who will try harder this semester, so there is more pressure to work even harder! That means that I’ll have to do much more to get the same grades this semester. Plus, since there was room for improvement in my grades, I’ll have to do even more to improve them! All in all, I’d describe what I’m feeling right now similar to just ending the third quarter of an important game with the score tied; now we’ll see who wants it more!
12/15/10 – Well, what is there left to say? My first semester of law school is all done: readings, finals, and all. This semester absolutely flew by! Orientation was only four months ago; it feels like it’s been so much longer. So far, this break has been both good and bad. The good part is that I have been able to finish up some household chores I’ve been putting off all semester, set up our Christmas tree, and most importantly, catch up on some much-needed Wii time!
The only bad part of the break is that I find my mind frequently, almost constantly, fretting about grades. Everything is done and turned in, so there’s nothing I can do to change my grades at this point, so there’s some reassurance in that. But almost on a daily basis, thoughts of what I overlooked or forgot on various tests keep popping up. As much as possible, I’ve been trying not to think of law school, because it only brings worry about grades. There’s a month to go until grades come, so I figure the busier I keep myself, the less time my mind has to wander to thoughts of my grades.
As if grades were not enough to worry about, the day of my last final, I walked out of the test and spoke to a 2L who had two stacks of paper in his hands. Each stack was about 3 inches thick, and he told me that one stack was for Law Review and one stack was for Moot Court. THEN he said he had to read them both over the break! With that in mind, I’m making it a point to really relax and enjoy this break; it could be my last real break for some time!
12/8/10 - Almost two months ago, after our Torts midterm, upperclassman and fellow blogger Antonio passed a group of us after we’d just finished taking the exam. He overheard us and told me, “You do not want to talk about exams after they’re done.” Of course, I asked him why not, and he told me nothing good EVER comes from talking about them. I dismissed it as upperclassman scare tactics (sorry, Antonio), and now three final examinations later, I’ve come to two realizations:
1. He was absolutely right. You may be reassured that one or two of you got the same answers, but somewhere between the 3rd or 7th person you talk to will have a very good or very obvious answer that you missed, overlooked, or forgot, leaving you to worry about it until grades come back. There is some reassurance in knowing that law school exams are designed so that no one can get a perfect answer or catch everything, but there is much more cause for nervousness in hearing the specific things you missed that your classmates didn’t.
2. Even though I agree with him 100% that no good can come out of talking about the exam after it’s done, I’m fairly certain that morbid curiosity will always drive me and most other law students to discuss exams. I’ve always known that curiosity killed the cat, but it took law school to make me realize that most cats are sometimes too curious to care!
11/23/10 - So, classes are done; all that remains is studying for and taking finals. Today is my first day of studying for finals and I expected it to be a stress-free, slow-paced, semi-break before exams. Instead, I woke up this morning earlier than I have in weeks, fearful that I was already too behind in my studying schedule, and the stress hasn’t let up yet. It seems this won’t be the mini vacation I expected. The phone calls, texts, and emails to and from classmates are more frequent than they’ve been all semester. Every time you think you have a firm grip on a class, it seems one more concept comes up that we talked about a month ago in class that you can’t quite seem to recall… I can only imagine what it’s like for our professors. I’ve already emailed two professors myself, so I can’t imagine how flooded they must all be with our inquisitive emails!
I am extremely grateful that I have people to call about questions. It was a blast to be able to experience that camaraderie last Friday, when my Contracts class took on some professors in a game of kickball - a prize we’d won at the Fellowship auction a couple of weeks ago, thanks to Professor Snyder! Needless to say, we wiped the floor with them! I like to think of that as our preemptive strike against them for when we get our grades back later. Anyways, it was a ton of fun being out there on the field together for one last thrill before buckling down and studying for finals.
11/17/10 - The end of the semester is here! We’ve turned in our final memo and are done with reading for all of our classes except one. Even though we’ve been counting down for weeks now, it’s still incredibly shocking that the end has arrived. It has, without a doubt, been the fastest three months of my life! All that remains now is to take our exams.
In our last Academic Support session today, our teaching assistants showed us a model final exam studying schedule. It’s clear from that model that our work for the semester is far from done. Let’s just say that Thanksgiving break will probably be just a few hours long for me. Our TA’s told us about the almost direct relationship between the number of hours they spent studying to their success on finals, and I definitely want to make sure that I do everything that I can to prepare myself.
Anyone who has ever participated in sports has heard this phrase: “Every minute you’re not practicing, one of your competitors is practicing.” Coaches use that all the time to scare players into extra practice; here in law school, I think we’re all so scared that pretty much everyone will be spending a significant number of hours preparing for finals. Plus, contrary to rumors you may have heard, law school is not cheap! And no one wants to waste their money on something at which they are not working hard to succeed. All that to say that most people will be investing a large amount of time into studying and preparations for finals; I want to be sure not to be left in the dust.
11/10/10 - Looking back at my other blog entries and those of some of my fellow bloggers, I’m noticing a trend - we don’t talk a lot about our daily workloads, and I think I know why. Others may disagree, but I don’t think we have an obscene amount of reading to do in law school for the most part. Sure, there are some weeks when a professor assigns more than his or her average number of pages, but it’s usually not so high a number that you faint when you see it.
What’s hard about keeping up with law school reading is that it does not change. It doesn’t matter if it’s your birthday, doesn’t matter if you have a family member getting married, or you have old college friends coming into town who want to hang out; the workload, week-to-week will not change. So, if you don’t manage your time well or allow those other things to pull you away from your work, you will fall behind, and the relentless persistence of the workload will make it very hard to keep up. Most everyone keeps up with the reading for that reason, I think. That’s what makes law school’s workload difficult - it’s not that it’s such an obscene amount that you need to take a speed-reading course to keep up (though I would more than welcome anyone’s donations for me to take one!), it’s that it’s just enough work that you cannot afford to take many breaks away from it. Since it doesn’t change and is the same week after week, that’s probably why we don’t write about it much until there is a special project due (again, which the normal workload will not adjust to), which makes it special by making that week harder.
11/3/10 - The countdown to the end of the semester continues! It seems like almost every day there is a professor, or classmate, or even a guest speaker who reiterates that we have less than 3 weeks left of classes, which means we are that much closer to finals! Soon, there will be no more new material to learn and my last task, and really the only task that counts, will be to become so familiar with a semester’s worth of information that I can apply it to any hypothetical situation my professors can throw at me. *shudder
Last week, the law school’s Public Interest Fellowship had an auction, their biggest fundraiser of the year. A lot of professors auctioned off dinners at their homes, or other recreational outings with them like white-water rafting or bowling. Even though we didn’t bid on anything, my wife and I had a lot of fun attending the auction. She was surprised and impressed by how fun and approachable our professors are here. In fact, Professor Sobol, whose class I’m not even in, was kind enough to help me explain the difference between English writing and legal writing to my mom and uncle. It’s always reassuring to be a part of a law school where that sort of thing happens regularly. I’ll steal my fellow blogger and upperclassman Lisa Waters’ line here to reiterate what becomes more and more obvious to me every day: “the books and law are pretty much the same wherever you choose to go, but the people at Texas Wesleyan are different.”
10/27/10 - I know I wrote about this last week, but it is really hard to believe how quickly this semester has flown by! The end of the semester is rapidly approaching, and with only three weeks left of classes, we all feel like we’re at our wit’s end. Every time you think you couldn’t be pushed any further, you get one more assignment, there’s one more practice test, one more make-up class, or any other unexpected thing to do. And your choices basically boil down to doing that extra work or not doing it. For the most part, I’ve chosen to do it, and though it has cost me some extra hours of sleep, some missed television (thank God I just got a DVR!), and other free time, I really hope my extra work will pay off for me when finals come.
So far, I haven’t been too busy to cut off weekly date nights with my wife. In fact, I don’t think we’ve missed one yet! I know having that time set aside and dedicated each week helps us both. It obviously helps her to know that she never has to persevere more than 6 days until getting several hours of my undivided attention, and it helps me to know that I will at least get a few law school-free hours every week. Hopefully, we can keep it up for just a few more weeks!
10/20/10 - Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the job that I left to go to law school. It’s really hard to believe that was less than 3 months ago. I half-expected people to have gotten promoted or left, but very little had changed over the last three months, which I realize now is what I should have expected. What has only been three short months everywhere else has seemed much longer here inside law school!
There has been a slight lull in our workload this week. My section was fortunate enough to have our one Friday class cancelled last week, which happened to be the same week of our memo and Torts midterm. Needless to say, there was a lot of celebrating during our long weekend! I took the extra free time to enjoy the Rangers like a faithful Texan; unfortunately, I haven’t been able to fully curtail (“curtail” really? I probably wouldn’t have said that three months ago, but honestly that’s the first word that came to mind just now. See? It’s been a loooong three months!) that faithfulness and some Ranger-watching has spilled over into my reading time. Oh well, I figure a few hours of staying up late (as long as I actually DO finish the work and don’t stay up too late) is worth watching the Rangers’ historic run!
10/13/10 - There's no denying it anymore; this law school thing, it's pretty hard! This week, we had our longest memo due to date and we have a Torts exam today. I know that's a short list, so it may not sound like a heavy load, but let me assure you, it is a heavy load!
Thank God I'm not sick anymore, because this week probably would have resulted in some sort of permanent psychological damage. I remember that once in high school a group of my friends and I were able to persuade a teacher to delay her test by one week when we showed her that week's workload. Yeah, that would NEVER happen here!
In fact, upon noticing that a substantial portion of the class was absent from classes this week, my Writing professor and Property professor both mentioned, "I know you have a heavy workload this week. Well, that's law school! But hey, just think of it as preparation for your future clients. Not one of them will ever postpone their case because you have too much to do. For that matter, neither will your future employers."
Although it was funny when they said it, there's no denying how invaluable this current workload will be for our future careers, and with that in mind, I can appreciate their tough love.
10/6/10 - I am sick for the third time since law school started. I don't know what it is, but my allergies have taken over my health since law school began. Right now, they're the worst they've been, and it could not have come at a more inopportune time. Everyone is tired since next week we have both our second midterm and first memo for an actual grade. It's been incredibly hard to gather the energy necessary to stay caught up in my classes. So, I am at the doctor right now, hoping he comes up with a better solution than any of the over-the-counter meds, which have had no effect.
On a good note, am very excited that I joined a study group. We're meeting at least once a week for now and we have specific tasks to go over every meeting. I really appreciate the structure and accountability we have because of it. Studying with others also helps me and the other members not to neglect classes. For example, even though we have a Torts midterm and a memo due shortly, we as a group were able to take an objective step back and devote some time to studying Contracts together so that the stress of the upcoming projects didn't cause us to fall behind (as we'd probably all be inclined to do). All in all, I'm really bummed about being sick and really excited to have a study group!
9/29/10 - I don't know if I can speak for everyone on this, but the more I stick to my studying routine and am diligent in treating law school like my full-time job, the less I have to worry about while I'm not studying, which makes for much more relaxing and enjoyable down time between study sessions. After all those hours of studying, I have pretty strong feelings of cabin fever, so when I do have free time I want to go see movies, play sports, or just about anything besides sitting on the couch doing nothing. I’m hoping that I can find an inexpensive hobby to get into before too long or I might lose it. Plus, I really want to enjoy this free time as much as possible before this semester progresses too much, because I know we’ll get busier later on. I like to think I’m not alone in this and to my credit, today during Contracts someone passed around a sign-up sheet for paintball which several dozen people—including females—signed up for.
As if I wasn’t stir-crazy enough trying to find ways to occupy my free time, my birthday is this weekend, and I desperately don’t want it to pass by as a wasted opportunity to have fun during law school. I tried to explain to a couple classmates that it should consist of something besides drinking and watching the Colts game, but they couldn’t seem to relate. Hopefully, I can think of something soon.
9/22/10 - I skipped class one day in my undergraduate Sociology of Sports class. That one class provided 2 or 3 test answers that caused me to get a B on a test, and ultimately, a B overall. I very rarely skipped class for the rest of my undergrad, so for me, skipping law school class will almost never be an option. Unfortunately, since my car wouldn’t start yesterday, I was stuck in Keller and had to skip a day of classes. The one good thing that came from that was that it enabled me to spend all day reading, and I was able to today’s assignments and outline for Contracts. The bad thing is that I just know (really, I have no idea) history will repeat itself and I missed some critical information yesterday. This time, I’ll definitely go see the professor and get the information I missed.
Again, keeping with the theme of treating law school like my full-time job, just because I couldn’t show up at the office yesterday didn’t mean I couldn’t work from home, although it was VERY hard to get started working in the morning. Everyone keeps telling us that just because we’re in law school doesn’t mean that life will stop happening around us. They tell us that to motivate us to work ahead in our readings. While I’m not quite ahead in my work, I am definitely current and that helped to minimize the stress of having life happen outside of law school in yesterday’s small crisis.
9/15/10 - Everyone told us to treat law school like it’s our full-time job, and I think the vast majority of us are. Only a few people have come to class unprepared, or maybe it’s just that few have been caught unprepared. In either case, I’m also pretty sure that most of us put in some substantial “overtime” over the last week or two while studying for our first exam, beginning outlines, and writing the first part of our memos.
In fact, on the day we turned in our memos, my writing professor told us that since traditionally everyone is too tired to focus during his lecture on days memos are due, he let us watch him grade two of our papers (with the name omitted, of course) onscreen rather than lecture. It was so nerve-wracking hoping that my memo didn’t come up that I might have actually preferred the lecture.
The evidence of the fatigue is there, if you look closely. For example, everyone’s eyes are a little smaller and redder, and everyone is speaking a little more quietly and a little less frequently in class. All that is to say that I know I’m tired, and I’m really looking forward to the school’s Casino Night later this week for some well-deserved R & R with my law school friends!
9/8/10 - Today, my section is taking our first test. Even though I know that I’m prepared for it, there’s no denying the high level of anxiety I feel. If that wasn’t bad enough, every time I feel the anxiety going away, one of my classmates asks me how much I’ve studied, what I’ve studied, or any other multitude of questions that make me question whether I’ve done enough to prepare for this. I’m basically continually brainwashing myself, “You’ve done your work, you’re prepared, you’ve done your work, you’re prepared.”
The Labor Day extended weekend we just had is the primary reason I’m so prepared. It was a huge relief not to have anything to catch up on, and therefore the extended weekend gave me ample opportunity to work on class outlines, study for this test, and enjoy some much-needed free time with my wife. I didn’t work too far ahead or too much on outlines. One professor told us to enjoy this break, because we will later on have so much work that Thanksgiving won’t really be a break. Not being one to question my professors, I took that advice to heart by doing what I needed to do this weekend, and took the rest of the time to relax. I am really glad that I did.
9/1/10 - So this week, we are having the Student Bar Association elections for our class, and some of my classmates have passed out candy and highlighters, giant playing cards imploring us to “make the safe bet” by voting on a particular candidate, and every candidate has posted creative flyers all over the law school in hopes of securing votes to elect them our class representative. In my former life, my pre- law school life that is, I was a pretty avid Marvel comic reader, so my favorite flyer is the one that cleverly included Iron Man in it. I have several friends who are running, and they are all very excited about it; I hope at least some of them (there are five available slots for my class) get elected.
Besides class elections, everything else is just plodding along in law school. My section has its first midterm exam next week, which I’m really looking forward to. I know a lot of my classmates are very nervous about it, but I feel like I have a good grasp of the material and it will be interesting to verify whether I’m on the right track or not so far in my studying. There’s really only one way to find out!
* This blog entry is in no way an endorsement for any candidate. Besides, by the time this is posted, elections will have already been made, so it wouldn’t do anyone much good anyways.
8/25/10 - I’m at law school this morning 2 hours before class starts for one reason and one reason only: I have to finish a project that's due tomorrow. I thought I’d be here alone, assuming my other 260 classmates would wait until tonight (the last minute) to do the project. To my surprise, there’s at least a dozen other people with the same idea. I can’t imagine what it will be like this evening! I want to form all the good habits I can, and procrastinating is not one of them!
I think a lot of us are beginning to settle into routines now. Some like to study in the mornings before class (that’s DEFINITELY not me), others in the evening. Some like to study here in the library, others study best at home. We’re all desperately trying to develop good habits that will work for us over the next 3 years.
Before I started law school, my wife let me paint one of our extra bedrooms, buy a desk, and create my own study. I love my study! Most days, as soon as my last class is released, I anxiously daydream about getting home and settling in with my casebooks and notes for a few hours in my little haven of a study. I think that’s important for us all at this point. Even if you don’t have your own room to claim, it is paramount for each of us to settle into a comfort zone to give some stability to our law school lives.
8/20/10 - You wouldn't think this to be the case, but there is a big, BIG, difference between the introductory classes we had during orientation and the first day of actual law school. Just ask my nerves. Even though we had homework due at orientation, and even though we had the same professor and the same class format we'll have the remainder of the semester, the psychological difference between orientation classes and law school's first day cannot be overestimated. I've played in championship basketball tournament games, gotten married, and gone spelunking... I've never been as nervous as I was about beginning law school this Monday.
But despite all the worrying, my first day of law school was not the colossal, potential disaster I'd pictured. It helped that the professors that I had for these first two classes were extremely warm and (thankfully) didn't rely too heavily on the Socratic method (at least not today). It also helped about mid-day when I realized that, because I'd prepared for class, things really couldn't turn out too badly.
Overall, the most calming part of today was the forming of fast friends. I feel like a soldier who's just begun boot camp, and though I know there is still a long road ahead of me, I find it encouraging that I have already cultivated relationships with others who will be “down in the trenches” with me. With my new colleagues' help, I think I'll make it through the next three years just fine.