Undergraduate School: Southeastern Oklahoma State University
Undergraduate Major: Behavioral Sciences, Journalism and Mass Communications
Hometown: McCook, NE
Status: Full-Time Day
1/9/13 - “I Do Not Have to Study for the Bar Examination, I Get to Study (Incessantly) for the Bar Examination”
I was watching a bar prep video this morning and the facilitator said something at the end that really struck me as important, something I need to keep present in my thoughts during the next two months.
He said that the bar exam can be looked at in one of two ways: as something we "have to do;" or as something we "get to do."
While it sounds odd to think of the grueling process that is bar exam preparation as something we "get to do," it is so true. So many people never have the opportunity to achieve their dream, to get a doctorate degree, to work in a profession such as the law or medicine. When we walked in to law school for the first time three years ago, we told everyone, "I get to go to law school!" We were so excited. That inevitably changed somewhat to "I can't, I have to go to class" or "I can't, I have to write this paper, or study, or read."
Studies have shown that the more positively we look at something on our appointment calendar, the better we react to it, the more we take away from the experience, and the happier we are. I am going to challenge myself, and each of you that are now or soon will be going through this experience to look at each study session, class, review, or test as a positive. We get to do something very few get to do. This is a privilege, one that we need to appreciate.
In that vein, I best go now...I "get" to do another few hours of bar prep today! :)
12/19/12 - And So It Begins
I took my last final exam on Thursday of last week, and on Monday I began my Bar exam preparations. BarBri has an online program called Amp, which is designed to test your core knowledge of the basic areas of law: Torts, Property, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, and Constitutional Law. Most of these are 1L courses, so it has been awhile since I have learned them. On Monday, I covered Criminal Law and the first half of Criminal Procedure. Yesterday, I finished Criminal Procedure and Property. I finished Criminal Law and Procedure without much difficulty, but I was surprised by how much Property had been moved to the far regions of my brain. Property took much longer to complete. Today, I tackle Constitutional Law and Torts, and tomorrow I move on to Contracts and Evidence. By the end of tomorrow I will have refreshed my memory on all the core subjects in preparation for the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) course, which starts on December 26th. Thankfully, I have most of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off and will be able to enjoy time with my family and friends.
Though it has been almost “fun” to get back into these subjects and test my memory, the knowledge of what’s to come in the next 10 weeks scares me to death. My mind will be so packed with law come February 26, 2013, I am unsure I will be able to remember my name. Wish me luck!
12/12/12 - The Final Round
Last Thursday, I took my last law school final, at least until I start an LLM program. Next semester, despite being very stressing the first two months, promises to wind up pleasantly with no final examinations or major papers being due.
The following afternoon my best law school friend walked across the stage to receive her hood and juris doctor degree. Though we both will be incredibly busy preparing to take the February bar exam, it will be odd to be on campus without her here. The friendships that are forged with your study partners and friends during law school are tightly woven and for many people have led to lifetime friendships, sounding boards, and even partnerships.
As I sat in the audience at graduation, I thought of how very recently we all walked into school for the first time as 1L’s, how quickly the time has passed, and how very much we have changed in the interim.
As the December class speaker eloquently and tearfully gave his speech, he talked about the unsung heroes of the graduates—our support network of friends and family. They are certainly not to be forgotten. They are always behind us, cheering us on, and taking on the role of a nearly single parent where children are in the mix. Personally, I could not have accomplished what I have without my husband stepping up and taking on this role. My son has also given up much so that I could realize this long held goal of mine. Blake has foregone having his mom there through his final three years of high school. For a son who is as close to me as Blake is, this has been a difficult task, but one in which he has most certainly risen up to meet. My daughter, Nicki, has also gone without her mom for most of the last three years, though it was not as difficult for her, being older, I am sure it was still not easy. Finally, my adorable Miss Haley has now started kindergarten and has done so without having me around day in and day out to get her ready, read to her, or give her as many hugs and kisses as I would like. I thank God for the blessing of each of them.
Now I begin the preparation for the February bar examination. Much more on that to come, I am sure.
11/28/12 - That familiar feeling of anxiety is back. In a way, it’s comforting—it means the dedication I have poured into this experience is just as insistent that I give this round of finals nothing less than my very best. It’s also a bit scary. The anxiety seems to get worse every semester and spring was awful, I don’t want this fall to be worse than that. I had imagined that the stress would decrease each semester through law school as I settled into a routine but that is simply not the case for me.
Today, I spent hours (and hours more) finalizing outlines. I will spend hours more tomorrow and Thursday doing the same—then Friday I begin studying. One test next week, three the following and then I can throw my arms in the air, spin around until I am nearly sick, and declare that I am “unofficially” only five hours away from my law school degree.
Until then, I am going to try to relax, breathe deeply, maybe meditate a bit more to help the stress and feelings of anxiety. Wish me luck!
11/14/12 - Thanksgiving
During this time of year we often stop and take just a moment to reflect upon, and give thanks for, the many blessings in our lives. While I have not had a lot of time to enjoy the holidays the past three years, I too am aware of, and humbled by, the richness of the blessings bestowed upon me.
I am so thankful for my family--both the one I was born into and the one I have built--each has instilled in me a sense of confidence, courage, and discipline without which I could not have accomplished all I have since starting this journey.
I am also thankful for my law school family--for my professors, my classmates, and my students. Each has taught me so much; each has encouraged me, congratulated me, and allowed me to grow.
I am thankful for each of the opportunities I have had to grow my advocacy skills--both in and outside of school. Next Tuesday will be my last day at the Collin County District Attorney's Office--it is time to begin studying for finals, and then begin preparing for the February bar exam. Once again, it has been an amazing experience. I have tried a DWI case before the Court, argued several motions, and written several briefs on misdemeanor cases. On the appellate side, I have researched and helped on an international custody issue, a re-sentencing hearing issue in a capital murder case, and an issue regarding the search of a locked vehicle.
Each case and each issue that I touched over the many internships I have had since starting law school has challenged me and allowed me the opportunity to provide my thoughts and opinions on a real-world matter. Each has given me an opportunity spread my wings from the case method of learning, thus providing me with experiences few are able to gain before graduation. I am thankful for each person that has allowed me to learn from them, learn from helping them, or learn next to them.
While this time of the semester is hectic and stressful, it challenges me to remember how lucky I am to be here, doing what I have so long dreamed of doing.
11/1/12 - “The List”
Today is November 1, and a large number of my friends are having a hard time concentrating today. Though they will try to be productive, they will struggle to accomplish much of anything—you see, THE LIST is released today. The list, which will tell them in no uncertain terms whether they can now call themselves an attorney or whether they will have to take the Texas State Bar Examination again.
When five o’clock rolls around, there will be hundreds of law school graduates sitting in front of their computers frantically hitting “refresh.” They will search, with no small amount of desperation, for their name. Upon seeing it listed, they will scream, laugh, cry, and celebrate. For those less fortunate, their name will not appear on the list, and they will also scream and cry… but they will not celebrate. Instead, they will have to once again dig out the Bar prep books and begin the process anew. Both groups will then search the list for others they know took the exam, looking to see their fate.
As another semester is nearing a close for me, I am that much closer to that day where I too will be searching the list for my name. Today, I only will search for the names of others; thankful I am not yet searching for my own name. In six months, I will look for my own—I am already praying it will be there. Bar prep starts December 17th and the exam, in which I will hopefully sit, begins on February 26th. Then begins the interminable wait until five o’clock in the afternoon on the first Thursday in May. Keep me in your prayers.
10/17/12 - Final decisions, final opportunities, final moments, and finals…
As of today, we are just a few short weeks from the end of another semester and another round of finals. The stress of wrapping everything up and getting ready for that determinative exam is beginning to be noticeable, though it really has a few weeks until it hits its peak.
This is always the time of the semester that I begin to feel it as well, and this semester is no exception. No matter how well I have kept up throughout the semester, I still feel behind.
In less than a month I will be studying, anticipating, and generally being overly anxious about finals. While I still have a few credit hours required for graduation, the classes I have chosen for next semester do not have final exams, so this will be my last round of law school finals—at least until I begin the pursuit of my LL.M. degree.
It’s hard to believe that the end is so close already. It seems like only yesterday that I was registering for classes for the first time. Since lockstep courses are designated by the school, students do not get to actually pick their courses until their 2L year. I remember agonizing over which courses to take, and with which professors. I carefully mapped out my remaining semesters, structuring it around what will be tested on the Bar examination, but also including courses I intuitively knew I would enjoy.
My final two courses have been selected—Texas Criminal Law Practicum and Death Penalty Seminar—both of which are extremely interesting to me, will fit in beautifully with my Bar exam prep, and neither of which have final exams. In just six months I will sit in my final law school class, finish up my project or paper, and ring in the end of an era.
However, I have much to do before that day—outlines, practice questions, and final projects fill my schedule for the next 5 weeks or so. I plan to finish even stronger than I started, so here goes…
10/3/12 - Things We Learned As Kids:
“Look it up.” Those three words used to annoy me so much. When I was growing up, every time that I encountered a word that I didn’t know the meaning of I would ask the nearest adult what it meant. If the nearest adult happened to be my mom, the answer would, to my exasperation, be “look it up.” Before long I learned there was no sense asking my mom. I may as well just look it up.
Fortunately, the habit of looking up every word I don’t know the meaning of has served me well in law school. Not because I didn’t have to look them up—believe me, I did—but because I was already in the habit. Thankfully, I have an app for that. In fact, I have two apps for that: Black’s Law Dictionary and Webster’s Dictionary are both on my phone so they are handy at all times.
Last week, I was talking with my “students” (I am a lead teaching assistant in our Academic Support Program) about how classes were going. One of the professors had gotten very upset with their class because she had asked a student the meaning of a particular word and they didn’t know—they had hoped to learn the answer in class instead of looking it up. Student after student was called upon to give the definition to no avail. Not one of the ten or so students had taken the time to look it up. We spent some time talking about why the professor was so upset and the group quickly understood that the Professor was not simply being “nitpicky.”
As an attorney we have the privilege of speaking on behalf of, and advocating for, our client. To do so effectively we are often called upon to use the words of others in citing cases and statutes. If we come upon a word we do not readily know the meaning of but we fail to look it up, it fails to serve our client because we cannot properly apply the meaning to our argument. If we fail to serve our client, we fail not only the client, but also our profession and ourselves.
As exasperated as I was as a child, I am now very thankful that my mom routinely told me those three little words…“look it up.”
9/19/12 - Time flies…
I am amazed that we are already five weeks into the semester—that means we are more than one-third done already. Before I know it, Halloween will be here and the mad rush that always seems to occur those last few weeks of school will be upon me.
I was talking to one of my friends the other day about how busy everything is right now. We had always heard the old adage—the first year they scare you to death, the second year they work you to death, and the third year they bore you to death. We both quickly decided that we are way too busy to be bored.
This is my third week back at the Collin County D.A.’s office. Yesterday I had the chance to argue a suppression hearing in Collin County. Although the judge hasn’t made his decision yet (he wants to see case law from both sides) it was a great experience.
Tomorrow I will be arguing a motion to dismiss on a Sixth Amendment “speedy trial rights” issue and I am really looking forward to it. Both of these hearings have similar issues to cases that I have either argued or prepped the arguments for earlier this year, so I feel like I know them very well. I am so thankful that I have been given the opportunity to get trial experience while I am still in school, it will make the courtroom much less scary when I am in practice.
I have spent the evening prepping for the hearing and researching for my brief, and I still have one quick assignment that I need to complete before I leave school for the night. Another day is quickly coming to a close…another day closer to Halloween, another day closer to dead week, another day closer to yet another round of finals.
9/6/12 – There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home… -- Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz
Today was my first day back at the CCDAO (Collin County D.A.’s Office) since last April and in some respects it was if I never left. Although five months have passed since then, I experience an inexplicable feeling of belonging every time I am there. I am thrilled to be working with Beka and Jeremy again (the two ADA’s assigned to Court Five). Provided that all the state bar paperwork arrives in Austin in time, I will be prosecuting my first case in Collin County this Thursday in a trial before the court.
A couple of weeks ago I was asked to talk at the annual Barristers Society Scholarship Dinner about what my scholarships have meant to me. I made it very clear—my scholarships mean the world—I would not be the same person I am today without them. You see, I was enrolled at another law school when I first learned of my scholarship, and decided to come visit Texas Wesleyan School of Law. So, during my Spring Break, I came to visit the school, meet the students and professors, and sit in on a class. I left that day with a new school to call “home,” because even on that “visit” I experienced a sense of belonging. Today, three weeks into my final year of law school, I still feel that way every time I walk through the doors of my school. My second scholarship has provided me with the opportunity to work at the CCDAO again this fall, and for that I am also extremely grateful.
For those of you who are thinking about law school, or looking for the right one, I hope that you take the time to come visit mine, to talk with faculty, administrators, and students, and that you leave with the same feelings I did.
For those of you already in school—I hope that you take advantage of internship opportunities while you are in school—so that when you leave you already know what kind of a place you are looking for. Life is much too short to waste it in a less than pleasurable work environment.
I do not know what employment the future has in store for me, but I am glad to know what kind of environment by which I want to be surrounded.
8/29/12 - The Long Road
The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights. -- Muhammad Ali
Here in the second week of my final year of law school I feel this quote sums up the road I am on fairly succinctly—although it needs to be modified to suit the study of law:
“… behind the books, in the library, and through the dark of night ….”
The past nine days have been especially challenging ,as I not only have a new schedule and five new classes to get used to, but I had meetings or dinners every night last week, and numerous applications to file and deadlines to meet.
The start of your third year brings to the forefront terrifying thoughts of the bar examination, and the 10 weeks of studying in preparation. I will be taking the exam next February—in fact, as I write this, I realize that exactly six months from now I will have just completed the three-day exam. I finalized my application last night, and this afternoon I walked it—and the requisite $370.00 payment—over to the post office for mailing. Check. There is one thing off my list!
Another thought weighing heavily on the minds of most 3L’s is a post graduation job. Unfortunately, we do have to pay off our student loans. :) I am looking at several different options, among them are the federal judicial clerkships offered by the different levels of federal judges. This is a lengthy process and I have been working on my applications since late this spring and just finalized them today. Check. There is another thing off my list! Judges begin looking at them next Tuesday, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that my phone will start ringing by Wednesday!
This evening I feel more settled. With two major things off my to-do list I am beginning to feel acclimated to my new schedule. As an Academic Support Teaching Assistant, I work regularly with 1L’s to help them adjust to the pressures of law school. As I look at the new class of students, I cannot help but realize how fast the time has gone, and how soon this phase of my life will be complete. I still have two semesters left behind the books, in the library, and through the dark of night, but very soon I will dance.
7/25/12 - Less than a month from now I will have begun my 3L year. Only 7 months from now I plan to sit for the State Bar Exam. It seems like just yesterday that I started this journey. Even at this point, it is hard to put into words the experiences and education of the past two years--I struggle to imagine what changes the next year will bring.
Heading into fall I would imagine my feelings are similar to those of Christopher Columbus upon discovery of America. I stand with this new world in front of me, a vast uncharted territory, not yet knowing the challenges and triumphs I will face, yet brightly looking forward to the experience.
The first year of law school, I cannot stress enough the importance of being UN-involved--of simply acclimating to all the things that being a 1L requires. But, in one's second year, a person can add new demands, pressures, and requirements; and over the course of my second year I pushed myself to reach things impossible to a first year student. I was pleased to discover that my performance improved, in spite of, or maybe because of, all the additions. I have always thrived on challenge, but those additional responsibilities made be acutely aware of that fine line between just enough and too much. Most of the time I gauge it well.
This summer I applied for several federal judicial clerkships, spent ten weeks at the fourth-largest DA's office in the nation, won my first trial in misdemeanor, and got a guilty verdict on my first felony adjudication.
Still, as August falls upon me, I am acutely aware of all I still have to learn. For instance: voir dire scares me. I had three jury trials set for this summer (but most ended in pleas) before I did my first trial--which was before the judge. Voir dire is not a skill that is taught in core classes, so I am hoping to pick up a winter skills course on it this year. I would prefer my first try at it NOT be in front of dozens of county residents. (Um, please bear with me--it's my first time...)
Yet, I realize that it would be impossible to know everything one needs to know, down pat, to be ready to take on the legal world on day one. That, of course, is what associate and baby prosecutor positions are for. So I will learn what I can and prepare for a life of continued education. One thing is for sure, as I head back to Fort Worth in a couple of weeks, it has been quite the ride...this year will surely be no different.
6/27/12 - Linking Theory and Practice
If the practice of law was like a law school classroom, we would be able to answer every question based on the cases we read, just as we do in a final exam. Though the professor expects the analysis (the student’s argument) to be well reasoned, the professor really doesn’t generally care about the outcome or conclusion reached. The student serves as both judge and jury. If the rules learned in class are provided, and used in a well-reasoned analysis, the conclusion will be the student’s desired outcome (a good grade).
In practice, however, we—as attorney’s advocating on behalf of our client—only get to present the I (Issue), the R (Relevant Law), and the A (Application to Facts). The judge or jury will decide the C (Conclusion). And the C may be decided on a full slate of R’s that we may not have discussed, perhaps for policy reasons, perhaps because of the values or agenda of the judge, or D.A.
This reality that knowledge, preparation, and even a terrific argument do not provide any type of guarantee was made crystal clear to me last year when a judge—to the surprise of the DA, my supervising attorney (who was the defense counsel), and myself—decided not to follow the recommendation of the DA during punishment, but rather to impose one five times as harsh. The sentence affected me more than I thought it might—it seemed so unjust for many reasons I just won’t go into.
During my third week at HCDAO I observed an intoxication manslaughter trial. The victim was a 37 year-old police officer who was investigating a hit and run on the freeway on memorial weekend 2011. Though the freeway had been closed to the public for the investigation, the Defendant—whose BAC was nearly three times the legal limit—drove through the barrier, at roughly 90 mph, striking the officer and killing him instantly. The Defendant did not stop for roughly a mile. The Defendant was in the country illegally and had a small, but usable amount of cocaine on his person.
Although this sounds really bad, let’s look at the other side. The Defendant was 29 years old, and had no (relevant) previous criminal history. Though he was in the country illegally, his parents had brought him to Houston from Mexico at the age of eight. The Defendant had dropped out of school to support his mother and siblings after his father was murdered. In his early 20’s he had returned to Mexico temporarily to help his ailing grandfather. Since all of his family (save his grandfather) was here, he returned to Houston—using a “borrowed” social security card—this is the only criminal offense on his record. He has worked consistently since his teens. He did not require an attorney to be appointed for him, rather he used his savings to pay for a defense team. The prosecution was unable to show, despite their best attempts, that the Defendant routinely drank or used drugs. In fact, no evidence was offered to show he had ever been drunk or used drugs before.
So the trial has progressed to closing arguments. The defense has done a less than stellar job in my opinion—but, hey, we are all great from the gallery. The prosecution sought retribution – “Let’s give him life.” The defense had sought 15-25 years.
As I pondered the issues, the fate of this young man, and the potential sentence, I couldn’t help but think how many people have been spared the same fate. How many of us—either personally, or by close relationship—can recall a night they shouldn’t have driven home. A night, that—but for the grace of God—they did not end up in the same seat as the Defendant, fighting for their freedom, because an unintended death resulted from their intentional act of driving after drinking.
In theory, we would have a perfect answer to the question posed. In practice, we must remember that justice does not seek to answer for anger, rather it seeks a solution based on fairness. The jury sentenced the Defendant to 55 years in prison. At a minimum he will serve 27.5 minus time for good conduct. The innocent victim would have been 65—his, at the time, yet unborn child will be 28 and grow up never having met his father. Practice is not perfect, a life sentence was not the answer either though. Maybe there is no “right answer” in practice.
5/30/12 – Visiting Law Student, Part 1
Because my internship was out of town this summer and because I opted to do my internship for credit (technically making it an externship), I decided that I might as well take some classes while I was at it. (What was I thinking?????) Anyway, so I applied to both University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. I was accepted to both, but UH did not offer much in the way of classes, so I chose to take Family Law and Marital Property back to back from 5:20 to 9:30 PM on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday at STCL. Since I work from 8 AM to 5 PM, it is generally a pretty quick transfer to the school and a slide into my seat as the professor begins class (think Ian Kinsler sliding into home, but probably less graceful).
So here I am in week three. I am a pretty outgoing person so it’s not awful, but it is certainly different. I am used to walking into class and being surrounded by friends, by the same people that I started this journey with. Instead, I walk—three nights a week—into a class full of people I don’t know at all, taught by a professor I have never heard of. It’s like the first few weeks of 1L year all over again—without the anxiety of being a 1L. The plus side is that because I am a visiting student, I don’t have to agonize about getting an A. When visiting you simply need to pass, because it only comes back as a pass/fail anyway. Despite knowing this, I also know my self—I will still want to earn a really good grade.
As I said, besides taking class as STCL, I am also interning—at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. As the sole intern to the Capital Trial Division I will work on capital murder cases as well as many other felony cases and issues. I sent off my application for my third-year bar card, and verified its receipt by the State Bar Association today. I should have it by the first of next week, and I have been given the opportunity to argue, on behalf of the state, regarding motions to suppress evidence by the defendant. Needless to say, I am very excited about the opportunity. More on that to come next time…
5/9/12 - And miles to go before I sleep…
Notes, outlines, and practice exams surround me. As I begin this entry, I sit at the midway point of my exams for the semester, even though seemingly everyone else is done. The 1L’s are all down in the pool area partying—they have all officially finished their first year of law school. Bad idea for me to choose to stay and study at my apartment today—I am struck by their insensitivity for those residents who are still holed up inside studying. (Okay, so maybe I am just a tiny bit irritable and jealous that they are free from the stress that law school finals bring). :)
Although I still have two exams to go, I realize just how very close I am to being able to say “yeah—I’m a 3L,” an exciting and unnerving prospect. In less than two weeks I will be starting my summer internship as a misdemeanor prosecutor (practicing on my third-year bar card) at one of the largest district attorney’s offices in the nation. Additionally, I will be starting as a visiting student at another school and taking two classes there. While I am sad to be away from my friends and family for ten weeks of the summer, I am excited about the opportunity and the lessons to be learned.
Of course, after the extreme stress of exams is lifted the waiting games begin. Considering attorneys spend a lot of their careers waiting on one thing or another, waiting on grades is good practice. Though each of us knows there is nothing that can be done once we put down our pen or click “submit” on our final exam, not knowing how we did for a month is excruciating. It creates a lot of empathy in me for those who are waiting a decision on appeal or habeas corpus. My surroundings are infinitely more comfortable. Though a significant majority of those claims are not meritorious, there are enough with merit to make one stop and think.
Time to turn up Solo Piano Radio on Pandora to drown out the sounds of frivolity at the pool and do some more Q & A.
4/25/12 - Twice a year it happens.
It's that time of year again... Around school there are constant reminders that finals loom on the horizon. I chatted with a fellow student today that was in my section 1L year, and has since been in several classes with me this last year. He asked me if I was ready for finals, and then proceeded to answer his own question by saying, "Who am I kidding? Of course you are ready for finals." But I never feel completely ready.
About four to five weeks before the end of the semester the questions start to appear in my mind. Have I prepared adequately? Do I understand the concepts well enough? Will I apply that knowledge properly? The stress starts to build in my body and the knots appear at the base of my skull, the ones that need heating pads, and aspirin, and massage to control. Yet in the stress lies the realization that I am fulfilling a dream. A dream, that is so important to me, that so drives me, that it creates within me an unparalleled determination to achieve this goal using no less than 100% effort.
I appreciate that I have reached the point in the semester where reading and briefing cases is done and the time for application of the knowledge gained is at hand. There is some peace to be found in this moment. It is difficult to practice application of a new subject in the midst of class prep, class attendance, work, extracurricular activities, and family. Finals time allows for application without the added absorption of new material, and this provides significant comfort. This is my fourth set of finals, you would think I would be past this, but I think it will continue to matter (significantly) until my "final" final is in the books.
So, I embrace the challenge that is finals -- and I bought a new heating pad for my neck. I will see you all on the other side. Oh, and I will officially be a 3L then!
4/18/12 - Through the rain comes the rainbow--
Two weeks ago I lost a very dear friend to ten-year battle with cancer. Marcia had been one of my very best friends for twelve years, and the death of such a vibrant, optimistic wonderful person hit me hard. A telephone call to my mom followed the next day, and I was struck, and deeply saddened, by how quickly she has been overtaken by Alzheimer’s since being diagnosed less than a year ago. These two realities were succeeded by a deep realization of the financial stress that no job and law school puts on a person, and the self-acknowledgement that I either need to get some scholarships for next year, or a job. Yes, two weeks ago I had a pretty tough week.
Last week was so much better. On Monday, I received an email from a local appellate attorney that I had contacted after I was made aware of his firm through LinkedIn. We are going to lunch on Wednesday, and he has already given me several ideas for how to promote myself in my fields of interest. On Tuesday, one of my supervising attorneys told me she was just going to call Houston and tell them I was not allowed to leave for the summer, they needed me there. Wednesday afternoon I received a request for an interview this Thursday for a paid legal internship this fall. The week was going well.
Enhancing these moments were the letters of recommendation I received from professors, Deans, employers, and advocacy coaches. Many of them brought me to tears. So often we are unaware that the way we live our lives, the person we are, makes a difference to others; of how important those people think we are to this world. Awareness was handed to me through these letters of recommendation from people I deeply respect, and the words of a beloved Dean: “If I didn’t mean it I wouldn’t have written it.”
Ending the week yesterday (or maybe starting another terrific one), was a visit from my husband and my son, who arrived to accompany me to the Public Interest Law Fellowship Luncheon. At the event, I (along with 19 others) was recognized as a 2012 Fellow. Being a fellow is not only much needed financial support for my upcoming externship in Houston it is also a great honor to represent my school in this manner. These highly competitive and sought after fellowships recognize the commitment that each fellow has made to serve the community through public interest work.
Following the luncheon was our Law Review End of Year Dinner, recognizing the long hours and hard work that goes into the production of each publication, and revealing—at long last—the second-year students whose articles were chosen for publication for the upcoming year. Five students were named, and each name was read my heart skipped three beats and I counseled myself: Not me, Not me (“don’t get your hopes up,”) Not me (“don’t be upset Kristin,”) Not me (“there is still one more name, but don’t count on it, don’t be too upset if it’s not you”) …and then me (“you are going to ruin your makeup with those tears”). Yes, last week was a pretty terrific week.
4/4/12 - This past Thursday and Friday was the Fourth Annual Energy Symposium, put on by the Texas Wesleyan Law Review. I was excited for the event--not because Oil and Gas Law is a particular interest of mine, it really is not--but because of the amount of work that many on the Law Review put into it. Coinciding with the publication of the first-of-its-kind Oil and Gas Survey, the Symposium featured 23 speakers from 11 different states. The work and dedication put into the event by this year's board, Jesse Snyder, our Editor-in-Chief, and Kate Echols, our Symposia Editor and her staff, led to a flawlessly executed two-day conference. As one of the Ambassadors, I spoke to many of the presenters and many of the attendees and the comments were congratulatory and extremely positive. I was even approached several times in the ladies room with compliments to our Law Review on a terrific symposium. Including presenters, attendees, and students, our symposium was attended by nearly 300 people.
While part of the point of this week’s blog is to congratulate my fellow members of Law Review on a job extremely well done, but also to show how we at Texas Wesleyan have the opportunity to be a part of a smaller school, study in a more intimate setting, really get to know our professors and let them know and mentor us, yet we can still take an event like the Symposium and (with a lot of hard work) shatter every symposium record we had before. Energy Law is a natural fit for the only law school sitting directly on the Barnett Shale. I cannot wait to see what we do next year!
On another note--my second year of law school is quickly winding down. Just less than four weeks of class to go. It is always this time of year that the stress really seems to be so thick you can feel it, hanging heavy in the air. It is also the time of year I try to get back into my yoga routine to relieve some of it. Keep your fingers crossed I can uncross from lotus.
3/21/12 - Thinking like a lawyer
I remember sitting in my first semester courses and hearing the professor say that one of the most important things law school teaches you is to "think like a lawyer." I remember thinking--"what the heck is that supposed to mean?"
Well, it means the ability to look at a given situation as a set of facts, and then apply the law to those facts to reach the best result for your client. But, the proposition is more than just that: law school changes the way you look at things in general.
For instance, I was telling my friend about a rerun of Seinfeld on TV. A Russian writer chunks Elaine's "electronic organizer" out the window of a car, hitting a pedestrian in the head. Finding Jerry's number inside, the pedestrian calls to try and return it to the owner. Now, pre-law school Kristin would have thought "Awww, that's so nice," but not anymore. First thing in my head was "Uh oh, she's going to try to sue Elaine!"
Don't get me wrong--thinking like a lawyer isn't necessarily a bad thing. While some of my innocence and naiveté may have been worn away, learning to think like a lawyer has also made me more analytical--less willing to jump to absolute conclusions, especially without supporting authority to back them up. My arguments are less emotional, more focused, and better prepared. Although the change was striking subtle, it remains striking nonetheless.
I was asked to help on a family violence issue at work recently, specifically about how we could properly bring into evidence certain documents, testimony, and statements. Assuming for one moment that I even had such knowledge pre-law school, I would have stated my unequivocal conclusion, and my personal reasons for it. Now, however, while I still formed a preliminary opinion, I couched it as such and am following that opinion up with proper legal support (case law) and a thorough analysis of why it works the way it works. It doesn't always mean a win for our side, but I have discovered thinking like a lawyer means knowing that "clearly" is not nearly as powerful a word as "because."
2/29/12 - Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. -- Viktor Frankl
I first heard this quote in a Franklin Covey Leadership Course I attended, and the power behind the words has stuck with me for years. Frankl was rounded up in Nazi Germany and was held for years in a prison camp. He came to the realization that no matter the stimuli, no matter what others chose for his life, he—and he alone—retained the power to choose his response.
This thought was on my mind the last week as I learned that my summer job (in the 4th largest office of its kind in the nation), and my desire to take the February 2013 Bar exam are incompatible with one of my long-held law school goals - a Law Review board position.
While this discovery was disappointing, my response remained my choice, and I believe I made the right one. I’m sad I won’t be part of what promises to be an amazing team of Law Review board members, but I am excited for what not being part of it presents as well. For instance, I will have the opportunity to practice under my 3L bar card at the DA’s office where I work. Each stimulus and, more importantly, each response brings new opportunities for success, happiness, and fulfillment.
The choice to go to law school is often the response to external stimuli. So are the activities you pursue within law school and the jobs you will pursue when you graduate. Throughout life we are faced with stimuli not of our own creation, but we retain the power to choose our response to each.
Choose your response wisely. When Frankl was finally freed, he became a noted Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist. He summed up his experience by saying that “[e]verything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
2/15/12 - My first “assignment” as a student blogger is to introduce myself and tell you about my life in law school so far—all in about 350 words or less. 350 words or less? Yikes! That is tight!
The introduction is easy. I am Kristin Brown, and I am a 2L. I grew up in Nebraska (go Huskers!), and I moved to Texas with my husband, Brett, and children, Nicki and Blake, about 6 years ago to escape the cold. Law school had been a dream for me ever since my high school Government and Law class, so when the perfect opportunity presented itself, I jumped.
Life in law school so far, with only 225 words left? I will start with two words: challenging and exhilarating. I remember when classes first started - the rush of reading and briefing, the countless hours spent on outlines and practice questions. Days quickly turned to weeks and weeks to months. Before I knew it, finals were just around the corner, and then I was done with my first semester—what a monumental occasion!
The wait for grades first semester was excruciating, and waiting for rankings was almost as hard—we were well into second semester before we received them. I had thought the first semester was busy, but comparatively it was cake. Luckily, I had a built a strong foundation of study habits and they carried me through.
As I started my second year, I added Law Review, Moot Court and Arbitration competition teams, and an Academic Support Teaching Assistant position to my already busy schedule. I went into finals wondering if all the activities would impact my grades negatively. But, thankfully, the foundation laid by my first year provided what I needed to effectively and efficiently manage more than I ever thought possible.
Now, more than half finished with this journey, I look back in wonder. I look at what I have accomplished and I am so pleased. I want to encourage each of you, no matter how long you have had the dream, quit dreaming, just make it happen.
I did it—in 347 words!