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Thursday, January 4, 2018

New Semester, New Me?

The beginning of the spring semester is just a few short weeks away! Its time to get prepared, organized and focused on the semester that lies ahead. There are many many things that I do to prepare myself and ensure that I stay on track (including binge watch netflix since I won't have the time to do that). Keep in mind that everything is all trial and error, what works for me might not work for you, you might take what I say and adjust it to fit your own learning style and that is completely okay!

Schedule Planning
I think this is one of the best things that you can do for yourself when it comes to preparing for the upcoming semester -- plan out everything. I usually do this right in excel. I start by doing my courses. This semester I only have class Monday --> Thursday which is going to be nice. On Monday / Wednesday I have:
  • LCR III (transactional drafting) from 8:30 - 9:20 
  • Evidence from 1:00 - 2:40
  • Commercial Transactions from 6:10 - 7:50
Tuesday/ Thursday I only have Con Law II from 3:30 - 4:45

In the sheet, each class is color coded, with the Title, professor & time.  Here is an example:

Originally I started the semester out with 16 credits but I decided to drop a 3 credit course because I am interning on Fridays and working part time. I don't want to over do it. I'd rather focus my attention on four courses and do well than be swamped in 5 courses and do mediocre. Now if I didn't take 17 credits last semester, I would be taking 16 this semester but because I was over this fall, it makes it so i really only have to at least 13 credits (maybe even 12) for the next 3 semesters in order to graduate with enough credits. So my focus is on bar prep courses and courses in my area of interest. 

Next I went ahead and entered in a time block for my internship which will be on Fridays from 9-5:

After both of those things were out of the way, I blocked out times that I should be spending in the Library. This semester, I want to be getting to school no later than 7 am. I know that for me, I do a better job of getting my work done during the morning hours than I do late at night like my one friend. She can grind out work until 2 am without a problem whereas my brain starts to fry out at like 8pm. So my hope (and plan) is to get there by no later than 7 and be there until 8, I can adjust from there. 

One of my new years resolutions is to get back into shape (isn't it everyones?) I really don't want to let go of this so I went ahead and blocked out three days a week where I know for a fact I can fit the gym into my schedule -- T, TR & F.

Now Saturday and Sunday's are typically reading days for me (I get the upcoming weeks reading done so I can spend the time before classes reviewing). Last spring I did this at home and it seemed to work out fine, so for now I plan to do that again unless for some reason I cant do that. Although I am woking part time, my availability is open on Sa & Sun. which I don't mind because I actually pass my school on the way so it would be easy for me to stop before or after to get work done. It will really be a trial and error thing at first. 

Quick Break down on what to include:
  • classes
  • internships/externships/clinics/pro bono
  • library times
  • extracurriculars (moot court, journal, gym, fitness classes, club activities, etc. etc)
Books & More Books
My fall semester I did not have to worry about ordering my books, the school offered a package for 1L students where the bookstore packaged the books you needed and had them available on the last day of orientation. Spring Semester I was all on my own. There are a ton of places that you can go to order your Law books from:
Normally I use amazon because I have prime shipping but I know a lot of people that use all the others listed. It's really just a personal preference. One thing to keep in mind is that you're going to need these books for the first day of classes and you're more likely than not going to have reading assignments due for the first day of classes. ORDER YOUR BOOKS FAR ENOUGH IN ADVANCE SO YOU HAVE TIME TO READ. Some professors will send out pdf versions of the first few weeks of reading just in case some students haven't received books yet but other just expect you to figure it out on your own so be prepared if your book is on back order, etc etc. I have one book for Evidence right now that isn't "expected to ship" until about 1-2 months (the professor recently changed the edition which is currently out of stock....) So i'm going to have to figure out what to do. 

long story short -- order your books in advance.

Course Syllabi
Slowly but surely my professors for the semester are releasing their blackboard pages which typically includes the course syllabi. my best advice -- READ THEM ALL THE WAY THROUGH. Each professor divides the course up differently - some count class participation more than others, some include quizzes, some stick to the "final only" grade. Its important to know these things on top of if computers are allowed to be used, when office hours are, how to best get in contact with them, will the class be recorded, etc. etc.

Also, once you get the syllabi go ahead and (in pencil) add important due dates, exam dates, presentations, projects, etc etc into your planner, calendar, wherever. I say pencil because we all know that sometimes these dates get changed. Honestly, I put these dates in multiple places -- planner, desk calendar and my laptop just so that there is no chance of me forgetting. 

Reading Chart
Last Spring in property I decided to try something new. Once the syllabus was released for the course, I went ahead and created a excel chart that listed all the dates for when the course met and the readings that were due on that day. I printed out a copy of that chart and placed it in the book. It worked out really well and helped me easily keep track of the readings each week. I am definitely going to do the same thing this semester for each course. 

Supplies, Supplies, Supplies!
if you ever read my post School Supplies (if you haven't, go do it) you know that I love school supply shopping. So below is a list of some of my must haves for this semester:
Now there are also some extras that I have found to be useful:
  • book light
  • book stand -- a few options depending on how much you want to spend / material
  • flash drive
  • external hard drive -- do some shopping around for this. I was given one by a friend and it hasn't caused me any issues. But you might have a personal preference.
  • HEADPHONES -- always need a good pair to block out sound, take a break or just take a walk. I personally use the regular and fitness beats. 
  • Ear plugs -- I use these all the time. My friends actually make fun of me for it, but i literally cannot get work done with noise going on all around me sometimes, so they come in handy, especially during finals when all you hear is pounding on the keyboards by all your classmates. 
Update Laptop / Tablet
If you haven't done so already, its time to start updating your laptop and tablets to get prepared for the upcoming semester. You don't want to have a fiasco where your laptop crashes because you haven't kept up with the updates and then loose your paper that you've been working on forever and were at 13 out of 15 pages. Update it now while you still have some time to get used to any updates or go and get any problems fixed.

Locker Essentials
Now I know that not every school has lockers available but we do. There are a few things that I always keep in mine:
  • GUM -- I literally buy a bulk pack of this. 
  • granola bars & fruit snacks.
  • deodorant
  • body spray
  • dry shampoo
  • mascara -- simple, easy, done. 
  • water bottle
  • hoodie / sweater
  • winter seasons necessities: gloves, hat, scarf because I always seem to forget one of the three.
  • extra pens, highlighters, notebook.
Update LinkedIn & Resume
As grades come out, its important to update your resume so that you don't have to worry about it when it comes time to apply for Summer employment. Its not a bad idea to send it to your career services office to look over once you update it, this way they can give you feedback, set up a meeting,  help get the process going before the swarm of students do so here soon. 

LinkedIn is also another great thing to update. Now I haven't posted my GPA or resume on my LinkedIn page but I do make sure to update it as changes occur (work experience, areas of interest, skills, relevant courses, training, etc. etc.) I will be doing a post on this soon. 

Finally.... ENJOY YOUR LAST FEW WEEKS OF BREAK. I cant wait to share with you how I am going to be tackling my first semester back after spending the fall in D.C.!
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

D.C. Until We Meet Again.

Is it seriously already December?! 4 months has absolutely flown by! I just moved back home from D.C. on Monday & I still cannot believe that my semester is already over. So how was it? Hectic. Stressful. Totally worth it. Hectic & stressful because I had a lot of issues with financial aide this semester that caused a TONNNNNN of unnecessary stress and left me with less $$ than I had planned for. It wasn't fun and definitely put a damper on my time. Don't get me wrong, working was stressful at times but for a majority of it, I loved my internship.

Externship Overview
When I originally decided that I was going to go to D.C. this fall, I really really wanted to land a externship with a firm that practiced commercial or residential real estate as well as wills, trusts, estate planning or something in sports law because those are my main areas of interest at this point. That didn't end up working out, so my next option was clerking for a judge and let me tell you I am so happy that I did it. The judge I clerked for was phenomenal. He provided so many great opportunities for me while I was in D.C. from observing both the Supreme Court and District Court to going to trials and settlement conferences to luncheons and judicial conferences. I enjoyed each and everyone opportunity that came about. On top of it, the entire semester I spent on improving my research and writing skills through drafting decisions and various orders. 

The ONLY thing I wish I focused a bit more on was networking. This is definitely something I need to work on, I’m not the greatest at it and I really need to be. I’m actually intimidated by networking, I get anxious about meeting new people in a professional setting. I am constantly worried about how I present myself and if I am saying the right thing (or sounding like a complete blonde)

What exactly do I mean by networking? Meeting other attorneys – a lot of the time people will focus on networking within the area of law they are interested in. How do you network? Email, phone, coffee / lunch dates, etc. etc. Why do you need to network? Well mainly because you need to build a strong network to help you find employment for your summers and then eventually post-graduation. It also helps to network to build relationships with people who can be good mentors, provide recommendations, etc. etc. You want people to turn to, people that will look out for you, for example “hey, I saw XYZ job posting, or there’s an opening with X, I think you should apply / would be a good candidate.” Networking helps you gain the people you want to have in your corner. 

Overall, D.C was COMPLETELY WORTH IT. if you ever get the opportunity, whether during your undergrad or graduate program, to do an externship / study abroad, DO IT. I promise you won't regret it. In fact, I loved D.C. so much that it is definitely some place I am considering for post-grad employment. 

My One & Only Final
As you may have read, or maybe you haven't, I was required to take one course this semester on top of my externship. The course was PR (professional responsibility -- basically prep for the MPRE, an exam you have to take & pass in order to sit for the bar exam). I took it virtually by skyping in twice a week. Honestly, it wasn't my favorite class. I'm really not a huge fan of online courses because I get so easily distracted and I don't feel like I get the same learning experience as I do when I'm physically in class. Overall the class was EH. Preparing for the final was dreadful -- thank god for Barbri. 
The exam was 4 hours... and 117 multiple choice & true/false questions. KILL ME. I really thought i wasn't going to need the entire 4 hours, but all six of us (who took the exam virtually in DC) needed the whole block (i really thought someone was going to finish way before). This honestly made me feel better for some reason. 

I actually prepared for the final as if I was preparing for the MPRE which was helpful because when it came to the exam, the first half of the questions were "easier" than the practice questions I was doing so hopefully that works out in my favor. The second half were long fact patterns that you could tell were trying to break the curve. It was dreadful and my fingers are crossed that I did well. 

Winter Break Plans?
Work – && I wish I was kidding. But I’m so broke it's not even funny (D.C. is EXPENSIVE ) Actually today was supposed to be my first day – I am going back into retail as a sales associate – but because the weather in NY is crazy, I got called off. Thank you Snow. So tomorrow is actually my first day. I do plan on keeping this position once the semester starts up again (along with returning to the firm I worked for this past summer) which brings up some good things to keep in mind when considering whether or not to work while in school. I am all about working while in school – this goes for both undergrad or graduate students– so long as it doesn't make your grades suffer. There were two major things that I needed answers to when I was contemplating this position:

How flexible they will be with my class and exam schedules? 
How many hours will I be required to work each week?

I didn't want to take on a position that was only going to be seasonal, I wanted to continue working once classes start up again in January. BUT the only way that was going to be an option was if the position would be flexible with my schedule and understand that law school comes FIRST. Additionally, I don't need to be working 20 hours a week during the semester. My focus needs to be on my studies so figuring out how many hours will be doable will be something I will have to do a trial and error once the semester starts. 

Aside from working though my winter plans are first and foremost figure out my 2L summer job, and then to just spend time with the family, learn to snow board (hopefully), get back into my fitness routine, read for FUN, and just relax. For all you 1L’s that just completed your first semester of law school, CONGRATS! You did it. You should feel accomplished even though you’re probably sitting there thinking why in the hell you voluntarily just put yourself through all the stress, tears and frustration. I promise in the long run it will be worth it. My tips for you this winter are to RELAX. Press that reset button. But do start to think about where you would like to try and intern this coming up summer. You don't need to know right this second but you should start planning ahead because spring semester goes by quickly. I’ll talk more on this a bit later and be sure to post about my progress in securing summer employment.
Thursday, October 5, 2017

Upper Level Courses -- WHICH DO I PICK?!

Yesterday the course offerings for the Spring semester were released. I had a tentative schedule already in mind based off of what was offered last spring. In fact I used last spring and this falls offerings to basically plan out my next 3 semesters (I seriously cannot believe i only have 3 left). It's safe to say that my plan was twisted.

Before I get into what courses I am hoping to take I think its important to discuss what courses I am REQUIRED to take in order to graduate. Unlike undergrad, I don't have an academic advisor who is also keeping track of which courses I am taking to make sure I complete all the required ones for my degree. In law school, you are in charge of keeping track of your required courses, pro bono hours, bar prep, etc. etc. So stay on top of it. I created a simple checklist in word listing all the required courses - when I took them - the grade I got so I can just keep track of what I've done and how well I have done. The best way to find out which courses are required is to go to your academic handbook --

  • First-Year Courses 
    • all first year courses must be completed with a passing grade (A passing grade is a grade of “D-” or higher for all first year courses and all upper level required courses)
  • Constitutional Law II, Professional Responsibility and Legal Communication and Research III
    • You have to take these courses during your second year or the summer semester between the first and second year. Successful completion of this required course means receiving a grade of “D-” or higher.
  • Writing Requirement
    • To satisfy the upper level writing requirement you have to complete a  25 page, double spaced, paper under the supervision of a faculty member and approved by the Associate Dean. The paper must demonstrate substantial in depth analysis, reflection, and revision.
  • Administrative Law or Statutory/Legislative Course
    • During your second or third year, you have to take either Administrative Law or a course on legislative/statutory interpretation or a course that covers the fundamentals of administrative law and/or statutory interpretation.
On top of the required courses there are bar courses which cover topics that will be on the bar. Now everyone is different when it comes to their approach with bar courses. Different states hone in on different topics so some might take family law because their state tests heavily on it where other states not so much. The best way to find out is to talk with a faculty member or someone from the state bar.

In addition to the required first year courses (which are bar courses) some of the bar courses are
  • Business Associations
  • Conflicts of Law
  • Commercial Transactions
  • Constitutional Criminal Procedure- Investigative
  • Constitutional Criminal Procedure- Adjudicative
  • Evidence
  • Family Law
  • Federal Courts
  • Foundational Skills for Attorney Licensing
  • Real Estate Transactions 
  • Wills and Trust
Keep in mind that you might not be able to take all of the bar courses that are offered at your school. It really all depends on your law school plan but you should take the major ones like Evidence, Wills & Trust, Con Crim Pro just because there is no way that you will be able to teach yourself those courses during your bar prep.

On top of your required courses and bar prep courses you are probably going to take courses in an area of law that interests you or an area of law that you plan to practice in. I have an interest in Real Estate, Wills & Trust, and Estate Planning -- below are some of the courses that my school offers in these areas. 

It is my goal to take as many of these courses as I can possibly fit into my schedule while also keeping up with all the required / bar prep courses. 

On top of these elective courses, many schools offer different clinics and experiential learning opportunities. If this is something you are interested in doing, you need to plan for it as well. Talk to the professor in charge of the clinic, find out how many hours are required, if it is a full year or just a semester long, how many credits it is, what you'll be doing, etc etc. The same thing goes with externships. These are things you NEED to factor in considering they take the place of a course and sometimes two.

The best advice that I can give you is to attempt to map out your 2L and 3L year. Make a list of which courses you want to take and see how they will fit in with your other requirement. I began mapping mine over the summer (only because I knew I was going to be in DC for a semester and wouldn't be taking classes or else I would have done it during my spring semester of 1L). I suggest that you go back to your list every semester and make the changes you need to make. Here is my tentative Spring Semester schedule:

So originally, I was hoping to take Estate Planning during the Fall semester of 3L year. But I don't think it is going to work out based on when the course is offered. Estate Planning has two pre-req courses - Wills & Trust and Estate & Gift Tax which are only being offered in the Fall of my 3L year. So I had to readjust my Spring semester schedule and figure out where I want to head for my final semesters in law school. Unfortunately, I was informed this morning that the admin. office didn't confirm all the offered courses with professors, sooooo the course offerings for the spring might change... which I'm really hoping it doesn't because as of now I like how my schedule is looking / laid out in terms of balancing the course load (and who could be mad about having Fridays off?)

  1. Write down the course section and ID number for all the courses you plan to take on to a piece of paper and have that paper with you. This way you can just quickly plug in all the course id numbers and hit register rather than having to go searching for them all. Some schools allow you to put all the courses you intend to register for into your "cart" before hand and then when it comes time to just register, if this is something your school allows again, I recommend doing it. it saves you time and the stress of having to search for the courses. 
  2. HAVE BACK UPS PREPARED. You know the drill, in undergrad there was always that one course that you weren't sure if you were going to get into so you had to have a few back ups in case. I highly highly highly suggest doing the same for law school. Have at least two that you know will work with your schedule - be sure to check days, times, the number of CREDITS its worth - especially as a 1L choosing an elective. They fill up quick. My back ups will be:
    • Con. Crim Pro. Investigative
    • Writing for Trial and Appellate Judges
    • Foundational Skills -- Attorney Licensing
These courses either fulfill graduation requirements or are bar prep courses.

If you have any questions about course options or any additional tips you think are useful during this process, feel free to reach out!
Monday, September 25, 2017

D.C. -- I Never Want to Leave.

I’ve been MIA, but do you blame me? Spending a semester in a new place is overwhelming in so many good ways that having the chance to just sit down and blog about it has been at the bottom of my to do list. So where to start?

I've been in D.C. for over a month and I can honestly say I LOVE IT HERE. The District and surrounding cities are so much more than I expected them to be. It has been such a great change of pace compared to living in New York… I seriously don't want to go back. The only thing that is really missing here is the pup (it has been quite the adjustment not having him – so used to sleeping next to that oversized ball of fur that sleeping alone has actually been hard to do). I don't live right in DC which has actually been a blessing. I live on the outskirts in VA and I love it. I really don't know how anyone could be bored here. But before I get to that, let me give a little break down of what I have been up to in terms of my externship and PR Class.

Clerking for Federal Judge

What do I do? Research and writing, A LOT OF IT. My first month has only consisted of about five assignments, one was due last week the other is due on the 27th and the third doesn't really have a date. The first two are draft decisions for my Judge and the third is legal research on two issues for one of the attorneys and the remaining were just peer edits for another judge’s final decision. So far things have been going very well.

Do I like it? I love it. The assignments that I am working have been a bit overwhelming at times but it's really forcing me to improve my writing and research skills along with time management. I'm not going to lie I have been nervous because my summer internship did not have anything to do with legal research or writing. it was completely hands on within the real estate practice -- and I loved it (i might actually continue there in the spring). But I do wish there was a little more legal research and writing to help me prepare for this. I haven't had to do research or writing since the spring and I have definitely psyched myself out saying "I don't know where to start", "i don't know if I'm doing this right", "this is going to be horrible". But I have to remind myself that this is a LEARNING experience. The judge I am working for is already an outstanding mentor and I can learn so much from him. I just have to stay focused, motivated and prepared. The rest will fall into place.

Clerking for my Judge has come with so many great opportunities to really experience the judicial system in DC. My judge has asked me to attend oral arguments for both the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia as well as The Supreme Court -- horrible right? The oral arguments for the Federal Court of Appeals was interesting to sit through considering it was dealing with actual cases versus the ones that our LCR professor created. The building was absolutely stunning. Coming in October I will attend oral arguments at the Supreme Court which I'll be sure to include a quick recap of at some point. Last week I had the chance to attend a welcome reception for some newly filled positions. It was a great chance to network with others. Next week I will be attending a two-day judicial conference which will be a great chance to network and listen to some great lecture series. I will also have the chance to attend at least one trial during my time here. Typically they are in Boston, Philly or even in the Syracuse area. As well as attend at least one settlement conference. 

PR Course 

What is PR? Professional Responsibility -- you must complete this course in order to graduate and it is supposed to help you prepare for the MPRE. The MPRE is an exam that you have to take in order to sit for the bar. Each state has a different passing score as well as different time periods for how long that score is good for. Be sure to look into the states you are interested in before hand so you know your bottom line score to aim for.

How do you attend while you are in DC? It is a virtual course that I "attend" twice a week. In order for me to do the DC externship you have to either of taken PR prior or you have to do it while you are there.  So far it has been okay, but in all honesty I don't really like the virtual aspect. I actually find having to be on a webcam extremely distracting. Now my classmates that are physically in the room cannot see me, but the 6 of us that are taking the course virtually can. It's super distracting because we are all in different locations and there are always different things going on in everyones background. I feel that I pay more attention to the screens of everyone else than my professor because I can see everyone else and no so much him. I wish it was just the professors screen and that's it. But thankfully he records our course so I have been going back and listening to the material each week to review what was going on in class to make sure I am not missing anything.


On top of working and class we also have to attend seminars about once every two weeks or so. Each seminar has a guest speakers. So far the guest speakers have been great. The only thing that really gets me about these things is that there is a participation grade for the seminars. I hate participating in class – I’m an anxious person when it comes to speaking to in front of everyone in a classroom setting. I’m self-conscious about the answers I give. I just don't like to be wrong and not because I can’t deal with being wrong, because I can, its more so I get worried that peers will think I’m dumb. It sounds silly to think that way but I’ve witnessed it first hand and unfortunately, I’ve thought things about classmates answers before - we all have. It’s something I am working on but I find it hard to come up with on the spot questions and sometimes even answers. Other than that, the speakers have been great opportunities to learn about different areas of law. Plus there’s usually a reception after which again is a great chance to network.

Exploring D.C.

My roommates and I decided to move into our apartment a week before all the madness started and I'm so glad we did. It gave us the time to unpack, relax and get a feel for the city. One thing we did was a test run on the metro, we found where our placements are located and how long it would typically take to get there - highly suggest doing this if you are moving to a new city. But with all the down time we also had the chance to go and see the Monuments aka "The Mall" -- i loved every second of this. It was about 5 miles total and it was a nice day out so it made it all the more enjoyable. 

Some other places that I want to check out are:
     -   The White House
     -   Holocaust Museum
     -   African American Museum
     -   The Zoo

Any suggestions for happy hour or great places to eat be sure to let me know!