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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 --

REQUIRED COURSES
  • 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.
BAR COURSES
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.

ELECTIVE COURSES / CLINICS / EXTERNSHIPS
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?)

FINAL TIPS:
  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.


Seminars

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! 
Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Fall 2017 -- In D.C is Where You'll Find Me.



 I'm super excited the share that for the Fall semester I will be in D.C. completing a semester long clerkship with a Federal Judge! Originally I wanted to go in the Fall of 2018 but when there was an opening for the Fall of 2017 it seemed like a much better fit considering I still don't know which area of Law I want to practice in. Syracuse offers a plethora of experiential learning opportunities from clinics to local externships to the D.C. program (which is growing to NYC, Boston and CA over the next couple of years). In fact, you need to complete so many hours of experiential learning in order to graduate. 

So why D.C? 
Well to be honest, I really just wanted a chance to get out of Syracuse. I never had the opportunity to do any sort of study abroad trip or semester in a different US City during undergrad but I always wanted to. I honestly didn't think I would be able to afford it during law school either but when the opportunity presented itself and I got the okay from my parents (they'll be taking care of my dog while I'm gone for those 5 or so months) I really couldn't say no  && let's be honest -- I didn't want to say no

What will I be doing in D.C.? 
The beauty of the D.C. externship program is that unlike most law students who can only work part time during the semester, I can work full time. So from August --> December I will be working around 35 hours a week. I do have to take the PR (professional responsibility) and attend a seminar course while I am there but one is an online course that meets twice a week at night for an hour or so and the other we meet about once a week. I might also take the MPRE exam (required before taking the bar) while I am down there. I still have a little bit of time to decide before the sign up deadline. But overall, I am getting a ton of hands on experience in an area of law - you really can't pass that opportunity up.

Where will I be placed?
The professor who runs the D.C program has a list of about 70 placements you can choose from. They range from clerking with federal judges, working with the immigration office, criminal defense or real estate work or even working for NASA. The opportunities are really endless. Even you interest is not on the list, doesn't mean its out of the question. I know a few students who have applied for other externship opportunities and have been accepted. 

The process has been a bit stressful -- and all at once -- when it comes to being placed. I was hoping to complete an externship with a firm that practices Real Estate law -- After completing the property course during 1L year I gained an interest in real estate law and wanted to gain more experience in this area. But unfortunately there wasn't an open position in the Fall program. But another great opportunity was available - clerking for a federal judge. He was going to be in the area and wanted to conduct an "unofficial" interview so we went ahead and did that.

My interview was smooth which I was pleasantly surprised at. The judge was very kind and personable. My interview lasted about 45 minutes long and I think I answered a total of 5-7 questions:

Why did I join the sports and entertainment law society?
What happened in Con Law?
Why did I choose to apply for this position?
What areas of the law interest me / have I decided on what area of law I would like to practice in?

and then a few standard questions for the position regarding citizenship and criminal record.
My best advice that I can give when it comes to answering questions like this is be honest but do it in a professional way. I dreaded answering the 2nd question because ever since I got my grade in the class I have been up in the air with how to handle it in terms of re-taking the class, answering the question of why this happened in interviews, how it will affect my ability to get a job later on, etc. etc. I was honest and he appreciated that. When all was said and done with the interview, it wasn't final yet. I still had to conduct a phone interview with two judges and an attorney.

I completed that yesterday and while it went well, I'm not sure how I feel about phone interviews overall - its hard to hear and I just prefer to meet people in person versus over the phone. But I did like how the interview was conducted: the attorney began  by asking a few questions relating to my law school experience -
How would I describe Syracuse's legal writing courses
What kind of legal writing have I done
What have been my favorite courses
the first judge followed by asking questions that were geared towards my current internship with the real estate attorney -
How much legal writing have I've done between my two legal internships 
Does my current internship revolve around individual or collaborative work 
Whether I plan to stay within the Real estate practice area. 
Finally the judge I will be clerking for asked a few clarification questions regarding two courses that were on my transcript -
what they were
why we had to take them
what we did for them
 Overall it must have gone well because he called shortly after to offer me the position!


Where will I be living?
There are about 15 of us total going in the Fall semester, 2 of which are my close friends. The three of us found an apartment together — we will be subleasing — which was more difficult than we had hoped. The problem isn't finding a place - there are so many places in D.C. -  it's getting a response from prospective landlords, finding places that offer short term leasing for a reasonable price (and are units that are furnished. The second challenge on top of all that was having someone go and look at prospective places because you should NEVER sign a lease without looking at the place first. Thankfully two of our close friends are in the DC area for the summer and were nice enough to look at a few places for us. This has definitely been an extremely stressful process but we finally found a place that meets all the things we were looking for. Its in a great location - 10 - 15 minutes from the city/ all of our work locations - it has 3 bedrooms, fully furnished, minutes from downtown and is less than a half a mile from the metro stops (you use these a lot in DC apparently).

It has been a super stressful process in such a short period of time but its finally all over and official, Fall 2017 in DC is where you'll find me!