Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New Lawyers

If you're a new lawyer, you may be sharing with me in the uneasiness and dread of having to appear in court. If you're a new lawyer and love showing up in front of a judge for hearings...please share with me how you manage to take enjoyment out of it. 

I'm a lawyer...and I hate going to court. 

Don't be surprised. Talking with my friends, this seems very common. Its nerve racking, and just plain dreadful. But we get through it, because we have to. 

I went from practically breaking down in tears when a partner threw an unexpected court hearing on me...to now silently dreading when I have to appear in court. I do it, its just a very small part of what I do. Even in the past few months, I've learned to better deal with my dread of having to appear in front of a judge. 

What is it that I hate?

1. I hate being a newbie. In Nebraska our bar numbers are in order of when you were sworn in, so you can look at my bar number (which is on everything that is filed in the court) and know you're dealing with a newbie. I've had attorneys on the other side try to take advantage of that and "trick" me on things because I am new, but I've also had some wonderful attorneys cut me a break and remember what it is like to be me. 

2. I hate when there is an audience. Some hearings will be just you, the other attorney, and the judge (perfect!) Some are the same, but with clients present and multiple other lawyers sitting in the back of the courtroom. Audiences are nerve racking. 


So I'm learning to get passed everything. Here are my "pointers" for what I'm doing to get through my dread of going to court. I'm sure I'll continue to go through these steps for many years. 

1. Identify what is worrying you. Its not the judge that makes me uneasy, its the other attorney. Judges aren't scary. Don't do shady stuff, and you have nothing to hide. If you do things the proper, ethical, and rule-following way...then you're fine. (Your client may have broken a few rules...but the judge isn't going to be taking that out on you)

2. Prepare. Are you afraid of looking dumb? Prepare more. Are you afraid you missed a rule or a procedural step in the process? Look it up. The more prepared you are, the less daunting it seems. Have all documents ready, pay attention to the other attorneys and what they are doing...and just be as prepared as you can be. 

3. Appear Confident. This is hard for me, and has been hard ever since I started working in a firm. I'm not good at appearing confident when I'm not. So many lawyers are great at this, too good in my opinion. (Its so frustrating talking to a lawyer that just won't say "I don't know" or lies without even realizing it because they are taught to appear confident or sure of themselves) If you're caught off guard, try your best to appear professional and confident, then go back to your desk and learn whatever it was you didn't know...so you'll know it next time. 

4. Be friendly. Be reasonable, be friendly...and TRY to work things out! In my opinion a lot can get done without going to court. Even if you end up getting someone on the other side who isn't friendly, or may be a bit shady...maybe they will give up the act if you get the ball rolling. 

5. Practice. Don't avoid the awkward things...get used to it. Embrace the dread, and use it get you through things. Do things that make you uneasy, so next time they won't be so bad. I look back to what things made me uneasy 2 years ago as a law clerk (calling clients, talking to other attorney's on the phone etc.) and those are all easy now. 

So there we have it. I still hate court. I don't think I'll ever enjoy going. I'm not afraid of public speaking. The difference for me is being on your toes, ready for the other side to say something you weren't expecting, and learning to react.

My cat in her lawyer outfit- She is way better than me at looking confident and professional :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Guest Blogger: Maternity Leave in the UK

Hello Everyone! My name is David Williamson and I am an expert legal writer and guest blogger. I like to write on different legal topics to contribute on different legal blogs online. I can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Google +.
Expectant Mothers – Do You Know Your Maternity Leave Allowance?

As an expectant mother it is more than understandable to get swept up by the stress of the impending birth and forget about something as simple as maternity leave. Especially in the case of spectacularly driven career women, it is often something that is barely thought of at all; at least until well into the pregnancy when the consideration is no longer something that can be avoided. Why not arm yourself sooner, then, and avoid the impending Google gauntlet as the due date draws closer. Here's what you can legally expect as an expectant mother during your time on maternity leave in the UK.


The Length of Your Leave

Now, being a citizen of jolly old England, it means you are entitled to take part in a maternity leave system that ranks as one of the best in the entire world. As an expectant mother in the UK, you can take up to a year from work: A process referred to as Statutory Maternity Leave. Now, just because its 'statutory,' it doesn't mean it's obligatory. If you so wish, you can return to work immediately after your Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) comes to an end, which would be 6 months from the point you began your leave. If you would like to take the full year, though, for the sake of courtesy let your employer know, and enjoy the first year with your new born.

Assuming the baby doesn't arrive suddenly, too, you are allowed to begin your leave up to eleven weeks before the due date. To qualify in principle, it is a legal requirement, however, to inform your employer at least 15 weeks before the date the baby is due that you are pregnant and that you intend to take leave. One thing that is a good idea to bear in mind when still working close to the due date, though, is if your unable to go to work due to pregnancy related conditions up to 4 weeks before the due-date, your employer is legally entitled to begin your maternity leave from the date of the first absence.

One final note: You are legally required to take at least 2 weeks off work from the date of your baby's birth. If you work in a factory, then that length is doubled to 4 weeks.

Pay During Your Leave

Now, unfortunately, unlike the generous time allocations your entitled to as a new mother in the UK, the amount of money you can expect to continue to earn may come as rather sour news. In fact, in a recent study, the UK ranked as one of the worst countries in Europe for maternity leave when considering earning potential. With that in mind, then, brace yourselves; here's what to expect:

For the first 6 weeks of your leave, 90% of your current average weekly earnings is what you will continue to earn; paid in the usual increments you were used to before you took your leave. Following this period, you can then expect to earn A, either 90% of your weekly wage, or B, £136.78. You're probably thinking '90%? But that's the same as before!' Unfortunately, though, in this case, it's whichever is the lower amount of the two that you will, in fact, earn each week. For the average woman, then, this will be the measly £136.78.  This rate will then continue for the following 33 weeks, at which point any further time off up until 52 weeks from the beginning of your leave will be unpaid.

To put it in perspective, then, a woman earning £15,000 per year will receive around £2,458 over the first 6 months of maternity leave.

If you'd like a more tailored impression of what you could expect, use the online Staturoty Maternity Pay calculator.

Your Rights While on Leave


Okay, so after the rather sorry state of affairs depicted through our explanation of your financial prospects, here's a look at what rights you have whilst on leave.

In a nutshell: They don't change. Of course, financially your expectations must be doctored a tad, but in respect to any notice regarding contractual changes, promotional opportunities, holiday allocations and severance pay, nothing changes while on standard OML. If you were to opt for a further 6 months leave (bringing your total length of maternity leave to 52 weeks), though, and take  Additional Maternity Leave (AML), your rights as an employee will diminish slightly, with only the notice period and redundancy pay being applicable. Of course, before opting for AML it would be advisable to negotiate the conditions of your contract, and discuss what rights you would like to maintain with your employer.

Now that you know what is the legal minimum to expect from your employer during your time with your new-born, it is more than advised to refer to your HR department, or read over the clauses in your contract to understand better the individual nuances your particular employer may offer. Remember, the above is only the legal minimum and it is not uncommon for many companies to offer attractive maternity packages to their employees, especially regarding pay, length, and other incentives.

If you are still not one hundred per cent sure, however, get in touch with Coles solicitors and find out exactly what you’re entitled to as a new mother.

Good luck!



 **This material was posted by a 3rd party for compensation. None of the above reflect the thoughts of the host blogger. Host blogger is not responsible for any misinformation*




Thursday, February 20, 2014

5 Months a Lawyer


I've been an attorney about 5 months now...can't say that much has changed! 

The more I practice, and the more I talk with friends, the more I realize that everyone has such a unique experience in their first jobs out of law school. Some aren't doing the traditional private-practice route, and are doing things like working for banks, title companies, etc. Others are in private practice and mostly research or do the "grunt work" in larger firms, and others are in court every day for hearings and motions. 

I'm about in the middle. Court is once or twice a month, some grunt work research and memos, and maybe 40% of my time spent working with clients on day-to-day things like discovery, estate plans, motions, demand letters and things that don't make me have to put on a suit and go to court (my favorites!)

Do I think I'll do this the rest of my life? I'm not sure. It would be nice not to deal with billable hours...actually...it would be wonderful. 
However, I have no complaints! (except for those I file in court...lame joke)

If I had to do it over again, would I still go to law school? Maybe. The market is still rough for a lot of my peers, and because of that, the salary doesn't exactly make up for it right now. I'll have to wait a few years and come back to you on that one. 
Part of me wishes I would have followed my dream and become a flight attendant...or better yet a world traveler (that is an occupation right?)


My firm photo is finally here. The photographer kept telling me I was "smiling too much to be a lawyer". So this is what you get...a super awkward looking Kitty. 
( I blocked out my firm name...just for privacy reasons!) 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Guest Blogger: 2 Simple LSAT Tips for Success

Today we have a guest blog by 7sage. This is one of those posts directed to those of you who may be thinking of law school, and are thinking about taking that dreaded law school admissions test! 
2 Simple LSAT Tips for Success
Every student planning to attend law school dreams of getting into a top law school. For these high achievers, an exceptional LSAT score is crucial to making this dream come true. Sadly, many students underestimate the difficulty of this test and do not adequately prepare and study for the LSAT. Fortunately, there are some LSAT tips that can help you prepare for this challenge. With this advice and dedicated studying your test day will go smoothly and you will score in the top percentile. (It should be noted that it is possible to take the test multiple times. However, there are schools that will consider each test score. As a result, it is important to ensure you fully prepared each time you attempt the test.) Below are the two LSAT keys to success that are most often overlooked.
1 - Thoroughly Prepare for the LSAT
Most experts recommend that individuals study for the LSAT at least six months before taking the test. There are few other standardized tests that are as challenging as the Law School Admissions Test. Becoming familiar with the testing environment and the types of question asked on the exam are essential steps to achieving a high score. For most individuals, this entails taking numerous practice tests and reviewing all questions that were missed. Unfortunately, many people do not have the study habits needed to successfully prepare for this exam. Luckily, for these people, there are preparation courses available that can dramatically improve your readiness for the exam.
Many students are under the impression that their schedules prevent taking these courses. However, this does not have to be the case. In fact, there are online LSAT resources with many types of preparation courses. These courses can be taken from the comfort of your home and at a time that is convenient for you. If you choose to take an online LSAT course, then it is important to ensure that any practice tests you take are done under conditions that closely mimic what you will encounter on test day.
2 - Schedule the exam when you've had time to prepare thoroughly
While the LSAT is offered numerous times throughout the year, it is often recommended to take the exam during the June testing dates. If you are in undergraduate school, it can be difficult to find the time to take the test during the school year. However, by scheduling the test for June, it can be possible to ensure you have ample time to finalize your preparations for the test. Unfortunately, this is one of the most overlooked LSAT tips, and it is one of the easiest to accomplish. After all, it is not difficult to see the problems that can develop when the LSAT is scheduled during finals or midterms.
A career as an attorney can be a highly rewarding and financially lucrative profession. As a result, it is important to ensure you are admitted to a well respected law school. Due to the competitive nature of law school admissions, it is essential for students to earn an exceptional test score to qualify for admissions into the top programs. Luckily, by following a few simple LSAT tips, it is possible to help ensure you receive the best score possible when you take the test.

With the help of 7Sage's online LSAT resources, you can score in the top percentile of LSAT scores.


**The above information was not written by the Blogger. Blogger was compensated for posting this material**


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Getting Clients

Since I've started in private practice I've always wondered....how in the world do you get your own clients? There is word of mouth, advertising, and people just googling "lawyers". This week I've learned...a client can come from anywhere.

The firm I'm at encourages us to get involved in the community, and get our own clients. I've had plenty of clients that have been handed to me by firm partners but had yet to have someone cold call me directly and say "hey, I heard about you from____ and I'd like you to be my lawyer". If you're planning on getting all of your clients that way, you must be pretty involved. 

This week I learned, clients can come from anywhere. I have my first client that is 100% mine. What I mean is, I brought them into the firm, and I'm doing all the work (and I'm getting all the "credit" when it comes to my billable hours). A week ago I was meeting a stranger on craiglist to buy a vintage camera. He suggested we meet at a QT gas station, it was a little sketchy...but I went for it. We went inside so I could see the camera better in the light, and while looking at it, he asked what I did. I told him I was a lawyer. He asked what kind, and I said "I do a lot of family law." 

Well, I paid the man and walked out. Another man followed me out to my car that had been standing near us in the gas station. It was dark, I was in a part of town I don't normally go to...and I got a little worried. However, he was nice, polite and said he heard I was a family law attorney and he knew someone who needed one. He asked my retainer, I gave him a couple business cards, and hopped into my car. 

Turns out, this guy's girlfriend was the cashier at the gas station. They'd overheard me talking, and she sent him out to get my card, because she needed legal work. A week later I received a call from a girl saying "you don't know me, but do you remember giving out your card at a QT last week?" I was pretty surprised to receive a call. She is now one of my favorite clients. 

So now I'm going tonight to get "I'm a lawyer" tattooed on my forehead. Okay, just kidding. But I'm reminded that things happen for a reason, and maybe bringing in my own clients won't be so dreadful. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

How to Craft the Perfect Law School Study Schedule and Conquer your Next Semester of Law School


Today we have a really wonderful guest blogger! I fellow ex-law student that specializes in talking to soon-to-be law students and preparing students for the dreaded bar exam! Here is Ashley to tell you more!



A good law school study schedule can make a big difference in your grades. A good study schedule can also save you stress, give you a sense of control and lower your anxiety during law school. If you are looking for a way to improve your law school grades and lower your stress level in 2014, consider making a resolution to create and follow a hand-crafted study routine.

At first glance, making a regimented study routine seems boring and predictable - the opposite of “artistic”. But like any work of art, it is unique and individual to the maker. Just like a nicely-crocheted sweater, there is not a one-size-fits-all study routine. And just like any creation, you can use bright colors and a variety of materials to make your study schedule – whether you use a black and white excel spreadsheet, or a big piece of paper and a lot of highlighters.

There are two steps necessary to plan your ideal study routine: First, before your semester starts, choose when and where you will study. Second, each week of the law school semester, plan what you will study. 

Step One: Before the Semester Starts, Choose When and Where you will Study
You can complete Step One as soon as you have your class schedule. The best way to do this is to have a blank weekly calendar in front of you with all seven days of the week on it. Make sure that you have a lot of space to write on each day. It helps if you divide your time into half-hour increments like the one below. Start from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed.
Time
Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
7:30







8:00







8:30







9:00







9:30







10:00







10:30







11:00







11:30







12:00…








After you have your blank weekly schedule in front of you, complete the following steps:

1.        Fill in the days and times that you have classes with one color.  
Time
Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
7:30







8:00







8:30

Contracts

Contracts



9:00

Class

Class



9:30


Real Prop

Real Prop


10:00


Class

Class


10:30







11:00

Torts

Torts
                         
Legal

11:30

Class

Class

Writing &

12:00





Research

12:30





Class

1:00








2.       Fill in your daily obligations and tasks. Some necessary tasks might include:
·         Getting ready in the morning
·         Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and taking breaks
·         Commuting to/from school
Time
Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
7:30
Sleep in & Relax
Wake up
Breakfast
Wake up
Breakfast
Wake up
Breakfast
Wake up
Breakfast
Wake up
Breakfast
Sleep in & Relax
8:00
Breakfast
Get ready.
Commute
Get ready.
Commute
Get ready
Commute
Get ready


Breakfast
8:30

Contracts

Contracts



9:00

Class

Class
Commute


9:30


Real Prop

Real Prop
Get ready

10:00

Lunch
Class
Lunch
Class
Lunch

10:30
Get ready




Commute

11:00

Torts

Torts
                         
Legal

11:30

Class
Lunch
Class
Lunch
Writing &

12:00




Break
Research

12:30
Lunch




Class


You should also include:
·         Time with family and friends
·         Church/religious commitments
·         Meeting with a study group (if you benefit from studying in a group)
·         A break for a few hours, a half day, etc. Many students find it very rewarding to schedule a few hours to “do nothing”, sleep in, make something awesome, whatever.  
Do not abandon your family, friends, or hobbies when you go to law school. You will probably not be able to go out as much as you did in undergrad, but it is important to add periods of time to relax and give your brain a break during law school. This will help you keep your sanity and make you more productive when you sit down to study. The amount of time that you should allocate for family, friends, religious obligations, and hobbies every week will vary, depending on your responsibilities and your personality.
3.       Plan time for sleep and exercise.
·         Make sure to schedule 6-8 hours of sleep per night, depending on how much sleep you ordinarily need.  
·         Plan time to be active – whether it’s going to the gym or going on a walk. It is good for your body and your brain.  It will also help to relieve stress.
Time
Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
7:30
Sleep in & Relax
Wake up
Breakfast
Wake up
Breakfast
Wake up
Breakfast
Wake up
Breakfast
Wake up
Breakfast
Sleep in & Relax
8:00
Breakfast
Get ready.
Commute
Get ready.
Commute
Get ready
Commute
Get ready


Breakfast
8:30

Contracts

Contracts



9:00

Class

Class
Commute


9:30


Real Prop

Real Prop
Get ready

10:00

Lunch
Class
Lunch
Class
Lunch

10:30
Get ready




Commute

11:00
Church
Torts

Torts
                         
Legal

11:30

Class
Lunch
Class
Lunch
Writing &

12:00




Break
Research

12:30
Lunch




Class

1:00



Break

Break
Lunch
1:30






Exercise
2:00






At home
2:30

Criminal
Exercise
Criminal
Meet w/
Exercise

3:00

Law Class
Go to gym
Law Class
Study
Go to gym

3:30


(& Commute)

Group
(& Commute)

4:00





Snack

4:30
Dinner &



Walk


5:00
Break



Dinner


6:00

Dinner

Dinner
With

Crafts
6:30


Dinner
Walk
parents

Relax
7:00
Walk



Break

Whatever
7:30





Dinner &
Do
8:00





Relax
Nothing
8:30
Crafts

Relax




9:00
Relax





Go out
9:30
Whatever






10:00
Do
Relax

Relax



10:30
Nothing
&

&



11:00
Go to bed
Go to bed

Go to bed
Relax &


11:30


Go to bed

Go to bed
Go to bed


4.       Decide when and where you will study. 
·         Consider whether you are a morning person or a night person. If you cannot bear the thought of getting up early, schedule your study sessions for the afternoon and evening.
·         Consider the best environment to study in: Is it at home, a library, or a coffee shop? Be true to yourself. If you really cannot concentrate in the law library, don’t go to the library to study simply because you feel you “should.”
·         Make sure you are studying for the optimal amount of time.
·         Study for at least one-hour chunks at a time. Aim to study several hours each day.
·         Take breaks if you are studying for a long period of time.
Your completed schedule may look something like this:
Time
Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
7:30
Sleep in & Relax
Wake up
Breakfast
Wake up
Breakfast
Wake up
Breakfast
Wake up
Breakfast
Wake up
Breakfast
Sleep in & Relax
8:00
Breakfast
Get ready.
Commute
Get ready.
Commute
Get ready
Commute
Get ready

Study at Home
Breakfast
8:30

Contracts
Study at
Contracts



9:00

Class
Library
Class
Commute


9:30


Real Prop

Real Prop
Get ready

10:00

Lunch
Class
Lunch
Class
Lunch

10:30
Get ready




Commute

11:00
Church
Torts

Torts
                         
Legal
Study at
11:30

Class
Lunch
Class
Lunch
Writing &
Home
12:00


Study at

Break
Research

12:30
Lunch

Library

Study at
Class

1:00
Study at
Break

Break
Library
Break
Lunch
1:30
Library
Study at

Study at

Study at
Exercise
2:00

Library

Library

Library
At home
2:30

Criminal
Exercise
Criminal
Meet w/
Exercise

3:00

Law Class
Go to gym
Law Class
Study
Go to gym

3:30


(& Commute)

Group
(& Commute)

4:00

Study at
Snack

Commute
Snack

4:30
Dinner &
Library
Study at

Walk
Study at
Study at
5:00
Break
Commute
Home
Commute
Dinner
Home
Home
6:00

Dinner

Dinner
With

Crafts
6:30


Dinner
Walk J
parents

Relax
7:00
Walk
Study at

Study at
Break

Whatever
7:30
Plan “To
Home
Study at
Home
Study at
Dinner &
Do
8:00
Do” List

Home

Home
Relax
Nothing
8:30
Crafts

Relax




9:00
Relax





Go out
9:30
Whatever






10:00
Do
Relax

Relax



10:30
Nothing
&

&



11:00
Go to bed
Go to bed

Go to bed
Relax &


11:30


Go to bed

Go to bed
Go to bed


The above schedule would be fitting for someone who likes to study at home or in the library but gets distracted at coffee shops. It is for someone who likes to exercise in the afternoon and who makes time for family, friends, crafts, and church. The schedule allocates about five hours per day to study. Your study schedule may look completely different.

Now you know when you will study – it will be automatically programmed in your day! So how do you know where to begin when you sit down to study? If you do not have a plan, you will inevitably end up on Facebook or Etsy.

Step Two: Once you Start your Semester, Prepare Goals Every Week.   
Sit down once a week for an hour or so and prepare a weekly “To Do” list. The list should contain everything that you want to get done that week. It is best to incorporate planning your weekly “To Do” list right into your study schedule. Note that the mock study schedule above reserves 7:30 – 8:30 PM on Sunday night for this task. 
                                                                                                                                                                    
When you are making your weekly list of things to do, be as specific as you can. This is the best way to stay focused and productive because rather than sitting down with a vague plan to "study something” you will have a list of things to plow through.  Here are some tasks that you should include in your weekly to-do list:

1. Read/skim cases and/or commercial briefs as well as any corresponding supplement.  
2. Create and review your outlines.
3. Practice answering exam questions and compare your answer to the model answer.
4. Complete legal writing homework assignments and research projects.
5. Prepare to be on call (some weeks).  

You can even break your weekly list of things to do into tasks you want to accomplish each day, if you find that more beneficial.

By automatically programming studying into your day, you will be sure you are studying enough. By making weekly “To Do” lists, you will know what to do when you sit down to study and you will minimize the risks of not getting everything done or becoming distracted.  A study routine may not be the most exciting thing you have ever created; however, like any creation, it has the power to change and improve your life.  

Questions? Comments?  
E-mail me at excellenceinlawschool@gmail.com. I am happy to help you!
Ms. Ashley Heidemann graduated as the number one law student out of over 200 students in her class of 2011 at Wayne State University. She now works as a tutor for law school and the bar exam. She also teaches an Online Law School Preparatory Course. For more information, go to www.excellenceinlawschool.com.




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