Sunday, April 20, 2014

Guest Blogger: Off the Beaten Path: A Rough Guide to Your First Year of Law School and Self-Discovery

Because I still have so many law student (and aspiring law student) followers, I want to share an article from a guest blogger from Canada who is in her 2nd year of law school right now. It was important for me to remember when I was going through law school, that I wasn't alone...that thousands of people make it through law I can too! So here she is, enjoy! 
Off the Beaten Path: A Rough Guide to Your First Year of Law School and Self-Discovery
“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try” - Seth Godin
Completing my first year of law school made me feel simultaneously exasperated yet enthralled. I was left with the lingering momentum to learn and discover, but I needed a new way to channel my inquisitive energy.The summer of 2013 gave me the perfect, uninterrupted chance to rediscover myself and cultivate my interests.
I began my summer break by spending the equivalent of a full workday at a local bookstore. I had collected at least 3 light, summertime novels in my shopping basket before I gingerly wandered through shelves stacked with world maps and travel guides. While grazing book covers adorned with eclectic places and faces, I felt compelled to pick up a memoir of a woman who spent a year backpacking around the world alone. The author recounted her journey of self-discovery and adventure as she excitedly described the joy in getting lost only to find herself. Inspired by her fierce independence and my own unwavering sense of wonder, I did the most terrifying thing and booked a flight to Europe the next day. With less than 2 weeks to plan, and only a vague recollection of “Eat, Pray, Love” as encouragement, I prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.
I spent more than 3 weeks in 3 countries and 5 cities (Rome, Florence, Venice, Barcelona and Amsterdam). Traveling alone was something I never thought I would have the courage to do, nor was it a thought I had ever pondered before. Taking the leap and confronting my fears of the unknown was the best gift I have ever given to myself. Spending quality time with my own thoughts, a journal, and camera was a way to explore dimensions of myself I never even knew existed.
I learned the meaning of resiliency, the importance of adaptability, and the virtue of patience. More importantly, I was able to trust myself (and my instincts) in way I never have before. The sentiments I accumulated last summer set the stage for how I approached my second year of law school.
Expect The Unexpected
As much as we try to control the outcome of our lives, or even our days, the inevitable reality is that we will have a much more enjoyable and rewarding experience if we just “went with the flow” (even if it the flow feels more like a torrential rapid than a mild wave).
Take for example the incident that occured on my third day in Italy. I was in the metro station trying to get back to my hostel during the panicked Roman rush-hour. After walking from the platform into the train (a span of 3 seconds), I looked over my shoulder, and to my horror my purse was zipped open and my wallet and smartphone were missing. I was pick-pocketed!  In that moment I had to make a decision about my attitude, I could either choose to become overwhelmed and frantic (and ruin a perfectly good evening ahead), or I could choose to move on and take practical measures, like making an incident report and calling my bank to cancel my credit cards.

During 1L, I had several moments which could be analogized to feeling caught off guard, surprised and depleted (I’m looking at you, 3 hour exams). Let’s face it, we all come to law school as superstars in our own right. But it is important to recall that our letters of admission were not entirely based on our stellar undergraduate grades, or dashing good looks - admissions officers see our photos right? Remember, we are all unique and dynamic individuals coming into law school, and we have more to offer than just a flawless transcript. Know who you are, do what you love and use this aptitude to your advantage. And if you are ever confronted with nagging thoughts of inadequacy, underperformance or just plain burnout, just know that only you are in control of your attitude you can either choose to give-up or rise-up. After all, endurance in the turbulent pressure of the atmosphere is what gives stars their twinkling light.
Be Kind to Yourself and Practice Patience
Law school can feel like boxing match at times, competing with our own scores and trying and out-perform ourselves everyday. While resiliency is an invaluable trait, it is so important to continuously celebrate and cherish the small victories. The spirit of a fighter, the grace of a butterfly and the sting of a bee are wonderful qualities, they surely helped Muhammad Ali defeat his opponent in the first second of the first round of a boxing match. But even butterflies and bees need to stop and smell the flowers sometimes.

Use your first year at law school to engage in activities and opportunities which are rewarding, and meaningful to you. Go at your own pace, because while 1L may seem like a sprint, your legal career is more like a marathon. Taking care of yourself, getting enough sleep, eating well and repeating positive and kind affirmations will all help to ground you in this unfamiliar terrain.

Make Mistakes, Learn and Discover

1L gives you a perfect opportunity to get creative and explore different areas of law without serious commitment. Partaking in extra-curricular activities and student clubs is a great way to get to know others, and discover your own interests. While the amount of new information and opportunities might seem overwhelming, remember that you are only one person and you can cherry pick what seems enticing to you.

During my travels, I made the decision to take things at an easy pace and do activities that I was sincerely interested in. I realized that while I loved exploring famous tourist sites, I could never see everything and actually enjoy myself without feeling rushed. Treating a vacation like a cultural scavenger hunt is a sure way to exhaust yourself and induce burn-out. Similarly, law school can feel like a buffet-  biting off more choices than you can chew might make you feel overwhelmed, leaving you with too much on your plate.

It Takes Some Time to Get it Right
I am currently in my second year of law school, and have officially hit the halfway point to graduation. I write this reflection, with the benefit of hindsight and the realization that it is just as important to learn what you don't want to do, as it is to discover your true calling.
After going through the prerequisite courses of first year, second year gave me the latitude to pick courses and seminars that peaked my interest and kept me coming back for more. I took up writing  for Osgoode’s IPilogue, and have taken several intellectual property classes including Copyright and Trademarks law. Staying true to my passion, and putting my effort into a focused area of law has been a very rewarding experience.
I can honestly say that I am more positive than ever that opportunities are endless. As long as you have a general roadmap, passion to discover, and a slight sense of direction, you will end up where you need to be on your journey through law school and beyond.
While this has been a small look into my path, I am sure that you will find yours too. I can’t say that I have arrived at my final destination yet, but that’s okay because I am enjoying the ride along the way.

Mona is a second year JD student at Osgoode Hall Law School. She holds her BA from the University of Toronto and a Masters in Socio-Legal studies from York University. She is interested in issues of copyright and the legal side of the entertainment industry. Outside of school, Mona is an avid supporter of the creative arts; you will often find her reading a novel, enjoying live music or watching a play.

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 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 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 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**

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