Friday, July 11, 2014

A Letter to Those Taking the Bar Exam

I had a friend message me today who will be taking the bar exam this summer. She was going through what many recent graduates are going through this time of year...and they are probably going crazy. She asked for advice. There may be more people out there that need to hear this, so here is my letter to those of you that may need to hear this right now:

Hey! I know its hard, I was a total mess. I'd feel great about it one minute, and totally bomb the multiple choice questions the next minute.
That being said, I don't have a great answer for you. I walked out of the bar thinking "I 100% just failed this" and ended up doing awesome...better than most everyone I knew.
To me, it was putting in the time. I forget if you have Barbri but they have an ipad/iphone app with multiple choice. Sometimes I needed to get away, sit outside, and just run through them to do something new. Sometimes I needed to just play the video before I went to sleep and listen to it rather than watch.
I heard barbri questions were harder too (she had asked if it was true that Barbri questions were harder than the real exam) . I would have to say they must be, because I never did great on the practice stuff, but did well on the test. If you're like me, I was never very consistent. One day I'd get 30% of the questions right, the next was 80%.
I will not say that you will pass. I will say that you won't ever regret putting MORE time into studying. I passed with plenty of wiggle room, but I would not go back and exchange one day of studying for a day of relaxation.... every day that went into it could have been the day that made me go from passing to not passing.
That probably didn't help much, but you will get through it. If you're like me, nothing I can say will actually comfort you unless its a lie I can tell you by far passing the bar has been the best feeling I've ever felt, its a big accomplishment, and you CAN do it.

So there you have it. Those are my words for those of you taking the upcoming bar. If you'd like to go back and see what I was like during bar prep, I blogged a couple times as I was going through it-- Look here

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

1 Year Since Graduation

Still here, still lawyering! It has now been 1 entire year since I graduated from law school. 

A lot happens in that first year. If you have a job ready for when you pass the bar, that is wonderful! If not, you're pretty concerned with finding that first job. 

I have friends, like me, that took a job where they'd been clerking...so it wasn't a huge change. I also have friends that have switched jobs 3 times since graduation. I know of people that still haven't passed the bar, as it is only offered twice a year. 

A year ago I was fretting about the bar exam, and just starting the process of studying. It seemed awful. There was so much material, and seemingly so little time. 

This year was full of first. My first time calling myself an attorney, my first hearing by myself, my first time prepping for trial. I'm finally seeing cases all the way through. Its great being able to see all steps in the process now, from the initial client consult to the final resolution of their matter. 

For all of you studying for the bar exam, good luck! I won't say "You'll pass" or any reassuring comments...because I remember how frustrating those were to me. I can say...eventually it will be over. Study hard, commit the time to studying more than you've ever studied, and just go for it. I still think the best feeling in the world was when I opened the letter saying I passed :) 

Friday, April 25, 2014

How Taking the Bar Exam is like Having a Baby

Full disclosure, I've never had a baby. 

So I can't really say that taking the bar exam is like having a baby....but from what I hear about the glories of having a baby...this is why I say this.
A little background. I was sitting in a CLE (Continuing Legal Education...were are required to go to so many of these lectures per year to keep our license) yesterday afternoon listening to a law professor speak, and I realized a year ago I was in class doing this same thing. It seems so long ago that I was in a classroom, copiously taking notes and worrying about finals. 

Then I also realized, the bar exam wasn't even a year ago. I laughed to myself because I thought "eh...that wasn't so bad."

And that's why I think taking the bar exam is like having a baby. 

Its hard, and it was awful. I remember the 2 months studying for the exam, I never had time to just think. So when I did, which always happened to be in the middle of Sunday church, I found myself crying and hoping no one would notice. It was hard, and it was life changing (I would have no job, and no plan if I didn't pass) I remember thinking it was the worst thing of my life. But now I look back, and don't think it was that bad. Also, I can also tell you that finding out I passed the exam was probably the best feeling of my life. I know I'm supposed to say it was when I got married (or another more important life event) but because of the torture of studying, the relief of passing was honestly the best feeling I've ever had, and one of the best moments ever. I laughed, I cried, and I sat right there on the steps up to my apartment and laughed/cried while I called my family. 

It was all worth it. And today I caught myself thinking "Eh, I'd do it again" 
Its the same way I wonder if having a baby is so awful...why in the world do they do it again? How do they forget that pain??

Why do I tell you this? I tell you this because if you haven't taken the exam, I want you to NEVER...EVER while you're studying for the exam, talk to someone who has. I was so FRUSTRATED when I was studying when those who took the exam just a year ago told me "Eh, its fine. You'll pass." I couldn't believe they didn't remember the horror and frankly the hell of studying for the exam. I was a mess, and they were acting like it was EASY for them. That made me even more worried, "did they feel that calm when they were studying? Does that mean I'm not studying enough?"

Now 9 months after taking the exam, I realize its just a necessary evil...and you'll get through it and forget how awful it was. Like completely forget, and think "Eh, not so bad...I'd do it again"




Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tips for 0L’s: How to Prepare for Law School Over the Summer

I have another wonderful post here from the amazing Ashley Heidemann! She is fantastic, a girl after my own heart. We both have a passion for talking to potential law students, and giving the advice we wish we had gotten before starting law school. So here she is!

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Tips for 0L’s: How to Prepare for Law School Over the Summer  
Guest post by Ashley Heidemann 



Everyone will tell you something different about law school preparation.  There is one camp of people that think the best advice is “Don’t spend one second studying your summer before law school. Instead, relax, travel, spend time on your hobbies and goof off…because you won’t be able to at all during law school!” (This is an over-exaggeration by the way, I took one full day off every week and still graduated as the number one student out of over 200 students in my class…It is all about finding the right balance!)  There is another camp of people that spends their entire summer reading every law-related book they get their hands on in hopes to get a head start on preparing for law school. 

Neither of these approaches are wrong but they are not necessarily right for everyone either.  On the one hand, it is probably not the best idea to become completely mentally lazy or law school may be too big of an intellectual shock for you.  On the other hand, however, you also don’t want to work so hard that you burn out before you even begin school.

The best approach that I recommend is a middle-ground approach: Do some preparation before law school but do not dedicate your entire summer to it. Relax, have fun, travel if possible…but also put in some hours preparing.  Why? It will ease some of your law school anxiety, help you feel prepared and confident, and it can even have a positive effect on your final grades.   

What is the best way to get ready? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to law school preparation. I recommend you pick and choose a few things to start with on the list below. If you are not in the mood to dive right into law school material, prepare by doing things that are less law-school-y and maybe add in a few things that are more law-related closer to when your semester begins:
  • Read a lot. Read intellectually stimulating books on history, economics, or political science. Read anything that will challenge you, expose you to different worldviews, and help you to think critically. This will help you get used to the workload in law school as well as the classroom discussion, which will strongly emphasis critical thinking.
  • Get a head start on Legal Writing and Research. Chances are, you have a required Legal Writing and Research course to take your first year of law school. That means that you are going to have to learn how to write all kinds of case citations, become very familiar with the “bluebook” and have a good handle on legal lingo. It can be daunting to start learning all of this in law school (when you have 10,000 other things to do) but if you pre-order your legal writing books you can save yourself a headache by getting a jump-start before law school begins.  I started learning a few basic things about legal writing maybe a week or two before my law school semester started but I remember being very grateful for the head start.
  • Learn the Law. The best way to learn the law is to buy a supplement that covers a topic that you will learn your first year of law school. My favorite series was the Examples and Explanations series (but there are many options: Glannon Guides, Siegel’s.) I didn’t discover these until I went to law school but I knew students who were well-versed in Contracts, Torts,  Civil Procedure and other subjects because they had read a few of these books the summer before law school.  If you read a supplement or two, not only will you know the law for that subject well, but you will have an idea of how law school classes are structured. Teaching yourself a law school course is pretty time-consuming so I only recommend this to serious students who are willing and able to dedicate the time required for such a task.
  • Learn the skills you need to succeed:  Of all ways to prepare, this might be the most useful. Law school is very different from undergrad and requires a new set of skills. You need to learn how to read and brief cases, outline, memorize your outlines, answer questions “on call”, and take law school exams.  Before I went to the law school, I spent many hours learning the skills I needed to succeed in law school and I can say it made the difference between being average and graduating as the number one law student.  (I now teach all of these skills in an online Law School Preparatory Course). There are also law school preparation books that can help teach you the basics about some aspects of law school (Getting to Maybe is a popular one).
  •  Develop good habits: Sleep. Exercise. Learn to prepare healthy meals.  Good habits are underrated in law school and you will be surrounded by classmates who put physical health on the backburner. Physical health is important, in part, because it is intimately related to mental health.  If you are looking to increase your concentration, focus, and recall - and ultimately do well in class and on law school final exams - maintaining a healthy lifestyle is something you should make a priority. 
  • Relax.  The “first camp” of advisors have a good reason for telling students to relax before law school. You will have a lot of work to do in law school. Making time to relax, spend time with family and friends, and rest your brain should be something you take full advantage of while you do not have deadlines and exams weighing on you. Relaxing will rejuvenate you and help you feel ready to dive into the work that awaits you when you begin your semester.

Is it impossible to do well in law school if you do not prepare ahead of time? No. However, some pre-law school preparation will certainly help ease anxiety and prepare you ahead of time for the challenging task that lies ahead of you.

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, visit her site at www.excellenceinlawschool.com.


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 school...so I can too! So here she is, enjoy! 
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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.


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