Law School Graduation Year: 2011
Current Employment Status: Decision Writer at the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
Undergraduate School: University of Texas at Austin
Undergraduate Major: Sport Management
Hometown: Dallas, TX
Status: Full-Time Day
1/25/13 - When I first started blogging, I never could have foreseen
that I would still be blogging in the year 2013.
But knowing how much the blogs had meant to me years before,
I wanted to share as much as I could until I could say no more.
While it came much later than I thought—four and a half years—
the time to close this chapter in my life is finally here.
I spent years juggling more activities than was prudent to keep in the air,
but as hectic as it was, it always gave me something to share.
I was involved in all of those things in hopes that one day I’d find
a career that offered stability, a predictable routine, and peace of mind.
I’m glad I found it, but it comes with fewer experiences upon which to draw
when it’s time for me to pass a story or a nugget of wisdom onto y’all.
If I can offer some parting advice, always use “because” instead of “clearly,”
and prepare for class, the bar exam, or trial the way that Peyton Manning prepares yearly.
I don’t want this to end, so I’m only leaving on one condition—
that Emily allows me to return for a periodic “special edition.”
Feel free to e-mail me (email@example.com) for any reason at any time,
although I can’t promise that my reply to you will always rhyme.
While I started blogging to help others, it gave me more than it could have given you—
an outlet for my thoughts and wonderful memories to name just two.
It also helps that I was given a book of my blog that I can open if I dare
to relive a law school memory or catch a glimpse of my 1L-year hair.
So, thank you to those who read my entries, though my readership might now be one.
If so, thank you Professor Sobol, for being there throughout my run.
1/4/13 - This past October, Texas Monthly honored 2012’s Super Lawyers—attorneys who attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. I know someone who is most deserving of this award but who would not qualify because he does not meet the first criterion. Instead, he rarely receives recognition at all. Therefore, I would like to name my dad as this year’s Unsung Super Lawyer.
My dad put himself through law school when my sisters and I were very little. My only memory of that is him lying on the floor with plugs in his ears, a highlighter in his hand, books all around him, and three toddlers crawling on his back. He somehow still passed the bar, and while he knew that firm life was not for him, he took a job as an associate because he had three little mouths to feed. My mom remembers him regularly checking the obituaries in a law magazine and being disturbed by the number of associates who died very young from conditions secondary to the kind of stress that he was experiencing, especially because his boss was as overbearing as they come. However, my dad was accustomed to people crawling on his back, and he put up with it.
As he feared, stress and other issues eventually caused a deterioration of his health that kept him out of practice for several years. That stretch of time was extended further when he and my stepmom, who had a background in real estate, successfully ran a mortgage company together. But after the housing market crash, he found himself unemployed with no choice but to hang his own shingle, which terrified him. If it’s any indication of how little courtroom exposure he had previously, the judge had to tell him which side to stand on during his first trial last year. But he worked at least sixteen-hour days, taught himself the rules of procedure, and finished the year 65-0. While being 2012’s Unsung Super Lawyer, he also played the roles of marketing director, secretary, and accountant. And he still finds time to be my dad. I couldn’t be more proud.
12/14/12 - When Texas Lawyer Magazine asked me the other day to submit my practice-related New Year’s Resolution, it occurred to me that I hadn’t told you about how Texas Lawyer and I became acquainted.
It happened during a break between blogging seasons this summer. I wasn’t writing, but apparently, somebody was reading. Their research editor wanted to include an article about what examinees should do the week before the July 2012 bar exam, happened upon the blog in which I wrote about the “G.R.I.N.D.” of the bar exam, and thought that I would have some advice to contribute. However, she had been trying to contact me at my law school e-mail address—one that I don’t check. (Incidentally, one resolution is to check that account weekly.) Fortunately, she read a blog entry that directed readers to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I read the e-mail just in time to submit answers to her questions.
Then she asked me if they could take my picture for the article. Figuring that it would be nice for anyone reading a blurb printed in the bottom right-hand corner of page twenty-something of the publication to have a 1x1, black-and-white idea of what the blurb’s contributor looked like, I agreed. I also agreed to answer their questions on video just in case anyone who accessed the online equivalent of the aforementioned blurb was more of a visual learner. Sometimes I can be a little bit obtuse, but I really didn’t understand the nature of this article until a friend at the Court of Appeals called me and told me that my picture turned out great. I chuckled at how coincidental it was that she had turned to page twenty-something of the publication and recognized my tiny face until she clarified that she was referring to the 5x7 colored picture of me from the waist up that was centered on the front page of that week’s edition—the picture that was printed next to that week’s featured article.
I can’t speak to the video because I refuse to watch it, but everything else turned out great. I will always cherish the experience, the article, and the good story that they both make.
11/9/12 - Congratulations to the newest attorneys! I had every intention of stalking the pass list and being one of the first to congratulate some of my friends. But the day snuck up on me, and it took one of the examinees telling me that he had passed to clue me in. So, despite eagerly anticipating the results for the last two years, I have yet to hit “refresh” on the Texas Board of Law Examiners website, which is something that I bet few recently licensed attorneys can say.
It’s been a year, but I still often feel like a baby lawyer—like I did this Halloween. Getting into the spirit of Peyton’s first real Halloween, I greeted trick-or-treaters at the door with effusive praise of their costumes and their manners. Then Batman arrived at my doorstep and commented on my costume of an NFL replacement official. When he asked me if I was really a referee, I said, “No, I’m really a lawyer,” to which he replied, “You’re a lawyer?!” Now, in case you’re picturing him saying this with an expression and tone as if he thought I was famous, let me correct that image. Instead, he stood there with an expression that one would make after biting into a lemon and spoke with a tone as if he thought that I was being absurd. I almost tossed my yellow flag to penalize him for excessive honesty but, instead, praised his costume without commenting on his manners. Maybe vertical stripes are not only slimming but also make one look youthful.
Another Halloween incident reminded me that I’m the new attorney on the block. We were invited to wear costumes at work, and I decided to show some enthusiasm. So, I asked another attorney if she’d dress up, and she assured me that she would arrive as a nun. Well, I had to penalize this nun ten yards for being a liar when I ended up being the only attorney to dress up. Maybe we’ll hire one of you who just passed the Bar so that I’m no longer the new girl!
10/12/12 - I won’t harp on it, but I can’t believe that our Rangers fell apart like that. And it hurts me more to say than it hurts you Cowboy fans to hear, but I finally know what you all go through every year.
On a happier note, I was at a recent TA & professor meet and greet—one of my favorite evenings of the year—telling Professor Sobol what I do at work. Then I realized that I had not written about this yet, which I should do, in case anyone reading this is interested in this kind of work. Basically, when a claimant (represented by an attorney, a non-attorney, or no one) applies for disability benefits and is denied initially and upon reconsideration, she can request a hearing before one of our administrative law judges (ALJs). Typically, the ALJ holds a hearing where he hears testimony and admits other evidence (usually medical records), decides whether to grant or deny the claim, jots down some instructions, and assigns the case to an attorney advisor or paralegal analyst who will draft the decision. If the ALJ has enough evidence to grant the claim without hearing testimony, then he won’t hold a hearing.
Unlike the cases at the court of appeals, each case that I write here involves the same issue—whether the claimant is disabled. And I apply the same five-step sequential evaluation each time. Therefore, much of what I write one day is the same as what I wrote the day before but with different medical facts. Now that I’ve gotten the hang of drafting these, my biggest struggle will be to balance quality and quantity. But I’m quickly learning that these are not equally weighted, and so I’m trying to be okay with only proofreading a decision once. Some of these claimants are in agonizing pain, are agonizing about running out of money while awaiting a decision, and don’t have time for me to agonize over punctuation or parallelism. Fortunately, the only person to whom my inner perfectionist yields is my inner humanitarian (and, I suppose, my boss).
9/21/12 - One of my goals in law school was to intern once per semester to give myself every possible opportunity to be successful after school. I quickly learned that I wanted to work for a court in some capacity that involved writing, so I focused my search a bit and obtained every judicial internship that I could—federal, state, and administrative alike and at various levels within those categories. During those internships, I found myself struggling to write about foreign concepts, but it was the Social Security/Disability opinion that I wrote for Magistrate Judge Cureton that I especially remember agonizing over.
But as it turns out, that particular opinion likely got me this job with the Social Security Administration. Well, I’m sure that my clerkship got me the interview, but at the interview, I was able to give them a copy of that decision (along with the disclosure that I had help writing it), and I think that considering how few attorneys have familiarity with disability law, it put me in a different category of interviewees. The moral of the story is that you never know what experiences are going to make a difference, so I encourage you to seek out and embrace internship opportunities.
As I alluded to last time, this job is everything that I hoped for. First, obviously I enjoy the writing. But also, the job has many perks that I’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. For instance, even though I have to drive to and from Dallas, I can come in anytime between 6:30 and 9:00 AM and don’t ever have to specify what time that will be. And I can leave exactly 8.5 hours after I sign in. Typically, I get to work at 6:33 each morning and leave at 3:03 each afternoon, which allows me to avoid most of rush hour. And after a year or two, I’ll get to work from home two days a week. Finally, the benefits are unbeatable, and we get to wear jeans every day. I never thought I’d tolerate a daily commute on I-635 for anything, but I will for this!
8/24/12 - Greetings from St. Louis! I think that I started out a blog with those words back when I was here for a Moot Court competition. Those were the days. Not that I’m not enjoying myself, but being at a work training for two weeks is not the same as being on a Moot Court trip as a brief writer whose work is done ahead of time. The good news—and it’s very good news—is that I have a job. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve updated you, so I should back up a bit.
I had originally hoped to work for Texas Wesleyan Law full time, and I know that everyone involved genuinely wanted that to work out as well. However, I decided to keep an eye out for other options just in case. Judge McCoy offered to help me find a law firm job, but I resisted that, knowing that law firm life might not be for me. But when a job as a decision writer with the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review came up, I applied, got an interview, and was asked to start in two weeks. This was great news, but the problem was that it forced me to choose between taking something that I might not enjoy or waiting on something that might not even happen. Ultimately, my financial responsibilities left me with no choice. However, I’m still able to work for the school part time, which has allowed me, and hopefully always will allow me, to stay connected.
The other problem was that I still had two months remaining in my clerkship. Fortunately, Judge McCoy was more understanding and accommodating than I could have asked him to be, and he let me go early even though it left him in a bind. So, I started with the Administration on July 2. Since then, I have taken time almost every day to appreciate how blessed I am to work for the federal government. I’ll elaborate more next time.
5/4/12 - This semester, I’ve been a grader for “Preparing for the Bar Exam,” which is a pass/fail class that Texas Wesleyan Law offers to teach students bar exam strategies and to allow students to take diagnostic practice exams before their commercial bar prep course begins. I didn’t take this class, but it is so valuable that I think it should be required. These students have already taken more practice Multistate Performance Tests (MPTs) than I ever took and are well on their way to surpassing me in essays as well.
In case you don’t know what an MPT is, it’s a portion of the bar exam that requires you to analyze the law in the “library” portion of your packet, determine how it applies to the facts in the “file” portion of your packet, and then draft the type of document that you’re asked to draft. Have you read 1L blogs in which students complain of writing this thing that they call a memo—the thing that they have about a month to draft? Well, bar examinees are typically asked to draft that kind of document or something similar, but they only have ninety minutes.
My first attempt at an MPT was a disaster. The only portion of the memo that I had time to write was the fact statement—a portion that you’re not supposed to include. As you can imagine, I feel a bit hypocritical critiquing these students knowing that they are light years ahead of where I was a few weeks before graduation.
Speaking of graduation, one of the brightest guys in the nation (see “Moot Court Team Achieves High Honors at ABA National Competition” on the school’s website) recently asked me the silliest question—if I would go to his graduation. I know that sounds like a valid question because I almost missed my own graduation. But I’ve watched “Justice Thompson” and some of his classmates grow from being 1Ls on their first day of class to achieving things that I could only dream of. So, I wouldn’t miss their big day and can’t wait to welcome them into the profession.
4/13/12 - I recently sat on a panel of successful Bar examinees and shared my keys to success, which form the acronym “G.R.I.N.D.” That’s what stands out about last summer, it was a grind.
“G” stands for “going to class.” If this sounds obvious, then you don’t know how tempting it is to watch the lectures online in your pajamas. But when I did this, I always heard the cry of the laundry over the lecturer’s voice no matter how loud the volume was.
“R” stands for “reading before class.” Just like in law school, if you do this, then class reinforces rather than introduces you to the material, and your retention will be significantly better.
“I” stands for “incorporating study methods that worked during law school.” This summer is not the time to try new things. So if you studied best with flashcards during school, make flashcards; if you studied best by writing mini-outlines, do that.
“N” stands for “never procrastinate.” You probably found yourself cramming for an exam or two during law school, but that won’t work on the Bar exam. You have to eat this elephant one bite at a time, or it will eat you alive.
“D” stands for “depth of treatment.” Because the breadth of material is so vast, you can’t get as deep into the material as you’re used to getting. Many good students struggle with this because it’s difficult for an “A” student to gauge what studying for a “C” feels like. I suggest mastering the most frequently tested areas of each subject (your course will identify these) and going from there as time permits.
Finally, “H” stands for “hotel within walking distance.” (I bet most of you have always left out the “h” in “grind,” and that’s understandable because it’s silent.) Even if you don’t get a flat tire on the way to the Bar exam, you’ll probably lose sleep worrying that you might. I recommend sharing a room with a law student so that you both minimize cost and anxiety. I wouldn’t have made it through without doing this. Thank you, Leslie!
3/23/12 - Go, Broncos! March has been a surprisingly good month for football fans (unless, I suppose, you’re a Dolphin or Saints fan), and oh how the landscape has changed. Football has little to do with law school, but forgive me if it creeps into my blog this week.
There’s a lot going on at work and in my job hunt, but most of it I shouldn’t talk about. All I’ll say about the hunt is that I know where I want to be, and they want me to be there, but I have to wait a couple of months to see if it works out. I’m not depending on it because Peyton’s release taught me that timing, circumstances, and a budget can prevent even the most fitting of pairings from working out. But it will happen if it’s meant to, and I’m hopeful.
All I’ll say about my current job is that we will hear oral arguments at the school on April 3rd at 10:00 AM. If you’re unfamiliar with the appellate level, judges don’t admit evidence (evidence like letters from NFL players confirming bounties that they’ve put on quarterbacks) or issue sentences (kind of like the one-year suspension that Commissioner Goodell issued to Sean Payton). Instead, they listen to legal arguments, ask questions, and take the matter under advisement. I can’t say that it’s very exciting, I think those attending will leave with a sense of pride to be a part of our legal system.
Another upcoming event is the Law Review’s Energy Symposium on March 29 & 30 (info on the website). Jesse, the EIC (Editor in Chief), is amazing, and the Law Review’s accomplishments have often been unprecedented as a result. If you don’t know Jesse, he’s a lot like Peyton. He’s the first to arrive and the last to leave, his preparation is meticulous, his delivery is flawless, he won’t take credit for making everyone around him better, and his leadership has made his organization something that we’re all prouder than ever to be a part of.
2/24/12 - I’ve waited over nine months for an opportunity to take Peyton to Texas Wesleyan so that everyone could meet her, and I finally got the chance on Monday - Presidents’ Day was a holiday at work, but not at the school. Not surprisingly, Peyton seems to like the school almost as much as I do. She sang as we walked the halls, and she was very eager to show everyone that she knows how to wave. It was a lot of fun, so we’ll have to do it again.
My birthday was yesterday, and I got the best (yet most expensive) present I’ve ever received—a house. So after several years of commuting from Dallas to Fort Worth, I’m finally moving to Fort Worth. However, if you think that an evening rush hour commute from downtown Fort Worth to anywhere else in Fort Worth would be better than an evening rush hour commute from downtown Fort Worth to downtown Dallas, you haven’t driven on I-35W from Fort Worth toward Keller at that time. Good grief! I thought it was odd that the streets that I passed on the way to the new house sounded very familiar, until I realized that the reason was that I hear them mentioned almost twice a day, during the morning and evening traffic reports. That’s never a good sign.
Despite the drive, I feel good about the house that we chose, so now I just have to find the time and the energy to move. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet but, in addition to my clerkship, I have three part time jobs. They all involve either helping 1Ls learn to be law students or helping 3Ls learn to pass the bar. So, individually, these jobs make me very happy. Cumulatively, however, they make me very tired. I chose to do this not because I don’t like myself or my family very much, but because I thoroughly enjoy this kind of work and would love to do this kind of work full time. We’ll see if that works out, but for now, the boxes in the loft aren’t doing a good job moving themselves!
2/3/12 - I recently attended the Blogger/Student Ambassador Awards Dinner hosted by Dean Hurst and the Office of Admissions staff, and I’m so glad I did. They invited Dean White, Professor Sobol, and Professor Snyder, all of whom have been tremendous supporters of the idea (other schools might say a foolish idea) of letting students candidly share their experiences with prospective students. We enjoyed a lovely dinner followed by a presentation of awards, which ran the gamut from those that made us laugh, like the “Tearjerker Award (The Most Likely to Make You Cry)” (Congrats, Chuck!), to those that made us cry, like the MVP Ambassador and Blogger Awards (Congrats, Chuck and Carol!). At the end, they asked Chuck and Carol to read the official name of their awards, and I’ll direct you to Carol’s latest entry for more on that. (Go on. I’ll wait here while you check it.)
Anyway, I was completely taken aback and humbled by that gesture. The admissions personnel at any other law school probably wouldn’t even know my name, but Dean Hurst, Lori, Emily, Doug (both of them), and Tyler know me well enough to know how much I would treasure this, and how much more I’d rather leave something behind than take something home with me.
I’ll never forget that, but I’ll also never know how to thank them. They rarely get recognized, but they’re very often the reason a person chooses Texas Wesleyan Law. They’re usually the first people you meet, and they make an amazing impression and really do embody all that is so wonderful about the school. But because there’s so much to appreciate about the school as you spend more time there, you might forget about the ones who opened the door for you in the first place. Please don’t.
Being involved in their mission was one of the most rewarding aspects of law school, and they’re part of the reason that I don’t want the door to shut behind me now that I’ve “left.” Professor Snyder was right when he, more eloquently than I could, applauded them from the podium for being an amazing group that you’d be hard pressed to find at any other law school.
1/15/12 - People say that your mind changes after going through law school, and I found two more examples of that. We’ve been house hunting - Peyton is going to need a yard pretty soon (happy eight-month birthday, Peyton!), and the dog park near the loft isn’t going to cut it. We finally put an offer down on one, and I’ve been told that nobody has taken longer to sign a contract than I took. I don’t think I read a word of the contract that we signed to rent our loft, but I can tell you everything about this one—including how three of the clauses permit us to get out of the contract if certain conditions are met and how long we have to act if they are met. We didn’t buy that house, so I’m excited to pick apart another contract soon.
In another example, my doctor gave me some antibiotics with what she thought were simple instructions on the back. However, I write for a living and have become quite a grammar guru (though you can’t tell from the way I write these blogs). Long story short, because a certain modifier in the instructions didn’t modify a word that they thought it did, I took five pills the first day. Based on the informal study that I conducted in my household, three out of three non-attorney adults would’ve taken six pills that day, and apparently that’s what the instructions intended. At least I under-dosed instead of overdosed.
A couple of weeks after I told you that I feel like I’m not helping anyone in my line of work, I get an answered prayer in the form of an intern! Everyone thinks I’m happy because I have someone to help me, but I’m happy because I get to help someone. And guess what he and at least two other interns at our court have in common? They were in Professor Sobol’s class. I knew I had a good feeling about them. I just hope that I can be the kind of mentor that they deserve—the kind that we’ve all had.
12/14/11 - Three and a half months into my first job out of law school, and it’s already time to start looking for my next job. This clerkship only lasts one year, and the job market isn’t great, so I’d be foolish to wait much longer before thinking about what comes next.
You’re probably wondering how I can talk about what comes next when you haven’t even heard how my current job is going. There’s a lot I wish I could share with you about my clerkship with the Second Court of Appeals, but there are so many confidentiality rules that I decided a long time ago that the safest practice is not to say anything about it.
I will tell you that I wouldn’t be prepared for this job were it not for my writing classes, particularly Professor Sobol’s, and my Moot Court brief writing experience. I’ll also tell you that I really enjoy wrestling with the law every day and wrestling with how to most clearly and concisely communicate my understanding of it. My mind is challenged every minute of every day, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of this job as a result. I can see myself doing this for the long haul; however, there’s definitely something missing.
The downside of this type of work is that I don’t feel like I’m helping people or making a positive difference in anyone’s life. If it wasn’t for the fact that Texas Wesleyan is still letting me be a TA, I think my heart would feel a little bit neglected in my work lately. I’m careful not to neglect my heart for too long - I’ve seen one too many attorneys who have. I’ve realized that the only thing more contagious than a positive attitude is a negative one, and from time to time, I feel like I’m coming down with something. So, in order to remain heart-healthy, helping people needs to be a major component of whatever I end of doing, or I’ll have to supplement my work day with something that fills that void—ideally, something at Texas Wesleyan Law.
11/22/11 - It’s official—subject to paying hundreds of dollars in fees, I’m a licensed attorney. Justice McCoy let me go to Austin for the statewide swearing-in before he swore me in here for my family to see. I’m glad I did both, because it was important for me to experience this occasion from the two very different perspectives.
Before arriving in Austin, I thought this occasion was all about me. A small part of it is about my accomplishment (made possible by my family and mentors), but I realized that I’m a very small part of something much bigger than me. After all, I’m one member of a huge community of Texas lawyers, population 90,000. I sat at the ceremony among hundreds of inductees who had accomplished the exact same thing I had, along with several Texas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals justices who have been members of this community longer than I’ve been alive.
Also, before arriving in Austin, passing the bar seemed like the end of a long journey. But as I listened to all that the justices have accomplished in their lives, I realized that this is only the beginning. Few of the accomplishments they mentioned were things I have on my resume, so I’ve got a lot of work to do.
Finally, before arriving in Austin, I was proud of myself for passing the bar while raising a newborn. However, I realized that my feat paled in comparison to what some others had overcome. For example, take the student with cerebral palsy who, knowing that nobody expected him to even make it through the bar exam, passed the bar exam. Amazing.
With that said, the Fort Worth swearing-in was remarkable. The staff attorneys, the justices, and my family made me feel so important and so celebrated. I’m not sure which ceremony I enjoyed more, but with Thanksgiving around the corner, I know I’m thankful for the people in my life who constantly make me feel like it’s all about me and for the experiences in my life that constantly remind me that it’s not.
11/4/11 - We got our Bar Exam results on Thursday, and my name was on the pass list—the one that, if you’re new to this, is posted online at some unannounced time, traditionally on the day before the official release day, for the whole world to see. In the interest of productivity, I decided not to check the list all day. Instead, one of the hundreds of thousands of people checking it promised to give me the news. But that didn’t go according to plan. Instead, my colleague and Texas Wesleyan Moot Court coach greeted me cheering when I returned from lunch and told me that “Lisa Catherine Waters” was on the list. My jubilation turned to panic when I remembered that my middle name is Christine, at which point he said, “Oops, that’s what I meant.” In case he ever decides to sue me for assault, I vigorously deny that I slapped him and that I used offensive language during this brief period of misunderstanding.
The Bar Exam is as exhausting as everybody says it is. By the end of each day, I was not only mentally drained but also aching, hungry, and thirsty. When the proctor called “time” for the last time on the last day, part of me honestly hoped this was the part where he told us to congratulate ourselves and recite an oath that every examinee before us has taken: “I solemnly swear never to tell another soul that the exam I just took is about to be shredded and that an attorney becomes licensed in Texas by simply surviving, not passing, the Bar Exam.”
Seriously though, it’s a huge relief. For the better part of the summer, I thought that I failed the Bar and at being a parent, because it was almost impossible to do both with any sort of competency. It easily could’ve gone the other way for me, as I know it did for some people. For those people, I know Thursday was a heartbreaking day, but I also know it will be okay. After all, I’ve seen both a matter of life this summer and a matter of death this fall, and no matter what it feels like right now, Bar Exam results just don’t qualify as either of those.
10/14/11 – This week, I was going to tell you about what life was like with a baby and the Bar, but since my next blog is due the same day the results come out, that topic might be more appropriate for that week. Instead, I’ll catch you up on more current events in my life.
Little Peyton has been to more funerals in her 5 months of life than I had in 28 years before this summer. We’ve had quite a few deaths in the family, but she has brought a kind of healing to people that only she could bring. Maybe that’s why she was born when she was—she had a very important job to do.
The most difficult of these deaths was my stepdad’s. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer not long before Peyton was born. We all had time to prepare for it, but, like having a baby or starting your 1L year, you’re never really prepared for it. It’s been a very real and trying experience for us all, but it’s also brought us closer. We didn’t get to spend much time together during law school, but through this, we made up for lost time very quickly.
I’ve always been protective of my mom, and knowing that she was about to endure a very rough few weeks, I wrote a letter the night before Mark died that I had been meaning to write for quite some time. The letter nominated her as Teacher of the Month on my favorite radio station, 94.9 KLTY, and out of a slew of teachers, she won! The station called her at school and surprised her with hundreds of dollars in prizes, and they’re airing the whole thing the morning of the 17th. She was ecstatic, and more importantly, felt appreciated. I’ve missed being in law school, but I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve had for little things like this now that my schedule is more normal.
In case you’ve emailed me and haven’t heard back, I’ve been unable to access my school account for a few weeks, so you can email me at email@example.com, and I’ll respond.
9/23/11 - …And it did. I didn’t carry our daughter—the story could’ve been much more dramatic—but I was so frantic to get to the hospital that you would’ve thought I was in labor. We had planned for her to join our family months earlier, but God apparently planned for her to arrive an hour and a half after graduation, forty miles away.
Every able member of my family caravanned behind my stepmom and me as we hastily negotiated Friday afternoon traffic from Fort Worth to Dallas. Her job was keeping me calm, and mine was not getting us killed. Somehow, we made it in time for me to change from my cap and gown into scrubs.
Despite the rush, I made a point to take it all in, knowing that days just don’t get any better. And at 4:22 on Friday the 13th, we welcomed Peyton into the world. (If you follow this blog, you’re probably rolling your eyes. And if you follow football, no, we haven’t changed her name to Kerry.) She’s amazing, and I’m the most blessed person on the planet.
I didn’t blog about expecting a baby last year because I've heard that some employers don’t like to hire people with kids - something about them being less dedicated to their work. But I’d rather uphold my commitment to my readers than cater to employers for whom I’d never want to work. Sure, I’ll have a life outside of work, but I can’t imagine wanting to hire someone who doesn’t have something else they’re living for. I think if you’re willing to give your entire life to your work, your work won’t hesitate to take it from you one way or another—heart attack, depression, addiction, etc.
I’ll be the hardest worker my future employer has ever hired, but I’m not willing to miss the piano recitals or soccer games. I largely ignored my family throughout law school so I’d have options after graduation. And, while I realize the job market is tough, if my only option is working for someone who will keep me from Peyton, I’d rather stand in the unemployment line full time.
9/2/11 - So much has happened since I last wrote that I hardly know where to begin, but I can’t think of a better starting point than the best day of my life. I was initially going to tell the cut and dried version of my summer—I graduated, suffered through bar prep, survived the bar exam, started work, and have been tortured by the three month wait for bar results. But that’s a pretty standard summer for a law student, and you’re not reading my story for a recital of the steps to take after graduation—BarBri and Career Services can help with that.
You’re reading this to hear about how I did it, either because it will give you insight or because you might relate to it, and I have a responsibility to stay true to that. When a new blogger told me recently how much my blog inspired him, it occurred to me that omitting part of my story means depriving a student of something he or she might have gained from it, and that doesn’t sit well with me. With that in mind, the story is more interesting.
Simply sitting at graduation listening to the speeches, reflecting on the past three years, and walking across the stage was enough to rank graduation day among the best I’ve experienced. But then they called my name for two awards, and I was overcome with gratitude (although I didn’t process a word that was said about me because I was too stunned). The best part was that I knew my family was there, bubbling with pride. We hadn’t spent much quality time together in three years, and they all finally got to see why. So, as much as graduation meant to me, it meant even more as a thank-you gift to them.
Immediately after graduation, it was important to me to seek out and thank the mentors who played a role in getting me to that moment. I can’t think of anything, short of maybe the birth of my first child, which could’ve kept me from doing that.
To be continued…
5/11/11 - I’ve never taken this many exams in one week. I knew when I picked this semester’s classes that three exams in a week would be rough, but twelve weeks of taking the classes I wanted seemed worth one week of second thoughts. I’ll decide if I was right about that when grades are released.
I hope you’ve gotten even half as much out of reading this blog as I’ve gotten out of writing it. This has been a remarkable journey, and my hair is not all that’s grown along the way. People say I’ve grown to be much more sure of myself since my 1L year. Ironically, I consider myself less sure, but that comes from a place of strength, confidence, and knowledge, rather than one of insecurity and unfamiliarity. I’ll always question myself, but only because I know better than to think I have the answers right away. After all, while we’ve learned some substantive law along the way, the point of this program has been to equip us with the skills to find solutions, so that no matter how foreign the problem, we’ll figure out how to solve it. I know I’ll find the answers to the extent they’re out there. And if they’re not, I’ll have mastered that area of the law such that I can argue what the answers should be.
If your path takes you to Texas Wesleyan, be open to the experience - if you let it, it will change you for good. This isn’t just a place to pass through, it’s a body of people who truly love what they do, and it’s infectious. They’ll show you, not only how to do well, but how to do good—not a grammatically incorrect assessment of how you’re doing but what you’re doing. During my 1L year, my focus was on doing well. Partly because I succeeded in that, doors around me opened that allowed me to do good, and that’s been my focus ever since. I know that graduates from all schools are able say they’re doing well, but if you ask a Texas Wesleyan graduate, chances are, they’ll be able to say they’re doing well and good.
While being open to change, also bring with you enough sense of who you are and what you stand for to leave your mark here. We’re a young school that’s growing into a product of those who invest energy into it, so I invite you to give the best of yourself to influence this school’s growth for the better. There’s a little light inside of you that brought you here; let it shine to light a path for those around you and for those who follow.
4/27/11 - On Tuesday, I officially attended my last law school class. Even as I write about it, I’m still numb to it and probably will be until graduation when the end of the exam madness allows me to feel, instead of just cognitively process what’s in front of me. However, I am sentimental enough to appreciate that this law school journey has brought me full circle. My first class on that very first day of law school was Torts with Professor Harrington, and this Tuesday I found myself walking into my very last class of law school—Advanced Torts with Professor Harrington. I’ve told you she’s my favorite non-writing professor and Torts my favorite non-writing class, so it was quite fitting to have those serve as the bookends of my law school experience. I plan on putting most of my textbooks on one shelf at some point, and you can bet those two textbooks will be there, one on either end.
While little children scurried around collecting colorful Easter eggs this week, graduating 3Ls scurried around collecting colorful graduation cords. It’s pretty funny how people get about these cords—some will join organizations (pay dues and attend an informational meeting) just to get another color cord in hopes of being the most decorated student at graduation. If you’re expecting me to arrive at graduation looking like Rainbow Brite adorned with every color, let me manage your expectations. I didn’t join many cord-giving organizations, so I only have about five. One organization ran out, and for a moment I lost myself in the cord frenzy and text-messaged the head of the organization about how I could get one. Within minutes, I had a cord personally delivered to me in the hallway. Wow! I couldn’t have gotten a medic that quickly, but I’m telling you, these cords are a big deal!
Thank goodness for dead week. All semester long, everything else comes before studying, but during this one week I feel comfortable putting it first. Writing this blog has been a nice study break, but I’d better get back to it if I expect to graduate!
4/20/11 - The Barristers’ Ball (which, after further research, I’ve found is apparently named after multiple Barristers, so I’ve bumped the apostrophe over one space since my last blog—don’t judge) was an adventure. I planned on wearing one my sister’s dresses, since her closet is filled with them. But because she hasn’t been sitting around reading for three years like I have, getting into the dress was a bit of a tighter squeeze than I was comfortable with, so I went to buy my own at the eleventh hour. The dress was $22, the shoes $9.99, the necklace $7.50, and the purse $5.95. But the hair and makeup were priceless, as was everyone’s reaction to seeing me dressed like that. My very patient friend offered to do my hair and makeup, and since we only had 45 minutes, I didn’t have time to micromanage or complain, so I just told her to use her best judgment. She must’ve done a good job because nobody there recognized me. Good friends walked right by me without saying a word, and those who did recognize me after the second take were effusively complimentary. I would’ve been happy with the way the evening went to simply not trip on stage, so to have everything turn out so well was much more than I could’ve hoped for.
Graduation speaker elections were this week, and no, I didn’t run. A couple of people offered to be my “campaign manager,” and I was really surprised by how many people told me they wished I had run, but I just couldn’t. I’d probably get through the speech, but the degree to which I’d inevitably torture myself beforehand wouldn’t be worth it. There are plenty of people who would thoroughly enjoy being up there and would be great at it. I’ve stepped outside my box enough the last three years, so I’d like to sit back and enjoy the occasion and peacefully reflect on everything. Plus, I’ve had the opportunity to say my piece for three years in this blog, so I bet people would like to hear from someone else!
4/6/11 - Texas Wesleyan offers a class called Preparing for the Bar that I highly recommend, but many of us used up our pass/fail hours on extracurricular activities and couldn’t take it. Instead, the professor invited us to a crash course to get us up to speed. When we walked in, he gave us a pop quiz essay and told us we had 30 minutes. That was the first time in law school that I didn’t know a single rule or have any idea how to approach it, but I’ve also never finished an essay with such confidence. Not knowing the rules forced me to think like a lawyer and apply general principles of law to find a solution, which ended up being the point of his exercise. I didn’t know a single rule, but I correctly answered the essay just by methodically reasoning through it. I was so happy to realize that, apparently, law school is working!
Several students and I received The National Order of Barristers Award, which recognizes advocacy accomplishments. The price I have to pay for the award, however, is wearing a fancy dress on stage at the Barrister’s Ball, informally known as “law school prom.” As uncomfortable as I’ll be, it’s worth it, and I’m so honored to have been chosen.
The school notified me last week that I had mail in Student Services with my name on it. I was worried about it, but it turned out to be a wonderful surprise. An incoming student sent me a note thanking me for speaking at a recent admitted student event. I couldn’t believe it! It was so thoughtful and touching that it allowed me to shed a few much needed happy tears. I’ve been absolutely drained and exhausted lately with school, organizations, work, and so much that I won’t mention (but good stuff) outside of school, but that was the splash of fuel I needed to get through the week. Thank you. That gesture showed me you’ll fit right in and will do great things here. And it’s also comforting to know that the Texas Wesleyan I’ve come to know will continue after I leave.
3/23/11 - We made a good showing at the National Appellate Advocacy Competition, but we didn’t ultimately make it to the finals in Chicago. One of our oralists was the first place oralist out of about ninety students, and the brief that he and I wrote together came in third out of thirty teams. The best part about having some success at these competitions is that the school gives us such a warm welcome when we get back. We returned to school to find signs posted in the halls congratulating our #1 oralist on his remarkable achievement. Professors, staff members, and students stopped me in the hall, the school sent out a campus-wide email, professors made class announcements, and one in particular put my name on a PowerPoint slide. It’s so neat to have that kind of support from everyone. It shows us that these competitions are more than an extracurricular activity—our school values our success at competitions and recognizes that we’re helping to build a name for our school when we do well.
The rest of my Spring Break was mostly spent moving and catching up on school work. We merely moved units in our building, so it wasn’t the worst move, but a move is difficult no matter the distance, especially when you’re like me, and get bothered by things not being neat and orderly. Once we got settled in, I did everything I could to catch up in school, but I’m still not where I want to be. I’ve had one-on-one meetings with my Academic Support students this week, and I feel like such a hypocrite when I tell them how important it is to keep their outlines updated and have time to practice before finals when I haven’t done those things. But somehow, helping them with their outlines and exam preparation makes me feel less guilty about having accomplished very little of that myself.
I picked up my cap and gown today—yet another sign that this semester is going by much too quickly. It’s getting more and more real that I’m graduating in less than 2 months!
3/9/11 - Hello from St. Louis! I’m thrilled to be on the ground after another plane ride to a Moot Court competition. Once again, I have my teammates to thank for getting me through it. One used to be a flight attendant, so he talked me through our ascent to cruising altitude, and my other teammate pacified me the rest of the way with Angry Birds, an iPhone game that apparently everyone but me has played.
I’m glad I decided to do Moot Court this semester. It’s taken a toll on each of us, but these trips are a highlight of the semester, and we get spoiled rotten. Our oralists have put all they have into this competition, so I hope the chips fall in their favor this time.
A few weeks ago, I started tutoring a student in a “peer tutor” capacity, separate from Academic Support. The one-on-one dynamic allows for the individualized attention that I worry is often missing from my classroom session. And I feel like I’m making a measurable difference in someone’s law school experience, so it’s very rewarding. While it is one more thing on my plate, it’s the kind of thing that energizes me rather than drains me.
On that note, and as graduation approaches, I’ve been thinking about how I can stay involved in the growth of this school and its students after I leave. I’d love to continue working with students in an Academic Support role, and it looks like I might be allowed to teach an evening class after work next year, which would mean so much to me. Lately I’ve noticed that an alarming number of attorneys got through law school without learning how to truly conduct legal analysis or reason like a lawyer. I don’t always do this as effectively as I should on exams, but I know how to, and I know how to teach it. If I could help in some small way to keep our graduates from finding themselves in that position, I’d feel like my efforts to give back made a difference, so that’s my goal.
Have a great (productive) Spring Break!
2/23/11 - Happy birthday to me! If you’re wishing I had told you earlier that my birthday is today (Wednesday), I’m sorry—I would have if I had noticed. February has flown by, and my birthday really snuck up on me this time.
I finally turned in my first opinion at the federal court a couple weeks ago. As always, I was nervous about it, but they really liked it. What’s more is that the opinion they returned to me after circulating it through the editing process still resembled the one I turned in. At my last judicial internship, they assured me that my work product was great, but I had to take their word for it because that’s all I had. The red-ink-stained draft that I’d get back looked like the victim of a heinous crime, and was sometimes so unrecognizable that I needed the most cutting edge forensic testing to ID it. But this one survived with only minor scratches, so that gave me confidence to tackle the next (monstrous) opinion.
We recently had interviews and elections for the new Law Review board. What an ordeal! The interviews were painless, but we spent the bulk of the day voting on which students would fill what positions, which was rather contentious. I rarely have a strong opinion, but I’m protective of my 2L buddies. I wanted them to get the position they wanted and deserved but, most importantly, a position they wouldn’t regret taking, especially if it was one for which they didn’t apply. I’ve seen the immeasurable talent some of them have in a vast array of areas, so I didn’t want them to feel obligated to commit to one organization, knowing they’d have to give up almost everything else. I know they’re all going to be fantastic, and my class can graduate knowing the journal is in good hands.
I wish my 3L classmates who are taking the bar exam right now (early) the best in this grueling time. Also, many law school hopefuls recently took the LSAT, so I hope it went well for you and that you’ll be here to take our place in the halls next year.
2/9/11 - I must confess how thankful I am that the weather cancelled so many days of school. On the outside, I’ve echoed everyone’s concern and frustration, but on the inside I’ve been a little kid jumping for joy. Last year’s Moot Court brief regarding life-without-parole sentences for juveniles taught me that their frontal lobes aren’t fully developed, so they’re physically unable to fully contemplate and appreciate future consequences. I’ll be 27 in a few days, and am thankful to report that my brain is fully formed at this point, but you wouldn’t know that based on my reaction to our ice days. I honestly haven’t cared about the consequences of missing classes, and have joined DFW’s present-day-minded children and teens hoping to see my school’s name appear at the bottom of the TV screen.
Before I knew anything about the potential for an “arctic blast,” I had already prayed for some kind of relief. Like an athlete who knows not to pray for a win, but to pray that she plays up to her full potential, I didn’t ask for school to be canceled or anything—I just asked for some kind of a relief. By last Monday, I was so many pages behind in my reading, and knew the upcoming weekend was booked with Law Review and Academic Support events. So, although I wished I could hit the pause button on life, I just asked God to get me through the week.
I knew He worked in mysterious ways, but good grief! The next thing I knew, I had the foreseeable future off school and was slowly chipping away at the iceberg of work that formed this semester. While I felt really bad for everyone burdened or disgruntled by the weather, I became quite dependent on it, and really wasn’t sure how I’d get through a week this semester without an ice day thrown in. Wouldn’t you know, here I sit at home a week later on yet another ice day. I’ll have to acknowledge my frontal lobe soon and figure out how to function without inclement weather, but until then, let it snow!
1/26/11 - For two years I’ve chosen my classes with an eye towards the bar exam, but this semester I’m taking classes to prepare me for my clerkship in September. I chose one particular class, Electronic Research, based on how I fear the first month of the clerkship will go. The way I envision it, the supervising staff attorney will say after my second week, “Wow, Lisa. Great draft of your first opinion as a law clerk! It’s so amazing that we’re going to hire you to clerk for us for another year!” Then, two weeks later, she’ll call me back into her office and say, “Well, Lisa. After reviewing the astronomical Westlaw bill you racked up during your first two weeks, I’m terribly sorry to tell you that we have to let you go.” Ouch.
We’ve been so spoiled being able to research unlimitedly and for free in law school that I’m afraid I won’t be able to research without costing the court much more than I’m worth. So, I’m taking Electronic Research to learn to get the results I’m used to getting much more cost effectively, and it’s already been a life saver. Before this class got underway, I was at my desk on the first day of my new federal internship and had an early onset of the panic attack that I hoped to fend off until my clerkship in September. They gave me a Westlaw password (I usually get to use my school account), and I wasn’t sure (a) if that meant I was adding to their bill or (b) if they could track how inefficiently I was researching. I was so busy feeling absolutely handcuffed that I got little accomplished that day and felt extremely incompetent. Just as I’d hoped, however, Electronic Research that week addressed a lot of my concerns and, more importantly, left me feeling like I wasn’t the only one who has felt that trapped and helpless. It emphasizes much of what we were taught our 1L year when we lacked the contextual basis for it to stick, and it introduces us to new methods. If this class isn’t mandatory by the time you’re a 3L, I highly recommend it.
1/12/11 - Welcome back from break, as it’s officially called. If you’re a 1L, worrying yourself sick over grades for a month, it probably wasn’t much of a break. If you’re a 2L, writing your law review article and/or hunting for an internship, it probably wasn’t either. If you’re a professor, grading dozens of incomprehensible exam essays or dense LARW memos, it surely wasn’t! So, 3Ls, welcome back from break.
3Ls are the most vocal in lamenting their return to school. Most 1Ls are motivated to either wipe the slate clean or build on their successes. 2Ls are halfway through and are currently under the blissful yet false impression that it’s downhill from here. But 3Ls seem to have a hard time staying motivated. I’ve realized that this is why I continue to take on so many things outside of class. Sure, I question the decision (torture myself with guilt) when it’s time to check grades, knowing I didn’t dedicate as much time to class as I would’ve liked. But it’s doing these things outside of class that gives this experience meaning for me, motivating me to stay completely invested. Without that, I’d just be going through the motions, which I’d regret more than getting a couple of average grades.
As for my break, we mailed the cert. petition to the U.S. Supreme Court on January 6th and mailed the Moot Court brief to the imaginary Court on the 11th. The odds are slim that the Court will hear the case, but it was neat to be a part of something real. As for the brief, I was partnered with one of the most talented law students I’ve ever seen, so it was a treat. It’s funny to think back on the days I mentored him as a 1L - he’s come so far that I often feel like our roles have been reversed. The only downside of these projects is that their due dates made it tough to be prepared for the first week of school; but I’ll get caught up over the MLK weekend; especially since I can’t watch the Colts anymore!
12/15/10 - I decided to do Moot Court during my last semester. However, per the contract, I agreed to split the brief-writing responsibilities with my teammate. Not only is he a very talented speaker, but he’s an incredible writer. So, I can lay my group-project aversion to the side and know that he will diligently do his part and more. I just hope I can give him the same assurance on my end.
Another Moot Court brief writer, who won an award at her fall competition, was going through the same dilemma I was about writing in the spring. Her indecisiveness took her straight to the office of one of our Deans, who gave her the poignant advice that the best attorneys know when to say no; otherwise, they end up committing malpractice. It’s been my goal not to commit the law student equivalent of malpractice, but when these last exams rolled around, I feared I just might. It was extraordinarily difficult to stay on top of my classes this semester, and with two weeks left in the semester, I didn’t think I stood a chance. But somehow, I ended up creating my own outline for each class (I thought that streak would end this semester), and on the day of each exam, I was 100% prepared. Each exam had an open-book portion, but I was prepared as if they were closed book.
As a side note to 1Ls or incoming students, leaning on your book as a crutch in an open-book exam will give you nothing more than a false sense of security. You simply don’t have the time. The most effective way to create a curve on an open-book exam is to make it time-pressured. And if you’re on crutches, you can’t sprint the way you’ll be expected to. Even knowing the material backwards and forwards, I still wish I had 30 extra minutes. The time we were given wasn’t enough for me to write down my issue checklist, race through the exam, convey my thoughts clearly, and still have time to correct errors I made along the way.
In any event, somehow it all came together before exams, and I hope it turned out okay. Regardless of how I did on exams, I am getting better at handling myself after them. I used to torture myself for days thinking about what I could’ve done differently, but now I only torture myself for a few hours. It’s about time I get that down since I only have one more set before the biggest exam of my life. Happy Holidays!
11/23/10 - I have to decide in the next 4 hours whether I’m writing a Moot Court brief during my last semester (over the winter break), and I’m torn. The competition last weekend left me disheartened and disenchanted with the whole thing. But still, when I walked to my coach’s office yesterday to tell her I’m not writing anymore, I passed right by, sat on the bench around the corner, and just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I really like Moot Court, and it’s become such an integral part of my law school experience that I’m not sure what I’d do without it.
Actually, I know exactly what I’d do—I’d go on more dates with the one I’ve all but ignored for 2.5 years, focus on my classes, and give someone else a chance to write for nationals. But all the while, I’d resent ending on such a Moot Court low, knowing that the spring ABA competition is always run extremely professionally. The other consideration is that my supervisor this semester recommended for me an internship, which I got, helping to write a cert petition to the United States Supreme Court over the winter break. So, instead of (or in addition to) writing a fake brief to the imaginary Supreme Court, I’ll be writing a real brief to the real one.
I’ve mentioned before that if you have someone at home putting up with your law school endeavor, it must be a team effort to work. As I’m entering my final semester, I have a translation of “team effort”: Your role is to prance around like little Miss/Mister Texas Wesleyan, and your teammate’s role is to essentially be okay with being neglected. You’re asking them to put up with a lot, and you hope they will. Mine has, but we recently reduced an agreement to writing so I don’t get carried away. Per the contract, I get to write half of the brief (split with someone), we take a 20 minute walk together every evening, and I’m committed to two dates and two family outings in December. I’ve never excelled at contracts, but we might have ourselves a deal.
11/17/10 - I worried that in my 3L year I’d be somewhat forgotten and caught between two worlds—law school and the real world—like a middle child. Growing up with two sisters, I was the big kid who had to take the initiative to get to the real world, do something significant, and clear the path for them. I know I’ll do that after graduation, but I’m not there yet. My little sister was the baby who quickly realized that people were watching who’d be overcome by her slightest accomplishment—taking a step, telling the nice lady how many fingers she was holding up, or making people smile. That’s how I felt as a 2L. (I’ve skipped the 1L year because you’re really not even born yet, or at least not conscious of anything.) Without doing much, I’d be recognized, and I knew people were watching who would be proud, would smile, and would applaud me for relatively insignificant accomplishments. I worried about being the 3L middle child—playing off to the side doing exactly what the youngest is doing, and modeling myself after the oldest, but going largely unnoticed.
While it’s true that nothing I do will make the same splash it did last year, I have the best of both worlds now. I realized, when these two worlds came together last week, that I’m able to lead those behind me while still being influenced by those who’ve come before me. I recently attended a dinner recognizing the leadership of two Moot Court coaches and our Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. As I listened to them challenge us to “pay it forward” by mentoring others, I was so proud and appreciative of them. The next day, I hosted a table and panel for prospective students, and it dawned on me that in a matter of hours I had sat on opposite sides of the proverbial table. It gave me a unique perspective that I could bring to that table, and they told me I inspired and affected them, just as the award recipients had done for me hours before. Although I’m in between worlds as a 3L, I appreciate the position I’m in, and I’m keenly aware that I can still do good things here.
11/3/10 - I can’t believe I’ll be done with fall exams in less than 30 days. I haven’t even started thinking about them, much less thinking about being done with them. The reality of exams hit me today before class, and I had a sudden onset of panic/stress that lasted throughout the majority of that class. In a possibly related event, our professor started laughing because he noticed an utterly panicked look on a student’s face. Everyone in the class probably thought he was referring to them because the material was tough. But I’m convinced he was looking at me, since I’m sure my face—even through my hands that were cradling it—inadvertently told the whole story. He didn’t say who he saw, but he chuckled and said he wished he could make it better.
I keep promising myself I’ll make it better, but something keeps topping that on my priority list. My Law Review and brief writing commitments are over, but now Moot Court practices are in full swing for the competition the weekend before dead week (commonly known as the Thanksgiving holiday). The most time consuming commitment is reviewing our 1L students’ practice exams. It took 36 hours this weekend to finish those, but they’re all very appreciative, and I get a lot out of it too. With the bar exam looming in the not-so-distant future, I appreciate any chance I get to revisit bar-tested material.
Given my desperation to dedicate time to class, I’m taking advantage of every single minute. I sat in traffic for three hours when I-30 was shut down, so between prayers for those involved in the accident, I shamelessly read a week’s worth of Wills & Estates. I am capable of drawing the line though—like that very night when I got a flat tire and was stranded on the narrow shoulder of I-30. Instead of reading for class, I took the safer route and left my car in case someone hit it. Granted, that put me out in the rain and cold, but still, my panic-driven need to study hasn’t consumed my better judgment—yet.
10/20/10 - It feels like it’s been a month since I wrote my last blog - so much as happened in the last two weeks. First, I finally finished the citations for Law Review. Having those due right in the thick of my brief-writing month was almost impossible, but they had to be my first priority since they were due first. I did enough work on the brief to stay in the game, but after the citations were complete, I turned it up several notches.
The brief was right on schedule, but I wanted it to be ahead of schedule. See, the brief is usually due in 30 days, but this time the nationals committee told us (a few days into that period) that we would have 33 days. While this sounds like great news, I had already planned a brief-writing reward trip to D.C., and we were to fly out on day 30. I ended up needing every hour of those 33 days, which completely consumed my trip, with the exception of seven hours.
The good news is that block of seven hours was the greatest reward I could’ve asked for. We had field passes to be on the sideline before the Colts game against the Redskins, and we had row seven seats in the corner of the end zone for the game. When I was on the sideline, Peyton waived at me, although it took him waiving twice for me to realize he was directing it at me. I got some great pictures, Reggie Wayne’s autograph, and a much appreciated break.
So, with the citations, brief, and fun out of the way, I’m ready to buckle down and do what I should have been doing this whole time—reading for class, outlining, and preparing for exams. As a 1L, you get so tired of all the reading, outlining, and studying. But as a 3L, you long for some time to do that kind of thing, and it seems like such a welcomed break from everything else. When I need a break from that break, I’ll be watching the Rangers. Claws and antlers up—go Rangers!
10/6/10 - This time of year students don’t get enough sleep, so here are the top five signs that you may be delirious:
(5) you think you saw me wearing a skirt suit for the fifth day in a row;
(4) you think you saw that the Rangers won their division but that the Colts have two divisional losses;
(3) you typed out an entire email in your sleep, largely transcribing your dream;
(2) you think you saw me check into the Sheraton next door to school to give myself an extra hour on my brief, rather than just commute home to Dallas;
and (1) you think you heard me tell somebody “no” this week.
Alright, that last one was a bit of a stretch, so if you think you heard that, you need to get more sleep (I recommend the Sheraton). The rest of these actually happened. Number five happens a lot because of this semester’s externship. I couldn’t arrange my schedule to work a couple of full days; instead, I work just a handful of hours almost every day. Therefore, I’m dressed up all the time, which is good practice since that’s the garb I’ll spend the rest of my life wearing. However, on the rare day off, you’ll find me in a Colts shirt, which brings me to number four. I can’t believe this one is true, but it’s been nice to have the Rangers to follow at least.
As to number three, I’m just glad I didn’t press send. I really don’t remember what the dream was about, but I typed up several disconnected sentences about it before realizing I was asleep. Number two is a little silly, but it actually came to that. I find that completing writing projects is like sleep in that the hours that I spend need to be strung together to be worth anything.
Interruptions prevent me from getting to the writing equivalent of REM sleep, and I just haven’t been able to string those hours together this time. Staying at the Sheraton one night really helped with that, so I might make it two. Go Rangers!
9/22/10 - Justice McCoy held interviews for his Second Court of Appeals clerkship recently, and we got it. I say “we” because most of the credit goes to my family and my professors. My family has always treated me like a success, so instead of having something to prove, I just try to make them proud. My professors have provided me with endless opportunities that have allowed me to arm myself with a decent resume and plenty of experience when I walk into interviews. They’ve written letters, made phone calls, and personally spoken to employers on my behalf. They’ll never know how much their support means because I could never thank them enough, although they’ve been nice to indulge me as I try. I suppose the best way to thank them is to pay it forward, and I promise to.
At last month’s TA panel, we shared three personal keys to law school success, and I finally have space in this blog to include mine. First, get a planner. My planner, which I’ve named Simon, has been most useful when things arise for which I couldn’t plan. I write those things down immediately; otherwise I’ll forget. I often find reminders that, in the rush of things, I honestly don’t remember writing. But what Simon says, I do. You’d be surprised how much people appreciate it when you simply do what you said you would.
Second, offer all of yourself to this when you get here so you don’t have to sell any part of yourself when you leave here. If you invest fully now, people will notice and will invest in you. At that point, your resume and those who support you will speak for you, and you won’t have to sell yourself. You also won’t have to sell yourself short by taking a job that isn’t absolutely what you want.
Finally, realize there are no short cuts. If you think an outline you’ve found is the silver bullet, it’s really just something you’ve found with which to shoot yourself in the foot. We’re training for a marathon, and if you take short cuts, you’ll be out of breath when you get out into practice.
9/8/10 - In Academic Support last week, I compared the memo to a hurricane and promised that Hurricane Memo would hit on Tuesday. Well, it’s Tuesday, and I woke up to an actual tropical storm. Sorry, DFW, I only meant for it to be a metaphor. At least you didn’t get it as bad as the 1Ls—they got hit by both a literal and metaphorical storm today.
Unfortunately, I love citations a little bit less than I did last year because I’m spending over 25 hours a week checking law review citations. My goal was to knock out all six weeks worth of citations before my Moot Court problem is released in mid-September, but instead, I’m doing good not to fall behind. I also planned to read and outline a few weeks ahead by that time, but that hasn’t happened either. Hopefully, by making these confessions public, I’ll have some accountability to meet these goals.
Speaking at the scholarship and donor dinner was a defining moment in my life last year, and this year’s event, featuring the first ’03 Jeff Kubes Memorial Scholarship, was moving as well. I sat next to many people who have ties to our school in various ways, and the topic of conversation was how wonderful Texas Wesleyan is. I often wondered if students were biased toward Wesleyan just because we walk these halls every day, but it turns out that so many people believe that we are and always have been special. No one seems to know how it came to be or why it continues, but I have a theory. People come here and are touched by someone like Jeff Kubes with a big heart and an undying desire to make a difference. This is utterly contagious, so they turn around and pass it on to someone else—either conscientiously or because it becomes natural. We’ve all been touched by it—whether in the form of a scholarship or a friendly gesture. The catch is that we can’t hold onto it. It’s up to us to keep it going; so take some, but pass it on.
8/25/10 - I’ve always sought to capture defining moments in life by writing about them. This led me to keep journals throughout high school and throughout my tackle football stint, recounting everything from finding my first love and catching my first touchdown pass to having my heart and my shoulders crushed. It wasn’t the plan (because there’s enough to write in law school without keeping a separate journal), but my 1L blog suddenly morphed into my law school blog and into a very special gift allowing me to capture the highs and lows of all three years of this wonderfully challenging experience. As I start my 3L year, I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this again.
When I last wrote you, I said I didn’t have an internship, which I guess God found humorous - by the next week I had two. I didn’t know how to choose, so I didn’t at first. I told them I needed 24 hours to decide and convinced myself that I’d do both—that is, until a nightmare jolted me from sleep that night. The setting was the side of the road, the victim was somebody’s grandmother, and the monster was me. In this nightmare, I was driving to school when I saw granny pulled over on the shoulder, her tire and her spirits deflated. But, realizing I was too busy to take time to stop, I cruised on by.
I must’ve spent hours charting the pros and cons to doing both internships, but that nightmare was all I needed. You see, I’ve got this rule to leave enough cushion in my schedule to have time to help an elderly woman on the side of the road. I know that the day I don’t have time for that is the day I became too busy. So, I declined one of the internships, and while I kicked myself for turning down a great opportunity, I could sleep at night. As it turns out, the next business day, I received on offer to have that internship in the spring instead. I couldn’t have written or dreamt a better ending.
8/4/10 - I never thought I’d say this, but I’m blogging during my exam. I’m not panicking because I have 48 hours to complete the exam, and if I need the entire 48 hours, then I’ve got more problems than not finishing on time. Still, I’m anxious to spend time writing anything that is not being turned in and graded. I’ve decided to write this now because my building is conducting a test of the fire alarm, and I figure I can write a blog during that better than I can write an exam answer. Blogging and tuning out the fire alarm are two things I can check off my list of things I never thought I’d do during a law school exam.
I cannot believe this summer is screeching to a halt. There’s more to do by August 16 than I care to admit, but I’m looking forward to the start of a good semester. The extra-curricular-activity police in my life will be happy to know that I dropped a few things this fall. I’m no longer a legal writing TA or research assistant, but I think the extra work as a citations editor will make up for that. And so far, I don’t have an internship for the fall. In place of these things is a fourth class and exam on my plate, which I haven’t had since my 1L year.
Orientation is coming up, and I hope to see many of you when Academic Support TAs meet their students. Before that, I hope to see you at the block party this Saturday. The alarm has stopped, so back to my exam!
7/28/10 - I’m so glad I took that extra week off, and thanks to Doug Akins’s ability to quickly avert a financial aid disaster caused by my dropping that last course, it was the right decision. I needed that time to catch up on everything else. Even with that extra time, the law review work, job applications, and exam preparation started to feel like too much for one summer—that is, until I realized that it was the first day of the bar exam for recent graduates. At that point, I sent them all good wishes and appreciated that the work I had was miniscule compared to what they were up against.
Something else I don’t envy about what recent graduates are going through is looking for a job, so I’m throwing all of my unspent energy towards trying to secure one now. Applications for judicial clerkships are due at the beginning of September, so I’m trying to get those together before that deadline, in case a clerkship at the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth doesn’t work out. Professors and mentors that I respect and admire the most agreed to write letters of recommendation for me. I am most grateful for that, and it motivates me to make my applications even better.
Well, I’m off to study for my first ever take-home exams. I’m not thrilled about them, and I’m even more nervous than usual about the outcome, but it keeps me on my toes, which is a good thing.
7/14/10 - It figures—just as I’m starting to get back in shape, I’m thrown into a city with all the delicious food I can eat, and into the mountains with not enough air to breathe. So, I’m always feeling overfed and short of breath. That’s sort of how I’ve been overall here in Santa Fe—indulgent yet exhausted. The sites and scenery are beautiful and eye-opening, but the classes are draining because I’m out of my element. I knew our classes would be small, but I didn’t realize how small and how discussion-based they’d be. With six people in the class, I’m compelled to participate, but it’s not easy for me. I know it sounds selfish, but it’s like pulling teeth to raise my hand in there.
It bothers me that talking in class hasn’t gotten easier, but I take comfort in knowing that it doesn’t make me less qualified to practice law. It makes me the kind of person who will be delighted to research and write all day for a court, and not a lot of people can say that. Still, I signed up for this, so I’m forcing myself to volunteer at least once per day in the interest of building character. However, there’s no need to go overboard, especially when my GPA and rank (which are finally where I’ve always wanted them to be) are at stake. As it is, they’ll probably take a hit since participation is a significant portion of the grade. So, I’m dropping the third class and am going to enjoy NM with family and catch up on work for Law Review next week.
6/30/10 - Greetings from Albuquerque! Actually, I’m in a map dot called Belen where I’m staying with my in-laws before starting the Summer Away Program in Santa Fe next week. This has been a bit of a culture shock, but it’s been the perfect setting for studying Cultural Heritage Law. I don’t think I would’ve appreciated the reading from my 7th floor loft overlooking downtown Dallas the way I have in a place where the sky isn’t being scraped and the ground is growing more than concrete. People here march to a different beat—it’s much slower, and it’s peaceful. While I don’t think could make this way of life my own, I can certainly appreciate it.
The rising 2Ls are receiving their rankings and realizing the opportunities that are becoming available. It’s a really neat time for them, but I just found out it gets better. Even after realizing you can excel as a law student, the question of whether you can excel as a lawyer remains. But the moment that you realize you can is pretty special and almost overwhelming. It hit me the other day as I was being told things about the work I’ve done that I could hardly comprehend. When I got to my car, my first inclination was to drive straight to school to thank those who have taught me and inspired me, but I wouldn’t have made it through dry-eyed, so I just sat in my car feeling grateful and content. The first was a familiar feeling, but I didn’t know what to do with the second until I realized that, by definition, I wasn’t supposed to do anything. So, I just sat there and experienced being content.
6/16/10 - After exams ended, it was time to begin studying for a wedding. A friend asked me to interpret for the groom’s parents, both of whom are deaf, since I have a background in sign language. I didn’t feel confident enough to wing it, but weddings are fairly scripted, so I could study and practice ahead of time.
I was shocked, however, how quickly the preacher spoke, and if it wasn’t for my Legal Writing classes, I probably couldn’t have kept up. All those hours of proofreading made it almost instinctive to omit surplus words and to do so without changing the meaning of the sentence, which was crucial since the wedding was one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives!
I’ve been interning at the 2nd Court of Appeals for a month, and I’m really enjoying it. I was unsure whether I’d be able to work a 40-hour week with minimal human interaction, but it’s perfect for me. I get so much work done and have been told the work I do is top-notch. Texas Wesleyan has thoroughly prepared me, and this is what I want to do.
I’m getting spoiled working only 40 hours a week. I work nonstop during the day, but when I head home, I leave it all behind. I couldn’t take it home if I wanted to because it’s a violation of our ethical obligations to let our work leave the building. All this free time has allowed me to work out again. I know it’s shocking—my muscles are just as shocked as you are, but I could get used to this.
5/19/10 - There’s no excuse for it, but I completely forgot about graduation. When I went to school to turn in a scholarship application, I realized graduation was in three hours. So, I headed back to Dallas to change and make it back to Fort Worth in time. However, 5 minutes into my trip back to school, I saw an ominous storm straight ahead playing chicken with me, and like a chicken, I turned around. I’m more scared of tornadoes than I am of airplanes, and you couldn’t have convinced me the conditions weren’t right for one. I was so disappointed to miss my Moot Court teammate give her commencement speech and to miss supporting my friends on their special day, but I figured that if I wanted to make it to my own graduation, I needed to avoid being swept up by a twister.
I’m like Jeff Gordon in that I’m at my best when I’m going full speed ahead—I’m not good at those restarts. So, to remain in contention for a top finish at the end of three years, I know I’ve got to keep the wheels moving this summer, although I’ll let off the gas a little so I don’t burn out. During the first half, I’ll keep busy at the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth, which I’m really excited about. I was nervous because I want do a great job, but everyone there is so incredibly nice, and they put me at ease right away. After that, I’m taking classes in Santa Fe as a part of our school’s Summer Away Program. I know nothing about art law, but I wanted to support the program, and I need these hours to make up for those I’ve been unable to accumulate due to my focus on extracurricular activities this year.
It’s been a wonderful second year—absolutely everything I hoped it would be and more. After proving I could excel academically during my first year, I had to shift my focus outside the textbooks to hone the many other skills I will need in practice. My grades didn’t suffer at all the first semester, and I can only hope for the same this semester. I have no regrets though. I couldn’t have been more prepared going into exams, so if my grades don’t reflect that, the extracurricular activities aren’t to blame. They’re actually the reason I enjoyed this year so much. They’ve helped shape me, and I could never adequately thank those who made the experiences so special.
5/5/10 - After such an eventful semester, I wasn’t sure I’d have enough in the tank for exams, but I’ve been surprised by how much the brain is capable of if you push it. It’s like any other muscle—you’ve got to use it or lose it. Despite knowing this, I had a moment of doubt this week, and it scared me because I dwelled on it unproductively for over an hour. I’m not Jack Bauer, so one hour of doing nothing isn’t the end of the world, but I sat alone in the room after an exam wondering why I do things the hard way. That trait drives me to read every page of the book, brief the cases, attend every class, take notes, and make my own outline. But how silly is that when there are much easier ways?
Using my “poll-the-audience” lifeline to ask some classmates how they prepare for class and exams left me utterly disenchanted, so I used my “phone-a-friend” option to call my dad. I purposely don’t seek his lawyerly advice very often because I want any success I have to be about my work ethic, not about who I know. But, when it hit me that doing things the easier way might actually result in better exam grades sometimes, I needed to pull back from my “transcript tunnel vision” and talk with someone who could see the panoramic picture. He reminded me that in practice no one will hand you their outline the first day and tell you to coast now that you have the golden ticket. You’re going to have to work tirelessly to find and synthesize the information on your own, and if your muscles haven’t been trained to do that, it’s going to shock your system.
I’m sure on-the-job-muscle-training is manageable, and there’s nothing at all wrong with taking shortcuts through law school. I just can’t help how I’m wired to do things, and I needed a reminder that I’m not being wasteful. My training schedule (my trusty planner) says my next race (exam) is on Tuesday, so I’d better start moving (sitting in my chair all day).
4/21/10 - “May it please the Court?” If you’ve read the 1L blogs, you know they’ve been doing LARW oral arguments. And if they’re interested in Moot Court, they asked this question several more times for the competition and traveling team tryouts. I was on the bench for many of these as a judge or bailiff, and it was tough not to break character when all I wanted to do was smile and give them a thumbs up. But they made me proud, and to answer their question to the Court, yes, it did.
It’s been a brutal month for them (that I remember like it was yesterday), but it’s also a defining one. Since you’re reading a 2L blog, you’re probably hoping to read about 2L experiences, but this is one. I’m witnessing successful 1L experiences from a different perspective. I knew early on that they’d turn heads, but they didn’t know they would. Now they’re realizing they can, they’re being recognized for their efforts, and a world of opportunities (TA/RA positions, team selections, etc.) outside their 1L box is unfolding around them.
I’m ecstatic for them, and I don’t hesitate to tell them so. One of them recently said, “I couldn’t have done it without your help.” I denied involvement because it’s not true, but also because I don’t want blood on my hands. See, if it is true, then I’ve helped create monsters. They’re A-plus-hungry monsters who will fight the upcoming 3Ls tooth and nail for the top grade. I’ll be a reference for them now, but if I’m asked about them next year, I know nothing.
On the 2L front, exams are approaching too quickly, and extra-curricular activities continue to dominate, even though the work is mostly done. Everyone thought the workload would break my back. Ironically, the end-of-year celebrations might do it instead. This is my opportunity to thank them for everything, so I’m going (and they’ll be fun), but they couldn’t come at a more stressful time. I wonder how much grief I’d get for bringing my outlines to the Rangers game. Wouldn’t be the first time!
4/7/10 - I haven’t written much so far about my internship at the Immigration Court mostly because it’s been, well, foreign to me. I knew nothing about immigration before, but I’ve learned so much this semester. I’ve helped write several opinions, most of which have been straightforward, but I just finished helping with one that was an issue of first impression that might be carefully reviewed by the Board of Immigration Appeals. If so, I hope the Board agrees with us, but regardless, I enjoyed being part of something significant in the “real world.”
A student recently asked me where my motivation comes from. I told him that, like everyone here, I’m very self-motivated, but sometimes that isn’t enough. When you’re working late into the night after the seventh long day in a row, you might need something else to keep you going because it’s too easy to quit on yourself. The people who have been an instrumental part of my law school experience make it impossible to stop pushing myself. This group includes everybody from my parents to my professors, and to quit on them would be like throwing their kindness back in their face, which I would never dream of doing—aside from one circumstance.
You see, several professors have subjected themselves to taking a pie in the face to support their favorite charity. Professor Sobol is raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a cause for which he’s been a true champion for over 10 years. He’s raised over $1 million, run hundreds of miles, and inspired dozens of athletes as a coach for Team in Training. So, I hope someone is able to throw his kindness back in his face in the form of a pie. This would mean that his charity won our fundraising challenge and that we helped a cause that one of our own has put his heart (and legs) into for years. Also, when I finally decide to get back in shape, I can’t think of a better cause and coach to do it for in case doing it for me isn’t enough.
3/24/10 - I’m not used to playing catch-up. I like to be quick out of the gate, establish a comfortable lead, and maintain a good pace before sprinting to the finish. I read and outline the material for the upcoming week or two because being behind scares me. Before the break, however, my outlines were behind for the first time (and by almost two weeks). The Moot Court trip and Citation Editor training combined to knock me off my stride, and the outlines were the only tasks that weren’t being turned in or produced for someone else, so they had to wait. The thought of doing three weeks worth of outlining over the “break” (two to catch up and one to get ahead again) was uncomfortable, but they’re done, and my world is right again.
Now that we’re back at school, it’s almost time for it to end. It’s hard to believe that our last Academic Support session is next week. They’re a great group (and wonderful individuals), and I’m going to miss my time with them each week. However, I’m also looking forward to teaching a new group next year after having learned so much the first time around.
What I’m going to miss most next year is being a legal writing TA. Getting to be in Professor Sobol’s class for two years has really spoiled me, and I don’t know law school without it. Being there brightens my day and my overall law school experience and, without fail, makes me laugh—not laugh as a courtesy, but really involuntarily laugh in a way that reduces stress. Also, I pay attention as a TA in that class as much as I did as a 1L because there’s always something to learn from him, and I don’t want to miss a thing. If I didn’t know just how much his current students genuinely appreciate him, I wouldn’t be a good sport about one of them taking over for me. Even then, my being a good sport is conditioned on them letting me sit in on class occasionally when I need a pick-me-up!
3/10/10 - Our Moot Court team will be advancing to the ABA national competition in Chicago in April. Jayson and Roxanna were amazing to watch, were nearly flawless, and made it look easy. Everyone at school has been so supportive and congratulatory, which means a lot to me.
When I got back and checked my email, I discovered that an ABA site team was coming to evaluate our school. This didn’t concern me until I opened another email that said they might come to my Academic Support class the next day to observe me! It never occurred to me that this could happen, especially on the heels of a long weekend away. I was ready, but I stayed up until 1:00 a.m. preparing for six additional hours because I couldn’t fathom letting my school down. I ended up being observed not only by the ABA, but also by Marta for my semester evaluation! The students were great, and thankfully, everything went smoothly. Marta had very positive feedback, and the site team member shared such kind words with me that evening.
I attended the ABA forum that evening because I wanted to share with them how wonderful Texas Wesleyan is. When it came time to raise my hand, however, I was too nervous. It’s almost a crusade of mine to tell people about Texas Wesleyan, so I felt like I failed my school when I continued to pass up opportunities to speak up. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when fellow students said exactly what I couldn’t bring myself to, and they did so with sincere conviction. So many things about our school impress me, but what speaks the loudest is that I didn’t have to say a word. I’m not the only one who thinks highly of Texas Wesleyan or who feels compelled to share it. It was probably a combination of relief that the competition, observation, and forum had gone well, but as I listened to everyone, I fought back tears. I could tell the site team members did not see us the way they did when they arrived—they were touched by Texas Wesleyan. We all were.
2/24/10 - Well, I wasn’t dreaming of a white birthday, but I got one! We got the perfect amount of snow this Tuesday—enough to be pretty, but not enough to cancel class. We haven’t yet made up canceled classes for the semester, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to attend them when we do. I haven’t missed a single class period of law school (other than for Moot Court competitions), and I think it’s vital to doing well. Unless the make-ups are in the evening, I don’t see how they won’t conflict with something.
Speaking of missing class, our Moot Court team is about to depart to San Francisco. As of right now, as I sit in the airport terminal, and I’m planning to fly out with the team. However, our flight has been delayed which is giving me ample opportunity to get scared, bail, and just drive to San Francisco. I promised my family that I’d find my way out of the hotel business center to enjoy San Francisco, and I have to bring back souvenirs as proof that I did. When I do school work there, I’ll at least sit outside and enjoy the scenery.
I’m trying to get ahead as much as possible this week because when I come back, I’ll have the second round of citation training. I’m going to be a Citation Editor for the Law Review next year (I’ll have time for it), but I didn’t realize how time-intensive training would be this semester. After the first found of training, I have such an appreciation for what it’s going to take and such respect for what Catherine (the best trainer that I could ask for!) is going through. The nice part about this position is that, even though it takes a huge time commitment, the job description is very specific and defined. That’s the reason that I didn’t apply for a higher position (with a broad job description). I know myself well enough to know that I would never know when to stop working. This was a much healthier choice for me right now.
2/10/10 - Many people have asked me lately why I like Peyton Manning. In short, he’s the kind of person and professional that I want to be. He’s a disciplined student of the game who always respects the company he’s in. He’s a humble winner and a gracious loser who deflects credit for his successes but accepts responsibility for his failures. He speaks through his actions, but when his words are solicited, he’s quite well-spoken. Most importantly, he cares about people. I admire that kind of person—one who has reason to be arrogant but is far from it.
I don’t have to watch TV on Sundays, however, to find people to emulate. They’re walking our halls. We have ridiculously accomplished professors who are still able to come down to our level, share in our tiny accomplishments, and overlook our glaring imperfections. We have students who’ve showed their compassion for one another so much this week that you’d never know they’re in competition. So, if you’re looking for someone to demonstrate excellence during the off-season, you should tour this school.
I’ve been anxious to see if we could maintain our class rank this year despite taking on extracurricular activities. I’m relieved to report the answer is yes. Who’s we? Well, I always blog about what I’m doing, but I rarely blog about what I’m not doing. There should be a spouse’s blog to give prospective students the full story. Since there’s not, and in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I’m giving full credit where it’s due—to my better half. I haven’t vacuumed, cooked, or cleaned in almost 2 years. I also haven’t pushed a grocery cart or taken my car for an oil change, an inspection, or a tune-up. However, I don’t live in filth, eat Ramen noodles, or drive an illegal/abused car. So, when the hard work results in good grades, they’re really not mine; they’re ours. If you wind up at Texas Wesleyan, I don’t recommend taking on a slew of outside responsibilities unless you pick your spouse as well as you pick your school. It makes all the difference.
1/27/10 - My Academic Support students received the last of their fall grades recently. It’s easy for students to define themselves by their grades since those five letters are supposed to represent everything that was last semester. I have to caution against this and suggest that grades have little to do with you as a person and largely represent how well you’re able to communicate what you’ve absorbed. The real test – the one that is personal – has just begun. The first few weeks of the semester are going to measure what you’re made of – your resilience, your heart, and your courage. They’ll test your ability to bounce back, and your response to this will say more about you than the responses you provided in December.
On the 2L front, the latest news is the completion of my Law Review article. I usually get out in front of things, but I flirted with procrastination on this one. This certainly wasn’t out of a lack of respect for the journal, nor was it about time constraints. The problem is that I suffer from a condition, prevalent among law students, that inhibits my ability to form an opinion. As a testament to the effectiveness of Texas Wesleyan Law’s faculty, I’m incurably conditioned to appreciate both sides of an issue. Even if I could muster an opinion, I’m not so arrogant (if I’ve ever come across this way, I assure you it was insecurity misunderstood) to presume my opinion matters. Who am I to critique a law that nine of the most brilliant and experienced legal minds found reasonable before I was born? This time last year I was struggling to put together a “terms and connectors” search. Now I’m given 460 lines and a sweatshirt, and I’m suddenly some kind of authority on the matter. I undoubtedly hold the journal in the highest regard and appreciate the opportunity it gives students. I just hope, on the very off-chance I’m selected, I do the name on the cover justice.
I do, however, have an opinion about which team I’d like to win the Super Bowl – Go, Colts!
1/13/10 - Welcome back, everybody! I’m so happy to be back. If you think I’m being sarcastic, you must not have spent the last month researching and writing about reverse preemption of multilateral treaties under the McCarran-Ferguson Act. It wasn’t awful to write, it’s just that I had to be much more disciplined to juggle it and lots of other school-related work with family in town. I caught myself thinking a few times, “I can’t wait for school to start so things will slow down.” We submitted the brief on the first day of school, and things haven’t slowed down yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
At least I’m now equipped to handle the busy schedule – I finally have a 2010 planner, after spending the first 13 days of the year in a fog without one. It was my most valuable possession of 2009, and I can’t imagine 2010 without one. I asked Santa for a planner, and he brought me this really fancy iPhone touch thingy that I can’t begin to understand because I’m so bad with technology. Just to give you an idea, I still have a phone with an antenna, and I taught myself how to use PowerPoint for the first time over the break. I can even insert a hyperlink now. If you don’t believe me, you should come to my Academic Support session next Wednesday for the unveiling! My lofty goal is to be able to make PowerPoints as effective as Professor Sobol’s, but that’s almost legendary, and I don’t think I can touch that.
The rest of my break was spent dealing with a background check for a spring internship. I completely underestimated how long it would take to fill out that paperwork considering I haven’t deliberately done anything wrong since I stole my sister’s Ninja Turtle toy as a kid. I really won’t even cross the street against the “don’t walk” signal, so I can’t imagine anyone finding anything on me unless I’m a sleep-walking bandit. Once the background check is complete, I’ll be at the Immigration Court for a few hours a week, and I’m looking forward to it.
12/16/09 - Characteristically, I have little to say about exams. I even wore my earplugs as I left the classroom because people kept offering pennies for my thoughts, knowing they weren’t for sale. I knew the material backwards and forwards, but I’m worried about pieces of general knowledge that were indirectly tested (probably by accident) that had nothing to do with the course material. I initially beat myself up over what I’m sure I should know from elementary school, but then I remembered a few contestants on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” and felt much better. I just hope the unfamiliar context of a couple of problems doesn’t result in an inadequate reflection of my knowledge of the law. To improve in this area the “book-smart” way, I’m putting “101 Things Everyone Should Know” on this year’s wish list.
I passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), which I recommend taking the same semester you take the class, no matter how busy you think you are. You won’t be less busy in the semesters that follow, and the material will never be fresher. Our MPRE results came in just hours before we were scheduled to take our Professional Responsibility (PR) exam, and many students struggled with whether or not to check their results. I didn’t think twice about choosing not to open mine until afterwards. I can’t think of a better way to destroy one’s confidence before taking an exam than finding out minutes before that you have already failed essentially the same exam.
With exams behind us, we’re at the halfway point. Everybody seems very excited about this, but I have mixed feelings. I’m enjoying my time here, and I don’t want it to end anytime soon. I spoke to a December graduate about how he felt to be finished, and he said the ceremony was amazing and that it gave him such a sense of accomplishment when he turned the corner to find faculty members lining the hall and applauding. That would be great, and it sounds just like something our faculty would do, but I’m in no rush to get there.
12/2/09 - We did not advance from Lubbock, but suffice it to say that the oralists deserved to. They beat both teams that advanced and were, subjectively and objectively, the best two there. I’m relieved that Roxanna is coming back next semester so they can have another chance to get what they have earned. On the plane ride back, my focus shifted to exams, so I didn’t drive as hard of a bargain with God as I did on the first leg of the trip. I would almost rather fall from 30,000 feet than plummet in the rankings, so I’m saving up my prayers.
Nothing could have sweetened the sour taste that Lubbock left me with like getting a text that I had received the award for TA of the semester; although, I officially pass this award to Brad who patiently took me under his wing, taught me so much, and made my transition from 1L to TA smooth. I feel like a MasterCard commercial - while the gift cards were worth quite a hefty chunk of change and the certificate worth literally a chunk of change (but thank you, Marta; I absolutely love it, and it’s adorning my wall!!), this experience has been priceless. I’ve learned so much about connecting with people, learning styles, teaching, taking exams, and myself. If the best way to test your knowledge of something is to teach it to someone, Academic Support (AS) has prepared me for exams from a strategy perspective.
Our AS class knows the importance of planning for a contingency on exam day; however, this concept applies to studying for exams also. The fire alarm sounded in my building yesterday, and I have a new appreciation for the need to adopt a building-evacuation plan in the event of a fire while studying (I spent the first thirty unproductive seconds wondering how to detach my desktop computer and carry it down seven flights of stairs). I have every intention of demonstrating this 3-step method in class next semester: insert flash drive; save outline to flash drive; exit burning building with flash drive in hand. Priceless information.
11/18/09 - Greetings from Lubbock! I was absolutely thrilled to arrive here…so thrilled that I could’ve kissed the oh-so-flat ground. I know it’s just Lubbock, but I would’ve kissed any ground because I was so happy to be out of the air. I haven’t flown in quite awhile, and I forgot how terrified I am of it. I tried to play it cool for awhile, but I ended up making a deal with God that I would not ask for anything all year…okay, all week…actually, the just rest of the day if he’d get me down safely. I know as flights go, this one hour flight was nothing. To my teammates, who were very comforting, the flight was not long enough – by the time they got their notes out, it was time to put them away. Still, no matter how short the flight, it involved an ascent and descent. It’s going to be a long and lonely car ride home.
Everything has basically wrapped up for the year, outside of this competition and studying for exams. Academic Support is finished for the semester. It’s been a great semester with these students. They soak up information like sponges, and they are making us very proud. I have thought all semester that they are very attentive and inquisitive, but I didn’t realize until reviewing their practice exam essays how great they are doing. I have heard my mom talk about moments that make her enjoy being a teacher – although this whole semester has been rewarding, I now know the kind of moments she is talking about.
I had a student tell me how well the Torts midterm went and how proud his/her family was, and seeing the sense of accomplishment in this student’s eyes made mine water a little. I know how hard they’re working, and it’s nice to be in a position to help them along in some small way. They’re going to do a great job, and they are people with whom I’d like to practice one day.
Good luck in exam preparation. You’re almost there, and it’ll be worth it!
11/11/09 - I’m getting help from all angles with my aversion to the word “no.” Knowing he’d solicit that answer, my dad called me with random questions, such as what the last word was in the war-on-drugs slogan and whether the Colts would lose a game this year. He reminded me that when I didn’t know the answer as a toddler, I would say “Gogbo” (pronounced “bow” as in “ribbon,” in case you were curious). So, if I can’t remember to say “no,” I’ve got another response in my arsenal. People would think I was so strange they’d never ask me for anything again. Problem solved. Thanks, Dad!
Speaking of childhood memories, I took an eleven-year-old trick-or-treating this year, and he was in charge of my costume. I asked him which cool character I was going to be, thinking something along the lines of Batman (who has been spotted patrolling our school hallways recently, by the way, although this Batman also answers to “Matt”). When he said he made me a Bookworm, I knew my status as a huge nerd had not escaped anyone.
Patrolling the hallways reminds me of Jeff, my BarBri buddy. Jeff doesn’t let anybody pass him in the hallways without finding out how they are, and he genuinely wants to know. He usually gets a “Fine; you?” in response, but I bet he wouldn’t mind if someone said, “Actually, not so good; let me sit down and tell you all about it.” You’re so busy, but you always make time for others – I’m going to miss seeing you in the hallways next year.
Spring registration was today. Those were the most stressful two minutes of the week – waiting to see if I got the classes I wanted, which I did. Also, my Moot Court coach asked me if I’d consider writing two briefs in the spring. She told me only to answer “no” if it was preceded by an expletive. In so many words, my response was “gogbo,” so there’s still time for an intervention.
Oh, and happy birthday, Jayson!! You two will do so well in Lubbock!!
10/28/09 - People have shown me their support in unusual ways lately. My co-TA, Brad, made fun of my full plate and told me that if he sees me vacuuming the floors or cleaning the bathrooms, he’s going to draw the line and intervene. We did a role-playing exercise where he asked me to be the one to build additional student parking, and I practiced saying no. In a comedic way, he assured me that he’d be there if I needed anything.
In an unrelated event, someone came into Professor Sobol’s office and asked me if I had time to do “a tiny research project.” After inquiring how tiny of a project, I said I’d do it. I didn’t select the phone-a-friend lifeline, but I didn’t have to. Professor Sobol was already dialed in and ready to boot me out of the hot seat as he corrected me and all but said that, actually, “no” was the correct and final answer. I find him unassuming and rather reticent by nature, but when he saw me about to strut off a cliff, he was quick to put his foot down and extend his hand. I need to get a voice-command telephone and program it to call him or Brad automatically anytime I say “yes” or “I’ll do it.”
I recently interviewed with Judge McCoy for a spring internship, and he was quick to notice that fitting that opportunity in edgewise would defy the laws of reason if not also those of physics, so he offered me the summer internship instead. I didn’t need any help with that answer, and I don’t have my voice-command phone yet, so I didn’t make an inadvertent call. Thanks to everyone for all of the support in getting this internship.
Now I must decide how I will complete the first draft of my law review article and adequately prepare for the MPRE before November 7th. Even with the extra hour we get this weekend, I still may postpone the MPRE until the spring…or summer. Before I lock in my final answer, however, I’d like to phone a friend.
10/14/09 - The last two weeks have flown by! Actually, I have to qualify that. The one hour and fifty minutes per class last week felt like an eternity – not because of the substance, but because I couldn’t breathe and had to grab a tissue every few seconds. I never had a fever though, so it was probably just allergies. I like when people say it’s “just” allergies, as if not being able to breathe or focus on a task for 10 consecutive seconds is ever a walk in the pollen- and mold-ridden park.
Realizing I didn’t have time to be sick, I literally took one for the Moot Court team – I killed two birds with one stone by getting a flu shot at Kroger, where I was getting State Fair tickets for my sister’s birthday. I’m telling you this so that if you had any plans to get a shot at the grocery store, you can appropriately weigh the costs and benefits. Yes, it saved time; however, the lady who administered the shot must’ve thought she was throwing darts. I’m not even sure she looked at my arm, but she slung that thing in there like she was trying to win the giant teddy bear at the fair. Speaking of teddy bears, last week was a great week to be working on the brief – I had teddy bear immunity in class and flu immunity at the same time – invincible!
This week, we’re revising the brief. Our team has been very deliberate about leaving enough time for this, so we’re in good shape. The only difficulty has been accounting for a strange rule, the compliance of which involved a ruler, a TI-83 calculator, and the entire team plugging numbers into an equation on the whiteboard to yield the brief’s actual length. I’m exaggerating, but it did make for quite a scene in the Moot Court office. This experience has been great, and I couldn’t have asked for more talented or encouraging teammates - Jayson and Roxanna are incredible, and I can’t wait to watch them shine in oral arguments!!
10/1/09 - It was a friend’s birthday on the 24th, and I was impressed with myself for remembering to contact her in the middle of writing my brief; however, my congratulatory pat on the back was a little premature…
Happy belated 20th Anniversary, Texas Wesleyan Law! I’ll admit I’ve been so preoccupied that I didn’t notice the flyers about the anniversary in time to get a suit to and from the dry cleaners. I was disappointed to miss the celebration; it sounded like something I would thoroughly enjoy and appreciate. As Professor Sobol shared with us, the first graduating class risked a lot to pave the way for us, and I wish I could have thanked them. They set the tone that has led to the song I’ve been singing about Texas Wesleyan Law from the beginning.
Happy belated National Punctuation Day, everyone! Apparently I missed this one, too. I thought I would be on the listserv since I’m a deputy with the grammar police, saving grammar from the flagrant abuse of text-messengers, one semicolon at a time. Somehow I didn’t get the memo (sorry, 1Ls, if that word makes you cringe). To make up for my lack of allegiance to the apostrophe, I have marked my calendar for National Grammar Day on March 4, 2010. It’s going to be a great day of reuniting split infinitives and bringing subjects and verbs into harmonious agreement.
Another day of celebration was one that I knew would fall during the 3rd week in September - National Moot Court Problem Day – the day the problem for the Moot Court Nationals Competition came out. On September 16, 2009, I began 30 straight days of reading and writing about Supreme Court opinions. Someone should get each Justice a blog so they can concur, concur in the judgment, dissent, concur in part and dissent in part, concur in part IV with two Justices but concur in part III-A with two others – somewhere else outside of the actual opinion. The 1Ls turn in their memos around the same time I’ll be finished, so I look forward to hearing the congratulations song in LARW to celebrate!
9/16/09 – An experience over the holiday weekend spoke volumes about the lengths to which Texas Wesleyan Law representatives are willing to go, above and beyond their job description, to help people. It got me thinking about the tension attorneys must feel between having to sprint on the billable-hour treadmill and wanting to make a difference doing something they believe in. I’ve found that these two are often at odds and that a career in this field could challenge me every hour to maximize my potential to the detriment of my desire to help people.
For example, I went to drop off a resume at a firm recently, and I was walking a few feet behind a man who was typing incessantly on his blackberry like a tech-savvy Mr. Magoo. He was so into what he was doing that he let the door slam in my face without even feigning an effort to catch it. Our ultimate destinations turned out to be the same - a door with his name on it. I knew before stepping foot inside that I didn’t want to work there. It was like visiting the Ghost of Law Firm Future and seeing what I would be like in 30 years if I followed Scrooge through that next door. Granted, all he did was fail to be considerate, but it was a glimpse into what life would be like at that firm, and it didn’t bode well. The people at Texas Wesleyan have shown me that you don’t have to sacrifice your compassion for people to be successful. If success requires me to sell out in that way, the cost is too high, and I’m not buying. Call me naïve, but it’s possible to accomplish both – I see it here every day.
I have interviewed with firms that undoubtedly share my values, and it would be wonderful to work for a firm like that. The fit feels right, so I hope it works out. But if it doesn’t, I know that when one door closes (or slams in my face), another one will open – the one that’s meant to.
9/2/09 – During the TA panel last week, we were asked whether law school gets any easier. I had the impression, coming into law school, that it was smooth sailing after the first year, but this isn’t so. The simple answer is that subsequent years are just different. By your second year, you know how to study the law and how to take exams, so you’re more efficient with your time. What you do with that extra time is up to you.
This year, I’m giving my time to the Law Review, Moot Court brief-writing, two 1L classes as a TA, assisting in faculty research, BarBri, the Student Ambassador Recruiting Committee, and blogging. Most people are worried that I’ve taken on too much, and I can’t blame them, especially because that means they care. I put a lot of thought into these decisions, and I couldn’t decline any of them because I’ve wanted to excel in each of these since I came to Texas Wesleyan. My involvement in these endeavors furthers my goals of being a good writer, reaching 1Ls, and assisting professors who made my 1L experience so great. With the first year gone and the third largely dedicated to the Bar Exam, that leaves this year for it all.
I’m sure that those who I represent are worried that the quantity of my work will negatively affect the quality. I would be too, but it means the world to me not to disappoint and to follow through with my promises. So if I have to compromise anything, it will be my sleep and free time, not the reputations of those who attach their name to mine. I did go through a brief period of panic during the summer, but I have the time-management skills and work ethic to do well. I have to do well, and I don’t have time to stress out or complain. So, 1Ls, your second year can be easier if you want it to be. However, if you want to get everything you can out of your time here, it could be busier than your first.
8/26/09 – I hardly know where to start this year…but, as always, I find myself gravitating toward writing about the people of Texas Wesleyan, and now specifically, those who are new to me. These people form two groups: 1) the 1Ls who really are new to the school; and 2) those who have been a part of Texas Wesleyan for quite some time, playing an invaluable role behind the scenes.
First, it’s been great to put faces with names as I’ve met in person many of the incoming 1Ls who e-mailed back and forth with me in the past. It’s also been a joy to meet the new students with whom I have the opportunity to interact as an Academic Support and Legal Writing TA. I can tell they’re motivated to do well, and I look forward to being on the journey with them.
The second group consists of Texas Wesleyan donors and supporters that I had the true pleasure of meeting recently. I always knew they made our scholarships possible, but the profound impact they have had on me became much clearer when I got to personally thank them. They’re the reason that many of us are able to attend law school at all, and they’re a huge reason for my growth over the past year. Because somebody out there was willing to invest in me, I believed in myself and worked harder to make them proud. Being able to share my appreciation for them was a defining moment for me that I won’t forget.
Meeting the new students and the long-time supporters has only confirmed my belief that Texas Wesleyan attracts and produces not only great legal minds but also good human beings with kind hearts. Because these supporters have been so giving of their resources, I am thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to pay it forward in some small way to the incoming group. You all couldn’t have chosen a better environment in which to study law, and you’re an important part of what makes Texas Wesleyan so wonderful. Now, quit reading the blogs, and get back to your books!!
5/20/09 - I haven’t addressed study skills in depth, but I have been holding out in hopes that I’d have the opportunity next year to discuss them in the classroom as a TA. I’ve had to temper my excitement in case it didn’t work out, but I’m grateful that Everett Chambers, Marta Miller, and Professor Sobol saw the passion I have for studying the law and how endlessly rewarding it is for me to pass that along to incoming students. My interest in this started when the office of admissions provided me with an avenue to reach students as a blogger and Student Ambassador, so I appreciate them letting me be in my element.
I’m actually going to miss being a 1L, and I have many more thanks to give than I have space. Thank you to Professor Snyder for investing in our careers, to Professor Carpenter for being a unique “stick in the bundle” that often had me in tears laughing, to Professor Fountaine for making it comfortable to be in the hot seat, to Professor Gillmer for showing me what being well-spoken and charismatic in front of a class looks like, to Professor Harrington for being a majestic example of professionalism (if I didn’t express last semester how great you are, it’s because it almost felt disrespectful - like giving a “shout out” to the Queen of England), and of course to Professor Sobol for not only teaching us but affecting us – I appreciate you as the best LARW professor (officially) and also as a genuinely good person. Thank you also to Carson for relating to us and guiding us, to Brandy for being my common sense outside the books’ four corners and for being the one good friend I let myself have this year – I picked the best, to Lauren for approaching me about outlining – that encouraged me to try to be a TA, and to Rebecca for always asking me to go to lunch with you all, knowing I’d say no until next year. Thank you to my family and fiancé for the unconditional love and support – I hope to make it up to you someday.
I can’t promise my advice is worth more than two cents for those who are unsure whether (and which) law school is for you. You really can’t know – it’s a risk, but if you have a feeling you want to do this, you have it for a reason, so I suggest going with your heart. In the worst case it won’t be for you, and you’ll be thousands of dollars in debt trying to figure out what to do with your life…par for society’s course these days. More likely, however, this is what you were made to do, and you’ll get to realize your dreams.
Keep the emails coming all summer. I’ll be doing just what many of you are doing – getting ready for a wonderful fall semester! See you then!
5/14/09 - I really have very little to write about exams, partly because my brain and eyes are finally waiving a little white flag. I studied as thoroughly as I possibly could, although I don’t know how anything less would be possible after all we put in this semester.
I remember this feeling from last fall – the only thing I know for sure is that I didn’t leave a stone unturned. Outside of that, I trust that the system works such that when uncompromising diligence and understanding of the law are put into the machine, good grades are generated. It’s easy after a test to question how well it was designed to produce a reflective curve, and I entertained those concerns for a fleeting moment before realizing how weak and unhelpful that was. These professors have been studying the law and developing ways to assess students’ knowledge of it for years, while I’ve been studying it for almost a whole nine months (again, recognizing I haven’t even been born yet).
I enjoyed meeting many of you at the Admitted Students event this week. You gave me a much needed social contact and a break from studying, and by asking me to talk about my experience, you gave me a second wind and reminded myself why I’m doing this. I hope you all could see that even in the thick of exams, I still can’t say enough about how great this school is, although in next week’s final blog, I might try!
4/29/09 - I keep promising to discuss study habits, but I’ve been procrastinating, which is not a study habit I endorse. Many students are asking what they should be doing over the summer. If you’re one who gets burned out quickly, you probably shouldn’t do anything. If you can stand it though, I recommend using a study aid to give yourself a foundation before hitting the ground running in August.
For my birthday, my dad gave me 4,000 Law-in-a-Flash flashcards. I went through each one of those cards once and then again as I typed them into an outline for each subject. I’m not encouraging this OCD-like preparation because that’s unrealistic…maybe borderline unhealthy, but I do think there’s something to be said for giving yourself a background so that you’ll have a place to stick the darts you’ll have thrown at you. Otherwise, it will be like doing a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle without first seeing the big picture on the box.
Also, don’t wait until you get here to realize the importance of being able to write well. If you don’t already know the rules of grammar, please get a book over the summer to learn them, and e-mail me if you’d like a list of titles. I did that during the summer between seventh and eighth grade in order to get into AP English, and I use those skills today more than almost anything else. They’re the rules you have to know to play this game – a game actually appropriate for students ages 12 and up.
4/22/09 - It’s been surreal to realize that classes are coming to an end - I thought I would always be in these 1L classes. I’m not a big fan of change, and I definitely like a routine, so while it was neat to read the last page of a couple 1,000-page books, I know I am going to miss my 1L year.
Of course, lest we were tempted to dwell on what has been, it’s time to register for the coming semester, which makes me wish my schedule was handed to me. Many students didn’t like their schedule being predetermined as a 1L, but everybody right now is stressing over which of the 12 versions of their schedules will work out for the fall with the classes they want, at the time they want and with the professor they want. At this point, I think many of us would take Professor Plum in the Billiard Room with a rope if it fit our schedule.
Not being able to register for required classes is a problem, but it really doesn’t matter which professor you get. If this blog has had a theme, it’s been that these professors are incredible – you can’t really go wrong. Just taking a look at their credentials will make you feel like you haven’t even been born. In fact I must admit, as I’m sure Brandy would agree, even if you don’t have the 1L Legal Writing Professor of the Year, you’ve still got a pretty darn good deal.
4/15/09 - I was going to talk about study techniques this week, but I’m on the train and have been bothered while listening to a mother talk to her young child. This kid is a sponge taking in everything that he hears her say – and I can hardly tell it’s English. This is how he’ll learn to write and speak, until someone comes along to show him the importance of undoing those bad habits.
It reminds me how thankful I am for teachers who have dedicated their careers and brilliant minds to making a difference and paying it forward. It can feel like a thankless profession, but it’s one of the most noble. During these crucial law school years, we are like sponges as we learn this “new language” that we’ll be using the rest of our careers. These professors are so invested in us and in showing us how to thrive in this new world.
You can’t choose who will teach you as a toddler, but at some point you do have a choice. You might feel like you’ve been on the wrong path, but you can jump the tracks over to Texas Wesleyan. Part of what makes this school special is that it’s not primarily comprised of those who were placed on the fast track at an early age. Many students made a conscious decision to change their direction, and everyone here is more appreciative of the experience as a result. I’m tempted to encourage this kid to make plans right now to go to Texas Wesleyan in 15 years, but his eyes get as big as saucers when he looks at my books, so I’ll wait.
4/8/09 - This week we got to watch oral arguments from the Amarillo Court of Appeals, and subsequently, two of the justices stayed to share some insight with us. Their top three keys to success in this field were preparation, writing skills and passion for your work.
I’ve been emphasizing preparation lately, but I should note it’s possible to over prepare. I’ve found that when I care most about being prepared, I can do myself a disservice. For example, this has happened a number of times this week; I’m focusing so much on what I’m going to say next that I’m not even listening to the person I’m talking with, whose statements are valuable, to the point that I haven’t even realized they’ve asked me a question. When it’s one that can’t be answered with a default like, “It depends” or “Well, it’s a slippery slope,” I look pretty silly. So, while being prepared for what’s to come is important, the present moment isn’t just a transition to that point – I’d really like to be there for it.
With that caveat, incoming 1Ls should prepare to be even more prepared during the second semester. It’s a month before exams, and I remember this time last semester studying for exams already because I’d read ahead for the entire semester. Now there’s much more going on. For example, you need to be prepared for the VP of Moot Court to ask you to try out even though your brief is almost due. In case you’re not paying attention when she asks you, the default answer is invariably “yes.”
4/1/09 - If you’re unable to interview often, you can practice and prepare in other ways. First, get sample interview questions tailored for the specific position from career services. It’s helpful to actually write out your answers and practice out loud by setting up a mock interview with career services, asking a friend to interview you, or going through them on your own. Actually, if these walls could talk, they’d reveal that I practice in front of the mirror.
The reason for this practice isn’t that you don’t “know” yourself or that you’re fabricating answers, but it’s helpful to establish what points to drive home and how to work them into questions that don’t explicitly call for them. It’s especially important to prepare a “self-infomercial” in case they ask you an open ended question such as, “Tell me about yourself,” which you don’t want to answer in a stream of consciousness manner.
Once you’ve mastered what you have to say about yourself, research the employer to see what you could work into the interview so it will feel more like a conversation than a deposition (and it doesn’t hurt that they’ll notice you studied). Finally, the way you look is just as important as how your resume and cover letter look, and your attire should be tailored to your particular field as well. So, look at what Career Services has posted regarding your attire, and dress accordingly. If suits are foreign to you, shop with a buddy, and take a few laps in your heels so you’ll look natural or at least stay vertical.
3/25/09 - This has nothing to do with getting a job, but law school taught me over spring break to check my mailbox every ten days. I think it’s inherited, but I have an aversion to the mailbox. I find that unless it’s my birthday or I’m applying to law school, nothing good is snail-mailed anymore - I really don’t want another Pizza Hut coupon or credit card approval. So, I was reading about jury selection in civil procedure and learned that, if you’re chosen, the court will send you a juror qualification form to be returned within ten days. I thought to myself that there was probably one getting comfortable in my mailbox right then. Sure enough, there it was - stuffed between a credit card approval and a coupon…as it had been for almost ten days.
Anyway, back to last week’s topic. If you’re interested in a judicial internship, you may find programs that match you with a judge over the summer. Outside of those, get a list from the Tarrant or Dallas County court sites, and send judges letters, or even better, go talk with them in person. It won’t take long to find a judge, or any employer for that matter, who would like some quality/free help. You can also interview for various types of positions as part of a Career Day in Austin, Houston, etc. If you have time, it’s great practice.
Oh, and if any 1Ls are reading this, vote by Friday for Professor Sobol for 1L Writing Professor of the Year!
3/11/09 - I recently accepted a summer judicial internship in Dallas, so while that’s on my mind, I’d like to discuss studying in the context of searching for a job, before I recommend ways to prepare for the first day of class. To that end, I posit that the job search begins with treating it like another class. A career may seem remote to an incoming 1L, but I also believe it should color many of your decisions.
Career services will schedule a day or two in November to introduce you to Symplicity, our online job bank. I’m sure there will be nothing you’ll want to think about less during that pre-exam period, but it’s so important to attend that meeting where you’ll acquire the tools to maximize your winter break. This break is the first chance 1Ls really get to unapologetically relax, but it’s also when you need to get your resumes tailored for legal positions and your cover letters drafted.
I strongly suggest meeting with a career services representative before the break or upon returning to school. They’re eager to help you and tell you how to adapt your materials for this field, which is crucial since a formatting issue can result in your application being discarded altogether. I’d also incorporate your legal writing professor’s memo comments to perfect your writing sample. Once your materials are in order, start applying for jobs and tailoring your cover letters for each one. More about those jobs and how to “study” for the interview next time…
3/4/09 - The admissions office is taking the bloggers out to dinner to thank us for the work we’ve submitted this year. I can’t believe it’s almost the end of the year, and I can’t believe they want to thank us – I’ve loved having this vehicle to share and advise the incoming class as much as possible.
However, so far I’ve made a point not to broadcast the details of how I study, not only for competitive reasons but also in an effort not to get stuffed in a locker or have my lunch money stolen. (Obviously, I’m kidding. Please don’t choose SMU because you think TWU students stuff their classmates in lockers). Also, I’ve always downplayed my knack for studying because it has never earned me “cool” points, but I’ve realized that if there’s a place to embrace your inner nerd, its law school. It’s with that frame of mind and in the spirit of paying it forward that I’ve joined the Student Ambassadors Recruiting Committee and hope to be an academic support TA next year. This is also the reason I wanted to blog; so as the semester draws to a close, I’ll tell you every single nerdy detail, and you can take from it what you will.
This isn’t going to be organized by chronology or importance, which I’ll justify by saying this will allow you to practice putting discombobulated notes into an aesthetically pleasing and functional outline. That’s all for today, but Studying 101 will begin this time next week.
2/25/09 - This weekend had the perfect ingredients to be a recipe for disaster. But just as people say that taste buds change with time and exposure, my taste for public speaking has evolved. Someone’s response to the news that I was going to compete in an oral argument competition was, “So let me get this straight: the shyest people-pleaser I know who only wears Adidas tennis shoes will be wearing heels arguing on stage in front of judges whose job it is to criticize you?” As it turned out, the most uncomfortable part was walking from the train to school in heels, which makes me wonder who decided women should walk on their toes like that.
However, the reason this fish left the water is because the fresh air wasn’t going to be comfortable. Turns out, I wasn’t an ugly ducking at all; in fact, I received great feedback on the areas that worried me the most – tone, eye contact, pace, and articulation. It was also great to go through this with other competitors who united around a common goal of getting through it. Actually, we did better than just get through it. I only made it to the quarterfinals, but three of my classmates made it to the finals. (As a side note, the common denominator among all finalists is that they’re in Professor Sobol’s writing class, so I rest my case, Brandy). Anyway, it was really neat to go out on a limb and find out I might have a taste for this after all.
2/18/09 - I agree with the notion that “it’s all relative” - that your frame of reference can change your evaluation of a given situation. For instance, while many people are groaning this week about how much they dislike writing memos, I’m celebrating an opportunity to write a memo instead of having to orally present the argument. This became clear to me after I hurled myself under the bus that is the Moot Court Competition in the name of self-improvement. While I’m fully capable of doing well in an oral argument, it’s not my preferred method of communication, and it has reminded me of why I prefer writing.
The best part about writing is the backspace function. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started speaking and wished I could press delete a few times and try again. Also, when I’m writing, barring a sudden onset of arthritis, I can hit any given letter on the keyboard with ease. This is not always the case when I’m speaking - I grew up with a stutter that still r..r…rears its head now and again, so I often have to circumvent words that start with R or D and find synonyms beginning with a friendlier letter. I could go on, but another great writing feature warned me that I’ve surpassed the word limit. So, it’s time to leave my comfort zone and turn a good paper into an effective speech, while remembering that this is relatively not that bad - it’s just for practice.
2/11/09 - I’ve been affected recently by a couple of people who suffered enormously because they didn’t think they were “good enough.” With rankings coming out this week, the standards against which we judge ourselves have been on my mind. It’s easy to get caught up in competitive environments, whether it is your school, your job or a circle with an indefinite radius within which you compare everything to yourself at the core.
There is nothing wrong with mechanisms like the ranking system, whether it’s the official one at school or another that you literally or figuratively impose on yourself. It is a very legitimate, healthy and important way to evaluate your relative success, but it can be dangerous not to add your own subjective component. Only you know what circumstances you’re combating in any given situation, what portion of yourself you can give and what factors are important to you that others aren’t figuring into the equation. This is different for everyone, and it doesn’t make anyone wrong or a failure.
Right now a reachable goal for yourself might be ranking #1 in your class; for another it might be balancing writing the best memo you have ever written with being a friend to someone who needs you; for another it might be getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other. Whatever your situation, only you know what it means for you to be successful, and an objective “reasonable” person standard alone should not determine whether that’s “good enough.”
2/4/09 - We’re learning this semester how to prepare for our first open research memo, which means the cases are not given to us – we have to hunt for them. I’m usually extremely organized, but since legal research is a completely different realm for me, I’m having to learn these skills. My inclination is to search faster and further as one case or source leads to another. But as they say, a big part of where you’re going is remembering where you came from. I’ve had to learn to leave myself breadcrumbs in order to find my way back to a great source that started my digression, or I end up wasting time having to cover the same ground again.
As much as I thought I would miss the closed research assignments, the opportunity to venture outside the four corners of the provided cases is better than I thought. There was a fear in the back of my mind of being the only one in the class who wouldn’t find the most important case, but as our professors have said, the cases aren’t being kept a secret; many people have worked countless hours to make researching on Westlaw and LexisNexis as easy as possible for us. Also, in the past when I had a nagging question, I ended up bumping up against the box we were confined to. Now I embark on a scavenger hunt for the answers to any concern I have…equipped with a loaf of Mrs. Baird’s in case I get carried away.
1/28/09 - The weather outside is frightful, but the ride (on the train) is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go … to and fro, to and fro, to and fro.
It was Tuesday morning, and as the media brought us dreary images and promises of treacherous roadway conditions, my eyes were glued to the ticker at the bottom of the screen, anticipating school closures toward the end of the alphabet. I didn’t have images of snowflakes dancing in my head; instead I saw a full day of checkmarks landing all over my to-do list. Just FYI - the TRE runs like the mail service – rain, sleet, snow, or ice. I know because I rode it this morning … all the way to school before I got the call that it had been canceled. So, I spent the morning riding the train to school and back, which is funny because I was just thinking the other day how I get so much accomplished on the train that I could ride it all day. I had half a mind to do that, except laundry was another to-do list bullet point craving a checkmark.
Today is Wednesday, and I just got off the train to discover classes are canceled again! I really don’t mind (because of the aforementioned list) - both days it was my fault for getting to school early. It’s just that this time the roads actually were icy, and deicing the sidewalks for us bag-rollers is likely last on the city’s list. These bags don’t have 4-wheel drive, so skating to school and back wasn’t my favorite part of the day, but it was the most exciting!
1/21/09 - Someone asked me last week how I decide what to write. I was unable to articulate it, but basically, I write about what unexpected and refreshing things happen to me. More about that later …
When it comes to the minutiae, I’m as bad a decision maker as a squirrel crossing the street, but I’m good at making crucial decisions because I rely on what feels right. I hope you all do the same by picking Texas Wesleyan. Students everywhere are reading the same books we’re reading. So the difference isn’t the law, it’s the people, and the people here never cease to amaze me. I frequently find them making my day.
For example, a professor stopped me in the hall last week to make sure I was as confident as she felt I deserved to be. Another professor invited students who were unable to access a laptop to talk with her about ways she could help them. Then, after I decided not to review an exam with a professor that day, another professor (who taught the same subject but who didn’t know me) sat down on a bench with me, completely unsolicited, to talk about blogging, the law, and myself. He actually chose to make me feel important over everything else he had on his plate. So when he asked the question referenced in the first sentence above, I should’ve just said, “Exhibit A.” I didn’t think things like that happened in law school, but Wesleyan’s staff and faculty give law school the intangible quality everyone should be looking for – it just feels right.
1/14/09 - Top 10 Indications You’re a Law Student on Christmas Break:
10. You sat on Santa’s lap at the mall and told him all you want for Christmas are A’s.
9. Instead of letters to Santa, you’re writing cover letters to potential employers telling them what a good boy/girl you’ve been this semester.
8. ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring except for you and your wireless mouse checking for grades.
7. Your family schedules seven Christmases over the break to compensate for the times you stood them up last semester.
6. You get WD-40 in your stocking to fix your squeaky rolling bag whose squeal announces your arrival around every corner in the library.
5. Your optometrist’s gift to you is a prescription for your first pair of glasses because pain pills can no longer mask the damage that marathon reading has done to your once 20/20 vision.
4. Your gift to everyone this year was an I.O.U. redeemable after January 14, 2009 at 10:30 a.m. when your loan check arrives.
3. Relatives you didn’t even know you had begin to come out of the woodwork asking you for free legal advice.
2. You’re stuck with housework each day over the break because your fiancé points out you can no longer use school as an excuse.
1. You reflect back on how far you’ve come this year and how you couldn’t have done it without your spouse’s love and patience, your family’s support and inherited obsessive genes, your professors’ wisdom and encouragement, your friends’ acceptance of how you’ve changed, the staff’s guidance, and your coffee’s caffeine content.
12/17/08 - I woke up on the day of my second 9 a.m. exam, looked at the clock displaying 10 a.m., directed a few expletives at the world, pressed the down button on the 12th floor of the Sheraton Hotel, and darted to my exam room, wondering as I ran how I could have forgotten to study at all for this exam. When I barged in the door, everyone looked up at me and laughed, not because I was over an hour late, but because I forgot to put on pants! Then I woke up. I had a version of that nightmare almost every night during exams and have had it several times since exams have been over.
While I’m pleased to report I did not forget to study anything or to fully dress myself for each exam, I really don’t know what else to tell you. I feel like no matter what I write, it will be utterly anticlimactic. Everybody I’m reconnecting with has asked me if this semester was as hard as I thought it would be, and I’m not sure how to answer. The material is not hard – it’s the law – it should make sense. If the law is hard to understand or counterintuitive, it probably isn’t good law.
The volume is what most people are referring to when they say law school is hard. The volume is not even that troublesome – I am disciplined to a fault. The challenging part for me was resigning myself to the fact that everything I learned, every hour I spent dedicating myself to mastering the material, and every single moment of preparation and sacrifice is bundled up and packed into a single letter grade taken from a single test of three or four hours, representing everything this semester has been. Even the best professor cannot possibly test us on everything we’ve learned in three hours, no matter how masterfully created the test. It’s just a representation – a representation that feels like it will dictate the rest of my life.
As awful as that sounds to those of you trying to decide if you should go to law school, stop thinking about it and go buy an LSAT practice book or ten, and start studying. All you have to do is take the first step, and before you know it you’ll be finishing your last exam of your first semester, and you’ll accomplish so much you never thought you would along the way. My natural inclination has always been to play it safe, and I had to be very deliberate about climbing fences with warning signs in order to get here.
But this is not something “other people” do; it can be something you do if you’ll just take the first step. If you’ve wondered if law school is right for you, there’s a reason the thought entered your mind, so you should do that thought justice and follow through. The last hurdle for me was money, but don’t worry about being in debt – look around – everybody’s in debt! Have a good holiday!
12/3/08 – They say practice makes perfect, but according to the vernacular in the legal field, we will always be practicing – even the most successful attorneys are practicing law. That bodes well for me, since people have always teased me, saying that if I could make a living practicing, I will have found my calling. Getting to basketball practice and games hours early and forcing myself to make 95 out of 100 free throws before the team laced up earned me the nickname of “All-American Practice Player.”
True to form, I’ve been characteristically obsessive about preparing for exams, even though that meant balking at the family’s turkey plans. This year, the last day of classes and the first exam were separated by six days, bisected by Thanksgiving, so the common theme was reconciling quality time with both in-laws and outlines. Thankfully, my family showed me how unconditionally supportive and loving they are by understanding my need to be a hermit this week.
When Monday came, it was a little bit surreal when the proctor told us to open our envelopes and begin, and it was equally as strange when she told us time was up. I felt like I had just begun this intense relationship with civil procedure, and in the blink of an eye it was over. I didn’t even have time to get closure before moving on to another intense relationship with contracts, and I’m pretty sure that’s not healthy. However, psychology will have to wait in line behind contracts, torts, and property to be a concern of mine.
11/19/08 - I’m exhausted from mountain climbing all weekend. I did my undergrad work at UT, but conquering “Mount” Bonnell only partially conditioned me for this steep task of law school exam preparation. I’ve been among the trees all semester, but this weekend I started trekking to the top, so I could look down and see the hundreds of trees for the forest they constitute. I’m sore from using muscles that I haven’t demanded this much of before, namely my eyes that aren’t made for a marathon staring contest with the computer screen. It never once blinked.
Literally though, I really am physically out of shape from sitting all year. In order to catch the train one day last week, I had to sprint halfway there before jumping on board (that’s how badly I don’t want to have to be on that train after dark!). Anyway, I’m not sure which was more embarrassing - having to run or not being able to laugh it off because I was gasping for air.
A prospective student came to visit our Civil Procedure class, and recognized Brandy and me from our blogs. We got to help him out a little and hear how his application process was going. We talked about how funny it would be if I got called on for the first time in that class when he was there. I was as shocked as he was when I was called on and got to (had to?) show Joshua how to be in the hot seat for an hour straight!
11/12/08 - It’s that time of year. It’s the time of year when brisk winds pull leaves from trees, department stores adorn their walls and aisles with Christmas decorations, and law students lose their minds. I can’t actually say I’ve lost my mind, because it’s so book-heavy and laden with deep thoughts that it couldn’t possibly walk away, but I’m certain my mind is changing.
I know it’s changing for the better, the way everyone said it would when we started school, but I’m also certain that while I’m saturating my brain for finals, elementary capabilities are being compromised. It’s like my brain no longer has jurisdiction over the simple things - basic functions like remembering to bring my lunch or engaging in small talk. I’ve never been the Monarch social butterfly by any stretch, but I really used to be able to have a normal conversation with people. Now, I’m halfway through a sentence, and I feel like Dory, the fish from Finding Nemo, struggling with short-term memory issues. “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”
To top it off, I forgot to go to the last academic support of the semester. It was my first absence in anything this semester, just as I was polishing my dresser in anticipation of my Cal Ripkin award! As my less obsessive but more rational study partner told me, absences don’t count in that class, but I’ve enjoyed going all semester, and my TA has done a great job guiding and encouraging me. So in case I forget to thank him in person - Thank you, Carson!!
11/5/08 – It’s Tuesday, and I hear there’s an election tonight. I can’t imagine who is running for what; we already voted for our student representatives at the beginning of the year, and we don’t vote for our favorite professors for a while longer. I’ve had my face in my books for so long trying to finish reading for the semester, but rumor has it we’re voting for the president…not of our class but of our country! I’m only half joking about how wrapped up we get in studying that the world around us ceases to exist – when my dad was in law school, he didn’t find out until a few days after the fact that the Berlin Wall had fallen.
This year, I haven’t followed whether Ohio will be blue or Pennsylvania will be red, but I know if a citizen of one state sues a citizen of the other for over $75,000, a federal court could hear the case. I don’t know how many children either candidate has, but I know if either candidate wanted to convey an interest in land to his first child to be elected to the Senate, that could vest too remotely, thus violating the Rule against Perpetuities.
Even once I put down the books and vote, after three months of law school, it just doesn’t seem right to have to pick one correct answer – I’d rather cast my vote in essay form and argue both sides. However, if I must pick one…Professor Sobol for President.
10/29/08 - This is supposed to be the most stressful time of the semester, as we’re all wondering if we can fit one more nugget of information in edgewise, produce a treatise-caliber paper, add another (or heaven forbid the first) Roman numeral to our outline, study like the practice exams are real, read and brief for (and maybe speak in) class, sleep (not in class) for at least half the doctor-recommended hours, and still have time to make dinner and get our vehicle’s inspection and registration updated.
We’ve all got the stress, but if laughter is the best medicine, Wesleyan’s got a healthcare policy I can support - it ensures that we’re all covered. Just when I’m starting to feel weak, I can walk into any one of my classes and get a boost. I laugh so hard sometimes in class that I forget I’m not in the front row at a comedy show. Before this year, if someone told me contracts or property could make me laugh like that, that would’ve been the best joke I had heard.
SBA put on a great casino night this weekend and was especially generous to draw my name twice for prizes. I had two lowly tickets, and as bad as I was at gambling that night, I still wouldn’t have bet both of them would be drawn. I’m just hoping my name isn’t selected with that kind of frequency in class. Also, considering my winning streak, things aren’t looking good for Brandy (the blogger who has gone all-in that her writing professor wins the nomination this year).
10/22/08 - Academic support wasn’t kidding back in August in saying the practice exams are never when you’d like them to be – and it’s a good thing, because if they were at my convenience, I would do myself a disservice by never getting to them. True to form, they fall right in the middle of memo season, and there isn’t enough time to prepare.
Up until now the goal has been to stay ahead in reading, briefing, and otherwise preparing for class, which has suited me since I like methodically checking off items on the to-do list. While that’s important, exams being around the corner means I have to deliberately make time for the less tangible task of going back, coalescing all the pieces, and letting them marinate in preparation for exams. This is a difficult undertaking because of its indefinite ending, but there’s a difference between preparing for class and preparing for exams, and my grades will primarily reflect the latter. So after weathering the memo, I spent quality time with my torts outline in order to take the practice exam on Thursday and use the weekend to prepare for another storm.
The final blow of the 1-2 memo punch just hit. The fact pattern of this memo ironically involves a hurricane, which gives me more reason to refer to it as such. Also, it involves statutes this time, which is appropriate since I’ve been wanting to submit my own bill to Congress proposing the addition of six hours to each day…when I have time to get around to it.
10/15/08 - After offending my inner grammar police, I furthered my self-help approach to curing my writing blues by breaking free altogether and writing the majority of my memo outside, which proved to be the panacea for feeling stifled. It was so therapeutic to feel the sun and breeze that I was on cloud nine writing my memo, as incongruous as that sounds. Location, location, location.
On Tuesday, we were all so chemically invigorated and thrilled to be done with the memo that I was just waiting for the artificial energy to synchronize and break us into a choreographed song and dance in a cheesy and impromptu debut of Law School Musical. Promising not to disappoint, our post-mortem legal writing class was laughter-ridden, and was topped off with an encore performance from a guy on video singing his signature congratulation song. We needed and appreciated the light atmosphere.
It’s Wednesday, and I’m experiencing some law school firsts. I actually woke up humming that song, I miss having my teddy bear on my desk (the bear we bought for charity and classroom immunity earlier this week), and I’m going through a bit of memo-withdrawal. Maybe it’s because nothing in our other classes along the road to exams gets turned in, but I became somewhat attached to my paper after putting so much of myself into something of immediate and tangible consequence. Not to worry – I can always go outside; plus, we’re getting another memo assignment in a few days. (By the way, not counting this parenthetical, this is the first time I’ve stayed within the 250-word limit on a blog entry – a testament to how the class has affected me).
10/8/08 - I am not motivated by one factor only to effectively write (pardon the glaring use of passive voice, the offensively misplaced limiting modifier, and the split infinitive all in one sentence!). While writing part two of the memo, my mind shut down (note the rebelliously dangling modifier). So, my motivation for writing this is to avoid writing that.
The first part of the memo seemed to write itself, but I’m overthinking (this word should be two words) this portion to the point that I need to step away. Either the lack of adjectives or the firm structure have caused me to want to break free (surely you didn’t overlook the obnoxious subject-verb disagreement). It is sure to pass, but its taking it’s toll (please disregard the conspicuous possessive that should be a conjunction and vice-versa as well as the inverted subject). The poet in me misses my colorful adjectives and metaphors that hang by a thread. So, ignoring the grammar police in me, I’ve made a decision to purge these writing “no-no’s” out of my system (can you find the nominalization?).
I have to be honest, though; I love learning to be a better writer, and I sincerely can’t imagine having a better writing professor than I’ve been placed with (ugh, I had to end that statement with a preposition, but it won’t happen again because I really don’t approve of that one) – one whose (oops…who’s) invariably accessible, an inextricably “human” professor, and refreshingly comedic and encouraging (the lack of parallel structure must be distracting). Now that it’s out of my system, back to the winery…the winery in the memo…where Johnny climbed the barrels. My need for an escape isn’t that serious yet.
10/1/08 - I wondered last week, if I’m always getting ahead, when I’d ever get to “cash in” the time I had been trying to save. This was answered this weekend when I needed to go out of state to visit my ailing step-grandmother and got a flat tire on the way there. I tend to think these days that I don’t have a life, but I should’ve known that at some point life would have me. I found out that’s what I’d been preparing for – a time when I couldn’t control my situation, but I didn’t get spun out of control either.
1Ls are turning in our Declaration of Intent to Study Law - a confession of everything we’ve ever done wrong in our lives. It’s something I wish I could’ve taken care of ahead of time; although, you’re not supposed to. I bet if I started on it before school, I would’ve had to report that, too. However, I do recommend if you’re going to apply to law school that you get an official copy of your birth certificate now and make good friends (who aren’t your boss or your family) who won’t have to lie to say you’re a good person.
Another random piece of advice in getting ahead is to get comfortable with computers so you don’t have to handwrite all of your notes. Putting pen to paper is a perfectly good way to take notes, but being able to go back and insert or to rearrange your notes into an outline is much easier on a computer. Start saving money now, and take a class if you’re computer illiterate. If my grandfather can learn Word at age 94, there’s still time for you!
9/24/08 - As I become more comfortable here and less “in my own head,” it’s becoming apparent how tangentially related sociology is to the study of law. I’m inclined to study on my own, but I liken the acknowledgment of wanting a study group/partner to dating. After all, no one wants to end up like the lady next door who lives alone with a slew of cats – especially if they’re anything like Fluffy, the cat that keeps rearing its ugly one-eared head in contracts.
Finding a study group, like finding a date, just kind of happened - that’s the easy part. The challenging part comes after that - knowing they’re probably seeing other people and wondering if they’re going to stand you up for your “date” in room 205. Then the blatantly obvious part that was once new and exciting reveals a truth – they’re different than you. But as they say, opposites attract. Part of the reason for that is to share with another so that the world (or class) isn’t just what you “know” about it.
It’s upon this realization that civil procedure creeps into your day, even though you thought class had been canceled. Learning how to proceed civilly is crucial to being able to get anywhere, as dull as it may seem. Both parties have so much to offer, but we’ve found that figuring out how to conduct yourselves so that the interaction is most efficient is key. Relationships like this which encourage growth aren’t perfectly smooth, but they’re the ones that last. I can see myself being in practice with these great people years down the line, looking back at how it all got started.
9/17/08 - I’ve heard it takes about a month to make or break a habit. It must be true, because I’m no longer conditioned to answer the phone when it rings, I don’t nod when a question is asked in class since those people get called on, and I no longer salivate when I hear the word “pizza.”
In an effort to form new habits, I’m perfectly satisfied with leaving class without my questions answered, and I’m much more careful in offering anyone as much as a Tic-Tac for fear of unintentionally creating a binding contract. The sound of my last name followed by “touchdown” or “for 15 yards” used to make me feel great. These days it’s followed by “please stand and recite the facts of the case,” which has conditioned me to sweat bullets and lose feeling in my toes.
We’re all in the habit of reading, briefing, and taking notes, and deep down we kind of like it; but it’s important to break away occasionally. I was in my friend’s wedding this past weekend, so my goal was not to think about the law as I joined the outside world for a day. I must have been successful because it never once crossed my mind to wish them the best in the lifelong contract they just created or to accuse the bride of intentional infliction of emotional distress for making me stand in a sleeveless dress and those high heels for so long.
The break was nice, but that’s the sound of the TRE coming down the track, which is in the habit of telling me every morning that it’s time to go to school…
9/10/08 - Maybe it’s because I put so much effort into boarding up my windows or because this is very feasible, but Memo didn’t really blow me away. It’s a good thing, because I have to make room in my day for the teeny tiny Interactive Citation Workbook that is taking up an enormous amount of time relative to the amount of space it occupies in the biggest and nerdiest of bags.
Last week I was fortunate enough to be appointed as one of the Barbri 1L Reps, and it’s a perfect gig, like being a parking attendant at the Cowboy game – you don’t have to park, but you eventually will or you’ll miss the game. You can fight it if you want, but anybody who knows about Bar prep knows we’ll all eventually run to Barbri, and if you do it now, you get free outlines for 1L exams.
Speaking of outlines, we’ve reached a point in our classes that allows us to tackle the first chunk of our outlines, the nature of which varies depending on the class. Torts and Civil Procedure are very structured, so they’re conducive to outlining. Property has just become less ethereal, so it’s slowly coming together. In Contracts, however, we just recently confirmed the first rule of the semester after 82 pages of text, so it’s conceivable for our outlines to have one lowly bullet point. It is possible that there could be a subsequent indention indicating that an ad is usually not an offer, which those of you who still have time in your life for TV, radio, or perusing the Sunday paper might find interesting…
9/3/08 - The TAs advised us recently to be okay with saying nonsensical things in class and to otherwise be more accepting and forgiving of ourselves and others who may not be perfect under the pressures of law school. I, being such a good little scholar, started on this homework assignment right away by giving myself my first real opportunity to learn this lesson. When I submitted my last blog, my discarded “notes-to-self” at the bottom of the document made front-page news because I forgot to delete them. It actually ended up being less of a disaster than I thought since they more or less related to the topic, but in my eyes at the time it might as well have been my grocery list for the week that had to be visible to the world until after the long weekend! So, learning to be okay with imperfection - officially checked off my list of things to do!
While my roommates spent a good chunk of the Labor Day weekend following Gustav, I was also preparing for a storm. It’s been a relative breeze so far with sporadic classes canceled, a long weekend, and no writing assignments due; but I have a feeling this is the calm before the storm. Memo, appropriately a four-letter word, is projected to make landfall on Thursday. So, many of us are trying to get our footing and tie up loose ends while we can so that this surge doesn’t throw everything into a tizzy. Instead of packing up my bag with wheels and booking it, I’m going to buckle down and ride this one out.
8/27/08 - Roland Johnson, the President-elect of the State Bar of Texas, challenged the entering class to take the time to tell others, those who support us and those who’d like to be in our shoes, what we see. This year I will try to do just that – tell you what I see.
Most of us currently see a nebulous haze of gray fog descending upon a collection of individual trees. This is the product of blending two concepts that are inevitably at odds, initially, “thinking like a lawyer” and learning substantive black-letter law. This fog will gradually dissipate, although, I think the haze is not supposed to lift entirely. My dad told me for months to resist the temptation to use the word “clearly” in law school. As Professor Harrington seconded this week, the point is that the law isn’t supposed to be clear. If it were, lawyers would be out of their jobs that rely on the notion that “it depends” and that there is generally a good argument on either side of an issue. So, onward through the fog…
Oh, and speaking of what I see, the bag with wheels I referenced last week – it’s everywhere. Look around. It appears to be catching on.
8/22/08 - When I told my football team I was quitting to go to law school, I’m sure they thought a linebacker knocked a few screws loose. As fulfilling as playing women’s semi-professional football for the NWFA’s Austin Outlaws was, my body couldn’t take much more, and it couldn’t pay the bills. So, one year and many dollars later, I found myself at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law about to embark on a starkly different kind of rewarding experience.
Ironically, after just one day, I found myself with the familiar feeling of needing ice bags and pain pills after purchasing and transporting the 1L books. It seemed like I was buying several very expensive copies of the Bible. This led to the need for a bigger backpack…with wheels. I avoided it as long as I could, knowing that if this were high school, I would’ve been stuffed in a locker already. But the bag is necessary, even if it means being told I missed my train stop when I don’t exit the TRE at the airport. I can understand that it looks like I’m traveling to Cancun rather than to class.
Law school isn’t all that scary. The books still read left to right, and everyone here makes an effort to put me at ease – from a 2L stopping me to ask about my first day to Barry Simpson so generously helping curb my computer illiteracy. With the burden literally and figuratively lifted off my shoulders, I know I chose a very comfortable environment at Wesleyan that feels like home already!