Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Fall Semester Update

It’s crazy to think that this time last year I was scoping out potential law schools and starting (and if I’m being completely honest, procrastinating on) the application process. What’s even crazier is that now I’m two months into being a law student! It seems like for the longest time I had been anticipating law school and getting back into the groove of being a student, and now I’m here: two months into school with about a full month of classes left to go before finals and before I’m done with my first semester of law school! It’s honestly so mind-blowing and scary to think just how fast time flies…

Presently, I’m anticipating my first grades as a law student. We recently took our first midterm for torts and submitted our first graded assignment for legal writing class. One of the things I haven’t completely wrapped my head around just yet is the grading process. Loyola, like most law schools, grades on the curve. If you’re like me, a humanities and social sciences student, grading on the curve will be just as foreign of a concept to you. At UCSB, I was very much used to an A being an A, a B being a B, and so forth. Here, that’s not completely the case. Our grade for each assignment or exam is graded on a curve with a specific formula. That grade is then combined with any other assignments, exams, and points and then calculated with yet another specific formula that distributes a spot on the curve to each student. It’s complicated, scary, intimidating, and nerve-racking, but I’d like to think that I gave both tasks my best effort. So fingers crossed that all goes well!

I’m two months in, so how exactly am I faring in law school? Well, I told my friends a couple of weeks ago that I likened law school to being in the ocean. It’s vast, deep, intense, seemingly endless, and can be overwhelming. Currently, I feel like I still have my head above the water. School has been exactly what I imagined: late nights, lots of hard work, drinking plenty of coffee, attempting difficult problem sets, memorizing rules, and briefing cases. But finally understanding the concept is so satisfying, and that “Aha! Eureka!” moment is such a beautiful thing. So now, I’m just looking forward to ending the semester as strong as possible so I can start the new year off on a good note.

Stay tuned! There’s more to this adventure, and the best is yet to come!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Fall Semester Update

This week is the tenth of my law school career and I honestly do not know where the semester has gone. Midterms have come and gone, coffees have been consumed, and five packs of highlighters have been depleted.

So far I have not received any of my midterm scores (probably why I feel so carefree), but first-year day students have received our first writing assignment scores. I was pleasantly surprised by my score and have to give credit to Professor Riordan, who was not only very accommodating of all of my section’s questions, but was also very clear on what was expected. That is one of the things that I enjoy most about law school: the professors are ABUNDANTLY clear about what is necessary for each assignment. In my opinion, the more straightforward, the better, and my professors are very straightforward.

Overall, law school has been what I expected: it is a lot of time and work. You cannot coast through law school, and if someone has told you that you can, they are lying or didn’t coast as well as they say they did. But honestly, the work is completely worth it when a professor gives you positive feedback and acknowledges the effort that you have put in, or when you are rewarded with a good grade.

By far the most surprising thing about law school has been the fact that I still have a life! I like to complain to my friends and family that I do not, but that is only because in comparison to the life I had before, I definitely have less time. Instead of watching multiple Netflix episodes a day, I normally can only watch one, and I often find myself ordering-in food rather than going-out to eat so that I can eat and study at the same time. Little things have changed, but I still have a relatively similar life to the one I had before school started. I will let you know if that changes in five weeks, aka the beginning of reading week.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Truth or Truth

When I started as a first-generation law student, I was hearing horror stories from everyone. Today, I am going to debunk two of the ones that kept me up at night riddled with anxiety. First, everywhere I turned people were telling me, “The first thing you need to do is find a study group as soon as possible. You cannot survive without a study group.” As a Los Angeles transplant, I did not know anyone when I started at Loyola so the thought that my grades might be dependent on my ability to make several friends incredibly fast was a little scary. Although I was fortunate enough to make great friends and actually did have a study group for two of my courses, I survived without study partners for all of my other classes. Study groups are great if you learn material better with a group of peers, but (a) they are not the best study method for everyone and (b) if you are not in one, it will not ruin your chances of earning a high grade.

Secondly, when I was not nervous about finding a study group, I was concerned that I had no time for a “release” from school. “Say goodbye to free time, time with friends, and a social life.” I cannot begin to tell you how many times I heard that and worried that I would not have time for family, Disneyland, and Netflix. (Obviously, I have my priorities in order.) Additionally, when was I going to have time to hang out with this hypothetical study group if my whole life was going to be outlining and reading? However, throughout the year, I realized this also was not 100% accurate. Sure, there is A LOT of reading and studying, but that does not mean you have to completely forego your life outside of school. In fact, I would argue that everyone needs a little time for release and to separate themselves from all the stress. Long story short, not everything people tell you about law school can be taken as being automatically accurate. To use the extremely overused phrase, “Keep Calm and..” enjoy the next few years. It will be over before you know it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Debunk A Law School Myth

In some ways, I am glad I read a book about transitioning into the law school lifestyle before I started as a 1L. In other ways, not so much. The book I read was dedicated to preparing incoming students for the massive life change they were about to experience. It detailed all the ways that law school life was going to be different than your old life: the way you study, the way you socialize, the amount you sleep. One thing was abundantly clear throughout the book – being a law student will probably damage your personal relationships. I have not found that to be true at all.

Sure, there may be some adjustments to a new social life when entering law school. You may have less time for your old friends, family. But the idea that this will actually damage your personal, intimate relationships is much exaggerated. I told my wife to be aware for this impending storm as I began law school. Truth is, the storm never came. Law school does not require 18 hours of your day. If you plan your days reasonably well, you will have free time to spend with loved ones. And as with any new commitment, like a new job or a move out of town, you might see some relationships lose their former luster after a while. But law school isn’t really the insidious cause of this; these changes are the result of the natural and regular transitions we go through when we attempt big things.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Debunk A Law School Myth

Your mental image of a first-year law student's typical Friday night might look something like this:

That’s a pretty accurate representation of my night this past Friday. I spent almost the entirety of this past weekend studying for the midterm in my Torts class, my first big hurdle in law school.

But that picture is definitely not an accurate representation of my typical Friday night. In fact, the myth that law students don’t have lives — that they spend every waking moment buried in books — isn’t true at all.

Taking time to do the non-law school things you enjoy is actually pretty essential to making sure you don’t have a meltdown while you’re here. I got that advice from more than one professor during orientation, and I took it to heart.

This past weekend, even with the study marathon, was a pretty good example. Over the past year or so, I’ve gotten involved in planning small music events in L.A. It’s satisfying and thrilling to create an experience for other people. Since June, I've been helping plan a big show at a local venue featuring a legendary German synthesizer player named Roedelius and a pair of wonderful artists from Japan, composer Aki Tsuyuko and painter Ippei Matsui. (I know, kind of obscure.)

Then, when I got my midterm schedule a few weeks ago, I found out my Torts midterm was scheduled for October 9th — the day after the show I was working on. What could I do? The show had already been in the words for months.

Like anything in law school, you make it work. All things considered, I still spent around 25 hours studying for my Torts exam between Friday and Sunday. (Some students, I know, studied even more.) But at 5 on Sunday, I set aside my Torts notes and headed to the venue. 

The show itself was stressful; some of the equipment from Japan didn’t work with the venue’s setup, which sent me on a last-minute trip to Best Buy for a 50-foot cable. But the show itself went beautifully; the artists radiated pure wonder and benevolence. After the show, Roedelius himself, who is 82 years old, walked around the venue barefoot (!) and introduced himself to fans. I think it was just what I needed to balance myself a little.

The next morning I slept in a little, went for a jog, and then studied for a couple hours before heading to school. I won’t lie — the test was stressful. Law school isn’t easier than people tell you, and it might actually be harder. Things you thought you knew how to do, like read and write, can suddenly seem foreign.

But the myth that law school students don’t have lives isn’t true. It’s just that the lives we do have are kind of crazy. The key, for me anyway, is to take all opportunities you can to do adventurous things — without forgetting to give yourself some rest along the way.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Debunking A Law School Myth

Before I started law school, I was flooded with horror stories about what I should expect on the day-to-day. What horrified me the most out of everything I heard wasn’t cold calling or the law school exam, but that my classes would be immensely, arguably unbelievably, competitive. I heard from countless people that my classmates would be waiting to watch me fail. I was told stories about students refusing to share their notes, for instance, with people who had missed class because they were sick just because they didn’t want to give their classmates any sort of perceived advantage.

It’s true, the curve is scary and you are competing with those around you. However, in the short time I’ve been a law student, I’ve learned that the environment isn’t as cutthroat as I was told it would be. In fact, my classmates are always looking out for one another. The curve doesn’t keep us from helping each other when we need it. As an evening student, I’ve also noticed that my classmates are very understanding. We’re all working at least part time jobs and some of my classmates have families to take care of on top of their work and school commitments and everyone in my class is sympathetic to that. We’re sympathetic if someone has fallen behind on an assignment, didn’t have time to review before class, or doesn’t understand a concept. I’ve seen my classmates come together time and time again to try to help others who might otherwise fall behind and not be able to catch up.

For me, this is the biggest and most important myth about law school that I’m happy to debunk. Law school isn’t the scary, competitive, lonely place that I was told it would be. Instead, my section is a welcoming, understanding, and supportive community.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Debunking A Law School Myth

HELP! GET ME OUT OF HERE! Everyone is out to get me! Everyone wants to see me crash and burn! Everyone wants to see me fail so they can get ahead!

I think we can all agree that when we initially thought of law school, we thought of an ultra competitive environment where everyone was out to get each other in order to get to the top. We’ve all cringed at depictions of law school life in film and television that portrayed students as overly ambitious, vicious, and willing to do anything and everything in their power to get to the top. And no, these depictions didn’t stop at just the students for we’ve also seen media representations of harsh, intimidating, and merciless law school professors who ask the most difficult and unanswerable questions, expose their students’ weaknesses, and pick on them endlessly.

Thankfully, I’d like to say that this is all a myth. I’ve been a student at Loyola for several weeks now, and I can honestly say that I have not encountered any of the meanness we’ve all seen in movies and television or witnessed the ultra-competitiveness that we may have heard other hardened law school students and attorneys say.

It’s true that law school students aspire to do well, but honestly, that’s not a surprise because law school, as I’m sure everyone has told you, is a big investment and time commitment. In my time here, I’ve been a witness to a community of students trying to do their personal best while also trying to help one another. I’ve seen this in the way that everyone in legal research class collaborates on in-class assignments to make sure everyone gets full credit. I’ve seen this in the way people sit outside before the start of lecture to go over ambiguities and material from the night before. I’ve seen this in the way that people share outlines and notes when someone has been sick for a couple of days. I’ve also met caring faculty and staff who genuinely want to see their students thrive. The professors I’ve encountered this semester have been understanding of the fact that we’re all still trying to adjust to this life and career path we’ve chosen. They’ve been willing to meet with us to get to know us, encourage us, and help us in whatever way they can.

So fret not! The myth that everyone is out to get each other is just that, a myth!