Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Building Relationships with Faculty

Henry Adams once said, “Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops.” In my opinion, I think there is no truer statement to describe the professors and staff at Loyola. Whether it is in the classroom enthusiastically teaching, or in office hours patiently explaining concepts, or in emails and conversations discussing where we are in our academic and professional timelines, the faculty and staff here are some of the most patient, understanding, and helpful. I know, I know, it must seem like an exaggerated… but it’s so true! I’ve witnessed and experienced it myself!

Here at Loyola, professors have an open door policy, which means anyone can come to their office hours whether it’s to get clarification on that hypothetical question that was gone over in class, seek life or career advice, or even just to chat about what’s going on in the world or in one’s life. By doing this, they make us feel welcome and comfortable. And if students can’t make it to office hours because of other time commitments, professors are readily accessible via email. Because I have a pretty lengthy commute, I too am often unable to stay for office hours, so I have definitely taken advantage of the email policy that most of my professors have.

Beyond the scope of lectures, readings, and exams, professors have also extended their hand to students when it comes to giving career advice and even connecting present students to legal professionals in an attempt to help secure that coveted summer job. Loyola’s professors really go above and beyond to make sure that students thrive in their interests, passions, and dreams.

Lastly, Loyola’s professors inspire. The faculty is so diverse experience-wise, that every day, every lecture, and every conversation holds an opportunity to be inspired, influenced, and encouraged. Through their words, they encourage us not just to be better students but also bigger dreamers. And honestly, that’s one of the things I appreciate most about Loyola’s faculty and staff. They’re not just here to teach us so we can boost the school’s bar passage rate. Rather, they’re here to lend their experiences, stories, and wisdom to make sure we succeed on the bar but also in our aspirations and careers.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Faculty Help

Something that has surprised me about law school is the behavior of the faculty. While my professors in undergrad had office hours and would respond to emails, I never felt that they were truly accessible. But here, my professors have gone above and beyond to offer guidance and access.

My professors have given out their personal cell phone numbers in case of an emergency question, responded to emails within the hour, offered to help find summer jobs, and are always available for appointments and office hours. Not one of them has ever made me feel like one of my questions was unintelligent, or that I was wasting their time.

While I do not currently have a mentor professor, I know that I will not have any trouble finding one. Everyone is so helpful and I know that all I have to do is ask to receive any guidance that I could possibly need. I appreciate the fact that not only am I learning from professors and professionals that I respect, but also people that I respect. Their kindness is admirable and they all have great senses of humor, which makes lectures far more interesting. Having such awesome people to learn from is something that I will not ever take for granted again! It makes all the difference in not only understanding the material, but also enjoying the material.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Clinics...Clinics...Clinics - Memorize That Word

Howdy, all! I’m sure by now you have probably heard the word “clinic” about a hundred times. The reason for that is because law school clinics give students a pretty awesome opportunity to work in the “real world” while still in school. I know what you might be thinking… “Who has time to apply for a clinic when you’re already hustling and bustling your way through classes, extracurriculars, and possibly work?” Here’s some good news - clinics not only make your resume legitimately stand out to employers, but many of them can satisfy your pro-bono hours requirement and be used for credit units.

There are several clinic options covering various areas of law at Loyola. Even if you do not see yourself working in immigration law as a career, you may find that participating in the Immigrant Justice Clinic is one of the most rewarding experiences you have in law school. Although I am not personally in a clinic, many of my close friends are. One is actually part of the Project For The Innocent and she gets real joy from knowing that her work could possibly lead to an innocent person being released from prison. Another close friend participates in the International Human Rights Clinic which has opened her eyes, more than she ever thought possible, to this area of the law. So basically, what I’m getting at is to never rule out applying to a clinic, even if it might not be in the area of the law that you want to work in after graduation. Think of it this way - even if you don’t see it as a career, Loyola provides you with an opportunity to expose yourself to different things and experiences so take advantage of that if you have the chance.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Pro Bono Work

Pro bono work is very important to me and I am proud to say that I’ve participated in Loyola’s clinics since my 2L year. For me, clinical work was one of the main things that excited me about the prospect of going to law school. I remember reading through Loyola’s brochures before I had decided to enroll and seeing excerpts about the Project for the Innocent, Immigrant Justice Clinic and various others and thinking “I cannot wait to get involved with this.”

I think that the benefit of participating in clinical work cannot be overstated. First, it gives students an opportunity to do real, necessary work on behalf of people who have few other options. We all know that it is extremely expensive to hire a lawyer, and it is vitally important that law students help ease this burden where they’re able. This help not only gives much-needed assistance to people in the community, it also binds the student to the community in a meaningful way and sets them on a more civic-minded path even if they choose not to pursue public interest work in their career. Second, the work is great for students’ resumes and can help them identify fields of practice that will interest them in their ensuing careers. Through the clinic work you may discover that you love all aspects of litigation, or appellate writing, or client counseling – or, you may discover what you don’t like so much. Either way, Loyola’s clinics are designed to give students a wide breadth of experiences which can only be beneficial to students in the short and long term.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Learning Outside of the Classroom

One of the main reasons I decided to attend Loyola was our school’s impressive lineup of clinics. As someone with a pretty vague idea of what I actually want to do as a lawyer, the idea of getting out into the real world and experiencing the practice of law before I actually take the bar is really appealing.

As a first-year student, I haven’t had the opportunity to join a clinic yet. I have, however, had the opportunity to get the kind of pro bono experience that’s available to pretty much any human citizen of the United States – even those who aren’t law students.

Two times a month, I volunteer with legal clinics that are geared toward helping underserved populations in the Los Angeles area. On the third Wednesday of the month, I assist at a clinic in Skid Row, where attorneys help the homeless get tickets for minor violations dismissed – tickets for things like riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. On the last Saturday of the month, I volunteer at a clinic in Long Beach that helps residents remove (or “expunge”) criminal convictions from their records for free.

This is technically pro bono work – as in, the kind of work people do purely for the greater good – but I have selfish reasons for doing it, too. It gets me out into the underserved L.A. communities in which I hope to work after graduation. I get to make connections with lawyers who have the kind of jobs I want. And it gives me the kind of personal understanding of the endemic issues that perpetuate the cycle of poverty in our city.

For instance, at the expungement clinic this past Saturday, I helped a woman who had been convicted of a drug-related felony while she had been desperate and living in poverty. Thirty years later, and with zero convictions in between, she is still struggling to find work because the same conviction keeps showing on her background checks.

If you’re reading this and you’re thinking about applying to law school, or you’ve already applied and you’re waiting to hear back, my advice is to get out in your respective city and get involved in these kinds of projects. (Whether or not you want to pursue public interest law.) You don’t have to be a lawyer or even a law student to do it. And you’ll gain a much more vivid picture of the world you’re living in, and the small but significant things you can do to make it a little better.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Pro Bono Work

Pro bono work is important to me because I feel like it is the foundation of the legal profession. A lot of people come to law school because they want to “help people” without knowing what it truly takes to achieve that. In my experience, these very same people end up pursuing careers where, of course, to some capacity they “help people,” but certainly not in the way that they expected which is often social-justice-oriented. So, I feel like it’s important to preserve the spirit of wanting to “help people” through pro bono work. Because I’m a first year evening student, I don’t yet have the opportunity to begin chipping away at my pro bono requirement, but I have done some volunteer work with Neighborhood Legal Services in their Workers’ Rights Clinic and, even though I’m not interested in working in that field, it’s been a great experience and I look forward to doing similar work when I’m able to begin working on my pro bono hours. For me, this work has been integral to remembering why I came to law school, which can easily be lost amidst the stress of reading and exams. Knowing that I can give a few hours of my time and make a difference in someone else’s life is very, very powerful.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Pro Bono Work

Like most post-graduates, I had no idea what I was going to do next when I graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in 2015.  I had graduated early but had absolutely no plans for what I was going to do during my gap year.  One thing I was sure about was my interest in the law.  I knew that law school was in my game plan, however, I was still some time away from starting law school let alone studying for the LSAT, actually taking the exam, and applying to schools. 
            Having gone straight through the education system, I decided it would be important to my development to take a break to sort through my options and determine what my next move would be. I decided that the only way to know if my interest in the law was strong enough to pursue a career would be to get hands-on experience in the legal field.  So for the next two years, I worked as a legal assistant at a law firm and learned what it meant to be legal professional and a member of such a vast community. 
            Working at a boutique law firm definitely had its perks.  First, it allowed me to develop a working relationship with my boss and learn from her example.  Second, it allowed me to work and interact with clients on a daily basis.  Much of my time at work was spent talking to clients, discussing the particular details of their cases, listening to their issues, and ultimately trying to resolve them whether by contacting opposing counsel or directly filing for a hearing with the court. 
            These two years of hands-on interactive work really solidified my decision to go to law school and become a lawyer.  Thus, when considering law schools, one of the most important factors for me was the opportunity for hands-on, interactive work.  In fact, one of the reasons I chose Loyola was their emphasis on experiential learning through their various legal clinics (i.e. Immigrant Justice Clinic or Project for the Innocent) and their pro-bono requirement.  The fact that they put such an emphasis on giving back to the community while at the same time giving students a hands-on opportunity to learn and explore their interests was a selling point for me.    Fast forward one year later, and I’m in the middle of my 1L year and looking to start applying and participating in these unique experiences.  I can’t wait to get started!

            Until next time friends!

Monday, February 5, 2018

I am SO Pro Pro Bono

I decided to attend law school for several reasons, but one of the main reasons was to help people in the future. There are only so many jobs in the world that allow a person to do work that they love while simultaneously helping other people.

While evaluating different law schools, Loyola stood out to me in this regard. They did not just talk the social justice talk, they walked the walk as well. As students, we are required to complete 40 hours of pro bono legal work before our 3L spring semester. You can work in one of the Loyola clinics serving the Los Angeles community, or secure a field placement with a public interest organization.

The clinics stood out to me from the beginning, specifically Loyola’s Project for the Innocent clinic. Not only has the clinic been incredibly successful—three exonerations in the last year—but it fully encompasses the ideal work of an attorney. Attorneys working to not only help others, but to help others who have been wronged in possibly the worst way by our legal system. No one should ever be convicted of something they have not done, but the opposite is the undeniable reality of our legal system. The Project for the Innocent helps right these wrongs, and I want to be one of the students at Loyola who helps in any way I can.

As a 1L, I have not had the opportunity to work in one of the clinics, but I know for a fact that I will be applying during my 2L and 3L years. Even if I am unable to work with the Project for the Innocent, I will work with one of the MANY other clinics, which range from Consumer Bankruptcy to Fashion Law. Nothing beats learning on your feet, and nothing beats helping someone in need when you have the resources.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Exams and a Much Needed Break!

Another semester of law school came to an end in December 2017 which meant one thing - the soul-crushing pressure of final exams. Thankfully, I survived another exam period and am now officially half-way done with law school. The phrase “time flies” has never been truer than the last year and a half of my life. It seems like only yesterday that I was a terrified 1L trying to find a seat in my very first law school class.

After exams, I did my best to really celebrate the end of another stressful semester. I rang in the new year with the John Mayer / Dave Chappelle show at The Forum which was an incredible way to start 2018. Other than that, I spent break watching a LOT of television (probably too much if I’m being honest) and taking a mini trip back to Alabama to visit friends and family. The biggest surprise to me over the break was how different I felt being back in Alabama - where I had spent the majority of my life. I visited friends who I grew up with and are now settling down and starting families. My best friend had a baby girl on December 21st and it was so surreal being able to hold her child. It was surreal just realizing that this person whom I had known for 14 years now has her own family. It was also eye-opening to see how different Alabama feels after living in California for a few years. Anyway, overall, it was a relaxing winter break and I have high hopes for 2018!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My Winter Break

My exams this past semester were a little extra challenging because they were not spaced out in an advantageous way. Essentially, I had a lot of time to prepare for my first exam but very little time to prepare for my second two. It made the process a little more stressful than past semesters, but things turned out fine. As a 3L, exams are a bit more of a routine than the shock to the system they are when first starting law school.

Winter break was fun and restful at times, but there was also a lot of work to be done. Spending Christmas with my daughter at 3 years old was a real treat--and a real responsibility for me and my wife. She loves the holiday season and we made sure that it was very special for her. Besides the holidays off, I spent a lot of time working at my current firm as a law clerk. I really appreciate my experiences and opportunities there so I made an effort to work more hours during the break than I had during the semester.

As a family man, the holidays can be a lot of work and having my daughter’s preschool closed down made for a lot of quality family time. But the days roll on and the holidays are now firmly in the rear-view mirror. Now, I just have one short semester to go, so I hope to make it count!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Gathering inspiration over a long winter break

The first three weeks of December were like being inside a tunnel. I did little else but study for exams. The process was the same for each one: digging into old notes, finishing an outline of the entire class, writing flashcards, talking about the cases and rules with my friends. I repeated this process four times, once for each exam. Each one came with its own little ramp-up of stress. If there’s a maximum number of legal rules a brain can hold, I bumped up against that ceiling. It felt like the longest month of my entire life, and by the time I took my last test – my Property mid-term – I was completely exhausted, and sick with a sinus infection to boot.

The tests themselves, by the way, were kind of fun. Answering an essay question is like fixing a bicycle or baking a cake – if you know which tools to use, and how each cog or ingredient fits with the others, there’s a thrill in running through the routine. My exams weren’t all easy (my grades bore that out) but they really weren’t miserable, either.

And then, three weeks after entering into the tunnel, I drove out into the sunlight. The day after finals were over, I felt like the whole world was laid out in front of me. For a couple of days, I spent my time reading novels and driving around the city to eat lunch at places I’d never tried.

The rest of the summer unfolded similarly. My girlfriend and I flew to North Carolina, then Colorado to see our families. After that, we drove from Colorado to Los Angeles. Along the way, we stopped in little towns, ate risky food, and even poked through one weird roadside attraction featuring a menagerie of papier-mâché dinosaurs and, somewhat disturbingly, a nearly-neglected ostrich petting zoo. At Petrified Forest National Park, we were stunned by the expanse of the desert – a place where apparently there was once, millions of years ago, a forest as dense as you might find in rural Pennsylvania. The desert seemed to roll on forever; a mile from the freeway, the world as we knew it was absent, and possibilities seemed infinite.

I had that feeling again the weekend before school started, when I drove down to Baja California with a couple of friends. We drove to a village just off the highway near Rosarito, where fisherman cooked their catch on the beach for visitors like us. Looking out at the slate-grey ocean, 20 miles from chaotic Tijuana, I felt calm and centered.

I did one other thing over break that made me anxious to get back to school. I’ve been reading Bearing the Cross by David Garrow, a book about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the SCLC, the civil rights organization King once led. It’s not always the most exciting book – it’s mostly about the intense amount of work that went into organizing and strategizing the civil rights movement. But it’s inspiring. In 1956, during the Montgomery bus boycott, desegregation in the South seemed like an unattainable dream to all but a few. Over the course of the following years, a combination of grueling logistical work, political maneuvering, and deft messaging made it a reality. And so I’m coming into this school year centered, inspired, and motivated to pick up even more tools – to bump up that ceiling just a little higher.

Friday, January 26, 2018

My Winter Break

My exams for first semester did not necessarily go as planned. However, in a way, I knew that they wouldn’t and, as a result, accepted early on that the first semester of law school would be my way to learn what methods of studying work best for me through trial and error. Unfortunately, my exam preparation involved a lot of error. I spent way too much time studying for one midterm, when another final really could’ve used my attention more simply because there was more information. I also wish I would’ve started earlier, but getting started on Thanksgiving break was tough. In any event, these are certainly lessons that I will take with me into next semester. Adjusting to law school is difficult because exam styles are so different from the exams I saw in undergrad, but I feel like I was warned many times that this would happen and, ultimately, I’d still be okay in the long run.

Once break started, though, I totally wasn’t expecting to miss school…. And I did. I did some fun things with friends and family, took some time to relax, and then I was ready to get back to the grind pretty early on. It’s funny -- it’s almost like I went from eating, sleeping, and breathing coursework and being upset about it, but then not knowing what to do with myself once I didn’t have that to occupy my time. It’s been an interesting experience, for sure, but I’m excited to see what semester two of my first year has in store.

Monday, January 22, 2018

My Winter Break

A MUCH needed break

They were not kidding about law school finals. Wow. Intense.

I will not lie and say that I enjoyed them, but it was nice to finally get a feel for what a law school final actually entails. Plus, there is really no better feeling than when you walk out of the last one.

To celebrate the end of my almost month long seclusion (finals last WAY longer than they did in undergrad), I enjoyed my break by doing absolutely NOTHING that had to do with torts or memorandums or procedure or anything else law school related. I spent the holidays at home with my family, slept in until 10 AM (actually crazy for a girl with 8 AM classes everyday), and enjoyed some winter weather. I do not want to complain about the fact that LA is currently 75 degrees, but it was nice to wear a jacket and some rain boots again. Nostalgia for seasons: it gets me every single time.

The best part of my break (besides sleeping in) was visiting Houston with a group of friends from college. It was so nice to see everyone without feeling like I should be studying.

The worst part of break was going to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and watching my Oklahoma Sooners lose. They finally came to Los Angeles only for me to watch them lose in person, in double-overtime. It is fine though (it really is not, it is the definition of heartbreaking), still a lifelong fan. Boomer.

I have been back for a couple days now and it is back to outlining, reading, and feeling guilty when I take a break. Would not want to have it any other way—maybe. Cheers!

Friday, January 12, 2018

What Comes Next?

As I begin thinking about the future, I cannot help but compile a list of the various things that I still hope to accomplish…a law school bucket list, if you will. Although this list is HIGHLY confidential, I guess that for this one-time only, I can share it with the lot of you. But remember…this is for your eyes only.

1) Secure Placement at One of the Top Entertainment Law Firms in the US

2) Intern for a Production Company or Studio

3) Take an EPIC Bar Trip to somewhere amazing like Australia, Bora Bora, Antartica, etc

4) Pass the Bar on the First Try

5) Pass the MPRE on the First Try

6) Save Over 10,000 LEXIS Points

7) Go a Full Semester Without Skipping a Class or Reading Assignment

8) Become Fluent in Spanish

9) Do the Malibu Wine Safari

10) Go to My First LA Kings Game

11) More To Come

Well, folks, that’s all for now. Part 2 may be headed your way in the near future. Until then, keep calm and survive finals. (Yes. I did conclude this post with the overused, stereotypical, “Keep calm” phrase.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Importance of Study Groups

I do believe it’s important to lean on your peers in order to endure the challenges of law school, but I have never participated in study groups. For me, it’s just based on a personal preference. For me, solo study seems to work best.

That said, it seems self-evident studying in a wide variety of contexts is very valuable. Writing material by hand, doing practice tests, watching YouTube videos on law school subjects, etc. all seem to increase information retention throughout the exam study period. There is also value in explaining things to others throughout the study process. For me, I tend to use my wife or a friend as a sounding board for topic explanations. I will basically start explaining the law as I understand it to them, in the hopes that speaking the words out loud will further etch the information into my long-term (or at least middle-term) memory.

I think participating in study groups is a great way to use your voice and social skills to enhance your studying. For me, though, I have chosen to utilize my time in other ways that have worked for me. Overall, there are many different ways to understand complex material and retain it, and it’s important to explore many methods rather than just reading your computer screen or the pages of your textbooks.

Monday, January 8, 2018

When To Lean On Your Friends And When To Venture Out On Your Own

Making friends in law school is as crucial as you might think. On the most sort of utilitarian level, it really is necessary to have at least one other person to study with – someone you like, someone you feel comfortable with, someone you know is going to push themselves and, by proxy, you. It’s true that you can’t really understand complicated legal concepts until you can explain them to someone else. So having a study buddy is crucial in simply helping you get to the point where you really know how the law works.

Another advantage – besides, of course, the natural human benefit of making a companion out of a stranger – is that your law school friends can keep you inspired. You’ll find other students who have the same drive as you, working toward a similar goal. You can glean inspiration from them, and talk about what gave you the drive to go to law school in the first place. Recently, a Loyola friend let me borrow James Baldwin’s small book of essays, The Fire Next Time. It was just short enough to read between cases, and perfect for resetting my perspective. It’s easy to get lost in the morass of cases and doctrine when you’re in law school; your friends can help remind you what it’s all about.

But I also think, based on my experience so far, that it’s crucial to have the confidence to go out and do things on your own when the occasion arises. For the past couple of months, I’ve volunteered in Watts at a legal clinic that helps clients get old criminal charges expunged from their records. When I started going, I didn’t really tell anyone about it – I wanted to make sure it was worth the time before I dragged someone else along. But that also meant it was a solo endeavor, and showing up to volunteer with a bunch of attorneys you’ve never met before – not to mention a long queue of clients with a real need – is definitely nerve racking.

I find, though, that there’s a lot of value in going it alone every once in a while. I think it can make some experiences more concrete – it elevates the challenge a little bit, and demands that you fully engage instead of relying on your friends to help you maintain your bubble of comfort.

Of course, it’s always nice to talk to someone about the things you see and think about when you’re engaging with our very troubled legal system in a direct way. It’s good to get someone else’s perspective on the vast and intimidating challenges we face in making the American system fairer for everyone. But it’s also nice to sit in the car alone, afterwards, and think of all the things you can do to make a better impact – and ways you can help your friends get involved, too.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Importance of Study Groups

Being an evening student, I think my experience with my peers and study groups is fairly different than the experience of day students. For one, it is really difficult to coordinate between several busy professionals to find a consistent time that works for everyone. However, I find that my classmates are very committed to their studies and, whenever possible, will find ways to make it work! Because I have a more flexible schedule than many of them, I try to be as accommodating as possible because I recognize the value of study groups.

For one, study groups are incredibly helpful because they force you to articulate material that you may think you know, but have never actually tried to explain to someone else. In trying to do that, you often discover gaps in your own knowledge and sometimes your peers can even help you fill them in. Secondly, they’re great because they hold you accountable. You can’t keep procrastinating your reading or outlining because you have a meeting with a group of people that have all agreed to come prepared and ready to discuss the material.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I feel like my section is very supportive and collaborative. Everyone is in the same boat (working, going to school, family commitments, etc.) so we all sympathize with one another and try to help each other out when we can. It’s definitely not what I had expected my law school section to be like, but I’m definitely appreciative of it when I’m preparing for exams!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Importance of Study Groups

Holiday season is fast approaching, and with that so are final exams! In fact, it will be my first set of final exams as a law student! So it looks like this Thanksgiving, a turkey won’t be the only thing I’ll be prepping!

With classes winding down, it’s important for us students to start the daunting task of tying up loose ends in the various classes, working on outlines, and beginning exam preparation. Fortunately, at Loyola, we have a supportive community upon which students can lean upon each other to get through the rough patches of pulling all-nighters, finishing final papers, and trying to get through problem sets and hypotheticals. It’s definitely helpful being able to turn to your peers to discuss material gone over in class and readings and also to review concepts that were studied earlier in the semester.

I think in law school, it’s important to make the appropriate adjustments that will allow you to succeed. This means knowing the best way for you to function, organize, understand, and study. For some, studying alone is impossible, and thus, study groups are the only way to go. For others, group studying is a challenge, and solitude is key. For me, personally, I study best with a combination of both. I can focus on the challenge at hand when I put myself in the zone with just my books, notes, and other preparatory materials. But that being said I still do rely upon my friends and peers when I need a little more clarification on what a professor said in class, a little more help understanding the concepts, and a little more support and reminder that I’m not alone in trying to figure things out. In return, I make sure that I am as helpful as possible to anyone who needs assistance, clarification, or just a friend to lean on and vent to. I think when you put forward good positive energy and are helpful to one another, you help not only yourself succeed but also the community as a whole thrive.

With that being said, it’s time for me to get back to it and hit the books again! Until next time, Happy Holidays and Happy Studying!