Thursday, November 20, 2014

Getting Involved with On-Campus Organizations

One of the great benefits of joining on-campus organizations is the opportunity to network.  During my 1E year, I attended Loyola Student Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (“SALDF”) activities, including a mixer in Downtown Los Angeles, where I met like-minded Loyola Law School Evening Program alumni.  A couple of months after that meeting, I attended another cocktail reception hosted by Animal Legal Defense Fund (“ALDF”) at the Animal Rights 2014 National Conference.  I reconnected with Loyola Law School alumni there, and they asked me if I wanted to be the “law student coordinator” for the inaugural Animal Law Guild Conference at Loyola Law School.  I was more than happy to oblige.  

Not only did the opportunity help me learn more about relevant animal welfare issues, but it also showed me how attorneys incorporate animal law into their careers.  A couple of the attorneys I met work in big firms and do some animal law work on the side, others are sole practitioners who have the ability to pick and choose their caseload.  Still others work in government positions with the Los Angeles County District Attorney in the Animal Cruelty Division or for the City Attorney.  Some lawyers are in-house counsel for non-profit organizations like Compassion Over Killing or Mercy for Animals.  Basically, when it comes to animal law, the possibilities are endless.  Professor Sande Buhai was one of the panel speakers, and she explained the usefulness of taking the animal law course to tie together all aspects of law before prepping for the bar exam.    

Overall, being the “law student coordinator” for the Animal Law Guild Conference was a wonderful learning experience, and it also helped me fulfill pro bono hours.  I’ve made some great connections with attorneys in fields of practice I’m genuinely interested in.  Regardless of what your interests are, on-campus organizations can help you get to where you want to be.  The key is to take advantage of the opportunities and attend events.

I said this to incoming 1Es during orientation and I’ll say it again:  law school is what you make it.  You can choose to get by with the bare minimum, or you can open yourself up to new experiences.  You will be pleasantly surprised to discover that law school is not just about academia; it’s about opening doors.  It’s about meeting people who have the ability to improve your outlook—to help you navigate law school and your career as an attorney.

Extracurriculars in Law School

Extracurricular activities are a great way to meet other students, have some fun, and build a great support system. Here’s a little bit about the three student organizations I am a part of.

Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF)
PILF gives students access to pro bono opportunities, summer funding for public interest work, and the largest on campus events – The PILF Auction. The Auction is a night filled with food, fun and fancy dresses while raising money for student stipends for public interest work in the summer.  This year’s theme was “The Great Gatsby” and the crowd did not disappoint. Sequins and bowties could be seen throughout the campus, but if you were looking for my sequins you would have had to look at the dessert table with twenty-something different types of desserts.

Health Law and Bioethics Association (HLBA)
If you have found your nerdy niche then you will understand why I love HLBA. HLBA hosts panels and mixers that expose us to attorneys who practice in various areas of health law. These events give us practical insight about health law and allow us to build our network and foster our future careers. I’m looking forward to the annual Health Law Alumni Mixer. Last year I met many health law attorneys who put me at ease about the job market and recommended many internship opportunities, one of which ended up being where I interned last summer.

Black Law Students Association (BLSA)
BLSA has proved to be my strongest support system since starting law school. It provides a comfortable space to connect with students from a similar background. I like that the organization provides a healthy mix of opportunities to work and play. There are official and unofficial opportunities, especially for 1Ls, to help with exam prep, time management, and internships as well as mixers and outings to unwind and explore downtown Los Angeles. The largest event of this semester will be BLSA Thanksgiving, which will bring together BLSA students and alumni from several law schools for a traditional thanksgiving dinner. Here are some pictures from the BLSA Welcome Mixer!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Trial School

Loyola requires its law students to fulfill 40 hours of pro bono work prior to graduating. At the end of my 1L year I applied for the Semester in Practice Externship [I highly recommend looking into this if you are interested in civil litigation, as well as the Civil Litigation Skills Practicum]. After applying I received interesting work opportunities, one of those emails included a chance to help plan an ABOTA trial school put on by an LA law firm at Loyola.

ABOTA stands for the American Board of Trial Advocates. It is a national association of trial lawyers and judges. Every year ABOTA partners with a law firm to put on the trial school. Here, members of ABOTA agree to volunteer in a three-day trial school. Various law firms then send associates to come participate. Members of ABOTA basically teach the associates how to be awesome in litigation. Days 1-3 takes the students through each aspect of trial, from opening statements to jury selection through closing arguments. During the school, judges and lawyers with years of experience tell the students about some tips and personal experience in law school, life, and in the courtroom.

Luckily, I eagerly jumped at this experience to get involved. Throughout the summer I helped with some preliminary planning such as contacting law firms and ABOTA members, setting the schedule, and creating the student packets. At the end of summer, I was able to attend the trial school. Besides running around making sure the trial school was running smoothly, I was also able to meet all the participants and listen in on the trial school activities. Besides filling [more than] my 40 hour pro-bono requirement, I had an amazing opportunity to pick the brains of the experienced lawyers and judges. I also had an opportunity to talk to associates who were not so far removed from where I am now.

Volunteering for the trial school was an amazing and unique experience. It was a great opportunity to meet people in the industry and to learn the intricacies of trial in a fun setting. I highly recommend keeping tabs on Loyola emails and finding a pro-bono requirement that is both interesting and different.

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch... Or Is There?

During law school, I have worked at a structural engineering firm, a boutique intellectual property law firm, and a large scale firm specializing in many different areas.  This semester, I am expanding my work experience by working with an in-house legal department at a tech company.  The department has five attorneys, three of whom are Loyola alum.

In-house attorneys deal with a wide range of issues.  During my short time working in-house, I have worked on or observed employment, patent litigation, patent prosecution, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate matters.  Additionally, in-house attorneys deal with a wide range of people.  Some examples are employees in engineering, sales, and finance and executives within the company, as well as clients and attorneys outside the company.

The company cultures at in-house companies can vary widely.  My company embraces a startup culture, so employees sit at connecting desks in a large, open space.  Lunch is catered for all employees every day, and there are refrigerators and vending machines stocked with complimentary food and beverages.  Employees work on laptops, enabling them to move seamlessly from desks, to conference rooms, to big red sofas in open seating areas.

The company was open to my working three days a week, so another ancillary benefit has been attending lunch events at Loyola on my two days off.  Various student groups often organize and provide lunch for events featuring speakers or panels.  This semester, I have attended a discussion with Laura Wasser, an alum specializing in celebrity divorces (such as Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian), a panel on wrongful convictions featuring four innocent defendants who served time in prison, and a panel featuring different attorneys working in intellectual property law.

While working in-house is an option I might explore after graduation, most in-house groups only hire attorneys with work experience at a law firm.  I feel fortunate to be getting a glimpse of what working in-house is like now, before working with a law firm.  And of course, free lunch never hurts.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Work-Life Balance

Maintaining a sense of balance in law school can be difficult. Law school is a full time job that requires self-discipline and dedication. However, it is important to stay balanced so you don’t burn out. Here are some things I do to try and stay balanced (and keep from going crazy) in law school:

Make studying as painless as possible —My study partner and I vary our methods of studying from flashcards to drawing whiteboard diagrams and comparing. And when stress is high we will occasionally pick up Sprinkles cupcakes (because what isn’t better with cupcakes?).

Have non-law-related conversation—Sounds easy, but I found this a lot harder to do than I would have thought. Everything we learn applies to everyday life and it can be difficult to turn that off. I went to a friend’s for dinner and noticed she had an easement her property and the next thing you know we’re talking about property law.

Commiserate with classmates—Seriously. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but with so much of law school being self taught, it’s easy to feel as if you’re the only one who is confused, or gets overwhelmed. Hearing others admit that they too are experiencing all of these things eases anxiety that may interfere with studying.

Fit in family—Everyone has a different family dynamic, but I think if you can find time to spend time with family it helps keep your foundation strong. My cousin and I go to the gym or go out to eat at least once a week. If I find myself overwhelmed with school she will tell me “You have to eat and you need to stay healthy” to get me out of the library and I have yet to find a good counter argument.

Set personal deadlines—If you have a goal in mind you will do better at getting things done and will be able to schedule in other things. I schedule out everything from class specific reading assignments to calling my mom and convincing her I’m not overwhelmed.

Prayer/meditation—I always try and take time in the day for a few minutes of silence to calm myself, reflect, and breathe. Yoga on campus is good for this, as is my car.