Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Be as Dedicated as Hufflepuff, and as Ambitious as a Slytherin

Before starting law school, I heard about the importance of building relationships with professors. As a first-generation law student, I am learning as I go and the idea of going to office hours seemed a little intimidating; I didn’t know what to expect. A word to the wise: Office Hours are CRUCIAL to being successful. The truth is that law school is difficult, some topics seem foreign to many student\s, and exams require students to actually have an in-depth understanding of the material. There is absolutely no way to “fake” your way through a law school exam. Fortunately, I was blessed with a “dynamic duo” of legal research and writing professors. Shout out to Professor Bensinger and Professor Der!

Professor Bensinger, my writing professor, truly cares about her students and wants to see them succeed. On my first writing assignment, I was underwhelmed by my grade. I did not do poorly, but I did not perform as well as I had hoped. Full disclosure: I only met with Professor Bensinger once before this assignment was due. Because I have always done well in writing courses before law school, I thought I knew exactly what to do. Cut to the second writing assignment: I was determined to gain a higher grade this time around. I met with Bensinger a few times and sent her emails. Each time, she was gracious and incredibly helpful. When I saw my grade this time, I was thrilled.

Bensinger played a huge role in helping me feel more comfortable about the legal writing style and what was expected to earn a high grade. When you think about it, it just makes sense. Why would you not want to hear firsthand what is expected for a paper/exam from the person grading it? Each professor is different and will be looking for specific things in your answers. By going to office hours, you are better prepared and can then let the “A”s come rolling in.

My research professor, Professor Der, makes herself readily available to students via office hours and emails. Obviously, legal research is an unavoidable necessity in the life of a practicing attorney. Although you might think it is incredibly boring, Der helps get students interested. One of our assignments was a hypothetical about helping Hermione research a problem for Harry Potter. Side-note: I’m a Gryffindor. If you email her a question, Professor Der will typically respond within 24 hours. She really wants students to do well and will do her best to make them comfortable with an assignment. The takeaway here is simple: Be as dedicated as a Hufflepuff when getting to know your professors and as ambitious as a Slytherin to take the knowledge they have given you to get those “A”s!!! And also…Professor Bensinger and Professor Der are awesome.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Building Relationships with Faculty

I have found the clinical programs at Loyola to be a fantastic way to build relationships with faculty. In the Juvenile Innocence and Fair Sentencing Clinic (JIFS) and Employment Rights Clinic, I have been able to work closely with professors on real-world legal issues. In my clinics, I am not only encouraged to interface with faculty, I’m required to. In JIFS, I meet regularly with professors Sean Kennedy and Christopher Hawthorne and adjunct professors Efty Sharony and Susan Harbert. In Employment Rights, I work right alongside adjunct professor Cornelia Dai, who is also a partner at a plaintiff-side employment law firm.

My clinical professors have been nothing short of outstanding to work with. I feel completely comfortable discussing nearly any issue with them. I can come to them for pointed legal advice, for tips on dealing with clients, or for overall career/school advice. There has never been a moment when I’ve felt a chasm between myself and my clinical professors, and I feel that’s the common vibe throughout Loyola’s clinical programs – Loyola has clearly fostered and encouraged that sort of environment.

Besides my clinical work, I have also felt at ease in dealing with my regular professors. Some may seem more approachable than others, but I would never be concerned that they don’t care or aren’t interested in my progress. Emails are always returned, questions always answered, and concerns are always addressed. Beyond addressing class-related issues, I have noticed that most, if not all, professors genuinely care about their students’ lives and will help them with issues even outside of their course. I genuinely feel that relationships with my professors now will last throughout my professional career.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Typical Day for a 1L: "It Depends"

Honestly, I sat down to write this post and had no clue what I was going to say, but here goes nothing. Life as a first-year law student has its ups and downs. I was lucky to be placed in the afternoon section, which basically just means that I can sleep in or catch up on any reading that I put off the night before. I can (unfortunately) speak from experience in saying that when you are sitting in class where your teacher is huge on the Socratic method and you haven’t even read the cases, you will be hardcore stressing for the entire class. Always try and stay ahead of your readings, guys. It will save your sanity later on down the road. When in doubt, just use every lawyer’s favorite answer to almost any question: “It depends.”

Moving on to the more exciting part of the law school experience: the social element. As a new-to-California student, being immersed at last semester’s orientation where it seemed like everyone went to the same four schools in SoCal, I felt a little “on the outside.” If that happens to you, don’t panic. When classes begin and you get to know some of your classmates, you will meet both like-minded people as well as those with whom you don’t really see eye-to-eye on certain things. That’s the beauty of Loyola in my opinion: Diverse views, a mix of personalities and backgrounds, and people all looking toward one goal: getting out…I mean graduation. The friends you make in law school will be the ones you turn to with the things that really matter…like talking about what Corrine from The Bachelor did in this week’s episode. In reality, these will also be the people who will help you when you don’t understand something or give you their notes when you miss class. Basically, these people will each be the Dwight Schrute to your Michael Scott, the Leslie Knope to your Ann Perkins…I think you get the point.

You will also run into some gunners in your classes…it’s inevitable. For those of you who don’t know what a gunner is, please pause here and look up “The Gunner Song” by Harvard Medical School. In my opinion, the best thing you can do is focus on your studies and hang out with friends…but if you decide you want to place a significant amount of focus on trying to outscore them on exams, live your life (and know that I’m silently rooting for you). At Loyola, I have been given the opportunity to hear guest lectures given by people who are currently dominating their fields including Laura Wasser, Thomas Girardi, and actress Ali Sweeney with her team (lawyer, agent, manager, and publicist). I also just want to quickly note that it’s important to not give up the hobbies that are important to you. If you like to play the piano or go to live concerts, like myself, make time for that. Studying is vital for law school, but, at the same time, don’t lose who you are while in school.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Day in the Life of Me -- Full- Time Law Student Trying To Be a Part-Time Human Being

Law school takes up most ALL of your time. I’m in the afternoon section, meaning that classes for me do not start until late morning/afternoon. However, this does NOT mean I get to sleep in, if anything, I have to wake up just as early as my friends in the morning section so that I can get work done before class.

I usually spend 4/5 hours in class a day, and in between that time (beforehand and after) I read and do work in the library. I usually bring food from home and eat lunch with friends from my section as a break, and/or go grab coffee off campus as another break. If I stay on schedule, I usually am able to get home around 7 or 8 PM, that way I avoid traffic on my way back. At home I either make dinner or order in, and this constitutes yet another break in a seemingly endless day for me, after which I either unwind by watching TV or listening to music, or, if I haven’t finished enough work yet, do more readings.

The best part about the current situation I’m in is that it gets to start all over again in the morning. 😊

For the most part, I have not had to put a majority of my life outside of law school on a temporary pause—my friends, family, and hobbies are what keep me sane when school becomes too hectic, or when I need a break from all the stress and pressure. Every once in a while it’s nice to place a focus on my hobbies and interests instead; it reminds me that there is more to life than the books.

In the beginning, I’ll admit it was kind of hard trying to figure out how to maintain a balance between my responsibilities and my interests outside of that, but I learned that I have to be diligent with my work—there is no such thing as “free time” when you’re in law school, and I’ve learned to utilize this by making sure I stay on top of my readings, and when I am, I try to read ahead, so that way I can have more flexibility with my schedule when needed/wanted.

Monday, February 13, 2017

How I Spent My Winter Break

School is back in session…You know what that means. Winter break is over. I will pause here to give you a moment to silently excuse yourself to go cry in your favorite corner of the library. In all seriousness, I was very thankful for the pretty lengthy break. During the momentary escape from the Socratic method, I was able to spend some time with family, friends, and my pillow. Honestly, I think that I probably averaged between 8-10 hours of sleep each night and it was glorious.

As a fairly recent LA transplant, I found it pretty relaxing to escape the city for a few days and return to small town life in Alabama. While there, I saw some old friends that I have not seen in years and celebrated the holidays with loved ones. On a more personal note, my brother proposed to his girlfriend. Thankfully, she accepted and I should have a new sister-in-law soon! Although spending a little while in my home town was great, I could not be happier to be back in California where the sun is (usually) shining, the beaches are always beautiful, and there is always something to do.

Here’s to 2017. May this year be full of new friendships, summer externship offers, and better grades for all!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

My "2L" Law Student Life

So far there hasn’t been much of a “typical day” as a law student. Sure, there is always something to read or some writing assignment to follow up on, but for me, there has never been a settled routine. My classes and clinics require a little or a lot of my time depending on what’s due and if there’s a major assignment in the works. Right now, for instance, I’m enjoying a rather light week; but last semester I had a couple months where everything seemed to be due all at once. Now that I think about it, the first semester of my second year was by far the hardest I’ve worked in law school. And while my workload seems light at the moment, next week that will surely change.

As you may know if you’ve read my other blog entries, I played music for a living before coming to law school. Now, playing music is just a very fun and engaging hobby for me. But I do wish that I had more time to really dedicate to it. I’ve been thinking about joining a band or doing some recording projects, but those require weeks and months of preparation and rehearsing and I fear that I would end up having to ditch those projects for law school issues. When other musicians are counting on you, it’s not acceptable to leave a project half-finished or to cancel rehearsals. So I feel it’s best for me not to commit to something when I can’t dedicate the proper time to it.

It’s not too much of a problem for me, though. My family and social life is busy and thriving, and I play music whenever I can and it satiates me. Balancing life and law school is not hard if you make the balance a priority. I’ve found that if I start my projects early and spend most of my campus time studying or writing, I still have time for everything else. The downside is that I don’t have a thriving social life on campus, but there are only so many hours in the day.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

My 2017 Winter Break

Final exams this year definitely felt quit different than final exams as a 1L. I had only two closed-book, traditional final exams. The other classes I took had take-home writing assignments instead of exam. This meant that the traditional, “sit in the library trying to absorb an entire subject in 8 days” style of studying was partially replaced by endless hours spent fine-tuning large writing projects. I do find the traditional way of studying somewhat uncomfortable, so I was happy to mix it up. But finals season nonetheless can take its toll, so I was naturally glad to be done with them.

For my winter break, I was able to spend some time relaxing in the snow, thanks to heavy storms in the San Bernardino mountains. I took my daughter sledding for the first time and made some snowmen (which was particularly exciting for her because her favorite movie is Frozen), so it was very fun.

After a few days of this, though, it was back to work. My work in the Juvenile Innocence & Fair Sentencing Clinic was reaching a critical point as one of my clients had a January court appearance. My clinic partner and I spent many days preparing a lengthy memorandum in defense of our client. We compiled declarations, expert reports, and other exhibits. We also spent a few days preparing our in-court presentation, which included open and closing statements, two expert witnesses and a lay witness. Our court date was on January 18, and it went extremely well. Our hard work seems to have paid off and the judge will have his ultimate decision on the issue in a few days after writing this.