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!