Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Building Relationships With Faculty

In the context of clinical work, my clinical professors seem to occupy dual roles as both advisors and colleagues. I have relished those relationships for a number of reasons. Working alongside extremely talented and experienced attorneys in their areas of expertise has been hugely beneficial for someone who is learning about the practice of law. And when trust between clinical professors and a student grows, opportunities for student contribution grow too. This trust can lead to a myriad of wonderful opportunities to appear in court, write briefs and motions, meet with clients, develop legal strategies and more.

Regarding non-clinical faculty, I have always found them very supportive and willing to help their students in any way they can. I have met with professors for help on classroom topics, tips on law school survival, and even for career advice. I think it’s possible for every student at Loyola to develop meaningful relationships with their professors. While developing those relationships requires some proactivity on the student’s part, I have no doubt any student who reaches out to a professor will not be disappointed by the response.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Forging Meaningful Relationships with Professors

It’s easy to be in awe of your professors from the very first day of law school. After all, you know nothing; they occupy a level of expertise you’d be lucky to attain years after you graduate. And that expertise sort of emanates from them like an aura. Whether it’s a torts, criminal law, or civil procedure class – sometimes you feel lucky just to be in the same room with them.

Of course, professors are not only the sharpest of legal minds and diligent teachers but also well-connected in the legal community. Add that up and you’ve got at least three reasons to try to get a little face-to-face time with them.

All that considered, I never really forged a relationship with my professors until this semester. And that’s for the reasons you’d expect – I was one of 70 other students lining up at my professor’s door; I didn’t have anything to say to them that was more interesting than anyone else did; most of all, I was busy enough trying to keep up with my readings without trying to make small talk with someone who has exponentially more knowledge as me.

But when I finally did develop a kind of mentor-mentee relationship with a professor, it worked because it was a teacher who could actually give me very specific advice I could use. As far as my own law school trajectory, I’m thinking more and more about the intersection of public interest and housing law. After all, housing – including such prodigious issues as homelessness and sustainable development – is probably the most pressing problem we face in Los Angeles right now. When I realized there was a professor on campus who I could talk to very specifically about that path, I found a person who was willing to not only be a sounding board, but also who would could help me shape my next two-and-a-half years at Loyola.

And that’s the key, I suppose, to really finding a mentor among the faculty at Loyola – or, I would assume, any other law school. Seek out the professors who’ve done exactly what you want to do, and don’t be afraid to follow their lead.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Building Relationships with Faculty

My experience so far with faculty members at Loyola has truly exceeded my expectations. Every professor that I have had thus far has gone above and beyond to make themselves accessible to students and really get to know them in the process. Because of this, I have been able to develop relationships with a few faculty members and feel like it has been a great way to learn about the course material in more detail, but also about what it’s like to be a practicing attorney. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to interact with too many faculty members because I’m an evening student, each professor that I’ve had so far has taken the time to help me figure out issues I’m having in the present and also try to determine what I want to do in the future. This has been really important to me because I don’t have a clear goal for what I want to do and these experiences help shape my future.

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!