Thursday, August 4, 2016
And so it begins: law school. Traditionally, law school begins in August every year. Although I've been through this before, I'm still a 1L. I'm a part-time student which means I haven't accumulated enough credits to be a true 2L. So, in solidarity with my 1L brethren, I offer these insights on what to do during your first semester.
When my study group and I were wrapping up our first semester of law school we reflected back on what we wish we would have done to make the semester a little less stressful.
School is hard enough without making it harder by missing opportunities. Effective and efficient management of school work is the name of the game.
So, for those of you crazy enough to attempt the JD degree, here are the 5 tips from my study group on how to effectively prepare for exams:
1. Do your reading. This should go without saying but I said it so I’m going to talk about it. Being prepared is a big deal in law school. It’s considered unprofessional to show up without having done the reading. Read your cases. Brief your cases. Some upperclassmen may tell you not to ‘waste’ time with briefing but to them I say “back off you crazy, lazy, gunning b*stards.” Briefing is a substantial study tool and a helpful skill to develop. Don’t sell yourself short. You got here – now do the work.
2. Start outlining earlier! If your school is anything like mine, then they will have this super nice Academic Success Program. The program involves students presenting on tips and tricks for succeeding in law school. One of the tips they offered was to wait to outline until November (about a month before exams). The theory was that you, as a new law student, wouldn't really understand how the rules fit together so your outline wouldn't make sense. But, I'm telling you, start as soon as possible. And when I say start, I mean, grab the table of contents for your case book and compare it to your syllabus. Write up a rough outline of subjects using those two resources as a guide. Do it before classes start if you can. And then, each week, type your class notes under the applicable section heading. This will help you tremendously when exams are looming over you.
3. Type your notes each week. Some of my professors didn't allow laptops in class which meant taking notes by hand. This didn't bother me because the act of writing something down always seemed to cement it in my mind. However, outlines are typed. And outlining is easier and faster if your notes are typed. Just don't do what most of my study group did - don't let your notes pile up. It's overwhelming and you don't need anything else overwhelming on your plate.
4. Run hypos sooner. When you get close to exams you'll likely want to run hypos. This means finding a study aid (like E&E's) and reading their hypothetical questions and noodling out your best guess of an answer. We did this for hours and hours on end before exams. But we all agreed it would have helped us tremendously if we had tackled hypos each week. Learn something new in Contracts? Run a corresponding hypo to make sure you understand the material. The exercises help you recall the concepts and keep the materials fresh.
5. Meet with your study group sooner. We all agreed we wish we would have started meeting sooner. Meet each week. Meet whenever. But meet sooner than you think you need to. Meet and discuss what was covered in class. Meet and talk through your questions. Meet and work on your collaborative outline. Do whatever. But meet. Meeting helped us stay accountable and kept us on track.
Hope these tips help. Have additional tips? Share them here.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
It's that time of year! The time of year when new 0L's law students begin stressing obsessively about becoming 1L's. (They don't call it 1L Hell for nothin'). Ah, I remember those days. It seems like a lifetime ago.
I wrote this post after wrapping up my first semester exams. I had some perspective at this point and could reflect on what you should do before you even step foot in the building. Take your freedom seriously, because it's about to end. Embrace your last bit of summer.
I'm done with my first semester of 1Lhell. Which means I'm sleeping as much as humanly possible and trying to have fun (you know, that three letter word that was so familiar BEFORE school). So I thought I'd take a moment to reflect over the beginning of it all. If you are starting law school in the future maybe these things will come in handy.
Here are my top 9 things to do before starting law school:
1. Talk to everyone! Tell everyone who will listen that you are going to law school. I mean, don’t be a jerk about it but get the word out. Who knows, someone may know someone who is an attorney and *boom* instant network connection. Networking is a constant in the professional world. For those who haven’t worked in a career before this will come as a shock. For those of you (like me) who are pursuing law as a second (or third) career you know networking starts now. Heck, maybe it started yesterday. Just get to it and don’t worry about sounding silly. You’re a 1L – no one expects you to know everything.
2. Get a good, light weight, laptop. This cannot be understated. You will already have about a billion pounds worth of books to lug around. Who wants to lug around a 5 million pound 17 in’ laptop? No one. *insert aint no one got time for that meme* I use a Microsoft Surface (pro 2) and I love it. Some people will tell you to get a Mac – I’m not a super Mac fan but if that’s what floats your boat then, by all means, float your boat.
3. Get your job sitch figured out – you don’t need any extra stress. Set expectations early with your employer that you will need flexibility in order to make school work.
4. Get your home sitch figured out – home is essential. It’s where you unwind. It’s where you relax. It’s where you spend your time when you aren’t at work or at the library. So start talking to your SO’s or family now. Set expectations with them early and often. This is going to be a HUGE change and they need to be on board. They are your partners in this endeavor. You need their support.
5. Have as much fun as possible – this is your last moment of freedom before you commit to a grueling lifestyle of hard work. Take this moment to celebrate EVERYTHING and ANYTHING! Celebrate getting into school. Celebrate the fact that it’s Thursday. Just be sure you are enjoying life because when things get hard you’ll want happy memories to see you through.
6. Visit family – you may not be able to travel for every holiday anymore. Sure, you have Thanksgiving week off from class but it’s also the last week before finals. You’ll want that time to study. So maybe that means spending turkey day at home instead of with the fam. Plan now for how you will spend your holidays and set those expectations. You’ll feel a lot less stress if you take care of it now. Not to mention the total awesome feeling you’ll get from spending time with your loved ones.
7. Get your personal medical issues in order – I was getting headaches as I studied for the LSAT. I had Lasik about 10 yrs ago and knew it was guaranteed so I made time to visit with the eye doc and find out what was causing my headaches. The issue was nothing that could be corrected with a repeat procedure so it was determined that I needed glasses. Better that I got those glasses before school as opposed to suffering through and then getting them in the middle of first semester. This applies to mental health issues as well. I’m glad I didn’t wait until the semester started to discuss my mental health with my provider. This is serious stuff. You need to take it seriously.
8. Plan to protect your time – a lot of people will tell you that just because you’re in school doesn’t mean you need to give up on the things that you love. If you’re like me and you enjoy running and fitness then schedule time in your day to work out. It’s not enough to schedule the time. You need to protect that time like a momma bear protects her cubs. Luckily for me I’ve learned this skill because I love to write and writing is a task that can get easily run over by the rest of life. Now, this is easier said than done. For example, I regularly miss my workouts and have had to drop writing sessions completely for a while. But it’s not because I didn’t try. I did. I am. And I’m adapting my schedule to what will work.
9. Sleep. Sleeeeeeeeep. For the love of god sleep. You will likely run on less sleep than you thought possible once school gets underway. So make sure you aren’t going into it already operating at a deficit.
Hope these tips help you as you get ready to start your law school journey.
Have you been through 1Lhell? What did you wish you could have done before the semester started? Share here.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
In some circles burn out can been a dirty word. Or a dirty secrete at lest. But burn out happens everywhere: in relationships, in hobbies, and even in your deepest passions (be it writing, reading, or running).
Don't be ashamed of burn out. It happens to the best of us. I wrote this post after struggling with some pretty serious burn out for a few months. I hope my experiences help you through the frustration of burn out.
I mentioned my burn out in my May recap.
It’s been tough. A lot of times I can sense burn out coming. And sometimes I can take steps to stop burnout in it's tracks. But in May I was blindsided by burn out. I was riding the sugar high of just finishing a rewrite. My energy was good and I rolled that into outlining not one – but TWO – potential WIPs.
In April I was reading a ton as well. But I burned out there, too. In May I started a lot of books and put them down right away. I just wasn’t connecting with anything.
And I think I know why –
I’m going to law school in the fall. I start in August. It’s fantastic, terrific, thrilling news. I’m ecstatic be going. I love the law and I love learning. I’ve wanted to go to law school for more than ten years so getting in and actually making this dream a reality is amazing….and also not amazing. Because there’s this nagging guilt that seeps into my daily thoughts, whispering “you’ve given up, haven’t you? You’ve given up on your dream of becoming a writer.” Ugh…hate that feeling.
And that feeling is total bull because it doesn’t have to be that way. My rational mind knows that I don’t have to be one dimensional.
Yes, being a published author and writing full time is a goal of mine. It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember. But I need a Day Job for the time being and I don’t see why I shouldn’t work a Day Job in a field I am passionate about: law. So why does it feel like I tied my writing dream to a chair in the basement?
Why can’t I have both? Why can’t I be both?
I think I can. I see men and women all the time who work as husbands/wives/mothers AND as writers, AND some other job (be it part time or full time). Not to mention all those folks likely have hobbies, and friends, and other commitments or obligations (some fun and some not so fun). People are not one thing.
So being a law student, an employee, a wife/sister/daughter/friend, AND a writer shouldn’t feel impossible. It can be done. A singular passion does not define me….so why do I feel all this guilt?
I think I’ve imposed an arbitrary dedication meter to my passion. If I am not writing 1000 words a day or 3 hours a day while braiding the mane of a unicorn I’m no longer a serious writer. I doubt I’m alone in this belief but it’s arbitrary. And if this dedication meter is helping me to be more disciplined then great! But if this arbitrary dedication meter is making me feel terrible then it’s no longer useful and it needs to go.
Because the reality of writing as work is this: sometimes you must to step back. Sometimes you must take a break. And we shouldn’t feel guilty about resting but we do. At least a lot of us do anyway. Ugh. It’s the worst.
I don’t know what my life will look like after I start school. I know this new path means I will need to make a lot of changes in my life. And change is uncomfortable. Waiting and anticipating this change is uncomfortable. It’s a lot like riding home from the beach with sand in your shorts.
I don’t know what my new normal will look like. But I do know that in the new normal there will be writing. Not just writing for school but writing for me. Fiction. My stories. The plots and characters I love. It’s important to me and that won’t change. But what and how much I write is still a mystery at this point.
That should be okay with me. But it’s not. It’s uncomfortable.
This anxiety and uncertainty contributed to my burn out. Here's a glimpse inside my brain over the past few weeks.
Should I start this project? Probably not because you’ll just have to put it down in Aug and you may not be able to pick it back up for a while.
Should I read this book? No, it’s part of a series and you won’t be able to finish the entire series before Aug so don’t bother starting it now.
Should I revise this project? No, there might not be time to finish it all before Aug.
Should I continue to query this project? No, because if it gets picked up by an agent they will want you to revise and you may not have time to revise it before Aug….
These are actual thought’s I’ve had. These are self limiting and self defeating thoughts. And there is a lot of fear there. A lot of fear masquerading as practicality. I am scared. I’m scared I won’t have enough time.
So I need to evaluate this further. Maybe I don’t send queries for a while. Maybe I don’t revise that WIP right now. Maybe I don’t do anything for the next three months….But if that’s the case I want the decision to be evaluated on more than just fear. I want to get passed the fear so I can understand this anxiety.
I don’t have an answer for this burn out yet. I plan on going through some of the burnout-fighting steps that worked for me in the past. And in addition, I plan to really get to the bottom of this fear.
Until then, I’m just going to take things one day at a time. Maybe I blog, maybe I don’t. Maybe I draft, maybe I don’t. Maybe I read, maybe I don’t.
This doesn’t mean I’m a failure or lazy or undisciplined. It just means I’m still working things out. As uncomfortable as that is….it’s okay.
Want more on book and/or writing related burn out?
Check out this awesome post by Jenny Kaczorowski on why rest does not equal failure.
Or my post on managing book burn out and contest fatigue.
And if your book burn out is actually writer burn out (as in I can't write another book) check out this post by the lovelies at Writer Unboxed