Thursday, August 25, 2016

First Day Of My Last Year Of Law School

Wow. I am feeling nostalgic. Monday was my last first day of school. I cannot believe that two years have gone by and I am now in my last year of law school. How did this happen? Is this real life?

Time flies so fast sometimes.

Here is the post I wrote after my first week of law school where I talk about the myths and reality of law school. So much has changed and yet so much is still the same. Most days, I still have a hard time believing that I am a law student. I did it, I'm here and now it's almost over. (Well, minus and entire year and the bar exam. But other than that, almost over. :P)

One of my classes is only comprised of 3L's because it is scheduled at the same time as the only mandatory class for 2L's (Professional Responsibility) and 1L's do not get to pick their classes. Many of my classmates are from my section and it just gives me so many flashbacks to my first year.

So what has changed from my first week of law school ever and my first week as a 3L?

  • The sheer terror of law school has disappeared. We all know what to expect from a typical law school class and it doesn't scare us anymore. The overall feeling of class is much more like a typical undergrad class. When you walk into any 1L classroom, there is a wave of collective terror that washes over you. Boy am I glad that part is over!
  • I volunteer to talk in class much more. I still suck at sounding coherent when I am cold called but nowadays, I often raise my hand in class to discuss something or argue a point. I never expected that when I first started law school. 
  • Getting cold called was much more rare than I expected during my first year and it is even more rare now. I got cold called on one time my entire second year and I imagine it will be the same this year.  Yay on not getting cold called!
  • The pressure of getting great grades is much less. Yeah, a 4.0 semester would be awesome but most people have accepted the fact that it's not gonna happen. Also, you pretty much get the same grades semester after semester and your GPA doesn't change much even if you work harder. You learn to accept it and move on to other things.
  • Related to above, your classmates stop trying as hard. Many people come to class without doing the reading and they aren't nearly as motivated to dominate the class. This means the professors have to try harder to keep people engaged but it also means the curve is lower. The same number of people are getting an A but the knowledge they need to learn to get that A is less. 
  • Law School isn't the only thing you are focused on anymore. In your 1L year, you sign a contract saying you won't work. As a 3L, you probably have a clerking job, an internship or (like me) are in a clinic. You also are probably running an org or two so you have a ton of work to do for those. Class is just another thing you have to do, no more. 

My 1L year was amazing and exciting but it was also terrifying and stressful.  Right now, my terror and stress is coming from my brand new clinic that I start tomorrow but my classes are my comfort toy. I know what to expect in class and I'm at ease now.

I like being a 3L much more than being a 1L.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Getting Ready For Another Semester Of Law School

It's that time again. Books are bought, syllabuses are starting to trickle in and my calendar is filling up with meetings and obligations. Yup, classes start back up next week.

First of all, because of the clinic I am doing for 5 credits, I am only taking three classes this fall. Employment law, Consumer Protection law, and Federal Estate and Gift Tax. In comparison, last semester I took six classes. (Five is more normal.) You would think that taking so few classes would save me a few bucks while buying my books but you would think WRONG. My casebooks came to the grand total of 821.00. Good grief. Usually it is less because I buy my books used or rent them but all four of my books were new editions released this summer. This means I can't buy them used and many weren't rentable either. Sigh.

Second, now that classes are about to start, it's about time for me to start my outlines. Yes, I start my outlines before I start the reading. I hate the process but it keeps me organized and helps me study for finals as I go through the semester instead of all at the end. The short notes version is I type up the table of contents with the chapter, headings and subheadings in outline form. As I go through the semester, I fill in the contents with info from the book and class. It works for me but undoubtedly is not for everyone.

So this week I need to finish up my summer clerk position, type up three outline templates, attend training for the clinic and read for next week.

It is official, my last summer vacation is over. 3L year here I come!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Birthday Tomatoes and Sadness

Story-time -  Way back when I was just a little tot, my mom got a tomato plant for her birthday in May. Apparently I was less than impressed with this birthday present that wasn't a toy until my mom told me that the plant was magical in that it made food. Food? FOOD? Even toddler me loved food. I was fascinated and woke up every day asking if it had made food yet. So my mom told me that it would make food by my birthday in August and I should go watch it grow. So I'd sit there for hours watching the tomato plant grow while my mom did grown up stuff like shower and cook and take care of my infant sister.

My mom was so grateful for that toddler break that for 28 years, I always got the first tomato of the year, called my birthday tomato. It's probably one of the weirdest family traditions ever but I just grew up knowing that come summer, I'd get a birthday tomato and my mom would take a picture of me eating it like an apple with salt and pepper and that's just the way it was.

Then I moved to Florida. For the first time in my memory, I didn't get a birthday tomato. And just in case you don't understand how sad that moment was, think of some little family thing you guys do. Maybe for Thanksgiving, Aunt Bettie always makes her pumpkin pie, or after dinner you play a card game and the losers have to do dishes. If that suddenly stopped, you could go buy a pie or divvy up chores on your own but . . . it's just not the same.

I was bummed. Eventually I decided that it was time for me to grow my own darn birthday tomato so I'd never have to go another year without. I've been planting and growing tomatoes with my mom since I can remember so I knew how to do it, I just didn't know Florida's climate. So I did some Googling and found that in Florida, I can grow tomatoes twice a year. Whoa.

So I bought a plant and it was doing great. So many flowers that grew into perfect little green tomatoes that slowly started turning red. It was glorious. I even got to eat my first tomato and I had about 14 more tomatoes to go. And it was still flowering too!

Then disaster struck. I noticed an itty bitty hole in one of them and some obvious chew marks. I'd been using an organic spray up to that point but decided to up my game to spraying every day. It did nothing. First one tomato was eaten to the stem, then another.

It was caterpillars and those monsters are unrelenting. I spent ages trying to comb my plant and pull them off to no avail. I even paid the neighbor kids to come over and hunt for them. For every caterpillar they found, I'd give them a dollar. They found one. I knew enough to be afraid of hornworms which are flipping huge but these caterpillars were tiny little things. About the size of a grain of rice and an exact match for the color of the leaves. Basically impossible to see.

By the time I moved on to the big guns of caterpillar pesticides, it was too late. Those suckers ate my plant to death in a little over two weeks.

I'm going to keep trying but I'm not going to lie, it kinda discouraged me from Florida gardening. I've grown basil inside and an onion that started sprouting and that went well but . . . sigh. It was sad.

I guess the good news is, I did get my birthday tomato this year?

What kind of silly family traditions do you have? I know I can't be the only one with a tradition that has to be explained!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Classes as a 3L

I never thought I'd say this but I sometimes miss the ease of my 1L year. I didn't have to pick classes because they were all chosen for me. Furthermore, the timing was all taken care of so that my days didn't have any large gaps and my exams were all evenly spaced out among two weeks.

As a rising 3L, I had the hardest time picking classes for this semester. All of the classes I need to graduate are only offered in the spring (that's going to be a fun semester) and so I could not really find any that interested me for the fall semester. Of the classes that didn't sound awful, most conflicted with each other or had huge gaps. So come this fall, I will have a classes Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:30 am to noon. Then a gap until my 3:10 to 4:35 class and then a smaller gap until my final class from 6 to 8 pm. I also have a random Friday morning tax class from 9 to noon. Ugh. Then my clinic is going to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays 8 to 5pm and Friday afternoons.

I'm trying to get ready but I just have a distinct lack of enthusiasm. Send cookies, classes start in less than two weeks.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Benefits of Getting to Know Your Law Professors

I'm a total loner and in undergrad, I preferred it when my professors didn't know my name. I knew I needed a different approach in law school because for one thing, my entire school has around 900 students. I had classes bigger than that in undergrad! For another, you need your professors as your legal wingmen because that's how you get intern and job opportunities. (Which I talk about HERE)

All in all, coming out of invisibility has worked out pretty well. What I didn't know until today is that getting to know your law professors and by default, letting them get to know you, leads to totally awesome presents.

My elder law professor emailed me yesterday and asked me to stop by her office. She went on vacation recently and brought me back Doctor Who sock yarn. That a very specific gift that is very obviously tailored just for me. To buy this gift, she had to know that I knit and she had to know that my favorite thing to knit is socks. Oh, and she had to know that I love Doctor Who and that two of my cats are named after the show. (Okay, the cat bit she didn't have to know, though she did.) Heck, she knows more about me than most of my classmates!

I feel so touched. Plus, more sock yarn is never wrong. YAY!

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Day In The Life Of a Summer Law Clerk

I haven't written too much about my summer clerk position because it took me awhile to decide what I thought about it. Today I was thinking about how when I first heard that I got the position, I didn't know what to expect. Not that every position is the same but I thought it'd be fun to share what my day as a law clerk looked like.

5:30 am - Wake up and lay in bed for half an hour wondering why I decided to take the one position that was an hour plus drive away.

6:00 - Remember that I really wanted to work with an elder law firm and get out of bed. Shower, dress and all that jazz.

7:00 - Get in my car and start my commute.

8:00 to 8:30 - Arrive at work. This time varies greatly depending on traffic and weather. Generally my morning commute isn't too bad and I usually just jam out to the radio.

8:30 - Head to my desk and start up my computer and try to remember where the heck I left off the day before.

8:45 - Office meeting with free bagels!! Yum! (Only on Mondays.)

9:15 - Head back to my desk and start trying to figure out this massive case I was handed that spans years, numerous lawyers, and many different practice areas. I have been working on it for ages but half of that was simply reading through a case file that was over a foot thick. Today I was trying to figure out the notes of one of the paralegals and find a legal argument for a motion that feels like it is taking me way too long to write.

10:30 - Get pulled off the motion for some legal research for one of the attorneys. Actually, this may be why the motion is taking so long. Other than the fact that the attorney was mistaken on the type of discovery request he had received, so I had to do the research twice, this was the easiest part of my day. Finally, something law school has prepared me for!

12:00 - Finish typing up the research results and go on lunch. Most days I go to Checkers because I can get a burger and medium tea for 3.08. Before hand, one of the paralegals asked if I had ever been to a nearby Amish restaurant. I said no so when I got back, she brought me blueberry pie!! Paralegals are awesome.

1:00 - Come back from lunch and a couple paralegals asked me to go get documents from the Clerks Office. The entire exchange went like this -

  • Paralegal 1 - I need you to get me a deed from 1988, before the records were digitalized.

  • Me - Inside my head, okay. I know I need to go to public records. Then what? Thank God for Google.

  • Paralegal 1 - You'll have to find it on microfilm but it shouldn't cost too much.

  • Me - Wait, what? They still use that? Starts Googling how to use microfilm.

  • Paralegal 2 - Oh, grab me a certified copy of an order while you are there. Don't forget to grab enough petty cash so you don't have to pay for it.

  • Me - Crap, am I supposed to have the cost memorized? 

1:20 - Try to figure out the microfilm machine and fail miserably. Eventually figure it out but then the machine glitches/freezes and won't allow me to print. Fuuuuuun. Even the clerk couldn't figure it out.

1:35 - Finally get the copy of the deed and get the order without a problem. Have a 10 minute conversation with an employee about how the Clerks Office and the local law school should work together to offer field trips. She completely agreed and told me horror stories of new attorneys getting things wrong. At least I eventually figured out the microfilm machine?

2:00 - Back at the office and so I try to get back to that motion.

2:20 - Paralegal asks me to draft a "Zero sum verified initial accounting." I look at her completely blank so her and another paralegal make fun of me (gently) and walk me through it. (Did I mention that I love paralegals? Because I do.) No but seriously, I've heard of initial accountings. I even know when they are due. I've never actually seen one before.

2:30 to 2:45 - Deal with computer issues that won't let me use the software I need to draft the initial accounting.

3:30 - Finish the accounting and go back to the motion of doom. Draft one section of the legal argument but need two more. Research case law until I get pulled aside by the Medicaid planning attorney to discuss a new client he got and his likely game plan.

4:30 - Go back to the motion and start to look up more case law.

5:00 - Suddenly realize everyone is leaving and I feel like I got nothing accomplished. Head out. One thing that surprised me about the firm I work at is that they take a work/life balance seriously. At 5:00 on the dot, everyone starts packing up. Including all the attorneys. Now, they might do a little work at home but for the most part, they're done. I'm sure it helps that a vast majority of the people working there have toddlers.

7:30 pm - Finally get home. The traffic was horrible today so it took me twice as long as usual to drive home. UGH. Tired and my feet hurt.

Every day is a little bit different but this is more or less how it goes. Sometimes I go to court with one of the attorneys or act as a witness for a will signing. As for my actual work product, so far, I have written responses, conflict waivers, proofread documents, summarized transcripts of hearings and done lots and lots of research. I like most of it quite a bit.

The hardest thing for me is facing the fact that there is still so much I don't know. I am still learning the software my firm uses, I don't know how to draft things that I've never heard of before, and things like Clerk fees are completely not taught in law school. However, I am learning many of these things now so that I have less to learn after I graduate!

Plus, I really do find my day fascinating. I get to look in on guardianship law, probate, wills and trust drafting and medicaid planning almost every day. It couldn't have been geared towards my interests any better!