September 22, 2017

The Time I Almost Dropped Out of Law School

Sometimes law school is tough. Here's why I stayed | brazenandbrunette.com

Well guys this post is about two years coming and every time I've sat down to write it I've ended up changing my mind because I don't want to scare off any potential law students. My opinion is that there's enough people out there saying don't go to law school that I want to be that one voice saying yes go and follow your dreams! But the reality of life is that there's bumps along the way of following your dreams, so I thought I'd share my story so that people can be somewhat prepared for the bumps or feel comforted that they're not alone if they're already having bumps. Also, for all of you who have read my old-old posts, you'll notice this writing style is back to how I used to write because it's more in diary form than law school advice form #flashbackfriday Buckle up because it's about to get real personal.

Stressor #1

This story takes place during the first semester of my 1L year which I think is by far the hardest semester of school that you'll encounter. It's a major adjustment and you're so nervous/insecure. In my Legal Research and Writing class, my professor's syllabus said that all assignments are due by 5PM and you are only allowed one late submission and anything after that is a missed assignment. This would've been fine except for on our first real day of class we were supposed to read a short case and make a brief over it, print it out and bring it to class so that our professor can make sure we know how to brief properly. But true story, I was planning on printing my brief while I was in the library over my lunch break but then ended up having a photo shoot for this pic and completely forgot and showed up to class without it. A few other students forgot too and my professor was like that's fine just email it to me and this is your one late paper. Then a few weeks later we had our first research assignment. I completed the assignment just fine but then that night at like 11:45 I'm sitting on my couch watching TV and I realize omfg I forgot to email in that assignment before 5!! FYI- this is why I tell you to set alarms for due dates. Since I'd already used my one late pass, I figured I'd just bite the bullet and take the 0. I'm a decent writer so I was pretty confident that this wouldn't fail me but I was still stressing about how this would affect my GPA and class rank which could compromise my chances of transferring. 

Stressor #2

Then we had a midterm test in Property. This was my only midterm that semester that counted as a grade and wasn't just to see how the class was doing. My professor made this 20% of our grade and it was all about future interests because he said that's always what people bomb on the final so we'd get it out of the way and not have to worry about it. Let me tell y'all something, I'm terrible at future interests. It was actually what I had to talk about during my very first law school cold call and let's just say it wasn't exactly smooth sailing. So yeah, I spent like a week watching videos and taking quizzes on Quimbee but the light bulb wasn't coming on. I thought I did okay on the test until we got our grades back. Out of 15 questions, I got 7 right, which I thought wasn't too bad until I overheard other classmates complaining because they only got 12 right and heard that a few students had gotten 14 right. When you put this on a curve, I might as well have only gotten 3 right if literally everyone else did better than me. Then I got to thinking about how bad I was going to do on the final that covers all the topics if I did this badly on a midterm that covered just one topic. 

Stressor #3

After this, back in my LRW class we were just starting to do research for our memo that we were going to spend the rest of the semester working on. Obviously since we were all new to this we all had a lot of questions for my professor and he kept referring us back to the syllabus. This is when I found something terrible. Quick back story, apparently at my old school they had had a problem with people not taking their Legal Research and Writing class seriously and treating it more like a blow-off class since it's only one hour. Their solution to this was to make a rule that if you miss any assignment then you can't take the final so essentially you're forced to fail the class. AND GUESS WHO HAD MISSED AN ASSIGNMENT. Yeah, that's right. And in the Spring you continue LRW with the same classmates and professor and work on your brief. So if I failed LRW 1, I couldn't take LRW 2 in the Spring and would have to completely retake the whole thing and be a year behind on my writing requirement. Plus failing a class tanks your GPA and ranking so now my goal of transferring was completely out the window. 

Panic

So needless to say, my literal failing of my Property midterm topped off with my inevitable failing of LRW as a whole hit me really hard and obviously I didn't take it well. I called my friends bawling and when they would offer the typical "It's okay everything will be alright" I screamed back at them about how everything would in fact not be all right because I was going to fail out of law school my first semester. Here I was in a new city 9 hours away from my family stuck with $30k of debt already and a year-long lease. Plus I had no back-up plans. I mean I was a Spanish major who wasn't fluent so like what kind of job was I going to do?? And I kept thinking about how disappointing it would be to tell my parents that I couldn't even make it four months in law school and how embarrassing it would be when everyone found out that I flunked out. TBH, this is the real reason why I stopped blogging. I was in no position to give advice and was too embarrassed to admit reality to myself let alone blast it on the Internet.

Struggling

This was also at a time where one of my friends was in the last semester of grad school and worrying about graduation/finding a job, another friend was just starting grad school and busy studying all the time, and another had just joined a new student org and gotten a job, two were having their college classes finally start to get hard, and my parents and sister were trying to plan her wedding that was in a few months. I just felt like my whole support system was too busy for me and definitely didn't understand what it's like to be in law school

Later when I met up with the guy who's essentially the guidance counselor at my school (post recapping that coming soon) I actually found out that I had been experiencing signs of depression. I was going through the motions of school but would just sit through class waiting for it to be over so I could go home; I just didn't see the point in putting in effort when I knew it was all about to be over. I stopped volunteering in class or chatting with my classmates. Since everyone in my life was really busy and I lived alone, I would go literal days without even talking out loud. It got to be extremely lonely. And then when one of my best friends was going to come see me while she was visiting her sister, I just ditched her because I couldn't make myself pretend like I wasn't dying on the inside. On the weekends I would lay in bed all day just staring at the ceiling. It even got so bad that I completely lost my appetite and I'm usually a stress eater. The only reason why I would eat was because I would get such bad headaches and get light headed so I had to force myself to eat a piece of toast and would gag at the thought of food. I also would take sleeping pills and go to bed at 10 but would just lay there wide awake until the sun came up and feel shitty and tired all the next day but still couldn't sleep. I completely lost myself and didn't know what to do. Literally the only reason why I didn't just go in to the registrar's office and withdraw is because I had no other plan and couldn't bring myself to give up on my dream even when it felt like it was giving up on me.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Finally one day after class I got the courage to go up to my LRW professor and literally with tears in my eyes explained to him what happened with that first assignment and begged him to let me submit it so I wouldn't fail the class. Luckily this professor was really chill and super sweet and was like yeah just email me! And my whole world improved. And then in Property, we started going over real property. Y'all I've been an HGTV addict for over a decade and so I already knew alllll of this stuff! Leases, HOA fees, real estate agent duties. It was so easy for me to learn! So I decided to try really really hard for that last month and cried actual tears of joy when I got a B- in my LRW class and a C+ in Property (there was still a lot I wasn't so great on). I just couldn't believe how the semester had turned around from me thinking I was going to flunk out to me somehow getting my shit together and ending in the top half of my class ranking. I have literally never felt happier or more proud of myself than when I realized that I had survived that semester. 

The moral of this saga is that there will be bumps. Admittedly, I didn't handle mine that well but I had no clue what to do. My only advice to you is don't give up and keep trying. I'm so glad that I didn't drop out (even if I was barely mentally there for a few weeks) because now here I am. I wouldn't have been able to transfer schools or have this blog or any of the other many wonderful things that's happened in my life since then if I would have just thrown in the towel. Also, use me as an example and realize that pretty much everyone around you in class, even the ones who seem like they have their life together, are struggling in one way or another because law school is literally hard for everyone. Remember that you're not alone and you're not a failure when you hit those bumps. Just anchor down and ride out the storm when it gets hard and believe in yourself no matter what. Ok... stepping off my soapbox now, but if any of you are having a rough time, just know that I'm always a comment, email, or message away and I'll be here for you because I know what it's like!!

September 18, 2017

Law School Supplements Explained


Being a blogger is so weird sometimes. The other day I was getting into my car to go to work and I thought wow how have I never written a post about what people are talking about when they're referring to supplements? and so here we are! I'm going to cover all of the ones that I can think of, but if I miss something please comment below so that I can update this! I just want my readers to be the most in-the-know students 💁🏻


Outlines


Outlines are the #1 study method in law school and because of this, everyone you meet is going to have a different opinions on outlines. So here's mine— outlines you make > outlines you get from upperclassmen > commercial outlines. Outlines are very casebook and professor specific. Outlines you make are the best because you're going to have a shitton of information to memorize for your final, so by re-reading your notes and re-writing the rules you're actually reviewing and working on memorizing the information. Outlines from upperclassmen can be helpful but only if they've had your same professor and book. If your class doesn’t use a book then the outline to that book would be full of cases that you didn’t even read and missing on a lot of cases that you are expected to know. I even have friends who have offered me their outlines because we had the same book but because they had a different professor than me, I don’t even bother because for all I know, my professor really emphasized Chapter 21 because he thought it was important but her professor only assigned 10 pages from Ch. 21 because he didn’t think it was important. That’s another big reason of why I don’t trust commercial outlines.

If you’re stressing about outlines or just want a little guidance, the best thing that you can do is join a student organization. Ask before you join what outlines they have because a good one will have an outline for almost every from a student who at least got a B. That way you know you’re getting the relevant information. My advice to you so that you don’t end up with a C- in every class is that if you do get ahold of an outline, don’t just study that! The best way to use someone else’s outline is to print it out with you (preferably double space) and then fill it out during class with any information you think should be added. That way you have less notes to take during class and can focus on listening, but then still get a lot of information in your class. And then take that filled-out outline and use that along with your other in-class notes to make your own outline. 

I know a lot of new 1Ls stress about what an outline should even look like or how to structure them, so I've uploaded my Civ Pro outline for y'all to see as an example of what you can do. Mine tend to be bare-boned and just what I want to memorize, but I know a lot of other students feel like they benefit from having full sentences and more information in theirs. Also, if you read through this after you finish your own Civ Pro class, you’ll see what I mean about how it really helps to have the same book and same professor for an accurate outline. You can view my outline example here. But if you're still stressing, Quimbee's outlines that they just came out with look like they're very straightforward and I personally do trust this company. I also know that a lot of my classmates prefer to use the Emanuel's outlines to help them.

Related: How to turn your class notes into an outline


Scripts


Another thing that organizations sometimes have for upper level students is what’s referred to as a script which is basically a whole bunch of people got together and wrote down everything from that class, that you can use to follow along and build your own outline from. Those are more helpful once you’re a 2L/3L because then you can just read their 4 pages over chapter 1 instead of all 42 pages of chapter 1 and still get the main information.

I started using scripts that I was given this year and they definitely are a big help. I read them before class and then I'm prepared for questions that my professor might ask me (you never actually look forward to the Socratic method) and it allows me to be able to juggle preparing for class, working, and mediating. The one thing that I've learned since using these is don't think you won't need to take notes since you basically have what the professor's going to talk about. I still take notes just as if I didn't have the script or else it would be really hard for me to take all 220 pages of the script and turn it into an outline. Plus, it helps you pay attention in class because it can be extra tempting to zone out when you have the script right there.


Case briefs


Case briefs are another thing that are basically essential to survive in any law school class. The usefulness of these is that it forces you to pay attention as you're reading. The bad part is that they can take a really long time when you're having to stop what you're reading and write it down. I always say that for your first few months of law school, you really should be practicing your briefing skills because you will need these as an actual lawyer. But once you've practiced enough and really just need the briefs for the Socratic method, you can use commercial briefs. 

I personally recommend using Quimbee because that's what I've been using and I think their briefs are great. Quimbee will have subject-specific briefs. If their subject matches your subject, this is really helpful because it’ll cut out all the crap that you won’t need. They have all the major books and the only one they never got was because it was one that a professor from my own law school had written so they never got that. If Quimbee has your book, then you’ll be set and it’s amazing. Even if they don’t have your book, they might still have some of the cases. So like the book they didn’t have but then got was my contracts book but I would just search for the case and then sometimes they’d have it because it was in another contracts book. 

Related: Using Quimbee to help understand law school subjects

You do have to pay for Quimbee (put I seriously believe that you get what you pay for) but there's also Casebriefs (free) and Oyez (free). Oyez is just better than Casebriefs, but neither are subject-specific so you will get all the information. But both will give you the facts of the case and the issue and the holding. 


Practice problems


E&E stands for Examples and ExplanationsAll they are is practice problems and answers. The practice problems will really help you see how to best answer a question. And yes they're a "commercial supplement" but y'all my commercial law professor had us doing Bar prep questions as practice problems and I could easily tackle them because I remembered what the E&E had taught me. If you spend the majority of your time going through these practice problems, it will really help you understand your outline as your review it. When I study, I do about 50% practice problems, 30% memorizing flash cards, and 20% reviewing my outline. In my opinion, E&Es are right up there with outlines as far as what you have to be doing for finals. Another great practice problems options are the Q&A books. Either way, I strongly suggest you either buy some practice problem books or see if your library has any to rent. I'm not kidding when I say doing these practice problems will really help you prepare for the final and help with your timing. And if you're a 1L who has no clue what type of questions to expect on your final, these are pretty close to what you'll have.


Summaries 


Another thing that is common for people to use to study with as it gets closer to time to study for finals (which starts 6 weeks before dead day) are summaries. The reason for a summary is that you can read a quick condensed version of your class to refresh your memories. But also I know some students actually prefer to read these before class starts so that you know what you're going to learn. While I don't think this is necessary in any way, I can see how it will help calm your nerves a bit when you've already started tackling understanding the tough subjects, so it's totally up to you how extra you want to be. One of my friends had to miss about a total of 2 weeks throughout the semester because of a family illness and he used the Short and Happy books and got the exact same grade as me so even though I've never personally used a summary, apparently they can help. Another popular summaries brands are the CrunchTime books and Gilbert's Law Summaries.


Flashcards


Lastly (well of what I can think of) there's flashcards. I like to make flashcards on Quizlet of the rule with the elements on the back or the case name with the rule on the back. But I know that one thing that's really popular for 1Ls are commercial flashcards like Law in a Flash. Commercial flashcards usually go beyond what I put on mine and even have hypothetical questions with the answers on the back. The only downside to this is that they don't have explanations for why the answer is right quite like E&E or Q&A books do. But they're great to review with either on weekends or at the beginning of studying for finals. 

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