October 18, 2017

How to Get Your Pro Bono Hours in Law School

6 ways to get pro bono hours. pro bono ideas. law school pro bono. pro bono opportunities for law students. pro bono requirement for law school. pro bono requirement to graduate law school. what is pro bono. | brazenandbrunette.com

Hello lovelies! My school's pro bono week is coming up so I felt festive and thought I'd write a post about it. Quick refresher- pro bono is basically legal community service. My first school didn't require any pro bono hours to graduate, but my current school does. My 1L year I knew about various pro bono opportunities but didn't really take advantage of any until my 2L year but then I made up for it and logged over 70 hours within a year. 

Obviously you don't have to do much, but I do feel like it looks really great that I can list that as an involvement during my law school career because law firms really like people who give back. I highly encourage y'all to get in at least some pro bono hours but also seriously consider going above and beyond any required hours. The good news is that programs always need help so you shouldn't have a problem getting your hours in once you decide where you want to volunteer. Pro bono is a great way to get some real legal experience and pick up some legal skills to help you be a more desirable job candidate. Plus in an interview you can connect your pro bono experience to the job you want to slyly humble brag on yourself. So without further ado, here's 6 ways to get your pro bono hours in! 

Related: How doing pro bono can help you stand out as a 1L

State Legal Help Site

This is what I do so I thought I'd just start off with this. Here's how it works— a pro se party will come to our website looking for answers, if that party can't find the answer then there's a little chat box that they can click on, I'm on the other side of the chat kinda like customer service and try to help them. Most of what I do is like someone will come to me and say that they aren't ready for their court date and need to postpone it, and then since I've gone to law school I know that the technical term that they're looking for is a "continuance" so I go to our website and find the page with information about what a continuance is and the form they can fill out to request a continuance and then send that back to them. 

It's really easy because you're just taking your legal knowledge and using it to help someone figure out what it is they need. Sometimes people will get on to the chat and they'll just tell me this big long story so I have to figure out what exactly their problem is and what it is that they'll need to solve this problem. Because it is a chat, people can easily leave if I take too long to respond or I don't send them relevant information, so it's really helped me learn how to give them as much information as possible without overloading them so that they have what they need before they log off. And as soon as people find out that you're in law school, they'll come out of the woodwork asking you for legal advice. Technically as a law student I can't give them advice but what I can do is the exact same thing as my chat and if a guy wants to know how much he's going to owe his baby mama all I do is just send him the link from our website about child support.

If you're interested in doing something like this, just go to this website, click on your state, and see if your state offers a website like this. Then just either find on the homepage where it has information about volunteering with them or just email them and offer to help.


Local Legal Aid

Most decent-sized cities will have at least one legal aid center to help out pro se parties. Most likely what you'll be doing is client intake where you'll get more information about the person and their problem to make sure that first of all they even qualify for legal aid. If you can't help them, then it's your job to refer them to a place that might be able to help them (see above example). If they do qualify, then it's your job to find out as much information as possible so that the lawyer who eventually will be working on this case will know what they're getting in to. Besides intake, you might be able to actually help one of the lawyers by looking up cases or statutes as they need it.

This is a great opportunity because client intake is a wonderful skill for a new lawyer to have and you can really sell yourself talking about this in a job interview (side note, always find a way to bring up your experience volunteering as giving you skills relevant to the job you're applying for). And any new lawyer will also tell you that your legal research skills are going to need to be spot on for your first few years out of law school. 

If you're interested in working with your local legal aid then visit this site, enter in your zip code and find where the nearest legal aid center is. I advise that you call or email them before hand and let them know that you want to volunteer because some days may be better than others and it will give them a chance to think of any projects that you might be useful for.

Court House

If you show up to a court and tell them that you'd like to do some pro bono service with them, I'm sure they'll find a place for you to help. Most parties in a small civil case won't have a lawyer so they'll be showing up at the clerk's office needing advice and you can be there to help. This will give you a chance to work on interacting with pro se parties and give you some insight into the usual obstacles they face, which is a great skill to have. You can work on listening to their dilemmas and figuring out what their problem is. Another use you might have is helping judges with anything from doing some research or helping update files. 

Court houses are a great place to volunteer because you'll get to network with different lawyers and judges and learn more about the inner-workings of a court room, because you don't want your first time to ever even step foot into a court be on the first day of a trial. If you don't know where to find the closest court, just go to this site and enter in your zip code. It also has a place where you can choose what type of court to go to, so for example if you want to be a tax lawyer than bankruptcy court might be the most relevant for you.

Law Offices

There's a lot of different options here that I'm just going to group all together. First off, you have just any ol' law office. My warning to you is to be careful with this because like with my school, a law office just taking advantage of free labor doesn't count and instead they require you to only help with a pro bono case that the firm is already working on. But still, if you just cross-check between your school and the firm, this could be a great option because you're getting real-world experience working with a real case while also getting your name out there in the legal field.

Next up is public defender's offices. Poor public defender's offices are always so swamped and can always use a lot of help. The good thing about going with them is that there's a good chance that they'll be so far behind that you'll probably get to be more involved in a case. And if you start on a case as a 1L or 2L, there's a good chance that you'll still be around to sit in on the trial, which is a great privilege! 


Another law office that can usually use help is your state's Attorney General's office. These get swamped with child support and consumer complaint cases and can also use a helping hand. I actually was going to get to extern there for credit my 2L year if I'd stayed at my old school so I was really disappointed on leaving them. AG offices are another good place to hang out and get your name known. 

Even non-law offices can be a good resource! For example, I work for my county's dispute resolution office and this summer we had law students come up and get pro bono hours through us. We handle a lot of divorce and custody mediations and almost all of the people that come to us are pro se, so we have little family law handbooks that we give them that has the main laws they'll need to know. The students would take those and check the case law and statutes to make sure they're still good law and update what was outdated. You can go to your own DRO or drop by a court to see if there's any departments like that which could use some help.

Pro Bono Clinics

There's a good chance that either your law school or local legal aid center (or both) will host some clinics that they always need volunteers for. Some examples are: income tax assistance, writing wills, helping veterans with their legal issues, helping homeless people fill out the proper forms to get identification so they can get enrolled in government benefits, helping people sign up for medicaid or other benefits, expunging criminal records, filing protective orders... you get the gist. 

Hopefully your school will be sending you information about how to get involved with one of these clinics. They're usually only a Saturday at a time, but you can check to see if there's any ongoing ones where you can rack up a lot of hours. If all else fails, reach out to your school's pro bono director or a director of your local legal aid and see when the next clinic is being offered. Bonus points if you find one that matches up with what kind of law you want to do so that you can connect how that experience solidified that type of law in a job interview, but it's totally okay if you want to do criminal prosecution and end up helping draft a will because experience is experience.

Nonprofits or Special Interest Groups

Just tread carefully with these because there is a difference between community service and pro bono service, so you definitely want to make sure that anything you help out with is on the law side. For example, here at my school CASA volunteering is a big thing (heyyy shout out to any Thetas reading this because this should be right up your alley). What they do is get trained (lots of hours racked up just there) and then are there for a child who has a legal issue. So like last summer I sat through a child sexual assault case and there was a CASA volunteer who stayed with the girl while she waited to come in and testify and during the whole trial the girl only would look at her CASA volunteer because it was a familiar, friendly face during an overwhelming trial. If you're interested in doing something like this, then visit CASA's website and see if there's a location near you. Sadly there's lots of children who are in a situation and can use a friend so they'll definitely have room for you.

That's a very specific example, but there are other nonprofits and special interest groups who have a legal purpose and can find something law-related for you to work on if you just ask! Student organizations, your classmates, professors, and pro bono directors all will have different ideas of ways to get your pro bono in, so it's worth it to ask around and see what's available near your school. 

October 11, 2017

8 Reasons to Get a Pet in Law School

8 reasons to get a pet in law school. how to have a pet in law school. do you have time for a dog in law school? 8 reasons to get a dog. 8 reasons to get a cat. 3 things to do if you want a pet but can't have one. free month of bark box. why you should get bark box. how to volunteer with guide dogs for the blind. how to raise a service animal. why you should foster a shelter animal. | brazenandbrunette.com

Guys I have had not one, but two of my prelaw friends ask me if they thought they could take a dog to law school! And as much as I want to say that they were overreacting, I can remember how scared I was before I came here wondering if I needed to buy paper plates because I wouldn't have time to even do dishes. You definitely are busy in law school, but I think you absolutely should have time for a pet! Still need to convince yourself? Here's 8 reasons to go for it. If this post does inspire you to go get a little pet, please remember to adopt, don't shop because you can be saving an animal's life!! Adopting off the street (how me and 2 of my other friends ended up with our pets) works just as well 😊


Reduce stress

You've probably heard about studies about this, but it is absolutely true. I can't tell you how calming it is when a little fluff ball comes and puts his head in your lap while you're studying and suddenly everything feels a little better. Even just petting my cat while calm me down because I go from thinking about everything that I have to get done to thinking about how much I love him and I'm so happy that I have him.

Sleep better

As you've probably read about in a post or two, I have had a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. But pets are great cuddle buddies and will keep you warm! Again, just petting my cat is relaxing enough that it helps me drift off to sleep. It's also a lot more pleasant to wake up to whiskers tickling your face and purring right in your ear than an alarm clock. For the days when you just can't seem to get out of bed, pets can also help make sure you stick to your routine because they won't let you forget to feed them and let them out.

Cute animals give you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy

Okay so maybe I have no clue about the middle part of this, but for sure your pets will make you happy. It's an amazing feeling to come home feeling mentally exhausted and then to see this little cutie so excited just to see your face! No roommate will ever give you a Welcome Home quite like your pet. Plus I guarantee you that there's no way that you can feel bad about yourself when you have your pet loving on you.

Built-in study breaks

My cat absolutely does not care whether or not I'm studying. So if he wants to play, he will swat away my pen and then I have a perfect excuse to put the book down for a few minutes. And if he flops on top of my keyboard, well then darnit I guess that memo will have to wait because I need to pet my kitty. And you can't be up at the law school for 12 hours a day if you have a dog that needs to be let out and walked. They get in your way less than you'd think because you're going to need these breaks before your eyes start to hurt.

Exercise

If you're having a hard time fitting a workout into your schedule, then having a pet will give you an excuse to get out of the house and walk around the block a few times. Plus they always seem to run away from you at the most inconvenient times so then you can get some sprint work done while you're chasing after them. True story, there's lots of people who have lost weight just by getting a dog and taking him on walks.

Sense of security

If you live alone, it can be a little scary at times because you're all alone. If you have a dog (or hey even a cat), then you can sleep a little better knowing that if anyone tried to break into your house you'd for sure know because they'd be going crazy barking or meowing. But if you do have a dog, you'll have the extra security feeling because they can scare away an intruder and maybe even attack them.

Fix loneliness

One unexpected struggle that most law students have is dealing with loneliness. Not only are you usually moving away from all of your college friends, but law school isn't exactly the most social place. There's no sororities or dorms or any of the other common ways that you made friends as a freshman, so sometimes it can be hard. Having a pet will at least give you one friend when you're starting out.

Meet new people 

Dog parks and puppy training classes are filled with fellow animal lovers so it makes it easier to meet people because you already have one thing in common and usually will see them on a regular basis. Boom look at you making friends in a new city! Pets also are great ice-breakers so maybe you'll even get a date out of it, too. Either way, having a pet can help get you out of the house which is a big thing if you're starting to turn into a hobbit. 

Since your pet does so much to make your life better, it's always a good idea to return the love and spoil them! An easy way to spoil them is through BarkBox because then every month (or however frequently you choose) they get new treats and new toys. Plus, BarkBox gives 10% of their proceeds to animal shelters and their BarkGood program helps over 3,000 shelters and rescue groups in the US and Canada ❤️ But PS BarkBox people it'd be nice if y'all made a kitty version!


If you can't get a pet right now

But I am realistic and I know that not everyone would make a good pet parent, some apartments aren't pet friendly (c'mon we all know the carpet is old and the "wood" floors are really laminate), and sometimes you aren't in a place in your life where you can get a pet. So here's a few ways to get your pet fix without the commitment. 

Volunteer at an animal shelter! Sure they can always use help picking up poop, but then afterwards you can walk the dogs for them or play/socialize with the animals. This will still put you in a feel-good mood, plus now you're racking up tons of volunteer hours to throw in on your resumé and show that you're a good person. It's great for the animals too because they have some human interaction and get to have fun while they wait for their new home.

Foster a pet! If you know you might be moving soon or something like that, a short-term way to have a pet is to foster one. What you do is take an animal home from a shelter and it will live with you for a little bit until a permanent home is found or it can be re-introduced to a shelter. When the pet is with you, it's learning how to interact with humans, when and where to potty, and maybe a few tricks. This all helps the animal be more adoptable because it'll be more outgoing and well behaved. And if a shelter is full, by you taking care of the animal until a home is found may save it from being euthanized! You can also foster a service animal in between his placements.

Train a service animal! I'm a Delta Gamma alumna and our philanthropy is Service for Sight so the program that I'm most familiar with is Guide Dogs for the Blind. What you do is commit to about a year of raising and training a puppy that will soon be someone's seeing eye dog. Since you're training it to be a guide dog, you basically can take your puppy with you everywhere where a service animal goes and usually apartments are a lot better about allowing service animals. Besides house-training, you'll be training the puppy how to handle sitting through class, movies, car rides, plane rides, dates, whatever so that the dog will know exactly how to behave when he's working.

October 6, 2017

What To Do if You Hate Law School


October is always a difficult month in law school because it's right when your readings start picking up the pace and also when you realize that a month has already flown by and finals feel right around the corner. This is the time when I was starting to struggle as a 1L so if you're in that boat then know that you're absolutely not alone. 


In fact, even the person who seems to be like they'll be in the top 10% of your class is probably internally struggling just like you. Everyone in law school struggles because it's made to challenge you and better you. As much as I love law school and always tell people that it's not too bad, it does have some pitfalls.But don't be too discouraged! 

I mean, how many of y'all were like me and pulling an all-nighter in college and day-dreaming (4 am is still the daytime right?) about meeting a really rich guy and getting your Mrs. degree so that you can stop with all these group projects. But yet here I am with a Bachelor's degree. Point is, there's nothing in life that will always be easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.

Analyze your situation

First things first, you need to think hard about whether you fundamentally hate law school or if you're just overwhelmed. Law school is a big adjustment because usually you're in a new city at a new school and your daily effort requirement just tripled. That plus you have no clue how you're doing in your classes so you start to stress that you're not doing enough. 

The rest of this post is more for those who feel overwhelmed, but if any of y'all truly absolutely hate law school I have some good news. When I was on my phone interview about my externship, one of the interviewers mentioned that I had included my blog on my resume. I told her how much I love law school and how I blog to try to help out other law students or potential law students. She praised me for loving law school and confessed that she hated it but then said that being a lawyer is nothing like being in law school! She told how glad she was that she stuck it out because even though she was not a fan of being a law student, she absolutely loves being a lawyer. 

Tackle your problems

Looking back on my 1L year, most of my problems would have resolved themselves if I had done one thing— go talk to my professors as soon as I was having a problem. Literally sooo much weight was lifted off my shoulders when I confessed to my LRW professor that I had missed an assignment. If I would've talked to him as soon as I realized that I had fucked up instead of agonizing for weeks over my mistake, then I would've known right then how to solve my problem instead of going off the edge. And if I would've made an appointment with my property professor to go over a few of my midterm answers that I couldn't understand why they were wrong, I could've had a mini-tutoring time and learned where I was messing up so that I could still have confidence in that class.

I know that most of you won't have missed an assignment or failed a midterm yet, but you get the point. It's really, really easy to avoid your problems and it's really, really scary to face them, but I promise you that it's so much better to just get it over with already! If you're struggling in a class, take the time to schedule tutoring with your professor or an upper-classman. Just narrow it down to a few parts that you really don't understand because they can't exactly re-explain a month's worth of class to you.

Don't hide your problems

Sure we all snap how much reading we have to do and whine about it, but it's time to be honest about your struggles. I know it can be embarrassing to admit that you're not doing as well as you wanted to, but holding this in will just put more pressure on yourself to seem perfect and the secret will get harder to keep. If someone is nosy or ever doubted you wouldn't make it through law school (ugh aren't extended family and old classmates the best!) then yeah they deserve to just get "fine" when they ask you how you're doing. But your parents, siblings, and close friends are your allies! Just tell them that you need to rant and let it all out, tears included if needed. 

Undumping on your classmates can be tricky. In one way, you don't know them that well and technically you are their competition so they might not always be the most supportive in this situation. But it's such a relief when you tell your classmate that you honestly don't understand the difference between to similar concepts and she either is like omg me too I thought I was the only one and just dumb! or completely understands it and will take the time to break it down and explain to you how she understands. 

Prioritize your to-do list

If you're feeling overwhelmed, I'm sure a big part of it is because in your head all you can think about is how much reading, briefing, reviewing, and outlining that you have to get done. I know it can seem like a lot so instead of having one never-ending to-do list, break it down and get in a routine. If you review your notes and outline little by little, then you only have to dedicate a few hours a week. This will help clear out your head because you know that you've already got some done and know that you've set aside time to get it done so now that's one less thing you have to worry about.

Break down your to-do lists for what needs to get done today, this week, this month, and next month. Then keep coming back to this list and check off what's done and re-organize. It really helps me go from "oh I need to get this memo done before the end of the semester" to "okay researching cases this week, organizing my arguments next week, working on argument #1 the next week" because then I feel like I'm more in control of my life.

Related: How to make a study plan

Enjoy yourself

One reason why a lot of people end up hating law school is because they hate who they become in law school. Of course you don't have the time to skip class and Netflix all day when you're just not in the mood, but you will have time to something other than just class and read. Think about what you used to love doing in college and try to do a modified version of that. For example, I used to have so much fun bouncing around frat houses going to the different themed parties. I can't do that now, but I can still meet up with some of my close friends to have some drinks and enjoy ourselves. And I used to read all the time and now even though I only have time for about 10-20 pages a night, I still am able to work my way through a book that doesn't have cases in it.

This is also why I've become a fan of studying really hard from 9-4 and then taking time off. Most likely if you're feeling overwhelmed it's because you're also starting to feel burned out. I know it's scary because your to-do list feels overwhelming, but if you don't take some me-time then you are going to lose it. That's not a threat, that's a promise. Shut your brain off from the law every now and then and you'll be amazed at how much more you learn when you come back to it.

Remember why you started

This is probably the most important tip I have! When you're feeling discouraged, think back on the stars that were in your eyes when you were explaining your future plans to your college professors when you asked for a rec letter, how excited you felt when you got your first acceptance letter and thought omfg I'm going to law school! I'm going to be a lawyer!, and how proud you were when you told your parents and besties and all of Facebook! 

Don't forget how hard you worked to get here. How grateful you were to be accepted. How long this has been your dream. Don't forget how much you truly want this! Zoom out and don't think about the little hard topics and view it big picture— you are currently living out your dream that you worked really hard for! Don't disappoint little 19 year old you that put in the extra effort studying for finals because you knew you needed good grades to get into law school or little 20 year old you who skipped pool parties all summer because you knew you needed to get that LSAT score. You've worked so incredibly hard to get here for so many years so don't disappoint yourself. My favorite (albeit slightly cliché) quote for y'all: When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. So go be tough and conquer the mid-semester slump!  

October 2, 2017

My Experience with Murder Cases


I have sporadic insomnia, so the other night I just woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep. I decided to get on Insta and was looking through the stories. One person that I follow is Katherine from Beyond the Black Suit— I've actually been following her since she was at her old blog and she's one of my favorite lawyer bloggers. Anyways, she had posted that she was sitting in on a murder trial in Dallas and that a reporter was live Tweeting it here. It was perfect because what else are you going to do at 4am than read a play-by-play of trial haha.

Reading this reminded me that I haven't really told y'all about the murder cases that I've been involved with. I won't go into details on the facts of the cases, but I will give y'all links to news reports on them because let's be real we're all nosy. When I was doing my observership my 1L year, the first trial that I sat through was this murder case. During my 2L year I was reading our school's daily email that said the local public defender's office was looking for help on this murder case (it's still open) so I signed up to help. Spoiler alert: neither were anything like HTGAWM.

If you've never sat through a trial, I highly recommend you go. Just call up the court and explain that you're either in law school or wanting to go to law school and want to sit through a full trial. Usually court staff, judges, and lawyers are super nice and will set you up with a time and place to watch. And if you're still in undergrad, this is a great experience to mention in your personal statement if you don't have any other legal experience. It was such an eye-opener for me that I even talked about the first murder case in my transfer personal statement. 


Real cases

On HTGAWM Annalise Keating is all about discrediting the witness, introducing a new suspect, and burying the evidence, but that's not exactly what I saw in trial. In a different non-murder case, the defense lawyer actually explained to me that the two most common defenses are either "it didn't even happen" or "it happened but it wasn't me," which I thought was interesting  because from what I've seen, that seems to be generally what they do. In this case, the prosecution was even arguing that this couldn't be considered self-defense because the victim was standing on the sidewalk which was technically an easement by the city and therefore public property. I thought this argument was pretty interesting because who ever is sitting in property learning about easements thinking that it might be an argument in a murder trial? Overall, the case was much slower than what you see on TV. Most of the time was spent explaining who a witness was and why they were relevant to the case or connecting evidence to the case. 

For the second murder case that I was involved with, my job was to review some of what they got in discovery. As much as I wish that it was like HTGAWM, it wasn't us sitting around finding juicy information that the case could turn on. Instead, it was a lot more monotonous. Remember in Clueless when Cher helps her dad by going through all of the phone records and looking for calls with a certain number? Yeah, what I was assigned to do was about that exciting. But since there was so much discovery to go through, it was like HTGAWM where we all were just sitting around with laptops on our laps and chatting while we were searching. One of the best parts of this was that there were 3Ls in there doing research on cases to support arguments for the case since they were a part of the clinic. I got really close with them and from what I saw, if you're interested in this then I would seriously look into doing a clinic where you get to actually be heavily involved in the case instead of just reviewing files.

Related: How to get into a law school clinic  


4 tips for watching a real case

1. Bring a jacket— Courtrooms seem to always be freezing so you'll be grateful for a jacket. Also, you might be asked to put one on if you show up in something sleeveless. Remember that it's best if you're dressed business professional in a suit. 


2. Leave your phone— Even if you put your phone on vibrate, courtrooms are actually pretty quiet so the buzzing noise would be very obvious. Courtrooms have a no-phone policy so this could get you kicked out and on bad terms with a judge and a few lawyers. I would leave my phone in my judge's chambers and it was just close enough that my apple watch could reach so I could still screen texts. Oh, and a tiny game of pong is a great apple watch game to play during down time.

3. Bring something to write with— I always brought my padfolio and a pen with me and would write down all of my questions that I had and then when the jury was out for lunch, I'd ask one of the lawyers or the judge to learn more about what was going on. Don't just pick the defense or prosecution lawyers, go meet both of them! It's so fascinating when one side tells you their plan and then you go to the other side and hear their thoughts on the case because you feel omniscient. 

4. Network— When trial wasn't in session, I'd always chat with the lawyers coming in and out of the court. This was pretty easy because it was the same group of lawyers almost every day so I got to know them and they got to know me. This paid off big time when one of the lawyers said that they had some big cases coming up and were looking for a law student to help them and asked if I wanted a job, but sadly I had to decline since I had just found out that I was transferring. This is why having some professional business cards stashed in your padfolio will come in handy. All you need is your name, contact information (cell and school email), that you're a candidate for doctor of jurisprudence for your graduation year and your school, and you can even include your LinkedIn information so they can view your resumé. 

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