February 14, 2018

Law School Graduation Countdown

In less than 100 days I will be a law school graduate, and I have A LOT to get done before then! Here's a checklist of how I'm preparing for law school graduation. law school graduation photos. law school graduation invitations. law school graduation party. Bar Exam prep and checklist. job hunting after law school. law school blog. law student blogger | brazenandbrunette.com

Happy Valentine's Day! To my Catholics, happy Ash Wednesday! And to my New Orleanians (?) happy recovery day from Mardi Gras! Just a little over a week ago I was officially 100 days out from graduating!! My school threw a 100-days-left party for all the 3Ls that looked so fun and I was sad to miss it, but it's okay because the real fun will come in less than 3 months! I still can't believe it y'all, I'm going to be Nikki Boyd, J.D. so so so soon! I'm not going to get emotional right now (that's for sure coming in the months ahead) but honestly I could pinch myself because there were many times when I was convinced that I would not make it this far. 

I'm not going to lie, it is a little more challenging doing my externship my last semester because I'm missing things like graduation meetings and fairs and instead am getting a lot of very long emails trying to catch me up. But on the flip side, my externship is 500 hours so once I'm done, I'm done. Right now I'm on track to be done by the beginning of April which is great because it'll give me time to move back and be settled before graduation and the bar.

Anyways, I just wanted to do this little post about how I'm preparing for graduation just as a checklist for any 3L reading this (or if you're not a 3L, well now you have a reference). So, you're a graduating law student. You drink some champagne to celebrate and then what?


Graduation checklist

First things first, do a degree audit on yourself. The sooner and more often you do this the better because you don't want to find out last minute that you're not graduating. Make sure that you've taken all the required classes and gotten in all of your other requirements (pro bono, writing, experience, whatever). Personally I would make an appointment before your last semester to sit down with someone in advising/registration and double check that you're good to go. Also, some schools have different re-take requirements so make sure you know if you'll have to retake a class only if you get an F, or if you get a D, or even if you get a low C. Again this is why it's nice to sit down with someone because even if you took the class, if your school has a C's Don't Get Degrees Policy then you're still not graduating.

Next, find out when deadlines are for everything that's coming up. When I ordered stickers for my new planner, I made sure to get a Graduation Sticker Set that not only had countdown stickers, but also had reminders for things like filing your intent to graduate and getting your cap and gown (mine's like $125 to rent 😅). Other important dates to add are any mandatory meetings, a grad fair if your school has one, and when any other mandatory paperwork (like who is going to hood you) is due.

Then if you want, take graduation photos. It's nice to do them early on so you can get them taken and they can be edited and sent back to you with plenty of time to turn them into invites. Even if you don't want to do photo invitations, there's lots of law school graduation invitation options on Etsy that I've been browsing here lately. 

I'm a little torn right now since I'm in Dallas because I want to have my photos taken on campus at my school, but don't really want to have to drive for 4 hours just for a photo shoot. I also don't even know when I would have time to have these done. In undergrad my bestie and I just rented a really nice camera from our library and took our own photos after we fired our photographer because we just weren't feeling it. The photo shoot actually worked out because we were friends so we felt completely honest making the other take 500 photos of slightly-different-yet-the-same pose and bossing each other around, plus we did this all for $0 which was nice. The photos turned out okay, but damnit I killed myself getting to this point so I think I deserve an all-out photo shoot to celebrate the occasion. So now also on my to-do list is to Insta-stalk everyone I know who either graduated or got married in my school's town to find a great photographer (ugh but also more money). I also have to choose/find the perfect outfit(s) for what I can wear...

However, I am slightly in a rush to get the photos done so I can get the invitations done so I can get everyone on board with the plan. My mom and I have been reminding family members that my graduation is coming up, but I really want to get them their invites with the dates soon so that they can go ahead and book appointments. A lot of hotels near a school start to jack up prices the closer to graduation, and even worse is some completely book up and I don't want my family to be stressed having to rush over to the other side of town to make it in time for the ceremony.

Although I'm still trying to figure out the logistics of doing grad photos, I'm already getting started on preparing for them. That means a teeth whitening routine of a whitening toothpaste kit and whitening strips. I'm also just being a little more conscious about what I'm eating because I've come to realize that it's pretty easy to gain a pound or two relatively quickly when you're sitting at a desk all day with the bored munchies and then get home and don't want to have to cook and just want fast food. Everyone else is starting on their spring break diet but I'm working towards graduation already lol!

As time gets closer, it's time to start booking! Hopefully sending out invites got you some "yay we'll see you there!" or "sorry I'll be gone that day" responses so you can start to have a head count of who is going to be there. Buy tickets for graduation if your school does that so you can have enough. And even if you can't get enough tickets, everyone can still come to your afterparty! One thing I learned in undergrad is that places fill up fast so it's better to be early on making a reservation for a little grad party. I'm still torn between do I want something casual like a dinner or something more fun like my bestie's grad party that was at a beer garden (it had lots of lawn games for the whole fam) or something more like a come-and-go cake party. Ideas/input would be greatly appreciated!! Once I know what kind of place my party will be at, I can start buying law school graduation party decorations and it'll really feel like it's coming up. 

Besides just the party planning, I'm also pricing hair and makeup appointments. Yes I very could do my own hair/makeup but getting it done by someone else just makes an event feel so much more special and like it's a big deal (I mean really, it was one of the best parts about prom). I also want to buy a new dress for my graduation. In undergrad I waited too long and ended up not finding a thing that I liked in time and ended up walking the stage in one of my gameday dresses because that's all I had #wreckem. This time around I'm starting much earlier because I want to get the dress right this time. But truly in my opinion I think the shoes you wear to graduation are actually even more important than the dress you wear because the dress is covered up by the robe so really it's just you in a black potato sack with some shoes so obviously they have to be great. My criteria for these are something that will look perfect as my J.D. shoes but are practical enough that I can wear again (so probably not all sparkly) and most importantly are comfortable enough that I'm not limping or wobbling across the stage.

Here's my Pinterest graduation inspiration board!

Job checklist

Well my friends it would be just lovely if I could completely skip out on this section and just write about how I already have a job offer so I don't have to worry about this. But sadly no job waiting for me right now but hey, at least maybe I can help someone feel more normal about not having a job at graduation too. So here's what I've got planned for my job hunt...

I've been working on updating my resumé to add my experience from this externship plus just really sell the experience that I have already. It does suck a little that I don't have any BoB or law review experience to help bolster my resumé, but I'm just out here trying to make lemonade. I've already had career services review my resumé before but I want to go back and get some final edits first. 

I also want to write an updated cover letter template. I use a template because I don't want to be so impersonal as to use a blanket CL, but I also don't have the time to completely re-write a 1-page elevator speech about myself for each and every place I apply to. Plus, there's only so many ways you can talk about yourself haha. I also want to run this, plus a writing sample, by career services to make sure that I'm selling myself in the best way possible. 

In no particular order to anything on this checklist is to get some headshots done. I had a photo taken at orientation that's technically a headshot because I was dressed nice, but it's not the best quality. Then my school arranged for all of the 3Ls to take headshots last fall (remember this fiasco), but to be honest I felt rushed and we only took a few photos and I ended up hating them all. A girl I worked with at the Texas Capitol had some headshots taken that were amazing and you can tell they weren't rushed at all so I really want to get those done as well.

The main reason why I want a good headshot is so that I can look professional AF on LinkedIn (Hi let's "network"). Lawyering is all about networking so even though I'm pretty sure I won't get a job just from LI, I still want to have a strong profile in case an interviewer/potential employer wants to check me out. My LI feels a little sloppy right now so once I get my resumé spick and span I can update this as well.

Next is to be on the hunt for jobs. LI actually could possibly get me a job because they have a LinkedIn Job Search app that actually has some good lawyer jobs on it. I also use the Symplicity Jobs and Careers app so I can access job postings through my school's career services. Another great job hunting website that I've found is LawCrossing so I love their LawCrossing Legal Job Search app. Between the 3 of these I should be able to find a good mix of jobs that I can send cold emails to and hopefully hear back from. But I'm not going to put all of my eggs in one basket so I've also started to really work on networking and I'll be doing a post about that soon! Basically just ya girl needs a job before her debt drowns her.

Bar Exam checklist

*shudders* This is the one thing that I'm dreading the most of all. Honestly I'd rather edit my resumé for 100 hours straight or go through 100 hours of small talk at a networking event than think about or actually even start my Bar journey. Y'all ugh I'm just so nervous! It would be absolutely heartbreaking to fail the Bar and yes I've been reminded about how there's been really smart people who fail it and really dumb people who somehow pass it the first time, but since it's only given twice a year here in Texas and takes like 4 months to get your results back, that's like a waste of a year of my life having to retake it. Plus that's super expensive.

Talking about money, let me remind you to start saving up now because Bar prep ain't cheap (lol and you thought $1200 for LSAT prep was a lot). Ugh quick side note but also thinking about studying for the Bar is giving me terror flashbacks to studying for the LSAT and how miserable/hard that was. Seriously, pray for me. Back to prep, I went ahead and bit the bullet and signed up with Barbri (you can read about my experience with them for MPRE prep here) but honestly from what I've heard Themis is pretty much just as good as Barbri but cheaper. I haven't heard much about other companies. I decided to do in-person classes because I tried online LSAT prep and fell asleep during it, but I'm honestly questioning my decision after doing MPRE and my Tax review through Barbri videos because I did just fine with those so we'll see. 

Whatever you end up choosing for yourself, my school told us that apparently you score higher if you take the Bar in the same city that you study in (I guess home field advantage?) so just keep that in consideration. So this means that if you're planning to take the Bar in a state different from the school you currently go to, you're most likely going to have to move. I decided to move back to Lubbock after my Dallas externship and hope to save some money by finding a DG in undergrad who is wanting to sublease her apartment for the summer. I'm trying to avoid having to take out a Bar Prep Loan but if it comes down to it, I'll absolutely spend the money to live in a quiet and stress-free place while I'm studying. But also if you end up deciding it'd be best for you to study in a city different than where you're taking the Bar, make sure you go ahead and book a hotel that is close to where the test center is (ideally walking distance so you don't have to worry about traffic/parking/public transportation) and also one that has free and fast wi-fi for your last minute studying.

Then keep saving up your money because you're going to have to register for the Bar. That itself was an effort so make sure you start on it early. One thing that I was really warned about is to be extra sure that you choose to take it on your laptop or else you'll be furiously hand writing your answers for several days straight. And the same rule as with the LSAT/finals applies in that if you have a documented excuse to get any special accommodation, take it! It's just part of the law school game and take advantage of any opportunity you can get to give yourself more time or whatever else might help you out. Even if you don't necessarily absolutely need it, it's still better to go ahead and take it. 

Whoo! Okay so not going to lie, looking back over this post is starting to stress me out just because there's still so much to do in less than 100 days and yet I'm sure that I've forgotten something or something else will end up being added to the list later on. Seriously, prayers are appreciated from now until Bar results come out in October. And also seriously, I appreciate any advice anyone has to share about graduation/job hunting/Bar prep! 

let's be friends!

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