Law School - 1L

I’m a gloomy law student.

I re-read my last two posts about law school.  Neither of them are particularly happy.  In fact, it makes it seem like I’m in a huge depression spiral of law.  That might be true sometimes, but law school has its ups and downs.  To balance out my last post (which I really did intend to be a happy post), I am going to write about some law school moments that I would never take back.  They’re moments that remind me why I am going to law school.

Three big moments mainly come to mind.  This was the biggest.  This past spring I had the opportunity to meet the Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  She came to University of Illinois and the only thing I can say is #blessed.  The first night, she held a “conversation” with the whole campus.  People from around the university asked her questions and got a chance to hear her speak.  She talked about her personal experiences and how it felt to be nominated.  It was also a conversation full of Yale Law graduates, so a bunch of Yale jokes were being tossed around.  I’m not a Yale grad, but they were still funny to me.

The next day she was at the College of Law and participated in “Meet the Judges” where you heard her talk even more about her experiences and being on the Supreme Court.  Afterwards was a meet and greet for all the student organization executive boards.  Funnily enough, I am on the executive board for the Latino Law Student Association.  We were the first to meet her and we got to chat with her for a bit.  Everyone else on the board was super calm and smooth.  In classic fashion, I brought the end of the line and I had rehearsed what to say… but then she intercepted me.  She said “I’ve seen you around, you’ve been to the events.”  Of course I went to the events.  “That’s the thing about curly hair, you’re very noticeable.”  We are, aren’t we?  Then she waited for me to explain who the hell I was–I choked.  I apparently didn’t know my own name.  Eventually the ball got rolling though and we had a little chat about mi patria.  She’s been to the DR, no big.

There is photographic proof of this.  One of the benefits of being in LLSA was that we got a picture with the Justice.  One of the conditions is that it never makes its way onto the internet, so no one else will see it.  Then we got to see her judge the moot court and Justice Sotomayor is one tough lady.

SotomayorS

That day still makes me smile.  I missed a whole day of work and had to skip a class–I also had to buy a suit–but it was amazing.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and she’s an amazing person.  She’s my woman crush and so inspirational.  She’s the bomb, she’s SCOTUS bae.  I’m totally fan-girling.

Beyond Justice Sotomayor, I was admitted into the Domestic Violence Clinic for this fall, which will allow me to work with real clients (under supervision) and provides amazing practical experience.  It’s apparently quite selective since only 8 people made it in.  It’s going to be extremely demanding, but I am very excited.  It’s going to be a taste of what being a real life lawyer will be like, especially with how it is organized.  It takes learning outside the stuffy classrooms and give you a real client with real issues where you need to advocate for them.

Additionally, the externship office knows their game and got my pathetic butt into an externship with the Immigration Project (more on how I failed a finding a job like a responsible person later).  I will be working under these amazing lawyers who are devoting their time to providing low-cost legal advice to immigrants from a wide variety of backgrounds.  They are the only ones that provide low lost immigration aid outside of the Chicagoland area.  And it’s right in Champaign.  I start Monday and I’m pumped.  It’s exactly what I want to do when I grow up.  I am endlessly grateful for that opportunity as well.

Good things can come from law school.  Don’t let my bouts of depression convince you otherwise.  Grades are just one thing, but the experience is another.

-m

Law School - 1L

Law School Don’ts.

448be1c4b4a753c75acf0434f5a39a5e

Another semester completed.  Somehow, I didn’t drop out in the middle of the semester (two people in our 1L class actually did, from what I understand).  I’m not sure how I did on finals.  I know that this was one of the worst semesters of my life as far as emotions, social stuff and stress itself.  We will see how it goes academically.

Now that I’m a wizened incoming 2L, I would like to impart some wisdom on those who are going to law school this fall or who are like me and need a reminder on what mistakes to avoid.  This list is neither exhaustive or authoritative, but it hopefully helps.  It’ll at least help me.

Don’t wait until the last minute for anything.  Seriously.  Just don’t. I got away with it in undergrad and in post-grad stuff, but it’s impossible in law school.  It only hurts you.

Don’t get caught up in the high school drama that is law school.  Maybe that means you’re left out of all the gossip, but, trust me, it’s not great gossip and it’ll get to you eventually.  I probably said it before, but law school is so much like high school in the social aspect that it’s ridiculous.  It’s best to not let that get to you, appreciate the friends you have and keep on fighting on.

Don’t save outlining for finals.  I need this reminder tattooed on my face because I did it again and it was the literal worst.  Cramming an entire semester’s worth of information into your head in a few days is not how you learn.

Don’t waste opportunities.  Take advantage of everything the school has to offer, even if you don’t want to, even if you don’t think you can.  I have missed out on opportunities and taken advantage of them.  I regret the ones I’ve missed (scholarships, workshops, jobs, etc.) and I am so completely thankful for the ones I haven’t (namely, meeting Justice Sonia Sotomayor–totally worth getting a suit).

Along that line, don’t forget to buy/get/bring your suit.  I didn’t have a suit.  All my pre-law school jobs were business casual and I avoided buyings suits like the plague.  I am not a small-sized person and I had no interest in spending that kind of money anyway.  Before I even started law school, I needed a suit.  I, of course, didn’t get one.  It didn’t matter that much in the fall, but in the spring when job interviews happen… trying to track down a suit that fits is added stress that you don’t need.

Don’t excuse your bad behavior/decisions or whatever you did that made you unhappy.  Seriously.  You did bad.  Own it and do better.

Don’t work if you don’t have to.  There are some people that have to work and some people that are lucky to have not completely maxed out their loans or have family helping.  I am one of the people that has to work through school.  I bounced between school and work during the weekdays and it wore me out.  I have no doubt in my mind that it’s affected my studies and stress levels.  There are some that can handle it–maybe handle it better, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take its toll.

Don’t forget to do the little things that make you happy.  Relief is necessary.  So watch that new episode of Game of Thrones (my roommate) or sing loudly in the apartment to classic 80s hits (me).  Give yourself a goddamn minute.

Don’t forget what or who you came to law school for.  This was actually advice that my ever-so-colorful civil procedure professor gave.  It was right before finals and I was so overwhelmed by law school at the time.  When he ended the class with these words, I wanted to cry.  Good crying.  It’s very easy to get caught up in law school.  It’s competitive, stressful, meant to make you work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life–and it will feel like it’s meant to make you fail.  I know it’s easier said than done, but you have to pull through and remember why you’re there.

Don’t judge your abilities against those of your classmates.  This is so important because it’s pretty freaking toxic.  Everyone has their own learning curve, everyone has their own time constraints and personal demands.  Comparing yourself to how other people study or what they’re doing is a horrible idea.  Although you’re graded against each other on the final, you’re not graded against each other in study habits.  You have to do you and go at a pace that doesn’t cause more harm than good.  I emphasize this because law school is stressful and emotionally draining as is.  Holding yourself against others just adds on more stress and emotions–which do you no goodie the grand scheme of things.  However, if you’re going to do it anyway, choose the right person.  Someone who you actually think has a good plan in place or has a similar style to you.  I chose my roommate.  We study differently, but his time management is on point and that’s something I greatly need.

I wish I had a more positive list–maybe later I’ll counter it with a list of “Do’s.”  But I think there’s still something to be learned from my mistakes.  This semester was a hell-storm of badness.  But law school ain’t over yet.  There’s still two more years and I am going to do so much better.

-m

PS – I just did a law school google image search because I wanted to spruce up the post.  Our law school is ugly as ehf.

Complaining - Sorry! · Everyday Life · Law School - 1L

Law School is Hard

51447992

It’s been a full semester.  Law school is exactly what you would think and nothing like you would think.  I went in with expectations of it being the most grueling time of my life.  And it was, but it also… wasn’t that bad.  I can’t say it hasn’t been worthwhile.  I also can’t say I’ve enjoyed it.  It was hell on earth and I surpassed my own expectations.  I’ve also failed myself a bit too.

I realized about a week after law school started that I hadn’t done my research.  Yes, I did some research on schools.  I did some research on the job market and prospects.  I did some research on my own personal career path.  I did zero research on actually being in law school.

One of the biggest hurdles was that of studying.  I never had study skills while I was in high school or in my undergrad.  One good read-through was enough to get me far enough.  So, I had to develop those skills and develop them fast.  I went from book notes, to case briefs, to post its in the margins.  In real crunches, I would just write in the margins (which is a Marcie no-no).  Eventually, I got the hang of it… sort of.

One big study tool is an outline (my most hated word still).  I did not utilize it to the best of my abilities… or anyone’s abilities… since I didn’t really utilize it at all.  Maybe some people did it in every other academic level, but I never did.  I outline essays, not courses.  Outlining a course is basically the same as outlining an essay… but you do it after and it’s more time consuming (and it sucks).  So when people started outlining, I was lost and confused.  The whole concept was foreign to me.  I resisted doing it and learning about it for so long that I never got around to actually completing an outline before finals (one of those times that I failed myself).

Honestly, from this vantage point, the whole semester is a blur.  All I can remember are the finals.  Finals that cause you physical pain.  Finals that keep you up at night.  Finals that seem never ending.  Finals that practically are never-ending (cough, cough, property).  It’s all hard.  You feel like you’re knowledgeable and coasting through the semester, but really, you’re not and you know nothing.  Finals will make you realize that.

It may be surprising to find that what’s hard about law school isn’t just the coursework.  It’s the support too.

Law school can be pretty lonely.  Maybe this isn’t the same for other people, but I thought it was.  I need people, in general, and, in Champaign, I desperately needed people.  But Free time was scarce and my friends in the school were busy and stressed.  I was too.

My relationships with friends from home were strained (apparently people don’t want to wait until Wednesday to talk to me, jerks).

Even then, I was about as conversational as a wall.

My roommate would leave every weekend and I wouldn’t leave the apartment except to study at a coffeeshop.

Me. Studying in Coffeeshops
Me. Studying in Coffeeshops

My closest friend in the law school took off in the middle of the semester (like ya do) and left a little bit of a lurch.  She was the person I sat next to in all my classes.  When she left, I had no one to sit next to in classes.  I was constantly poor, so doing things like dinner and drinks with other students wasn’t always an option.  I also can’t say I’m the most outgoing person.  So for me, it was extra lonely.

In some ways, law school can be a bit like high school too.  Maybe it’s because the school is so insulated.  There are groups of people that hang out, like little cliques that intermingle with other specific little cliques.  Despite that, everyone is in everybody else’s business.  Nothing is secret and everyone is ready to casually talk about your business.  I’ve never had to watch what I say as much as I have this past semester.  I’m almost positive it’s because we don’t see anyone but each other.  We have nowhere else to get our thrills.  Again, maybe that’s just how I view it, but it certainly added to my mental stress.

I’ve only discussed the bad things.  There are some good things.  Law school forces you to get some of your act together.  None of this blowing off a paper to go to wine night at Krannert.  It instills some good practices for those that didn’t already have them.  I’m obviously where I want to be, even if it’s not fun.  If it were supposed to be fun then it would be an amusement park, amirite?

Despite the difficulties, I’m looking forward to going back.  At least the first semester is over.  Hopefully the next one is better.  I have a better handle on studying and what I need to do before finals.  It’ll be fine.

-m

e1ecb0dec3b28d74f929d89cc4bd67c6

 

Everyday Life · Law School - 1L

Marcie’s List of “Christmas” Movies

I am the queen of loving the casual Netflix binge.  My roommate and I have a nice bit about it.  Lately, I have really been trying to get in the season of cheer, despite my looming finals, the lack of Christmas decorations, and the extremely warm weather we’ve been having.  I listen to Christmas music and I watch Christmas movies, when I can.

I love Christmas movies, good and bad.  For the most part, I like them really bad and very cheesy, with acting that is so horrible it can physically hurt.  I’m not sure why but watching them just adds more cheer to my Christmas spirit.  It leaves me light and free of concerns.  I know exactly how every movie will end and I know I’ll enjoy that ending (because I’ve seen it 30,000 times in the other cheesy Christmas movies).

I wanted to make a list of my favorite Christmas movies (some are on Netflix now and others were on Netflix at some point).  I invite everyone to check them out, but to also keep your expectations very low.

1.  Dear Santa (on Netflix now).  I actually thought this was a very sweet movie and the character was relatable… to me.

2. Christmas Kiss (on Netflix now).  This is the movie where the acting is physically painful.  But I watch it at least 3 times every December.

3.  Kinky Boots (on Netflix now).  This is not a Christmas movie… but I directly associate it with snow and Christmas. Also, this movie (and its broadway musical) is amazing.

4.  Love Actually.  My roommate makes fun of how many times I’ve watched the movie this year (and not all of them in December).

5.  Santa Claus is Coming’ to Town.  The claymation one.  That’s is favorite Christmas movie.

Enjoy!

– m

PS. This was supposed to be posted two days ago and it somehow ended up in a draft folder. Life’s a mess.

 

Everyday Life · Law School - 1L

When I Grow Up

While I have not been posting on WordPress, I have been on it!  I read the blogs of the people I follow and it’s usually my only human reprieve!

I was looking through my drafts on here and I found this jewel.  It’s from earlier this year.  I could not have thought of a more imperfect/perfect time to happen upon it.  I am right on the precipice of finals and I feel like I’m drowning.  This post is a good reminder and motivator.

Things can’t be easy… or else everyone would do it, right?

Enjoy and wish me luck on finals!

I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian. I’m not gonna lie–being a vet and working with animals was my dream come true. There was always a right and wrong answer, you get to pet the dogs and kitties, and you can make a pretty decent amount of money for it. When I went to college, I went to a school that was known for its music and biology program because I was gonna be a vet.

Obviously, that didn’t pan out for various reasons. Science is a requirement for biology and animal science and I was not a big fan of it. Also, biology is a big component and I was, apparently, not very good at biology. It was the one time my self-preservation jumped in and said, “Maybe this isn’t the wisest course of action.”

I dropped the biology major and decided political science was the one for me. Not because I liked political science, technically. Late into the major I realized that political science is the study of war and more wars (at least in my focus). Regardless, I did like it enough. If I could go back in time, I would choose a different major, but that’s inconsequential.

If anyone has read back on my posts from last year or maybe the year before (definitely last year), then they know that I have been going through some academic/professional angst. Was law school really what I wanted to do? Would I even make it through? Was it worth it? What the hell would I even do as a lawyer? Do I have a long term plan? Is there something that I would rather do instead of lawyering?

That last question messed me up. Of course there are things I’d rather do than lawyer. Being a lawyer sucks! You have nightmares in the middle of the night about a pretrial the next day, you have to deal with angry/crying clients who don’t know what your job really is, you have to make collections calls for attorneys fees, you have to drive–so much driving, and you have to wear suits (depending). It’s a horrible job. As a paralegal, you do a bit less than the attorneys… and it sucks. By extension, being a lawyer sucks. I can think of a million other things I would rather do than be a lawyer. Like be a millionaire’s housewife, stay a paralegal, do something with my political science degree, work for the federal government (state government is garbage, don’t do that), or become an aimless wanderer.

Literally, anything that’s less hard and more gratifying.

While any of those other jobs are great and very tempting, it wouldn’t be the same. Being a lawyer is pretty powerful. You make solid connections in law school and then later on in the bar associations and any practice you go into. With that power you can change things. Not to sound too cliche, but I want to change the damn world. I want to climb up all the ladders and fight for the vulnerable and unrepresented. And I want to be a lawyer.

So yeah, there are better jobs and I still wish I could have been a vet, but I would rather be a lawyer than anything else. I can lawyer.

-m

Everyday Life · Law School - 1L

On Lessons from My Roommate

Happy Halloween to all!

But this post has nothing to do with Halloween, except that I am writing this whilst pre-gaming alone because I have no friends (jk, but really).

I have probably never mentioned this before, but I have a boy roommate this year.  I’m still working on a nickname for him.  Nice kid, good person, likes fizzy water.  We ended up living together through my roommate listing on the “Admitted Students” site.  He responded.

Now, I have lived with a male before.  His name was Shaun, aka Shauny and we’re still in contact.  I figured it would be similar.  But oh, how wrong I was.

First lesson.  Guys really do casually talk about sex.  Yesterday, before he traveled away for the weekend, we were discussing whether or not women could really actually do “falsetto.”  He provided some real life examples of a woman in falsetto… his girlfriend.  I told him to get out of my apartment (because I am mature).  This is not the first incident of such conversation–in fact, it’s the third.  There’s nothing explicit in these conversations.  But I only speak to two people about sex and they’re both my closest, bestest friends… not my boy roommate.

Second lesson.  Some people–some guys–automatically think you’re cool when they find out that you live with another guy all casually and the like.  Girls are always like, “Is it weird?” But guys are like, “Really? That’s so cool!”  Regardless, you are leveled up in the eyes of your peers.  While I say the opinions of lesser people, like your peers, are irrelevant… it still feels pretty good to be leveled up in any situation.

Third lesson.  The Packers.  I will never cheer for the Packers (for various reasons, one of them being the Packers logo toaster my roommate forced on our apartment and that now sets of his smoke detector every time I use it).  However, because of my roommate, I could understand why someone would… even though they’re from the Chicagoland area.

Fourth lesson.  Tagging/Labeling your food.  I had to put my name on my carrots this week.  My roommate and I both enjoy carrots as crunchy snacks.  Unfortunately, I never got to enjoy my last bag of carrots because my roommate ate them.  Despite the fact that he bought a brand that’s drastically different from mine (much more fancy-looking), mine were organic (and probably more expensive, let’s face it).  In all my roommate situations, I have never had to label my food.  We all just knew.  Maybe that’s a girl thing or maybe it’s one of his gaps.  But that mistake won’t happen again.  He can now eat his poison bougie carrots, secure that they’re not mine and I’ll have reason to actually get pissed if he does eat mine.

Fifth lesson.  Letting go.  My roommate steals my grapes every time he opens the fridge.  This may seem like a non-issue to someone that is a bigger person than me.  However, those grapes were expensive and I am poor.  As soon as he confessed, I was about to flip a frisbee.  But then… why?  He takes a grape.  Yeah, okay.  It’s a whole bag of grapes and I wouldn’t have even noticed if he hadn’t said anything.  I’m glad he did say something because it makes me feel better, but… there was no point in flipping anything because he took some grapes.  For anyone that knows me, letting this issue go is a huge thing.  I’m still in shock that I laughed and joked afterwards (five years ago, one of my roommates took my coffee once and I have yet to forgive her for it).  Boy roommate taught me a very important and valuable life lesson.

Okay, that’s enough. If my roommate ever saw this, he’d probably be really weirded out.  Thankfully, we are only connected on the Facebook, which is one account this blog does not post to. 🙂

Have a happy and safe Halloween!!

-m

Everyday Life · Law School - 1L

On Law School Orientation…

Hey all!

I have been on a super long hiatus for a while now.  My last post was over a month ago, but… before that post it was two months of not posting.  It seems like an improvement to me.

So many things have happened since my last post.  As many may know, I am currently enrolled in law school.  Strangely enough, one of the biggest hurdles to law school came in the form of orientation.  Sounds harmless, right?  Orientation used to just be boring.  You sit in a room with other people while professors/advisors tell you things that you already know.  Maybe there’ll be coffee.  In law school (and, from what I understand, grad school in general) it becomes boring and bone deep terrifying.

I had mandatory orientation on August 20th.  The whole week beforehand was not well spent.  I had nothing packed, I had no idea what I was doing, the professors hadn’t posted the syllabi, I hadn’t even looked at the book list, and the reality of what was happening hadn’t set in.  But I knew I needed to be in Champaign on August 20th and I knew that I would be homeless when that happened.  My apartment wasn’t going to be ready until August 22nd.  On orientation day, we were going to take our student directory photos and I had a plan for that too:  I was going to have my best friend straighten my hair so that no one would recognize me from the directory.  I mean, my name was going to be listed as Luz and Luz had straight hair.  Marcie has crazy curly hair.  My plan was perfect (it wasn’t).

Before I knew it, it was August 19 and I was at my last day of work.  I had gotten to work at little late because my hair appointment ran overtime, which is kind of expected when your friend is the one doing it.  The last day of work was pretty anticlimactic, but my emotions were all there.  I drove down to CU (Champaign-Urbana) by myself after hanging out with my mom.  On that drive, the panic set in.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  Sure, it was only an orientation day, but it was the orientation day.  I would be surrounded by my peers for the next three years.  I would be surrounded by professors that I would actually have to build a relationship with.  I knew no one.  I knew nothing.  My biggest fear in all this was that I would get too scared and back out.  Law school was my first big risk and a part of me really wanted to take it.  The other part was panicking.

Luckily, I had a friend to comfort me the whole 3 hour drive to CU.  Thanks, Maddogg (she has WordPress)!

I stayed at my friend’s place that night and got up bright and early in the morning to get ready, fix my hair (because the beast does not like to be tamed), and find some place to park for the day.  Parking in CU is ridiculous.  I parked over a mile away from the school and had to walk that mile in direct sunlight, but at least it was a beautiful, sunny day.  I made it there, slightly sweaty and slightly grumpy, and registered.  I grabbed some coffee and stood in line to get my directory photos taken.  I wanted to get that crossed off my list first and foremost.  My hair was only going to get worse as the day progressed.

I made awkward conversation in line with people in my section and small section.  I got up to the front and then the photographers turned us away to take the class photos.  After that, we listened to lectures from the dean, from the SBA leaders, from advisors, from a local judge and various people.  That was all pretty typical orientation stuff.

The problem didn’t start until we went to lunch, which they called “Lunch with your Section Professors.”  I thought it was very creative.  We ate while the professors spoke about their classes and expectations and answered questions from the section.  Now, at the earlier orientation stuff, they were telling us that law school didn’t have to be the difficult horror story that people have told us it is.  We needed to learn time management and just had to stay focused.  At the lunch, the professors took that byline and threw it out the window.  A few came right out to say that it wasn’t undergrad anymore and they had high expectations.  Even to attend office hours, they expected more preparation than I’d ever done for my classes in undergrad.  That might be more of a reflection on me and my classes, but I was terrified.  So terrified I couldn’t finish eating my lunch.

Afterwards, we had our “first class” in Legal Writing.  I misread the email and didn’t know about the class, but that didn’t end up coming back for me.  However, it wasn’t a great confidence booster after the emotionally tumultuous lunch.  We went to another lecture and I learned that alcoholism is a big problem in law school and the profession as a whole.  It felt good.

Okay, in all honestly, that was the most helpful lecture of orientation.  It talked about psychological issues that may surface during law school and how to handle them.  I learned some very useful tips to talk myself out of an anxiety spiral.  It spoke to issues that I’d been trying to deal with over the summer and that I knew would be harder to handle during the school year.  I am truly very grateful for that part of the lecture.

After that, we were ordered to have our pictures taken.  It really irritated me since I was taken out of line and there was zero time to get the pictures taken with all the program they’d scheduled.  I was actually late to the rest of the programing because I was taking that picture (which turned out horrible).  Because I was late, I also got separated from my group and ended up in the wrong lecture with a bunch of LLMs.

By the end of orientation, I was done.  They had a reception afterwards, but I didn’t want to stay at it.  Besides being scared to go to law school and having all my anxiety rush back at full force, I really had trouble connecting to people in my group… and people in general.  Along with having doubts about attending law school, I had doubts about being able to make friends with anyone in the school (which they emphasized in all the orientation programing).  The orientation itself wasn’t bad (the photos were and they definitely heard my frustration with it on the feedback form) but I was feeling so crummy by the end of it.  I was, again, afraid that I would chicken out.  If not chicken out, then fail in an epic and expensive manner.

Thankfully, that was only orientation.  Right now, I am about to enter Week 4 or my 1L year, which would make 1 month.  I am eternally grateful that everything from orientation is behind me.  I got lost in my own head that day and it really affected how I reacted and perceived things.  I took some time afterwards and talked myself down.  In the end, there was no point of being scared of possible failure.  I hadn’t even started law school and I was terrified of failing out.  I don’t have to worry until November about failing out.  😉

There are still moments where I get scared (not orientation day scared), but I always try to remember what I’m doing this for.  I’m doing it for my community, for my family.  Then the fear goes away.

-mIMG_20150809_122613