Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Unexpected Opportunities

Yesterday I received a phone call.  In mid January I competed in a Moot Court Competition.  The winners of that competition were going to Seattle the last weekend in February to compete in Regionals against the likes of Stanford, Berkley, and U of Washington.  I missed advancing, and going, by 1 point.

The girl that was scheduled to go has severe health issues and cannot continue on at this point.  So I am stepping in to fill her shoes.  This means a ton of work, but a great experience!  There will be some long days before me, but I look forward to getting tips from experienced trial attorney's and experiencing a head to head competition with some of the best that other law schools have to offer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Single Moms Rocked American Idol

While this blog is dedicated to the single mom law school experience, I have to give props to any single mother who goes and chases after her dreams---especially when she is fighting incredible odds.  My favorite tension breaker is to watch American Idol.  I sing, and play the guitar for relaxation.  I dabble in writing my own music when I let my creative side take over.  Music is a secret lover of mine!  I admit it.  I also am an unabashed fan of Simon Cowell.  Often times I am found in my living room saying something very similar to what he says, seconds before he says it.

Which brings me to tonight's show.  A single mother named Crystal Bowersox from Chicago took the stage and she was AWESOME.  So unassuming looking, but with an infectious smile, I wasn't sure what to expect from her but was BLOWN away by her voice and performance. 

Another one to rock it was Mary Powers.  Great Rocker Voice.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Working is too much

That's right, pay attention.  Working while in your last semester in law school, and getting everything else done that you need to [bar apps, applications for jobs, graduation issues] is stressful and hard.  You only have so many days out of the year and so many hours in the day.  There is not enough time to deal with all the things that demand part of your time.  Things are slipping and things are not getting done.  In addition, it is hard to keep up with everything that is on my daughter's plate as well.

So, it's not worth the money it may or not bring in to work during this time.  It's not worth the stress on your body or emotions, or what it sucks out of your soul.

Laptop Tip in School

Simply put:  don't take them in class!  Seriously.  They become a huge distraction.  You will start playing on Facebook, playing  computer games, doing anything but paying attention.  And honestly, we know what you are doing.  When your keys are tapping, and the professor is really saying nothing----busted.

Also, I heard once that in order to remember something, the fact must have touched your mind at least 4 times.  So, if you hear it, then write it, then take your notes and type it in review later that week or evening, and then place it in an outline-----4 times.  And good study habits.

Resist temptation!  Leave the laptop at home.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My Graduation Announcements

Choosing what to do for graduation announcements seemed like a momentous decision. Silly, huh?  I felt silly.  But I decided to go and have my pictures professionally taken and then have postcards that announce my graduation.  I will mail these out and then send a little letter with some of them to thank certain people who have touched me in some way along the journey that I have made.

The hard part was choosing which picture to use!  They turned out fabulous.  Not sure if this will be big enough, but I will post here.  Now I just need to find the proper stationary to use with my announcements.  But I feel good about my choice and look forward to sending these out to announce my big day.

My Give A Damn's Busted

That's not just some great country song, it's the truth for me right now.  Granted in the song, she is talking about a relationship, and in a lose way, you have a relationship with school, but whatever.  The point is, I wanna care, but I don't right now.  I just can't get enthused.  I am tired, out of sorts, and just want this to be OVER.

The way that law school is structured is really silly.  You don't learn anything the final year.  A much better way to do this would be a requirement for an internship, so that students can actually learn the practice of law, not some vague rules that may or may not apply in the state that you are going to practice in.

At this point, I and many of my friends have begun to chant:  2.3 sets us free.  Willamette has a ridiculous rule.  In order to graduate, your cumulative grade point average for your 3rd  year ALONE, has to be a 2.3.  Silly really.  That means you have to get at least a C+.  Very few other law schools require this, certainly not your top ranked schools.  So, I am not sure what the purpose of this arbitrary rule is.

All I know is that it is one more thing to heap on a 3rd year's plate.  The bar app, all the graduation things you have to attend to!  UGH, it is yucky.  So, for now, my give a damn is busted.

"My moms a lawyer"

This has become my daughter's favorite threat.  She is a smart cookie, but I can't seem to get it through her head that I am not a lawyer---yet.  Funny enough, this statement seems to strike fear, even in the hearts of little kids!  [I am quite sure there is a joke in that somewhere].

What is funny is the things you think to tell your children as your law school training goes on. Example:  Question for DD:  "DD, if you ever are questioned by police, what should you do?"  Answer:  "Invoke my 5th and 6th Amendment rights by requesting my lawyer!"  Ding-ding, bingo.  Question:  "Why a lawyer and not your mommy?"  Answer:  "Because I have a constitutional right to a lawyer when I am being questioned, but not my mommy."  Ding-ding, bingo--girl goes to the front of the class.  So that is how your mind becomes twisted!  Why?  Because you read case after case of children incriminating themselves simply because they ask for their parents, and don't get them, and do not ask for an attorney.

Another thing:  DD dances during the summer.  Stage breaks away.  Daughter asks:  "Mommy, are you going to sue?"  Me:  "Why would I do that?"  DD:  "Because they were negligent."  And the scary thing is your child knows about duty, breach, causation, and damages.

Then there is the home contract.....Me:  "I am going to make you an offer.  For every A you earn, you get $5, for every B, you get 2.50."  DD:  "Well mom, seems that I am getting punished for the B.  I think the earnings should be more for an above average grade."  And you realize with that comment, you have taught your child the art of negotiation.

Me:  "Isn't it true, that you were supposed to clean your room before going to _____'s house?"  DD:  "Stop cross examining me mom."  And you realize she knows what a leading question is!

The list goes on and on.  I think there are very few other professions that weave through the very fabric of our lives the way that the profession of law does.  [The only worse one I can think of is psychologists!].  One thing I know, is I am busy instilling critical thinking skills in my child.  This is such a very, very important thing to learn.  My mom's a lawyer is a sorry badge to put on a child!  Though my child seems to love it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Choosing a Bar Review Course

Studying for the bar exam is an art.  In your first year, you will be pressured to sign up with a bar review program. This is before you will truly understand the importance of this.

There is no way that any one person can learn in law school, or even retain, everything you need to know for the bar exam.  So, you take a prep course, like you would for the LSAT's or the SAT's before that.  Only this is like no other prep course you could imagine.

My first year, I was talked into BarBri....this is the #1 popular course, and for a long time was the only course offered in Oregon.  It's also $3000 and I did not like their 1st year prep materials.  Recently, I have found another company, Rigos, that has entered the Oregon market.  Their program is $1000-1300 less, depending on which course I go with.  I am seriously considering this course........mostly because they have a self study course where I can dial in from online, watch the lectures and work at my own pace.

The question remains, do I start with the tried and true, though I hate their materials.
Or the new company, whose materials after looking at them make logical sense?

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Plain Truth About the 1st Year

A reader asked me the following questions and I realized that they are questions I have not addressed on my blog......so here are the questions, and here is the plain, unvarnished truth.

Can you tell me a little more about the first year? Or point me in the direction that I could find out? I've done some reading, but everything focuses on the unattached, single law student. Is there a lot of homework in addition to case readings? What is the writing / research class like?

In some ways the books the Paper Chase and 1L are good looks at what the competitiveness of law school and the lengths that law students go through to stay on top.  But they don't address the little things.

Homework?  What is homework like the first year?  In every class but LRW, homework is reading, reading, reading.....oh and more reading.  And the reading is more dense than anything that you have ever read before.  There are words you have no idea what they mean at all, or in the legal context they are put in.  They are words of art.  We use the word negligent in common everyday language, but negligent means something different in a legal context.....you read with a Black's Law Dictionary next to you, trying to interpret everything.  And then you obsess---did I get it right, I don't want to look like an idiot in class if called on.  You need to read, then read again, and if you have time, read one more time, at least until you start understanding what is important and what is not.  So for the basic classes you will read, and brief the cases so you can remember and are prepared for class the next day.

What is research/legal writing class like? [LRW].  This is a hard one to answer because this is solely dependent upon the school and then the instructor.  At Willamette, where I attend, I had a somewhat unconventional teacher.  We learned how to brief a case, and write a legal memo. She had written her own textbook, and we had to come prepared with exercises from her textbook.  In addition, in order to bond with the students in her class, she split us into groups.  Each week, one group would tape a video, or do a powerpoint based around a theme.  She had rubber chickens named Floyd and Marion.  And that year's theme was Floyd and Marion do reality tv........The week I had, Floyd and Marion were on Survivor!  This accomplished two things, I got to know my classmates, and it was a huge funny tension breaker!

So, other than that, we had a rough draft of the memo, and then we had the final.  Our class ended October 31st, a full 4 weeks before finals.  We did have teacher's assistants who were there to help us through every process.......the final memo felt like a tool of torture.  The second semester we focused only on writing an appellate brief.  This was hard work, though it was "closed universe" which means that we had only so many cases that we could use and we were told what they were.  However, at the end, we had to argue these briefs in a competition.  This was hard, and meant a lot more work than I anticipated.  I did not realize that the first night, some would advance, until you had final teams.  I made it to the finals.  But that meant Monday through Thursday nights.................................until 9 o'clock at night.  This was so tiring. Again, the semester ended 4 weeks earlier than my other classes.

I approached school differently from my single classmates.  There will be time between your classes.  Some used this for socializing....I did not.  I approached school as a job.  There at 7:30 am until 5 pm. I would go home, spend time with my sweetheart girl, put her to bed at 8:30 and read if I needed.  If I was not in class I was studying.  I took Friday evenings until Sunday afternoon off from studying......Spent a few hours on Sunday afternoon studying for the next day.  This worked really well for me.  I did well in the first year, ranking well in my class. 

I also came to a conclusion early on, that while A's would be good, a "C" would get me a degree just as well.  I was unwilling to sacrifice my relationship with my daughter in order to be in the top 10% of my class.  I sacrificed any social life, including dating, in order to focus on my priorities: my daughter, my schooling, my family.  Looking back, I would not change one single thing.

I don't know if I was detailed enough in my answers.....but I encourage you to write and ask more questions.  I really want to be a source of information for single parents.  When I started, there was nothing out there like this blog....nothing.  Things were confusing for me.  And if I can help easing some of that confusion, I want to help other single parents to do so!