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5 Ways to become more teachable
A lack of teachability is a pervasive problem in the legal profession. I found this surprising as a law student. I went to law school to, well, learn. But it was evident that many of my classmates believed that they were the smartest person in the room and that there was no additional knowledge for them to obtain. This always bothered me. Setting aside the ridiculous amount of money we were paying to be there, I am also a firm believer that if I am the smartest person in the room, I am in the wrong room. Regardless of the school, work, or life situation you find yourself in, there is always something to be learned. Whether you are struggling through your second semester of law school, gearing up to graduate, or practicing as a newly minted attorney, you can always benefit from being a bit more teachable.
Attention law students: is your attention span holding you back? Read this.
So first semester didn’t go exactly according to plan, eh? You worked hard, spent many late nights in the library, and had absolutely no social life. Yet, you still did not achieve the grades you wanted and expected. With the level of time and effort you put in, you don’t understand how you could have gotten anything less than an A. To use a perfectly cliche saying: if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this story, I would be a very, very rich person.
What to do if you are unhappy with your 1st semester grades
A few years back, a study found that humans now have attention spans that are less than that of goldfish. I hear this tidbit of information frequently repeated in relation to millennials. You may have heard variations of this as well. “Millennials are being ruined by social media” or “millennials can’t focus on anything.” These types of statements definitely annoy me a little. I am, after all, a card-carrying millennial. However, if I am being honest, there is some truth here.
You’ll pay for this:The first step is admitting you have a problem
I owe $226,020.79 in federal student loan debt for my legal education.
Let’s start at the very beginning. I was extremely fortunate to have my undergraduate education paid for through a mix of scholarships and parental-aid. When I graduated with my shiny new B.A in Modern Languages and Cultures (yeah, I know), I had no clue what I wanted to do, and I had no concept of how different my life would be with student loans breathing down my back.
How to block out negativity during bar prep
When it comes to bar prep concerns, everyone worries about finding time to learn all the law. For once, I will skip the opportunity to lecture you on the importance of practice questions. Just kidding. Practice questions are the single most important thing you can do to pass the bar exam. However, this article isn’t about building the hard skills you need to pass the bar exam. Rather, this article is about how to protect your mental clarity and brain space so that you have the time, attention, and energy necessary to prepare for the bar exam. Put these tips into effect ASAP to preserve your precious mental resources and revisit them if you feel yourself getting drained.
5 New Year’s resolutions that all law students should make
As you frantically wrap up your fall semester and are so close to break you can almost taste it, the very last thing you want to think about is next semester. Well, luckily for you, I’m here to put that on your mind. While you don’t have to drop what you are doing right now to think about these things, I highly recommend dedicating some time to reflect on how these New Year’s resolutions might benefit you not only next semester, but for the rest of your law school career.
Finding the line: a crash course in law school boundaries
Reflecting on my law school years always fills me with a solid mixture of nostalgia and terror. I am one of those weirdos who really loved law school, but that “ish” was hard, particularly the first year. Everything was brand new, and I, like many others, went through a lot of personal growth. This required redefining and resetting my own boundaries with the people who were in my life before law school as well as learning to navigate new boundaries with my law school peers, professors, and administrators.
20 Questions answered about the bar exam
Okay, we aren’t actually going to play 20 questions, but I am going to provide answers to 20 frequently asked bar exam questions. That is just as fun, right?
Final exams are coming, are you ready?
While you might want to stick your head in the sand and pretend this isn’t happening, final exams are coming. Whether you are ready or not. I’m going to strongly suggest that you do not actually stick your head in the sand, as it is a highly ineffective study plan. It may feel like finals are so close that you are nearly out of time to do anything meaningful to improve your scores. But that is not the case! You can use any of the following tips, starting today, to help you reach success on your final exams.
Why you keep failing the bar exam
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Yet this is exactly what you are doing when preparing for the bar exam. I frequently work with students just like you and have noticed a few common trends that hold them back. The good news is that each of the following pitfalls are identifiable and fixable. Review this list carefully and determine what changes you need to implement to make your next bar exam your final bar exam.
Use your learning style to ace your final exams
I spent my entire first semester of law school feeling like a complete failure. Don’t get me wrong, I did everything I was supposed to do. I briefed all my cases, went to every class, took plenty of notes, prepared outlines, and did many, many practice questions. But I felt like nothing was sticking and as if I were banging my head against the wall.
How to find and keep the perfect mentor
There are many important things that happen in law school. You learn how to think and write like a lawyer, forge lifelong friendships with the other people crazy enough to go to law school, and do a lot of growing (both personally and professionally). Another important thing that happens for many law students is that they meet and form relationships with valuable mentors.
The career advice that changed my life
Do the work even when you’re scared.
Like many lawyers, I was born prewired with a deep fear of failure. I spent a large portion of my life letting fear drive my decision making and avoiding pursuing the things that scared me. If I was unable to see a clear path to success on something, I found every excuse not to do it.
The Millennial’s Guide to Law School Communication
There are few things more aggravating than being misunderstood or not understanding what someone is saying to you. In the law school setting, this happens frequently. Law students get mad at their professors, administrators, and each other. Professors and administrators, in turn, get mad right back at their law students. While some degree of miscommunication is unavoidable, the situation can be greatly improved by following some simple guidelines.
Hey 1Ls, super excited for Thanksgiving break? I can fix that.
Thanksgiving is less than a month away. You have been working very hard, and you are so ready for a break. I mean, you deserve it, right? Wrong. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic. You have certainly earned a break, but you need to think about how your time will be best spent. I can assure you that if you spend your entire break relaxing and none of it working, you will seriously regret it at the end of the semester. You may have a strong urge to do one or more of the following things. Resist.
Ms. JD interviews lawyer turned health and wellness coach
Danielle Kocal is the Director of Academic Success at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, runs a thriving health and wellness business, and is a real-life superhero mom to two young girls. However, this is not what Professor Kocal thought her career and life would look like today when she applied to law school in 2003. Back then, she was on a mission to become an environmental lawyer. But, life did what life does, and while in law school, Professor Kocal realized her true passion: teaching.
5 signs you are ready for law school
So, you want to go to law school? I think that is great! Really. There are many people who are down on lawyers and the legal profession in general. We need young, smart, and motivated people like you to attend law school and shake things up. However, law school is no walk in the park, and the most successful students know what they are signing up for before they get there. If you have an understanding of or a plan for the following five things, you’re ready to join us.
5 steps to ensure you pass the February bar
October always brings about mixed emotions for me, because most of my students receive their results from the July bar exam. My heart races with excitement thinking about celebrating with those who pass, while my stomach is in knots anticipating the conversations I will have with the students who are unsuccessful. If you have recently found out you failed the bar exam, this message is for you:
How to beat the mid-semester blues
In my area, it is almost that special time of year where it starts getting dark at 3pm and 52 degrees is considered to be warm. Even if it isn’t about to get cold and dark where you are, you are reaching the half-waypoint of your semester. That probably means your workload is increasing. Not only are you preparing for classes, but you now have legal writing assignments due, outlines to create, and exams to prepare for as well. This can be overwhelming, and a little depressing, to even the most well-adjusted law student.
Interviewing advice for people who hate to interview
In terms of the most dreaded activities in the legal profession, interviewing is right up there with networking and attending CLEs. To me, interviewing is the same as going on a series of first dates where you desperately want to be in a relationship and the other person plays it cool. You get all dressed up, make polite small talk, and laugh nervously. All the while, you are really just thinking “are we going to do this thing or not?” Beforehand, you wait in anticipation, hands sweating, as you play out all possible scenarios of how horribly wrong things could go, and afterwards you sit around anxiously waiting for the phone to ring.
Midterm exam coming up? You must do this one thing to be successful.
If you have any midterms in law school, you are incredibly lucky. For once, I am actually not being sarcastic. When I went to law school, midterms simply were not a “thing.” We had one cumulative final exam at the end of the semester, and that was our entire grade for the class. We received no feedback on how we were doing throughout the semester and had to hope that we were sufficiently grasping the law
Taking the bar exam in 2018? Here is what you need to know.
Whether you are taking the bar exam in February or July of 2018, there are things that you can and should be doing right now to start getting prepared. There are a million little logistical details that go into sitting for the bar exam. A really bad reason to not become a lawyer is that you failed to meet deadlines or hand in paperwork. Get as many of these tasks done as you can before you actually have to start studying for the test.
How to win the law school time management game
Despite popular belief, it is possible to succeed in law school — even during the first year — and have some stress-free, free time. Through my own time management trials and tribulations, I have tried countless hacks to become more organized and productive. Spend some time answering the following questions for yourself to be on the path to law school time management success.
8 ways to help your millennial law students learn more this semester
I recently realized that I spend a lot of time talking to my students about how to navigate law school and not nearly enough time talking to my colleagues about how to teach millennial law students. So this week, law professors, I am talking to you! Here are 8 things you can do this semester to help your students learn more effectively and be more engaged.
What to do when disaster strikes in law school
August 2010, I walked into my first day of law school classes and felt a weird, sharp twinge in my upper back. It hurt enough for me to notice, but passed quickly and didn’t impact the rest of my day. What I didn’t know at that time was, the twinge was actually the start of intense chronic back pain that would go undiagnosed for almost a year and a half.
10 things that will absolutely piss off your law professor
There is a difference between being unprepared for class and being prepared but confused. Your professor knows the difference, trust me. This is one of the fastest ways to aggravate your professor. Not only are you wasting your money, but you are also wasting everyone’s time. A student reminded me the other day that “no one remembers if you get a question wrong, but everyone remembers when you are unprepared.
Incoming 1Ls: Everything is about to change
The weather has been relatively cool where I live for the last few days. It has served as another reminder that within a matter of days, new bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 1Ls will be arriving to terrorize us start their first semester of law school. As I prepare for them to get here, I can’t help but wonder if they know that everything about their life is about to change.
7 things you need to know as a first year attorney
First, this is not an article bashing law schools. Today, most law schools offer students a range of opportunities to gain exposure to the practice of law. Many schools have robust experiential learning programs that include internships, externships, clinics, and more. Also, students need to be proactive about getting everything they can out of law school by researching these opportunities and taking advantage of them. However, no amount of interning prepares you for what it is like the first time you are personally responsible for an important part of someone else’s life. Here are a few things I learned during my first year of practice
How having your dreams crushed can work for you
I spend a fair amount of time managing student expectations. Statements such as “well, a 4.0 might be a little ambitious,” “while the White House would be lucky to have you intern for them, I suggest you send out at least one other application,” and “it really isn’t possible to take 23 credits, do law review, and have a part time job” are not uncommon in my office.
4 tips for life beyond the bar exam
The bar exam, like any stressful situation, challenges people to change and grow. Every class of students is different, but there are a few underlying themes that hinder bar takers year after year. With July 2017 bar prep in the rearview mirror, I reflected on a few of these concepts and came to the realization that bar takers face some roadblocks that we all face in regular, day to day life.
The day before the bar exam dos and don’ts
I say this with equal parts joy and terror: the bar exam is exactly one week from tomorrow. One of the questions I get asked most frequently is “what should I do the day before the bar exam?” My go to answer is “absolutely nothing.” For some inexplicable reason, my students seem dissatisfied with that response. So, I consulted with my friends. What did I learn? People have some really strong opinions on this topic. What else did I Iearn? It is my article, so I get to present you with the ones I think are the most effective! Here is what I put together:
How to slay your first semester of law school
Even though I am still in the thick of bar review for another few weeks, my attention has started to turn to the incoming 1Ls that will appear on my office doorstep next month. First year students hold a special place in my heart. They arrive so full of hope and excitement. They come with a purpose and are intent on changing the world. They are on a mission and it inspires me. But, it also breaks my heart a little, because I know over the next few months that law school will slowly crush some of those hopes and dreams. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic. That is just the nature of the beast that is the first year of law school.
Top 3 common bar exam pitfalls
Well, it is July. That means I am thinking about the bar exam all day every day. I’ve reached that special point in bar review where I can’t stand the fact patterns anymore and walk around muttering things to myself like “just sign the stupid contract” and “for the love of god, why doesn’t anyone ever record their mortgage?” I’m a real treat to be around, just ask my husband.
How I overcame my paralyzing fear of my law school loans
I have $219,778.08 in law school student loan debt. Some days it feels like each of those dollars weighs a pound and they are all stacked neatly on top of my chest. Saying, writing, or thinking about that number actually takes my breath away. I graduated from law school four years ago. Since then, this number has done nothing but increase. For the first two years after law school, I made so little income that my loans were in deferral. For the last two years, I have been on a rollercoaster of income-based repayments and have barely made a drop in the bucket
3 times your millennial law students weirded you out by mistake
I am a rare mythical creature. No, not big foot. I am a millennial law professor. There are truly only a few of us. Sure, you find a Gen Xer every now and then, but an authentic millennial law professor is a rare find. In fact, if you sat in a law school faculty meeting, you might think we don’t exist at all. I’ve heard millennials described as lazy, entitled, and unprofessional by my colleagues. While I should be downright offended by these statements, the truth is, sometimes I feel the same way. I relate to the frustrations of my colleagues but also understand the intentions of my students. My life is complicated.