7 Things I Wish Knew My First Semester of 1L Year

Law school is unlike anything else I’ve done in my life. My 0L summer (the summer before law school) was filled with many emotions: excitement, anxiety, nervousness, uncertainty, worry, and more. While I did get some great advice from other law students, there were also some things I had to learn through my own trial and error. In this blog post I share the things I learned, what I wish I would have known before my first semester of law school and my tips to all incoming law students.

Have A Day Where You Don’t Do Anything Related to Law School (when possible)

There was a point in 1L where I legit contemplated if law school was for me (like actually contemplated…not the usual “ugh I hate this” rambling that usually happens). I felt burnt out and I knew what I was doing wasn’t sustainable. I forget exactly when I made the shift but I remember deciding that Sundays were going to be the days I didn’t do ANYTHING related to law school. If that wasn’t possible, whatever I had to do was only allowed to take up a max of 1-2 hours of the day. At first it was rough because I hadn’t prioritized it at the beginning of my law school journey but once I got the hang of it law school felt way less miserable and all consuming. This is the piece of advice I recommend the most. That’s why it’s first on the list! If you take away nothing else from this post, implement this!

Create a Schedule and Stick to it

A schedule prevents you from wasting time being mindlessly “busy”. Without a set schedule (that I stuck to consistently) I realize that I spent so much more time thinking I was busy than I did actually being “busy.” Most of the time I was probably scrolling on Instagram. A schedule also holds you accountable to what you need to get done. While I did manage to get all of my readings done (most of the time) semester, there is soooo much more that needs to be done when it comes to mastering law school. Doing the readings is bare minimum and for the most part of the semester that was all I did…besides taking notes in class and book briefing. A schedule also allows you to make sure you are putting the correct amount of focus on your classes. It’s also easier to notice if you aren’t making enough time for yourself. If you don’t schedule any time for yourself…you probably won’t making any.

Go to Bed at a Reasonable Time

One of the easiest things to neglect in 1L is sleep. There are so many things to do and even the most advanced and skilled time management skills are challenged when you begin your law school journey. However, neglecting sleep to “finish” everything you need to do (tip: there is always more to do) is futile and will not make you a better law student. Once you start neglecting your sleep you may struggle to pay attention in class, have worse eating habits, or rely on caffeine to function (guilty as charged over here). One thing I am focusing on this 2L year is making sure I’m getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night. This is one habit I wish I had gone into 1L with.

It’s Okay If You Bomb a Cold Call

Ahhh the dreaded cold call. The experience of many nightmares of incoming 1Ls everywhere. Here’s the truth: if you already knew everything you needed to know to take the bar and become a lawyer…you wouldn’t be in law school! It’s okay to fuck up a cold call (or few). Honestly I am a person who doesn’t typically experience being embarrassed from others but I did care a lot if I bombed my cold calls and the professors thought I was dumb. Fun fact: doing amazing in your cold calls still doesn’t guarantee you’ll be an amazing law student or lawyer. Most of your grade will come from the exam anyway and class participation is usually not that high of a percentage. Obviously come to class prepared but if you bomb a cold call the world will keep spinning and life as we know it will go on. There are enough things to stress about in law school…don’t sweat the small stuff.

Get Help from Academic Success

Law school is full of many smart people. That being said, many of us struggle with asking for help when we need it. Legal concepts are difficult. Legal writing is unlike any other type of writing you’ve done before. If your school has somewhere you can go to get help…GO! Now is not the time to be prideful if you don’t understand a subject. I went to our academic success center and office more than once and I know I was a better student because of it.

Take Practice Tests And Go To Office hours

I also recommend going to office hours because your professors will test entirely in their own style so it’s good to be familiar with the way they will structure the test. Some professors provide previous exams they’ve given and some even provide model answers. My Civil procedure professor did this and I foolishly did not take advantage of this and that ended up being the class I got the lowest grade in. If you take a professors practice exams, you get over the “I don’t know what to talk about in office hours” hump that many students fall victim to. Even if your professor doesn’t provide practice exams/questions you can probably find some around the internet (hey google!).

Take Time for Yourself Every Day

Whenever anyone asked me what I was doing during the summer (not including my internship/working), I usually responded with “getting back to myself.” There’s something about 1L year that completely shifts who you are as a person. There were many times during the school year where I felt like a shell of my former self…but not in the good way. Obviously law school is meant to change you into a lawyer to be but that doesn’t mean you should lose yourself in it completely. In retrospect, if I had taken even 10 or 20 mins a day to spend with myself EVERY day it would have made a difference. There were weeks that went by and I hadn’t even had time to sit down and just be. Try your best to avoid that.

1L will be one of the most challenging years of your academic career (yes, even if you’re really smart). However that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed and handle your business. While I can’t guarantee these tips will make you a 100% successful law student, I do think they can help. Good luck in your law school career!

If you’re getting ready to start law school, comment with a question you might still have after reading this!

If you’re already in law school/graduated law school, comment with a tip you have for incoming 1Ls!

Have a great school year everyone!✨

 

Crushendo: A Review All Law Students Need To Read

Anyone who is in law school will tell you that we need to do more than read case law to understand the legal concepts we need to know. We also use different resources to help with our comprehension of law school subjects. I was recently contacted by Crushendo, a law school/bar prep company, with an opportunity to access their resources in exchange for a review on my blog. In this blog I will talk about Crushendo and my experience in navigating the outlines and audio files available at https://crushendo.com/

Introduction to Crushendo’s Outlines & Timelines

Crushendo has detailed outlines with a corresponding audio file that you can listen to for each subject. One thing I particularly enjoyed about these Crushendo outlines is that each outline starts with a page dedicated to describing the best way to use Crushendo as a whole. This page gives users a timeline for how they should progress with the materials throughout their entire law school career as well as when they began to prepare for the Bar Exam. As someone who loves to plan and put things into my planner, this would have been extremely beneficial to me as a 1L for those classes. Luckily, there are a few classes I still have to take as a 2L that are available on Crushendo. I will be able to use these outlines from the beginning of the semester and follow the recommended timeline. I can’t wait!

The Different Levels of The Audio Files

The next page of the outline was also extremely informative and helpful. The page is titled “Making the most of the audio” and goes into detail about the different levels of sensory tolerance and knowing where you fall on that spectrum. I found this particularly useful because often times programs like these can take a one-size-fits-all approach and Crushendo avoids that and gives tips based on where on the spectrum the user falls. It then goes on to discuss the audio flashcards and the color coding scheme the outline follows for certain materials.

Sample Crash Plan (A Good Crash)

After the outline provides the timeline recommendation and audio file descriptions, the outline details a Sample Crash Plan that users can/should follow for the outline and the hours that should be dedicated to each task.  Once I have read through this I am finally able to dive into the outline and see what Crushendo has in store for me.

The Actual Outline

The subject I chose to read about for the purpose of this blog post in Constitutional Law due to the fact that my school breaks the subject up into Con Law I and Con Law II and I have yet to take Con Law II yet. I followed the advice of outline and began by reading the entire outline. I was relieved when I realized that the outline was only about 30something pages, including illustrations. This meant the outline was going to get straight to the point and wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg if I decided to print it out and take notes on it in class (once school starts). The outline provided many mnemonic devices and illustrations to really drive the point home for many of the concepts as well as bolding certain words and italicizing key words (words I would use when writing an exam answer). As a visual learner, I found the illustrations especially helpful and I know during the semester these will be especially beneficial to my studying. At the end of the outline there was a recap of all the abbreviations and mnemonic devices mentioned throughout the outline which I already know will be extremely helpful in that final week before the exams.

Using The Audio Files and Flash Cards

Once I read through the outline without any audio, I decided to read through it again with the accompanying audio files. I forgot to mention this earlier but each audio file has a musical and non-musical version. Crushendo recommends listening and reading the outline without music at first if that’s easier for you. However, they also recommend that you eventually want to listen to the musical version as it will help with memorization, which every law student knows makes the whole law school exam process much easier (if you don’t know by now…lemme be the first to tell you!).  Classical music is used in the musical audio files and this reminds me of my own personal study habits of playing classical music while I study.

Crushin’ On Crushendo

In the brief time I spent playing with the Crushendo outline and accompanying audio files (a couple hours), I felt that I was already able to familiarize myself with some of the concepts for Con Law II in my upcoming semester and memorize some of the mnemonic devices . I’m excited to use these outlines during my 2L year and see how much better it goes than 1L (not that I did terribly in 1L but you know what I mean). Crushendo is definitely a supplemental material and won’t be my end all be all. However, it will absolutely help law students further their understanding of law school concepts and subjects. Thank you Crushendo, for the opportunity to use and review your outlines and audio files!

 If you are a law student interested in checking out Crushendo visit their website HERE.

5 Things You Should Do The Summer Before Law School

If you’re anything like the average person getting ready to start law school, the months before your first semester will be filled with soooo many emotions: excitement, anxiety, pride, fear, and everything in between. First, take a deep breath and exhale. Everything is going to be okay. It’s going to feel like it’s not many times between now and the end of your first year, but it will. There are books dedicated to preparing you for your first year of law school…I didn’t read any of them so I can’t testify (ba dum tshh) how effective and helpful they are for the 1L experience. However, I do feel that besides one or two things I did wrong, my summer pre-1L year was pretty great. In this post I’ll be discussing what I did that I believe was effective and what I wish I had done to be better prepared.

Save money

Many different faculty, lawyers, 2L and 3Ls will tell you that you shouldn’t work your first year of law school and I’m inclined to agree. I worked only one day a week until November of my first year and I honestly wish I had just quit, to be quite honest. I understand that is a privilege many people may not be able to afford but if you can, you should not work your first year of law school. Due to this, I think people should save as much money as they can before they start law school. You may get financial aid or scholarships, but it never hurts to have a well-funded savings account. This is especially important if you don’t want to take out loans. I can’t relate to that but it’s a noble goal to have in law school.

Travel somewhere you’ve never been for as long as you can

If you are someone who likes to travel (I am), you won’t be able to do so as freely once you start law school. I mean, there are chances for you to do if you have money saved away for leisure but as someone who stopped working for my 1L year, I didn’t really have much money saved up to travel like I like to after the first semester or during this summer. Once I knew I got accepted to attend law school in the fall I booked a trip to the Dominican Republic with one of my sorority sisters and I’m so glad I did. I don’t think I have reached that level of peace and care-free since starting law school last August but it was a great way for me to clear my head before beginning my law school journey. It was nice to get away from everyone and everything and spend time doing things I enjoy.

Read for fun

I’m sure there are people who can find the time and energy to read for fun while they’re in school, I’m not one of them. Even when I was in undergrad (which was not even ½ as hard as law school for me), I never made time to read for fun. The summer before law school I decided that I wanted to read as many books for fun as I could because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do so once school started and I had to read dozens of cases a week. I’m personally a self-help/biography of powerful women junkie so I read many books of that nature but read whatever it is you enjoy because chances are you won’t be able to do that once the semester starts.

Spend time with your family and friends

Once school starts, you’re going to have way less time to spend with your non-law school friends and even your family. I live with my parents and I still didn’t have much time to spend with them throughout the week between classes, readings, and going to the gym. My friends and I rarely saw one another during the semester due to us all being in school or working and being busy. While I did spend some time with them during the summer, I wish I had spent more time with my parents before 1L started because now I feel like I hardly see them enough. One thing I want to do this upcoming school year is schedule dinners and time with my parents and days to hang out with my friends and treat it like any other appointment I have in my planner/google calendar. The point is, the summer before you will hopefully have more time to dedicate to seeing your family and friends more often and you should take advantage of that, if that’s something you value. If you are going to school out-of-state I can’t recommend this enough.

Get a semblance of a routine

My biggest fuck-up in 1L was deviating from the schedule/routine I had planned for more often than I should have. Sticking to your routine is one of the most important things an incoming 1L can learn in the summer before law school begins. Many people don’t struggle with this but I did and still do. In the first semester of law school it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and I sometimes combatted this by abandoning my routine all together for weeks at a time and just going with the flow. Don’t do this. In undergrad, I was so busy with other clubs and interning and working that my schedule had to be followed otherwise nothing would have been done. Law school granted me much more independence and freedom than undergrad or my two gap years where I was just working and working out. A lack of a routine in law school is dangerous. Before you know it, it’s December 1st and you don’t have any outlines or well put together notes and you’re submitting your major legal writing assignment at 11:55pm and you haven’t even had time to proof read it that final time before submission. All of this is to say, practice sticking to a routine before school starts if you’re someone who doesn’t necessarily have to in order to be successful now because all of that will change soon.

Get started on implementing these tips today! If you have any other law school related questions COMMENT BELOW and let’s chat.

If you’re already in law school, COMMENT with some tips you think I may have missed that helped you during your summer before 1L.

 

Don’t Look No Farther…Baby I’m Back.

baby i'm back
Wow it has been quite a while since I was able to sit down and write out a blog post. I actually can’t even tell you the last time I wrote a blog post. So much has happened since whenever that was. Actually…not really. Law school basically took over my life, which is why I haven’t been able to keep up with blogging. On the bright side, I finished my FIRST YEAR OF LAW SCHOOL and I survived it haha. I will definitely have more content related to that as the beginning of this NEXT school year inches closer. NOW that its summer break and I will actually have free time, I will be back to posting at least once a week. I don’t wanna make any large promises and jinx myself. Truth is, I’ve missed blogging so much and I’m excited to get back to it. I’m really hoping to consistently post this summer and get in the habit so it’s easier this next school year. Lately I’ve been feeling like a fraud by having “lifestyle blogger” in my Instagram bio. There are some other things I have up my sleeve but I want them to be surprise and don’t want to share too much too soon. The point is The Musings of Mara is back so get excited y’all.

How To Handle It When Life Is Kicking Your Ass

I don’t know about you all, the last year or so has been quite the year. While many great things have happened, it has also been pretty rough…especially once I went back to school. Don’t get me wrong, I love my law school and my section but law school as a whole is hard as hell. I haven’t been this mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenged in a long time. For the first time in my life, school is not coming to me easily and this has been a major hit on my ego.

While not everyone is in law school like me, life is still hard for everyone in different ways. In certain points in time it can be outright horrible. This being said, I have gathered some tips for dealing with life when it’s kicking your ass.

Cry

Okay so I don’t know about you, reader…but I love to cry. I try not to cry often but when shit gets too real, I definitely let the tears fall where they may. Sometimes a good cry is necessary to move on from a failure and keep it pushing. While I don’t recommend crying every day if life is rough (probably talk to somebody if you are crying everyday), a good cry every so often is cathartic. So if you feel like life is kicking you around let it out and then do the rest of these steps.

Declutter

I’m one of those people where my room reflects the current state of my life. If my room is a mess, 9/10 my life is also a mess and I need to get it together fast. Sometimes when life is doing me dirty I get a release out of throwing away things that I don’t need and straightening up my room. There is something about cleaning your room that makes you feel (at least for a little bit) that you have your shit together. If life feels like it’s spiraling out of your control, take control of your space to gain a sense of that control back.

Unplug

If anyone is familiar with sulking and scrolling through social media when I feel sad, it’s me. However, in the past few months I’ve noticed that this doesn’t help me feel any better and if anything, it sometimes makes me feel worse. As a blogger/aspiring influencer I do value transparency with my followers when I’m going through a rough time but sometimes the best thing to do is to just let people know life is kicking your ass and that you’re going to take some time to unplug and disappear. I’ve been doing this lately and it is so much better for my emotional health.

Write

Make sure you use a pen and paper to do so. Y’all know I always talking about journaling but writing out your feelings when life gets rough is a good way to process exactly how you are feeling. Once you write about your feelings, you are better able to know how and why you feel the way you do and possibly brainstorm ideas for progress. I personally recommend making journaling a habit so that you can regulate your emotions better. I notice that when I don’t journal regularly, my mood is all over the place.

Exercise

I know I know. Who has time to exercise when life is already kicking your ass? Sounds contradictory I’m sure but it’s not. Exercise gives you endorphins and is also another way you can practice control in an area of your life. You would be surprised how much better you feel even after only 1 hour of exercise. The day I found out I failed my first law school midterm I left anything school related alone and went to 2 separate MixxedFit classes. I felt amazing afterwards and had a clearer head to know what to do moving forward.

Adjust

If what you’re doing isn’t working, adjust some things around to see if something else will work. Life is a complicated thing and sometimes even the most minor adjustments can have a butterfly effect on the quality of our lives. I made some big adjustments to my school and personal schedule to try and achieve the results I wanted for the rest of the year when I felt like life was just messing me up. Sometimes life really is out of our control and nothing we can do will change certain things. In these moments, I recommend just adjusting your mindset. It’s very cliché but often times at least finding one positive aspect of life that we are grateful for will help us in hard times of our lives.

Life can be really hard. The last year or so has be really difficult, personally. However, by doing these things I’ve been able to get myself out of a funk from time to time while life kicking my ass every so often. The main thing to make sure you do is to take time for yourself and relax.

What do you do when life is doing your dirty? Let me know in the comments!

Recap: My First Month of Law School (and what I love about it)

A month or so I FINALLY started my law school journey. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know it’s been a long road to get here but I’m here now! To put it lightly, going to law school is probably the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life…and I love it. Now don’t get me wrong, I have probably questioned my career choice more times in the last month than I have my entire life but each time I pose the question, I’m reaffirmed that this is exactly what I want to do with my life. This post is going to talk about some of the things I love about law school.

Things I Love:

  • The sense of community in my section and the law school overall

Unlike undergrad, where everybody is broken up by major and year for the most part, law school is only the law students and faculty. I’m not a mathematician but I know my section is less than 80 people, and besides our legal writing class (which is only roughly 17 students each section), we all have the same classes. This has allowed me to feel more familiar with people in this short time. I really love this aspect. In this short time I’ve already made some friends who I can talk to when things get too crazy and they’ll understand because we’re all going through this together.

  • I’m figuring out what kind of law I want to avoid

I’ve always said I wanted to be a criminal law attorney but also kept an open mind just in case I fall in love with a different type of law. In this short month, I have decided that the chances of me going into contract law are…very slim. Me and contracts are beefing at this point but it’s alright. While many might be discouraged at struggling with things, I’m looking at the bright side that I’ve narrowed down my options of what I might be interested in practicing. My torts class has also taught me that I will probably never going into medical malpractice law either. It’s too depressing.

  • How much it’s taken me out of my comfort zone

Law is unlike anything I’ve ever done. I grew up taking AP and honors classes in high school and I got through the academic part of undergrad relatively easy. I didn’t have to study too much. I crammed for exams and still did well. I also mastered the art of writing a 10 page paper in less than 24 hours and still getting As and Bs. This type of life did not prepare for law school at all. I know for a fact I’m no longer the smartest person in the room or even in my immediate friend group. I know there are people working harder than me for longer hours of the day than I am. This last month has taught me that if I’m going to reach the goals I’ve set for myself I need to get used to being uncomfortable and LEVEL THE FUCK UP.

Overall, I know this is where I’m supposed to be. I have worked my entire life for this. I know that it’s simultaneously going to get easier yet more challenging as time progresses but I’m ready for the challenge. Note To Self: Growth happens OUTSIDE of the comfort zone.

Have you done anything recently that’s gotten you out of your comfort zone? Talk about it in the comments!

Goal Check: End of the First Quarter of the Year (Jan-Mar)

The month of March just ended which means that we are 1/4 through 2018. Wow. Time is a flying by! Due to us being 3 months into the year, I decided to check-in on where I’m at with my goals. Now is the perfect time to reflect on what has worked this year and what hasn’t. There are 9 months left in the year which is more than enough time to learn from my errors and still accomplish my goals before the year is over. I have many, many different goals that have sprouted from 8 main ones so I’m going to just tap into some of those 8.

  1. Get my driver’s license and a car: i have not made any substantial progress on this goal besides looking at cars. This is first on this list but the list is in no particular order. This first 3 months I’ve been focusing on getting my health and fitness in order, applying to law school, and paying off my credit card. That brings me to my next goal.
  2. Pay off my credit card debit: So far I have paid a little over $600 into my credit card debt, which is about where I wanted to be by this time of the year. However, my goals regarding this have changed. I’m now more focused on saving money to go out of the country this summer. I will still be making payments on my credit card but not as aggressively as I was.
  3. Save $2,000 in a savings account: It has been hard to establish a savings account so far this year. I’ve noticed I’m really bad at it haha. I have a small amount. I also need to open another savings account because anything I have in this one is going towards my trip this Summer!
  4. Start Law School: This goal is happening! I was admitted into UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law at the beginning of last month. I will officially be going back to school in August which is why I’m taking a trip out of the country this summer.
  5. Lose fat & gain muscle: I’m making great progress on this goal. I hired a trainer in January. Even though he quit and I got a new trainer I had to get used to after taking a 2 week hiatus from the gym, I’ve still managed to lose about 15ish lbs. I can also feel myself getting stronger in every part of my body. I’m excited to see where I will be in the next 3 months from now!
  6. Take my blog to the next level: I like to believe I’m taking steps towards taking my blog to the next level. I created a bi-weekly newsletter (still working on sending out my first e-mail), I hosted my first GIVEAWAY (of many to come), and I’ve started posting more regularly, and I’ve upped my social media engagement. Hopefully in 3 months I will have really made some solid progress.
  7. Read one book every month: I’ve been slacking in regards to reading one book a month. I tried to read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in January but I underestimated how dense and long that book was and I decided to read a little bit of it each month throughout the year. It also took me all of February and a little over half of March to finish The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I highly recommend this book. I wanted to at least finish 2 books by the end of March so I picked an easy ready for the last week of the month. I chose The Defining Decade. I have really enjoyed this book and will be reviewing in a post later this month. 
  8. Move out: so as I have officially gotten into school and given a full tuition scholarship, this has become the least important of my goals. I have to keep a 2.3 (which sounds easy but I’ve never been to law school so I wouldn’t know) GPA to keep my scholarship. My cousin has moved out of my room and this has made living at home much more bearable. I’m in the process of redecorating my room and giving it the personality I wanted it to have when I first moved back home. The only thing that makes me really want to still consider moving out is having company over when they come to town and visit. If I have any updates on this goal they will definitely be towards the end of the year.

All in all, I’ve very pleased with the progress I’ve made on achieving my goals this first few months of the year. I do have some areas that could use improvement (getting my license/car and staying on top of reading for fun). However, I have also had some major wins (YAY for getting into law school and getting a full tuition scholarship). I can’t wait to write this post at the end of the second quarter of the year and see how far I’ve come and what else I’ve done. I might have some different goals listed to reflect the changes in priorities I’ve had since getting into law school but the post will be similar in format. Here’s to working towards our goals all year long!

What are some goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year? What goals have you made progress on? What goals could use improvement? Leave me a comment and let’s talk about it!