Reflections On My First Year of Law School

I saved notes on my phone throughout the 2019-2020 school year so that I would have an easier time of writing this post, but it really didn’t make anything easier. This year was a mess. Everything went wrong. Everything went right. I wanted to write this post as a way to help others facing their first year of graduate school, but really there’s no other way to do it other than jumping in and just getting the dang thing done.

Side note: That’s what I tell myself when I have things to do, but to motivation to do them. “Just DO THE DANG THING.”

As promised, here are the notes from my phone through the 2019-2020 school year:

  • don’t buy your textbooks – rent them!
  • Jeff Bezos may be taking over the world, but the convenience of Amazon is unmatched
  • I have realized that I am not as smart as people think I am, but smarter than I give myself credit for
  • This is SO hard and SO challenging, but very easy in some respects. The easy pockets make it hard to get myself to study consistently.
  • (at the end of fall semester finals) I have no brain left and my memory is so shot and I feel like my brain is melting and I cannot remember anything
  • (at the end of second semester finals) Dear God I cannot believe I have to put up with another two years of this F@#%@~^@!$

That last note makes it seem like I hated law school. I didn’t (don’t). I do, however, hate how dead taking finals makes me feel. I sincerely have no brain power, or brain cells, left after my last final. If you asked me my name I probably would not be able to tell you. So, sitting in my room after my last final typing out a note to myself about getting through second semester was not the best idea…but it happened, and now it’s shared on the Internet. Law school can be rough, y’all.

Second semester was especially tough because of the timing of the pandemic. School shut down right after spring break. Classes were all moved online. Stores were selling out of toilet paper, food, and cleaning products. Life went from a happy hippie paradise (I was in Nashville for spring break) to being absolutely chaos to being at a complete standstill. The standstill, however, felt like watching the tide recede before a tsunami. All the seagulls are quiet. Everyone is just watching, waiting. You know something isn’t right. For those of us that know the hallmark signs of a tsunami, we wait in terror. The second half of spring semester was just like that: waiting in terror. I was so scared that my parents would get sick. I was so scared my cat would get sick. I was so scared my teachers, my classmates, my friends, my roommate, myself would get sick. I watched the death toll rise as I sat alone in my room. Studying for finals felt pointless because what if there were no finals? What if everything was going to continue to be shut down forever? I do not deal well with uncertainty, so second semester was a very difficult time for me.

Oh, and did I mention that one of my final exams (that was worth my entire letter grade!) got lost in cyberspace? Yeah. Stressful.

Speaking of – Finals are usually in person, on BlueBoard examination software, at the law school. We’re usually in a quiet classroom with a paper exam in one hand and our computer in the next. Second semester every exam was online and open book. Instead of having three hours per test, we had a full two days. Just when I thought I was comfortable with the way law school tests their students, the pandemic changed all of it. And it’s continuing to change. This semester of Fall 2020 our semester is getting cut short and our exams moved online. We’ll have a longer period than the normal three hours to complete each exam, but it certainly won’t be forty-eight hours worth.

To be perfectly honest, if I were starting law school in the fall of 2020, I would defer. I’m more comfortable with where I’m at in my second year only because I had last semester as a ‘end of the world but continue to be a law student’ trial run. If I didn’t have my friends and my section with me for that experience, I wouldn’t have made it. We were all lost, but we were all lost together. I feel for the new students I’ve met this semester. They know the twenty odd students in their section, but very few know upperclassmen or other students in general. Thankfully the shelter in place requirement is no longer being enforced, otherwise students might have gone the whole semester without seeing another law student in person. It was my section and my mentor that really helped me the most my first year, so I can’t imagine trying to have that same experience virtually.

Despite the pandemic, I did like law school. I like how it made me think, and how it changed the way I analyze the world. I mean, duh, I like it, I’m still here aren’t I? Ha. Go Bears, and good luck to the Mercer Law Class of 2020 taking the bar this week!

Law School: Year Two, Semester One

It seems silly that I’m posted a semester update before recapping my entire 1L year, but here we are. Life has once again gotten a little crazy. I feel like I just finished my first final, my first year, and my first internship and here I am starting all over. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

So far, life has been a steady stream of chaos. This, as odd as it sounds, is somewhat peaceful. Yes I’m still running around like a chicken with my head cut off, but at least there is some normalcy within the pandemic we’re (still) facing. I know what classes are online and when, I’ve gotten used to seeing only half of everyone’s face, and I’m really enjoying the six foot social distancing rule because I get to spread my textbooks all over the desk in front of me rather than being elbow to elbow with my classmates.

Still, Corona has made life pretty scary. My alma mater, UGA, has shut down, as well as my father’s alma mater, UNC Chapel Hill. Mercer is continuing to have open doors, but students are still getting sick. I’m lucky that most of my classmates are taking things seriously. Only a handful of my peers have gotten sick with the virus. I haven’t caught it, but I’ve had some close calls. While I enjoy the “new normal” we’ve found ourselves in, I know that being complacent in it will not return us to the old normal.

As a former event director at a big university, I miss being surrounded by happy faces, free food, and matching t-shirts. I really miss seeing my friends smiling as they walk down the halls. I’d give anything to have an event on school grounds where I can see everyones’ faces and run up to people and hug them to thank them for coming. Life is weird without hugs and smiles, but we’re getting there.

As for school, Mercer Law is doing a “hybrid” program. My classes are partially online and partially in person. Each student has the ability to ask to be fully online for the semester, especially if they have a medical reason to do so. Right now I’m in person Monday through Thursday, and all my classes Friday are online. Some professors are doing all online, some all in person, some half and half. It’s…confusing. I’m used to it solely because I’ve been doing it since August!

This semester I’m taking Evidence, Torts II, Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure, and Legal Writing 2. I also had an Introduction to Client Counseling course I had to complete before the semester really kicked off. And I had a Title IX training (doesn’t count for class credit but is required as part of my degree at Mercer!). Come to me for all your legal needs!! Just kidding, please don’t do that.

I am so excited to see what this semester holds and what challenges I’m getting ready to face. Almost halfway done with law school!

This semester brought to you by: Starbucks, red wine, and my indestructible planner (get yours @ passionplanner.com)

First Day of 2L Classes

Today marks the first day of my second year of law school. I’m more nervous to start this year than last, for a few reasons:

One, the only GPA I have is from my very first semester at law school, and while it’s “good” it’s not “great” (and I’m a perfectionist with a very competitive mindset so I hate to see myself doing worse than my best). This means that I need to do very well this semester to boost my GPA up to the top third of the class, which is generally the academic marker the government looks for when selecting interns for the summer.

Two, a lot of my friends transferred schools, so I’m probably going to develop an entirely new friend group this year. That’s a little scary for me as an introvert.

Lastly, Corona. Everything is changing. I can’t hang out with my friends the same way. Classes are different. I worry for my health, and the health of those around me. Schedules for school continue to change. There is no consistency. As someone that thrives off of schedules and plans and to do lists, this semester is going to be tough. Everyone is flying by the seat of their pants in academia. I hate doing that. But, as my dad says, the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. This semester (if not the entire school year) is going to be an elephant, and I’m going to have to take it one step at a time.

How I’m Trying to Supplement My Immune Health in Grad School

Going back to in-person classes this fall means I’m going to have to take a critical look at my health and daily habits. As we all know, COVID-19 is no joke, and I’m about to be sharing a building with about 250 people each day. While I’m typically pretty healthy, I know there’s more I can do.

I’m starting with taking elderberry supplements. My mom started using elderberry syrup a few years ago. It helps your body fight off cold and flu symptoms (hello Corona virus symptoms) and supports general immune health. Elderberry is packed with vitamin C! It’s also anti-inflammatory and is a good source of antioxidants. I think it tastes great on it’s own (plus adults are only supposed to take about thirty drops a day) and I couldn’t taste it at all when I mixed it into a cup of water. It’s a super easy way to boost your immune system, so if you’re looking for something that’s approximately zero work, this would be it.

I use Mary Ruth’s Organic Elderberry Syrup

Stress can also weaken your immune system, so trying to be as stress free as possible will do your body good (and not just with immune health and COVID – limiting stress is good for heart health and cholesterol levels!).  

One thing that people are predicting about COVID during the school year is that people are going to be more stressed than usual – even children. Parenting blogs, and even the CDC, are teaching parents the warning signs of stress and anxiety in kids, and trying to provide ways to combat it. Exercise, nutritious foods, and limiting screen time outside of classes helps. Last semester, when my school went full on remote learning, I tended to do my work outside on the porch because I found that I felt better in the sunlight. I also gave myself time to stand up and stretch in between classes. A short walk is better than no walk at all! 

Stress lowers your body’s ability to fight infections like COVID-19. Limiting caffeine intake helps reduce stress (but honestly I’m being a bit of a hypocrite because I drink multiple cups of coffee a day during the school year because I’m constantly exhausted). Getting eight hours of sleep, on average, a night also helps your immune system regulate itself. This is also me being hypocritical because I am too often awake at 1am trying to finish a reading that’s due in less than eight hours. But the point is to try and get eight hours of sleep. Here it’s not the thought that counts, but if you’re pushing yourself to develop better sleeping habits then you’re doing the right thing for your body, even if you only manage to get a half hour more sleep than you usually would.

I’m also trying to eat healthier this go around to give my body a fighting chance against contracting any viruses. I was not very healthy my first year of law school, and I definitely ate out more than I should have. Whole foods and lots of fruits and vegetables are what I’m focusing on this school year!

What ways are you trying to protect yourself from COVID this school year?

This post was sponsored by Mary Ruth’s Organics as part of a SLACK influence campaign. I earn a small commission when you shop through my links. Posts like these help keep my blog up and running!

#BLM

I moved home for the summer. I’m in Asheville. Home is supposed to be safe space, full of love and warmth. 

Last week, the Asheville police department destroyed a medic station in downtown during a protest. Masks and medical supplies were burned. Water bottles punctured. EMTs, doctors, and nurses pushed aside, some even to the ground, by police in riot gear. The city has since released a statement about what happened and why. Feel free to read it here: Asheville Police Chief Apologizes After Officers Destroy Medical Tent.

I do not condone violence; I do not condone riots; I do not condone looting in the very same way I do not condone racism or slavery. But to not condone is not enough. 

We have grown up in a United States that has not known slavery in the classical sense, but as a future lawyers I understand that systematic oppression and disenfranchisement still place invisible shackles on our peers. While the world has changed much since the Civil Rights Act and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., racism and hatred still flourish. Some of our parents stood in solidarity with desegregation; the current generations must do much more than that. It is not enough to not condone police brutality, racism, and the growing list of hashtags that tell the story of oppression. We must fight against it. The time for standing is over. The time for action is now.

To donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund visit https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/.

To learn more about anti-racism resources please go to https://secure.understandingprejudice.org/iat/.

Good lord what do I even call this other than a weird rant

Before turning 21, drinking was this weird thing I considered very grown up, but also youthful. Alcohol was surrounded by a gauze of mysticism. How would it make me feel? Do I want to risk getting into trouble? How much is too much? How does one make a mixed drink? Honestly, before college, I thought a mixed drink was 50% vodka and 50% juice. Thankfully I have learned my lesson, and that lesson only took one “mixed drink” to figure out.

Now, almost all the social situations I find myself in outside of school and work have alcohol involved. Coming to talk at a law school reception? Grab a glass of wine. Going to a birthday dinner? Have a beer. Want to watch a movie with friends at home? Someone bring on the White Claws!

Having a drink in my hand when I’m standing around chatting has become the norm. I spent January making a more conscious choice of when I drank, what I was drinking, and with whom I was sharing a drink. Why was I reaching for a drink in a particular moment? Was it just to feel like a normal person and fit in, or was it because I really wanted a glass of wine? I found that most of the time I drank, I drank because I wanted people to think I was “normal.” Having a drink with friends while chatting about life made me less of a prude, or so I thought think.

While going through the notes on my phone, I stumbled upon a piece from Medium called The Unifying Theory of Alcohol. I remembered reading it about a year ago, and only clicked on the link to read it again because I’d just been to a Super Bowl party where a handful of people peppered me with questions about why I wasn’t drinking, if I wanted a drink, if I was the designated driver, etc. The truth was, I didn’t want to get drunk with them, but I didn’t want to say that because I didn’t want to sound lame. I also didn’t want people to continue to try and get me to drink. So I told them I was driving.

I ended up getting a drink an hour later, after relocating to another party with close friends. But I wasn’t drinking to get drunk or because I felt I had to. I wanted something sweet, so I made myself half a drink and nursed it all night long. The weird thing was that as soon as my group migrated back to the old party, no one there asked me about drinking. As soon as I showed up with a cup in my hand, the questions stopped. It was an eerie moment because it seemed like I had to drink, or get pestered all night.

Reading the article from Medium over again, I wished there was an easier way to say “I’m not drinking” that would get it through other people’s heads. “I’m not drinking” doesn’t mean “ask me again to make sure I’m sure” or “check again in a few minutes.” Alcohol is no longer mystical or weird. Sometimes it’s a burden. No one wants to explain their reasoning for not drinking a thousand times in one night (and by a thousand, I mean more than maybe once).

I guess what I really want is for society to normalize not consuming alcohol as much as it showcases drinking in any and all social situations.

I don’t care if you drink. I don’t care if you want to get drunk every night of the week. But I do care if I get asked about alcohol so many times that I eventually feel pressured to lie about being the designated driver or fill a Solo cup with water so people stop asking.

Perhaps I need more of a backbone. Perhaps I should just drink water and pretend to be doing what everyone else is doing. Perhaps I should just get over myself and have that glass of wine. Who knows. But I do know that The Unifying Theory of Alcohol really hit the nail on the head for me after that party, and it’s definitely something to think about.

Second Semester of Law School

Today is the first day of my second semester at Mercer Law! While I’m not necessarily looking forward to being back in the classroom after such a nice break, I am ready to take whatever challenges come my way.

Here’s to struggling my way through semester number two!

Hello 2020!

2019 was a wild year for me. I applied to law schools, accepted a full scholarship to Mercer, graduated from the University of Georgia, had an internship with the UGA Performing Arts Center, mentored a group of freshmen, gave tours of my favorite school, traveled out of the country, moved to Macon, and started my fall semester at law school.

I am so thankful for all the opportunities 2019 brought me. From new friends to new experiences, I’ve learned a lot about the world and about myself. Here I am, ready to do it all again.

I set some small goals for myself in 2019: go to law school, read 15 books, run a 10k, do yoga every week, learn to meditate, etc. I didn’t meet all of them. I still haven’t run in an official 10k race, and I haven’t done yoga since the summer. Life happens, ya know?

This year I’m setting some new goals, similar to the wishlist I wrote about in my 23rd birthday post. Here’s what I want to do in 2020:

  • Getting onto Law Review at Mercer
  • Get into the top 25% of my class
  • Trying out for mock trial
  • Finish the novel I started writing ages ago
  • Buy one piece of art from a local artist to hang in my house
  • Fill up three journals
  • Learn how to needlepoint (or some other artsy thing I haven’t done before!)
  • Take a pottery class
  • Run in a 10k race

What do you want to do in 2020?

Productivity Apps to Help You Ace Your Finals

If you’ve been following the blog since the beginning, you’ve probably noticed that I used to be all about studying tips and school. I’ve since expanded into more of a lifestyle blog, but I love to drop a quick post about productivity here and there.

I’ve been using some of the same apps off and on since my freshman year of college to help me keep track of how hard I’m working, my goals, and to keep my study space distraction free. Here are my top three favorites:

Flipd

Flipd is an app for smartphones (available on the App store and in Google Play) that helps keep you distraction free. Flipd it technically a digital wellness company, so it’s meant to be used for things other than studying, but I typically use the app to force me to stay off my phone.

I set a timer for five minutes each morning when I get up. This keeps me from scrolling through social media while I’m still under the covers. I honestly think that’s one of my day’s biggest time sucks! I can stay curled up under a pile of blankets liking Instagrams for hours without realizing it – and then my whole day is gone! So I try to set a five minute timer and put my phone down when I first wake up. I started doing this mid-September once I realized that most of my morning was being devoted to other people’s lives rather than preparing myself for my own. I haven’t been late to class since! And I can honestly say my brain feels fresher when I step out of my house each morning, even if it is 8am.

For studying, I tend to set the timer for 20-30 minute increments. This is what the Pomodoro method recommends. Being focused for thirty minutes, then allowing yourself a five minute break, leads to the most productive stretches of time. The way the app works is that you’ll get a countdown for whatever time you set. If you leave the app, your timer dies. You can have the app shut off all your notifications if you need the extra push to stop looking at your phone, but I usually just set the timer and leave it alone. If you forget that you’ve set a timer and leave the app, or open your phone, you’ll get a notification saying that you’ll lose your session if you don’t head back to the app.

The app challenges you to get 180 minutes of distraction free time a day. Their Instagram has monthly challenges to see who can rack up the most Flipd minutes, or be the most productive. They partnered with Passion Planner for 2019 and do productivity giveaways most months.

While I don’t use this feature, you can categorize how you spend your time. I don’t tag my Flipd minutes, but if you’re using the app for different things, like exercising or sleep, then this is a good way to track your progress.

You can also study with groups on the app. Just search using a group name or a group code to find your friends. Mine is called Bailey’s Study Group, and the group code is #xkKGWk

Forest

Forest is another app that can be found in the Apple App Store or on Google Play. While Flipd is a free app, Forest does cost money. I downloaded the app way back when it was free, but now it costs $2 to download. I use the app every day so I think the cost is worth it, but if you’re looking for only one productivity app and don’t want to spend the money, you’re better off using Flipd.

Personally, I like Forest over Flipd because Forest gives me a visual representation of what my time looks like. The app grows a tree, or a shrub depending on how long you set your timer for, while you study. If you end your session, your tree dies. For each tree planted, you get coins. You can use those coins to purchase different types of trees on the app, or donate your coins so that the company can plant a real tree out in the wild.

You can up the stakes in Forest by studying with a group. Any person that leaves the app before time’s up makes everyone’s trees wither.

You can also unlock achievements along the way by spending more time off your phone, growing more trees, and having a variety of plants in your garden.

As a visual learner, I appreciate that Forest gives me a visual representation of what spending time away from my phone looks like. I can go back and view all of the months I’ve been using this app and see the forests I’ve created. The more trees, the more time away from my phone.

Those are the two apps I use for productivity, but I also have a Google Chrome add on called Momentum that I use daily for to-do lists.

Momentum is very popular on the Studygram and Studyblr communities, so you’ve probably seen it before if you follow any Instagram accounts that are about the studying ~aesthetic~

Good luck on finals everybody!

How I Studied for my Law School Midterms

I thought that, upon leaving undergrad, midterms would be a thing of the past. Little did I know, October is a hell month no mater what level of school you’re in.

I found that my usual way of studying no longer worked as well for the upcoming tests, so I decided to change it up a little. Here’s what worked, for me:

Podcasts

I drove to (and back from, of course) North Carolina twice during midterms. That’s four hours of being in a car staring at the road instead of some textbook (both equally as boring, I’ll give them that). I decided to use my time wisely and invest in come law school podcasts.

Remember back in high school when you’d binge watch Crash Course History the night before a test and hope for the best? This is the same thing, only “cramming” no longer beings the night before but the entire week before.

I really like listening to Law To Fact Podcast. Sure it’s not as entertaining as Missing Richard Simmons or any of the other stories I used to binge on road trips or walking around campus, but it’s hosted by a real law professor. Her guests include law professors from all over the country calling to explain the basics of what you’re studying in the class room.

I was skeptical at first because all the podcasts sounded like they were recorded phone calls with the intro music being played through a speaker into the microphone app on the iPhone, but quality of the production aside, this lady does know what she’s talking about. In fact, she and her colleagues have been teaching for so long they know exactly where most students start to get confused. This means they’ll either do a full episode on that topic to break things down slowly, or they’ll point out where people get confused and why, or they’ll joke about she she herself got confused and how long it took her to figure it all out. It’s realistic, and it makes me feel a bit better about myself when I don’t understand something the first time around.

Law To Fact has all the episodes on their website arranged by topic. You can easily go in and find what’s tripping you up the most. I’m listening to the episode called How to Avoid Common Pitfalls in Legal Analysis and Writing Classes right now! The podcast is also on Spotify and Apply podcasts so you can download them on the go.

One Sheet to Rule Them All

Yes, that is a Lord of the Rings reference. Yes, it does work.

Allow me to explain:

Every law student start writing outlines on day one of all their classes. By the time midterms roll around, the outlines are close to thirty pages long. It’s going to take you at least an hour to read through your entire thirty page outline, but I can almost guarantee that if you read through it that quickly you won’t get anything out of it. (That’s why skimming your cases before class doesn’t work, but hopefully you’ve figured that out by now ;))

When you start studying for an exam, condense your outline every time you read over it. You should start studying for an exam two weeks beforehand, without your outline completed at least a week and a half before the test. Each time you read it, take out the definitions of words you know. If there’s a concept you need to know, memorize it and get it down to two or three words that will jog your memory. Need to know a case brief? Have one word about the case to trigger your memory and then the holding of the case and why the court ruled that way. After two weeks of condensing, you’ll have your outline down to one page. The best past about this isn’t that it fits in your pocket but that because you’ve gone over it so many times you don’t even need it anything. You have the whole thing memorized because you rewrote it in your own words each day for two weeks.

Find Ways to Stay Productive

Staying productive for me during undergrad was pretty easy because I was so busy. I knew I had a finite amount of time to get things done in. Now, I feel like I have so much more time. Which means I goof off more. We’ve all heard the story of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, just wait until you read If You Give a Law Student Four Unbroken Hours and Readings They Can Do Tomorrow.

I try my best to stick my butt in the law library until 5pm each day. Sometimes I get everything done and go home to cook dinner, other days I barely get a dent into my piles of studies and end up working until 11pm. It happens. But what’s really helping me hold myself accountable at productivity apps and the screen time feature on the iPhone. The screen time feature tells me how much time I’ve spent looking at my phone that day and compares it to other days. I can also use that feature to schedule downtime, set app limits, and block content.

Another app I’ve recently rediscovered is Forest. I used it my freshman year at UGA and then promptly forgot about it when I switched from a Samsung to an iPhone. But I’m back on that hype train and loving it more every day!

I won’t talk about it much here because I’m planning on doing a round up of all my favorite apps that I use for school.

Planners!

If you don’t have any way of keeping track of your time, how are you still alive? And sane?!

My life would be over without my planner. I use my bullet journal for everything. It houses all my to do lists, things I need to research, gifts I need to buy, grocery lists, medication lists, contact information for people I need at networking events….literally everything.

If you don’t already have a planner in law school, go get one. Or even just have a little book of sticky notes or send yourself texts so you can write things down on. Law school tends to go from 0 to 60 really fast, and you never know what you’re going to miss. Heck, I use my planner, have a catch all notebook, use the stickies on my laptop, and use the notes all on my phone and there are still things I miss.

The human brain can do a lot of things, but it can’t do it all. Be kind to your mind and write a few things down here and there so it can take a sec to decompress.

Plus, the less your brain has to fight to remember about your daily life, the better it can remember important stuff, like the Grable test or minimum contacts or….I dunno, foreseeability probably.

Study Schedules

Another way I utilize my planner is to make a study schedule. My professor for Legal Process at Mercer had us set up an hourly plan for the week with all of our classes, when we wanted free time, study time, and breaks for food and sleep. Mine seems crazy, but I do allow myself to have extra free time here and there, I promise! You can click the button below to download a blank copy for yourself!

Group Study

The last thing I did when studying for midterms, which I never did this frequently in undergrad, was study with a group. My law school class is broken up into five sections. Not all of us share the same teachers, but those of us that do either have that teacher at different times or we don’t sit near each other during class. This means that each one of us takes something different out of the lectures we all sit through.

Studying with a diverse group is great because everyone has a different way of explain a concept, and sometimes that’s all it takes to make things “click.”

For our last midterm, Juris and Judgements (formerly called Civil Procedure), my group got a study room in the library. We found a huge whiteboard and condensed all of our outlines and notes onto one “page” (AKA the one whiteboard). Even though it seemed to take forever, we all walked out of that room confident about our test the next day.

Disclaimer: this is what I did to study. I’m writing about to give you an idea of how I prepared for my first set of law school midterms. If you know some of these things don’t work for you, don’t do them! Everyone’s study habits are different. Don’t go completely overhauling your study habits just because someone on the internet studies in a way that is different from you.