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.

Law School Room Tour

Now that my first week of classes is done, I’ve officially settled into my new home in Macon. My little house is super cute, and I’m excited that my room has a little more “depth” to it than just four plain white walls.

Most of my decorations are little things that I’ve collected over the years. Whether it’s art from friends, post cards, or treasures from around the world, it all reminds me of all the people I love (and miss).

I’ve been very into Christmas lights recently (maybe it’s because I binged Stranger Things over summer break…or maybe it’s because I get all my decor ideas off Pinterest). One thing I really appreciate about twinkle lights is their ability to create soft light. As someone that frequently gets headaches, I’ve found that soft lighting is essential when having to power through a night’s worth of homework if you’re already feeling like your head is splitting open. My friends with “big girl jobs” use Christmas lights in their offices, too! Soft lighting for the win!

The wall above is still a work in progress, but I like where I’m at so far. I’m planning on adding postcards and letters from friends around the cork board. My favorite piece of art in my room right now is the painted chicken above my desk. I got it outside of the Met while I was in NYC a few weeks ago!

I am excited to see where week two of law school takes me, and if my room ever actually gets “completed.” Hopefully I will still be able to spend downtime here once midterms get started.

What I Did to Prepare for Law School

Hello from Mercer Law! Today is my ~official~ first day of orientation and I am hyped to get myself orientated! I am also scared out of my mind. Seriously. I never thought I’d go to law school, let alone get a full ride. I’m a Woodruff Scholar, and that sort of freaks me out. Part of me is like “how in the heck did I get here?!” and the other part of me is saying “can I even live up to this title?” and then there’s a tiny voice inside that’s chanting “you earned this, so you can do it.” Truthfully, I will always compare myself to my peers and wonder how I ended up in the same room as some of the most brilliant, amazing people I’m sitting next to. I think that’s my twenty-year-old default setting. But preparing for law school, I gave myself a pep talk in perspective.

There’s not much you can do when prepping for law school. Sure you can get advice from everyone you know that’s even gone, but the best thing to do is to understand that to get into law school you had to be smart. Now you’re in a room full of equally qualified people, all as smart or smarter than you. You’re all going to feel not smart enough at some point your first year. Just take that fact in and let it sit with you. Knowing that all those amazing people you think are so much better than you at 1L are just as lost as you are will be comforting. You are not alone.

That’s probably the most depressing pep talk of all pep talks, but I like to know I’m not alone. Figuring that out is so much better than someone half heartedly saying “you got this!” when I have absolutely no idea what in the world I’m doing, let alone how to get to my 8am classroom. I will definitely not “have this” around 75% of the time, and then things will click at the end of the year and I’ll have an “aha!” moment. This much I’ve gathered from 2L’s and recent grads.

Another big thing is to get used to reading. Law school is almost all reading and writing. I’ve read a variety of different things, but mostly things I enjoy. There’s a study that I read that said you need to prep your eyeballs for the amount of reading you’re about to endure, so reading novels back to back through the summer before your 1L year will prep those muscles for their marathon case brief extravaganza. You can check out what I’ve been reading recently in this post, but I’ll have another one up about my summer reads ASAP!

Calm down. Just chill out. I’m so type A that me not doing anything stresses me out until I spend so much time doing nothing that I get used to it. I’m weird like that, I know, but if that’s how you can totally destress then do it. If you spend time with friends, do face masks, play with puppies, volunteer, whatever it is that you do to make yourself feel good and comfortable with life, do it! This might be your last chance until Thanksgiving break.

I set a few goals for myself. Most of them were about self care (like cooking at home at least once a week), but a few were about my studies. When I set goals, I have different tiers. The lowest tier is stuff I know I’m going to accomplish, and I set those goals because checking the “I did it!” box makes me feel good. The next level up is stuff that I want to strive for but can be flexible with, such as getting an internship for next summer that fits with that I want to do long term or being in the top 50% of my class. The top tier is what I really have to push myself for. Those are things like being at the top of my class, exercising regularly, and finishing the novel I’ve been working on forever.

I find that having five goals, with at least one in the top tier, helps me set my own tone for the semester or year (whether it’s for law school, undergrad, a job, what have you). There are things that your professors or your boss is going to expect from you, but there are also things you need to expect from yourself. Holding yourself to a high standard not only helps you reach higher goals, but also teaches you about your self worth. I find that when I get to know my self worth (i.e. how much do I value myself? How much do I respect myself?) I do better overall.

My last little tidbit is to find joy and bring it with you. I did this by saving up notes from friends, usually complements or congratulations, to hang above my desk.

Keep in mind that this is only my very first day ever of law school (and classes technically haven’t even started yet) so I’m not too sure if any of this will actually work, but it’s what I did this summer in preparation. Let me know if you guys want a “halfway” post reflecting back on this advice to see if it actually worked.

Jacksonville, FL

I promise I’ll be off my Florida kick after this post. I just miss the warmer weather so much!

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This big blue bridge made me feel like I was back in San Francisco.

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I love all the palm trees.

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Duuuval!

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St. Augustine

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Last weekend my friends and I traveled to St. Augustine for fall break at UGA. The weather was absolutely perfect. I had friends up north talking about how it was snowing early this year while I was basking in the sun in a tank top and shorts. I was living the life.

My friends and I rented a small air bnb in one of the…sketchier…areas of the city. Favorite part? All the abandoned houses really set the scene for Halloween and the feral cats made it feel extra spooky. The homeless people were really a catch. “Y’all seen Cletus?” was the most quotable part of the trip; however, we still don’t know who or what Cletus is. Lol.

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The history buff in me not only loved the aesthetic of the city but also stopped to read each and every historical marker. Needless to say, I was the straggler of the group.

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Seeing as this was a “school trip” for the big game on Saturday, I felt that taking a picture with the U.S.A.’s oldest wooden schoolhouse was obligatory.

While I didn’t get the best pictures, the cafes I visited were super trendy and Instagrammable. My favorites were the Cuban Cafe and Bakery and Dreamboat Coffee. If anyone is in the neighborhood, pick up a sweet cream iced coffee from Dreamboat! The barista is the nicest person, and her bubbly personality left me feeling full of giggles, even after my six hour drive to the city from Athens! I totally forgot her name, but shoutout to her because she rocked my world Friday night.

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The above photo was the view from our porch…Now that I’m back in Athens, I want to return more than anything!

Florida Georgia

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This was my first time going to The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, otherwise known as the Georgia vs. Florida game in Jacksonville. While I didn’t have a single cocktail there (my liver is probably grateful for that haha) I did indulge in way too many sweets and treats. Sometimes you really need some stadium junk food to get you in the mood! Plus the bag checkers let me bring in my Cheerios because, let’s face it, I am truly a soccer mom at heart.

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After a Dawgs win, the weekend couldn’t have ended on a better note!

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My Life in Pictures: Senior Year So Far

I still can’t believe I’m a senior. These past three years have absolutely flown by! And so have my first two weeks of school.

The Goldfinch

Freshman Welcome was a hit (and we were exhausted by the end of it)

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We celebrated Evan’s birthday at the Iron Horse, a tradition and oddity of UGA’s campus culture.

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You can read my post about Bid Day 2018 hereimg_6019

I am so honored to be able to serve as an executive member for The Arch Society. We went on a retreat the first weekend of school and my heart is so full! Watch out UGA, we’ll be humbly serving you on tours, at registration, and at any beauty contest on campus (let’s face it, we’re more than cute in our blazers).  You can read a little more about my time in Arch here.img_4414

UGA President Jere Morehead invited Arch to his house for a dinner. We all took the opportunity to have tons of group photos made. The food was great, but the Razzle Juice still has my heart (it was SO good!). img_4432

I survived two involvement fairs last week! You can read the Red and Black article, which I interviewed for, right herebaileystudiespsych.wordpress.com

I made into Freshman Forum as a PA! I’m a personal advisor for a group of freshman at UGA, which start getting interviewed today! Ah, so excited for them. (Keep on reading for further updates on why I chose to add this position to my already busy schedule and how I hope to change some kiddos college experiences!)img_4439

I said goodbye to my brother today as he embarks on his next big adventure. The Coast Guard is about to gain one heck of a human being! Good luck out there, bro. img_4447

That’s all for now! Tune in next Monday to read more about my crazy, busy, happy life!

Dropping Your Freshman Off for College: A List Poem

What to do when dropping your freshman off at college:

  1. Actually be there? I know we’re adults now but moving into a 9 story dorm with one working elevator and no AC isn’t a one man job.
  2. Try not to be too much of a mom. So don’t pinch our cheeks and unpack our freshly ironed underwear right there in the parking lot. Please. 
  3. Get the number of your child’s roommate’s parents. I can’t tell you how important it is to throw parties with these guys while you both have one less child in the house
  4. Get hype.
  5. Get sad.
  6. As much as they’d probably like this, don’t bring booze. That’s the student’s job.
  7. Be prepared to go to Target. Twice. Just kidding, you’ll have the floor plan of that store memorized by the time your freshman is officially moved in.
  8. Let them eat dinner without you. It’s not that they don’t want you around (oh god are we tired of your advice), it’s that we know we need to explore on our own.
  9. Don’t worry. We’ll be fine. Aside from the crazy parties, no sleep exam weeks, mesothelioma, and the possibility that we won’t call home every night like we promised.
  10. Goodbyes hurt, but not having them hurts more.

We’ll be home soon, we promise.