Month: June 2021

Far From Home

I started law school in an unconventional way. Instead of starting on campus and meeting everyone in person, my entire 1L class started law school in a completely virtual forum. For someone like me, virtual was not ideal. I do not do well in a virtual setting where I have to go and reach out to people I have never met before. I looked forward to making connections with people in person, but as circumstances would have it my first year was not what I originally imagined.

When law school started in the fall it was completely virtual which had its pros and cons. Pro: I got to stay at home in Georgia. This was beneficial because law school takes a lot out of a person, physically, emotionally and, mentally. Being at home gave me the comfort and support I needed to navigate the busy lifestyle of being a law school student. Con: I spent the first semester at home making only small connections with people and feeling a little FOMO from the connections I could be making if I just moved to Harrisburg whether we were going to be virtual or not. I knew some of my classmates were already residing in Harrisburg and the best way to get to know them was to step outside of my comfort zone and leave home.

When Spring 2021 came around, I was settled into my apartment in Harrisburg and already making those in person connections with my classmates in the area. The only thing I did not account for was how much I’d miss being home. I decided to live by myself, so when I moved in January for classes it was just me in my apartment for most to all of the day alone doing school work. I went from a boisterous household balancing out the stress of law school to virtual law school, but now alone in a city over 600 miles away from my home. I was homesick and going out occasionally with the friends I had made here was not always enough to curve that homesick feeling.

In the end, moving was the right decision because no matter when I would have moved I would feel homesick. The trick is if you let that feeling bring you down or not. I choose to focus my energy on doing things I enjoyed. Law school helped by keeping me busy, but the friends I made helped as well by giving each other a shoulder to lean on and people to explore a new city with. I may be far from home, but in a way, I found a way to make this place my home.

Extended Evening Division

When I started at Widener, I had no idea what to expect. Your first year of Law School is a bit of a culture shock no matter what school you attend, and the level of culture shock you experience as an Extended Evening Division Student can feel even more intense. Under normal circumstances, you spend the first week of your Law School career attending various orientation events on campus in order to help you acclimate and get acquainted with your classmates. As an Extending Evening Division student, your schedule is exactly as it sounds: full of night classes. This is done to help fit classes around a full-time work schedule. As such, attending orientation events that are scheduled during the day can prove to be difficult, if not impossible. These difficulties exist under normal circumstances, but are amplified in a pandemic, zoom world.

Although online orientation poses the benefit of tuning in while lounging in pajama bottoms and a semi-professional top, you are met with the inability of truly connecting with your peers. Without the advantage of face-to-face interaction, you seemingly lack the capability of forming study groups, bonds, and a sense of comradery. But, like all things must during the pandemic, you adapt. It took my 1L class a week or two before we created a GroupMe, and the rest was history. Throughout our 1L experience we helped each other navigate the uncertainties of our first year: how to read our professors, what to expect on a midterm, illnesses, family emergencies, layoffs, and much more. We started weekly study sessions that turned into nightly meetings come finals. The foundation of trust and support we built throughout the year despite the barriers posed by zoom classes became indestructible.

Only at Widener are you able to find a community of professors, staff, and students who will go the extra mile to ensure you not only feel heard, but you feel included. Widener makes it a point to assist all of its students, whether they be Regular or Extended Division students, adapt and thrive even in the most trying of circumstances. It is the people here that make the programs; and it is programs like the Extended Evening Division that allow working professionals who otherwise would not have the capability of pursuing their Juris Doctorate Degree do so.

With this in mind, as we approach the recommencement of in-person classes, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Sit next to a different classmate each time you have class, start a GroupMe, and make it a point to get to know each other. These are the people you will turn to when you miss a class and need notes or just can’t quite grasp a concept your professor has already re-explained at your request. These are the people who will help your survive Law School.

What Great Staff Can Do

As many people say, law school is hard and challenging. ANY law school is hard and challenging, but there are many things that make this easier. One of the biggest pieces that makes law school easier is having a supportive and available staff. After touring many undergrad schools and law schools, I place Widener’s faculty above the rest. 

After finishing my first year, I have noticed that Widener Commonwealth Law professors are the most caring and giving professors that I have ever dealt with. With being online, they have separated themselves from the rest.

During the semesters, I could email any professor I had and I always got a response within an hour. These professors would answer questions in detail, offer to zoom, or even call me on their personal phones.

Further, the professors at Widener want to know you on more than just a teacher-student relationship. With over fifty students in each of their classes, they have come to learn everyone’s nickname, what level of law we want to do, and our favorite past times. These professors were available to discuss class hypotheticals, exam reviews, what nature trails to take, or even top notch bread and cookie recipes. With this type of connection, I felt like I knew my professors without actually ever meeting them face to face.

My favorite experience with Widener faculty was when I emailed my Torts professor that I was having an off day and was struggling. In law school, it is important to vent to people, and I felt comfortable enough to reach out to someone I trusted and who I knew has been in my shoes before. This professor went out of her way to ask me for my phone number, called me within ten minutes, and talked to me for an hour to tell me that how I was feeling was valid, that I was doing great, and that she was proud of me. When I heard those words I was relieved and ready to go back to studying. 

Beyond the professors, the support staff is the backbone of Widener Law. Although being on zoom has caused me to be somewhat more “techier,” I would not have made it through the semester without our faculty secretary and our media services director. These people have made themselves available 24/7 to help students tackle zoom law. The faculty secretary has been hard at work publishing each document for every class and handling all online quizzes and finals. Further, our media services director has been available at any time to help me get into my online account, to even showing me how to fix a printer (more times than I would like to admit). 

When deciding on attending a law school, know that when choosing Widener Commonwealth Law, you are accepting your admission, but you are also accepting a support system of professors and faculty that will be with you every step of the way, no matter how big or small. Good luck on your law school journey!

Preparing for 1L: Law School Must Haves

The greatest part about the new school year starting is buying new school supplies. Something about new highlighters and pens gets me extremely excited and motivated for the upcoming semester. Before my first semester began, I was freaking out because I had no idea what type of supplies I would need. After all, law school is nothing like undergrad. The obvious supplies were pens, pencils, highlighters, paper, etc., but no one tells you about the bookstand that saves your neck while reading cases or about the extra computer monitor or screen that makes legal research less of a headache. I have compiled a list of all my favorite school supplies, including those that I found the most useful.

  1. Pens – My personal favorite is a Pilot G2 pen, but whatever yours is, get A LOT of them. I have never gone through more pens than I did my 1L year. I handwrite all of my notes, so I knew that I would go through pens quickly, but I started the semester with 24 Pilot G2’s and had to restock before the Spring semester. Having different colored pens is also super helpful when you are revising and editing your briefs or when making notes on your outlines. 
  2. Highlighters – Again, no one tells you how many of these you will go through. Your highlighters will become your best friend was briefing cases. As you read and brief a case, highlight each part of your brief in the case in a different color. It makes finding information so much easier when you are cold called. 
  3. A Bookstand – This is one of those that you don’t realize how amazing it is until you don’t have it. Being able to have your textbook sitting up on your bookstand is super helpful and efficient during class as you work through the material, and it is great for reading cases because you don’t have to have your head and neck bent to read. 
  4. A Planner – Whether it is digital or physical, I personally believe a planner is a must. The workload in law school is a lot and can be too much to remember without writing it down. Even if you use sticky notes or just plain paper, having a place to write down the assignments for class will help you so much. Having a planner is also great for when you start an internship or if you have a job because it keeps your schedule in order and prevents you from overbooking yourself or spreading yourself too thin. 
  5. An iPad or 2nd Monitor – This one is not a necessity, but it sure does help. As a 1L Zoom student, my second monitor allowed me to have extra notes or my outline up while having zoom on my other screen. It was also amazing to have when writing briefs because I could have my legal research on one monitor and my brief on the other. Again, this is not a necessity, but makes life a whole lot easier. 

Some other important things are a USB drive to save all your work, a nice, sturdy backpack, and a nice suit for oral arguments or interviews.

Obviously, these are all up to personal preferences. One may prefer pencils over pens or gel highlighters over liquid ones. You may want to handwrite all your notes, or you may want to type them all onto your computer. Whatever you do, make sure that you have A LOT of whatever it is and that you’re prepared.