At Widener it is a graduation requirement that you complete at least 2 credits of experiential learning. These can be satisfied through participation at the clinic, an externship, or practicum. It may seem unnecessary or like extra work for the school to require this, but these experiences are so important to your growth as a student and as a future professional in this field. These experiences teach you things that the classroom environment cannot. They help you build future connections and teach you the real day-to-day aspects about your potential career field. While the classroom environment teaches you the law and prepares you to take the Bar exam, an externship will prepare you for the real world after the Bar exam.
I’ve been fortunate enough to intern at the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office for a little over a year, and the experiences that I have gained through this placement is something that a classroom could have never given me. I have learned how a criminal case works from the moment it’s charged to the time the jury gives its verdict. I have been able to successfully handle multiple non-jury trials. I have also become more confident speaking in front of the Court and opposing attorneys. While learning the Rules of Criminal Procedure or Evidence is necessary, the real experience and knowledge comes with being in a courtroom and objecting to questions or writing 404(b) motions. These experiences are how you take what you learned in the classroom and apply it. My biggest piece of advice would be to take these externships and clinics seriously and try to soak in as much information possible because there is no better opportunity to learn. It would be difficult to be a successful attorney based off knowledge and education alone. Real life and first-hand experiences are arguably just as, if not more, important than information learned in the classroom. While our school does a great job preparing us to take the bar, these outside experiences are what prepare us for life after the bar.
Being welcomed back to Widener is going to look a little different this semester. Asking your friends about their holidays, wearing clothes that you got as presents, and finding a way to get back into the swing of things is going to be done through Zoom, at least for the first two weeks. After being able to enjoy everything that in-person learning had to offer how do we adjust back to Zoom School of Law? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get back into law school mode while your surroundings make you feel like Winter break has been extended.
- FIND A WORKSPACE. It could be a personal office, a kitchen table, or just a desk in your living room, but find a space that you can take classes from and do your work at. It may seem like a dream to take classes from your bed and while you may be comfortable, are you actually learning? Find a place with little distraction and try to recreate a similar environment to the classroom.
- INVEST IN A SECOND SCREEN. This one felt ridiculous to me during my first semester. I didn’t believe that a second monitor/screen would help me in any way, but I was SO wrong. Especially while writing my Appellate Brief, having a screen to exclusively research on and another screen to type on made life so much easier. If you type your notes, having another screen allows you to put zoom on one screen while typing your class notes and looking at your notes from the readings. Even after we move back to in-person learning, having the extra screen to do homework is extremely helpful.
- CREATE A SCHEDULE. Being at home often gave me this illusion that I had all the time in the day to do schoolwork, and while that is true it quickly led to me getting burned out because I didn’t know how to separate schoolwork from my personal time because my entire day was spent in the same place. Creating a schedule and sticking to it allowed me to have free time without feeling guilty while also ensuring that all my homework was completed.
- KNOW WHAT YOUR ZOOM LINKS ARE. This one may seem silly, but it will save you SO much time in the long run. Widener spends a lot of time getting the zoom links organized for all of us, so take advantage of it. Go through the list of zoom links for each class, find your class’s zoom link, and create your own document that includes the class, the times of the class, and the zoom link. That way when you go to log onto your class for the day, you won’t be scrambling for the zoom link.
- REFRESHER ON ZOOM ETIQUETTE. It has only been a semester since most of us have taken classes on zoom, but a refresher never hurt anyone. Aside from it being school policy, it’s respectful to have your camera on. It is also extremely important to make sure your microphone is muted unless you are being asked a question or are asking a question. I’ve witnessed one too many embarrassing moments where a student didn’t realized they were unmuted. If possible, try to avoid a distracting environment. I know that it is sometimes out of one’s control, but it can be extremely distracting for your and other students if you are in an area that has a lot of movement or people around you.
Overall, it’s only two weeks. Just try your best to adjust and refocus back into the law school mentality after almost a month off. Best of luck! 🙂
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.