Preparing for Interviews

It doesn’t matter in what year you are in law school, if you’re regular division or evening division, everyone has to go through the interview process at multiple points during their law school career. 1Ls and 2Ls alike will be interviewing for summer intern/extern positions come winter into spring; 3Ls will be interviewing for full-time/part-time positions for after they graduate, and many students will interview for fall/spring positions that run through Widener’s normal academic year.

There are several important points to keep in mind when preparing for an interview. Firstly, make sure you know exactly who you are interviewing with, research the firm/office that you have an interview with and be sure to have some relevant points/questions to bring up during your interview. You never want to finish an interview without asking any questions. Secondly, dress professionally, pull out your blazer, tie, dress, slacks, or skirt and make sure that your clothes are appropriate for a business setting. Thirdly, it’s always good to take a few extra copies of your resume with you; there might be an extra interviewer present that does not have a copy with them. Lastly, be confident in yourself and honest about your abilities. Take a few deep breathes before walking in; everyone gets nervous before an interview, there’s no need to stress too much! Share what you want to get out of the experience, talk about your strengths, and don’t feel the need to lie about any weaknesses. The question of, “What are your weaknesses?” is a dreaded question that is asked in almost every interview. After doing a mock interview during my junior year of college I was told by a faculty member to not answer this question with a strength in disguise, “I guess my greatest weakness is caring too much” or “I’m a little too organized” is not what the interviewer needs to hear. Be honest and admit to needing a little more practice with Microsoft Excel or say that you sometimes need a bit of extra time when it comes to handling contracts cases. Tell them something that you need a bit more practice with, and assure them that you are working on improving. And remember to thank the interviewers for their time!

Good luck with any future interview that you may have!

Law School: Post Zoom

Finally, after a whole year of Zoom law school, Widener Commonwealth Law is back in-person! Seeing the campus for the first time as a 2L felt bizzare. Being able to meet my professors and peers after a year of only getting to know them through a screen was well worth it. Instead of logging onto Zoom with a minute to spare and logging off as the professor says, “that is all for today,” my peers and I finally get the chance to small talk, make plans for the weekend, stress about upcoming assignments, and create memories together that we never had the opportunity to do last year. 

But with all this fun and excitement of meeting new people and making plans, it is easy to forget our workloads. After your first 1-2 weeks of law school, it is important that you create your own schedule and stick to it! What has worked for me is that I do all of my assigned readings and case briefings the day/night before my classes. By doing it that way, I give myself plenty of time to read and brief the cases, so I can find exactly what concept or rule is being applied and examined. After my classes, I add to my outlines right away. Sometimes if I have some free time before bed, I watch Themis and Barbri videos, which are third-party bar prep providers that provide free videos and outlines for law school students, to visualize how these concepts and rules are used. During the weekends, I use my time to apply to internships, write cover letters, study for midterms, and, most importantly, relax and make memories with my friends. Three years of law school may seem like a lot, especially after completing undergrad; however, the time goes by super fast. It is important to study hard in law school, but also, to enjoy the experience.

Law school is hard work and a lot of pressure. But it is doable. Don’t let anyone tell you, even if it is someone you admire or trust, that it is too hard for you. Everyone at law school is different. Different passions. Different work ethics. Different study habits. And different outlooks on life. So that means you don’t have to be like anyone else. Be yourself. Develop and adopt your own way of learning and succeeding. Most importantly, do not compare yourself to others. 

Law school is a marathon. Widener Commonwealth Law will hand out waters and towels for you throughout your race. But it is up to you to get yourself to cross that finish line and finish strong!

Three Tips for Success in Law School

  1. Don’t overcommit yourself

I could have benefited from following this advice, and this is the most important thing to remember in law school: you don’t have to be involved in everything. I was excited to be a law student and wanted to be involved in every organization I cared about or thought would be good to be involved in. I took on an ASF role, a research assistant job, and an internship for the fall semester of my second year, all in addition to the several student organizations and outside of school responsibilities I had. Well, guess what? That semester was my worst academically, and I was exhausted by the time finals rolled around. The way to fix it? Scale back and focus on a few areas that will really help you become a better person and attorney.

For me, I had a law job that I loved outside of school, so I kept it and I made sure that my effort there paid off. I learned so much more once I refocused than when I was stressed and overworked. Another reason to focus on an outside of school job? It could lead to something down the road. Your ASF work and on-campus jobs really limit you to success during law school, a line on a resume, and a professor recommendation. These are definitely important, but if you have to choose between a job that could turn permanent down the road and that student organization, focus on the job that helps you develop marketable skills you will need after school. I did, and I’m grateful for it.

2. Building Relationships is Important

Building relationships is the key to being happy in law school, staying the course, and earning your first job after passing the bar. First, getting to know your classmates is an important part of making it through law school. They understand what it’s like as a law student because they’re going through it with you. They form your study groups, help fill in gaps in your outline, and might even whisper the answer to a cold call. Either way, it’s better to go through law school with your classmates than to go it alone. It’s also important to build relationships with professors who can help counsel and mentor you as you navigate these three years. Professors were law students once too, and they often have great insight into how to navigate your particular law school. Building relationships is also what will help you earn your first job after school. It’s nice to have career services offered through school, but blindly sending your resume to hundreds of places doesn’t necessarily help you any better than finding a few really good places that you’d like to work. Every internship and job you have in the legal field is an opportunity to learn from attorneys and staff who are all looking to help people just starting in the legal field. Attorneys like to hire people they know and trust. The way you interact with professionals in the legal community will speak volumes to potential employers as to whether you are a good fit for them. Work on building relationships professionally throughout law school, and it will only help you when it comes time to find work.

3. Don’t Forget to have a Personal Life

It’s easy to get caught up in all the chaos of being a law student, but don’t just look at law school as three years of your life you will never get back. It most likely won’t be the best three years of your life–your classes may not interest you, you might have a few embarrassing cold call moments, and you won’t have any multiple choice exams–but they don’t have to be the worst three years of your life either. Look for opportunities to find personal growth and enjoy yourself outside of the classroom. It’s important not to let law school define who you are and to remember what you like to do other than study. If you enjoy reading for pleasure, make time to do it between chapters of Property Law. If you enjoy playing a round of golf, go out and don’t worry about three-putting. There is always more you can do to be a better law student–you can always read more, outline more, or start memorizing things for your finals earlier–but don’t forget to have a school-life balance that grounds you because that will help you keep your footing for the entire journey of law school.

A Final Thought

They say that law school is a marathon and not a sprint. I look at law school the same way I look at trips across the Pennsylvania Turnpike–exit by exit. Some exits inexplicably are 36 miles apart with a tunnel in the middle and no way out but through (looking at you, Somerset and Bedford), but you have to keep pressing on until the next rest stop. It’s important never to lose sight of the final destination, but it’s also important to take it one piece at a time.

When I started my first year, it made me crazy to think about being a 3L or studying for the bar. The best thing I did was set little mile markers and be glad when I got to each one. Trust me, you’ll get through it if you pace yourself and know that you don’t have to take the bar until you get through all the other pieces of school.

Enjoy the ride. It’ll be over before you know it.

Make the Most of Your Internships

This summer, I was able to work two internships, one for school at Widener’s clinic and the other with a professor of mine working on research. Towards the end of the spring semester I was scrambling trying to find an internship, and I was able to connect with a professor after just talking after class and the clinic presented as a good opportunity for me to satisfy my experiential requirements for school.

I was trying to work with connections I had back home for a summer internship hopefully as a job and definitely as a source for experience, since being only in the classroom so far hasn’t provided the most amount of real-world law practice. While I was in the middle of searching with the help of a family friend at home, I stayed back after my Copyright & Trademark class with my professor to ask questions, which turned into her asking about my summer. I explained my situation and she offered me a spot to help out with a project for her this summer working with her firm. I was able to learn a lot more about Trademark law which I became very interested in from her class, and make a connection with a professor willing to help me with the job search after school. I learned that it is incredibly important and can be extremely helpful to speak with your professors, since you never know what can come from it.

For the clinic, I knew that it was an option that existed for me to obtain my experiential credits out of the classroom and I was unsure what to expect. During the seven weeks there in the summer semester, I got more out of the experience than I thought I would. I learned a lot about different areas of law and how they work, but more importantly about working with other interns and bouncing ideas off of each other proved very helpful. Additionally, we were all able to help each other out figuring out what next steps to take in our case, drafting documents, and breaking down cases with each other, and we simply worked very well together. The experience there taught me a lot about what I want to look for in a firm when I’m job searching, and I’m glad I had other students with me to go through that experience with.

The summer was definitely difficult managing both of these internships as well as a class, but like every semester it always works out and the work gets done. I’m glad I took advantage of both of these opportunities and got a lot out of them both.

Summer Classes, Summer Internship, or BOTH!!!!

This summer was very unusual for me because my goal was to finish law school a semester early and also get my experiential learning experience.  So, what did I do? I decided to challenge myself and take 4 summer classes and do my summer internship. I was fortunate enough to have been offered a position at the Delaware Department of Labor, Division of Industrial Affairs, Office of Workers’ Compensation. During my internship I had the pleasure to meet with the Director of Industrial Affairs, the Delaware Secretary of Labor, and the Deputy Attorney General who represent the Delaware Department of Labor. During my internship, I have conducted legal research, attended hearings, attended meetings, drafted motions, and communicated with different agencies regarding different legal issues. I had very busy days at my internship, and I would come back home to classes from 4PM to 8 PM. I was extremely exhausted. I was mentally drained. I was eager to finish. But the most important thing is that I wanted this. I wanted to finish early, and I pushed myself to prove to myself that I can do anything. Prior to signing up for classes and my internship, I did not imagine that I was capable of doing my internship and coming back to online classes. I imagined that I would be able to enjoy my summer during the weekend.  However, I had a lot of school assignments and studying to prepare for the following week. Some may say “that I had no summer.” Others may say “you’re setting yourself up for failure.” But one thing that I say is that I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me. The first year of any law student is always a battle and I know that if I survived the first year, I will be able to survive anything after that. All I know is that God has brought me this far and he will not leave me behind, no matter what anybody believes. I believe that I am capable of finishing both my classes and my internship like I planned. Yes, I did not have the best summer, but I wanted to finish early from law school to show myself that I am capable. The whole point is that despite what people say you have to believe in yourself in order to accomplish what you want and not what they want. So yes, summer classes or internship, just why not do both and push yourself to do better- for yourself!

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. 

Fun in Law School and the Power of Checklists

Law school is nothing like I expected it to be; it is so much more. I came to Widener straight from undergrad, without taking any pre-law or law related courses. I thought law school would give me lists of statutes and codes to memorize. Instead, I’ve received an experience that has re-shaped my critical thinking and writing skills. By far the biggest surprise is how much fun I’m having in law school so far. I was told about the stress, the opportunities, and the heavy reading that I could expect as a law student. But no one ever told me that I was going to have so much fun. This could be because I’ve always been an academic at heart, or it could be because Widener Commonwealth is a truly unique and lovely place to study law.  

I was lucky enough to receive a real, physical tour of Widener before COVID shut everything down. From the moment I stepped on campus, I knew that Widener was special. It is small enough that professors and administrators know your name, but large enough to provide countless opportunities for experiential learning. Widener and I “clicked”, and I wake up every morning grateful to be a student here. If you are a prospective Widener student, I highly encourage you to reach out, schedule a tour, and get in touch with a student ambassador.  

I’d also like to pass on something I learned this year: the power of checklists. At the beginning of each semester, I find myself frustrated that I cannot see the whole “picture” at once. In law school, you work through each element of a crime, tort, or contract before coming to the big picture. This was such a dramatic shift for me from undergrad, where I felt like I had everything presented to me at once. Instead of trying to see the finish line, I had to force myself to slow down and enjoy the scenery along the way. As each element or concept comes along, put it into a list. This will help keep information organized and make outlining easier. When you finally do have the big picture towards the end of each semester, your list will become an invaluable study tool for final exams. Instead of having to piece together a semester’s worth of scattered information, you will have a beautiful checklist to aid you while writing. While you study and do practice exams, you can simply move down the checklist and let it guide your writing.  

No matter what class you’re writing a checklist for, don’t forget to keep in mind your own personal big picture.  Everyone has a reason for coming to law school. It’s important to keep your end goal in mind, but don’t forget to enjoy the scenery along the way.