Trust the Process

It is hard to believe that I will be graduating from Widener Law Commonwealth in a little over two months. I echo the sentiment shared by my classmates in earlier blog posts, your time in law school will fly by. I have learned a lot about the law, obviously, and a lot about myself in the past three years. In August of 2019, when I began this journey, I was worried that law school may not be right for me.

Unlike most of my classmates, my undergraduate degree was in the sciences, specifically biochemistry. As a part of Widener’s 1L orientation you take a pass-fail course called Introduction to Legal Process. I listened to lectures and read materials on the Constitution, the three branches of Government, and so on. Topics I had not thought of or learned about since high school. I wondered if I was in over my head.

Three years later I can say that I do not regret my decision to attend law school. Frankly, I think it is one of the best decisions I could have made. There was certainly a learning curve, but there is a learning curve for all law students regardless of your background. You never know how your background may benefit you when it comes to learning the law.

I found that my laboratory experience gave me a trained eye for detail that I now use to analyze sets of facts. Also, a very important skill in the sciences is asking the right questions, which I believe is an equally important skill to have as a lawyer. Overall, I was able to use my problem-solving skills that I developed in math and science courses to solve legal problems.

Thanks to Widener’s Career Development Office I was made aware of different opportunities to combine the law and sciences. During my 1L year, I was encouraged by my professors and the Assistant Dean for Career Development to take the Patent Bar. I went out on a limb and took and thankfully passed the Patent Bar the summer after my 1L year. The following summer I worked for an intellectual property law firm and now work as a legal clerk for them. I have enjoyed the opportunity to combine my science background with what I have learned in law school by assisting with legal issues surrounding patents for a wide range of technologies.

I don’t know what I expected when I began my law school journey, but I am very happy with the ending destination. The journey by no means was simple, it was arduous and challenging. Something that has helped me along the way is to remember that it is a privilege to be in law school. Rather than viewing all the work as a burden I try to view it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, and accomplish something that will open doors for the rest of my life.

Don’t Let Your Grades Define You

When I first started law school, a part of me believed that I had to be a “perfect” student in terms of grades. In undergrad, I was largely convinced that my entire experience was defined by how well I did on assignments. While my hard work has certainly paid off, law school is an entirely different playing field. The assignments are different, my attention to reading has changed, and I’ve had to adapt my writing style. This is a lot to handle as a first year law student, especially on top of adjusting to a new schedule and new people. 

My heartfelt suggestion to any prospective or first year student is to be gentle with yourself your first year in law school. It’s incredibly easy to drown in self-inflicted standards. You don’t have to be number one in the class – what’s important is that you manage your time well, keep up with classes and readings, and do the best you can. I found that once I stopped focusing on grades in a purely numerical sense, doing well on exams became a matter of practicality. I stopped being obsessed with what worked the “best” and instead focused on what worked best for me. This change in perspective actually helped my grades. Don’t focus on being #1 – focus on doing well. If you do well, everything else will follow. 

Understandably, a lower than average LSAT score can be a cause of stress for prospective law students. Do not let your LSAT score define you as a person or discourage you from applying to law schools. Your LSAT score will not necessarily dictate your legal career. 

If you are a prospective student and have questions regarding Widener Law or the application process, please feel free to reach out to any of the student ambassadors. We are passionate about the Widener community and would love to help you. 

Public Interest Practice in PA

I have lived around Harrisburg my entire life. I have a passion for public policy and public service. Living near a capital city has so many upsides, and practicing law in a capital city has even more upsides. If you are looking to practice law as part of government service, Widener has ample opportunities for you.

The Law & Government Institute is a great way to get connected in Harrisburg. So many government agencies hire law students, providing great opportunities for students to start a role in administrative law. Many of these positions aren’t partisan and are good for students on both sides of the aisle.

Widener is also a great place for students hoping to work at the Capitol in either the House or Senate. The Offices of General Counsel within each caucus frequently hire law students to immerse themselves in the legislative process and the litigation that follows.

As a capital city, Harrisburg is also home to outstanding opportunities to work for state courts and for state court judges. In addition to state courts, Harrisburg is home to a federal courthouse for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Here, students have the opportunity to work for the U.S. Attorney, federal Public Defender, or take advantage of Widener’s excellent program to place students in clerkships with federal judges.

I took advantage of many of these opportunities, working in a District Attorney’s Office and in the Pennsylvania State Senate. The relationships you build in these fields will provide invaluable experience in public interest work. If you’re not sure where to go to find these positions, just ask our Career Services team or reach out to the Law & Government Institute.

Don’t Rush

We live in a busy world that doesn’t know how to slow down. People are conditioned to keep moving because if we’re not moving we’re not being productive. If we aren’t being productive, we aren’t adding value to our life. If we aren’t adding value to our life, then what are we really here for? 

This is a constant cycle that is amplified when you are a student, whether you are in your early 20’s or late 40’s. Law school is a fast paced environment which is known for pushing students harder than any of type of schooling. We read hundreds of pages a week, write extensive papers, study hard for upcoming midterms and exams, get involved on campus, and try to get as many real world experiences to elevate those resumes and figure out what we want to do with our law degree. It can feel overwhelming. It can feel impossible. But I encourage everyone to take a step back and slow down. 

We are only going to go through law school once. We have three years to soak up as much knowledge, experience, and create relationships with those around us. Instead of trying to make law school go by faster, take a step back and see it for what it is. Even though law school is tough, it is hugely beneficial for personal and academic growth. Take the time to go and speak with professors, look into opportunities only given to law students and to hangout with your “law school” friends. After graduation and especially after the Bar, you don’t know where everyone is headed. Some people will move out of state, some people will stay put where they are, so why rush the time you have to spend with those people? 

I wish that someone would have told me to slow down. I am a 2L in my second semester and don’t know where the time has gone. I wish in my first year I would have taken the time to build stronger relationships with my professors, joined more on campus organizations, and spent more time with my law school friends. I have consistently been focused on the finish line (the bar exam) and now that it is approaching, I wish I would have savored my first full year for what it was. While I am looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life, there is something I’ll miss about sitting in a classroom watching my professors teach so passionately the material we need to succeed in our future.

Understand that this experience is like no other. You will not get the same opportunity again, so appreciate every moment. Everyone has their days when they are over school. All we want is to enter into the working world like all of our friends and family instead of waking up for a 9:30 A.M. sales class. But remember, you will be working for the rest of you life. You only get to be a student for so long. Savior your experience, learn what you can, and enjoy the ride. 

3 Years, 6 Semesters & Countless Hours Studying.

When I started law school in 2019, I never thought that three years would fly by as quickly as they did. I remember thinking that three years seemed like a long time but as a 3L graduating in May I can assure you that three years goes by, one would argue, too fast. Below are a few tips I’d like to pass onto future law school students:

Focus on law school as a whole not as three separate and distinct years.

It is important to look at the big picture when starting your law school career. Your priorities change as you move from a 1L to a 3L. For example, during 1L you are worried about passing, 2L you are focused on being active in clubs/organizations as well as landing an externship, and by 3L you are primarily focused on the Bar Exam and finding a job post-graduation. It can be quite overwhelming to conquer all that has to be done before the end of the three years, however, it is not an impossible task. It’s important to take the time to map out each requirement with its corresponding deadline. On top of all the requirements that Widener implements for graduation, you must fulfill additional requirements outside of law school. For example, typically the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) is taken at an outside testing center after completion of the Professional Responsibilities course. Unfortunately, these rather important mile stones can get lost in the other stresses that law school brings. Make sure to speak with a fellow student or administrator regarding the additional requirements needed in order to become a licensed attorney.

Be an active participant in all things law school.

Don’t allow the stress of law school to pull you away from clubs and organizations. A few of the predominant clubs/organizations at Widener are as follows: Student Bar Association (SBA), Student Ambassadors and Black Law Students Association (BLSA). Some of the major events held on campus via the clubs/organizations listed above are; Trivia Night, Scavenger Hunts, Sporting Events, Dean’s Picnic, Seasonal Contests, and Barristers Ball. School events allow you to meet fellow classmates, upperclassman, alumni, and professors/administrators. Although it is extremely beneficial to be involved in clubs and organizations while attending law school, it is equally important to know when you are involved in too much. I would say my best piece of advice is to learn to say “no” when your plate is too full.

Network as much as possible.

Networking is one of the most important parts of law school. Although networking with lawyers and judges is essential, networking with fellow classmates is equally important. During the duration of law school a student typically spends their time with the same group of 100 or so students. It is important to make strong and meaningful connections with your fellow classmates because after all they could end up being a future partner in a firm, the county prosecutor or even a judge. Your fellow classmates can also become life long friends that support you throughout your law career. It’s always nice to have someone who understands the stresses of law school.

Jump out of your comfort zone.

Push yourself to do things that are outside your comfort zone because in the end it will make you a better lawyer and all around better person. Law school doesn’t last forever so go join that club/organization, submit that application, or go introduce yourself to an attorney/judge. As an unknown author once said “you miss 100 percent of the chances you don’t take.” At the end of the day that one small moment, may make or break a future opportunity. Law school is all about challenging you as an individual. The socratic method in which law schools implement is not for the faint of heart. It tests students on their ability to be quick on their feet while in class. Although it is absolutely terrifying at first, overtime it becomes easier. Messing up a cold call is far from the end of the world although it feels like it at the time. I can promise you that no one will remember you messing up a cold call but YOU. Law school is about, as is anything in life, trying your best.

Good Luck!

Post Graduation Opportunities

The stress and difficulties of applying to law school, the hours of studying, the late nights, and the difficult exams are all worth it in the end when the very reason for wanting to go to and attending law school comes to fruition.

Getting a job after graduation is the reason why almost all law students go to law school. There are goals and dreams that can only be achieved after enduring the grueling three to four years of schooling. For me, I had a few possible goals for what I wanted to do after law school, one of which was becoming a military JAG. As a child of a Servicemember, I always thought joining the military would be an exciting experience that would provide me opportunities like no other while also contributing to something bigger than myself. Once I figured out that I wanted to be a lawyer, I thought to myself, “how great would it be to merge the two.” (“The two” being the military and being a lawyer.) At the beginning of my 1L year, I attended several of our Career Development Office’s lunch and learns for the various branches to hear about the opportunities that each branch offered. It was through at that I learned the road to becoming a JAG.

To start my journey, I applied for the Army 2L internship for the summer before my 3L year. I was selected to be one of the about 75 interns that would be placed at various Army installations around the world. To Fort Rucker, Alabama I went! It was such a fun and rewarding experience. I was given challenging writing assignments that strengthened my writing abilities. I also had the opportunity to attend military legal proceedings. In addition to these, I was able to learn about what Army lawyers do outside the office – I was taken on a helicopter flight (so cool!), did PT with my office in the (early) mornings, and completed a Special Forces obstacle course (super hard but so fun). These experiences (yes, even the early morning PT) solidified my desire to join the military as a JAG. I applied, and this past September, was notified that I was selected for commissioning. One of my life long dreams is finally coming true after years of hard work.

The news that I had a confirmed job after law school graduation was so rewarding and exciting. Widener Law Commonwealth helped me greatly in getting where I am today. Through WLC’s wonderful and knowledgeable professors that taught me the ins and outs of the law, the plethora of leadership opportunities available of which I took advantage, and the amazing friendships that I have formed over the years, I have achieved my dreams.

In addition to the Army and the other branches, through the years, WLC graduating students have earned post-graduation positions at a myriad of prestigious firms and organizations as well as with federal and state courts. WLC’s placement as the only law school in the commonwealth’s capital, our students have access to positions with the state government and court system as well as positions in the federal court system.

Hard work and dedication truly payoff in the end. I am grateful for all the opportunities that I received while at Widener.

Zoom School of Law…again.

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. 

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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! 🙂

Choosing Law School Classes Wisely

Pile up on required classes: The last thing you want in law school is to have your graduation delayed because you did not take a required class. Make sure to check with your school and see what classes are required in order for you to graduate. If you know any upper-level students, ask around and see what classes fill up the fastest or which classes they recommend taking. This will allow you to plan ahead and not get thrown off if you go to register for classes and half of them are full.

Don’t be afraid to take any summer classes: If you are stressed out taking 15 credit hours or more during the fall or spring semester, taking one or two classes in the summer can be very useful. Not only will it help lighten your schedule for you in later semesters, it can also open more possibilities if you do not have a packed schedule. When it comes to doing a summer job or internship, most employers are very understandable about you being in school and are willing to work around your schedule. Widener itself is helpful since most summer classes offered by the school are night classes which allow you to work in the mornings and early afternoons.

Take PR and Evidence early on: As a personal opinion, I would say take these two classes sooner rather than later. PR is an ethics class that is required by the school, and surprise you have to take and pass the MPRE in addition to passing the bar. The great news is that you can take this whenever so if you get the class out of the way early, you can take the MPRE test as a 2L or whenever it is convenient for you. In addition, most internships you get into like the fact you already have taken these classes. It gives your employer a little peace of mind.

Final Thoughts: It is better to be over prepared rather than just winging it and scheduling classes last minute. These are just a few tips so in no way think that you’re doing your scheduling wrong or are behind if you are not sure what to schedule.

Finals: Myth or Fact

It’s no secret that finals are hard in general anywhere you go, but there are many thoughts about finals that may not always be true.

  1. Finals are impossible. MYTH! Finals are hard – but they are doable! At Widener, your professors give you everything you need in order to succeed on a final. My advise is to take diligent notes each class and listen to your professor. Many professors I have had give you a wink or say something more than once to indicate that it will likely be on a final. A common saying at Widener is that your professors are not trying to “hide the ball.” This means that as long as you come to class, read the assignments, and pay attention, you will be just fine!
  2. You have to stay up all night to get a good grade. MYTH! Overall, you know your study schedule the best, but I do not believe it is necessary to stay up all night before an exam. Instead, it’s in your best interest to get a full nights rest in order to perform to your best ability. Personally, I stop studying for my exams at 8 p.m. the night before. After 8, I take a shower and give myself an hour or two to relax and do something I like, such as watching an episode of Netflix or FaceTiming a friend. I believe that if I stay up all night that I will just get exhausted and then all the information I already know will get mixed up.
  3. You are going to have to work very hard. FACT! Law school is tough and challenging – there is no denying that! As long as you keep up with your work throughout the semester and study hard it is DOABLE!
  4. “Regardless I will be okay because the professor likes me.” MYTH! Professors at Widener adhere to anonymous grading. This means that when you start your final you put a five digit anonymous number at the top instead of your name. While grading, professors see this number instead of your name, so no matter how much they like you, they do not know whose paper they are looking at! This is the same for any paper due throughout the semester or multiple choice exams.
  5. “If I participate a lot I’ll get an A.” MYTH! Most of your 1L grades will be based solely on your final exam. Many professors say they have the discretion to award plusses and minuses for grades, but that is the extent that participation can do for you.
  6. You have to start studying for finals in August. MYTH! Focus on doing your work for each week and try to review before and/or after class. That is enough for the first few weeks. After about a month of classes, I suggest starting your outlines. Outlining is just a fancier term for taking your notes from class and condensing them into a word document to study for finals. After that, I update my outlines two to three times a month to stay on top of things. Most people start studying for finals in November!
  7. “I don’t have to remember the names of every case I ever read.” FACT! You do NOT need to remember every case you have read for a final. Most professors at Widener do not even care for you to put case names in finals. This is because you have 2-4 hours (which seems like a long time but isn’t) to write your exam. Your professors want to see that you can identify issues in a fact pattern and apply the relevant law to solve the issue.
  8. It is possible to not finish an exam and still receive a good grade. FACT! As stated above, you have 2-4 hours to complete your exam. Most professors give you a long fact pattern (around 4-7 pages) with a large amount of issues to be found. They do this because they want to see how many issues you can find in a short amount of time. This being said, many people are not able to finish. Law school exams are not based out of 100 points. Instead, you get points for what you do put on paper. Therefore, if you miss some things, it is not the worst case scenario. All you have to do is write as much as you can and wrack up the points where you can.

That being said, law school is hard and challenging – I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. BUT it is doable and one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever been a part of. If you decide on Widener, know that you are here because the school believes in you and that as long as you put your best foot forward you have done your best.

Good Luck!

Thankful

To live in a country where anyone who has enough drive and determination, regardless of their socioeconomic background, can advance their career and education. To be surrounded by a community of support where I am not the only one who cares about my success. For all of the gifts I have received throughout my life and for the present and future opportunities to give the same to others.

Sometimes I find myself falling into the same trap that many law students do…trying to press the “fast-forward” button. Night after night, semester after semester……the grind is real! How lucky I am, however, that the fast-forward button doesn’t exist. How much of life would I simply skip through because of its difficulty? To find ground again, I often remind myself of just how thankful I am to be where I am. Sitting in a law school lecture, studying and reading from home with a supportive family, or fighting the hourly urge to see if grades have been released after finals. All of it… I am thankful for. All of it… a gift.

So I’ll continue to fight the urge to fast-forward, lean into the grind, and try to be thankful for every moment. Like all chapters in life, this too will be over in a blink of an eye.