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The Importance of a Good Schedule

Some people are morning people; others prefer to get things done at night. Some people are full-time students and others are part-time. Some people work in addition to attending law school and others don’t. Some people are in multiple student organizations, some are in one, and others aren’t in any. We all have pretty hectic schedules in law school. It’s important to make sure that we are all doing everything that needs to be done. I myself juggle school, work, and student organizations, so it was extremely important for me to sit down and figure out when I’d be getting things done. I had to schedule work around classes, study time around work, and my responsibilities to student organizations around everything else. However, I still make sure to reserve time time to myself away from all responsibilities. I make sure I have time to go to the gym, occasionally visit home, and sometimes just do nothing. Having a schedule for yourself ensures that you stay on track with everything that you may have going on and allows you to make time for yourself. I strongly suggest that everyone makes a schedule that they are able to stick to!

Brain Block? Take a Walk.

Time and time again, there is one point in each semester that I find myself stuck. Stuck in my head, turned around, confused, other thinking, over it. It usually comes after having taken several finals with more in the near future or after spending weeks writing a paper and the due date is in sight. The exhaustion comes from the reading, the retaining, the analysing, over and over again for months. And finally, when I need my brain and focus the most, I cannot do it. At this moment, I start to panic because this is the last thing I have time for. Over the years, I have learned to do the opposite of what feels right in that moment – I stop. I listen to my brain and I take a break. I go on a walk, call a friend, clean the house, whatever it may be, but my brain rests. Sometimes its an hour, sometimes its three hours. And when I come back, my brain is ready and three times as productive as it was when I was trying to force myself to keep going. Time can be your enemy, or you can make it your friend. Things become a lot easier when you allow it your friend!

Life as a 3L

When you are a 1L, being a 3L seems unfathomable. One moment you are jumping into a completely new experience, with new people, tackling more work than you had your entire college career. You are navigating note taking, writing projects, and creating outlines for every class. You aren’t thinking about being a 3L let alone the end of your 1L year. You are present in the chaos and soaking up as much information as you can. As a 3L, I can say a lot has changed since my 1L year. I don’t have class as often which has allowed me to work a part time job and extern at not one, but two placements. I have had more time to network, build connections, and start figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I have been preparing for the upcoming summer which will include nothing but bar prep, making arrangements for the 10 weeks of intense studying that will be happening starting June. I have more time to focus on my mental health and physical health because of the flexibility of my schedule and finally feel like I am caught up on work. I say all of this to say, no matter where you are in your law school journey (whether that is applying, being accepted or starting your first year), it does get easier. You do feel like you’ve got the hang of it after two intense years of schooling and start navigating test taking differently. You know your study habits and understand how to prioritize your time to suit your needs. You’ve made the connections during your first and second year that you are now utilizing while starting to job hunt. You feel more confident in yourself and your decision to pursue a law degree. Although law school is not easy, it gets better. You may feel like you are drowning in work, anxiety, and the unknown, but it all will make sense when the pieces start falling together towards the end of your law school journey. Trust and embrace the process, it will treat you well.

Are Internships Really Worth It?

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. 

LinkedIn: Is it Worth it?

Today, especially from COVID and on, many people use online networking as a way to make connections and even obtain employment. Prior to undergrad and law school, most individuals have Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Once you “get older” you are told that you need to get a LinkedIn account. For me, I did this around sophomore year of college. Although you are always told to create this account, many have no idea what to do from there. Many people, including myself, would just post their resume and sporadic academic achievements, such as dean’s list.

During my second year at Widener, I decided to get serious about an internship in the field I wanted to be in, in the hopes that I would achieve post grad employment. Internships available through our school resources did not really seem to fit into my narrow specialty I wanted: a boutique firm that solely focused on family law. From this, I went and emailed probably ten to fifteen firms. No luck. Then, I began searching “family law attorney” all over LinkedIn. I found one attorney that caught my eye and sent a message saying something along the lines of I was really interested in her line of work and that I would love to talk to her about how she got to where she is at. I believe the best move that I could have made was that I did not ask for an interview or for a job. Instead, I tried to get to know the attorney prior to asking for job opportunities. The attorney responded to my message inviting me to a lunch and to discuss her career. 

Once I got to know this attorney in particular, I felt an immediate connection and I could not help but be proud of myself and the leap that I chose to make by randomly messaging her on LinkedIn. I was grateful that after our interaction she asked if I was looking for summer employment. Fast forward a few months, I loved every minute at this office and I was given a job offer for post grad. 

From this opportunity, I cannot rave enough about going off on your own and making attempts to network. Although it may sound scary, it is worth the uncomfortableness you may feel for a short period of time.

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!