- Maureen Orth is a second-year law student from Prairie Village, Kan.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
- Maureen Orth is a second-year law student from Prairie Village, Kan.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Networking, anxiety and keeping things in perspective
It's February of my 3L year, and I am flying high. Instead of reading for my one real class, I go to trivia night with my roommates. Instead of writing yet another draft of my Law Review note, I watch “The Bachelor” (#TeamWhitney). Instead of stressing out over Lawyering assignments, I plan weekend trips to visit the friends I can finally make a priority in my life again.Man, I hate myself just reading that. I'm sorry.
Here's the thing: Like anything else you’ve jumped into blindly, it gets better with time. Two years ago, I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even last year, I felt like I was sinking in a never-ending pit of stress, anxiety and competition. But I slogged through, and it got so much better. To some extent, this is just a natural product of time and experience. Shoot a thousand free throws and you get better at shooting free throws. Do a bunch of musicals and you get better at doing musicals. Take a dozen law school exams and, hey, guess what?! You get better at law school exams. (I am fairly certain this logic is true – I haven't played sports in a decade, and the musical thing is but a lifelong dream).That said, in the nostalgic and sentimental cruise down memory lane that inevitably accompanies every senior year I’ve ever done, I have been reflecting on the whole law school extravaganza and there are some things I wish I had known earlier. Here are a few of them, compiled from both my own thoughts and with some input from my fellow upperclass comrades who have also conquered this monster of a ride:
You have to network
I can’t count the number of times someone said, "You've got to network!” and the number of times I said “.... but I don’t want to.” I hate networking. It makes me uncomfortable and weird, and all I want is to run away from meaningless small talk about the cold winter we’ve been having and how much work law school is. But, alas, it is so. so. important. It’s the only way to get a job – all the As in the world won’t cover up your extreme awkwardness when you are forced to chat with a dozen people in the span of a callback interview. But it doesn’t end there. Law school events, from summer internship parties to visiting speakers to random conversations with professors in the hallway pretty much begin and end with small talk. Most of us are interchangeable based on our resumes – good grades, involvement in frivolous college organizations that we bill as “leadership,” a study abroad experience that was really a nonstop party, a couple of unpaid internships – so you have to be a functioning human in person. With opinions. But not too many opinions. NEVER HAVE TOO MANY OPINIONS because you will anger someone, and that someone will be a law firm partner, and then you’re done. So I would tell 1Ls to network, but network wisely. Network with care.
All you have is your reputation
Perhaps a piggyback on the last point. [Side note: How many times have you heard, “I’m just going to piggyback off that idea...” in law school classes? More than a thousand? Definitely.] Anyway, I’m going to piggyback real quickly. I think all legal communities are relatively small, but that is definitely true in Kansas and the Kansas City area. It can be a great thing: one small connection, and you're basically walking into a web of opportunities. But it can also be a not-so-great thing: one small connection, and you’re basically walking into a web of disaster. The legal community is small and news (and gossip) travels quickly. Watch what you do and watch what you say because it does follow you for the length of your career. Be nice to each other, and make friends wherever you can. You will need these connections because you will truly be around the same people for the rest of your life.
Anxiety is OK
I have always been fairly anxious, but I managed it fine until law school. This environment was completely new and demanding in a way I wasn’t ready for, and I went a wee crazy for a little bit. I wish someone had told me it was going to happen, or at least when it happened that I would be OK. I will forever be grateful for my best friend, Celina, who was one of my roommates at the time of my anxiety-induced brain fog situation (Google it: It’s real and it’s scary). One desperate night I tried to explain to her what was happening, and she told me in her best nursing student/calm friend voice, “It’s just stress. You will be OK." And even though I probably freaked her out, that is what I needed to hear in that moment. Because it was just stress. And I was OK. But to have a semester’s worth of anxiety, fear, stress and self-doubt come crashing down on you in a flaming explosion where it seems like you are literally going insane was really not what I was anticipating when I started law school. So I would tell incoming law students or 1Ls or maybe even 2Ls who are facing a new batch of stressors: It’s just stress. You will be OK. And also: Go to the doctor, man! No one wants to talk about mental health because we are Strong People Who Don’t Need Help, but sometimes we need help. And that’s OK.
Ask for help to figure out the rules of the game ASAP
None of us know how to do law school. Starting day one, we have to read 20-30 pages a night for each class and are expected to be able to talk about every fact, every rule, every issue, every policy rationale, every dissent, and how everything fits together. OK ... go! And then we are expected to condense it into a brief synopsis that you could memorize and apply to any set of facts. And then we are expected to eloquently articulate it on a three-hour exam and do it better than everyone else in the class can do it. I wish I had reached out to someone and asked him or her to go through a week’s worth of law school with me. Just sit next to me and guide me through it, like an older sibling teaching her little sister how to tie her shoes. I wish someone had explained how to be prepared for class without overstressing the night before. I wish someone had made me figure out time management. I wish someone had explained to me how to outline. I wish someone had shown me how to write a law school exam, one that just gives the professor what he or she wants instead of being a jumbled mess of rules and cases. I mean, I get that we all have to figure that out on our own, it’s all part of the “process” or whatever, but as long as we’re talking about things I wish I had known, I’ll add this to the list.
Nothing is a disaster
So simple to say, so hard to remember. These are not my words (thanks, Emily!) but they sum up the message perfectly. We are in law school, which is such a privilege. We get to spend our days talking about abstract theoretical concepts and hypotheticals. We are so lucky to have the chance to get graduate degrees in a country and a world where that’s not a reality for everyone. My worst days in law school are heavenly compared to so many people’s lives. The things that stress me out are inconveniences – a lot of reading, a lot of pressure, a lot of information crammed into my head – but they are not problems. I wish someone had made me remember that. I wouldn’t have listened, clearly, because I get too wrapped up in my head and lose perspective. But I wish I had done a better job of remembering that it would be fine, that I would pass my classes and graduate and be a lawyer and it would not matter how my final trial in Trial Ad went or if my Law Review paper was not superb. The little failures or the bad days just do not matter in the long run. It will be fine. Nothing is a disaster.
Keep on marching. Savor the good experiences, and do your best to move past the bad. Three years honestly flies by; one day you’re nervously sitting alone in the hallway in your OCI suit, wondering how you can be so sweaty in January, and the next thing you know, you’re booking hotels in the middle of Missouri for the bar exam and hoping your friends like you enough to be character references for your application. 3L year does arrive. And once it does, it’s glorious.
— Jordan Carter is a third-year law student and a KU Law Student Ambassador from Topeka, Kansas.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
|KU Law students explore Wichita's Old Town.|
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
First-year law students Cody Wood, left, and Ethan Brown
When I started law school, I thought that I had things pretty well figured out. I mean, I had survived for more than four years on my own in undergrad, and that had worked out for me.
Not so, my friends, not so.
Things are different here. Classes are (basically) in a whole new language. I’m surrounded by incredibly brilliant people (I think we can all agree that this is not the norm for undergrad campuses). Even my shopping trips in law school are quite different from how they were in undergrad. Back in the day, I’d saunter in to Walmart (around 1 a.m., of course), grab a cart, and begin my long, aimless meander through the store. I never had a specific, pre-determined list. I might have one or two things in mind, but for the most part my inner-dialogue while shopping went something like this:
Did I need shampoo or body wash? Eh, I’ll just get a combo and call it good.
Aw, heck yeah, pizza rolls are on sale! I can fit 17 bags in the freezer, right?
I should buy some fruit or vegetables or something. How do you tell if an avocado is ripe? I guess I’ll just try a few.
I think you get the idea. By the end of the trip, I probably couldn’t even tell you why I had half the stuff in my cart, let alone what I had originally come to the store for. Probably for the better, my law school shopping trips have come a long way. They are direct and pointed missions. I move through the aisles like a cat on the hunt (maybe more like a dog … a big dog. I’ve never been very graceful, and I tend to bump into things a lot).
To save you the trouble of learning as I had to, I’ve compiled the essential shopping list of a first-year KU Law student. You, too, can have efficient shopping trips during which you don’t forget any of the essentials. I would recommend adapting as needed to fit your circumstances, but I feel that this should cover a wide range:
New coffee maker
That one-cup-at-a-time Keurig just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Sorry. I recommend going for capacity here, rather than features. Really, something industrial might be best.
Oh, you’ll have the best of intentions. You’ll tell yourself that you’ll wake up early enough every morning to get one of the coveted parking spots close to the building, but it won’t last long. When you eventually give in to making the trek up the hill from the far lot, you’re going to want something comfortable.
Ingredients for that fancy recipe you’ve been wanting to try
It’s your turn to host the “family dinner” that your small section has every weekend. These people really have become your support system/life lines/best friends, and you’d like to impress them. You’re thinking something that has asparagus in it. That’s always popular.
Dinner rolls and whichever wine is on sale
Because, let’s face it, there’s a very real chance that the aforementioned recipe won’t work out. It’s great that you’re trying new things, but it’s still good to be prepared.
Just give in. Your mom has been bugging you about this one for a couple of weeks now, and she has a point. Being sick is the last thing you want on your plate when trying to study for finals. Besides, you really need that 20-cent-per-gallon gas discount that they’re giving to anyone who gets the shot.
For some reason, you decided it would be a great idea to live with your best friend, a music major. You have no complaints about his personal hygiene, which is great, but his practicing isn’t always conducive to your studying. I’d skip the little disposable foam earplugs and go for something sturdier. Maybe something that guarantees maximum sound blockage. He’s not just any music major, you know … he’s an opera major.
Spruce up that study carrel! Make it yours! The touch of life provided by something as simple as a plant will make your hours in the library much more comfortable. And, if it turns out that maybe you aren’t completely ready to be responsible for another living thing, you won’t feel as bad as you would if you’d gotten a goldfish.
On second thought, skip the cookies. You go to KU Law now. That means you live in a town where you can have cookies delivered right to you, day or night. (Yes, it’s a very real thing. I wouldn’t lie to you about cookies.)
Whether you’re an out-of-stater like me or you grew up in Kansas, you’re a Jayhawk now! Rejoice! As a KU Law student, you are part of a great community in a great town, and that is something that you'll want to show off!
OK, so maybe this list is a little too specific. All joking aside, law school will be a very different experience, no matter your circumstances. There will be challenges, and your life WILL change. The important thing is to adapt and go with it. Hang in there and have faith, my friends. If I can do it, anyone can. Just ask my (very much still living) carrel plant.
— Ethan Brown is a first-year law student from Dallas and a KU Law Student Ambassador.
Monday, December 8, 2014
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
When l entered KU Law, I got involved because I wanted an opportunity to showcase my talents and values. I immediately obtained information on all the clubs and activities offered on campus and joined a few that interested me. Did this increase my workload? Sure, but the knowledge I’ve gained and camaraderie among my peers has been rewarding.
Law school is not just a GPA, it’s an experience. Grades are crucial to what future employers look for, but they are not the only thing they look for. If this was the case, there would be no need for interviews. Getting involved in clubs and activities conveys to an employer that you are a team player, that you are able to be cohesive in a unit and successful at the same time. Clubs and activities give you the opportunity to apply your knowledge outside of the classroom. The skill of knowledge application is a critical piece of learning and what future employers are really looking for. Even more important, clubs and activities provide a needed break from scholastic strain. During orientation, so many speakers spoke of the need to find the proper balance for success. I interpret that as a warning against all work and no play. Activities teach the value of work-life balance.
Law school is a competitive beast. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline, but it can also be the greatest experience of your life. Let the clubs and activities become your creative outlet. When I get bogged down in a mountain of memo research and discovery projects, I relieve the stress by pursuing my passions. I pursue my passion for community service by helping coordinate the Black Law Students Association's food drive, or my passion for litigation by helping defend parking violations in traffic court. Whatever your passion is, pursue it. Be the real you. Be the best you. Let your best qualities show through more than a four-hour final. Find a club that you are passionate about, and get to work.
— Kriston Guillot is a first-year law student from Shawnee, Kansas, and a KU Law Student Ambassador.