Now that two weeks of the second semester have gone by, I’m starting to feel like I’m totally back into the swing of things. Winter break came and went. I finally got my first semester grades, so I can officially stop thinking about Fall semester. Now I’ve got a fresh set of classes to work on and lots of new things to think about.
So far, my favorite change from last semester has been my writing class. Last semester, we mainly focused on writing predictive memoranda. The lessons and assignments focused on applying the law to the facts of our hypothetical clients’ situations and writing memos to our “supervising attorney” predicting what the outcome would be if the case were to go to trial. It was certainly interesting (and very important) to learn how to write this type of memo, but I like the content of this semester better. The focus has shifted to writing an appellate brief, which is addressed to a judge rather than a colleague. The major difference—and the reason I like it so much—is that now our writing needs to be persuasive. Our appellate briefs are by no means complete works of creativity; there is still a specific format that needs to be followed and there are rules about what needs to be included. However, writing persuasively allows for more wiggle room. I’ll be able to choose more vivid and descriptive words to explain the facts and how the law applies to them. Understanding and explaining the law correctly is important and interesting, but I’m very excited about the chance to use my words a little bit more creatively in order to help my clients (even though my clients are still fictional at this point).
Another exciting (and honestly, a little intimidating) aspect of this writing class is oral arguments. In the spring, the class is going to get the chance to do mock oral arguments in front of real judges! More on that later. For now, I just need to take advantage of the relative calm before the semester gets crazy. Back to reading!
I won’t lie: I’ve been a little lazy for the last few weeks, but I think it’s justified. This holiday time has been my longest chunk of free time since Orientation in August! Between a short trip home for Christmas (hello, Eugene!) and lots of quality time reading novels instead of casebooks, I’ve also been trying to figure out just what exactly I’ll be up to this summer. I’ve already found multiple opportunities that seem like they would be interesting and rewarding, and have begun preparing application materials. I started by revisiting a Memo from Legal Writing for my writing sample (really? I have to edit this thing AGAIN?) and fine tuning my résumé. Not exactly exhilarating winter break activities, but the responsible student in me knows that it will be better to have a lot of this done before classes start again so I don’t get too bogged down.
Another—slightly more fun—aspect of the job search is making sure I look the part. As a Christmas treat, my mom took me suit shopping downtown. Admittedly, I wasn’t too excited going into the shopping trip; I’m more of a jeans and a t-shirt kind of girl. However, we survived the hoards of shoppers and managed to find a nice suit. Although it’s really nothing more than a new outfit, it feels good to have one more step of the job search out of the way. Now I just need to land an interview so I get a chance to rock the latest addition to my professional wardrobe!
Time to buckle down. It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that my fellow 1Ls and I were adjusting to the end of our summers and starting a new chapter of our education and careers. Between trying to figure out how to brief a case, deciding which student group meetings to attend, and learning how to network, the time has flown by quicker than I imagined it would.
In addition to keep up with daily reading assignments, I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to consolidate everything I’ve learned so far into an outline that I can use to study for my final exams. Looking through my notes from the first week of classes and comparing them to more recent notes, I’m amazed at both how clueless I was in the beginning of the semester and how quickly I managed to catch on. The analogy that first came to mind is the cliché that the brain is a muscle and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. I’ve noticed the last week or so how much more efficient of a legal reader and note-taker I’ve become, which has been not only saving me time but helping me feel more prepared to discuss the readings in class.
Now it’s getting closer to the time to test my new knowledge and skills. So far, preparing for law exams has been unlike any studying I had to do in undergrad. It’s definitely a little nerve wracking to go an entire semester with minimal feedback and know that my entire grade will depend on a three-hour exam. However, with enough preparation, I know I’ll be able to survive exams and indulge in a few weeks of winter relaxation.
One of the first law school myths that was debunked for me was not having time for anything outside of school. Movies about law school will often portray us law students as crazed maniacs running around trying to finish ridiculous amounts of reading. To some extent, that’s probably what we look like to the rest of the world. But sometimes, we get a chance to live our non-law lives, too.
On Sunday, I spent 5 hours, 46 minutes, and 15 seconds not thinking about law. I was running my very first marathon! Although my time may not be impressive to most, what I think is impressive is how little I complained to my father/running buddy about my achy joints and muscles during the 26.2 mile race. At around mile 16, the course starts to make its way up a fairly large hill, which is in fact an on-ramp to the St. John’s Bridge. Once the runners get on the bridge, the climb is still not over for about another quarter mile. I got to the top feeling considerably out of breath and beaten up, but I was rewarded with a beautiful view of Downtown Portland and endless blue October skies above it. The next several miles were very difficult, but once I got to about mile 22 I started forgetting how tired I was and instead began thinking about how close I was to finishing. One of the motivational signs I saw a supporter holding seemed particularly relevant to this part of the race. It read “Crazy got you here; Grit will get you to the finish.” And it did!
After my long day of pounding pavement through Portland, I ate a huge meal, took a nap, and got back to reading. After all, I’m still in law school…
Prior to law school, I never could have articulated a clear vision of what I expected from the ‘law school experience’. Of course, in my pre-L summer of anxiousness, I read a few books about what to expect. Most of those books only helped me to unite my disjointed visions of law school by adding fear into the mix.
Now, after surviving my first semester, I can say with certainty that no ‘fear-inducing’ book could ever prepare a pre-L for a ‘Lewis & Clark’ law school experience. This is because my first semester experience was a positive one. Lewis & Clark has exceptional faculty along with a friendly and collaborative academic atmosphere.
Although each of my professors had his or her own unique style of teaching, all of my professors shared a common desire: a desire to teach us well. All of my professors maintained an open door policy, were friendly, and did their best to engage our minds in ways more creative than just using the Socratic method.
On my first day of Civil Procedure, I remember my professor walking up the stairs to ask me if I would be willing to serve as “The Judge” for the entirety of the semester. Without knowing what this “Judge” position required, I accepted willingly. I later learned that “Judge Ilias” would be called on more than 30 times throughout the course to make decisions on a semester-long hypothetical regarding a car accident! By having to constantly be alert during class, I was forced to be engaged mentally. Now, upon reflection, I couldn’t be more appreciative. I was given simulated first-hand experience on how to think like a judge. How fantastic is that?
This judge trend continued for me in Contracts too. I remember being selected by my professor to serve as a judge and listen to arguments regarding additional and/or different terms. I was required to ask questions to obtain more information from my classmates and to eventually make a decision. This simulation allowed me to develop a stronger understanding of the policy behind rolling contracts than if I had only read the casebook.
I will be honest. When I was forced to be a judge in both classes, I was scared to mess up and to make a fool of myself. However, my classmates provided me with the camaraderie and support that allowed me to overcome these fears. My classmates would encourage me, make jokes, laugh with me, and give me high-fives. It was great. I have made best friends here and I thrive in our cordial and collaborative environment.
I am thrilled that those pre-L ‘fear-inducing’ books were not accurate. More importantly, I am incredibly happy that I chose Lewis & Clark.