The Decision.

In approximately one month I will begin 2 days of orientation and basic training, before embarking on a new journey I never anticipated. Nervous, nah. Anxious, absolutely. My decision to attend law school was completely unorthodox, random and bordering between sheer luck and cosmic intervention.

I graduated from college in the 2012, with a degree in psychology. My original intention was to continue towards my master’s degree in forensic psychology, while working for a state department in my field of study. I know I can’t possibly be the only person who had my “life timeline” planned out. I mean completely planned out, down to when I would get married, potentially have children and begin making 6 figures. The naivety. During my time working for a state department, mostly dealing with child abuse investigations, I started seeing a pattern amongst my cases, child custody battles and a lack of child advocacy lawyers. There was a system in place for these civil court cases; lawyers who represented the state, lawyers who represented the parents who could afford it, but who was going to represent the children, who had no voice? On a whim, I began researching the steps needed to get into law school and decided to sign up for the LSAT. (stay tuned for my blog about this test and the law school admissions process).

I received my LSAT scores, meh, did above average and continued to be completely engulfed in my career without blinking, and within no time, 3 years had passed. November 8, 2016. I remember the day vividly. It is a day that will be forever engraved in the minds of American’s living during this time. It was election night. I was sitting on my couch, completely in a daze (I’m not sure if this was due to the 3 glasses of Sangria I had already guzzled, or the mental confusion I was experiencing), nevertheless, I had an epiphany and a feeling as if time had stopped. I saw my mother’s face, I envisioned my future children, the pictures of the lifeless bodies of unarmed citizen killed by police, I felt the sweat of my ancestor’s and their tears of pain. I immediately felt ashamed. I realized that I was one of those people, the one who sits idly by as chaos erupts around them, without offering assistance to those in need. I decided in that moment that I would continue the mission I had set 3 years prior, I would become a lawyer in order to be that advocate for victims who need a voice.  

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Within a matter of 3 months, I gathered together all my essentials needed to apply (stay tuned for my blog post on this topic), sent some positive vibes into the universe and through the LSAC website, hit the submit button to apply. On May 11, 2017, my first choice law school changed my life with an acceptance letter. Since this moment, there have been a whirlwind of emotions, lots of research and reading and prayers. I started to notice a trend amongst blog sites for prospective law students. Proud Blonde here, Brazen Brunette there, which is wonderful for them and I truly enjoyed reading and browsing their websites, however, their characteristics and life experiences were very different from mine.

Thus came the idea to document my journey, while embracing what makes me unique.  I was startled to learn (according to the American Bar Association) only 5% of lawyers are African American, and only 36% of all lawyers are women. This led me to the conclusion that there is a need of influential figures who look like me, to pave the way for future generations. In no way is this blog a members only club for black prospective/current lawyers, it is simply a tool to inspire and educate those who may struggle with the lack of confidence and fear that I too have felt. As I write this, I’m currently counting down the days until orientation week and the first day of class. Stay tuned!

 

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2nd Month As a 1L, Here are my Tips so far…

Because I have no system in place for my blog posts, I still have roughly 40+ pages of Torts cases to read and a take home midterm to finish, I’ll keep this short and quick. Here is my top 10 lists of tips that I would recommend for a 1st semester 1L (Not that I’m an expert yet, but I ask a lot of questions)

  • Get to know your professor

From what I have noticed with these first two months, most professors have a set system and curriculum they follow every. single. year. Therefore, they know exactly how they want you to recite in class, the phrasing of the rule of law and definitely how their final exams will look. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed, and you can only get as much guidance as you ask for. Make yourself known, be respectful and go to the office hours for any issues you have.

  • Outline Every Weekend, No Matter What!

Long Story short, your outline is a condensed form of your notes for your specific class and is a simple way to review what you’ve learned. Pay attention to what your professor spends time on in lecture, write notes and every single weekend, no matter what, condense your notes with the rules of law, the cases that apply and the highlights from what your professor went over. Be careful about using other classmates, or previous student’s outlines. It’s okay to review them as a reference here and there, but everyone should be drafting their own outlines based on their own case readings and lectures

  • With Your Professor’s Approval, Send them a Copy of Your Outline to Critique.

This is where it can get tricky, and one person in my section had their Outline figuratively “ripped to shreds,” however, this is what you need! If you send your outline to your professor and they critique it heavily, LISTEN and fix the issues. Don’t get bent out of shape, now is the time to correct the wrong information because come Final Exams, its entirely too late. My Torts professor is very strict about what she wants and is looking for, therefore, I will have my rules and notes exactly how she wants. Period.

  • Genuinely Get to Know Your Classmates/ Section Mates and Network!

My section is somewhat different because we are part time students, with full time jobs/careers, so finding time to meet up is hard. When you come in to class, smile, speak and spark conversations with your classmates. This is genuinely professional and these will be the people you will spend the next 3+ years with, as well as working amongst each other in your field of law. Be Nice and Build relationships.

Networking and Socials/Mixers may seem time consuming and unimportant at first because your so focused on reading, briefing and trying to stay ahead, but the networking events are very crucial to internships and possible job offers during OCI (stay tuned for blog post, since I haven’t experienced OCI as of yet). During an alumni association mixer, I randomly sparked up conversation with a very charming man, who just so happened to be an assistant district attorney. Um… Hello!! Yes!! I am very interested in Criminal Law, more than likely Prosecution, therefore, this person could put in a good word for me for that competitive internship or job. It’s not what you know in life, it’s who you know. Go to Kinkos or some sort of store, get simple and professional business cards made, and get to networking! Always remember to dress business casual/professional at these events, never drink too much and be confident.

  • Time Permitting, Join Organizations

I’ve heard a few times where people have said that 1L’s needs to focus on class and their grades. While this is very true, it isn’t realistic and honestly to me, bad advice. If you are capable of managing your time effectively, anything is possible. Time Management isn’t a problem for me, therefore, I feel confident about my abilities to stick to my study schedule, join organizations, network, write this blog and watch Sunday Night Football. Three of which I’m doing right now! I decided to run for a Student Bar Association 1L Representative position, and was fortunate enough to be selected. In addition to this, I have joined another student organization and a local Young Lawyers Association. My studies and grades are and will remain priority, but I also have goals to enjoy law school, make lasting friendship and contribute to my school. I think its possible, and if you feel confident, then go for it! If you start to falter in your coursework, it should go without saying that outside commitments and distractions should be placed on the back burner.

  • Build a Solid Study Group

First things first, keep your circle small and tight. A solid 3-4 people is enough for a study group. These members should be likeminded, motivated people who are WILLING TO CONTRIBUTE. If people are showing up just to see what information you have, or to get tutoring, cut them off. This isn’t meant to be mean or insensitive, but your job isn’t to tutor other students, your job is to retain the information and be able to effective communicate it in lecture and on the exam. I have currently have only 1 other person in my study group, and I feel super confident about it. We both have a good grasp of the subject matter, can articulate it and have common goals. We meet on Saturdays, have a set time limit and are super focused. Build your group to the best of your ability, learn the way works best for you and your group, but always be efficient with time.

  • Secondary Sources and Study Aides

Your law school will have set Texts that your professor’s will work from, but trust me when I say, THIS IS NOT ENOUGH! There is a plethora of books, resources and study aides available, and you need to utilize them. Simply ask your professor what other materials they would suggest, most will respond with helpful resource. Online resources such as WestLaw or Lexis Nexis have the “Black Letter Law” aka the basic standard elements or principle of the law.

Ex. Batter is the intentionally act of causing harmful or offensive contact or an imminent apprehension of such contact, and a the harmful contact with the person intended, directly or indirectly results.

This is an example of the Black letter Law for the Theory of Battery. Your professor may have option ways of how they want the law structured, but the elements of Intent, Harmful or Offensive Contact, Imminent Apprehension, Directly or Indirectly Results should be present in the way you structure your sentence. In addition to utilizing these resources, completing practice exams, study aides and quizzes are very effective. I use CALI, which is a phenomenal online study aid. Quimbee provides general case briefs, that are really effective if your in a pinch.  Find what works for you, or what your school/professor recommend and do these modules and quizzes as frequently as possible.

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  • Stay Organized

This should go without saying, but sometimes It must be said. I’m one of those people who uses 5 different highlighters to label the Facts, Issues, Rule, Analysis and Precedent Cases in my casebook and briefs. It might not work for some, but when your professor calls on you to recite, you will wish you had your brief organized and discernable. I keep my classes organized in separate binders, my outlook calendar contains my work events, school events and personal events all together. Its visually helps me see what I can expect for each day and allows me to stay on top of my time. Again, everyone has their own way of making things work for them, I simply suggest finding a system and keeping it organized.

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  • Note Cards, Note Cards, Note Cards!!

Remember that Black Letter Law I talked about? Yeah, take that information and make a note card for every single topic/theory/rule you study and your professor lectures on. For Example, In Torts I have my Intentional Torts Notecards, broken down by theory then broken down further into elements and Negligence is done in the same manner, plus additional notecards for Damages, Policies, interest Protected etc. If you’re a 0L or freshly starting 1L, this information might seem over your head, but once get started you will know exactly what I’m talking about it. Note Cards are so simple because you can study them anywhere at anytime, without having to pull up notes on the computer and open your casebook. At the end of the semester, YOU NEED to have these rules memorized so you can smash that final exam.

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  • Find Time to Take Care of Yourself!

Go have a drink or two, get a pedicure, have a massage, visit your family or just sleep! Its so important to keep your mind and body healthy and rested. It might not be possible to take an entire day off, but at least an extra 2-3 hours of “Me” time is crucial to staying in the game.

GirlTrek Mobilizing #FanniesArmy to Walk Across Major Cities on Oct. 6 to Honor Civil Rights Activist Fannie Lou Hamer — GOOD BLACK NEWS

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson) Civil Rights activist and grass roots hero Fannie Lou Hamer would have turned 100 years old this October 6. GirlTrek, the largest national public health nonprofit and movement for Black women and girls, is celebrating her legacy by hosting 100 national walks. Known for her courage on the frontlines of the American […]

via GirlTrek Mobilizing #FanniesArmy to Walk Across Major Cities on Oct. 6 to Honor Civil Rights Activist Fannie Lou Hamer — GOOD BLACK NEWS

Week 1 as a 1L

As I write this blog post, I’m on my second cup of coffee. As I do love coffee very much, this is a necessary daily routine, as my body adjusts to working full time and being in law school. Currently, I am a part time student, but don’t let this distract you from the fact that I spend up to 3-4 hours a day studying when I get free time. But I digress.

The first week of school was an adjustment. For one, I graduated College in 2012, so it’s been a solid 5 years since I’ve been in a classroom setting. Along with probably 99% of the other 1L’s (first years), I had a mix of emotions throughout the week. I was nervous, frustrated (mostly because my ID card kept malfunctioning and the Bookstore never ordered the required text for my Legal Research class), overwhelmed and straight up tired. Because I am part time, I’m currently only taking 3 classes; Torts, Contracts and LRW (Legal Research & Writing). I felt a little like Harry Potter sitting in Professor Snape’s Defense against the Dark Arts class, while in Torts for the first time. Torts is basically a civil wrong doing (aka a non-criminal act, that a person may sue for, for monetary compensation). My Professor was very intimidating and it is clear she has very high expectations for 1st day 1L’s to know every Tortious act, their elements and how to clearly recite the 10 cases she assigned prior to class. Needless to say, our entire classes was on the same page as our boat of confidence slowly sank.

Contracts, my professor and his uncanny resemblance to Professor Slughorn in Harry Potter, was a stark contrast from Torts. He’s sarcastic, hilarious, patient and the subject matter, although not as interesting as Torts, was easier to understand. I look forward to learning more.

Legal Research and Writing is one word: Dope. First things first, my professor is an older Caucasian man, with Dreadlocks. Yes, you guessed it, he’s woke. LRW is probably the most important and fundamental classes a law student will take. People might think that lawyers spend most of their time in court rooms, and this is false. You have to be able to research prior cases, policies and laws, properly cite and know how to write the legal documents needed, appropriately. It could possibly be a very boring class, depending on the atmosphere, but so far I actually look forward to it and our discussions.

Overall, the hardest part of my first week is learning how to manage the many pages of reading, and case briefs. A case brief is basically breaking down a prior case into different categories (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Holding, Conclusion). Stay tuned for my blog post over this topic. When I say many pages of reading, I mean an average of about 40 pages each torts class and roughly 20-40 in contracts. That’s easily 120 pages per week, not including the cases that need to be briefed! I urge anyone with a desire to go to law school to understand, this isn’t a walk in the park, but I know it will be so worth it. As time goes by and I get more and more comfortable/knowledgeable with the subject matter, I’m sure it will get easier. Nothing worth having is easy. But in the meantime… Coffee.

Vacation before my Social Life becomes non existent…

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Mexico was everything people described it to be, magical, steaming hot and rich in Mexican Culture. I have heard over and over again, take a vacation and enjoy the summer before you start law school. I’ve heeded the advice, and have made it my mission to enjoy each and every moment of my summer. I spent 6 days at an all-inclusive resort in Playa Del Carmen, with a group of college and high school friends. I conquered my fear of the ocean and Jet Skied/Snorkeled, drank way too many margaritas, relaxed and got at least 5 shades darker! What a blessing it was to be able to experience this vacation, I’m so grateful.

10 Year High School Reunion

 

As I get older, I find myself more and more in denial about how much older I’m actually getting. Reality hit this weekend, when I attended my 10 year high school reunion. I had the fortune of attending a high school in a very diverse city, where most people had a military or government background,  so my experiences were somewhat different than most. One thing I’m grateful for, is growing up accepting and tolerant of all races, religions and self identifiers. For the past couple of weeks leading up to my reunion, my excitement was growing and most people would look at me like I was crazy when they found out I actually looked forward to seeing my old classmates. Well, the night was amazing. We all met up at a swanky little hotel on the north side of town, one of my classmates clearly has connections in high places because we were able to rent the space and utilize the bar for free! #Winning.

The best part of the night was when I realized we were all genuinely doing well in life. Some were married, had children, in their careers and several are business owners. I had a genuine interest in talking with each and every person in attendance, which definitely wouldn’t have been my maturity level 10 years ago. The highlight of my night was us all gathered around, fireball shots in hand and yelling “07” at the top of our lungs. I’m blessed to be in such an amazing space in life, alive to live these moments and looking forward to the 20 year reunion.

 

The 6 Requirements for Applying to Law School

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to apply to law school. For some, this may have been a dream of theirs from as far back as they can remember, and for other’s, like me, this may have been a gradual or last minute decision. Either way, it is imperative to understand that the process of preparing, applying and hopefully getting accepted into law school can be tough.

 

The 6 basic requirements needed to apply for an ABA certified law program:

  1. Undergraduate Degree from an Accredited College or University.
  2. GPA
  3. LSAT (Law School Admissions Test)
  4. Letter’s of Recommendation
  5. Personal Statement
  6. Registering with LSAC (Law School Admissions Council) and CAS (The Credential Assembly Service)

 

Nearly all graduate or professional programs require applicants to obtain a bachelors degree from an accredited college or university. Without this degree, applicants are not eligible to apply and won’t be admitted into an accredited law program. Once you have obtained your undergraduate degree, prospective applicants will need to provide official transcripts to the law program you will be applying for, or to the LSAC/CAS system if your program specifies. (Read Below about registering for LSAC/CAS).

Your undergrad GPA, like the 5 other basic requirements is crucial to not only getting an acceptance letter, but potentially qualifying for scholarships and grants. Current students who may be struggling to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA should buckle down and develop a game plan to improve it before graduation. Stay focused during finals, schedule time with your academic counselors and ask your professors for extra credit opportunities to help boost a lagging GPA. There is no shame in asking for help from your professors, the worst that can happen is a “no”.

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LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is a half day, standardized test, taken only 4 times per year at designated testing centers throughout the world. The LSAT is generally a one-time $180 fee, but additional fees may apply if registering late or changing your testing center. LSAT consists of five 35-minute multiple choice sections and one 35-minute writing sample section. The LSAT is designed to measure the skills needed to excel in a law school setting. Besides all the effort put into obtaining a degree and maintaining a solid GPA, the LSAT is the most essential requirement needed for law school admissions. This test can make or break any chance you have to moving forward in your quest to becoming a Board-Certified Attorney. There are many tools available to prepare, including practice tests and writing samples with explanations. Check out the LSAC website, become familiar with the testing dates and prepare.

 

One of my many goals during my undergraduate years, was to come away from college with more knowledge, skills to take into my career, lifelong friendship and professional contacts. When applying for acceptance in a law program, most, if not all programs will require a minimum of 2 letters of recommendations, and these professional contacts you cultivate during your undergraduate college years, will make this process super easy. As a courtesy for your contacts, try to give several weeks, if not months’ notice prior to you applying to law school. This will alleviate stress on you and frankly, will prevent your contact from becoming annoyed or thinking you are unprofessional for such procrastination. LOR’s should be structured to highlight your skills and strength that will directly correlate with the skills and strength’s needed to be successful while in school. On the LSAC website, you will need to list the contact information for your LOR’s writer, and an email link will be sent to them. They will need to follow the instructions of how to submit their letter (preferably PDF file) to LSAC, and there is also an option to submit their letter via mail. When LOR’s are sent via mail, and specific LOR’s form will need to be attached to it. This form can be found on your account in the LSAC system.

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If your anything like me, your personal statement will be the bane of your existence, at least for the time being. This essay, usually 3-4 pages or no less than 500 words, is your opportunity to show your personality and stand out amongst the crowd. Law School Admissions committees are probably combing through hundreds and hundreds of applications at a time, so a phenomenally written statement can be the difference between the “No” and “Accepted” pile. When writing my personal statement, the hardest part was finding a topic that I felt could showcase my writing ability and intrigue the reader enough so they would remember me, even after reading hundreds of other essays. When settling on a topic to write about, I decided to focus on my work experience in the state department and many of the court cases I was a part of. I used examples and gave emotional testimony about how my work inspired me to become a lawyer. I truly feel like my personal statement was the strongest aspect of my entire law school application, and was a major reason for my acceptance. If you feel like your GPA may be lower than average or you didn’t score at least a 155 or more on the LSAT, DO NOT LOSE HOPE! Yes, law schools are looking for someone who took academics seriously in college, which will undoubtedly show in your GPA, however, a well-rounded and experienced prospect with an amazing writing ability is better than a plain jane with a 4.0. So take your time, think about what makes you unique and win over the admissions committee with your story!

Once you have gathered and completed the steps to applying for law school, prospective applicants should already be registered with LSAC.org, which is necessary to applying to take the LSAT. When this is completed, and law school hopefuls are ready to apply, they must register for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). CAS is essentially a database that sends your transcripts, LOR’s and other credentials to law schools for you, removing the burden of you having to mail/submit all of these requirements multiple times. This service is a one time $185 fee.

Although there are many steps that must be completed prior to submitting an application for law school, it is less stressful and easy if DONE IN ADVANCE! Prospective students need to familiarize themselves with their choice programs admissions timelines and submit their applications as soon as possible. Some programs admit on a “rolling” basis, meaning they accept applications, review and offer admissions continuously until the deadline date. I don’t think its necessary to remind you of the famous saying, “The early bird gets the worm.”