January 21, 2009

Four out of five of my grades are in. Who knows when the last one will show up. That professor is… special. His office is a 10 x 10 box of almost solid papers stuffed inside various file folders, stacked one on top of another, endlessly. His cell phone occasionally rings in class, and instead of grabbing it out of his back pocket and silencing it, he lets it ring through, staring at us both embarrassed and helpless, clearly unfamiliar with the silencing concept, pausing the class to wait for all the ringing and the inevitable voicemail notification. Then he usually says something like: “That’s probably my son. He’s got firsthand experience with the criminal justice system.”

I have him again this semester. Today he walked into class several minutes late in his parka. He took off his hat and the few strands of hair atop his head (they constitute a world-class comb over) stood almost straight up from the static. He took off the coat and revealed an oversize, sage-colored sweater that looks like something a 15-year-old girl would have bought at Express sometime in the late 90s. I wanted to hug him. Last semester, I sort of hated his class, even though he’s clearly a nice man. This week though, a little familiarity was much appreciated.

So grades. Yeah, I can’t complain. For the non-law readers: law school presents a highly competitive and strange atmosphere, where every class has a curve and class rank and GPA mean a lot for your future job prospects. Personally, I never felt this way as an undergrad. I didn’t have any special aspirations to go to graduate school or pursue anything where my GPA would matter. I did well as an undergrad, but I wasn’t obsessed with getting As, and certainly didn’t receive them all or even most of the time.

That said, because of “other factors,” like a decent LSAT, life experience and writing skills, I attend a very respectable law school. So many of my younger classmates were, quite literally, at the top of their undergraduate classes, especially those who went to smaller private schools or any of the other 4-year universities in our state system. They are used to being at the top of everything, and here here they are all forced to duke it out for the very few As and multitudes of Bs and B-s.

Since grades are almost certainly irrelevant to my future legal plans, I really tried not to stress about them. But honestly, it’s tough in this atmosphere to not care a little. So I do care a little, maybe a little more than a little, but I know my career doesn’t depend on it. There were times last semester where I was sure I would get Cs in everything (which would definitely put me in the bottom half of class) and other periods where I wondered if I might be a surprisingly brilliant legal student, proud and shocked by a set of As.

Neither is what actually transpired. But so far, I did a little better than I really thought I would do, and that makes me just a little bit happy.


clinical summer, here I come

January 20, 2009

I really just wanted to think about summer, but… a few months back I asked for advice about my 1L summer job options. I really appreciate all the comments I received, and they definitely helped me keep my options open.

Thinking there was no opportunity to do immigration work at my school though, I wasn’t really excited about the summer clinical experience. Knowing now that I’m going to try to start my own immigration law practice upon graduation, it definitely is a priority to get the most practical experience possible. On the other hand, doing a summer clinical is a great opportunity to get credits which will help me graduate a semester early, therefore keeping my loans down by a good $15,000. And I know that regardless it would be a valuable experience.

So… I applied to a few clinicals. One works in the low-income and immigrant community in college town, giving legal advice, doing some community organizing and the like. I also applied to the prison-based project that takes the most students, even though I wasn’t that interested, just because it takes the most students. Sort of at the last minute, I heard that another prison-based clinical sends students to the federal (rather than state) prison where apparently a lot of the incarcerated are immigrants. I didn’t really know much about that, but I applied to it as well, stressing in my short personal statement that I speak Spanish and want to do immigration law.

Around Christmas, I received acceptance to the federal prison project, and a wait-list on the community project. I felt a lot of relief, and considering my other “good” option – trying to find an immigration lawyer who wanted to pay a 1L intern in my hometown this summer, decided for certain today to take it. (California, while still a very desirable option, is on hold for now. I can go next summer if I want, and if its practical).

Back in class today, I’m sure I’m making the right decision. My classmates are uniformly freaking out about finding jobs, and many were waitlisted for the clinicals. Firms aren’t hiring and non-profits are facing cash-flow problems. It’s a poor time to be new and green and looking or a job. I’ve talked to a 3L who worked on the federal prison clinical two years ago and she said that while it’s disappointing how little you can do for many of the people you meet, the overall experience is excellent. She said her colleagues had immigration work as well.

So that is that I think. Unfortunately, before summer, I must learn property, constitutional law, criminal procedure and administrative law.

the cusp

January 18, 2009

I don’t know where those last two weeks went. I guess they went to lounging around the house, reading non-law things, visiting family, reconnecting with neglected friends, stalking the immigration forum and the like. Nothing that really inspired writing. Oh, and turning 30.

No big celebration here though. I don’t really have special feelings about being 30. I certainly don’t feel bummed about it, though like many I’m sure, I wouldn’t mind doing the 20s over. Not that I’d do so much differently, but I generally enjoy living. The last decade has been filled with so much learning, growing, and traveling, much of which I would love to re-live.

But really, it’s just another birthday, and all in all, I feel lucky in life. I love my husband, am doing exactly what I want to be doing (minus the loans), have wonderful friends and family, and considering all the financial turmoil in the world, I’m not in a terrible spot. Certainly not one anyone would envy, but it’s manageable, and for me anyway, manageable finances mean less stress.

And I’m excited for what is ahead. Maybe we are going to have some rough years in this country, but maybe it won’t be as bad as we’re expecting. Or maybe it will, but we’ll all become stronger for it. I do know I feel an immense sort of relief knowing that an extremely intelligent, pragmatic, conciliatory sort of human being – a most excellent American in so many ways, is about to become our president.

I don’t have unrealistic expectations and I know things aren’t going to change immediately, but I have a great deal of hope (I know it’s cheesy) that we’re going to progress out of the mess we’re in right now (no matter whose fault it is) and become a better country.

Anyway, tomorrow I head back to college town for my second semester of law school. As much as this will out me for being a huge nerd, I’m kind of excited. Along with property and criminal procedure, I’m taking constitutional law and administrative law this semester. An immigration lawyer recently told me I should take special note of how those two subjects will come into play with my future immigrant clients. I fully intend to do just that.

snow and cuteness

January 3, 2009

I thought I should post some random photos from my trip. The themes of this year’s trip were a) Snow Evasion Part II (I went to Mexico for two weeks last February, during which nearly two feet of snow fell in my hometown) b) cuteness (evidence to follow) and c) eating delicious, local, homemade food.

As for part a, F and I were wildly successful. I can’t find the exact stats, but it snowed at least a foot and a half in the 11 days I was gone.

thankfully this is not me or anyone I know, however, it could have been

this is about what my garage looked like while I was on vacation

When we got back Sunday, it was in the 30s, and by Monday, I could see the grass in my yard again. If only it were already spring…

As for part b… We spent a day visiting friends of F’s family at a rural ranch in the hills of Puebla. It’s really beautiful…

The rancher raises turkeys, sheep, rabbits and trout (in tanks – with river waiver running up the hill through the tanks and then back into the river). This black sheep’s mother rejected it after it was born, so the rancher has bottle fed it since birth. This makes it extremely friendly, lovable and adorable. (And politically aware?)

Turkeys aren’t that cute, but the rancher did have some adorable puppies too. They were extra playful too!

My mother-in-law has two sheep, a duck couple, four chickens and six or so geese. I was a suburban kid who now lives in the city, so despite my state’s agricultural prowess, I’m about as knowledgeable about raising animals as I am about astrophysics. When we arrived in Mexico, F’s mom took me to the separate piece of land where the animals live to show me the goose mom sitting on her 9 eggs. Goose-mom was very unhappy with our presence – squaking and hissing and defensive of her young. Eight days later, my mother-in-law took the angry goose mom off her nest for a minutes to find four eggs in mid-hatch. The next morning…..

Ridiculous cuteness: SUCCESS!

As far as food, there was much deliciousness to be had. I didn’t take any great food pics this time around, but there’s something wonderful about following four months of rigorous intellectual activity with warm weather, cute animals and simple, delicious food.