the denouement

December 5, 2010

Friday and Saturday the snow fell, accumulating for the first time this year. When we got up yesterday, I opened the blind so Gabey could look outside. He went: “Ooooooooooohhhh.” Super adorable. We went and looked out the porch window, overlooking the chilling lake, black ducks huddled together, snow very gently falling. He wanted to touch the snowflakes.

This little bit of snow really had to fall. It’s the universe effecting parallelism. During my 1L exam period, we had a huge snowstorm. There was talk of campus closing, but I don’t think it happened that year. I remember trekking to school for my first law school exam, enjoying the quiet morning, the snow falling, the solitude of walking alone. Last year, we had the biggest snowstorm in years during the finals period. The campus and the city basically shut down for a whole day. No buses, no work for most people, everyone in the streets, digging out, making snowmen, enjoying a real, old-fashioned snow day. We put Gabey in a big, furry, aquamarine bunny snow suit. We left our car in its curbside snow cave and walked a mile to meet some friends for brunch. It was fabulous.

This year, just a little snow. And it did not interrupt anyone’s finals. It just made things a little prettier. In Wisconsin, snow is generally beloved in December. It’s in February that we resent it, restless for the next season.


This morning I took my last law school final ever. I have never been less prepared for a test. At least that’s how I felt. Still, I took it pass-fail, and though I had my doubts about this last night, I do feel at this point like I passed. I have been doing almost nothing but writing for the past month. First I had a 30-page research paper draft, then an eight-page memo, immediately followed by an appellate brief that ended up being 30 pages. I also wrote probably 30-4o pages of response and essay-type papers this semester. I mean, I like writing, but come on. Scheduling fail a little bit. Ahhhh well, it is really almost over now.

There’s just rewriting the memo, revising my research paper, arguing my appellate brief and then, lord help me, another six-page reflection essay. But it’s nothing compared to the insanity of the last few days. Which is why, waking up yesterday morning and watching the snow with Gabey was extra sweet. I should have been working all day again, but he was with F or the babysitter most of the week. So yesterday we just got to hang out, playing, watching some cartoons, reading books, enjoying the view.


1L fall countdown: 1 down, 2 to go, plus a brief

December 9, 2008

Substantive Criminal Law – I’m done with you!

Getting through exam one is a mixed bag of relief and foreboding. I successfully got up early, walked the mile to school in a snowstorm and typed for about four hours straight. I enjoyed my pre-exam donut and lamented that the law school cafe had failed to open, and thus failed to provide the free coffee I was depending on. Thank god for a friend who shared her espresso-laced brew with me a few moments before the exam. Delicious!

The exam was okay. I took a little too much time during the first three sections and was rushing at the end with the final, and most complicated, question. I have learned a lesson with that. All in all though, I felt fine about it the exam.

Now I’m off to a short interview for a summer clinical and then back to the books. Thus the foreboding. Contracts – here I come. My outline is 95% done, so I’m going to take practice exams and work on editing my Civ Pro brief for the next three days.

In one week, I’ll be done with the semester and on my way to packing and leaving for Mexico. Yaa-freaking-hoo!

two weeks

December 3, 2008

I’ll be finished with all this in two weeks. Two weeks. Two weeks. Two weeks. It’s incomprehensibly short.

Tomorrow is my last day of class. I sort of want to cry because I’ll miss Professor Contracts, who is simply the greatest teacher I have ever had – brilliant, witty and actually able to teach! Law school professors who can teach! That is great. I got lucky this semester. Rumor has it that Professor Contracts, who is actually retired and recently beat cancer, will be back again next year. It seems to me that he loves teaching enough to keep coming back to a new set of 1Ls. Amazing.

I’ll also miss Professor Civ Pro, who cares so much that law students actually become good lawyers, not just good students or test-takers. I’ll miss my torts professor too, although she has a wonderful blog, so I coubt I’ll really lose track of her. And I’ll maybe even miss, just a tiny bit, the scatterbrained nuttiness of Professor Crim.

As far as these two weeks, I’m not feeling super confident right now. My neck has hurt for days and my Contract outline seems like a never-ending task. I’m definitely in high-learning mode, but I just want it to be over. I have to do an oral argument Thursday and take lots of practice tests for criminal law before my closed-book exam next Tuesday. Then contracts, then polishing up my brief for Civ Pro, then torts…. Here we go…

ups and downs

November 22, 2008

What a week!

Crappy parts:

  • Getting a lower grade than I expected on my memo ūüė¶
  • Getting the grade I expected (not great) on my “Senior Partner Meeting” which is considered an oral presentation and maybe 10% of my overall grade for Civil Procedure
  • Winter is here. It’s cold walking a mile to and from school every day. Luckily I’m from this part of the world, so I’m “used” to it.
  • Leaving my Crim book at my house in hometown last weekend leading to….
  • … being serially unprepared for Crim class all week

I’m really sad about my memo. I don’t think it was brimming with awesomeness or anything, but the comments from my legal writing teacher on the draft were just short of glowing. My professor graded them however, and he didn’t love it. I didn’t do poorly, but I was expecting an A/A-, and that’s not what I got. I’m not sure what to do about this. Everyone has different preferences on what is good writing, organization, etc. I guess considering that, it just doesn’t seem right to have one lawyer/instructor comment and evaluate the drafts and another do the final grades. (Sigh).

Better parts:

  • Mock trial went awesome – this really reflects on my teammates, who are quite an impressive group of future lawyers.
  • Post-mock trial going out like a 1L for perhaps the third time this semester. I can’t handle the binge drinking like the average 22-year-old anymore, but Thursday night we had tons of fun.
  • Feeling like I’m so incredibly lucky to have such great section-mates. We aren’t even annoyed with each other yet. I don’t even think it’s going to happen!
  • Creating an official exam-study playlist for myself. It’s full of wonderful tunes I hope will prevent discouragement and general stress-induced 1L mania in the next four weeks.
  • The last full week of class is over!
  • I’m one week closer to Mexico than I was last week. ūüôā


November 18, 2008

I just realized this morning that this is my last full week of class. WTH? Where did the time go? Today is my fourth-last torts class. Only 10 more hours of amusing and brilliant Contracts professor lectures. That one is sad.

It’s a little scary to end class. It signals the imminence of exams. This may be sickening to some, but I’m not that stressed. I’m sure I will be. But in the last two weeks I’ve been so preoccupied with my civil procedure/legal writing work that it’s been hard to worry about anything else.

I have a mountain of criminal law to catch up with, but I’m doing okay in my other classes. I have a lot of my contracts outline done, yet I haven’t figured out how I’m going to cram a semester’s worth of torts cases (average 8 per week maybe) onto two double-sided sheets of paper, which is all we can bring into that exam. I can’t bring anything into my criminal law exam, so the contracts outline is by far the most important in that sense.

So, here comes Thanksgiving. I’m going to pack Thursday full of eating and spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday immersed in the books. That’s the best I can do….

stretch before finals

November 6, 2008

In one month, classes will be over and exams will begin. I’m starting to feel scared. I have to write a brief in the next ten days, plus get going with outlining and review. My weeks are crammed with class, work (for money), work (keeping up with class reading), besides meetings with career services and student organizations and summer clinical opportunities. My weekends are open, but there’s a ton to get done. I’ve been pretty relaxed the last couple weekends, but that’s going to have to stop in November.

The last 2.5 months have flown, so I know it’ll feel like I’ll barely blink between now and my first final. I’m so excited to be done, but in a strange way, I’ll be sad to see this semester go. I realize more and more how lucky I’ve gotten with professors this fall. I’m not looking forward to taking Property next semester and I’ll miss my Contracts professor and my unconventional Civil Procedure class. For the most part, I’m not even annoyed with my section-mates, and it’ll be strange to be in classes with totally different people I may or may not know.

But back to the task at hand, it’s time to prepare for exams. A wonderful 3L who is a sort of student leader (3L “Senior Associate” technically) in my Civil Procedure class sent out some great advice today. It was very nice of her to put this together, and I would like to share it with my blog friends who might also find it useful. Here goes:

I realize some of you may know all of this stuff, but just IN CASE, you should be using a calendar to plan out time chunks for¬†study time,¬†exam prep time, paper writing time and¬†practice¬†exam time you’ll need to adequately prepared NOW. No wishful thinking¬†here. As a 1L, everything takes longer, so set aside a LOT of time. We are 5 weeks off from finals crazy-freak out time. Maybe you’re thinking,”But, I’m SO NOT freaking out!”
Well, grasshopper,¬†you will be.¬†At this time you MUST, if you have not already, start outlines¬†for all of your exam classes.¬†Not all classes should be outlined the same and if¬†you have great outlines from other people, you MUST take the time to process everything SLOWLY through your own brain and¬†create your own written product.¬†The outline you make is often NOT the outline you take into class, but the outline making is the lion’s share of studying. Also, this is a good time NOT to listen to what most 1Ls say, because they don’t know any better than you do. Study with them, but don’t get sucked into their drama.
  • Make a master outline for each class, for which you can use other peoples outlines (if they’re better) and your notes.¬†Start making decisions about what is important.
  • Determining what is and is not important is part of using the skill you will need to issue-spot and toss out the extra info Profs put on the exam to derail you.
  • For example, for torts, depending on the professor, you probably don’t need to know each case’s specific details, but you do need to know the basic fact pattern.
EXAMPLE: Boy pulls chair out from under large woman, she falls and breaks hip (or whatever), was there intent, did that intent constitute liability? OR
POKURA V. WABASH RY. CO., 292 U.S. 98 (1934)
RULE: PL Negligence is determined by the facts applied to the reasonable person standard
  • The Case & Rule approach works well for Contracts and Torts, but not so well for¬†Crim. (probably just at my school?)
  • For Contracts, you will need a Case-Rule table or list AND a detailed checklist for concepts.
  • 1 to 1.5 weeks before the exam: Have a¬†detailed master outline done,¬†ideally (but not by most people). After you have a¬†master outline done, start paring it down to a max of¬†20 pages to take into the exam with a table of contents¬†and/or checklist to refer to as you go through a problem. Anything longer than 25 pages will slow you down on the¬†exam. Really 15-20 is better.
  • 1.5 to 1 weeks out: You need to be doing practice exams, which is the #1 way to prepare, because it¬†will tell you
a) what your time issues are;
b) what you miss when¬†you’re rushed, and
c) ¬†what you DON’T know and don’t need to worry about.
  • 1-2 days before: Practice, practice, practice
  • Day before: 1 practice exam and relax, review your checklist for 30 minutes before you go to sleep.
If you literally run out of time, you MUST do at least 1 practice the day before,¬†but not the night before (for obvious panic-inducing reasons). If you want to get serious, within 3-4 days of the exam, or even now, get 3 people you trust¬†together, get a study¬†room and a stopwatch and do¬†a problem from a 3 problem exam for 1 hour or 2 problems for 2 hours ‚Äď‚Äď NO CHEATING.¬†Afterward, you discuss the answers¬†and share ideas about what information was unimportant¬†or meant to lead you astray, and what cases from the class your Prof was using to¬†create the fact pattern and so on ¬†(Ya dig me?)
  • Day of: good breakfast, bring water, coffee & snacks to exam, go to the bathroom before, and review your outline for 30 minutes the morning of, then put it away. Download the software WAY in advance and bring your exam number. Bring ear plugs.
Other important considerations
  • Re: general mental health at this time: I don’t recommend drinking too much (because you’ll need to be smart the next day), but in every study day,¬†there is a point of diminishing returns. Stop and sleep.
  • Sleep and water are way more important than people think they are.¬†You need a break or a vice, i.e, I randomly start¬†smoking¬†each finals period. No, it’s not good for me, but I promised my mom I wouldn’t go¬†back to Meth, you know? ūüôā

Well, I know that was useful and somewhat entertaining. I hope it was for some of my comrades out there in the 1L universe as well. Cheers!


October 28, 2008

The days are brisk. The leaves are faded and falling fast. I got my winter coat out this weekend. There are rumors of flurries. Snow that is.

If I watched any regular television these days I suppose I would have already starting seeing marketing for the holiday season. Thank god I hardly watch any television though, because I hate Christmas advertising before December; maybe I hate it completely.

I’m nearing page 500 in some of my law school books. People are outlining and reviewing and starting to talk about finals. My civil procedure brief, which takes the place of a final, will be assigned soon. The reading seems manageable now. I’m definitely over that hump. It sure helps when you don’t have to look up what summary judgment or certiorari mean.

The weeks fly by. Get up early Monday to drive from hometown to college town to my part-time job. Finish work, go to class, make dinner, study, sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Oh look, it’s Friday already! Go to one class (maybe) and get back to hometown. Hang out with F. Study in places without any law students. Sleep in. Cook something warm and delicious. Watch Desperate Housewives as some sort of weekend-end treat.

Overall, things are going well. The two or so weeks that felt like hell are over. I got a very positive review of my first memo draft, which made me extremely proud. Honestly I felt nervous about it. I thought it was good, but who really knows? Legal writing is its own baby. But I dare say I am okay at it, with the potential for excellence. I feel thankful every day for writing skills. It is absolutely an advantage in law school.

There’s a lot of work ahead, but I can’t help thinking how amazing it is to finish class and have six days until my first exam. Six whole days! And an entire two free days between the subsequent exams. Compared to my memory of undergrad exams, it seems like plenty of time to refresh the mind of the semester’s learning. I wouldn’t say that I’m retaining everything the first time I read it or anything, but I do think I’m absorbing a lot of info. I’m starting to come across concepts in contracts that relate to something I learned previously in torts or civil procedure.

I can only hope the seemingly never-ending, frozen winter ahead will go fly as fast as the past few months have.