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Law School

Don’t Ban Laptops in Law School Classrooms

Last week, I saw the article on the ABA Journal website where Suffolk law professor Steven Eisenstat argued that law schools should ban laptops in the classroom because writing notes by hand increased comprehension. He cited a study that suggested that students using laptops would type everything the professor said compared to students who took notes by hand and only had time to summarize the main points which improved comprehension. (In this study, laptop users didn’t have access to the internet or other distractions.)

I'm a monkey! by H.L.I.T. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’m a monkey! by H.L.I.T. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

While I agree with Professor Eisenstat that law students shouldn’t be stenographers (or surf the internet excessively during class), there are many reasons to allow laptops in the classroom.  Laptops provide access to helpful resources in the classroom.

I admit that I am not a fan of the Socratic Method. It’s an inefficient way to teach and learn, especially in cases that are so old that part of the challenge is understanding the basic vocabulary. When I took Constitutional Law as a 1L, my professor set the bar high for us and incorporated aspects of the case that weren’t in the case book – like the surrounding historical context. I often had a split screen during his class: my class notes were on the left and the Wikipedia page about the case we were discussing was on the right.

(Footnote: I think we should do away with the Socratic Method in general and adopt a lecture + discussion model instead. A professor will let a student go off in the wrong direction for half the class before saying that everything we’d discussed for the last 30 minutes was completely wrong. How does that help comprehension?)

Two thousand seconds left in today's class by H.L.I.T. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Two thousand seconds left in today’s class by H.L.I.T. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Additionally, having a laptop in class also gives you access to your classmates who can message you if you didn’t quite catch what the professor just said or if you need quick clarification. I took Criminal Procedure from a professor who was very old – and I mean old. If he was late to class we would worry he was dead in his office and he did pass away the following semester. He did not project his voice well and he tended to meander when talking about cases. It was handy to message my friend across the room, “Has he gotten to the holding yet?”

Moreover, sometimes you need to be able to respond to emails swiftly. Some opportunities are first-come-first-served so if you don’t respond fast enough, you could miss out. I remember one time my classmate and I both got email invitations for on-campus interviews. Most of the time slots were when we were scheduled to be in class, but since we responded immediately, we were able to get the only 2 slots that didn’t conflict with our schedules.

Furthermore, law students are adults! They should be able to decide for themselves whether they’ll use their laptop in class. If a school wants to encourage students not to use laptops in class, that’s fine, but don’t ban them.

I also wonder if this study is similar enough to the law school experience for the results to be applicable. The study was conducted with undergraduate students and I doubt the lecture they were presented used the Socratic Method. When it comes to studying the law, I often didn’t fully understand the concepts presented in class until the end of the course when all the pieces snapped together when I created my outline to study for the final. That’s when I could pare down my notes and describe the key concepts and identify what the professor would likely care about on the final exam.

This is what happens when you require students to take notes with pen and paper – Three Years of Law School Doodles by H.L.I.T.

New Business Cards – Pretty Freakin’ Awesome

I’m sure plenty of people who don’t know me but hear that my name is “Ruth” and that I’m lawyer envision me to be a stuff old Jewish woman who embodies all the lawyer stereotypes.  I suspect that’s who my co-panelist at Phoenix Comicon thought he was pair with when he heard he was doing a panel on Comic Creator Rights with “the lawyer.” He was probably surprised to see a young pixie of thing in a pink geeky t-shirt instead. We had a great time doing our panel. He said we looked like gurus but I think we look like a couple of Muppets in the photos.

It’s always been important to me to have effective non-boring business cards. I made a joke after Phoenix Comicon that I should have business cards made that say, “Ruth Carter, Esq., Not That Kind Of Lawyer.” Recently, I needed to order more business cards and I figured, since I’m paying for shipping for two boxes of cards, I might as well make it four – so I made them! I’ll probably use them at events where I’m more likely to meet people who are likely to wrinkle their noses when they hear I’m a lawyer.

New Business Card - front

New Business Card - back

What do you think? A friend mentioned that these fit in well with my goal to becoming a minimalist.

I love these cards. We’ll see if these become my standard business card. It takes me about six months to go through two boxes of cards so we’ll see how I feel the next time I need to reorder.

The List: Professional Development for Law Students and other Young Professionals

I wrote most of these posts with law students in mind, but the information works for any young professional who wants to network effectively and stand out in their professional community.

Photo by AJ Grucky

Photo by AJ Grucky

Don’t Lose Your Personality When You Get Your JD

How Networking Works

LinkedIn for Law Students

Twitter – The Untapped Resource for Law Students

Business Cards for Law Students

Lawyers’ Bad Reputations Start with Arrogant Law Students

Top 3 Tools for Establishing a Name for Yourself

Top 10 Blogging Tips for Law Students

Scheduling Lunch with a Litigator Made Me Never Want to be One

Why Are Lawyers so Bitchy?

Going Pantsless was the Best Thing I Did in Law School

I hope these have been helpful!

Other Lists:
Law School Survival
Bar Exam Survival and Domination

The List: Bar Exam Survival and Domination

I’m not going to sugar coat it: the bar exam is hard. Studying for the bar exam can be brutal. But you can kick its ass and pass it. Here are the post I wrote about the bar exam during my experience before and after the July 2011 Arizona Bar Exam.

Hand Hearts by Krystal T, Ruth Carter

Hang in there!
Hand Hearts by Krystal T

Guidelines for Studying for the Bar Exam

A Day in the Life of Bar Prep

Send Love to Stressed Out Bar Exam Candidates

Bar Exam Wisdom from BarBri Instructors

Bar Exam Wisdom from Arizona Lawyers

Bar Exam Wisdom from Legal All-Stars

I Passed!

Love and Support for Bar Exam Takers

If a bar exam is in your future, good luck and stick to your study program. I know it’s hard, but you’ll be fine.

Other Lists:
Law School Survival
Professional Development for Law Students and other Young Professionals

The List: Law School Survival

My law school experience was pretty well documented via this blog. These are the posts where I share what worked for me and the tips I wish I’d known sooner in my law school career.

Law GeekSurvival Tips for Incoming 1Ls

Maintaining Perspective in Law School

Top 10 Ways to Annoy Your Fellow Law Students

Law School: My Grades Can’t Tell You Who I Am

Poolside Studying

Law BooksTop 3 Money Savers for Law Students

Study Break: Time to Smile

Unexpected Benefits of Law School

Seven Layers of Academic Hell

How to Survive Law School Finals

Law School: If I Could Do It Again…

I hope the wisdom I gleaned from my law school experience helps make your life in law school a little easier.

Other Lists:
Bar Exam Survival and Domination
Professional Development for Law Students and Other Young Professionals

LinkedIn for Law Students – The Follow Up Questions

I had the pleasure of being part of LexisNexis’ webcast on how to use LinkedIn for law students. I was there to talk about how I use LinkedIn in my professional life. We had over 1000 students tune in for the webcast and they had the option to ask questions during the show, but we didn’t have time to get to all of them, so here are my responses to some of those questions.

LinkedIn Chocolates by Nan Palmero from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

LinkedIn Chocolates by Nan Palmero from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

How Important is it to Include my Photo in my Profile?
Very important. If you don’t have a photo on your profile, I will assume that you haven’t been active on LinkedIn since the day you created your account. Why would I want to connect with someone on a platform where they don’t want to connect with anyone? I don’t. So yes, you need to put your photo on your profile, and make a picture of you, not your pet or your kids. This is a professional forum. (And some of us are really bad at remembering what people look like so having your photo on your profile is a big help.)

I’m hesitant to Enable Endorsements because of the potential Ethical Problems. Any Advice?
I enabled endorsements but I don’t give them a lot of weight in general because people can endorse you for skills that they have no actual knowledge if you have them. If someone tries to endorse me for a skill I don’t have or a topic that is outside my areas of practice, I don’t allow it.

How much of a Job Description should I include for each Position that I have held?  I do not want it to be a Restatement of my Resume.
I think mine are basically cut and pasted from my resume. If you don’t want to do that, be as brief as you can while giving an accurate description of each job.

How do I Tailor my Profile to keep my Options Open and Not Turn Off Potential Employers or those I am looking to Maximize Opportunities with even when they Conflict?
Keep your descriptions focused on your skills and interests that will appeal to most people. Avoid the specifics that might make you a turn off to a particular audience. For example, you can say you’re interested in a certain practice area without stating which side of the fence you’re on.

How do you Feel about the “Request an Introduction” function in LinkedIn?
Introductions are basically endorsements so definitely ask for introductions if you know someone who knows the person you want to meet. On LinkedIn, I connect with anyone who doesn’t look like spam, and a lot of other people do the same. Don’t be upset if you request an introduction and the person responds that they can’t help you because they don’t actually know the person you want to meet.

My LinkedIn Connections as of Nov. 17, 2013

My LinkedIn Connections as of November 17, 2013

How Often should I Post to LinkedIn?
As often as it’s relevant. It may not be relevant to post on a regular basis. I do because I post links on my blogs and videos, but not much more than that.

How do we Connect when we Don’t Know the Person? LinkedIn requires you know the person as a Friend, Colleague, etc. when attempting to Create a Connection.
I’ll say I’m a friend even if I don’t know the person but I personalize the request to connect so they know why I want to connect with them. This appears to be a generally accepted practice.

Do you Recommend putting Less ‘Formal’ Forms of Contact (such as Twitter) on LinkedIn?
I would put all your contact information for all the forums where you want to connect with people. Always include an email address and they it’s your choice to add your phone number, Twitter handle, blog, etc.

When should I get a LinkedIn Account?
Yesterday.

Always remember that LinkedIn, like all social media platforms, is a communications tool. Having an account is not enough; it’s what you do with it that matters.

I hope this has been helpful. If you want to connect with me on LinkedIn, feel free.

The Unexpected Benefits of Law School

When you’re accepted to law school, you can expect to obtain an incredible education, have the opportunity to meet phenomenal people, and take on a mountain of debt. No one tells you about the other benefits that come with being a law student.

Photo by Sheila Dee

Photo by Sheila Dee

New Glasses: Don’t waste your money and get Lasik right before starting law school. If you don’t wear glasses when you start law school, you’ll have them when you finish. If you’re already a four-eyes when you start, you’ll have a stronger prescription by graduation day. I had to get new glasses twice in law school.

Night GuardNew Wardrobe: It seemed like everyone in my class either lost 10 pounds during law school or gained 15 pounds or more depending on what happened to our appetites when we got stressed. I think every law school should do an annual suit exchange for students need a bigger or smaller suit and donate whatever’s left to charity. Whatever size you were when you started law school will not be your size by the time you graduate.

Night Guard: I promise you’re going to be stressed out. Some of you might start grinding your teeth in your sleep. Your dentist might recommend a $500 custom night guard. I opted to get a Sleep Right night guard instead. It cost less than 90% of what a custom-fit guard costs and works just as well. Don’t bother with the over-the-counter night guard that you boil and mold to your teeth. If you’re like me, you’ll bite through it within weeks.

Rolling BagDorky Rolling Bag: You might think these bags are super dorky. I did when I first started law school. I was perfectly happy lugging my books and laptop around in my backpack . . . until I was in a car accident. And then I couldn’t carry my books on my back. I swallowed my pride and bought a rolling bag – and it’s great. It’s a bit bulky, but it made dragging around two books, my laptop, and almost everything else I needed in a day much easier. If you’re going to get one of these bags, look for function over fashion. Some of my classmates got really cute bags, but they barely held anything.

New Signature: I don’t know when it happened but law school ate my signature. I can sign things with my old signature if I really think about it, but otherwise it’s a squiggle at best.

I asked some of my legal eagle friends what unexpected benefits they got from law schools. Here’s what they said:

  • “One heck of a collection of highlighters.” – Hal
  • “My husband.” – Christine
  • “Law school launched my triathlon career!” – Adam

What about you? What were some of the unexpected “benefits” that you got during law school?

Top 3 Tools to Establish a Name for Yourself

When I was a law student and now as a young lawyer, I go to a lot of networking events. They’re a great way to meet people in your community. There are other tools that will help you make a name for yourself online and at the national level. I wanted to share my three favorite tools. There are other ways to make a name for yourself, but these are the top three that work for me.

The Twitter Bird by eldh

1. Twitter
I’ve been a huge proponent of Twitter for a long time. It’s my primary networking tool when there’s someone new I want to meet. All you have to do is follow the person you want to meet and wait for an opportunity to respond to one of their tweets. It’s a great and easy way to break the ice with someone without feeling forced or fake.

If the person is going to be at an upcoming event, tweet at them about how excited you are to see or meet them. Then during the event tweet a quote from them or an accolade about them. After the event, be sure to tweet about how awesome they were/are.

2. Maintain a Blog
Having a blog is a great way to showcase your expertise and interests. At networking events and interviews you can talk about your interests or you can prove it by referencing past blog posts you’ve written on a topic. Maintaining a blog is a lot of work but it’s worth it. It’s not enough to start a blog. You have to update it regularly – preferably weekly – and be patient while you build a following. It takes a while to get there.

If you are someone who is lucky enough to have an assistant, it’s ok to let them take care of posting your work to your website, finding images for your posts, and taking care of your SEO stuff, but don’t let them write your verbiage. Your readers want to hear your unique voice so write your posts yourself.

3. Help A Reporter Out (HARO)
HARO is one of the best ways to get local and national exposure as a potential expert in your field. HARO is a service that connects reporters with potential sources. You can subscribe to HARO for free and you will get 3 emails a day, 5 days per week with dozens of opportunities to share your experience or expertise.

Most of the requests won’t apply to you, but some of them will – and you need to respond quickly if you want to be a contributor. A lot of the reporters who use HARO are on tight deadlines. I usually respond to at least one HARO every week. It’s especially beneficial when I can include a link to a blog post I’ve written on a topic – I think it increases the odds that a reporter will use me for a story over a lawyer who doesn’t blog on the topic.

You can also use HARO to network by referring a reporter to others who might be a good fit for their needs or by referring contact to HARO if a reporter is looking for input that they can provide.

There are lots of ways to make yourself stand out within your profession and the business community. These are some of my favorite tools, but it is definitely not an exhaustive list. If you have a tool or technique that you’d like to share, please leave it as a comment.

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Love & Support for Bar Exam Takers

Postproc by Kokotron Ruth Carter

Is this you?
Postproc by Kokotron

I’ve received three calls in last week from friends who are studying for the bar exam who needed advice and support. To everyone who is studying for a bar exam and starting to freak out, I know where you’ve been. I was you a year ago.

I definitely had my freak out moments while I was studying for the bar. If it was really bad I would call my friend Eric Mayer. Every time I started to panic he told me that I would be fine if I did whatever BarBri told me to do. It was comforting to hear that. I did always feel confident that I was studying enough, but hearing that following the BarBri plan worked for others was enough to convince me that it could work for me.

I had my biggest pre-bar exam freak out sometime after BarBri class had ended and I was studying on my own every day. I like to pace when I’m going through my flash card and that day, I felt claustrophobic in my home. It’s important to note that I live in an 1800+ square-foot home and it has an open layout. There’s nothing here that should make me feel claustrophobic. My perception was completely skewed by my anxiety.

I decided I needed more space, so I slathered sunscreen on my skin, put on my Camelbak backpack filled with water and a hat, and took a 2.5-hour walk with my flash cards on a 110-degree day. I’m sure I looked like a crazy person muttering to myself while walking up the street and flipping through my cards. When I got home, my shirt was completely drenched with sweat.  Even though I was having a freak out, it turned into a pretty good day. My walk took the edge off my fear and I learned a lot about commercial paper and secured transactions in the process.

Hand Hearts by Krystal T, Ruth Carter

Hang in there!
Hand Hearts by Krystal T

By the day of the bar exam, I was ready to hit it hard. I remember standing around the convention center before the test with some of my law school friends who were older than the average student in our class. We all remarked that taking the bar exam was a challenge, but it didn’t make our lists of the top 5 hardest things we’ve done.  If you have overcome hardship in your life or survived labor and delivery, you can get through the bar exam.

If you’re studying for the July bar exam, just stay the course. Do whatever BarBri tells you to study and do whatever you need to do to memorize the law. Whatever got you through law school will still work. Make sure you’re eating well and getting though exercise and sleep. The occasional ice cream indulgence also helps ease the pain of bar prep.

Don’t Lose Your Personality When You Get Your JD

Foot tattoos Ruth Carter

My Awesome Tattoos

I got an interesting email from a friend over the weekend. He just graduated from law school and is studying for the bar. He’s also training for an ironman race. He’s been in fabulous shape for as long as I’ve known him and his preferred running outfit is teeny tiny running shorts and sneakers. He doesn’t put a shirt over his tattooed chest. When he was in school he lived near campus but now he lives downtown near the courthouses and a lot of the big law firms. He was concerned that his running attire could have a negative impact on his career if judges and lawyers saw him. He wrote to me asking for my thoughts.

I told him the same thing I tell everyone: “Don’t do anything in public that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the paper.” If you’re ok with being seen shirtless and in little shorts in the newspaper, why would you have a problem with judges and lawyers seeing you? They’re just people. And who’s to say they haven’t already seen you? Most people are so oblivious that they wouldn’t figure out that you were the shirtless guy if they met you at a professional event.

My friend’s question made me reflect on my early days as a law student. I was told that I should change my clothes, my hair, and even my sunglasses before I started law school. I took out my excess piercings and kept the tattoos on my feet covered with shoes, dark socks, and tattoo concealer. I gave all that up and was back to being 100% myself by the end of my 2L year. I was happier for it and got more professional opportunities as a result of being me instead of trying to fit the law student mold.

Why are lawyers seemingly held to a different social standard than other people? When we graduate from law school, we don’t suddenly all become interested in golf, going to tea, or smoking cigars. Lawyers should never give up their personality or interests because they’re lawyers. I see nothing wrong with a lawyer being a shirtless runner in their free time, or even something more daring like a burlesque dancer or a nudist. It’s no more shocking than any other fringe activity like having extreme religious beliefs or seeing your favorite band live in concert 33 times. As long as you’re not hurting anyone or breaking the law, let your freak flag fly!

I can see where my friend might be concerned because he doesn’t have a job lined up after the bar. Bug here’s something else to think about – if you have to hide who you are to get a job, is it a job you really want? I’m not saying that you should flaunt your eccentricities, but you shouldn’t have to hide them either.

The only other advice I can offer of this topic is the wisdom that was bestowed upon me by my friend Evo Terra. He said to figure out whose opinions truly matter to you and then don’t give a shit about what anyone else thinks. It’s easier said than done, but those are definitely words to live by.