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Law School

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?

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.

How To Survive Law School Finals

My friend RJ knows that I was one of the least stressed people during finals week during law school. She asked me to share my wisdom with all of you. So here are my top 10 tips for surviving law school finals.

  1. Law School Textbooks

    Law School Textbooks (Photo credit: Jesse Michael Nix)

    Identify your Goals. You may have been at the top of your class in high school and undergrad, but in law school, you are surrounded by severely smart people and only one of you can set the curve. I went to law school to learn the law so my goal for every final was just to pass. For most people, that goal is enough, unless you want a judicial clerkship or a job at a super prestigious law firm that will only talk to you if you’re in the top 10% of the class.

  2. Study When you Can. There will be times when you can’t focus to save your life and you’d rather clean your house than read your outline. When those times hit, put down your notes and pick up a broom. Studying is about quality, not quantity. If you’re not being productive, take a break.
  3. Study Where you Can. Some people can only study in the library. Some people have to be anywhere but the library. Being in the law school tended to make me really anxious, so I avoided it like the plague during finals.
  4. Use Study Techniques that Work for You. Don’t feel the need to have big beautiful 100-page outline if something else works better for you, like flash cards.
  5. Don’t Bother Studying Right After a Final. Your brain will be toast. Go get something to eat and get a good night’s sleep before your next study session.
  6. Get to the Test Room Early and Set Up Camp. I didn’t like people too close to me during exams so I’d get to exams early and set up camp. I always had water, soda, apple slices, Jolly Ranchers, a sweatshirt, pens, pencils, my computer, and my notes. I’d spread my stuff out and put my bag on the chair next to me so no one could sit next to me.
  7. Make the Instructor Laugh. You will get more points if you entertain the person who is grading your test. My professor for civil procedure called parties in the cases we read “morons” so I looked for an opportunity to call someone a moron on my final. My trademark law professor had a tendency to swear in class so when he asked what I’d tell the client in the hypo on the final, I wrote, “I’d say, ‘You’ve got to be fucking kidding me if you think you have a case.’”
  8. Don’t Talk About the Test After the Test. Once you turn in your test and walk out of the room, don’t think or talk about the test. There’s nothing you can do at that point to change the outcome. I used to yell at people who talked about the test after the test.
  9. Don’t Panic. I wrote about the seven layers of academic hell during law school. The seventh layer is “Fuck It.” You want to get to that level as soon as possible. No matter what, stay calm while you’re studying or taking a test.
  10. Don’t Check Your Grades. After my first semester of law school, I never checked my grades. At the end of each semester I sent the assistant dean of my law school an email to make sure I passed. Since my goal was to pass, I never needed to know what my grades, GPA, or class rank were – and I was a happier person for it.

Good luck to everyone taking finals. Kick some ass!

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Reflections on Gender Bias

Shoe Shopping by Jerine Lay

Recently, I was contacted by a law student at Arizona State University. She and her friends noticed that all the winners of the Oplinger Closing Argument Competition since at least 2005 have all been tall, thin/muscular, white males. She asked me to share my thoughts on this phenomenon.

To be fair, I must disclose that the majority of people who participate in this competition are men, so based on pure numbers, it’s more likely that a man will win. It raised a red flag for me when I heard that all the judges in the finals for this year’s competition were white men.  It made me wonder if the judges picked the best performer or if they were biased towards individuals who looked and sounded like them.

There is a general bias towards tall white men in our society. NPR reports that women make 77 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts and obese women make 12% less than thinner women. The shoe lift industry is thriving because taller people generally hold higher status jobs and are assumed to be more intelligent.

I have to be mindful of my own bias. If you look at my professional rolodex, the majority of my contacts are men. In my defense, I generally lean towards people who are leaders, low-drama, sci-fi geeks, and improv performers. This leads to having a lot more men in my sandbox than women. But, when it comes to picking a professional where gender is irrelevant, like a dentist or an accountant, I need to make sure don’t automatically pick a man.

In thinking about gender bias, I was reminded of a trial I watched during my summer with the Army JAG. The prosecuting attorney was a woman who was maybe 5 feet tall and 110 pounds. The defense attorney, Eric Mayer, towered over her at 6+ feet tall with broad shoulders, a chiseled jaw, and a stance that oozed confidence. I was completely intimidated by him. Both attorneys put on good cases and the defendant was ultimately convicted, but if you didn’t hear the case and only saw a snapshot of the courtroom, most people would suspect that the defense was going to win.

As professional speakers, men have an advantage. It’s easier for them to command a room because they generally take up more space and have deeper voices. They are socialized to be more assertive than women.  Conversely, women are socialized to be nice. They take up less space, especially when they’re teetering on heels, and their professional appearance requires them to be attractive, but not too pretty or sexy.  They generally use more qualifying statements and smile at inappropriate times.

Some women face an uphill battle when they want to establish themselves as professionals. Women have to be more mindful of how they talk compared to men. Everyone has an upper and lower voice. Most men speak in their lower voice; women have a tendency to speak in their upper voice. This makes them sounds more child-like and less professional. Women who up-talk are worse. If you up-talk, I will tune you out because the sound of your voice annoys me.

And women need to figure out how their boobs factor into their professional appearance. Big boobs can get you free drinks, but they can be a hindrance to moving up the corporate ladder as many people associate bigger breasts with lower intelligence or being less professionally focused. I’m very grateful I pass the pencil test.

Unfortunately, gender bias will not go away overnight, and I encourage everyone – men and women – to confront it when it occurs. According to my source, a judge at the Oplinger competition told one of the women that she was “too aggressive for a female.” Another female competitor reported that a judge told her that he docked points because she didn’t wear a skirt. I hope both those women told those judges to fuck off.

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Unsolicited Advice: Don’t Open Your MBE Score

This was my actual MBE score, still in its envelope. I did not open until after I found out I passed the bar exam.

It’s been about a month since the February 2012 Bar Exam. That means some people will be getting their multistate bar exam (MBE) results in the mail soon. My advice is do not open this envelope!

The MBE is the multiple choice section of the bar exam. Each state determines how much weight it will give to the multiple choice, essay, and performance test sections of their bar exam. In Arizona, the MBE counts for 50% of your score. It is still possible to fail the bar exam regardless of your MBE score. For some, learning that their score was above average on the MBE allows them to breathe a sigh of relief.

Arizona sends out MBE scores 5 weeks after the bar exam and posts the list of who passed 10 weeks after the bar exam. Do you want to find out that you’re in the lower half and have to wait another 5 weeks to see if your essay and performance test scores are high enough to give you a passing score?

If you get your MBE score before you find out if you passed the bar, I recommend that you take the unopened envelope, shove it in a drawer, and forget about it. That’s what I did, and I was a lot less stressed as a result. Opening the envelope would have increased my anxiety because it would have made me think more about my bar results and would have freaked me out if I was below the average.

My job was done when I turned my test in. There was nothing more I could do. Thinking about the results was not going to change anything.  After I learned I passed the bar, I did open my MBE envelope and saw that I performed above average. I still think I was less stressed and detached by not knowing any part of my score in advance. (I generally don’t talk about grades, but I thought I’d pre-answer this question.)

Making the commitment not to open my score was probably easier for me than most people because I didn’t look at my law school grades for my last 2.5 years of law school. I still don’t know how I did in law school except that I passed every class.

I made an offer to a friend of mine today who took the February Bar Exam. I told her if she didn’t want to see her MBE score when it arrives and she didn’t trust herself not to open it, she could give it to me and I would hold onto it for her.

I’d like to extend that offer to anyone who took the February 2012 Bar Exam or who is taking the July 2012 Bar Exam. If you don’t want to see your MBE score, but you don’t trust yourself to resist the temptation to look, feel free to give or send it to me. I will hold onto it for you until you tell me to return it. Send me an email if you’re interested.

I Was Cyberbullied – Part 4 of 4

This is the final installation of my four-part story with cyberbullying. You can read it from the beginning here. Back to the story . . .

After finals were over, I filed a formal report with the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. They said there was nothing they could do at that point, but that people like her engage in the same behavior repeatedly. They suggested that I send my bully an email informing her that any future contact was unwanted and would be reported to the university as harassment. If she contacted me again, it would be actionable. I disagreed with their assessment, but I sent my bully the email.

Seclusion & Serenity by Iwona Erskine-Kellie

Thankfully, my bully only had one more semester of school and we didn’t have any classes together. If we had been in any of the same classes, I would have asked the school to make her change. It was still nerve-wracking to see her on campus, but we never had direct contact again. Last I heard, she moved to California. Shortly after graduation, I blocked my bully and my other former exec on Facebook. Doing that made me feel like I was closing the door on that chapter of my life.

I had an unsettling experience last week with my bully – she asked to connect on LinkedIn! I was surprised she would want to be a connection given her animosity towards me. I suspect she uploaded all her contacts to her LinkedIn account and requested to connect with all of them, not thinking that there might be people in her contacts list that she doesn’t want to be connected to. I looked for the ability to block someone on LinkedIn and was shocked to learn that LinkedIn doesn’t provide that ability. The best you can do is deny someone the ability to connect with you. I expected them to have a stronger anti-harassment provision. I would like to block her on that site too, but that is not an option at this time.

So there’s my story. It was hellaciously stressful to be the victim of cyberbullying. I’m so grateful that I had support from my friends, my family, and the law school. I can’t imagine how much worse it could have been if I had to endure it alone. Unfortunately, that’s what happens to too many children. They’re ostracized from their peers and they’re too afraid to ask for help from their parents or teachers.

To all the victims of cyberbullying, I know it’s hard to admit that you’re being bullied, and I know it’s scary to ask for help, but do it. You don’t have to go through this alone and you don’t have to continue to be the victim.

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