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July, 2011:

SALK Day 208: David E. Mills

Today is my last day of Sponsor A Law Kid!!  My final sponsor of this adventure is David E. Mills of The Mills Law Office.    His recent claim to fame is being among the few lawyers who have had the privilege of arguing a case before the United States Supreme Court.  He obtained a 9-0 decision in Ortiz v. Jordan earlier this year.  I love that he’s done so much, and yet he’s still a down-to-earth person who works out of his apartment in Cleveland, Ohio.  He asked me to relay the story behind him becoming my final sponsor.

David E. Mills, courtesy of Mills Law Office

I announced Sponsor A Law Kid on November 16, 2010.  The idea came to me somewhat on a whim, and I had no idea if it would work.  My friend in the blogging world told me to “put out a blog post and see what happens.”  At that time, I had been blogging for less than a year and I was happy to have a few dozen people visit my site a day.  It took a few days, but Above the Law and the ABA Journal websites each ran a story about my endeavor and my numbers started to climb rapidly.

And then the comments started.  People who didn’t know me and wouldn’t know me from Adam, visited my site and left comments claiming that they were embarrassed for me and that I was lazy, undedicated, and begging for money.   It was hard to approve those mean-spirited comments.  I did not expect that level of negative backlash from the legal community.

I had over 3,000 hits in the first 10 days after I announced the program, including David.  He saw the post about Sponsor A Law Kid on Above the Law.  He thought my idea was interesting, and he was curious to see what people’s reactions were.   David had no intention of buying a day.  However, when he visited my site, he was so appalled by the unwarranted insults towards me and was so impressed with the way I calmly responded to them, that he offered to buy my most expensive day.

I’m so grateful for all the support I’ve received for this program.  Now that Sponsor A Law Kid is over, we need to find new endeavors to support, like the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.  Cleveland has a very special place in my heart, and this is a fantastic organization that provides a wide variety of legal resources for people who can’t otherwise afford legal representation.  It is staffed by wonderful people who work tirelessly for their clients.  They embody what the practice of law is supposed to be.

Sponsor A Law Kid was my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is David E. Mills.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

SALK Day 207: Law School Chat

My sponsor today, Matt Hollowell, asked me to spotlight Law School Chat, a new venture providing information and support for potential and current law students.  This entity was launched in March 2011 by three bloggers: Jack Whittington, Jason Tenebaum, and Brian Hoffman.  Their goal is to have an on-going “conversation for law school students and potential students regarding the issues, concerns, and rigors of law school life and beyond.”

Photo courtesy of Law School Chat

Everything about law school is challenging: picking the right school for you, selecting classes, doing well on exams, networking for your future career, managing stress, and occasionally trying to have a life.  Law School Chat is a wonderful resource because it connects people who have questions with others who have been through the challenges and have a variety of ideas about how to cope with them.  They had their first chat via Twitter in March and they’ve announced that their weekly chats will return in the fall, using the hashtag #lawschoolchat.  This is going to be a fantastic way for members of the legal community to connect to support the up-and-coming lawyers.

Law School Chat is a great resource for information.  Some of their recent posts have focused on how to select a law school and how 1Ls can prepare for the overwhelming first semester of law school.  They also do a wonderful job of referring their followers to the other fabulous lawyers and law-related resources in the social media world.  Law School Chat was recently mentioned in the ABA’s Student Lawyer magazine where Whittington said he hopes their chats can provide support to stressed law students who need advice and people to talk to.

Law School Chat is definitely something to keep on your radar.  Be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and be sure to participate in their upcoming chats.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is Matt Hollowell.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

SALK Day 206: Whitty’s Wears

My sponsor today is Matt Hollowell.  He asked me to promote his friend, Tina Whitlock, who has her own clothing line, Whitty’s Wears, in Nashville, Tennessee.  This mom-founded, mom-owned and mom-designed company’s mission is to “provide clothing for infants, toddler and youth that celebrate the child in them.”

Your Radiance by Whitty's Wear

Everything that this line sells is something that they would want to see their children wearing.  In a society that hypersexualizes children too young, it’s so refreshing to see a children’s clothing line that encourages children to be creative, playful, and carefree.

According to Matt, “Whitty’s Wears was born out of owner, Tina Whitlock’s love and passion for her children and her desire to put a positive vibe into their universe.”  Her works shows that she’s a wonderful role model for her daughters.

The Whitty’s Wears Facebook page currently features its LovethisLife collection.  The designs are adorable and whimsical.  You can tell that they were lovingly and thoughtfully created.  They send a positive message and each piece contains a unique spiral and arrow design either as a main feature or mixed into a picture of a butterfly, turtle, or flower.  I especially love the sun design entitled, “Your Radiance.”  I’d love to have this design on a tank top.

Whitty’s Wear provides clothing for children in sizes ranging from newborn to 12Y.  It currently offers long- and short-sleeved onesies, long- and short-sleeved tees, pants, and sweat jackets.  Whitty’s Wear also has organic pieces.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is Matt Hollowell.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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Bar Exam Wisdom from Legal All-Stars

The bar exam is tomorrow!  I’m praying that what everyone has told me about law school and bar exam prep being harder than the bar exam is true.  I’m ready to kick this test’s ass and to get it behind me.

I have met some amazing legal minds during law school.  I asked a few of them to share some final words of wisdom.

“Don’t try too hard. All you have to do is pass; you don’t have to ace the test.”
Sam Glover, Lawyerist editor-in-chief and ABA Legal Rebel

Bring it on!

Image by pangalactic gargleblaster and the heart of gold via Flickr

“Trust your preparation.  I had the good fortune of studying for the 1997 New York and New Jersey bar exams with my wife (my girlfriend at the time) who was the smartest law student I knew (and is now the most gifted lawyer I know).  If you sincerely completed all of the practice questions and tests the course required, and trained yourself to respond (correctly as often as possible) within the allotted time, you should pass.  That said, I still remember feeling intimidated after seeing the person sitting next to me smiling widely before the exam began on the first day at the Javits Center.  In response, I lowered my head and simply tried to concentrate on the test.  Block out all distractions and solely focus on your goal of passing.  Then, once it is over, let it go and enjoy some time off.”
Ari Kaplan, founder of Ari Kaplan Advisors and author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace

“It is a stupid test. Most of the time, people less intelligent than you pass it. Sometimes people smarter than you fail it. If you pass, you get to be an attorney. If you fail, you cannot immediately be an attorney. Either way, you are a winner of sorts. Eat a decent breakfast and completely wipe the test out of your mind after the last question. Most people use the bar exam as another reason to be unhappy and stressed out. Don’t do that.”
Tyler Coulson, former associate of Sidley Austin, left his law firm to walk across the US with his dog

“Hyperventilating won’t help. Really. The day before the VA bar exam (my first bar exam), I had this mini-panic attack. I suddenly felt the weight of it. However, after a glimpse of rationale thought, I decided that, with less than 24 hours to go, I was better just taking the day easy and letting fate – or rather all of my hard work – take its course. Worrying can be productive but not when it is time to perform.  If you have studied, then simply go out and play your legal instrument. This is one of the last tests of your life where 75-90% will pass. Listen to the symphony in your head and play elegantly.”
Mark Britton, founder of Avvo and ABA Legal Rebel

At this point, there’s nothing more we can do but to walk into the test and do what we know how to do: kick ass.

More Bar Exam Wisdom:

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Bar Exam Wisdom from Arizona Lawyers

The bar exam is a few days away.  All of our work for the last 4 years to get into law school, through law school, and through bar prep will come down to a 2-day test (3 days for some people).

I went to Arizona State University for law school.  Most of my friends and I are taking the Arizona bar exam next week.  In preparation, I reached out to some people who practice law from Arizona, most of who have previously passed the Arizona bar.  I asked them what advice they wished someone had given them before they took the test.  Here’s what they had to say:

Saguaro Sunset

Image by Saguaro Pictures via Flickr

“The absolute worst thing you can do to yourself is speak with any of your fellow test takers about their experience with any portion of the exam.  They will have wax convincingly about seeing issues you did not spot, making you question whether you really studied at all.  Chances are high if you did not see the issue it’s because it was not there.   There is no need to peck away at your self-confidence this way – just turn the subject to something non-exam related, or just walk away.   This is especially good advice after the exam is completed.  Remember, you’ll have long weeks sweating out the results.  There is no need to add to the tension because Billy Bob, who never scored higher than a 72 on any law school exam, uncovered a hidden corporate duty of loyalty issue in that First Amendment question.”
Bill Richards, partner at Bade and Baskin, earned the highest score on the AZ Bar Exam in July 1990

“Before I took the bar, a good friend who had previously taken it told me to trust all of the studying I had done and go in there confident and with guns blazing. That really stuck with me and I took that advice right into the exam hall. I dared this exam to try and stop me from passing! Your state of mind is so very important on the day of the exam. I had people sitting next to me who were completely flustered and wound up missing whole questions on the exam. If you must listen to some arrogant rap music to get your confidence up (Kanye, anyone?). So stay confident and calm (do a yoga class the day before to get centered – I totally did this!) and remember that you worked hard and are ready for this.”
Rachel Rodgers, principal attorney with Rachel Rodgers Law Office

“You will never feel like you’re prepared enough, no matter how much you study. Just accept that! Do your best to remain calm because freaking out just makes you lose focus and forget things. You will, most likely, either run out of time on some questions, or get questions that really throw you for a loop, or both. But remember that EVERYONE is in the same situation, and NO ONE knows the answer to everything. Even the highest scores aren’t ever perfect scores. You only need a D+ to pass, that’s all. Not an A, not a B, not a C. Most of you have never even written C answers in law school, so have confidence in yourselves and know that you can do it! When it comes to the week before the exam, please don’t spend all of your time cramming. At that point you know what you know and cramming will just exhaust you. Focus on your problem areas for one last refresher and try to get out and do some fun things to relax you. The last thing you want to do in the days before the exam is burn yourself out. Lastly, you WILL feel like you failed when you get out of there. It is just part of the process. So don’t be like me and spend the whole night crying and looking into other careers, because chances are you rocked it! Believe in yourself and whatever you do, DON’T talk about the exam when you’re done! You can’t change your answers and usually the people bragging about what they wrote are wrong anyway. Ok, that is all the wisdom I have so good luck and hang in there. It will be over before you know it!”
Jeni Christopher, associate at Schlesinger Conrad, passed the Arizona bar exam in February 2011

“Whatever got you far enough to take the bar exam will see you through it — and allow you to leave the indignity of it far behind.”
David J. Bodney, partner at Steptoe and Johnson 

Good luck everyone!

More Bar Exam Wisdom:

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Bar Exam Wisdom from BarBri Instructors

The bar exam is a few days away.  All of our work for the last 4 years to get into law school, through law school, and through bar prep will come down to a 2-day test (3 days for some people).

Virginia Bar Exam

Image by Philip Larson via Flickr

I reached out to two of my favorite BarBri instructors and asked them to share some final works for wisdom about taking the bar.  Here’s what they had to say:

“Keep your wits about you, and always always put your faith in the curve.”
Douglas Moll, University of Houston Law Center Professor and BarBri instructor

“Bring earplugs – 2 sets.   1 set because you know you’ll be sitting next to someone with tuberculosis and the other set just in case someone ate a burrito for lunch.  Those suckers also can fit up your nose.

“Don’t carb out for lunch unless you want to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon session. Don’t drink a pot of coffee with breakfast unless you want to become a resident of the restroom.  For dinner, eat like a pig.  Carb out like crazy so that you get tired and can fall asleep, despite the anxiety you may be feeling.  In case of emergency, take half a Sominex.

“Bring a pocket flashlight!  True story: On my last day of the California bar, the lights went out during the final performance test for about 2 minutes.  Fortunately for me, someone had told me to bring a tiny pocket flashlight and I did.  Needless to say, I didn’t miss a beat while others around me were quietly cursing me for having one.

“On the morning of the MBE, do 10-15 questions before the test and make your mistakes then.  By the time the exam rolls around you will be properly warmed up.  This advice is gold for those in the parenthetical category.

“Finally, face the bar with a clear mind, a strong will and an open heart (for the hippies!).  It’s just a test.  Beat the living heck out of it.  God bless all of you taking the bar exam this summer, even the non-believers.”
Chuck Shonholtz, BarBri Instructor

Good luck to everyone taking the exam!  As my coach  would say, “Do what you know how to do.”

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Professor Shouldn’t Be Penalized For Confronting Cheating

This week I was inspired by a blog by Panos Ipeirotis, a professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University.  During the first course he taught after getting tenure, he required all of his students to turn in their papers through a program that analyzed each one for plagiarism.  He did the kind thing and alerted his students to fact that he was using this program.  Despite this warning, 22 of his 108 students plagiarized a significant portion of their first assignment.  He ended up spending dozens of hours dealing with his cheating students, many of whom denied plagiarizing their work and even continued to plagiarize other assignments in the future.  It made the classroom dynamic tense.  His department applauded his efforts to curtail cheating but they decreased his bonus based on his lowered evaluation from his students.  He vowed never to police his students for cheating again.

copy copy copy copy copy copy copy copy copy c...

Image by bettyx1138 via Flickr

No matter what honor code or cheating detection system a school has in place, there will always be people who successfully cheat the system.   These people disgust me, especially when they get accolades or opportunities that they didn’t earn.  Those who do their own work know that they’ve earned what they get and they value it more.

There seems to be two types of cheaters:

  • People who are lazy and don’t want to do the work if they can download it off the internet or get someone’s paper who did the assignment last semester and
  • People who are scared about not being the best who will do whatever it takes to maintain their grade point average.

This professor should be applauded for what he did.  His students knew going into the semester that they would be busted if they copied something on the internet or a paper that had been turned in through the anti-plagiarism program previously.   I also respect his decision to stop policing his students because of the excessive drama it added to his life and the negative effect on his livelihood.

This problem has forced me to ponder what the right answer to this problem is.  In the real world, people copy from the internet all the time, and it is generally an encouraged practice in efficiency.  However, in the world of research, it’s imperative to cite information sources.  Your work has no credibility without sources.  For example, my classmate, Stephanie Green, wrote a brilliant law journal note on gender identity and the need to have Medicaid pay for sex reassignment surgery.  Her paper was 51 pages long with well over 300 endnotes.  It’s a controversial topic and many will disagree with her conclusion, but there’s no doubt that her arguments hold water.

I think if I were a professor, I’d require my students to give a believable citation for every statement of fact, and I would deduct a point from their final score every time a citation was missing.  I might run their papers through an anti-plagiarism program to make sure they didn’t copy their paper completely from another student.  There is a time and place for directly copying another’s work, but there’s a right and a wrong way to do it.  Students may not like it, but I’m not going to feel bad for students who are sad because they can’t cheat anymore.

Oddly, Panos Ipeirotis’ original blog post has been removed.  It makes me wonder if he took it down because of backlash he was getting from the university.  It doesn’t make sense that someone would put so much thought into writing a blog post to pull it down so quickly.  It put a spotlight on an ongoing problem in higher education that will not be resolved by ignoring it.

UPDATE:  The original blog post may have been removed, but it is available elsewhere on the internet.  It’s worth reading.

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Send Love To Stressed Out Bar Exam Candidates

The July Bar Exam is less than two weeks away.  For people who are taking BarBri to prepare, our lectures and classes are over.  We’re at the point where every day we’re given a topic and a simple instruction – “Memorize.”  It’s hard not to let the panic set in.

studying

Image by English106 via Flickr

From what I can tell from my classmates on Facebook, we’re all exhausted, stressed, and reaching the point where we just don’t care about these materials anymore.  My day still starts before 6am so I can workout before hitting the books.  I am studying by 7:30am and I spend most of the day going through my flashcards, outlining essay questions, and going through multiple choice questions.  I end my day by spending an hour writing flashcards for other topics.  My goals are to work efficiently these next few weeks and not burn myself out.

These days anything that takes away from studying or my daily routine, like laundry or errands, is a burden.  I’ve recently become aware that studying for the bar has diminished my ability to do normal things.  When I drive somewhere, I have to triple check that I put my car in the proper gear before taking my foot off the brake so I don’t inadvertently crash into another car.

Studying for the bar has definitely made me more irritable.  Everyone is glad that I have limited contact with the public in general.  The stupidest things annoy me.  My friend says I have crankypants.  My family barely hears from me.  My posts of Facebook and rare phone calls prove that I’m alive.  I made a brief cameo at the 4th of July family gathering and left before the fireworks.  I took a rare study break last week to go to Food Truck Friday in downtown Phoenix.  I didn’t realize how tired I was until I saw my friend and gauged my level of energy against his.

This week I realized that what everyone studying for the bar probably needs is a word of encouragement.  We’re focused on studying and don’t have the time to see our family and friends, but it would be wonderful to hear from you.  Please leave a comment for everyone taking the bar exam this month.  It will do wonders for everyone’s spirits just to know that we’re loved and supported while we’re going through academic-professional hell.

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Is That Legal – Yarn Bombing

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  This blog should not be viewed as legal advice.  It is simply my experiences, opinions, and information I looked up on the internet.

Yarn bomb - car antenna

Image by Twilight Taggers via Flickr

A few months ago, a friend sent me an article about yarn bombing.  It involves knitting or crocheting covers for public statues and sign posts.  It looks so whimsical and charming!  It looks like the best way to do it is to measure the item you want to yarn bomb, determine how many pieces it will take to cover the item, make the items, then go back to it and stitch the pieces around it to give it a snug fit.  At first, I thought this would be something that could only happen under the cover of night, but I was pleased to see pictures of yarn bombing happening during the day time.

I have been crocheting for over 10 years.  When I heard about yard bombing, I immediately wanted to grab my tape measure and run downtown to start measuring things to yarn bomb.  I think it would be so much fun to drive down the street and see the post for every sign covered with colorful yarn.  My next thought, of course, was whether yarn bombing was legal.

Is It Trespassing?
It depends.  If what you want to yarn bomb is on public property, like a sign post on a street corner or a statue in park, it’s not trespassing to walk up to it.  If you want to yarn bomb a statue or monument, there might be a sign posted on or near it that says, “Do Not Touch” or “Do Not Climb.”  If what you want to yarn bomb is on private property, such as a lawn jockey in front of someone’s house, it’s trespassing to go onto their property without an invitation.  On the flip side, if the person who owns the private property likes what you did, it’s more likely to stay up longer than yarn bombing on public property.

(cc) Refidnas

Is It Vandalism?
I doubt it.  When I think of vandalism, I think about graffiti spray painted on walls.  To get rid of it, you have to power wash it and repaint the wall.  Yarn bombing is less destructive and completely non-permanent.  I would argue that it is not even defacing property but rather a type of unsolicited public art, like artists who draw with chalk on the sidewalk.   Yarn bombing art can be removed in minutes with a pair of scissors.  I’d say, at most, it’s more like littering than vandalism.  Regardless of what you call it, I doubt the police would waste their time tracking down and citing a yarn bomber as long as they didn’t create any type of public hazard.

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