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August, 2011:

Top 3 Money Savers for Law Students

Law school is atrociously expensive. Not only is tuition expensive, you still have to pay for your rent, utilities, books, supplies, and your living expenses. Besides only buying things when they are on sale, having roommates, and keeping your apartment a few degrees colder in the winter, I want to share my top 3 tip money saving tips.

Spare Change

Image by kayaker1204 via Flickr1. Used Books

1. Used Books
When I started law school, I thought it was important to have pristine books so I wouldn’t be distracted by a previous owner’s marks. With new books, I could highlight them using my own 6-color system and fill the margins with my own notes. I also thought I’d keep these books forever because they were a resource for my new career.

After one semester of believing that, I switched to used books. They were so much cheaper, and other people’s highlights and notes weren’t distracting at all.  If anything, they enhanced my reading experience.  I sought out books that had more highlighting and dings because they were cheaper.

One time, I was looking at the listings on Amazon for a particular used text book. One was $40 cheaper than all the others because the owner accidentally spilled coffee on the book. I bought it. The coffee was only on the first page and the edge of the subsequent pages.  It didn’t even touch any of the text. Thanks clumsy guy!

At the end of every semester I turned around and resold as many books as I could on Amazon, including my study guides. The only downside to this system is a lot of books have new editions every year so you have a small window in which to sell your used ones.

(cc) Bede Jackson from Flickr

2. Free Lunch
My law school had lots of lunch time events and networking functions. Usually my first question wasn’t, “What’s the topic?,” but “What’s for lunch?” It was a win-win situation. The club got a big turnout for their speaker, and I got a free lunch. Even better, sometimes clubs would order too much food and at the end, they were giving the leftovers away to anyone, including non-attendees.

Another way to get free lunch is to network. Most attorneys understand that law students are poor and will pick up the check. For many of them, it’s a business write-off. However, you should always offer and be willing to pay, and you should only ask an attorney to lunch if you’re genuinely interested in getting to know them. The free lunch is a bonus, not the goal.

3. Free/Cheap Parking
I think parking on campus is one of the biggest rip offs of education.  My school has a big parking structure that is a 5-minute walk away from the law school. Parking there costs $720/year. Do you know how much ramen I can buy for $720?! There’s a campus parking lot that’s only 5-10 minutes further away.  A permit for the lot costs $210/year. This is where I parked my first year.

When I was in school, students could get a light rail pass for the whole year for $80. For my last two years of law school, I opted for this. I parked for free at the park and ride, rode 5-15 minutes into campus, and walked for 5 minutes from the station to the law school. If I needed my car on campus, I paid the $8/day for visitor parking. At the end of the year, it was cheaper than buying a parking pass.

The super frugal student can park on the street for free.  The only issue is they have to get there early in the morning when space is still available or possibly the afternoon after the morning students have left. Sometimes you have to be willing to drive around looking for a space.

These are just my top 3 money saving tips. There are plenty of other ways to save money while going to school. If you want to share your tips, please leave them as comments. I’d love to hear them.

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When Bullied Students Should Turn to the Police

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.

This is the time of year when kids are heading back to school with new clothes and new notebooks. Unfortunately for some kids, they are going back with an all too familiar feeling of dread – the dread that accompanies going to a school where they are victimized on a daily basis with teasing, being hit and pushed, and being humiliated in front of their classmates and teachers.

I had the pleasure of meeting Caleb Laieski last week, the teen who dropped out of school on his 16th birthday because of the bullying he was enduring. He has since earned his GED and is now a lobbyist in Washington D.C. against bullying and discrimination in schools. We agreed that if a student is being physically assaulted in school and the administration is turning a blind eye to their plight, that the student should report it to the police.

(cc) apdk from Flickr

When I think of bullying in schools, I think about kids being shoved into lockers, being tripped in the hallway, and getting swirlies in the bathroom. In high school, these bullies face detention if they’re caught; but in the real world we call this “assault.” In the real world, people go to jail for this.

We want schools to be safe and we entrust teachers and administrators with protecting students.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.  Sometimes they make excuses for problem students.  Sometimes they ignore the problem, despite receiving reports of bullying and pleas from victimized students and their families. At that point, students can’t rely on the schools for protection, and they should report all incidents involving physical violence to the police.

Why should students go to the police instead of suing the school for not fulfilling their obligation to protect its students? The obvious reason is that it won’t stop the bully in his/her tracks; being arrested will. Suing the school takes a lot of time, energy, and money.  Additionally, the victims of bullying that I’ve met weren’t interested in making money; they just wanted the harassment to stop.  Reporting the violence to police is a faster, more efficient solution.

I recently spoke with a parent who reported a bully to the police. Multiple families had complained about the bully, and the school always made excuses for him. One parent decided that he’d had enough and reported the bully to the police when his child was physically assaulted after sticking up for another student who was being victimized. The benefit to the bully, besides getting a clear message that his behavior was unacceptable, was that he was required to attend the counseling and anger management classes that he needed.

When I was in high school, it seemed like students’ options for recourse ended at the principal’s office.  It makes me wonder if today’s victimized students know that they have options besides dropping out if their school won’t protect them.  The school won’t tell them – a school that won’t protect its students probably doesn’t want them to seek outside help either.  It’s up to the advocates to provide the necessary information and support to these students.

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Reinventing Professional Services – Top 5 Tips For Lawyers

Photo courtesy of Ari Kaplan Advisors

Ari Kaplan’s new book, Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace addresses the question of how professionals can integrate new technologies into their businesses to be more influential and effective.  Loaded with resources and stories from professionals in all industries, Ari’s book provides suggestions about how to use social media, blogging, e-newsletters, and video/audio recordings that makes them less daunting.

As I read this book, I reflected on the legal profession, which has the stereotypes of being dignified and particular, and where deviating from the norm is often frowned upon.  Many lawyers and law firms shy away from online resources and tools.  Perhaps this is because of the strict rules in the profession about advertising and soliciting clients, or because members the profession have a low tolerance for making mistakes.

I’ve compiled the top five lessons lawyers can integrate from this book into their professional lives.

1.       Social Media is a Tool, not the Goal.
It seems that a lot of professionals think that having a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, or a blog is enough, but then they never use them.  Doing this is like buying a hammer and never building anything.  These professionals do not understand that these are tools to communicate more effectively with other professionals and clients.  These are merely channels to “cultivate relationships.”  These are fantastic tools for building trust by being genuine and consistent.  Using these tools is not a one-time event; it requires “habitual participation.”

2.       Be a “Visible Enthusiastic Expert.”
This is one of the best lessons I took from this book.  Being a visible enthusiastic expert means being part of the online conversation on topics where you have interest and expertise.  It’s important to contribute “rich content” and to convey your passion.  Conversing with other experts in an online forum is an effective way to become associated with them.  Even the simple act of sharing a link to another’s work shows that you are aware and informed about a topic.  Additionally, being transparent about who you are and what you can do without being a salesperson conveys to others that you care about a particular issue or population.

3.       Pick Your Targets.
Having a solid online presence is a good start, but it’s not the end.  When there are people you want to connect with, you have to reach out to them.  Don’t wait for them to find you.  Websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ are instant ice-breakers for introducing yourself to new people.  They provide comfortable opportunities to ask a person for advice or for an informational interview.  If your first attempt at interaction fails to produce the desired result, be sure to follow up.

4.       Do Not Be Afraid to Fail.
Law students are instilled with the notion that they must always be perfect – perfect appearance, perfect cover letters, perfect work product, etc.  They graduate thinking the worst thing they could do is misspell a word on an email.  This can make them gun shy to try new things.  Ari’s book demonstrates that most of these new tools are easier to use than you think.  He encourages readers to consider who they want to connect with, where they are interacting, and to join the conversation.  He promises that you will fail some of the time, and that’s ok.  If you try using an e-newsletter and it doesn’t work for you, you can use another tool like blogging or LinkedIn to reach your audience.  Figuring out what works for you and your business is part of the process.

5.       Never Forget the Value of In-Person Contact
Using technology to communicate with someone is less intimidating than picking up the phone; however it is more impersonal.  Nothing will ever replace face-to-face contact, which is more personal and memorable.  It is important to look for opportunities to meet people in person whenever possible and to continue to build relationships with thoughtful follow up.

Using these tips and tools requires willingness and commitment.  The potential benefits of using technology should overpower any fears that come with trying new things.  Always keep in mind that these tools are to facilitate interaction, not for self-promotion.

Ari Kaplan, a Fastcase50 honoree, is the principle of Ari Kaplan Advisors in New York City and the author of The Opportunity Maker, Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development (Thomson-West, 2011).  I bartered this blog post in exchange for a copy of his new book. 

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Nominate Me for the ABA’s Top 100 Law Blawgs

The American Bar Association (ABA) is soliciting nominations for its 2011 list of Top 100 Law Blawgs.  It would be an honor if UndeniableRuth.com was on this list.

During the last 20 months, I have written about a variety of legal topics:

The ABA has a rule that you cannot nominate yourself, a blog you have written for, or your company’s blog, so I can’t sit on my computer all day nominating myself.  I need your help to make this happen.  Also, the ABA doesn’t want to receive nominations from spouses, which I think they’ll probably extend to anyone the ABA thinks is a family member who is not otherwise employed in the legal profession (sorry Mom).  The nomination page can be found here.

Nominations will be accepted through September 9, 2011.

You are not limited to only nominating one legal blog.  Along with this blog, please consider nominating Above the Law, Military Underdog, and Legal Blog Watch.

Flash Mobs Are Not Crimes

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.

It appears the term “flash mob” is being used inappropriately and its meaning is being overly broadened to include any group activity that is coordinated using social media.  This year, there have been several robberies and assaults perpetrated by a group of people that appear (at least on the surface) to have been orchestrated via social media sites.  The media has called them “flash mob crimes.”  They make it sound like someone created a Facebook event that said, “Meet at Broadway and Main at 10pm.  At exactly 10:03, we’re all going to run into the minimart, grab whatever we want, and run out.”  That’s not a flash mob.  That’s solicitation and possibly conspiracy.  If the event actually occurs, it’s larceny and perhaps inciting a riot.

Improv AZ - Where's Waldo Flash Mob Photo by Jeff Moriarty

A flash mob is defined as “a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire.”  Flash mobs have been occurring at least since the 1970’s.  In recent years, they have been orchestrated via email and social media websites; however, that does not mean that every public group activity that is coordinated via social media is a flash mob.

Flash mobs are generally light-hearted innocuous fun.  People who participate in flash mobs ride public transportation without their pants; they welcome back strangers at the airport; they have fake battles between heroes and villains; and they stand frozen in place for short periods of time.  Some protests and promotional events are referred to as “flash mobs,” but technically they’re not.  And any event that has a criminal intent is definitely not a flash mob.

I give the media some leeway when it comes to coining terms; however, I was deeply disturbed when I saw a legal website refer to flash mobs as including criminal behavior.  It suggests the writer did not do their research on this topic.

I love flash mobs.  I have been participating in them and organizing them since 2009.  When Improv AZ organizes a flash mob, we do thorough research on the potential legal implications of our event.  I have attended an event with pages of statutes in my back pocket to ensure that we’re acting within the confines of the law.  We are diligent to inform our participants in advance of their do’s and don’ts.  We may push the envelope, but we never intend to cross the line.  Most of our encounters with police involve them smiling or laughing at us.  At the 2010 No Pants Ride after party, a Tempe police car stopped near us and an officer yelled out, “We had a briefing about you!”  And then he went about his merry way, knowing we were harmless.  A bit odd and rather goofy, but harmless.

Flash mobs are harmless, playful, and unexpected events.  They are not criminal acts by design.  Flash mobs and crimes are two completely different phenomena.  They do not exist on the same continuum.

In other news, the flash mob community needs to send a big “thank you” to Mayor Jackson and the city of Cleveland.   Mayor Jackson recently vetoed a proposed law that would have made it illegal to use social media to coordinate a flash mob.  Thank you for protecting our First Amendment rights!

Sponsor A Law Kid – The Recap

Well, that’s all she wrote – Sponsor A Law Kid (SALK) is in the books!  I was petrified when I initially announced this program.  I didn’t know if it would be a success or if I would fall flat on my face.  I never could have imagined how incredible this experience was.  I wanted to share some final thoughts about SALK.

Photo by AJ Grucky

What Have I Learned From This Experience?
This experience taught me that sometimes your opposition becomes an asset.  I don’t think I would have had so much support for this program if I didn’t get such negative backlash initially from the legal community.  My supporters would have probably thought, “Cool idea,” and moved on, but because I was confronted with venomous negativity, they stood beside me and supported my idea and efforts.  SALK taught me that innovation will always be met with opposition and the best thing to do is to let the haters hate and focus on the task at hand.

If I Could Go Back and Do It Again, What Would I Do Differently?
SALK went from a passing idea in my head to the initial announcement in about 72 hours.  I didn’t fully commit to the idea until about 12 hours before the blog went up and I wrote that post was written in about 20 minutes.  I wish I had had more time to completely flush out my ideas and proofread that initial post.  It was written very much in my stream of consciousness.  People who knew me completely understood what I was saying, but others who didn’t, took offense because they didn’t get it.  If I could go back, I’d take a little more time before making the initial announcement to make sure that I conveying the message in a way that would be better received by my readers.

If I could do it again, I would have announced SALK about 2 months earlier too.  It was hard work getting SALK going and soliciting sponsors in such a short period of time!

How Did I Find Sponsors?
I started out by posting the initial SALK blog and posted links to it on Twitter and Facebook.  I also made a post about it on the Phoenix Professionals Group on LinkedIn.  Then I made a list of all the products I use and the stores I patronize on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, I use a lot of national brands and chain stores, so they usually ignored my requests for sponsorship.

I looked for ways to reach out to some of these businesses in person.  For example, I had to get my oil changed in December.  While I was waiting for Toyota to be done with my car, I spoke with a marketing person at the dealership and walked out with a check and 2 more sponsored days.

I also reached out to every business that advertises in local magazines that I occasionally read and I sent emails to every major news station in the Phoenix area to see if any of them would be interested in running a story about SALK.  I was pleasantly surprised when ABC Channel 15 called back 10 minutes later asking if they could send a reporter to my house that afternoon.

What Was The Biggest Challenge?
The biggest challenge was creating quality content every day.  After writing blogs for 23 consecutive days, I was grateful for a day off.  Some days I wouldn’t get done with my school work until 9pm and I’d still have a blog to research and write before I went to bed.  If I did not know the person or company well, it took longer because I wanted to be sure that I wrote a thoughtful and accurate blog.

How Much Money Did I Earn With SALK?
I earned over $3,200 by doing SALK.  This includes the days that were sponsored and people who purposely overpaid the days they sponsored.  The total also includes Bashas’ Grocery Stores.  I asked them to sponsor a day, and they responded by offering a $1,000 scholarship.

Would I Do It Again?
Yes!

Should Other Law Students Do This?
Absolutely!  This was a great way to make a national name for myself in the legal community and to network with other professionals while offsetting the cost of my education.  Besides the fact that I was more tired than I otherwise would have been, there was no downside to this program.

With SALK, I offered every day for sale between January 1 and July 27.  That’s a lot more days than a typical academic semester, and thus, I had the potential to make a lot more money.  If I only sold the semester, I could only sell about 115 days, including weekends.  That would not have covered the entire cost of a semester of school.  If anyone wants to have their own SALK program, I suggest doing the math to see how much you might make if every day sold.

Thank you to all my sponsors who made SALK a success:  Darvin and Jane DeShazer, Amanda Ellis, ThinkGeek, Donna McGill, Vincent Cannizzaro, Debbie Walker, Camelback Toyota, Tyler Hurst, Henry’s Hope, Sara Shea, Tyler Allen, Michael Vincent, The Foster Group, Nancy Smith, Jana Knapp, K Royal, Jane Ross, Katrina Holland, Brand X Custom T-shirts, the Ferreira Family, Fred Von Graf, Bev Wolf, Sheila Dee, Bristol6, Two Men and A Truck, Pam Gibson, Michelle Diaz Cannon, Stephanie Green, Micah and Danielle Larripa, Aaron M. Kelly, Linda Day, Kerry Mitchell, Matt Hollowell, and David E. Mills.  I couldn’t have done this without you!

Please see all my SALK posts here.

Maybe I Gave A Kid Hope Today

ASU Law Students with Senator Kyrsten Sinema

I took a walk on the beach in California today.  When I was about a half mile from our camp, I started to wonder if I should be nervous because I was walking alone and wearing my “Legalize Gay” t-shirt.  I usually walk in the afternoon with my Dad, and I think it’s universally accepted that you never mess with a girl when she’s with her Dad.  I am a feisty person but I’m also small, and there are a lot of people who could take me in a fight.  And unfortunately, discrimination and hate crimes against members of the LGBT community continue to occur.

I started to wonder things like, “Should I be afraid?, ”“What if someone calls me a name?,” and “What if it’s a child?.”  I started to imagine scenarios of what could happen how I should respond, if at all.  I began to admire the strength and courage of the people who advocated for LGBT rights in the 1970’s and ‘80’s.  I’m sure the majority of the people on the beach weren’t concerned about other people’s reactions to their t-shirts.

Then I had a thought: What if there’s a 13 year-old gay kid on the beach who is on vacation from a conservative state or a conservative family, and all they hear is that homosexuals are perverts, sinners, and pedophiles?  What if they know that they’re gay and they have no gay role models or positive messages about homosexuality?  I wonder how good it would be for them to see someone wearing a gay-positive shirt in public without seeming to care about what anyone else said or thought.  Maybe I gave that child hope that they will someday live in a community where they will be accepted just as they are.

Today I was reminded that I have a responsibility to project a positive message to queer youth.  Just as I needed education, guidance, and support in my baby queer years, so do they.  The least I can do is not be afraid or ashamed of who I am.

Maybe I gave a kid hope today.

Or maybe I just took a walk on a beach.

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Recap of the July 2011 Arizona Bar Exam

I survived the July 2011 Arizona Bar Exam!   I never want to do that again.  I’m grateful for the love and support of my family, friends, and professional mentors during this time.  I wanted to share my top 5 tips of what I’m glad I knew or wish I knew going into the test.

  1. An assortment of Jolly Rancher candies

    Image via Wikipedia

    Eat a Filling Breakfast: We had to be at the convention center at 6:45am on Day 1 of the test and we weren’t going to break for lunch until 12pm.  In the week before the exam I did a breakfast experiment and found that oatmeal made with ½ cup water, ½ cup milk, raisins, sliced almonds, and brown sugar kept me full all morning.  I was so nervous on both mornings of the test that it was hard to force myself to eat, but I knew that would be better than getting half way through the morning and being starving.

  2. Sleep:  I’ve heard it takes the body 2 days to feel tired after a bad night of sleep so the night that really mattered was 2 days before the test.  I often have insomnia, especially when I’m nervous.  I took a sleeping pill 2 nights before the test to ensure that my body and brain would get adequate rest.
  3. Take the Free LunchASU did a very cool thing and provided lunch for us during the bar exam.  It was nice not having to worry about getting lunch in just over an hour and having to deal with the general public.  ASU even humored a superstition that many people in my class have and provided Jolly Ranchers for us.  It was also nice to see some friendly faces from the school.
  4. Prepare for Arctic Conditions:  When the Arizona Bar Exam is in Phoenix, it’s held at the convention center, and it’s freeeeezing.  I heard about this and wore jeans, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt on Day 1.  By lunch, my lips were blue and I couldn’t feel the tips of my fingers.  I asked a proctor if we could raise the temperature in the room and she dismissed my request saying that “It’s always this cold.”  For Day 2, I wore a thicker fleece and I was more comfortable, thought by the end of the day, my feet had started to go numb.  I should have brought an extra long-sleeved shirt, fingerless gloves, and a lap blanket.
  5. Do What Works For You:  When I’m running in a race and being passed by other people, I often remind myself that I need to run at my pace.  The same idea works for the bar exam.  It didn’t matter how fast or slow the people around me were going.  There was no need for me to freak out when someone finished and walked out of the room with an hour left on the clock.  All that mattered was that I was thinking clearly and answering the questions to the best of my abilities, and ultimately passing.
Standardized Test

Image by biologycorner via Flickr

I gave it my all on this test.  When I walked out, I had no brain power left.  Since the test, I have been sleeping a lot and slowly been regaining my cognitive functions.  I’m glad that I’m spending my first week after the test on vacation where I don’t have to see anything related to law school or the bar exam.

To the loved ones of people taking the bar exam:  The best thing my family did for me during my bar prep was to give me space.  From the time I graduated until the bar exam, my family never called me.  I occasionally called them to let them know I was alive.  They knew to leave me alone and let me do what I needed to do.

I need to give a special shout out to the woman who went into labor during Day 2 of the New Jersey Bar Exam.  She calmly finished her exam, walked across the street to the hospital, and delivered a healthy baby boy 2 hours later.  You are a phenomenal person.  I hope the labor pains didn’t interfere with your ability to pass the test!

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