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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.

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.

Let 3Ls Take the Arizona Bar Exam

Arizona State University

I saw an awesome story last week – the deans of the law schools at Arizona State University, University of Arizona, and Phoenix School of Law petitioned the Arizona Supreme Court to allow 3Ls to take the February bar exam before they graduate. I think it’s a brilliant idea.

If 3Ls can take the bar exam, they will be admitted to practice so much faster. This was my 3L year and admission to the Arizona Bar:

  • Mid-August – Mid-December: Fall Semester
  • Mid-December – Mid-January: Winter Break
  • Mid-January – April: Spring Semester
  • May – July: Study for & Take the Bar Exam
  • July – September: Wait
  • Early October: Results Out – I passed!
  • November: Recommended for admission to the Arizona Bar (I had to track down a few documents for character and fitness)
  • December: Admitted to the Arizona Bar
  • Total Time: ~15.5 months
University of Arizona

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s how it would work if 3Ls can take the February exam:

  • Mid-August – Mid-December: Fall Semester
  • Mid-December – February: Study for & Take the Bar Exam
  • March – April: Special Condensed Spring Semester – Focusing on Preparing to Practice Law
  • Early May: Results Out
  • Late May or June: Admitted to the Arizona Bar
  • Total Time: ~10 months

When I first heard about this program, I had some concerns, but they were put to rest when I heard that students wouldn’t be allowed to take classes while studying for the bar exam and they will probably have to prove that they’re registered for and have a plan for studying for the bar exam. They also will have to demonstrate that they’re on track to graduate the following May.

Phoenix School of Law

Image via Wikipedia

Taking the bar exam during 3L would be a brutal workload, but a disciplined motivated student could do it. It would suck to fail the February bar exam and turn around and study for the July test. On the flip side, if students pass, they could work in the legal field, take another state’s bar exam, work another job, or relax and travel starting in the summer after finishing law school.

The biggest downside I see to this proposition is that it will be harder for law students to take all the electives they want during school, especially courses that are only offered once every other year, but that can be at least somewhat remedied with an independent study.

I hope the Arizona Supreme Court allows 3Ls to take the February bar exam, at least on a trial basis. The Supreme Court is taking comments on the proposal until May 21st if you want to share your thoughts on this idea.

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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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I Was Cyberbullied – Part 3 of 4

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

Walking Away by Jeremy Raff-Reynolds

At that point, I was done with her harassment. I investigated whether I had options for recourse through the school given that I was experiencing student-on-student harassment and all the emails were sent over the ASU email system. My research revealed provisions of the Arizona Board of Regents Student Code of Conduct that prohibited harassment and discriminatory activities.

I set up a meeting with the Assistant Dean of the law school where I explained what had been occurring and showed him all her emails. By then the semester was drawing to a close. He and I decided that the best course of action was for him to meet with my bully after she was finished with finals to discuss the inappropriateness of her behavior. At the end of the meeting, I turned over my copies of the emails to him to put in her permanent file. If anyone calls the school to ask for a reference for my bully, they may be told a report was made against her for cyberharassment.

My bully reportedly left town immediately after her last final, so the assistant dean was unable to get her into his office for a meeting. Instead, he spoke with her by phone. According to him, she wasn’t very receptive to what he had to say and didn’t take any responsibility for her behavior. Shortly after the call ended, she made the following post on Facebook:

“ruth carter is a giant cunt and a poor person. tell the world I said this.”

She must have realized that creating that post was a poor decision and removed it, but not before I took a screenshot of it and sent it to the school.

The assistant dean and I were astonished by her behavior, and I had concerns about her level of impulsivity. I still had one final to go, and the finals schedule is post publicly, so she had access to information regarding when/where I would be on campus. We weren’t certain that she had actually left town or that she wouldn’t come back.

We decided it was be better to be safe than dead. To protect my physical safety, we decided it would be best if I took my last final in a different location, so I took it in a windowless room, by myself, where only one other person knew where I was.

Read the conclusion to my cyberbullying story in Part 4 of I Was Cyberbullied.

 

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I Was Cyberbullied – Part 2 of 4

This is the second of my four-part experience with cyberbullying. You can read Part 1 here. Back to the story . . .

Alone by Tanya Little

For weeks, I was anxious every time I went to campus. I was so nervous that it made me sweat profusely. I stopped wearing professional clothes to school out of fear I would ruin them with sweat stains. Instead, I wore jeans and a t-shirt, and kept a fresh shirt in my locker. It was common for me to change my shirt during lunch because my first one was soaked with sweat. I got down to my lowest weight in law school that semester because I was too anxious to eat and I was sweating so much.

My bully was in one of my classes that semester – trial advocacy – and she sat right next to me. There were only 12 of us in the class and only 12 seats in our seating area. I didn’t want to ask someone to exchange seats because it would have brought up questions about the situation. So every day we had class, I sat there, sweating like crazy, but refusing to let her know how much she bothered me.

My trial advocacy final was a mock trial. Thankfully my bully wasn’t my co-counsel or the opposing counsel for my mock trial. Our trials were on a Friday night, and we didn’t finish until after 10pm. Her group finished before mine. I was petrified walking to the parking garage that night. I didn’t know if she’d be waiting there for me. I was so relieved when I didn’t see anyone in the garage.

My goal for the student club that my bully and I were executives for became to get the club through the end of the school year, pass it off the next year’s executives, and be done with my bully and the other executive. The club’s faculty advisor caught wind of what was going on and asked to meet with me. When I told her about the emails, she said my bully was out of line and she would do what she could to help get the club through the end of the year.

Our advisor called a meeting for all the executives to plan the remaining weeks of the semester. When my bully and the other exec tried to bring up the gala invitations, she immediately cut them off and refocused on the club’s future. I walked out of the meeting with the impression that my bully and the other exec were not going to stop trying to turn the gala invitations into a group decision and that they were going to view everything I did in a negative light. I decided at that point to resign my leadership role. It wasn’t worth my effort to keep putting up with them.

All the executives in this club were equals when I was in it. We didn’t have designated roles like president and vice president. All club decisions were made by a majority vote. However, I was often the point person on projects and a lot of people sought me out when they had a question about the club. After I resigned, I had nothing to do with the club. When anyone asked me about the club, I referred them to the club’s email address.

Shortly before I got my bully, I was the point person on an event put on by my and another law student club. The post-event paperwork didn’t get done until after I resigned. An exec from the other club started it and asked for my help, but by then I couldn’t sign off on anything because I wasn’t a leader anymore. I referred her to the club’s remaining execs.

I could have done the work in less than 3 minutes, but I wanted to take a stand. I wanted my bully and the other exec to know that when they make it impossible to work with them, I’m not going to work with them. By then, I had no obligations to them or the club. I responded to all their emails by politely informing them that it would be inappropriate for a non-executive to fill out executive paperwork. That resulted in my bully sending me the nastiest email to date:

“Ruth you are a giant cunt and a poor person.”

Read how I responded to her nastiness in Part 3 of I Was Cyberbullied.

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