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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.

Unsolicited Advice: Right Size = Right Message

For many years, I have said that I’m a gay man trapped in a woman’s body.  This semester I feel like I’m being beckoned to jump on my fashion soapbox.  I have noticed an ongoing problem in the courtroom: people wearing suits that are too small.  I’ve seen this problem across the board, from law  students to judges, in men and women equally.  At first I thought it was just me, until I shared my observations with two judges.  They both responded with an astounding, “Yes!”

Ernest Peixotto
Image by Smithsonian Institution via Flickr

A person that dresses according to the needs of the body that they have, as opposed to the body that they wish they had or used to have, they exude a stronger sense of confidence.  When a person is presenting their case in court, they need to appear strong, solid, and trustworthy.  If the person cannot see and accept the truth about their own size, how can they be trusted to speak the  truth about the case at hand?

Tim Gunn said it best when he said that you should consider, “silhouette, proportion, and fit” when selecting your clothes.  Some clothes are little more forgiving.  For example, jeans – if they are  touch to snug when you first put them on, they’ll loosen in up a few hours.  A suit, however, has no give.  If you think it’s too tight, it’s too tight.

Most people who are wearing the wrong size suit, are only off by one size, like a woman who is a size 8 and squeezes herself into a size 6.  I want to share some of the visual give aways that you’re wearing the wrong size suit.  I have seen all of these fashion problems in the law school or at the court this semester.

Let’s start with the jacket.  The shoulder seams should sit on the end of the shoulder.  The arms should fit comfortably in the sleeves.  If the upper arm is too tight, there will be bunching, which gives you the “sausage arm” look.  Buttoning the jacket should not take an effort or require you to suck in your stomach.  You never want the judge to be afraid that a button might fly off your suit and hit her in the face.

Like the jacket, there should not be any bunching in the pants or skirt.  When a man’s pants are too tight, he risks having bunching in the crotch area.  Women are likely to have bunching through the thighs if they’re wearing pants and in the midsection if they’re wearing skirts.  The length of the skirt should also be such that you don’t have to pull on your hem when you stand up.

Beyond wearing the proper size suit, I support people using fashion to display their personality.  When deviating from the norm in a formal business environment, such a court room, it must be done impeccably.  One of my classmates walked into his final mock trial today rocking a pair of suspenders and a fedora with his suit.  He looked fantastic!  Other fashion signature pieces could be a bow tie, a necktie on a woman, cuff links, a paisley pocket square, a brooch, or an untraditional hairstyle.  Just be sure that what you’re wearing does not distract the court or detract from your message.

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Top Ten Ways To Annoy Your Fellow Law Students

I started my final year of law school last week.   It made me reflect on what I’ve learned about being obnoxious in class.   Doing any of things listed below puts you at risk of being viewed as inconsiderate & called a “douche” by your fellow law students.

10.  Forget to Mute your Laptop Before Leaving the House.
No one wants to hear that your “file’s done” or that you have a new message or email.   It’s also generally annoying to hear the standard sounds your computer makes when you first turn it on.

9.  Print a Ton of Documents at the Library & Forget to Pick Them Up from the Printer.
It is one thing to occasionally forget to pick up a single-page print out from the printer, & another to print hundreds of pages & forget to pick them up.  Making your fellow classmates sort through the stack of papers on the printer to get to their print out is bad form.

8.  Type Loudly.
This behavior received the most complaints.  Don’t pound the keys of your laptop, or worse, type with long, acrylic, or press-on fingernails that make a loud “click” every time you touch a key.  Women are usually the culprits, & they are usually oblivious to how much they irritate everyone around them.

7.  Be Needlessly Competitive with your Classmates.  Take Advantage of Every Opportunity to Show Them that You are Smarter than They Are.
You’re in law school.  Congratulations – you’ve already proven that you’re smart.

6.  Come to Class Drunk.
If you decide to have a liquid lunch or to blow off steam by heading to the bar after a stressful morning midterm, don’t come back to class in the afternoon.  Just stay at the bar.

5.  Talk About Grades.  
Rule #1 at law school is, “Never discuss grades.”  This rule extends to discussions about class rank & how well you think you did on exams.   When the final is over, don’t talk about it.  Move on to preparing for the next test or better yet, talk about anything that’s not related to law school.

4.  Be Late to Class.
This is particularly bothersome at my school because every classroom is set up with the door at the front of the room.  Watching & listening to you walk through the room & set up your laptop is distracting.  It’s ok to be late if you have a good reason, but these instances should be few & far between.

3.  Make Argumentative & Irrelevant Statements during Class Discussions.
Every class has at least one of these guys.  Don’t be that guy.

2.  Monopolize the Professor’s Time the Week Before a Paper is Due.
When I was a 1L, my professor had very few office hours during the week before our first memo was due.  One day, the first person in line used up 45 of the 90 minutes he had for office hours that day.  By the time she was done, there were 11 of us waiting – not cool!  I don’t think she meant to be that inconsiderate, but she definitely earned the reputation that day.

1.  Talk Excessively & Loudly in the Library.
The library becomes a second home to a lot of law kids, but that doesn’t give you permission to treat it as such.  It’s still a library & people are trying to work.  Talking at what would otherwise be a normal volume is too loud.  Take your conversations outside – & I mean outside the entire building.  If you’re talking in the lobby, we can still hear you.  Don’t think that getting a study room is an acceptable alternative because the walls aren’t soundproof.

Survival Tips for Incoming 1Ls

I remember feeling very excited and scared during the weeks before I started law school.  I remember having a lot of questions and not always having a clear answer for many of them.  I want to share some of the wisdom that I’m glad people told me and some that I wished I had been told before I started law school.

Enjoy Your Pre-law School Summer
You will have offers to take special pre-law school prep courses to help prepare you to take law classes.  You probably don’t need this.  Enjoy spending your time relaxing with family and friends instead.

Law School is Overwhelming – at first
You might feel like a deer-in-the-headlights for the first month of school while you’re getting used to classes and studying.  This is normal and temporary.

Your Reading Speed will Decrease
Reading legal cases is a lot different than reading other textbooks.  Don’t freak out if you are only able to read 6-10 pages per hour your first semester.

You Can Still Have a Life
Going to law school does not mean you have to give up having a personal life, but you will have to prioritize your activities.  I strongly encourage every law student to have a life away from school.  I was the most miserable the semester I spent the least amount of time participating in non-law school activities.

Studying will take up a lot of time.  However, a disciplined person can regularly be done with studying for the day by 5pm or 6pm.  One of my classmates was known for getting all of his studying done between Monday and Friday and was able to spend his weekends relaxing with his wife.

Don’t Even Think of Trying to Work During Your First Semester
The ABA prohibits 1Ls from working their first semester, and this is one time where the ABA and I agree.  Having worked 2 jobs (13 hours/day) in the past, I thought I could try working a few hours a week when classes started.  My first week of classes proved to me that this wasn’t an option.  Law school is mentally draining your first semester.  Let your free time be devoted to rest and enjoyment.

Form Relationships with your Professors
Professors are great people when you need advice or someone to listen to your frustrations.  They are also awesome resources for networking in your local community and glowing letters of recommendation that make you stand out from your peers when you’re applying for jobs and scholarships.  Professors are a highly beneficial and often under-utilized resource for students.

You Don’t Have to Change Who You Are to be Successful
The legal profession is generally conservative and traditional, and I am neither of those things.  When I was accepted to law school, people suggested that I change my wardrobe, my hair, my sunglasses, and cover my tattoos when I started school.  This was loving advice from people who didn’t want me to be judged by my appearance and bold personality.  I can understand why people might want to “tone it down” during the first few days of school to see how people who don’t fit the norms are treated, but in general, you don’t have to change who you are to be successful in law school.  For me, the best experiences and opportunities have come when I have stayed genuine to myself and not followed the traditional path.

Attitude is Everything
In law school, as in life, you will be as happy or as miserable as you choose to be.  If you simply accept that sometimes life will be challenging and stressful, but don’t let it get you down, you’ll be a happier person.  I have a classmate who embodies this.  No matter what is going on in his life, whenever I ask him, “How are you?,” he answers, “I’m living the dream.”  A positive attitude will always carry you through.

Good luck!  If you have any questions about law school or if you have been a law student and have your own tips or experiences to add to this list, please leave them as comments to this post.