Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The 2020 Presidential Election and Law School


The presidential election is coming up.  In only eight days, to be exact.  It's quite an interesting time for people not only in the United States, but around the world who are watching and taking notice of who will be in the white house for the next four years.  

For law students, the election may be quite a stressful time.  It's no secret that the United States is a pretty divided place.  And this may be the ugliest election in recent memory.  Nobody knows just how things will look in the next couple of weeks, and the excitement may make it so that your law school grades suffer.  I recommend making a plan to get yourself through these next few weeks, especially if you are easily given over to the political.

There are two candidates running for office.  One is the current president, Donald Trump.  I believe, despite the polls, that he will likely win this election (but I wouldn't necessarily bet money on it).  First, one big thing he has going for him is the fact that he is highly against shutting down the United States again.  While some may disagree with his reasoning, those in the business world do not want to lose their businesses due to being unable to open their doors.  While one could discuss the idea of business income versus lives, many are now used to COVID19 and have their opinion on the matter.  I have been lucky enough to do some traveling during the last couple of months, and I can tell you that COVID19 has caused many restaurants and other businesses to shut their doors.  For some families, this is completely devastating.  A lifetime of dreams crushed for something that many people don't really see.  

On the other side is Joe Biden, a man who would likely improve international relations and the United States' standing with the world.  He is said to bring about change, but his opponents say that he will just return the US to politics as usual.  

Donald Trump has already changed the world quite a bit.  He has recently confirmed another Supreme Court Justice and has made the world see the United States in a different light (although not as different as one would imagine--I have traveled to about 20 countries and lived in three since he has taken office and few people have said anything about him when I say I am an American).  

In the days leading up to the election, many students will put down their Torts and Property textbooks and constantly watch the news, reload BBC, or pay attention to the live updates about the election.  While this may be hard to resist, take a moment to take care of yourself and your mental health.  Take a break from the election and try to focus on your schoolwork.  You don't want to have to deal with the stress of the election and falling behind on your work to bring you down in the weeks after the results are in.  Being that the election is different this year, with many mail in ballots being counted, you may find that the results take a lot longer to tally up.  It could be weeks before the next president is known.  

There are many people who are almost literally holding their breath to find out who the next president will be.  In my own family, I have staunch defenders of Trump and angry Biden supporters who are neck-in-neck over who should win this election.  Frankly, I find myself not caring as much as some say I should.  Maybe it's due to being an expat at the moment.  I am largely removed from life in the US and with COVID raging, I have no idea when I will even be able to visit next.  Yet, even if I lived on US soil, I don't think that I could get into the madness and keep my own sanity.  Both sides want you to think that the world is going to go to hell no matter who wins or loses.  Your best bet is to focus on your own life, focus on your studies, and realize that, no matter the outcome, you are doing your best to succeed in becoming a great attorney.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Did You Cheat On the Bar Exam? You Might Win a Prize If So!

Above the Law recently posted an interesting article that stated "you may win a cheap prize if you are a narc."  It seems that the California State Bar wants to know if anyone has cheated on the exam.  I can't imagine doing so.  When I took the New York Bar exam a few years ago, I could not so much as turn my head to the left or to the right without feeling that, if I even looked as if I was cheating, I could kiss my legal career goodbye.  Of course, I do not practice law, and it does not matter now.  However, cheating on the bar exam is absurd.  

Lately I have been reading the book "As a Man Thinketh" and highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to develop their character in ways that are rarely seen in today's world.  Those who cheat may get a short term gain in life, or pass the bar when they otherwise may have failed.  However, in the long run, cheating is addictive and only brings about failure.  Honestly, how good can you feel about yourself if you pass the bar but had to cheat to do so?  Sorry, I don't mean to turn this into a lecture.  I just wanted to share an article.  

"We are seeking to improve the online exam administration process, and gathering feedback from examinees is the best source for that. [The bar] hopes to receive valid responses about cheating. Survey data will be treated confidentially; we never claimed that it was anonymous. We plan to analyze and use the data in aggregate form; never reporting back in a manner that would identify a specific individual.

— Teresa Ruano, spokeswoman for the California State Bar, commenting on a survey that was sent to those who took the online administration of the bar exam two weeks ago. The survey asks applicants about their “remote bar exam experience” from software difficulties to the availability of tech support. The survey also asks them if they cheated on the test or know of anyone who said they did. Respondents can select “yes,” “no” or “prefer not to answer.” A message from bar interim director Donna Hershkowitz accompanies the survey, and she notes, “Your responses will be kept in the strictest confidence. Comments you make may be included in summaries about this examination administration, but we will not attribute your comments to you, and individually identifiable survey responses will not be shared with state bar examiners.” Those who took the bar exam after offered the chance to win $50 gift cards if they send in their responses.


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

How to Become a Law Clerk - Tips to Prepare for the Best Law Clerkship Possible!


Many of my readers have aspirations of becoming a law clerk.  This is for good reason: being a law clerk is an amazing way to learn the ins and outs of law without having some annoying law firm lackey breathing down your neck all the time and expecting you to be perfect at what you do just because you wrapped up your legal education.  Contrary to popular belief, law school doesn't teach you all you need to know about life in the legal world.  In fact, all law school really teaches you is...well... not that much.  

If you want to really learn about law, then consider becoming a law clerk.  Now is the time to prepare--in fact, it's never too early to prepare, because like all things law-related, the competition is fierce.  


GET TO KNOW THE COURT

You should get to know all you can about the court where you wish to clerk.  What does the court do?  Is it mostly civil or criminal matters that take place within its walls?  What are the schedules of the cases the court hears?  This can help you understand if that particular court is a good fit for you, your career goals, and your interests.  Don't bother applying somewhere where you are not a good fit.  In the end, you are going to wish you did something else, and nobody wants to spend their days after graduation wishing that they did something different.  Instead of wishing--make things happen your way every day.  Now I sound like a motivational speaker!


GET TO KNOW YOUR COURT'S LOCAL RULES


Your local court may have its own procedural rules.  It's wise to get to know these.  You can also go to the court and observe cases or observe the docket.  Most of what you will be doing as a law clerk has to do with what you see in the court's day-to-day docket.  During your observations, you can watch other lawyer's make mistakes so that you can learn from them.  Everyone makes a mistake from time to time, but it's best if you can learn from other people so that you don't make mistakes.  Nobody likes to learn the hard way.  Sitting in on your own judge's docket is the best way to learn, but sometimes that's not possible.  A good piece of advice is to look at appellate-level courts websites, as they post oral arguments for the public.  Looking at these arguments, you can compare good and bad arguments.  Pretty cool, huh?!


BEFORE YOU CLERK, READ AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!


Opinion writing is not like any other form of writing, and it's good to get used to this style of writing before you clerk.  Get used to your judge's style of writing.  It's true that the more you read something, the more you will write in that manner.  I know that this is true for me.  After I started reading Robert Greene, I was writing in the same style.  It was amazing!  Get to know the style of legal opinions and practice writing in that style.  Later on, it will make life a lot easier for you.  

Opinion writing is something you have already had a lot of exposure to in law school.  You may have noticed that some opinions are well-written and almost flow like poetry.  Some incorporate beautiful prose and could be framed.  Perhaps, like I, you cried when you read the TJ Hooper for the first time.  Maybe you were moved by Florida v. Jardines?  What makes these cases so beautiful is that they say so much in so little space.  It's as if the authors of these art forms have a way of saying so much in so few words.  It's like magic, isn't it?  For me, reading these cases was so much fun.  Compared to my fellow students, I was a scion in case reading, oftentimes making my professors blush as I schooled them.  That may be why I got into the whole law school case briefs thing.  I could go on, but read, read read!


PRACTICE YOUR OWN WRITING SKILLS

I have found that law school students are a competitive bunch when it comes to writing.  Writing is the bread and butter of the profession, and many law students are aspiring writers in other areas, such as fiction or poetry.  Even I have written a few books that I sell on this site, as well as Amazon.  Writing is a part of my life that was really developed in law school.  But, like any skill, writing must be honed and developed, and you are going to find that your fellow classmates are going to try to one-up you any chance they get.  If anything is going to make you stand out in this profession, it's your writing skills.  Think about it--most law jobs require that you send in a writing sample.  Let me be honest here and state that one day I was applying for a job as a lawyer and wasn't feeling too good about myself.  I was in a rather foul mood, to be honest.  So, do you know what I did?  Don't laugh (even though I am as I type this).  I sent the hiring partner a copy of "From Law School to Lawyer" (In this book, I totally rip apart the legal profession).  Of course, I never heard back from him, but I hope that the partner got a good read!  

I should also say that some law students and grads are just downright mean when it comes to writing.  So many have told me that my writing was bad.  So what?  Don't let other's opinions get you down.  If anything, remind yourself it's like any skill--it gets better with practice, and even if one isn't the best, sometimes it's a lot of fun to work with it.  Just because I'm not a great swimmer doesn't mean I am not going to dip my body into that warm water off the Maldives when I am visiting next.  


GET IN CONTACT WITH FORMER LAW CLERKS


They say that the best way to learn about something is to talk to someone who knows first hand what it's like.  Former law clerks are the people who know what law clerkships are like.  See if you can talk to former law clerks from the court or judge that you will be clerking for.  Surely, they have a treasure trove of information about what you are getting into.  They may even have some pointers about areas in which your judge is finicky about.  These people can also make great mentors and may be able to get you more than just some insider information about the court. 

If you want to really get a feel for what it's like to clerk, have lunch with and shadow a current clerk.  When you do this, you will learn first hand what you are getting yourself into.  If you clerkship is looming close, you will get to see what will be coming up as you begin your clerkship.  How exciting!


THINK ABOUT YOUR FUTURE


I was awestruck and disappointed beyond belief when my property law teacher didn't hand me a crystal ball after I almost nabbed that CALI award in my property class.  I was hoping my entire legal career would be written out for me so that I could just slide on through life.  Of course, that didn't happen, and few people also get to enter a clerkship with knowledge of what will come after their clerkship.  If you are not one of the blessed, unstressed, and well-dressed individuals who seems to have it all together, then you may want to start thinking about who may or may not hire you after your clerkship is finished.  You are going to have a big edge on the law graduates who went straight from school to the firm, as you will have some real experience.  Use that to land you into a good position.  

You can also watch others to get an idea about where they work.  If you see lawyers who are rude or disorganized, you can imagine that their place of employment is probably a place you want to stay far, far away from!


THINK ABOUT YOUR GOALS AS A CLERK

Your days in life are numbered, and in the same manner, so is your time as a law clerk.  Before you know it, your time will be up and you will be thrust back into the world, maybe wishing that you did something different or learned something else during your time as a clerk.  I know that there's a lot I wish that I did differently.  Maybe had I set some better goals, I would have done better?  Who knows?  Think of the judge as a mentor -- many like being mentors.  Remember on Cars 3 when Lightning McQueen reminisced about how the Hudson Hornet was his mentor, and then later on, Lightning McQueen wanted more than anything to mentor that yellow car?  Yeah, it's like that.  Being a mentor is great, and your judge wants you to succeed, as it builds up their pride a bit.  They taught you.  You're that yellow car!


DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK OTHERS FOR ADVICE


There are two people in this world.  The first are those who think that they can solo life and not ask for any help.  They are the kind of person who never picks up a book, and although their life trajectory really doesn't improve that much, they think that they know everything.  They are not really the kind of person you want to emulate, but this seems to be most of the world--including the legal world (you would know what I'm talking about if you went to JDUnderground).  

Then, there's a group of people who are far more healthier in how they view life.  They want to learn in any way possible.  They read books, ask people questions, and are like sponges, always soaking up information.  They never stop learning because, unlike most of the people who were on JDUnderground, they realize that they know very little.  They want to be their best selves.  This is how I am-- I am in this second group!  I don't know much at all (except for stuff about law school and case briefs.  I know a TON about case briefs), and I love to find out the answers to all I can.  That's why I read as much as I can every single day.  That's why I work my butt off providing some kind of value to the world.  And that's why I am pumping out articles like this one!  This is how you need to be as well, especially if you want to find success in the world!  So, ask people for advice.  Ask questions.  Learn.  Grow!  Keep on trucking and before you know it, life will get better in ways that are unfathomable!  It's like compound interest.  Don't wait to learn from random chance, take the bull by the horns and begin learning all you can right now!

The LSAT-Flex Is a Dream Test -- Much Better Than the Dinosaur LSAT Most of Us Had To Endure!


COVID-19 has changed the world, and some of those changes are downright annoying.  Many people don't really care for not being able to take the Bar Exam in other states or not being able to fly to Tahiti for winter break.  I know, that last one is a total bummer.  Yet, maybe not all of the changes that have come as a result of the pandemic are bad.

One of the better changes may be the online LSAT, also known as the LSAT-Flex.  This new LSAT test was created to accommodate all the people who still want to go to law school.  It may have been a rough start, but the LSAT-Flex is getting some positive feedback, even on the most discerning of websites, such as Above the Law.

The LSAT-Flex is quite similar to the old, and perhaps dated, traditional LSAT.  It is made up of three 35-minute sections rather than five 35-minute sections.  All three of the sections are scored (in the dinosaur LSAT, one of the five was not scored).  And, to make things even more interesting, you can take it online on any computer that runs Windows or Mac.  Cool!

So, how is this new LSAT dream-test proctored, you ask?  Well, as creepy as it sounds, it's proctored through your webcam and microphone.  Take a few moments to shiver before continuing.  Got that out of your system?  Okay, let's move on.  This new online LSAT is even graded the same as the traditional (ancient) LSAT by those who consider themselves the scions of the legal admissions world!  

Imagine -- taking the LSAT in less than two hours.  That sounds nice, doesn't it?  I think back to when I took the LSAT in a tight wooden desk at USF in San Francisco.  I honestly think that impacted my score, but I can't blame discomfort for everything.  Maybe my brain was just not wired the same way as the smarter kids in the room.  But enough dissing myself, I need to get back to the article at hand.  

The new shorter test will have you in and out of the test in a flash.  In about the same amount of time one could watch Finding Dory (which I just adored!), you can finish the LSAT and be ready to start applying to the school of your dreams.  Now, that's a huge improvement, even though it may cause the Baby Boomers to chortle.  I guess, for some, sitting in one's own urine is a right of passage.  Sorry, but I disagree!

The LSAT-Flex will be around until at least April 2021, then it may be back to the old style test, where you can kiss your bladder goodbye.  I guess things are not all bad during this COVID-19 time.  Maybe next winter you can get your tickets to Tahiti and have benefited from a shorter LSAT.  As for me, I think the Maldives are looking pretty good right now.  

Sunday, October 18, 2020

4 Things Incoming Law Freshmen Should Know Amid COVID-19

4 Things Incoming Law Freshmen Should Know Amid COVID-19

By: Kevin Moore


There was a surge of law school applications around 2018 and 2019, specifically throughout President Trump’s administration. This unexpected surge has been dubbed as the “Trump Bump,” based on the idea that politics had pushed young people to pursue legal careers. 


However, it seemed like this Trump-inspired burst in incoming first-year law students admissions was no match for the COVID-19. In fact, the global pandemic had easily ended the two-year resurgence that the legal schools had wished would become a sustained recovery from years of decline since 2008.

The American Bar Association (ABA), Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and student affairs professionals from various law schools have been assessing the challenges in the global pandemic legal academics. Here are four things incoming law first-year students should take note of: 

Interactivity is Critical

The majority of the classes in law school are now entirely online, while others might be a hybrid between online and in-person learning. However, most law schools wish to offer students a flexible and realistic quality of education, likewise with on-campus learning. 


When it comes to legal education, high-standard fundamental interactivities are deemed necessary, particularly for the incoming first-year law students. By far, the only way to accomplish this is through traditional classroom experience. 


Of course, the health and well-being of everyone will be top priority. The challenge now is to deliver a class that’s both adequately interactive and safe for the students, faculty, and staff. 


There’s no exact plan of how the fall semester of law schools will unfold yet. Currently, law schools are waiting for further guidance and decisions from both the ABA, state bars, and local governments. 

Safety in Live Classes

Each school has its own kind of safety plan. Having said that, most schools should implement standard precautionary measures against the COVID-19, which includes the following:


  1. Face Masks or Cloth Face Covering 

  2. Contract Tracing

  3. Social Distancing

  4. Sanitizing and Disinfecting


Some students might refuse to follow any of these safety measures due to their political beliefs and ideologies. In this case, a law school’s legal counsel should generate a risk mitigation plan. The plan should be processed in place and clearly communicated to students ahead of time. 

The “Limited Practice of Law”

The COVID-19 crisis had urged the ABA to adopt an emergency rule immediately. This resolution authorizes current and upcoming law school graduates to participate in a limited practice of law under the supervision of a licensed lawyer, despite being unable to take the bar exam. 


Here are the highlights of the resolution: 


  • All law graduates of batch 2019, 2020, and prior years (i.e., those who’ve been serving as judicial law clerks since their graduation) can engage in limited practice of law. They will be called “applicants.”

  • Applicants can engage only if the bar exam in their state has been either put off or canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Applicants should be under the supervision of a licensed lawyer with good standing.

  • Applicants can’t entirely do what their supervising lawyer can do. For example, if their supervisor is a New York car accident lawyer and is currently handling a criminal case, applicants can’t handle the trial phase yet. Nonetheless, the scope of limited practice will depend on an applicant’s state.

  • All factors that impact limited practice graduates will be under the control of specific provisions of the jurisdiction’s rule. These include the graduates' qualifications, the scope of practice, supervising lawyer’s responsibilities, and others.


  • The resolution offers law graduates opportunities to serve potential employers and clients directly.

  • Graduates can also access resources and may bring “new unprecedented skills” while engaging in this limited practice of law.

  • All applicants should take the bar exam before 2021 ends.

  • If applicants failed their bar exam, their limited authorization would be terminated.

While this is mainly intended for law graduates, first-year students should be enlightened on this new emergency rule. It’ll let them realize the current uncertain job market, as well as how they could be affected by it in their future legal career. 

The New Orientations 

Law schools might likely break law freshmen orientations into more manageable sessions and start them at an earlier time. These orientations usually are a week long. If they have to be done over the Internet, it’s hard to tell whether students can sit for a week of Zoom meetings. 


Moreover, since COVID-19 has turned the law school application cycle on end, law schools might have to set up arduous tracking mechanisms for students who might experience the so-called last-minute “melt” from online orientations. Melt takes place when a potential student pledges to attend one school, but decides to attend another school over the course of the vacation. 


Takeaway

All departments in a law school are expected to work hand in hand to overcome the new challenges in admissions. Together, they’re expected to educate law students about inclusion and diversity in an era of online learning amid the global pandemic. 


This is a guest post by Kevin Moore.  If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us at [email protected] 
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