How I Survived My First Year of Law School (During A Pandemic) [VIDEO]
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
My first year of law school has been a journey! What a journey it has been.
The beginning of law school turned my world upside down. I was overwhelmed and confused by all of the information and expectations that were thrown at me (and my fellow students).
Eventually, I came to learn that law school is, in its own way, a trade school. It's where one goes to learn how to write with precision and explain - through writing - abstract and complex topics in a simple way. The audience being the jury, judge, consumers, the public at large, and so forth. Good lawyers are teachers who can make strong arguments with extreme precision.
The legal trade provides one the opportunity to discover how the law can be applied in practical ways in the world to advance goals. As such, I was able to learn that and start putting it all to practice in my life and in my business dealings.
As you know about me from my introductory blog post and video, I have two small children, I own a business with a variety of projects within that, and going to law school full time during a global pandemic.
How The Pandemic Affected My Life & Studies
The pandemic and how it was dealt with by the 45th president and his administration made it challenging and difficult for so many. It spread quickly and deeply affected the lives of so many people I know. Six people in my social circle died from Covid-19. My friend and house cleaner almost died from it and was pulled back from an untimely death thanks to a week in the ICU. Both of the parents of a friend and business associate died. This tragic loss slowed down the progress of one of my business projects. My husband's work was severely affected by the pandemic, too.
On the positive side, my husband, Franck, is a hands on dad and man. He took care of home schooling, cooking, and shared the heavy load of cleaning. He did all of the shopping as to limit our exposure. In short, he is our hero and champion during this time. A true feminist, he put himself to work amidst the challenges to see us through it.
I was able to study and commit to my practice without losing any time or progress. Without having to go out, attend school or personal functions, I was saved from having to turn down invitations. It allowed me to focus even more on the challenges at hand.
Online Correspondence School Shined Through The Pandemic
While brick and mortar schools and their professors scrambled to adapt to the challenges created by state shut downs, my online law school kept doing what it had always done: providing a quality legal education at a distance.
When the pandemic hit, law schools were shutting down and experience severe delays. My school had no such problem. In fact, our Dean said that we would continue on as normal.
The only change was that they provided online proctoring for students who could not find an in person proctor for final exams. I was lucky to have my daughter's teacher proctor my exams.
I do think that this pandemic proved to the California State Bar that my law school is the school of the future. We were fortunate to earn accreditation which permits me to exempt out of the First Year Law School Student's exam (or Baby Bar as it is also called). That happened just as I was nearing my final exams. I was preparing for the Baby Bar anyway, so I was exceptionally prepared for my final exams.
Online Law School Is A Function of What You Put Into Your Studies: Do More Than What Is Required
As with online law school, you get out what you put in. Nobody holds your hand. Nobody requires you to attend lectures. You receive very little assistance and guidance. You are largely self-studying and learning. You have to check yourself and your progress. Nobody will do it for you.
Yes, online law school puts out assignments and expectations. You must meet those. However, nobody coaches you or guides you on your unique learning needs. They don't push you from your starting place to assure that you reach the marks.
We don't have office hours. Instead, we have a message board. Sometimes, it takes up to four or five days to get a response. I didn't have the patience or desire to engage in that.
With that said, I made the decision to hire a private tutor. Some months, I paid just as much for tutoring as tuition (which isn't that much compared to a traditional brick and mortar law school). I intuitively knew that getting one-on-one help was going to take me where I needed to go. The decision to invest in help was one that paid itself back in dividends.
I was fortunate beyond measure to hit it off with the first tutor I met. He, Scott Caron, answered every one of my questions with direct precision, encouraged my outlook and perception of the assignments, and helped me to prepare myself strategically to not only ace my exams, but to pass the Baby Bar on the first time. The latter being before I realized that I had exempted out of it.
I did put way more effort into my studies that may have been required of me, but I got out what I put in: an unshakeable confidence in my self as a(n eventual) lawyer.
Unlearn To Learn - Put Your Ego Aside
Sometimes, you have to forget what you know to learn something knew. Come to think of it, I think that's a function of all learning in life.
As someone who is a professional subject matter expert, who coaches millionaires, executives, entrepreneurs, and who is sought after to teach others, I have learned that we are all students every day.
I noticed in my classes the gunners - engineers, scientists, medical doctors, and so forth who show up with airs of arrogance. Nothing will knock you down off your own pedestal than a professor basically alluding that everyone is dumber from having read your analysis.
I, too, have been berated and lectured in classes. Professors don't care your background. They're there to strip you of your airs to get you to focus on the matter at hand. Law school will be unkind to those who think themselves better than their peers.
Take Care of Your Physical, Emotional, & Mental Health
As an expert in emotional intelligence, I am not immune to the human experience. I feel a range of emotions from panic, dread, anxiety, worry - the whole gambit. Anyone who wants to do well will face thoughts that they're not enough for the task at hand or incapable of getting past a certain learning barrier.
I am not alone in experiencing panic attacks. I've seen it manifest in myself and other classmates as migraines, stomach aches, diarrhea, bouts of crying, and muscle tension.
Other classmates have felt overwhelmed by managing their families, careers, and studies together each day. Let a lone the crisis of a global pandemic and the economic precarity that comes with it. It is extremely important to get help and receive help in law school.
Build A Group of Peers To Help You Keep Moving Forward
I am immensely grateful for the classmates who have become friends. They have helped me in a variety of ways. Whether it's supporting my studies, being an ear, or having lunch and shooting the wind as a way to take the edge off.
What's great is that my peers are also a diverse group of professionals with a wealth of knowledge and skills to share outside of law school. I have turned to them for help with issues in my life or referred friends to them. Start building strong bonds now as these classmates can be those you work with or advance your legal career in.
Stay away from bullies and gunners who try to throw you off your game. Some will try to make you feel inferior. Some will try to scare you into thinking everything is hard. Others will bad mouth classmates behind their backs. It's toxic. Nobody looks good trying to make others look bad.
Accept Yourself And Work With Your Own Unique Learning Methods
Everybody is different. That's what makes the spice of life. Also, being different is what makes you special and useful.
I had to come to terms that learning the law simply through lectures and reading in black and white was not going to get me where I wanted to be.
I had to figure out creative ways that help me learn better and faster. As a result, I was able to create my visual outlines, essay attack sheets, and create a community of students who want to embrace that they, too, learn differently.
Embracing yourself no matter what "problem" you have is the starting place of all solutions oriented thinking. It says, "I recognize this, I have to work with it, and I'm going to use it as a strength rather than a weakness."
Don't be afraid to ask for accommodations or seek out different tools for learning. You have to learn your own way. As you do, you'll find it's more fun and interesting and therefore, engaging.
Have Fun & Laugh
This goes hand in hand with the section above about putting your ego aside. Being silly, making jokes, and having fun with learning the law will cement your passion for it.
It's no surprise that working in the law is putting oneself neck deep in problems: crimes, abuse, financial issues, death, suffering and so forth. Lawyers are those who are paid to anticipate and, as best as they can, mitigate problems.
I bet if I asked any law school reading this article to take a shot for every time they create a case study where someone gets injured, they'd be black out drunk by now.
It's a trade encompassed by conflict and misfortune.
So, find many ways to express yourself and put into your mind, happy, fun, life affirming things. All those things that the law seeks to preserve and protect.
One of my law school classmates and I talk about fashion and share with each other our high end shopping hauls. Another one and I gush over her beautiful baby. Another one and I laugh at law school memes. Laughing in so many ways is the best medicine. And, one can't laugh in a vacuum. Laughing engages us with the beauty of life.
Get A Mentor & Explore Your Professional Options Now
As a career development expert who has helped thousands of people in their careers, this is an important point I must make for you: get a mentor and start exploring your legal career options now.
While conducting research for one of my papers, I watched a documentary that featured a retired supreme court justice. I felt a connection with him and messaged him and we hit it off as friends. I asked him to mentor me throughout my studies and he agreed to. We have a kinship and enjoy each other as people; the relationship is a two way street.
Take my feel good story as a pointer that you can do the same. Find someone with a legal career you admire and ask them to point you in the right direction. They won't do the work for you, but they'll shoot you with straight answers that will give you perspective so you can make one good decision after another. That's the beauty of having a mentor. It's not enough to hear their advice an do nothing - you must act on what they tell you. Use it as fuel to keep going on the path of success and to keep your head on straight when you're faced with seemingly unsurmountable challenges.