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Am I Ready? – Thoughts from 1L Darryl Green

September 9th, 2013 No comments

The start of law school can be daunting. 1L Darryl Green weighs in on preparing for the great undertaking:

 

As the days get crossed off my calendar, I find myself getting closer and closer to my law school’s orientation week.  As excited as I am, I can’t help the nervousness that grows stronger within me each passing day.  I am about to get a full on taste of what it’s like to be an actual student in his first year of law school.  The only question is, am I ready?

For me, it’s the one question that‘s repeated over and over again.  It’s well known that law school is no walk in the park. The undergraduate mentality that a lot of students come in with, have to be reevaluated immediately upon entering law school.  I am sure this will be explained in depth during orientation in every law school in the country.  But even so, the worries one may face when starting law school may come before one even sets foot on a law school campus.  Here are three of my main worries about starting law school:

1. The Work Load

By now, entering 1L students have probably received packages from their respective schools. These packages may include orientation information, class schedules, first assignments, required readings, suggested readings, etc.  ”First Assignments? Required readings? Suggested reading?  The school semester hasn’t even started yet and I already have work to do?” Yup, there are books that need to be read and assignments that need to be done before classes even start. A small work load compared to what will be handed to students at the start of classes.  As a full time student, my schedule consists of five classes that are (so I’m told) generally standard for 1L students.  Property, contracts, torts, civil procedures and legal methods.  All of which require a lot of individual attention, lots of reading, analytical thinking, understanding, briefing and outlining.  It’s definitely a step (or two, maybe three) up from years as an undergrad.  It’s something I know I’ll have to get a grip on.  I know it could  be very overwhelming and stressful, but if I don’t, it can be a full on disaster.

2. Studying

We all have different methods of studying and retaining information for quizzes and exams.  A lot of the time, the information we stored was only to be regurgitated during test time.  It’s something that as an undergraduate I’ve gotten used, and it has pretty much worked.  But all good things must come to an end. To some extent, at least what I’ve been told and experienced a little is, law school requires more than learning new information and reciting it verbatim.  Sure, I will spend countless hours studying and memorizing new words, rules, and other information needed for the law school exams. Doing my best impersonation of Mike from Suits (good show by the way) to help me through.  However, it takes more than just being able to recite the information you come across.  As a law student, I will have to be able to take what I learn and figure out how to apply it to a given scenario or fact pattern and then explain how I arrive to such a conclusion.  From my understanding, this is an important part of studying in law school.  It’s one thing to know the information, but it’s another thing to know the information and be able to apply it properly.  This is quite different from what I am used to.

3. Exams

If you love multiple choice tests, raise your hand. (Ok, let’s see. I get to choose between four, maybe five answer choices.  I know one of them has to be right and I’m pretty sure if studied hard enough, I can spot the answer when I see it. Yup, my hand goes up.) What about short answer questions? (Hmmm… ok. It’s a bit more time consuming than multiple choice, but hey,  Just read the question, write a sentence or two and I am golden.  I guess I can put my hand up here too. Reluctantly though.) Okay, now essay exams? (… and cue the cricket noise.)  No, I am not a big fan of essay style exams but from my understanding, it’s going to be what I am faced with come test time in law school.  Professors don’t really want to know how many times you can correctly guess an answer on a scantron.  And although, simply writing out two sentences, answering a question with yes or no and why is okay, it will only be a piece of a bigger question that needs to be answered on an exam. Professors want to see what you’ve learned throughout the semester and the best way for them to see that is through an essay style exam. It’s pretty much the norm in law school, It’s going to take some getting used to.

Those are a few of my worries with starting law school. Am I ready for it? Only time will tell, but I am preparing for what’s to come.  Since I know there is going to be a massive workload, I am trying to figure out the best way to go about getting it organized and how I can get a handle on it early.  Studying is going to take up a lot of my time, granted.  So setting up a schedule and sticking with it will be key.  Regarding the exams, one of my required readings is a book entitled Writing Essay Exams to Succeed in Law School.  So far, its been very helpful and It’s a good book for essay exam writing.  (For your reference, it is listed in my Good Reads.)

 

What is it about starting law school that worries you?

About that Tuition Bill……

November 27th, 2012 No comments

Financing your legal education ranks among the top worries for applicants.  Scholarships and grants are a best case scenario but in reality most will be taking out loans.  What does that mean for your future?  Well, consider that most law students graduate with a $100,000 bill or more.  This is also a major investment in your future which in most cases pays off within a few years.  Law can be a fulfilling and lucrative career for those who master legal skills and follow their calling.  It’s not a direct path to riches but it can certainly be a path to personal fulfillment.

So moving on, how do you pay for law school?  Here are important considerations:


  •  Ask about scholarships and grants.  Figure out whether you’re competitive for funding and if there are endowed
    scholarship or outside sources available.  If you are competitive for a merit scholarship, then consider a school’s reputation vs. debt load.  Would you attend a lower ranked school in order to graduate with no debt?  What does that mean?  What kinds of jobs could you consider if you graduate with no debt?  Where could you live?  What could you afford?
  • Meet with a Financial Aid Counselor!  Most law schools offer counseling upon acceptance.  Call the Financial Aid office to learn about different loans, deadlines and processes.  Paying for law school requires planning (if you paid for your undergraduate degree then you know this is true!).
  • MINIMIZE  YOUR DEBT!  Try to borrow the least amount possible.  Remember there is interest on loans.
  • Consider your cost of attendance.   Some things, such as a car loan or credit card payment, cannot be included in your budget.  How will you pay for these bills?  Remember full-time students are allowed to work a MAXIMUM of 20 hours per week.
  • Yes, there are a few work study positions in law school.  They are competitive but it’s an option.
  • Watch LSAC’s Paying for Law School on YouTube.  It’s long so set up 45 minutes to watch this.  You’re welcome in advance :)

 

What do you think?  How will you pay for law school?  Maybe follow this guy’s lead and ask for $10,000?

More resources:

Financial Aid FAQs:

http://law.widener.edu/Admissions/CostsandFinancialAid/FinancialAidFAQs.aspx#24

Loan Calculators:

http://www.finaid.org/calculators/loanpayments.phtml

http://www.yourgfm.com/debt-calculators/college.shtml

http://degreedirectory.org/articles/20_Tools_to_Calculate_Student_Loan_Costs.html

Work, Life and Law School: How Do You Balance It All?

July 11th, 2012 No comments

Troy Riddle, Multicultural Affairs Officer

Working full-time and attending law school can be a scary notion.  However,  Troy Riddle, Widener Law’s Multicultural Affairs Officer, is living proof that it can be done.  Mr. Riddle is an alum of Widener Law’s Extended  (part-time)  Division, his entry below describes his experience and tips that helped him through.

________________________________________________

Law school is challenging for a student of any age or academic pedigree, but I believe it is exponentially more challenging for students trying to balance a full-time job and/or family. The sense of accomplishment one feels, however, when the four year’s are over is euphoric.

As an Extended Division student, I was employed full-time as a middle manager in the healthcare industry, managing a staff of more than forty. The nice thing about my work situation, however, was that my boss and the staff knew I was in law school, and provided a lot of support and encouragement to me. This support system proved invaluable to me. Especially on those days where I hadn’t completed all of my assigned readings and needed to steal a few extra minutes at lunch time to try and cover the material before making the drive from Philadelphia to Delaware.

Four years later, it was all over, and to be quite honest, I was a little sad. I actually enjoyed law school. The rigors of legal education challenged me in ways that I didn’t know I could be. I learned a lot…not just about the law and how to craft ingenious arguments, but about life and how the world really works and how the law influences it. Because law touches virtually every aspect of human existence, it’s almost impossible to leave law school without having at least one “light bulb” moment regarding something you previously thought mundane or ordinary.
There are many ways to approach law school if trying to balance it with work and/or family.

Here are a few tips/advice I’d like to share with you:
• Don’t make any life-changing moves or decisions.
• Know that at times you’ll have more reading than humanly possible to complete.
• Know that the people you always see in the library aren’t necessarily getting the top grades.
• Understand that your family and friends won’t understand the demands being place upon you.
• Talk to your professors when you don’t understand a concept/case covered in class.
• Take as many practice exams as you can and get feedback.
• Take time for you (both mentally and physically); exercise, spend time with the family.
• Take at least one day during the week for a reprieve. (I made Friday my “me day.”)
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. (It doesn’t make you a poor law student.)

Much success to you as you embark upon what I think is the most transformative education one can obtain!

Thank you, Mr. Riddle, for sharing your experience!  If you have further questions about the part-time program please feel free to email the Admissions office at lawadmissions@widener.edu.

Meet Jason Ploppert – Rising 3L

April 27th, 2012 No comments

Jason Ploppert, Widener Law Student

My name is Jason Ploppert, and I am going into my third year of law school at Widener.  I am Penn State alumnus, where I majored in Crime, Law, and Justice.  Since coming to Widener I have become an active member of the Moe Levine Trial Advocacy Honors Society and the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law.

As an incoming 1L my biggest fear was the immense amount of reading, and the inherent competitive nature of law school.  Your first year in law school is unlike any other experience you have had in your life.  The pressure you face your first year is palpable, however, the professors and students at Widener make first year a much less harrowing task.  Professors and other students are more than willing to lend a helping hand, and unlike other schools there is less of the typical “me-first” mentality.  In my first year I had some of the best teachers I have had in my entire life.  My civil procedure professor, Patrick Johnston, was able to take a subject that many consider the hardest in law school and make it much less convoluted, while adding in a great deal of humor.  Another personal favorite of mine, Leslie Johnson, makes students feel so comfortable by being so approachable and teaches in a way that could make the most complex subject seem like third grade math.

At the end of the day law school is what you make out of it, in my two years here I have probably learned more than I did in the other 23 years of my life combined.  If you come here willing to put in the work, there is no limit to what you can accomplish.

Thanks for your thoughts Jason!  Learn more about him on our Student Ambassadors Page.

Here we go again.

Well the Christmas holiday has come and past.  It was a very pleasant and much needed break.  I had almost 4 weeks to recoup and get ready for Spring Semester.  Three semesters down and five to go!
While I was off, I had time to work on this Blog and study for my certification in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)  program that is held at the Harrisburg campus every year.   Volunteers provide  free income tax preparation assistance to low-income, elderly, and disabled taxpayers as well as to taxpayers for whom English is a second language. VITA assistance covers federal, state and local tax returns.  This is a great program that provides a needed service in the community and gives the volunteer valuable experience working with clients.  For more information on becoming a volunteer for VITA please follow the link.

Grades have been released for last semester and I did better than expected.  Grades normally come out the first few weeks of the next semester.  This is primarily because Ninety-five percent of the final exams are in essay form and consists of two or more essay questions.  Multiple that by twenty to thirty students per class and then consider each professor on average has two to three classes and the sum is that each Professor has many pages to read and evaluate in a very short time. I have heard from many professors that they would be happy to teach for free, but they would require considerable pay to actually grade exams.  So as you are waiting for grades to come out, the next semester is already in full swing.  Try not to worry about it and just concentrate on the present.

For Extended Division Students, the second semester of your second year is the first chance you get to choose an elective and decide your own schedule.  This semester I am taking Torts II, Civ Pro II, Professional Responsibility, and a seminar on Climate Change Law.  This means that I have class on Mondays from 4:00 pm to 10:05 pm, a two hour class on Wednesday and another four hours on Thursday.  So far it seems manageable.  My only concern is commuting to Harrisburg on Mondays.  I have exactly one hour to get from work to the campus via Interstate 78 to 81.  It is normally a 40 minute drive so any delays could be a problem.  If you will be commuting to the campus, it is always a good idea to talk to your professor at the beginning of the semester to let them know your situation and then they normally will be more understanding if you are actually tardy.  However, try not to be a habitual offender.  If you find that you are consistently late, then consider taking classes that start a little later or see if you can work out some arrangement with your employer on those days.

Ready for the Holidays

Well it has been an exciting and fast paced semester.  From Con Law to Civ Pro and Property II, I can easily confirm that Constitutional Law is in fact the most challenging class yet, but at the same time, the most enjoyable.  When taking Con Law, you must keep up and truly learn the concepts.  Keep in mind that there is no right reason or side.  But you must be able to articulate and defend the side that you ultimately choose.
We have just finished finals week and I am now heading home for a nice 3 ½ week break to enjoy the holidays with the family.   I just came to the realization that Christmas is next week and I have a lot of work and shopping to do yet.  See you in the Spring!

Seconds Please!

So we survived the grueling first year of law school and our second year now begins.   We had three long months to rest and catch up with family as well as take care of all the home projects that accumulated over the past year. So now the fun begins, partie deux!
This semester, we are taking Constitutional Law ( my favorite), Civil Procedure I, Legal Methods III, and Property II.
Although the first year was very challenging, this semester is turning out to be challenging in other ways.  First, is the amount of increased reading.  Easily twice as much as the first year.  Also, unlike undergrad study, you are expected to fully remember and use the knowledge that you gained from your first year.   One advantage even though the read has intensified is that we now have a basic working knowledge of legal concepts and the unfamiliar terms don’t seem so odd anymore.

The 1ED (1L) Rollercoaster –Is it really that bad?

Absolutely not!  But that does not mean it will be easy.  As an evening student, you will quickly find that time management is essential.   Right from the start you will be expected to read many cases a week in four different areas of law and be able to discuss the facts of each case, how the particular theory of law applies to the case and why the case turned out the way they did.   You will need to balance and use every hour of each day to achieve a maximum benefit.   I cannot stress enough how important it is to outline each class each week and do not procrastinate.  Keep an eye out for workshops presented by the academic fellows and professors.  They are a big help in understanding how to succeed in class and on the finals.  Also, when planning your schedule, don’t forget to allot time for yourself and your family.  They will appreciate it and you will enjoy think about something other than law school.

Class Preparation – Reading cases takes a certain amount of skill and concentration.    Before law school, I considered myself an excellent reader.  I could read quickly and retain the information with little effort.  But when I began reading cases in Contracts I and Criminal Law, I felt as if I was reading a foreign language.  The solution for me was to slow down, learn the concept at the beginning of the chapter and then read the case holding and rational.  Then I returned to the beginning of the case and read it again.   The bottom line is to learn what you should be reading and then estimate how long it will take to finish a subject.   You will quickly find that the information is less intimidating and you will be able to follow along and participate more in class.   Find what works for you and stick to it.  If what you are doing is not working, change your habits immediately.  It makes no sense to waste time.   Also, do not be afraid to ask questions in class.  More than likely, there are others in your classes that have the same questions.

Before you know it, fifteen weeks pass and finals are here.   This is the point where you find whether your time management and preparation has worked for you.   If you do it correctly, the reading period before finals should be a time for you to just review the material covered.  If you find that you are just beginning to make outlines and organize the subjects covered, you have waited too long.  This does not mean you will not do well on the final exams, but it does decrease your chances of doing well on them.

After finals are over, enjoy your time off, you have earned it!  There is no need to stress about grades, because they will not be released until mid to late January.  So just prepare for the spring semester and when classes start, focus on them.  It is also a good idea to meet with your fall semester professors after grades come out to find where you scored points and the areas of exam writing that you need to work on.  Most professors are more than willing to meet with you if you ask.   When grades do come out, keep in mind that this is law school.  You are surrounded by the best and brightest.   If you are used to top notch grades and being at the top of the class, be prepared for less than stellar numbers.   Don’t lose sight that the standard for excellence is much higher than anything you have ever done before.   Keep the faith and do better in the spring semester.

Spring Finals will creep up quick enough and then there is finally a nice long break to recuperate.   Law school is tough, but chances are that if you are attending classes at night and working full time, you already have the will power and determination to see it through and you will do well.  I had my doubts during the spring semester and I now know that law school will only become the nightmare some suggest it is, only if you let it.  Good Luck!

Hi and welcome to my blog!

Hi and welcome to my blog!  My goal for this blog is to inform anyone interested in attending law school what it is like from the perspective of an evening student at Widener University School of Law.
So why do you want to go to law school?  I know there are many answers.  For some, maybe it is a chance of being a part of a noble profession.  Others, maybe a significant pay raise and job security, and some maybe a chance to help others.   For myself, that question has a simple answer.   Passion!  Passion for justice and resolution of life’s problems.  The chance of entering a profession that I would look forward doing for the rest of my life.
Putting all the lofty ideas aside, if you are truly considering law school, here are some general tips that may help you.

  • Do well on your undergrad degree.  Although undergrad GPA is not the only factor law schools look at, the higher the GPA, the better chance you have of getting admitted.
  • Determine which law schools you would be interested in attending.  – visit www.abanet.org for accredited schools.
  • If you are working full time, many schools now offer evening / extended programs.
  • Start preparing now to take the LSAT. – visit www.lsac.org for more info.
  • Look online or at a local bookstore for study aids on taking the LSAT.
  • Be ready to dedicate many hours to reading and attending class.
  • Have a good support network.  If you are married or have children, discuss with them that this commitment will require a lot of time, which means less time for everyone else.
  • If you have questions, ask law school admissions counselors, LSAC, or the ABA / your state / local bar associations.  They are generally very eager and willing to help you get the information you need.
  • If you have little or no pre-law experience, try to learn some of the common terms used in law / law school.  (Case Briefs, Socratic Method, etc.)
  • DO NOT READ the book 1L by Scott Turow!

If you are thinking about attending law school in the evening, here are some more specific tips that may help:

  • If you are planning on working a full time job plus attend school in the evening, make sure that your employer will be flexible when you need them to be. .  (e.g. – special projects, final briefs, mid / final exam weeks).  Just be up front with them and most employers will work with you. However, you know your employer and their mentality, so ultimately it will have to be your decision on discussing such matters with them.
  • Again, if you have immediate family, discuss with them how they feel about you attending law school and any thoughts or concerns they may have.  Involve them in the process.  If you visit any open houses, bring them along, so they can talk to admission counselors too.
  • Effective time management is essential to succeed.  Procrastinators beware!  With working a full time job, full time class load, and staying connected to your family, time become very valuable.  Know your priorities and stick to them.
  • Most important, if you are accepted to a law school take some time off before the fall semester begins and do something fun!