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August 21, 2011

Ready, Set, Go!


And we are off!

Like sprinters in a 5K race we are in a dash to join the student groups, link up with like-minded friends and collect every study supplement under the sun. The excitement, the energy and the nerves bubble over during our class's orientation week.

Law school students are an ambitious, driven lot and our IL class is no exception to the stereotype. We all want to make it to the end and no one wants to fall behind the pack. After only a week of orientation our "to do" lists are piling up and students are already complaining of exhaustion. But the question is, how many of us will learn to pace ourselves, and how many of us will just burn out? Our frenzied dash through orientation week will not sustain us in the long run of what should really be more classified as a marathon than a race--three years of law school and a lifetime of years in the legal profession.

We have all just begun a journey and taken a life-altering path. I venture to guess that in three years' time---we probably will not be able to recognize ourselves in comparison with who we are today. Hopefully we will indeed learn to pace ourselves, and our unrecognizable self in the future will be from the result of three years of successful skills and character development.


Joanna Lehmann
New York Law School 2014

July 15, 2011

A Boy Scout at Heart

You would find me hard pressed to resist a gauntlet thrown down at my feet. If you looked me square in the eyes and challenged me to be left alone in the middle of the Siberian wilderness, only to then find my way back to civilization, I would nonchalantly, with a shrug of my shoulders, say--"sure". I would take up your gauntlet.

But what you wouldn't know is that for weeks ahead of time my eyes would be pouring over maps of the Siberian terrain. My daily commutes to work would be spent quizzing myself with flashcards of edible and nonedible plants. And I probably would have made 12+ trips to the local "mountain man survival store" to pick up a flashlight, backup batteries and backup, backup batteries. For, as that gem of a motto coined by the Boy Scouts goes---one should always be prepared.

This is similar to how I approach the infamous summer before law school. Law school is a wilderness of uncharted territory for all us entering students. Despite our best efforts one can easily get turned around in the rules of the law or confuse one jurisdiction with another.

In response, I have amassed my own "survival school". A survival kit of hornbooks and study guides stowed safely on my bookshelf at home that I read bit by bit as time allows. My goal for the summer is not to cram every quirk of the law into my head, but to walk into class on day one having a general layout of the law terrain. I want to know which way is north and what lies ahead at mile marker 1, 2, 3 & 4.

The 'be prepared' method is in stark contrast to what many others are choosing to do. Another popular method of pre-law prep is to relax and enjoy the summer. To travel the world and return refreshed with a mind ready to tackle the year ahead, rather than risk entering already exhausted. The understandable theory is that they will have the energy to charge full speed ahead and react to any unforeseen challenges. Come the first day of class, they will possess the calmness of mind to figure out which way is north rather than run in circles.

Both methods have their pros and cons and I am sure both would be awarded merit badges in any local Boy Scout Troop. Although I am a huge supporter of traveling the world and believe the education that one acquires from it is invaluable, I have already done this multiple times over. What I need, based on my individual circumstances at present, is a map and an opportunity to start getting my study muscles back into shape.

In the end, what can I say but that-- I really am a boy scout at heart and "always be prepared" is how I am approaching the summer before law school.

Joanna Lehmann
New York Law School 2014

July 3, 2011

Ummm.....is there a coupon for this?


How do you do? I am Miss Frugality, and you are????

We all have a financial personality. Are you a spender or saver? Do you proceed with caution in money matters or barrel on full steam ahead? Nowhere do we get a stronger glimpse of our inner money manager than when plunking down $200,000+ for law school.

Tuition payments are coming due around the country. I have postponed the inevitable for as long as possible and now it is time to write the check and sign off on the promissory notes. Despite having savings, a scholarship and a very supportive partner, the number of loans I will still need to take out has had me cowering in fear for months. I stare in awe at those that leap right into debt with no thought to the ramifications. Is it gumption? Or is it naivety?

Mr. Spender and Miss Charger remind me of the of friends I grew up with that dove off the high dive board at warp speed, never stopping to worry as to what lied beneath the water's edge. 20 years later they dive right into debt with no thought to drowning. I am not one of these people, as a child the high dive always terrified me and likewise does the aspect of debt.

The good, the bad and the ugly are that we live in a debt built society. Lifestyles are built on a buy now, pay later system. The good is for many it works out, items are indeed bought now and paid for later. But the bad? For many it is a great struggle to pay them off, scrimping and penny pinching for years. And the ugly? Bankruptcy, foreclosure and a never-ending debt plague a large percentage of our society. Education has long been thought of as a "good" debt. But that pendulum appears to be swinging back and no matter how hard we try to dodge it--it is headed straight towards our entering class.

The student loan process has proved simple enough. Fill out a form, click a button and your tuition is funded. The good? No confusion, no stress, no worry. Education is open to all. The bad? It is almost too simple. One wonders if this is contributing to the naivety surrounding money that engulfs some. Without having to work for the finances, to study the impact or put any time and effort into obtaining it---a $200,000 loan is not the least bit terrifying. It is a number on a paper. A button we click "agreed" to on the Internet. And the ugly? The ramifications awaiting us 3 years down the road.

The past few months I have had to revisit my relationship with money. I have had to search out a balance between caution and taking a risk on myself while all the while silencing my inner angst against the exorbitantly high tuition rates. I have calculated every dollar, interest rate and loan fee several times over. I have hemmed and hawed over the guilt I feel about the future. Ultimately the debt is not just going to disappear overnight, it will at best linger in the background for many more years to come. My decision to go into debt will effect not just my own future, but my eventual spouse and children's.

The reality is law school tuition is part of the game; there are no applicable coupons or chances of a drop in rate. In the end, I have done all I can to minimize the impact that will hit in 3 years and sometimes we do need to take risks in life. Sometimes goals are not accomplished without closing our eyes and diving headlong into them. Wish me luck!


Joanna Lehmann
New York Law School 2014

June 15, 2011

What Would Shakespeare Say?


To quote Shakespeare: "What is in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet?" The answer--yes. But what about what we call a law school? That which we call Columbia or NYU by any other name would produce as much success? The answer--maybe.

Attending a less than top tier school in the already law school saturated market of New York City does give me pause for thought. I have seen the statistics on employment, read the horror stories overflowing the internet of graduates without jobs and am well aware of how much the level of prestige of an alumni law school matters in the early years of the job search. If the articles splashed across the Internet are to be believed, the law is a caste system in which we inherit our professional standing from the school we attend. No matter how hard I work, without having NYU Law graduate listed next to my name, my resume will automatically be weeded out by future interviewers without a second glance.

Despite this knowledge I have still decided to attend a lower tier school. And even though I have fully committed to going, I still have moments of frustration. In which my inner voice rails silently against a system in which it appears one LSAT score determines an entire law career. As we all know entry into a law school is based on it and the higher the tier, the higher the median LSAT. If this is the case---what is the point of law school at all? Yes, grades too influence an interviewer's decision to interview, but the first gatekeeper is more often than not--where one went to school.

So why have I chosen to still attend? Because we live in a society where any child can become president no matter what background they come from. Given this any 29-year-old woman can become a lawyer no matter what law school she comes from. The uphill battle to get there might be steeper for some than others--but it is not impossible. I believe I can do this. I have an uphill battle ahead of me but breaking into the legal profession and successfully rising through the ranks is not impossible and has been done in the past. I am bracing myself for hard work, lots of networking and the knowledge that there are no guarantees coming out this. In the end my game plan can be summed up in one word---perseverance. For many people NYU is the sweetest smelling rose. But with daily watering and lots of fertilization, I am determined to make New York Law School smell just as sweet for me.

Joanna Lehmann
New York Law School 2014

June 4, 2011

Please Stand By...


It has been said that sitting on a wait list for entry into a law school has an uncanny ability to feel like one does when flying standby at the airport. You may or may not get on the flight. Trying to pry insiders' information out of the ticketing gate agent is fruitless. And if you wait too long, the available flights headed to neighboring destinations will become booked up as well.

Putting students on standby, or wait listing them, has become a popular trend amongst law schools. When building an entering class, admissions departments are well aware that their admitted students might in the end very well decide to choose another school from which their law career will take flight, leaving a vacant seat.

Our wait list experiences all begin the same; a generic email in our inbox lamenting the difficulty in choosing this year's entering class due to an overwhelmingly high number of qualified applicants, as a result the said applicant has been placed on the wait list. At which point an ensuing jumble of emotions descends upon the applicant--hope, frustration, annoyance, confusion and indecision.

The valid reasoning behind a wait list does little to ease the frustration. Playing a game of limbo with your future is risky. Many in my entering class quickly resolved themselves to attending our school that has admitted them, making silent promises to themselves not to play the game of "what if" further down the road. This path appears especially prevalent among those that have a heavier load of baggage they need to transport on the flight with them--jobs, families, property, etc. The financial and emotional stress of being summoned off the wait list two days before orientation is deemed not worth it and the available flight is taken.

But others, traveling with a lighter load, are hedging bets that a spot on a wait list at a higher ranked school will open up, despite having paid deposits at our school that has admitted them. The prospect of attending a superior school that could open more doors to career success is worth the short-term hassle and standby it is.

The fact of the matter is until a better system is developed, waiting out a wait list really is an individualized choice. We either show up at the airport, fingers crossed that we will be able to board that flight to our dream destination, or we play it safe and hop an available flight to a neighboring town. Myself, I took the flight to the neighboring town and luckily as I await take-off have found myself pleasantly surprised; things are looking pretty good sitting on the runway.


Joanna Lehmann
New York Law School 2014

May 20, 2011

The Twenty-First Century Law Student

As my entering fall 2011 class at New York Law School begins to take shape, an electric mixture of older and younger, part timers and full-timers and west coasters and east coasters begins to emerge.

Past law school student classifications would say that I, a soon to be thirty something, settled in a stable career and relationship, am donning the cap of a "non traditional student". A minority saddled with responsibility yet propped up by additional years of work and life experience.

I am wondering if this title has become outdated. It is true that in a random sampling of my entering class it appears I still fall above the median age and clock in a few more years in the professional world than most. But aside from these conventional variables, a new twenty-first century definition of a law student seems to be taking shape in which rather than sticking out of, I blend right into.

On the entering roster I am hard pressed to find a "traditional student" ---a fresh-faced youth straight out of undergrad, who has never traveled the world, held down a job and relies on Mom and Dad for his livelihood. Instead I find newly minted undergraduates biking across Europe, part time workers and full time parents, active community leaders and polished professionals.

Perhaps it is better to update our image of a law student. Students are entering with a wide variety of life experiences, backgrounds and characteristics. I myself, raised in Walla Walla, a small city in southeastern Washington, grew up in the theater, studied languages, worked my way through Europe, Asia and Africa and settled in New York City almost 5 years ago working in a profession that involves cross cultural relations. I suspect that once orientation rolls around and stories of the paths we have taken emerge, other interesting tales will surface. The twenty-first century law student's path is not always cut and dry.

In the summer before law school as we begin to reach out to each other via email, Facebook and informal happy hours, a sense of camaraderie exists. Regardless of where we come from, the years under our belt or the variety of ways in which we plan to spend our last summer before law school, a common identity protrudes--that of the twenty-first century law student.

If my observations of New York Law School are representative of the entering classes across America, it will be interesting to see in 3 years time after we sit our bar exams how the influx of diverse JD holders integrates into the current legal field.

Joanna Lehmann
New York Law School 2014

November 18, 2010

Finals

As any of my classmates can tell you, this is crunch time. November in the 1L is when it all comes together. We’ve been poring over Contracts, Civil Procedure, and Torts for three months and now, heading into Thanksgiving, we’ve hopefully acquired enough understanding of the law to say something coherent on the upcoming exams.

I’ve said before that the type of student that comes to law school is generally used to getting good grades. One of the most nerve-wracking aspects of 1L is that you really have no idea how you’re doing until it’s too late to do anything about it. I am also definitely at the point where this “stuff” has permeated my brain. I read somewhere that if a lawyer sleeps soundly at night, they aren’t doing their job right. Judging from the bags under most of my classmates’ eyes, I’d say that applies to law students, too.

Now I can’t walk past a parking garage without wondering if the guy pulling his car out has a duty to the unfortunate pedestrian who gets in his way. When I dropped a tomato in the supermarket today, would I have been liable for negligence if an old woman slipped and shattered her hip? This stuff, fundamental to the 1L experience, is what’s going to shape my next three years in law school and I can’t help but wonder how it’s all going to play out.

Law school is competitive because there’s always something you could be doing to make yourself better. Everyone knows it, too. We are graded on a curve and, as we head into our first final exams as law students, it’s hard not to think most of my section-mates are searching for some affirmation: a sign that they made a good decision by coming here.

It’s also time, since I’ve been focusing more on day-to-day preparation for class, to begin actively preparing for finals. Outlines and practice problems are going to be key in making sure my analysis is strong and that I can express myself clearly on paper, something I’ve been struggling with.

I’ve joked that you know you’re in law school when even taking a break stresses you out. I’ve heard conversations at school that sound like students competing over who can take the shortest trip home for Thanksgiving and rush back to finish their outlines. One thing I know for sure is that I am looking forward to rejoining civilization for a couple of days, even if I don’t plan on spending much time outside the library, either.

November 8, 2010

Starting Fresh

My name is Jason Rindenau and I’m a 1L at New York Law in Manhattan. Since I’m from New Jersey and interested in pursuing IP/Entertainment law, you can imagine the decision to come to the city for law school was easy compared to everything that came before it. I’ve found that 1Ls generally struggle with the same issues before taking the plunge. Location, debt, relationships, and responsibilities are sort of the big 4 we all wrestle with before setting aside three years/$200,000 and hope we haven’t made an awful decision. I don’t pretend to speak for everyone but these thoughts certainly went through my head before handing over my deposit checks last spring.

Law school is also nothing like college. That's why it’s important to step back every once in a while and think about why you came here in the first place. This focus is what’s going to make your dream a reality and it’s easy to lose sight of that given the constant pressure that goes along with being a first-year law student. I graduated from Rutgers University in 2008 with degrees in Marketing and Political Science. My experience was that, of four majors in the Rutgers undergraduate business school, Marketing was the only one where, on a job interview, the employer asked what exactly you planned to do with your degree. Law school had been in the back of my mind for a while but it was then that I knew I hadn’t gone far enough in my education.

I took some time between college and law school to work in sales for an academic book publisher, a decision I see enormous value in now that I’m in professional school. The majority of my classmates, it seems, are fresh out of college and I don’t know if I could have devoted the full commitment law school requires without having set foot in the “real world” for a while. That and working helped me to reassess my goals and put a couple of dollars in the bank before I decided that law school was the left turn I needed to get where I want to be.

Naysayers tried to steer me away from law school. They argued the debt and the time away from the workforce would severely limit my options, not expand them. I didn’t feel that way before law school and I don’t feel that way now. The mood at school is optimistic which leads me to believe my classmates don’t feel that way, either. Law school has more or less lived up to exactly what I knew it would be. I liken being a student again to what it was like at work where I was responsible to everyone but myself. As a law student, I am my one and only client: a responsibility it’s going to be important to get down before starting my career whether or not I decide to practice.

I’ve joked that old friends are usually not surprised when I tell them I’m in law school. Maybe it was inevitable. Maybe I didn’t need to rack my brain over coming here since it was never my choice to my make. Either way, I’m confident everything’s going to work out for the best.

September 29, 2008

Falling into Routine

After the first few weeks of my second year, I have fallen back into a steady routine of class, library, and gym. I have slowed down on my search for a summer associate position; my assault on the large firms of New York City has left me with around 16 rejection letters and close to 10 more in the mail. Toward the end of the semester I will begin the next wave of cover letter writing, directed at the mid-sized firms that have yet to determine their employment needs.

My work on the Transnational Law Review is taking up most of my time. The work consists of cite-checking articles that are going to be published and working on a note article that will need to be submitted at the end of the year. The basic premise of cite-checking is to edit articles, making sure all the footnotes that are referenced in each article are referring to the correct authorities and are in the proper format. I cite-check four hours a week on Wednesdays.

While cite-checking is meticulous and time consuming, it is terribly boring and does not require too much intellectual attention. My note, on the other hand, can be exciting at times and has and will involve a lot of thought. Basically, I am writing a thesis paper, with the only requirement that the topic must be based on a legal theory or argument that has never been written about before (also with a transnational theme). I will not go into detail to the extent of my topic (for fear that I will be pre-empted) except for the fact that it deals with the legal implications of large scientific experiments and possible global catastrophes. My goal in choosing that topic was to make it interesting enough, so that there is a high possibility it will be published. With 26 staff members competing for three publication positions my chances of being published are somewhat low, so I need all the help I can get.

Other than the work I am doing on the journal, my second year of law school, so far, has been much easier than my first year. The classes are not necessarily easier or harder, the books are the same size and there is about the same amount of reading assigned for each class. There is just much less pressure and anxiety about how well you do after your first year. After that grueling first year, most students are barely phased, if at all, by the amount work that must been done their second and third years, and have acquired the skills to get the work done more efficiently. So, I have fallen into a nice and slowed-paced routine, where I can get all my work done and still have time to relax. I hope it stays like this all year.

September 1, 2008

Back to the grind.

Hello all, sorry about the delay in posts. I have been really busy with the start of classes and researching for the law journal, I haven’t had much time to do anything else. Second year of law school so far is much different than first year. Everybody’s attitude toward his or her schoolwork, and in class is much more relaxed. The main thrust now is toward getting a job for next summer, which for some people seems way to far ahead in the future.

So far I have sent resumes and cover letters to more than 30 large firms in New York City and have only been formally rejected by one, the rest probably have tossed my application aside. I did go through a mock interview with one of the firms that I was applying for. Despite the fact there was no chance of getting a job, it was a very good experience. I suggest that anybody going through the job search process should attend a mock interview. It is a great way to hone your interview skills and get solid feedback on the way you present yourself. The best thing about a mock interview is that it allows you to calm your nerves before the real ones.

Other than looking for a job, I have begun research on the note I have to write for the Transnational Law Review. This is a year-long process of researching and writing a paper with the hope that eventually it will become published in the journal. My topic thus far is China’s new Anti-Monopoly Law and its effects on U.S. investment. Over the next few weeks I will be narrowing that down into a well-articulated thesis statement and begin developing my position in a 20 to 30 page paper.

On top of all this I have three classes that I will be attending and doing work for. Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me this year. I will be trying to update this blog at least once a week from here on out but don’t hold me to it.