Five Tips to Help You Crush the First Year of Law School

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Written by Nicole Bastos and Rafael Magaña, February 12, 2019 

—-Las Vegas, Nevada   Starting law school is stressful. There are a lot of unknowns ahead and if you want to succeed, you’ll need to know how to navigate the difficult year to come. Because the journey is challenging, it’s important to be proactive and stay positive. That requires strategy in your preparation and execution. Here are five tips to help you get through that first year.

1. Find the right mentor

Many law schools offer formal mentorship programs to help you ease into law school. If your school has one, take advantage of it. If your school doesn’t have that kind of program, then seek out friendships with upperclassmen or young attorneys. These potential mentors can relate to your experience because they know what it’s like to be a firstyear law student. They also have the benefit of looking at the experience in retrospect. This perspective is valuable because they can share their mistakes, their suggestions, and finally, some hope. It is easy to get lost in the everyday grind of reading your cases, keeping up with research, stressing about finals, and feeling like you’re always behind. A mentor who can have an honest conversation about those challenges is someone who should be a part of your support system. Moreover, that mentor can prepare you for certain challenges with difficult professors and classes. They can help you choose the right hornbooks and study guides, and give you outlines to help keep you on track.

 

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There are many upperclassmen and attorneys who are glad to help 1Ls throughout their law school journey. Be open to finding more than one mentor. Indeed, some mentors are resourceful and can help you understand difficult material. Other mentors provide a listening ear and may be excellent at coming up with internship options for you over the summer. There is no one-stop shop for a law school mentor. It is common to feel as though the relationship between mentor and mentee is one-sided. Your mentor understands this. One day, you will be able to give back to your mentor. Make sure to maintain those relationships for the long-haul.

2. Preparation is the key to success

You will quickly find out that everybody is smart in law school. The pressure to perform well is constant. However, unlike in your undergraduate experience, procrastination is no longer an option. Without preparation, time constraints can overpower even the smartest, most talented student. Preparation not only helps you work smarter, it will alleviate stress and allow you to have a better social/academic balance. There are 3 ways you can prepare:

Maintain an Online Calendar

Calendaring is essential to help you keep track of all your assignments, networking events, deadlines, and activities. I guarantee you, there will be so much going on that without a calendar, you will forget about something. The benefit of online calendaring is that you can connect it to your phone. Whether you are grocery shopping or walking in between classes, you can always access your calendar to double check assignments and edit events. You can also set alarms to give you extra notice about an important deadline coming up. If you know you are a procrastinator, you can set reminders a week prior to a big assignment so you know how to space out your time to complete the assignment.

So, what goes in your calendar? First, your class schedule. Second, as crazy as it sounds, include your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is common to sit down, work on something, and then suddenly realize it’s 10pm and it has been hours since you’ve eaten. It happens all the time. If you do not eat at the right times, it jeopardizes your immune system and if there is something that everybody in law school can agree on, is that you cannot afford to get sick. Third, create study time blocks that include breaks. Picture yourself studying for four hours straight. After a while, you realize you keep reading the same two sentences over and over and again. The more you go back to figure out what you just read, the less it all makes sense. Before you get to that point, take a break. During that break (15-20 minutes), do some stretching, play a mindless computer game, watch part of a show, or wash some dishes. Your brain, like a computer needs to go through defragmentation. When you return, you will see that your mind is clearer, fresher, and ready to go for another round of reading.

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Outlining

Your outlining sessions should be in your calendar. It is commonly something 1Ls do not commit to consistently. Keep in mind that everyone outlines differently. An upperclassman’s outline can serve as your base. However, the more comfortable you get with outlining and learning about what works for you as a student, the more you will feel comfortable making an outline on your own.

Office hours

Calendar in the times you plan to visit your professor. Whether it’s just to say hello or ask a question, you need to make sure you are getting face time with your professor. Once or twice is not enough. Remember, you are not the only one going to see them. Additionally, use office hours to share your thought process about a question in the reading. See how they respond. Soon enough, you will have a better understanding of your professor’s expectations on the exam including issue spotting and analysis. Additionally, this face-to-face time and academic interaction will help you feel more confident if you decided to ask your professor to list them as a reference as you start applying for those summer internships.

3. Consider taking notes by hand

Law students commonly use their laptops to take notes in lecture. However, this generation of law students have fallen victim to internet distractions. Whether you just got an event invite on Facebook, or you cannot resist reading the latest news on Twitter, social media sites are not the only distractions. Some of the most common distracting activities include online shopping, computer video games, and instant messaging. With all the distractions on the internet today, it can be difficult to take notes this way. If writing notes by hand minimizes these distractions, consider swapping your laptop for a spiral notebook. Embrace taking notes the old-school way. If anything, try it for one class and compare it to your note taking on your laptop. See what works best for you.

4. Maintain a healthy social life

This one is difficult for many students. They know how competitive law school is, so they want to give it everything they’ve got. While it’s good to work hard, you can burn out quickly if you’re not careful. Maintain a healthy social life in order to keep the fire lit. Find a group of friends that likes to do the things you enjoy. This will allow you to return to your work refreshed and focused. Those who forego a social life may find themselves sick of the study of law before they reach their second year. One of the easy ways to maintain a healthy social life is to include that time in your calendar! Additionally, it is always good to dedicate one day or half of a day to self -care. Whether you choose to sleep in, hang out with friends, learn a sport, or take on a new hobby, this is a way to make sure you are getting a break from the constant law school stress.

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5. Make it count when it matters the most

Just as sports teams want to be peaking around the playoffs, you need to peak during exam time. Law school isn’t like your high school or college experience. You don’t get to build up solid grades through homework, quizzes, and participation. Typically, it all comes down to the exam, where you have to perform and show your mettle. Think of every class as a chance to learn a new skill you can show off on the exam. Take every opportunity to engage with practice tests.

Thousands of students across the country manage to survive law school each year. They’re able to survive because they take it seriously, come up with a plan, and maintain their sanity. Don’t allow the challenges of law school to deter you from putting your best foot forward. These five tips will get you started on the right path toward a great legal career.

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@Copyright February 12, 2019 by Nicole Bastos and Rafael Magaña. Contact for usage license.

About the Authors:

Nicole Bastos is a law student. She is interested in exploring diversity in the legal field and the impact of mentorship. She grew up in Los Angeles, California and majored in History with an emphasis in Latin American indigenous revolutions. UC Irvine Alumni.

Follow Nicole on LinkedIn

Rafael Magaña helps organizations grow. Helps leaders accelerate strategy implementation in their organizations. He specializes in donor-centered fundraising philanthropy. Manager of Midlevel Giving at Hispanic Scholarship Fund. He resides in California. UCLA Alumni.

Follow Raphael on LinkedIn and on Twitter: @RafaelMagana

***Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors.***

 

Mentoring Partnerships-Best Practices for a Mentee

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Los Angeles–Written by Nicole Bastos, Staff Writer  AAEAAQAAAAAAAAqBAAAAJDA3MWExOTAwLWJmOWQtNDAzMC1iNWRmLWE5ZTMxOTFmZTkzMw

Mentoring has become a buzzword in tech companies and corporate America looking to find ways to grow and retain talented employees. A good mentoring partnership can help boost your self-esteem, expand your professional network, and connect you to professional resources, but it is important to note that these things come when you are honest about where you are at, what you want, and if you are willing to put in the work. Like all other relationships, mentorships require time, effort, understanding, and patience.

While the traditional form of mentorship between an older, experienced person guiding a younger, less experienced person provides a basic definition of mentorship, we must be aware that the term is no longer black and white, and that it comes in many forms. Whether it’s formal, peer, group, or informal mentorship, here are five practices mentees can follow to get the most out of a mentoring partnership.

1. ESTABLISH GOALS and COMMIT TO THEM

A mentoring partnership works well when the mentor and mentee agree on the goals to be achieved and how your mentor can help support you. It is critical to not only tell your mentor, but show your mentor that you are taking steps to achieving your goals. Your mentor can then help outline the tasks you need to complete to achieve these goals and how your progress would be tracked. It is also good to agree on how you would communicate- whether it’s through in-person meetings, phone calls, or email-and how often. The mentor and mentee may discuss and choose a date for when the partnership ends, but if you are in an informal mentorship or have goals that can’t be boxed into deadlines, keeping your mentor updated on when your goals are reached ensures that you continue communication, whether or not you are working closely or starting to go your separate ways in the most positive sense. The commitment to your goals will reveal your growth regardless of how long your mentorship relationship lasts. This establishes credibility in your work ethic, your intentions, and your character.

2. SEEK HONEST CONNECTIONS

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Often times, we tend to create relationships based off of work, and that may be a good start, but it is not the glue that holds relationships together. As simple as it may seem, it’s important to be yourself. Working through the assignments that your mentor sets for you and executing them well may demonstrate your reliability but sharing your struggles, victories, and asking about theirs allows for a deeper connection. Mistakes, failures, and insecurities are part of your journey to success and sharing those challenges with your mentor will strengthen that relationship.

3. BE FLEXIBLE

A mentoring partnership opens up different ways of learning. Observe the mentor’s behavior in different situations. This can provide valuable clues about their success. Ask questions and be prepared to follow up. Listen to understand and apply new concepts to your career goals. Try new things and use the constructive criticism to analyze your strong and weak points. Treat each mistake you make as a learning experience.  If your mentor is unable to meet in person and can only talk during that event you’ve been looking forward to, set aside 15 minutes where you can step out to catch up with your mentor. If it means cutting a recreational activity short or having to wake up 30 minutes earlier to get the gym out of the way, it’s worth it. These doable sacrifices will have to be made, but it will establish consistency and keep you engaged with your mentor. Make sure to have a good attitude about the nights of hard work and the days where things don’t go as planned. When faced with change, flexibility is imperative and your attitude determines how pleasant or unpleasant those life shifts will be.

4. BE ACCOUNTABLE

Each time you display a willingness to accept a responsibility and see it through to completion, you are showing that you are accountable for your actions. This includes check-ins, updates, and prompt responses. Time is precious and people don’t have a lot of it. Through your actions, your mentor will see that you are respectful of their time. Accountability also involves being frank and knowing if you have the time to take on a new goal with the vigor and dedication it requires. Whether you get the chance take on a new task or are unable to present something with the rigor and quality it deserves, communicating this is part of being accountable. Although saying yes to multiple projects can be exciting and a great platform to show your abilities, you do not want to spread yourself thin. Remember that this is your mentor and although you want to show your best work, you do not want to risk a product or end result that is below your standard quality of work. This type of communication is key to practicing accountability with your mentor. It creates trust and gives you value. It is a trait that can take you far in your career and life.

5. BE GRATEFUL

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A mentoring partnership becomes possible through reciprocity and mutual respect. Gratefulness is a state of mind that needs to be tapped into. For many, gratefulness is a habit and must be practiced daily to get the best possible results from the journey. Just like any other kind of relationship, mentorship relationships take time and patience. Be grateful that this opportunity has paired you with someone who genuinely wants to help see you succeed. If it feels overwhelming, take a step back and look for all the positives in this relationship. A thank you card, phone call, e-mail, or text goes a long way! Practicing self-care and reflection is also part of being grateful. While there is no substitute for putting in the work to show your gratitude, gratefulness is a practice that can make your mentorship experience a life-changing one.

Mentoring partnerships work well in an environment of mutual trust and understanding. Ultimately, the best way a mentee can repay the mentor is by giving back to society. Make a promise to yourself that you would pay it forward, and that someday you too will reach out to help someone to handle responsibilities with confidence and determination.

Copyright July 24, 2017 by Nicole Bastos. Contact for usage license.

Follow Nicole on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Millennial Women: How to Approach Mentorship

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Los AngelesWritten by Nicole Bastos, Staff Writer AAEAAQAAAAAAAAqBAAAAJDA3MWExOTAwLWJmOWQtNDAzMC1iNWRmLWE5ZTMxOTFmZTkzMw

If you’re looking to launch or grow your professional career, it’s only a matter of time before someone suggests that you find a mentor. Almost seven out ten women consider formal mentorship a critical component to their success, according to a study by DDI World. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them – over 80% – have never benefited from this potentially life-changing relationship.

Mentoring provides opportunities to gain a broader perspective of the professional world, as well as to network and build social capital in their chosen industry. This is especially important for millennial women who often have difficulty penetrating the male-dominated environment of referrals and networking. If the relationship works, it can build leadership skills, value and character, and be a great boost to your reputation.

Know What You’re Up Against

If you are just starting your career, exploring different paths, or switching careers, hard work is required to reach your goals, but it is no secret that success is based on how you utilize your network. Understanding how others may perceive millennials is key to how millennial women approach mentorship.

Unfortunately, there is an apparent disconnect with millennial women and their would-be mentors. Many millennial women look up to an older generation. With this comes the stigma tied to millennial work ethic. Lazy, entitled, and self-absorbed are typical words used to describe millennials by other generations without keeping in mind that millennials face challenges other generations may not fully grasp. Recognizing this generational gap and knowing how to maneuver around this bias can help you gain an advantage to find the right mentor.

New Challenges and Perspectives

While women share similar experiences in regards to childcare issues, confidence issues or other gender-related challenges, these main barriers to growth may not necessarily unite them across generations. Social media constantly targets women and their bodies with images and messaging telling them how they should look, feel and behave. Consequently, these unrealistic physical standards of beauty are used to determine their worth. Plastic surgery is now more common than ever and the need for immediate reward combined with a need for social acceptance facilitated through technology creates a unique, unprecedented environment. Additionally, more millennial women have gone through higher education than men and have massive student loan debt, yet have not seen the rewards in their salaries, promotions, or job opportunities. They are settling down later and many choose not to have kids in order to focus on their careers. Rather than seeking work and life balance, their life is their work and their “sense of purpose is a key factor in their job satisfaction” as noted in the Harvard Business Review article, “Mentoring Millennials” by Jeanne C. Meiser and Kerie Willyerd. While every generation faced their own challenges, we cannot ignore what millennials face today, especially since “millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025” according to the Fusion Hill article, “Millennial Women: Facing Old Challenges in New Ways.” Understanding this shift in perspective will help make your mentorship journey one that increases your awareness as a millennial woman.

Finding a Mentor

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The best place to start is with your own network. Asking someone you’ve met or know of is a great way to find a mentor if you’re just starting out. If your network does not turn up any candidates, you could sign up for a women-focused networking event. Or you could participate on one of the online forums created specifically for women in your industry.

Use technology to help you with an initial connection, but do not rely on it to make the connection for you. While tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Slack channels may help get the conversation started, they are no match for face-to-face time and genuine connection, which is an interaction closely associated with older generations.

When you’ve identified someone you think might be a good candidate, it is wise to tread gently. Begin the conversation with an invitation to coffee and make sure you ask questions about the person’s experience and ethos to get a better idea of how you might work together. Avoid jumping in too hastily. Finding a good mentor is a process and you might have to talk to a lot of people before you find the right fit.

What to Look for in a Mentor

The person you approach should have the right qualities and industry experience to guide you on your journey. Ideally, you should choose someone you look up to; someone who has accomplished the same goals that you wish to achieve. Be clear about your goals with them and make sure to follow through.

The next step is to figure out whether you will be able to work well with this person. A good mentor will:

·     Listen

·     Help you to explore ideas

·     Suggest options and game plans

·     Encourage you to do things for yourself

·     Give you a reality check when necessary

·     Inspire you to achieve more than you could on your own

Be Flexible

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Many mentorship relationships are not defined at first. A potential mentor may or may not have the time for scheduled sit-downs or be open to a fixed schedule. Test the waters first. Seek mentoring moments by asking for help on one task or challenge at a time.  This is a great way to show dependability, willingness to learn, and passion. Being patient during this process is important because it is critical in building that rapport with a potential mentor. They are opportunities to demonstrate that you are coachable and considerate of their time. As this connection develops and deepens, you enter a space where it is safer to ask for formal mentorship, although it may not be necessary especially if you are accessing the information and opportunities you hoped to obtain. Showing hard work and the ability to actively seek solutions counters the millennial stigma and also sets a good example for other millennial women these potential mentors will likely encounter.

As millennial women make their mark in the workforce, mentorship remains a definitive way to open doors of opportunity for the leaders of tomorrow. While standards for working women change from generation to generation and technology’s influence re-shapes how we operate in the professional world, mentorship remains a solid avenue for millennial women to become successful professionals.

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Copyright June 21, 2019 by Nicole Bastos. Contact for usage license.

Follow Nicole on LinkedIn or Twitter.