Preparing for your Final Exam

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As Exams approach you will be inundated with a myriad of advice about study tips; which supplement is the best, how each professors prefers their answers, and so on, but there is one piece of advice everyone forgets to mention:

GET ENOUGH SLEEP!!!!

I know, I know, there is not enough time in the day and you have to stay up later than usual to study.  Everyone in Law School knows you don’t sleep during the exam period and you are panicking because you just realized you only have 2 weeks to get everything in your head but guess what – your brain won’t work if you don’t take care of it!

This shouldn’t be news to you.  I’m sure your parents set a bedtime (and not just because they needed adult time) because they knew getting a good night’s sleep is important.  One of the first sleep studies was done in 1896 at the University of Iowa.  The fascination with sleep and learning has been going strong ever since![1]  However, as smart as we law students think we are, we don’t listen to the experts when we are pulling all-nighters to cram for our exams.

It has been proven that sleep deprivation impedes your capacity to complete difficult cognitive tasks–  like our final exams.  Even worse, all the studying you do while super-sleepy is not going to stick, so you are going to end up restudying everything and will STILL be tired and cranky.  So just be smart – get some sleep and start fresh in the morning.

Don’t believe me or your parents?  How about Harvard Doctors:

The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Learning and Performance

Another area that researchers study is the impact that a lack of adequate sleep has on learning and memory. When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information.

In addition, our interpretation of events may be affected. We lose our ability to make sound decisions because we can no longer accurately assess the situation, plan accordingly, and choose the correct behavior. Judgment becomes impaired.

Being chronically tired to the point of fatigue or exhaustion means that we are less likely to perform well. Neurons do not fire optimally, muscles are not rested, and the body’s organ systems are not synchronized. Lapses in focus from sleep deprivation can even result in accidents or injury.

Low-quality sleep and sleep deprivation also negatively impact mood, which has consequences for learning. Alterations in mood affect our ability to acquire new information and subsequently to remember that information. Although chronic sleep deprivation affects different individuals in a variety of ways (and the effects are not entirely known), it is clear that a good night’s rest has a strong impact on learning and memory.[2]

Got your attention?  Now the question is: how do I shut down and actually get some rest?  Personally, my biggest problem is turning off my brain.  I lay down and my mind just speeds up.  I found some tips and have even tried a couple, especially turning off technology (sigh).  That one seemed to work the best for me.  Check out the list below, get some rest, and get some A’s on those exams.  Good Luck!

  • 30 minutes before bed stop using all technology. Shut off the cell phone, close the laptop, and don’t even use a Kindle. The lights are keeping your mind moving, so no TV either.
  • Read a print book. It’s very old fashioned but it will help (I have found Civ Pro puts me right to sleep).  Seriously, nothing that stirs the brain, just light reading.
  • Go to sleep as soon as you start feeling sleepy. If you wait you will kick into second gear and be up for even longer.
  • Try a weighted blanket, which molds to your body and the weight actually helps your nervous system relax.
  • Try aromatherapy. I hear that lavender is the best. You can take a nice hot bath with some lavender oil, spray your pillows, or just lightly spritz the bedroom with whichever scent you prefer.
  • Cut out the sugar and caffeine before bedtime. Try to keep limit your intake after 4 pm.  I know you need the afternoon boost, but try a healthy energy snack like an apple with peanut butter or dried fruits and nuts instead.[3]
  • Get in your PJ’s and have a soothing cup of Chamomile tea (remember no sugar).
  • Really old fashioned here, but a nice glass of warm milk.
  • This is a little weird but… the a study from the University of Glasgow said to lay in bed with your eyes open trying to keep yourself awake will actually make you fall asleep faster (playing reverse psychology with your own mind… who knew?).

Put some socks on those piggies!  When your feet are cold that means the blood is not flowing to your extremities and all the heat stays in your core, so warm up those little toes and get the blood flowing.  This releases heat from your body and helps you relax

[1] Patrick, G. T. & Gilbert, J. A. On the effects of loss of sleep. Psychol. Rev., 1896, 3: 469–483.

[2] http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory

[3] http://www.health.com/sleep/5-energy-boosting-snacks

Authored by Kimberly Carabotta & edited by Sarah Malkin

Criminal Background Checks: Georgia Law

by Zain Haq

Georgia’s New (ish) Expungement Laws

Compared to other states in the country, Georgia has some of the strictest laws regarding expungement of criminal records. Arrests resulting in convictions can only be taken off your criminal record in very limited circumstances. This makes it extremely difficult for people who have committed even minor crimes to gain access to housing, employment, and education. That being said, Georgia has taken some big steps toward ensuring that those with criminal records have some recourse. This article will give you a brief overview of what can and cannot be taken off a criminal record. Moral of the story is this: Do your best to keep your record clean, because Georgia law is not very forgiving!

Employment

Record Restriction (aka Expungement)

Georgia’s new law, effective July 1, 2013, does not use the word “expungement.” Instead, the process is now referred to as “record restriction.” Restriction does not mean that your records are deleted or destroyed, but rather that criminal history information maintained by the GCIC is unavailable for all purposes except law enforcement and criminal justice. The GCIC (Georgia Crime Information Center) is Georgia’s state entity that manages and disseminates criminal record information. Record restriction ONLY impacts those records maintained by the GCIC, and does not affect records maintained by the Clerk of Court (this process is referred to as sealing, which is discussed later in this article).

Georgia’s record restriction statute is O.C.G.A. 35-3-37(h).  Automatic restriction usually only occurs if your arrest is not prosecuted. Generally, cases closed with no conviction qualify for restriction (including charges that are nolle prossed, dead docketed, and verdicts of not guilty).

It is important to note that while Georgia’s new restriction laws are a big step in the right direction, convictions still are not eligible for restriction (unless you are sentenced as a youthful offender or first offender, which is discussed below). This includes pleas of nolo contendere (no contest).

Restricting your record is only half the battle. Employers, housing authorities, and other interested parties do not usually go to the GCIC for criminal record information. Rather, they will go directly to the Clerk of Court to obtain court records. These records can only be disposed of by petitioning the court to “seal” the record.

Record Sealing

In order to seal your records and ensure that the Clerk of Court no longer disseminates information about your case, your records must first qualify for record restriction. O.C.G.A. 35-3-37(m) governs record sealing, and states that the petitioner must show the court that the harm suffered by the clerk’s record remaining public (denial of jobs, housing, licensing, etc.) outweighs the interest in the record being publicly available. Sealing your record is crucial to ensuring that arrests not resulting in a conviction are inaccessible by members of the public and other interested parties.

First Offenders

As previously stated, arrests resulting in convictions generally cannot be taken off your record. One exception to this is Georgia’s First Offender statute, 42-8-60 (also known as Georgia’s “second chance” law). If you are sentenced as a first offender and successfully complete your sentence, your record will not show a conviction, and your case will be sealed by an Order of Discharge. The intent of this law is to give first time offenders a second chance and allow them to move on with their lives without suffering the collateral consequences of a conviction.

To qualify as a first offender, you must have never been convicted of a felony in the past, and never have been sentenced as a first offender. Moreover, certain convictions preclude you from being sentenced as a first offender (DUI’s, serious violent felonies, sexual offenses, and child pornography charges). Receiving a First Offender sentence is not automatic. You or your attorney must ask the judge to be sentenced under the First Offender Act.

The sealing of your record pursuant to a first offender sentence is conditioned on your complying with the terms of your sentence. If you violate any of the terms of your sentence, or commit another crime, the judge can revoke your first offender status and convict you of the crime you were arrested for.

Youthful Offenders

The Youthful Offender law (O.C.G.A. 35-3-37) is another exception to Georgia’s rule against restriction of arrests that result in convictions. Certain misdemeanor convictions that occurred before you turned twenty-one years old qualify for restriction. To qualify as a youthful offender, you must successfully complete your sentence and you cannot have been charged with any other offense. There are a number of exceptions to the Youthful Offender law, mostly for serious traffic offenses and sex crimes.

Pardons

Lastly, pardons provide a method for those convicted of a felony to minimize the collateral consequences they face as a result of their conviction.  While a pardon does not take a conviction off of your record, it is an order of official forgiveness from the State, and may help in receiving employment, housing, licensing, etc. Pardons are granted by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. In Georgia, less than 40% of pardon applications are approved.

To sum it all up…

Georgia has made some big changes to help those who arrested receive a second shot without suffering the severe consequences that come with having a criminal record. Unfortunately, those with convictions on their record are still facing an uphill battle when it comes to finding jobs, housing, licensing, and educational opportunities. While a good amount of progress has been made, there is still a long way to go.

 

Note:  This post is an update to 2012’s post on the same subject https://theblackacretimes.com/2012/03/20/criminal-background-checks-and-georgia-law/

Outlining 101

Worried about outlines? What are they? Should you write your own or use someone else’s? When should you start putting one together? The whole thing can seem overwhelming, but with just a few tips, you’ll be an outlining pro.

Although you may have outlined during your undergrad career, law school exams are much different than any other exam you’ve ever taken, so you need to adapt your outlines likewise. Throughout the semester, you learn the black letter law and concepts through case analysis. However, your exam will not be a resuscitation of this. Instead, most of your exams will include a fact pattern in which you will need to apply the legal principles you have learned to identify and analyze the situation in order to reach a legal conclusion.

Outlines are nothing more than a condensed, organized version of your notes. A good outline will include only those critical topics you will be tested on and should include relevant case law and statutes. You should not include every single word you wrote down, but should instead be a synthesized version of your notes, briefs, reading, and secondary sources in one document.

It is important to start outlining at the right time. If you start the first week of classes, it’s too soon. You don’t have a good enough grasp on the material to know what’s important and the substantive law. But if you’re thinking about waiting until the week before exams, you’ll find yourself struggling to remember the nuances from the first half of the course. The ideal time to start is after finishing a significant topic in the course. Try taking a look at your syllabus – professors often break the semester down into large subsections that they cover over a few weeks. Use this is a guide to setup your own outline.

What should a good outline look like? Well, it should be easy to read. Although that means different things to different people, the better ones usually have clearly defined sections, use bold or italics to emphasize definitions, caselaw, or statutes. Underlining and different font sizes and colors help draw the eye to specific topics. Make sure to include broad categories and then start to narrowly define them using various source elements.

business, learning, meetingNow to the great debate – should you create your own outline or use an existing one? To be honest, there are pros and cons to both methods. Creating your own will far and away provide you the best review of the course material. You will be forced to critically think about each topic in a logical and efficient manner, which is exactly what you want your mindset to be during an exam. However, the creation process can be time consuming and cumbersome, so many students find themselves resorting to using someone else’s outline from previous years. Upperclassman often share their outlines with 1Ls and many student organizations maintain outline banks. Although I would discourage relying 100% on an existing outline, if you have decided you just don’t want to do it yourself, take an existing outline and adapt it to what you’ve learned. Course material often changes from year to year, so a course outline from last year may not include all the same cases or material as this year. Ensure that you go through the outline line-by-line to make sure everything included is relevant. Also, don’t be afraid to add to it! Use your own sources to make it better or reorganize it in a way that makes more sense to you.

Lastly, make sure to constantly review your outline for missing elements and accuracy. Talk with other students in your study group or schedule some time with your professor to go over topics. This will provide an opportunity to not only review the material, but also to find gaps, misinformation, or just add clarity to your outline.

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Let’s Get Clinical – experiential learning is an ABA requirement

By Colleen Hampton

It is that time of year, folks: time to consider experiential learning opportunities. The deadline for Spring 2018 Clinic and Externship opportunities is September 27th.  And if you started school in 2016 you are required to obtain at least six (6) credit hours of experiential learning (see ABA rule 303 a Curriculum, March 2015). Your required, 3 credit hour, Lawyering:  Advocacy class will get you part of the way there – but you must do more. Besides, who among us doesn’t want to get a taste of how the practice of law works in the real world?

 

Luckily GSU COL offers externships, clinics, and other courses designed to help you gain practical, real-world experience while satisfying ABA requirements. Here’s what you need to know about these opportunities:

 

What’s the difference between an Internship, Externship, and a Clinic?

Whether you are interested in an Internship, Externship, or Clinic one thing is for certain: you will gain valuable experience regardless of the avenue you choose. However, there are some important distinctions to consider when evaluating your experiential learning choices.

Internships – Internships are a fantastic way to gain skills and build your network. You are generally hired by a firm or agency, typically without pay (unless you are one of the lucky few to land a coveted, paid internship). Internship hours can vary from position to position and terms of your service can sometimes be negotiated to fit your schedule. Sounds great, right? Keep in mind internships are not for-credit, meaning you don’t pay tuition for the internship or get credit hours needed to satisfy the ABA requirement. In other words, internships are valuable in their own right and should be pursued, but an internship will not satisfy your experiential learning requirement.

Externships – An externship is a class that gives you the opportunity to learn from non-profit and government lawyers and judges. Because an externship is a class, you earn credit for your outside, hands-on learning experience and the class credit can help you satisfy the ABA experiential learning requirement. You will pay tuition for your externship (usually a three (3) credit hour course, graded pass/fail) and, if it’s your first externship, you have a one (1) credit graded classroom component in addition to your work hours. Speaking of work hours, externships require a minimum hour commitment spent working (generally ten (10) hours a week during the Fall and Spring semesters or twenty (20) hours a week during the summer semester). Externship site supervisors are required to give you feedback on your performance during your semester which enables you to learn and grow. Externships are a meaningful way to satisfy your experiential learning requirement.

Clinics – Clinics provide students the opportunity to work with and represent real clients, and to directly experience what it feels like to work as a lawyer while building their skills and professional identity.  Students have primary responsibility for the cases they handle in clinic, and work under the close supervision of their professor, who is both a clinical educator and a licensed attorney.  Enrolling in a clinic requires attendance in the clinic seminar, case rounds, and hours working on cases inside the clinic office.  GSU COL offers both in-house and off-site clinics to provide students with a variety of opportunities to grow their skill set. Clinics, like externships, are a fantastic way for students to satisfy their experiential learning requirement.

 

What is the difference between in-house clinics and other clinics offered at GSU COL?

GSU College of Law offers three in-house clinics: Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Legal Services Clinic, Investor Advocacy Clinic, and the Philip C. Cook Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. These clinics conduct business on campus and are supervised by professors of the College of Law. Additionally, the in-house clinics are graded where the off-site clinics are pass/fail.

Off-site clinic courses require a yearlong commitment (fall and spring).  Students attend a clinic seminar taught by an adjunct professor and perform their work at the external office location. Off-site clinics include Capital Defender Clinic, Landlord-Tenant Mediation Clinic, and Olmstead Disability Rights Clinic.

 

I’m a 1L, can I enroll in a Clinic or Externship?

Most experiential opportunities provided through GSU COL are only available to students who have completed their entire first year’s course work and have a 2.3 GPA. If you are a part-time student that means you must have completed your first two years of course work in order to be eligible. However, each experiential opportunity will have their own pre-requisites that must be satisfied in order to participate.

 

Where can I learn more about Clinics and Externships?

General Clinic website

HeLP Clinic

Investor Advocacy Clinic

Tax Clinic

Capital Defender Clinic

Landlord-tenant Clinic

Olmstead Disability Clinic

General Externship website 

Externship FAQ’s

Externship opportunities (sites)

 

What other courses satisfy the experiential course requirement?

All courses that satisfy the experiential requirement are designated as “E” courses in the schedule and the college of law bulletin.  “E” courses include clinics, externships, simulation courses, and others.  You can also find a listing of E courses here.

 

What are the deadlines for application to clinics and externships?

Applications for SPRING semester clinics and externships are due at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 27.

MPRE Sign Up

Thinking of taking the MPRE? Don’t wait, the deadline is soon approaching to sign up for the November exam! Don’t forget, the MPRE is required for admittance to the Georgia Bar.

WHAT IS IT?

The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) is a two hour exam administered by ACT, Inc., on behalf of the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE).  The examination is administered three times per year – in March, August, and November – and consists of 50 unscored and 10 scored multiple choice questions.  The purpose of the MPRE is to measure the applicant’s knowledge and understanding of established standards related to a lawyer’s professional conduct.

Image result for mpre

WHAT IS IT LIKE?

Not sure if you are prepared? Check out these sample questions to get a feel for what the test is like, and then head over to the Law Library to check out some study aids!

WHAT IS A PASSING SCORE?

The Georgia Board of Bar Examiners requires all applicants to take and pass the MPRE with a scaled score of 75 or higher, prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility for Admission to the Practice of Law.

WHEN IS IT?

The next exam will take place on Saturday, November 4, 2017. If you register before September 14, 2017, the registration fee is $95. However, if you miss this deadline, you can still register up to September 21, 2017, but will have to pay a late registration fee of $190.

Test Dates and Online Registration

HOW DO I REGISTER?

For MPRE Registration Information, go to www.ncbex.org.

GREAT, I’VE TAKEN IT! WHEN DO I GET MY SCORES?

MPRE scores a usually released within five weeks of the examination date and posted to your NBCE account. They remain available only under the next test administration, so make sure to access and save them as soon as they are posted.

Faculty Spotlight Series: Dean Lisa Bliss

How well do you really know the faculty at the COL? Maybe you heard stories from other classmates or maybe you have taken a few classes with a certain professor, but have you ever wondered what really makes them tick? Well, wonder no more! I’d like to introduce the Faculty Spotlight Series, a collection of posts that will highlight some of our faculty at the GSU College of Law. Every week, we’ll try to look beyond what you find on a biography page and delve into what truly drives our mentors and teachers.

We’re starting off the series highlighting Lisa Bliss, Associate Dean of Experiential Education and the Co-Director of the HeLP Legal Services Clinic.


LISA BLISS

How long have you been teaching at GSU? 

Since 2001.

What classes do you teach?

I teach Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Clinic I and II, and Interviewing and Counseling.

Dean Bliss (pictured top row, third from right).

What class would you like to develop if you could?

I would love to teach more courses on Interviewing and Counseling!  That course is a lot of fun for me and the students, and there is always more to learn and experience.  Someday I would also like to develop a course on Creative Problem Solving.

What do you most enjoy about teaching?

Being a lawyer is a very creative profession, although people do not usually associate being a lawyer with the notion of creativity.  I love the process of lawyering. As a clinical professor, I have the privilege of watching students develop their understanding of how to identify a client’s problem, generate potential solutions for it, and then put their ideas into action.  All of this happens in the clinic in the context of real cases.  The clinical learning experience is transformative, and I have a front row seat to that transformation every semester.  As we work closely together on cases, I see students meet their clients, perform research, write briefs or other documents, and represent clients at hearings.  I watch students develop their skills and confidence, and by the end of the experience they see themselves differently.  They see themselves in the role of lawyer.

What type of law did you want to practice when you were in law school?

I had a “lightening bolt” moment when I knew exactly what I wanted to do:  I was sitting in my civil clinic seminar watching my professor debrief something with the class.  I was completely mesmerized by the depth of examination of what we were learning and doing, and what those decisions and actions meant for the case and the client.  We were fully examining the process of lawyering.  It was at that moment that I realized that I wanted to be a clinical professor.  I am so lucky to be here now doing a job that I dreamed of having, and to have had such a wonderful role model and mentor.

Dean Bliss (center) graduating law school.

What did you end up doing before you came to GSU? 

In order to become a clinical professor, one must understand and experience the practice of law.  I worked for several years for a mid-sized litigation firm doing toxic tort litigation, trucking accidents, and a few very high-end divorce cases.  I then had a chance to teach with my former clinical professor, so I did that for two years.  My husband and I decided to move back to Atlanta, and I served for a few years as Deputy Director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, where I consulted with lawyers handling pro bono cases, and ran the Saturday Lawyers Program.  After our daughter was born, I went to work part time for a small litigation boutique where I handled a small caseload on variety of matters.  That was a lot of fun.  Because I had a lot of experience at that point, I got to work on some really interesting cases.  I left there to come to GSU, where I started teaching in the legal writing program.  Ten years ago, I was hired to develop and teach in the HeLP Clinic when GSU received a grant to start that clinic.

What is your favorite piece of advice for students? 

Being a lawyer is a lifelong process of learning and accumulating experiences to apply in the future.  Often our most memorable lessons come from our mistakes.

Is there any aspect of the legal profession you would like to see changed? 

There are so many people that need legal help that cannot afford or access it.  I would like the profession to fully commit to ensuring that legal help is available for those who need it.  Getting that kind of assistance can make a difference in a person or family’s housing, education, health, status, and other matters that contribute to quality of life and ability to access resources.  Those who are vulnerable are taken advantage of and are often unable to pursue or enforce their rights because they don’t have a lawyer to help them.

Any fun story that you’d like to share?

When our daughter was six, I drove to New Mexico and Colorado with her by myself in our VW camper van while my husband had to stay behind for work.   We camped everywhere.  We visited some very remote spots (some roads so rocky we did not think we would be able to drive out!) and one night when we were in Texas a scary storm came through.  We had lots of fun living out of our van, visiting a friend, and meeting people along the way.  I had been doing this for a couple of weeks when we ended up camping next to two state troopers from Arizona.  They saw that I was a single woman traveling with a child and made some assumptions about us.  They kindly kept trying to help me with my equipment and such, which I thought was very funny, because I had been doing it for weeks all on my own.  That trip was a great experience for me, and something I hope our daughter will remember as an empowering thing we did together.  Just to be sure she would remember, I forced her to write a sentence or two in our journal every night, promising her that she would thank me as an adult!

De-stress with GSU Law Library’s Leisure Section

naturally-de-stress

 

By Colleen Hampton

Whether you’re looking to de-stress over a weekend or binge watch something over a vacation, the Law Library’s Leisure Section has what you need. With exams looming in the not too distant future you may need a break from the constant studying and outlining.  You are studying and outlining already, right?

Either way, the Library has a fun leisure section stocked full of TV shows and movies for your viewing pleasure:

TV Shows:

Criminal Minds – Because all investigations should be solved in 40 minutes.

Matlock – Who doesn’t love this Southern do-gooder? Sure, it’s a little dated but think of it like a time capsule to the land of shoulder pads and wide-leg suit pants.

Perry Mason – For the lover of black-and-white-era television you can’t go wrong with this legal drama. Besides, Mr. Mason somehow manage to get only innocent clients making this show a statistical anomaly worth watching.

The Closer – A Southern chocoholic who breaks bad guys with her logic and reasoning? Why not!

West Wing – Because maybe a fictional President is what we need right now.

 

And for the more serious among us there are even Documentaries:

Hot Coffee – Which challenges what you think you know about tort reform.

How to Die in Oregon – An in-depth look into the controversies surrounding medical aid in dying.

 

Light-hearted Movies:

My Cousin Vinny – Regarded by some as the best legal movie of all time, My Cousin Vinny details one lawyer’s difficulty in navigating down-home justice.

Legally Blonde – When you want to believe law school can be as easy as Reese Witherspoon makes it look.

1776 – Before there was Hamilton the Musical there was 1776. Yes, it’s a musical and yes it’s cheesy but if you are in the mood for musical theater you can’t go wrong with this choice.

The Rain Maker – Because who doesn’t love to see a lawyer go after a big, bad insurance company?

These are just some of the many titles available at the Law Library.

Let’s face it, law in real-life involves some dull mechanics (I’m talking about you, Civil Procedure). If you need an escape, look no further than the Law Library’s Leisure Section.