Summer Puzzling

By Sara Landeryou

Whether you’re new to law school, or nearing the finish line, the first few weeks are a little exciting.  The newbies, of course, are excited to be in law school and everything is freshand different.  For the rest of us, it’s just getting to see friends again and meeting

Puzzle Picturenew professors.  But now, after the first few weeks, you suddenly find yourself sliding back in to the drudgery of being in school and the stress that comes with it.  If you need a few minutes (or even longer) to decompress, why not stop by the library and put your mind on something that’s not law school related?

As you can see, the summer farm scene puzzle is completed, but there’s a new one waiting!

Finding Your Fit In a Student Org

Most everyone entering law school has heard of Moot Court, Law Review, and Student Trial Lawyers Association (Mock Trial), but there are other organizations that get far less attention.  Don’t just focus on Law Review write on events or Moot Court tryouts — get involved other ways.

The plethora of student organizations chartered at GSU COL give students the opportunity to be actively involved in issues they plan to practice in later and/or that they care about on a personal level. Membership dues range from $0 – $65, with most being in the $10 range. The student organizations host a variety of events (usually with a free lunch included), where professionals ranging from doctors, social workers, attorneys, and judges speak to our students, giving them information that may impact their future legal careers. Generally, you never have to be a paid member to attend an event, but membership will usually come with voting rights, and possibly in a priority position to get information.  Organizations also accept names to be placed on the ballot for the following year’s executive board positions.

Use the summary of the organizations below to decide where you will enjoy being active, then seek out opportunities!

student-org-pic-5studect-org-pic-4student-org-pic-1student-org-pic-2student-org-pic-3

 

 

Diversity in the Workplace

 

512px-Mr_Pipo_Differences.svg

© Nevit Dilmen [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Diversity:  the condition of having or being composed of differing elements: variety; especially the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.  (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diversity)

When we hear about diversity in the workplace, we automatically think of that second half of the definition.  But what about making yourself and your own experiences more diverse?

During law school you have a perfect opportunity to make yourself diverse even if you’ve had a pretty normal life until now.  How?  Sign up to do probono work, especially in areas that you may not have thought about previously.  Look for and accept internships or part time jobs in different areas of law.  By different, I mean multiple – intern in a big law firm one semester and at your local solicitor’s office the next, offer assistance to a sole practitioner for a summer, or take a part time paralegal position with a midsized firm.  Take advantage of all those summer abroad trips.

Making yourself more diverse will make law school more interesting, because you are constantly changing, will help you to meet lots of new people and widen your personal network of attorney friends, and will show future employers that you are:

  • Adaptable – this is so important.  Many people are afraid of or resistant to change.  But not you!
  • Interesting – you may get an interview just because they want to ask about all those experiences.
  • Knowledgeable – about many areas of law.
  • Worldly – if these experiences placed with you with colleagues and clients from different socioeconomic, political, religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.
  • Creative – you tried a bunch of different things and have more experience to pull from
  • Self Aware- you’ve learned what you like to do and where you are a great fit.

Diversity in the sense that we normally think of it is left to the school or employer where you find yourself, but no matter your race, culture, background, school, or employer, you can make yourself more diverse now.

What new experience awaits you?

 

Volunteer

Summer is close at hand and you spent the entire year with your nose in the books – now is your opportunity to relax and start thinking about networking and getting legal experience to match your academic success.

Volunteering solves the problem.  Choose an area that interest you, meet like-minded attorneys, and get practical hands-on experience.

volunteer-1888823_1280

Here’s a list to get your started:

Business law experience – ProBono Partnerships of Atlanta

“We match nonprofit clients with experienced corporate attorneys who help get them to the next level. From contracts to corporate governance, to intellectual property and employment, our attorneys assist our clients with their business law needs.”

https://www.pbpatl.org/for-attorneys/volunteer-opportunities/

Criminal law experience – Georgia Innocence Project

“GEORGIA INNOCENCE PROJECT (GIP) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit. The Project works to secure post-conviction DNA testing for Georgia and Alabama inmates where DNA analysis could prove guilt or innocence and adequate DNA testing was not available at trial.”

https://www.georgiainnocenceproject.org/about/

Not sure what type of law you like – Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation

“To create safe and stable homes and families by inspiring attorneys to fight for equal justice.”

https://avlf.org/volunteer-opportunities/

Additional links – The Atlanta Bar Association has an even more in-depth list at

http://www.atlantabar.org/?page=94

 

If you are not staying in Atlanta this summer – look at the local bar association in your area for volunteer opportunities and good luck!

Networking Tips

Networking is so uncomfortable for some of us.  So how does one get good at it?  How do some people breeze through it and really enjoy it?  Do they come up with things to talk about because their lives are more interesting?  Did their parents forget to teach them not to talk to strangers?  Are they just naturals?

 

network-63772_640

By geralt (https://pixabay.com/en/network-earth-world-63772/) [CC0 or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Some people probably are just naturals.  After all, a big part of networking is being genuine and some people are more open and talkative naturally.  The rest of it is just practice and confidence, and you know from experience that confidence increases with practice.   The law school provides us with a lot of great networking opportunities.  If you’re either skipping them or attending but not making connections, you’re missing out.  As much as you may not want to do it, the opportunities are there because it is important.

Networking moves you from being a piece of paper in a stack of resumes to “a great guy that Dave knows” or from being a brand new green associate among many to one who is getting referrals and bringing in new clients.

So what do you have to do?  How can you get better at it?

Change your attitude.  Think about the real definition of networking:  a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest. – It recognizes that both sides are bringing something valuable.  That’s right.  One of the best things you can do is go in thinking about what you can offer, not just what you may get.  Yes, you need a job, but they need great new associates.  Yes, that lawyer is an expert in tax, but she has a question about her friend’s divorce and you just finished family law.  See where I’m going with this?   Go into it thinking about what you’ve got to offer.

Be willing to work at it until it comes naturally.  Prepare like you would for a class or interview.  Look at who is going to be at the event, learn some things about them or their group, and have some open-ended questions in mind as conversation starters.  You don’t want to get stuck talking about traffic and weather.

Find the bar.  Yup, really.  Don’t get drunk, but get a drink so that you have something to do with your hands, and sip it.  And hang out near the bar.  Everyone will go there and you’ll have a chance to strike up conversation with people coming and going.

Balance your talking and listening.  This is tough.  You’ve always learned that you should get people to open up and talk and that people love to talk about themselves, and it’s true, but you owe a little sharing, too, and you do need to let them know some things about you.  Try to keep the convo balanced by asking open-ended questions and responding with more than yes/no even if someone else’s questions aren’t as good as yours.

Smile.  This seems so easy, but it’s worth saying again because when we get nervous, or when we are listening intently, we tend to frown a little.  Consciously think about it and keep smiling!

Quality – not quantity.  You may believe that you are supposed to talk to every person in the room or hand out as many cards or make as many new acquaintances as you can, but no.  Talk to a few people and make real connections.  Networking is about a support system.  You will go to other events and meet everyone eventually.  Build a good foundation by making a few quality connections.

Bring a wingman.  Start the event with a friend.  You’ll both feel more confident right away and you’ll never be stuck without someone to talk to.  As you both get more comfortable, you’ll be able to break away and both speak with other people.

Be yourself.  Yes, you want to put on your best, but hopefully you are developing relationships and people will get you know you eventually.  If you start out being yourself, people will see that you are genuine and like you more for it.

Follow up.  Depending on who you meet and how formal or informal the event, follow up with the people you met with a phone call, note, or (when appropriate) social media contact.  People should know that you enjoyed meeting them, remember them, and would enjoy seeing them again.    Offer something to them without expecting anything in return.  It doesn’t have to be big, you could attach a link.  “Check out the article I found about (that subject we were discussing)” or something similar can jog their memory of you and set you apart from others who may also follow up.

Hopefully these tips will help you make the most of your networking events so that they are a little less painful and eventually, even fun!

Are you a natural?  What advice do you have for the rest of us?

When Grades Don’t Matter

In case you missed it, grades for the fall semester were released last Thursday at 5PM (er, ok, maybe not EXACTLY at 5PM). But chances are, you didn’t miss it. In fact, you dreaded waking up Thursday morning because you already anticipated the heavy cloud that would hang over you until 5PM arrived. You anticipated the pit in your stomach as you signed into PAWS, half-hoping the site would crash and all grades would magically be erased. But what if they actually were erased? What if all the work you put in for fourteen weeks didn’t come down to a single letter grade, often determined only by a final exam?

Several prestigious law schools, such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, are doing just that. Although these schools often still administer a curve, the final grade is simply often “Pass” or “Fail,” with some variation for distinguished performers, usually those in the top 10% of a class.

On the surface, this seems like a dream. Imagine only needing to compete for a “Pass” instead of for one of only two A’s to be distributed in a class. This would certainly take the pressure off those students who don’t perform well on tests, as well as those who feel that law school exams do not adequately measure their level of comprehension of a subject. It also eliminates any penalty for those otherwise high-ranking students with the occasional blemish on their transcript for a class where they simply did not do well.

But this system poses a serious problem – without class rank and a competitive GPA, how do you market yourself when it comes time to apply for jobs? How do you differentiate yourself from literally every other person in your graduating class? Elite law schools are able to get away with this because they consider every student as elite and demand for their lower ranked graduates is still strong. Students graduating from second-tier law schools, however, do not have this luxury. For us, being able to show an employer (especially a BigLaw employer) how well we did when measured against our peers is essential to job placement. A graded top-performer is able to go into job interviews with tangible evidence of his academic distinctions and thus is able to take advantage of a greater number of job prospects.

Although the pressure faced during our three (or four) years of law school may be greater due to the constant anxiety surrounding grades and rank, this pressure mimics the reality of what competition in the real world looks like. There is often an absurd amount of work that comes along with expectations of perfect execution, a reality where only the top performers advance. The competition we face now, as stressful as it may be, will only prepare us for the reality of an aggressive and often unforgiving workplace.

HOW TO SURVIVE THE WINTER BREAK WITHOUT YOUR LAW SCHOOL CLASSMATES

b075b69db6f754c096601510216949b7-law-students-cat-wallpaper

You have just spent the last 3 months with your new best friends – your classmates.  You have cried with them, argued (“debated”) with them, and even occasionally laughed with them (probably harder than you should have at law school memes and inside jokes).  As you head into finals and the study time increases, so do the bonds of friendship.  No one on the outside of these glass walls can understand what the past 3 months have been like, but now that you have to immerse yourself back into the world of people not concerned with discussing eggshell skulls, how will you survive?  How will you endure the family gatherings and Aunt Ida and Uncle Jim asking you how your semester went, how did you do on your exams (which of course you won’t have a grade for until January), why haven’t you called, the uncomfortable you-look-tired statements, and of course all the questions about the law that you haven’t covered yet… you survive by keeping your law school friends close.

You are probably thinking that you can’t wait to get away from all the study and legal talk and there is no way you will even want to think about law school for the entire break, but believe me, you will feel lost without your classmates.  It is a strange feeling for sure, but after you decompress from finals, you will find yourself floating and needing your classmates to help you navigate the real world.

When you are sitting at the family table and nobody gets your jokes, text your classmates.  They will understand.  It is hard to explain, but your brain has been rewired, you look at the world differently and although it’s sad to say; only your classmates will understand.  They are the only ones who will get the joke from Lawyering Foundations Class about the stupid dog, they are the only ones who understand when your Great Aunt with the red lipstick kisses you and you start yelling “Battery”.  You will need at least one get together with the people who understand and appreciate your new mind.

Break won’t come for another month, but now is the time to start planning a gathering (or at least set up your group chat).  There are some really fun things to do in and around Atlanta – but as busy as everyone will be over the break, it’s smart to set up that playdate now.  Here are some suggestions for a good day of fun with your classmates:

FOR THOSE WHO NEED TO KEEP THE COMPETITION GOING TRY:

WHIRLY BALL – ATLANTA

http://whirlyballatlanta.com/

A combination of bumper cars and lacrosse.  You can get pizza and wings and they even have a bar package– but call ahead for reservations.   You will need a group of at least 10.

TOP GOLF – ATLANTA

https://topgolf.com/us/atlanta/

Get your own bay for up to 6 people and enjoy golf, food and drinks.  100+ climate-controlled hitting bays, full-service restaurant and bars, rooftop terrace with fire pit, over 200 HDTVs, free Wi-Fi.

FOR THOSE WHO PREFER A RELAXING DAY TRY:

ATLANTA BOTANICAL GARDENS

http://atlantabg.org/visit/events/garden-lights

The seventh annual electrical extravaganza features spectacular light displays throughout the Garden, including the new high-tech Nature’s Wonders, illuminating the world’s natural phenomena through countless strands of synchronized dancing lights strung high over Storza Woods

PIEDMONT PARK

https://www.piedmontpark.org/

Spend the afternoon picnicking, going for a bike ride, or just enjoying the day outside.  Plan a picnic – there are 22 grills provided throughout the park!  Pick a spot and play some Frisbee, too.

FINALLY, FOR THOSE WHO PREFER AN ACTIVE DAY TRY:

STONE MOUNTAIN

https://www.stonemountainpark.com/

The Stone Mountain Christmas activities will be in full force.  Or, climb Stone Mountain for breathtaking views.  If you are really wanting to get away from the real world, they even offer hotel packages for a full weekend of fun.

ICE SKATING – ATLANTIC STATION

https://www.atlanticstation.com/

Atlantic Station hasn’t announced opening dates, but they should be up soon.  You can always google “outdoor ice skating rinks in Atlanta” and find a different rink (I think I found about 7 others when I searched – remember Centennial Olympic Park is closed for renovations).  Rumor has it there will even be ice skating at the Ponce City Market this year!