Dear My 1L Self- Do Not Believe Them.

The GSU College of Law Library is excited to post another exciting installment of “Dear My 1L Self.” In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Law Students, and other interesting folks write actual, time-traveling letters to their 1L selves, giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law. We hope that some of this advice will be helpful for our readers. Today, we’ve got an inspiring message from Class of ’19 Grad (and Seyfarth Shaw Associate) Zain Haq…

Dear 1L Zain:

Don’t believe everything law school tells you. Well…okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is still generally pretty good advice. Throughout your three years in law school, a big to-do will be made about the “right” or “proper” path to take in order to end up where you want to be. Your future self is here to remind you about the old cliché: There is no one path to success.

Not that your future self is per se successful yet (sorry to disappoint). BUT, you are striving for it. And, if I may be so bold, you’re well on your way. But you’ll realize throughout your journey that despite what you hear in law school, there are SO MANY ways to get to where you want to go.

Over the next three years, you’ll probably hear that in order to work for certain firms, you’ll have to participate in specific law school activities. Wrong. You’ll also probably hear that, in order to prepare yourself well for your first year of practice, you’ll have to summer at certain places. Also wrong. While the traditional paths law school talks about may work well for some people, it is not the only way to get to where you want to go. And, let’s face it, doing things the old-fashioned way has never really been your style.

Here’s my advice to you, young grasshopper: keep an open mind and listen to the advice law school gives you. It is good advice. But, spoiler alert, there is more than one right way of doing things, and you won’t follow the route law school lays out for you. And that is okay. Try new things, be open minded, and go after new experiences because they sound interesting and will make you happy, not because they promise a certain end result. At the end of the day, do it your way (cue Frank Sinatra).

Zain

Dear My 1L Self- You Earned Your Spot!

The GSU College of Law Library is excited to post another exciting installment of “Dear My 1L Self.” In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Law Students, and other interesting folks write actual, time-traveling letters to their 1L selves, giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law. We hope that some of this advice will be helpful for our readers. Today, we’ve got an uplifting missive from 2L (and Urban Fellow) Liliana Esquivel…

Dear 1L Liliana:

First, be confident and don’t overthink things. The more you second guess yourself, the harder this journey will be. You made it in, you earned your spot! So, speak up when you know the answer or don’t understand something. You assume everyone else knows what’s going on, but the opposite is true: no one knows what’s going on. So, breathe and be open to talk more to the people around you; they know what you are going through.

When it comes to those really difficult cases, read them three times. Look for the arguments when you read a case, and always, always, always outline. You will find that what works best for you is handwriting your outline and then typing it up before class, so that it’s fresh in your mind. It’s also important to stick to your schedule and tell people no when you need those days to yourself. It’s ok to need alone time.

Later in your law school career, you’ll discover that the entire GSU Law community is extremely proud of you! But it might help to know now that you really do have a group of people who support you and root for you, so that you don’t feel alone. When you are overwhelmed, take it one task at a time, and little by little, you’ll get through it. I believe in you.

Best wishes,

Liliana Esquivel (2L version)

Dear My 1L Self- Find your Formula for Success

The GSU College of Law Library is excited to post this 5th installment of “Dear My 1L Self.” In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Law Students, and other interesting folks write actual letters to their 1L selves giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law. We hope that some of this advice will be transferable to our readers, and show that even the most experienced of us have made a lot of mistakes. Today, we’ve got a dispatch from (and to) 3LP (and Law Library GRA) T.C. Deveau…

Dear My 1L Self,

Work smarter, not harder.

Your 3LP self recently read a twitter feed proffering advice to 1L’s and rising 1L’s that went something along the lines of “you should be working every minute you’re not in class, sleeping, or eating.”  This is terrible advice.

Do not put in work simply for the sake of putting in work.  This is especially true if you are a non-traditional student with other obligations outside of the classroom.  Just like sleeping with a book next to your head won’t help you learn, grinding for the sake of grinding won’t help you in the long run. Law School is a marathon, and you don’t want to burn out by sprinting from the starting line.

Every student is different and there is no “catch all” approach to being successful.  Everyone has their own formula for success.  Don’t forget to take a step back and figure out what is working for you and what isn’t.  Figure out your formula. 

Take those casebooks outdoors!

If you grasp a topic easily, think about why that might be – was it simple, or was there some way you learned or approached the material that aided your understanding?  Was there a teaching style the professor or course material used that helped you out?  When you run up against a weakness, how will you address it?  Should you read an additional 20 cases on the same topic with different fact patterns, or can you apply the approaches you took to subject matter you mastered to your weak spots and get there quicker?  Is there a resource at GSU that may aid your understanding without hitting your head against the wall too many times?

Don’t reinvent the wheel.  Take advantage of the resources GSU has to offer.  Professors and GRAs always make themselves available.  Campus organizations maintain wonderful outline banks for the benefit of younger students to supplement their own notes and outlines.  The Law Library maintains an extensive study aid collection that is freely available to existing GSU students (can be found here: https://libguides.law.gsu.edu/studyaidfinder).  Alumni are plentiful in the Atlanta law community and almost always willing and available to help mentor.  Finally, your peers are always there to help out, and the GSU COL student body is widely supportive of one another.  Study groups are your friend. 

You made it to law school.  You are driven.  You are bright.  You are insightful.  Use that insight and be introspective.  Take note of your strengths.  Take note of your weaknesses and come up with a plan to tackle them.  You will finish law school and pass the bar.  You got this.

-Todd (a.k.a. “T.C.”) Deveau, Ph.D.

GSU COL 3LP 

Dear My 1L Self- Enjoy Life!

The GSU College of Law Library is excited to post this 4th installment of “Dear My 1L Self.” In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Law Students, and other interesting folks write actual letters to their 1L selves giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law. We hope that some of this advice will be transferable to our readers, and show that even the most experienced of us have made a lot of mistakes. Today, we’ve got a dispatch from (and to) 3L (and Law Library GRA) Ross Crowell…

Dear My 1L Self, 

This is going to sound crazy, but you do not have to be the last person at the Law Library every night. I know you have always been told by everyone your entire life that you can succeed by outworking everyone else, but here that ideology does not work. By mid-December, you will be completely burned out and your brain will barely be able to function. Work hard, but do not make law school the only thing in your life. 

While you are studying, do not worry about day-to-day issues. If you cannot figure out a case on a random Tuesday in October, odds are it will have no impact on your grade. If you get called on and are not sure of the answer, it is not the end of the world. Everyone else is in the same boat as you, just trying their best to get by. 

Once you start studying for exams, do not just focus on memorizing information, as that will not benefit you on the exam. Get your outlines completed during Thanksgiving break, then spend the next week before finals working on practice problems. Do not just read a problem and casually jot down your thoughts. You need to get in the habit of writing out full answers under a time limit. Once you practice writing out these answers several times, you will have a better feel for timing on the exam. 

Two days after your last final you’ll be much happier with your family in Rome.

Additionally, over Thanksgiving break (and the rest of the semester), do not spend a disproportionate amount of your time on Lawyering Foundations. While the class is important, do not waste your entire Thanksgiving break reading over your final memo 100 times. Make time for your other classes as well. Further, do not worry about the abundance of negative feedback you get on your papers; your bosses the next two summers will let you know that your writing is just fine. 

Finally, it is important to remember to enjoy life. Watch Sunday Night Football instead of stressing over the case you just read but do not understand. Go for runs and bike rides during the week. Play Xbox and let your brain turn off for an hour or two. Also, eat some salads and do not just heat up frozen pasta dishes when you get home at 8:00 every night; your brain and body will feel much better. I know this goes against everything you have heard in life up to this point, but working harder and longer than everyone does not guarantee you success. Work hard, but do not make school the only focus in your life. It might sound crazy now, but your brain will be fresh and ready to go in December for Finals. 

Best of luck, 

Future Ross Crowell

Dear My 1L Self- Get some fresh air

The GSU College of Law Library is excited to post this 3rd installment of our all new Blackacre Times Series – “Dear My 1L Self.” Check out the first two here and here. In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Students, and other interesting folks write actual letters to their 1L selves giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law. We hope that some of this advice will be transferable to our readers, and show that even the most experienced of us have made a lot of mistakes. So, without further ado, here’s 3L/Reference GRA Luke Smith…

Dear My 1L Self,

This may sound shocking, but the world is more than just those 6 floors on the corner of Park Place NE and John Wesley Dobbs Ave.  Don’t get me wrong the College of Law is an important and fascinating place, but if you take some time to go outside the walls of the building, it can do wonders for your mental health.

As great as the professors and your fellow students are here at GSU COL, you’ll still feel stressed if you spend all your time here. You may believe that another half hour on your Lawyering Foundations memo will make it perfect, but it won’t, and you’ve already spent too much time on it. If you want to avoid burning out and feeling trapped and hopeless, you need to get out, explore, and find something you enjoy doing outside of Law School.

If you don’t know where to begin start by getting some fresh air. Go up to the 6th floor patio, sit on the balcony, and just breathe (editor’s note: unfortunately, the balcony is currently closed for repairs). You’d be surprised what 5 minutes not thinking about personal jurisdiction or restitution damages will do for you. The next step is to get moving. Go out the doors on the first floor and just start walking and don’t stop. You don’t have to go anywhere just explore and feel the sun on your face.

The hard part is over now. The law school is behind you and you can feel its grasp loosening on you. The next part is up to you now. Find something you enjoy and do it. I don’t mean binge watch The Office so you can turn your brain off between study sessions.

Me, happy once I finally decided to get out of the law school and explore the beltline with my girlfriend.

Instead, find something that rejuvenates you outside of Law School. You know that student activity fee you see in your bill every semester? Well that helps pay for all the student organizations that the main university hosts and you can try finding one you might enjoy on the Panther Involvement Network. My personal favorite is the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Club. It’s a great way to stay active, relieve some stress, it’s hosted just a few blocks away at the Student Recreation Center, and best of all its free to students.  

Or maybe you’re thinking to yourself “I really liked that part about going outside and just walking,” well there’s lots of great public parks in and around Atlanta to explore. The Beltline is a series of walking paths around Atlanta and their Website also has a bunch of great information about things to do around Atlanta and how to get there via public transportation. If you’re still thinking to yourself that by just being in Atlanta you can still feel the stress of the law school creeping up behind you, then take the red or gold Marta line South bound to the airport and leave. There’s no rule against taking a backpacking weekend to Bozeman or a romantic weekend getaway to Salt Lake City. Law School can be stressful and leave you feeling utterly defeated at times, but you can do things to help. Take some time to go outside, find a hobby, and explore the world outside of the Law School.

Yours truly,

Luke Smith

Dear My 1L Self – Breathe.

The GSU College of Law Library is excited to post this 2nd installment of our all new Blackacre Times Series – “Dear My 1L Self.”  In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Students, and maybe even alumni will write letters to their 1L selves giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law.  We hope that some of this advice will be transferable to our readers, and show that even the most experienced of us have made a lot of mistakes. So, without further ado, here’s 3LP (& Reference GRA) Meri Elkin…

Dear My 1L Self,

Take a breath. Maybe take a few breaths. Are we consistently breathing yet? Great! Now, go to office hours. Show up to talk to the GRA that aced this class before you. Swing by the Professor’s office that teaches the class. Do not wait until we get our first Lawyering Foundations memo back to ask questions. Do not wait until after our first cold call in Civil Procedure to admit we could possibly be confused. Go now. Ask the questions!

A pic of Meri Elkins

As it turns out, we do not know all of the things. If I am being honest, we don’t even know what we don’t know. We are going to spend a lot of time reading, listening, and trying to formulate coherent responses. Real talk: we do not always formulate coherent responses. We do not always have the right answer. Just remember, it does not do to dwell on missed cold calls. Let it go. Thank me later.

Look around, and find friends who will keep a smile on our face when we are sleep deprived and studying for finals. We will have some truly great days at GSU COL! Though, and this is not to scare you, 1L Self, we will also have some less than great days. All days are better with friends. True story.

Are we doing okay? Breathe! Law school is not a sprint. Fast forward, and it is 3LP year. We still don’t know what we don’t know. We still don’t always have the right answer. Some days are still less than great, but we learned to embrace the journey and get outside of our comfort zone. We built a network of friends, classmates, mentors, and faculty to turn to when we stumble. It may take a minute to find our footing, but take a breath and know that we will hit our stride. Trust me.

Still breathing,

3LP Meri

Expanding Expungement in Georgia is Given a Second Chance

By Gilbert Morales, Reference GRA

On January 1, 2021, Georgia’s “Second Chance” law went into effect. The new law improves an individual’s ability to restrict and seal certain criminal convictions from the general public, a process commonly referred to as expungement. According to the Georgia Justice Project, “Georgia finally joins 41 other states that allow an individual an opportunity to expunge certain convictions after a period of time.”[1] The new law is the latest development in a decade-long push to facilitate rehabilitation for former offenders. Advocates contend that public access to all convictions, even minor offenses, poses a substantial barrier to a former offender’s rehabilitation. Allowing access to an individual’s criminal history can limit job opportunities and housing eligibility, increasing the chances for that individual to re-offend. 

Misdemeanors 

Advocates say the new law is a step forward. Unlike Georgia’s previous “record restriction” law that only allowed court petitions for sealing offenses that did not result in a conviction and made a narrow exception for misdemeanor convictions committed by individuals under 21, the new law allows individuals to seal two misdemeanor convictions with limited age restrictions. So long as an individual has not reoffended and 4 years have passed since completing their sentence, they can petition the court to seal their misdemeanor conviction. The law does not cover all misdemeanors. Notably, misdemeanors involving sex crimes are excluded from consideration. Moreover, all family violence battery convictions are excluded unless the individual was under 21 years old at the time of the arrest. 

Felonies and Pardons

The new law also covers felony convictions that were pardoned by the State Board of Pardons & Paroles. So long as the pardon was not for a serious violent felony or sexual offense, an individual can petition the court to seal the record of that conviction. An individual must wait 5 years after they have completed their sentence before petitioning the court and cannot have re-offended during those 5 years.

The Process 

A petitioner seeking to restrict and seal a misdemeanor conviction must petition the court that handled the case. For felony convictions, individuals must first obtain a pardon and then file a petition in the original sentencing court. In sealing documents, the court will consider the harm to the individual versus the public interest in knowing about the conviction. An important caveat to remember is that although a record may be restricted and sealed from the general public, law enforcement and prosecutors retain access to those records. 

Beyond Expungement

An important wrinkle in the new law is the liability protection for employers hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds. Liability protection addresses the fear by some employers that hiring someone with a criminal background who then commits a workplace offense will lead to a claim against the employer for negligent hiring. Whether this fear is well-founded is up for debate and another blog entry, nevertheless, it is a major feature of the new law.

Going Forward

The Second Chance law is a major opportunity for former offenders to build back their lives. By allowing misdemeanor convictions and felony pardons to be petitioned, the law enlarges the pool of individuals that can have their records restricted and sealed. The hope is that the new law enables these individuals to integrate back into society. That being said, there are always places where the law can expand such as applying record restrictions to felony convictions that are not pardoned. As one advocate from the Georgia Justice Project stated, although the Second Chance law is a step forward in the right direction, “it is only the beginning.”[2]

To Learn More

The Georgia Justice Project is hosting free sessions to help people understand their criminal history and what they can do about it on the first Friday of each month in 2021. For more information and contact information for them, go to https://www.gjp.org/first-fridays/. Also, to locate additional legal aid that may be available for pro se and self-represented litigants the legal services in Atlanta & the Metro-Atlanta Area Legal, check out our Legal Services in Atlanta & the Metro-Atlanta Area Legal Library Guide (LibGuide).

NOTE:  This post is an update to 2017’s post on the same subject https://theblackacretimes.com/2017/10/24/criminal-background-checks-georgia-law/.


[1] https://www.gjp.org/wp-content/uploads/2020.9.21-SB-288-One-pager_Final.pdf

[2] https://www.gpb.org/news/2021/01/01/second-chance-law-takes-effect-offers-hope-georgians-criminal-past

Managing Your Time in Law School

[UPDATED REBLOG FROM JAN. 2019]

By Sara Landeryou, Reference GRA

Whether you just survived your first semester, are beginning your last, or are somewhere in between, YOU ARE BUSY.  And no one but other law students or lawyers really gets it.  So how do you make time to do everything you need to do, some of the things you want to do, and the things your family and friends expect of you?  You could stretch yourself so thin that you snap.  You could stop sleeping or eating to gain extra time.  You could let the exercise go.  Or, you can keep reading (if you have the time) and learn some tricks for using your time wisely while in law school.

There is no way to add hours to your day, so we need to learn how to use the time we have more effectively.  The ideas below are geared toward the time that we are in school, but good habits will hopefully spill over into our lives after school and will be helpful as our responsibilities change.

Your future may include working in big law and billing lots of hours for several years, getting married and having children, opening your own firm, you just never know.  Learning how to manage your time effectively now will help with all those things that are coming more quickly than you think!

So what can you do?

Get more and better sleep.  It seems counterintuitive when you are trying to save time, but getting more and better quality sleep will actually save you time in the long run.  When you are well-rested, you have more energy, your mind is clearer (for studying), and your body is healthier, so you don’t risk getting sick when finals roll around.

Exercise.  Yes, it takes time, and maybe you can’t carve out an hour a day, but even a little will help you to feel better.  You can add exercise or at least extra movement during the day.  It will keep your body and brain energized and you will feel better for it at the end of the day.  Take the stairs, do your reading while you’re on the treadmill or the elliptical, do a few relaxing yoga poses five minutes before bed.  Even increasing your movement 15 minutes in bits throughout the day is a win.

Mix your studying and social time.  Really.  Study (virtually) with your friends.  Have a glass of wine or a beer.  Work through hypos in a more relaxed and social scene.  You can’t study drunk, but you’ll actually learn more by talking through hypos with friends than by rereading a case book.  Yes, you’ve got to practice writing, but the most important part of learning is really “getting” it.  That is done by talking it through and practicing applying the law.  Who better to do that with than the people at school that you like the most.

Give family and non-law friends 100% of your attention.  This is tough.  You’ve got so much on your mind, you really don’t have time to hang out, and now you’re being told to give 100% of your attention?  It can be done.  In fact, one of the reasons they are frustrated is that when you are with them, you aren’t “with” them.  So, you can actually get away with less time as long as the time you give is quality time. Do a movie night with friends or video chat with mom/dad during lunch. But don’t think about law school at all.  You need the break and so do they!

If you are working….  This is a little harder but worth a try.  If you are a student that is working and going to law school, try to work in the legal field.  First, your colleagues will understand the struggle better than non-law colleagues and they’ll cut you some slack.  Second, you’ll be learning more about the law while you are at work, and you’ll be learning a lot of the things you don’t learn in law school.  You’ll also be networking to some extent and may work yourself right into a post-law school job which will save you a lot of interviewing time.

Turn off your phone.  Not all the time, but for at least an hour of reading/studying time.  It is so easy, especially when you have a boring class and/or terrible reading, to keep peeking at your phone or listening for that little buzz that lets you set the book down and check out something more interesting.  Just shut it down!  Give yourself an hour and power through all of that reading instead of dragging it out and never finishing it all.

Plan.  Set a plan for yourself.  This doesn’t mean that you have to make an hourly calendar of what you are going to do, but it does mean taking 5 now to look ahead.  If you’ve read your syllabus and you know that you’re going to have a project due at the end of February, right about the same time that your best friend has her annual birthday party that leaves you in bed for three days after, start working on it as soon as possible.  Outline as you go instead of waiting until the end of the semester, set monthly goals for that big paper so that you can turn it in before it is due instead of cranking it out at the end.

Reflect.  At least for a few minutes, each day, week, or month.  Look at what has been working for you, and what hasn’t, and change it.

Have any other ideas for saving time?  Share them with your friends!

Dear 1Ls,

By Christina M. Herd, Reference GRA

Congratulations! You have almost made it through your first semester of law school. I remember how overwhelmed I felt at this point in my first semester. Is my outline sufficient? How do I begin studying for finals? Do I even understand the material? I was able to ask these questions to my peers in person, and I cannot imagine the difficulties of a 1L semester that is mostly online. The Law Library is here to help.

Consider study aids a multi-tool in your law school toolkit. They include hypotheticals of all lengths for exam prep, multiple-choice questions to check your knowledge of concepts, and, most importantly, summaries of cases and concepts. Some of your professors may have included suggested study aids in your syllabus. If not, the Law Library has compiled a list of useful sources for you as you enter exam season.

Resources for Comprehension

You may find yourself struggling to understand the legal concepts you learned back in August, or even last week, as you prepare for exams. Many study aids provide clear and concise summaries of the material. Here are a few of the best resources to help comprehend legal concepts:

Casenote Legal Briefs 

Glannon’s Guide

The Acing Series

Resources for Exam Preparation

Having a thorough outline ready for exams is important, but an outline is most useful when used as a reference and not a crutch. Testing your knowledge as you prepare your outline is a helpful way to ensure your exam time is spent creating a thoughtful analysis as opposed to researching rules. The more hypos you practice, the more prepared you will be for the exam. Here are a few of the best resources to test your knowledge:

Emanuel’s CrunchTime 

Examples & Explanations

Exam Pro Series

Most importantly, as you enter the exam season, don’t forget to take a deep breath and take care of yourself. You’ve got this!

Research Smarter Not Harder

By Gilbert Morales, Reference GRA

During my 1L year, researching caselaw triggered instant anxiety. To me, conducting research was an overwhelming experience that was hard to manage. Thankfully, I was wrong. Yes, conducting research is tough, but it is manageable by taking advantage of resources made available by the library. 

An open computer sitting on top of a wooden table

Description automatically generated

One invaluable resource is the library’s collection of research guides (also known as LibGuides). LibGuides essentially serve as a one-stop-shop for beginning your research process. They cover many major law school topics, including Georgia Legal Research, Criminal Law, and Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Students will find links to secondary sources like major journals, treatises, and even articles. 

Students will also see links to primary sources like the Georgia Code, the Federal Code, and local ordinances. What is neat about the guides is that they include tips and tricks to make research easier for you. For example, they provide direct links to secondary sources in Westlaw and LexisNexis so that researchers do not waste time trying to navigate those resources. 

As everyone knows, time is of the essence in law school. Research guides include different approaches to accessing resources, including links to research institutes and links to popular blogs that monitor the trends for any given topic. For example, in the Land Use guide, students are directed to the Wayback Machine to uncover website pages that are no longer available online. These tips and tricks are just the tips of the iceberg. Research guides are full of different ways to make the research experience easier and more productive. 

In addition to research material, LibGuides provide links to study materials. From evidence to tax law, students can access study aids, CALI lessons, and exam archives for each topic. The convenience of finding all the essential study aids in one location is truly a time saver. 

So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed by the research experience, take a deep breath, and visit the LibGuides on the library website!