Did your Summer Job Fall Through? Become a Better Writer Anyway

Did your Summer Job fall through? Become a Better Writer AnywayThis week we welcome back guest writer and tutor Elizabeth Knox to talk about working on your legal writing skills this summer, whether or not you have a legal job.

Some lawyers find that the value of law school isn’t found in the coursework, but rather in the summer work most students do. Summer jobs allow students to practice tailoring their legal writing and then get real feedback from practitioners. There’s nothing like going through a brutal feedback process to help new attorneys become stellar legal writers.

COVID-19 has changed the summer landscape for most law students. Jobs have been canceled or postponed because of stay at home orders, leaving many students in the lurch. This would normally be a red flag for future employers, but because this is happening on an unprecedented scale, you don’t need to worry about that right now

This does not mean you should do nothing this summer. Employers are still going to wonder how you spent the summer, and you’ll want a good answer. If you don’t have to work or care for family, this summer holds a fantastic opportunity to improve your legal writing. It can be daunting to do this without the promise of feedback, but it’s worth doing anyway.

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The Dos and Don’ts of a Law School Diversity Statement

The Dos and Don’ts of a Law School Diversity StatementWe welcome back guest writer Christen Morgan to talk about working on your law school diversity statement.

Looking for ways to boost your law school admissions packet? I assure you you’re not alone. During the time I was applying to law school, this was something I was frantic about. My LSAT score wasn’t very high, so I became fixated on assembling an admissions packet that would hopefully be sufficient for the reviewer to simply overlook my score or at the very least not give it too much standing. I mean, a girl can dream right? Ultimately, however, I knew I needed to provide documentation that would support my score and somewhat provide an explanation for why it was so low. Thus I completed a LSAT Addendum and Diversity Statement as the emblems of support I would use to supplement my personal statement and boost my overall packet. [Read more…]

Legal Writing Mishaps You Should Avoid Like the Plague

Legal Writing Mishaps You Should Avoid Like the PlaguePlease welcome back attorney Christen Morgan to to talk about some important reminders about legal writing!

God bless my 1L legal writing professor. Although I am now two years removed from law school and five years removed from my first semester of legal writing, I maintain this statement with the utmost conviction. This professor deserves special blessings as she has had to endure reviewing hundreds of memos and briefs proposed as exemplary writing but fraught with blatant error. She has also spent countless hours in her work day trying to explain to each student (me included) about why their writing is in fact not exemplary. Finally, she has on numerous occasions had to maintain the “patience of Job,” as she did her very best to take charge of the debate each student assumed was necessary to prove that they were in fact writing experts after their first three weeks of law school. [Read more…]

5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Letters of Recommendation for Clerkship Applications (and Beyond!)

5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Letters of Recommendation for Clerkship Applications (and Beyond!)Please welcome guest writer Kelsey Russell, a recent clerk for the Chief Judge of the Southern District of New York, to discuss how to get letters of recommendations, an important aspects of clerkships applications.

If you are considering a judicial clerkship, you are likely well aware that your letters of recommendation are an essential component of your application.

As someone who decided to apply for a clerkship pretty late in the game, getting quality recommendations felt like a tall order. Many of my classmates had already taken advantage of opportunities such as research assistant positions, which led to relationships with professors who, in turn, could write personalized recommendations. By the fall of 3L year, no single professor stood out in my mind as a natural recommender. So I started brainstorming: Should I start with the professor who gave me my highest grade? Or the professor who ran my pro bono project? What about employers prior to law school? Given that I was trying to compile my materials in relatively short order, I was also working against the clock. [Read more…]

Avoiding The “Slings And Arrows” Of Outrageous Case Briefing Misfortune And Getting To What’s Important

Reading/briefing casesThis week we welcome guest writer and 3L, Mark Livingston, to discuss how to get started with case briefing as a new law student.

I remember, not so fondly, the first case I tried to brief in law school. It was Todd v. Danner, 17 Ind. App. 368, 46 N.E. 829 (1897). I remember briefing this case, and because it was from 1897, it involved an incident with an unruly steer, and I had no idea how to brief it. The language used by the court was archaic and convoluted. I had no idea what was important or what I needed to include in my brief.

That first brief was awful. Despite the brevity of the court with its two-and-a-half-page decision, my brief weighed in at a cool six pages! I was way off course, and if all of my case briefs had turned out like that one, I would have been briefing my 1L cases after my retirement. I have since developed a few skills and approaches that have helped me streamline the process and cut through my cases like a champ.

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Alternative Careers – Investigator for Workplace Complaints

Please welcome Joanna Sattler, Law School Toolbox tutor, to discuss her alternative legal career as a workplace investigator.

I’m the child of no fewer than three lawyers (if you count my stepmother, that is). All three practiced law upon graduating from law school and pursued “traditional” legal careers (two at large firms, the third in-house). As such, I had a certain view of what lawyers did and a (fairly) certain path I planned to pursue: work at a large law firm after graduating and then, maybe, try to work in-house. (At the time, I didn’t realize I could go in-house straight from law school; I truly thought there was one path and one path only!)

A planner by nature, I followed my plan. I worked hard in law school. I summered at a large firm and received an offer of post-graduation employment. Although I didn’t take that job (I didn’t love the firm’s satellite office in the city where I planned to live), I took another firm job soon after passing the California bar.

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Are You Going to Law School Because You’re a Good Writer?

Are You Going to Law School Because You're a Good Writer?This week we welcome back Law School Toolbox Tutor Whitney Weatherly to discuss how writing in law school can be very different from writing you’ve done before (and how to best learn how to write for legal practice).

I can’t even pick out one specific memory of this conversation, because I had it so many times with so many people. Here’s the rough transcript:

Me: So, why did you decide to go to law school?

Law Student: Well, all of my professors at [university] said that I was such a good writer that I should go to law school. So here I am!

Me: Right. OK…so how’s that working out for you?

Okay, so maybe that last reply was (usually) internal. When I first started law school, I certainly didn’t realize what was expected of me from a writing perspective. Like most of my fellow classmates, I usually did well on writing assignments in undergrad, but I’d had the benefit of working for an attorney before law school. Just the fact of working for her helped me shift my mode of writing from “creative” to “professional”, but she also gave me some tips along the way that made me more open to input once I got to my legal writing class. If you’re going into law school with the confidence of a good writer, consider this your wake-up call.

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Making Your Notes Work for You

Note TakingPlease welcome back guest writer John Passmore to discuss some great tips for note taking in law school!

Everyone agrees that note taking is important in law school. But are you getting as much out of note taking as possible? After a semester or two of struggling to find value in my class notes, I finally started to think more critically about my note-taking style. I realized I was just playing the stenographer—writing down as much as possible with the hopes of understanding it later. This is a very bad approach. As you develop your personal note-taking style, think about what you hope to get out of your notes. Once you have a clear idea of your objectives, you can take notes with purpose and be more effective. The tricky thing about law school note taking is accomplishing multiple objectives at once. Here are some of the key deliverables you might want from your notes — [Read more…]

Struggling with that Lengthy Writing Assignment? 7 Practical Strategies to Help You Get It Done!

Legal Research/WritingPlease welcome back Jennifer Warren, attorney and Academic Achievement Coordinator at Oklahoma City University School of Law. She’s talking about how to survive a legal writing assignment you may be struggling with (or just to offer some encouragement).

I have a love/hate relationship with writing. While it’s extremely satisfying to finish a writing assignment, the process of getting to that point can be a real struggle. Most law students seem to feel similarly about the legal writing assignments and research papers assigned in law school. These assignments tend to be time consuming, complex, and require a significant amount of concerted effort (unlike, say, passively highlighting your case book). On top of that, law school writing assignments aren’t even necessarily that interesting. But as frustrating as these assignments may be, they’re actually a fairly realistic preview of what you’ll likely be doing as a lawyer: researching, writing, and writing some more. Whether it’s drafting a brief, a contract, or even just a memo, nearly every practicing lawyer has to write on a regular basis. So it’s helpful – no, necessary – that you develop some strategies to manage lengthy writing assignments and avoid procrastinating. Below are a few techniques I’ve relied on to help me complete difficult projects and that may help you manage your own lengthy assignments. [Read more…]

Memoirs of a Staff Editor: What They Don’t Tell You About Law Journals

Memoirs of a Staff Editor: What They Don’t Tell You About Law JournalsPlease welcome our 2L guest writer, who discusses her personal experience being on a law journal – the good, the bad and the things that you may not hear from others before you make the commitment.

Writing for a law journal is an intense experience. Aside from writing your actual note and conducting peer edits, there are many responsibilities attached to the role that often are not publicized until you are offered a position. Some of your tasks may include: attending mandatory events, holding office hours, and joining one of the journal’s subcommittees to perform relevant, specified functions.

The write-on process for a law journal varies by law school and sometimes, per journal. At my law school, law students partake in a legal writing competition, which is the event that initially qualifies individuals to be considered for one. It is a grueling three-day process that is held the day after your 1L finals have ended and consists of bluebooking, grammar editing, and crafting a written argument concerning a set topic, designated by the competition rules. [Read more…]