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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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…]

With Punctuation, It’s the Little Things

Punctuation RulesPlease welcome back Keri Clapp, professor and tutor for the Law School Toolbox and Bar Exam Toolbox, to discuss the importance of proper punctuation, as well as strategies to ensure your writing is clear and leaves a good impression on your reader.

Commas, periods, and semi-colons may be the smallest marks on the page, but they can cause big problems. Punctuation is critical to clear communication because it serves as a visual cue telling the reader what you are saying and how you are saying it. Incorrect communication can confuse your message–you may have seen in the cartoon joke, “Let’s eat grandma! Let’s eat, grandma! Punctuation saves lives!”

Beyond confusing your intended meaning, incorrect punctuation is “like waving a red flag to a bull.” The phrase is an allusion to a matador waving a red flag during a bullfight to get the animal to charge; it refers to a willfully infuriating or aggravating provocation. When a legally trained reader sees a punctuation error in a piece of writing, that error is like the proverbial red flag drawing the reader’s attention to the mistake. Don’t let your readers conclude that you are careless or unskilled; learn how to catch common errors and upgrade your writing. [Read more…]