Undergraduates at Florida State University who have been accepted into the Honors Program may apply for the College of Law’s Honors Legal Scholars (HLS) program. Unlike other honors programs geared toward undergraduates, HLS is administered solely by the College of Law. The program is open to students who are interested in exploring or attending any law school, but is also designed to showcase the College of Law and encourage honor students to consider remaining at Florida State. Participants who remain in good standing are automatically admitted to the College of Law if they maintain a 3.6 grade point average or higher, receive a score of 162 or higher on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), and stay out of trouble.
As a program alumnus, I would recommend that anyone who is interested and eligible to submit an application. HLS provides participants who are exploring the possibility of attending law school with access to the College of Law’s students, facilities, faculty, and staff. Individuals who participate, and do more than the minimum required by the program, will get the most out of the program. By the time one is ready to graduate they should have a firm idea of whether or not they want to attend law school.
Shortly after I was selected, I was assigned a mentor who was a current student at the law school. Being a freshman at the time, this gave me the opportunity to comfortably ask the silliest questions about law that only a freshman could come up with. Through my entire time as an undergraduate, I was sent invitations to countless panels and events, which for me included an event with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. We were also invited to study in the “lawbrary”, more properly named the Research Center, and were encouraged to sit in on classes.
Every month the HLS program also holds “members only” law-oriented events with admissions officers and law professors. I remember arguing the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act with Professor Seidenfeld at a round table discussion before the law was passed. Looking back now, that was probably one of the first times in my life that I was questioned on the mechanics of laws.
College of Law staff and faculty also provided me guidance as I applied to law schools throughout the Southeastern United States. First, they gave our group advice on how to prepare and when to take the LSAT. Then they gave us advice on actual application questions and offered to review our personal statements. I even had the opportunity to sit down with a professor, after I received my LSAT scores, who gave me an honest perspective about which schools I was interested in applying to and where he felt I could excel.
With an open mind I toured a few out-of-state schools and gave a second look at schools that made me offers. For me it ultimately became clear that Florida State had been my best option all along. As a current 3L, I could not be happier with my decision and I appreciate all of the help that the HLS program provided me during my journey. Since becoming a law student I have also been honored with the opportunity to mentor others who have become part of the program.
If you are a Florida State undergraduate, in the Honors Program, and have ever considered eventually attending law school, the Honors Legal Scholars program might be just right for you. If you have any questions about the program you should check out the HLS Web page at http://honors.fsu.edu/University-Honors-Program2/Honors-Legal-Scholars-Program or contact the Florida State University College of Law Office of Admissions at 850-644-3787 or email@example.com.
Ever since I was a child I had the image of an attorney planted in my head as something I one day wanted to be able to accomplish. I remember seeing attorneys on television shows and movies and admiring how confident and commanding their presence was. They undeniably had “it,” and whatever that was I had to have it!
I later found out that not all attorneys went to court and most, in fact, do not ever even go to trial. I still envisioned myself in the courtroom, commanding the presence of everyone in it, and that was what I was going to do. Unfortunately, this person that I saw was a far cry from the shy person I was, someone who was uncomfortable with the spotlight and public speaking. So, I had to figure out how I could transition from the person I was into the person that I ultimately wanted to be.
When I finally got to law school I realized that although I understood the black letter law, I did not have that “it” factor. I still was nervous when it was my turn to speak in class. I decided that I had to do something to obtain the practical skills I needed. I had a few other legal jobs before, but my first taste of being a “real attorney” came when I worked at Florida State University College of Law’s Public Interest Law Center.
The Public Interest Law Center is dedicated to providing legal representation to indigent clients for free. It was through this experience that I had my first deposition and my first trial. I was a bit nervous for the deposition, but I was in a completely terrified state during my trial. After it was over, however, I realized it was the most fun that I had ever had. I realized then and there that I was certainty going to be a litigator! Not only was it something that I wanted, but something that I was going to obtain!
Prior to graduating, I completed an externship at the State Attorney’s Office here in Tallahassee. This was the best experience I ever had, because I really got to do the work of an attorney. Every single day we went to court, which helped me significantly in becoming calmer in the courtroom. The courtroom is now a familiar place, instead of a place to fear. This externship also let me experience the day-to-day interactions that you do not learn about in law school.
The best part 0f this externship was the trials! When I had my first trial with this office, I was so delighted when I won! A few weeks later I had to participate in a four-hour motion to suppress hearing and was again pleased when the judge denied the defendant’s motion to suppress (a win for the State). I would recommend the opportunity to anyone who is considering being a litigator. This is an excellent chance to participate in multiple trials and experience the daily interaction with the courts.
Jessica will begin working this month with Florida Legal Advocacy Group, P.A. of Ocala, Florida. Jessica found this opportunity using the Placement Office’s Simplicity application. She will start as an Associate, on a partner track, doing litigation work for their clients.
The Placement Office at Florida State University College of Law is working around the clock to make sure every single one of us succeeds. During my 1L year, I was worried about obtaining a summer internship that would provide me with a good amount of experience. Luckily, the services and networking events that the Placement Office provides for us are geared towards helping us do just that.
Early in the spring semester of my 1L year, I received an e-mail message from the Placement Office notifying me that Robert Wesley, Public Defender for the 9th Circuit of Florida, was going to be visiting us here, at his alma mater, to talk with students about internship opportunities in his office. After receiving this e-mail, I was beyond excited.
I made sure that I stopped by the Placement Office a couple of days prior to his visit to get some pointers and to make sure everything would go smoothly. I had worked myself up and was anxious about speaking with Mr. Wesley, but one of our J.D. Placement Advisors helped me find my confidence and told me how to best take advantage of this opportunity. They sat down with me and told me everything I needed to know, from how to dress, how many resumes to bring, and what questions to ask. We even went over my resume together and I was given some formatting tips to spruce it up.
Mr. Wesley’s meeting with a group of students in the Advocacy Center began with him describing his career experience and outlining the responsibilities of his office. He asked us questions about our experiences at the College of Law and recalled his time here quite fondly. He then asked how many people were from the Orlando area and began telling crazy stories about past clients he had encountered there. When he asked who was from Kissimmee, I was the only student who raised a hand, and he talked with me about his hometown for a few minutes.
Towards the end of his talk, Mr. Wesley invited all of us to e-mail him personally with any questions we might have. Additionally, he said that if any of us were interested in an internship position over the summer, we should note this in an e-mail and include the dates we would be available, a weekly schedule, and he would place us in the office of our choice.
Later that week I e-mailed Mr. Wesley, relayed my summer plans, and asked whether I could work at the Kissimmee office during the 6-weeks I would be at home that summer. I was pleasantly surprised by a prompt response from him affirming my schedule and letting me know the next steps in the “employment process.”
I had found the summer internship I wanted, and it all started with that one e-mail from the Placement Office! Needless to say, my six weeks at the Public Defender’s office were tremendously helpful in terms of honing my legal researching skills, drafting memos and motions, recognizing and overcoming legal issues, and working in a professional environment. I still keep in touch with many of the Assistant Public Defenders I worked with in Kissimmee and that internship was definitely the biggest determining factor in my continued interest in criminal law.
If there is one thing you should take away from my experience, it is that our Placement Office is one of the best resources for helping you find employment while you are at the College of Law and when you are seeking employment after you have graduated. You remember that e-mail message that I got from the Placement Office notifying me that Mr. Wesley was coming to speak? The reason I received that e-mail was because I had completed a profile on the College of Law’s Simplicity Web site. The Placement Office manages this Web site and notified me because I had noted my interest in criminal law when I completed my profile. The site also includes a listing of jobs that you can apply for directly through the site. This is how I found another internship in the General Counsel’s Office of the Florida Parole Commission.
I would encourage any current or incoming student to create a detailed employment profile on the College of Law’s Simplicity Web site as soon as you can or are able. Going to speak with the placement advisors about your resume, your experience, and where you want to end up can also be very useful in helping decide what you want to do and how to meet your career goals. The Placement Office also plans many events, like Mr. Wesley’s visit, to give students an opportunity to meet professionals, network, and make their job search much easier…and less stressful!
Entering my 1L year, I knew that breaking into the legal field would pose many unique challenges for me as a woman. I assumed that these were hurdles I would confront on my own, years after the lengthy discussions of “malum in se” and “malum prohibitum” had concluded. However, this assumption could not have been farther from the truth. As a member of Women’s Law Symposium, I have found support and guidance on navigating the legal world and breaking through any “glass ceilings” I may confront in the course of my career.
Women’s Law Symposium, or “WLS” as it is better known, is a student organization that aims to promote women within the legal profession. Throughout the semester, WLS creates opportunities for its members to network with successful female attorneys and legal professionals, involve themselves with charitable work, and tackle issues within the workplace specific to women.
The WLS mentor-pairing program has been an essential element in my success thus far in law school and will continue to benefit me when I enter the workplace. At the beginning of each academic year, WLS members wishing to receive a mentor are paired through the organization with members of the Tallahassee Women Lawyers Association.
I was paired with a Florida State University College of Law alumnae practicing land use and real estate law, an area of law I have a great interest in. Throughout my first semester, my mentor was happy to answer any question I had (far too many, I assure you) and offer guidance on how to make the most of my experience at the College of Law. Whether I was unsure of how best to approach a professor, study for a final exam, or just needed guidance on professional dress for an event, she cheered me on and gave me practical, invaluable advice as a woman who had already walked my path. Aside from receiving informed answers and advice to my questions, I often met my mentor for lunch or a quick happy hour, and was able to observe interesting events at her firm.
The connection my mentor and I have formed will assuredly benefit me in the future. I have already called upon her for help in my summer job search and know that her help will be invaluable when I search for my first position after graduation. Having someone, who can provide a unique female perspective to the trials of law school and the legal profession, guide me through this process has made all of the difference in my success thus far.
Throughout the year, WLS also provides networking events for mentors and mentees and hosts other events to benefit female students. On campus luncheons bring in notable female practitioners who speak on issues confronting women in the workplace, allowing students to ask questions and gain perspective from women who are presently “in the trenches.” WLS also hosts mixers for students and professional women to encourage networking that will provide students with a variety of professional contacts. WLS’s “Dress for Success!” event teaches professional dress in all professional situations and includes a runway show and discounts at popular retailors. Other key events encourage female students to involve themselves in the community, such as the Silent Auction benefitting Refuge House.
Women’s Law Symposium has given me support and encouragement through its mentoring program, networking opportunities, and educational seminars. I encourage any female student to take advantage of all the organization has to offer—the support alone is invaluable and the advice can be lifesaving!
Extraordinary! If I was asked to come up with one word to define my student experience at the Florida State University College of Law, it would have to be “extraordinary.” This school and its faculty, at least as far as every subject or department to which I have been exposed, are so far beyond what I ever would have or could have expected. Frankly, they exceeded “ordinary” before I ever even received my acceptance letter. Now that I have finished my first year of law school, and even after I have come to expect “extraordinary” as the norm, I have been absolutely blown away by the opportunities made available at the Florida State University College of Law – particularly through the externship program!
Approaching the summer after my 1L year, I had not yet received my Bar clearance to become a Certified Legal Intern (CLI), which is a credential required for several externships. I expect to receive my CLI authorization sometime this fall, but I knew it was important that I gain some experience in the interim. More to the point, I wanted REAL experience! I did not want to be a coffee-getter and copy-maker at some law firm. I did not want to be sidelined as an observer to a practice-based externship program with clients I could not advise or cases I could not argue because I did not yet have CLI clearance. I wanted to jump into the deep end of real-world legal practice and solve real problems for real people, and that is exactly what I did!
Between the Placement Office and Externship Office, the College of Law was instrumental in making that happen for me. They narrowed their catalog of hundreds of externships available coast-to-coast down to just those for which a non-CLI rising 2L would be eligible. I looked for something that would give me a more hands-on research and writing experience – the kind of thing that would put me in top contention for my dream job during the summer after my 2L year – and I found it! Actually, I found THEM!
I had my choice of externships doing real work on real cases for real people, without having to be a CLI. Ultimately, I settled on Legal Services of North Florida – a community-based non-profit organization offering legal services for people in need. I wanted to get a broad range of experience working in multiple areas of law, and that is precisely what I got with this opportunity. Over the course of my externship, I worked on cases ranging from landlord-tenant to domestic violence, divorce and child custody, bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, and everything in between. I used my legal knowledge, life experience, and creativity to plan and execute case strategies for the firm and its clients. I did the research. I wrote the motions. I filed the briefs.
It was pretty amazing, and it was real. When I helped stop an illegal eviction, I helped a family from being forced into homelessness. When I helped save a family’s home from foreclosure, they weren’t forced to seek shelter at the expense of their family, friends, and community. When I helped a victim break the cycle of domestic violence, I helped protect her and her child from further abuse and set them on a path to economic and social stability.
If I were to trace this invaluable opportunity back to its source, all the credit goes to Florida State University College of Law. Like I said before… Extraordinary!
It seems that from day one, the focus at Florida State University College of Law is the end game. One of the greatest things about being at the College of Law is that while you are studying, learning, and experiencing law school you are also preparing for your future. Regardless of whether you are an incoming 1L or a rising 3L, it is all about what you can do now; what you can learn, what skills you can pick up, what experience you can get, and even which hands you can shake. Therefore, take advantage of the opportunities while you are here.
I know that I want to practice in a way that allows me to do trial work, probably in criminal law. To that end, I have already been able to take advantage of several opportunities that I believe will help me along the way. Becoming familiar with the resources available in the Placement Office is a great place to start. The Placement Office staff does a great many things to help us develop our interviewing and networking skills, but they are also looking for employment opportunities and ways for us to network and make connections for the future. Their hard work is a big reason that we have the best placement numbers in the state.
At my first appointment with the Placement Office I expected nothing more than a glance at my resume and an overview of the kind of things to do in law school to get a job. Instead, Dean Rosanna Catalano edited my resume to shreds (and it has never looked better) and had a real conversation with me about what I want to do in my career. She gave me e-mail addresses and phone numbers of contacts she had made around the state to help me find somewhere to volunteer for the summer. While I am participating in the Summer Program in Law at Oxford, I was able to make contact with three District Attorney’s offices about volunteering for the remainder of the summer thanks to the information Dean Catalano provided. I also explored activities with different student organizations which allowed me to apply some of my classroom experience and networking skills while also providing opportunities to practice real life skills.
Florida State University College of Law’s focus on the end game sets us apart. After talking to friends at other law schools it, it appears that exploring career options (like I have done) is not something that students at other law schools really start thinking about until right before their 3L year. I believe that this makes all the difference not only in our placement numbers, but also in our students.
One of the organizations that I am heavily involved with at Florida State University College of Law is the Student Bar Association (SBA). As a 1L Representative, I represented the interests of my class in the planning and preparation of events and in how SBA funds would be spent throughout the school year. The mission of SBA is as follows:
“SBA serves as the representative of the College of Law student body to discover and manifest its collective desires, to secure the benefits of mutual association, and to further the legal, academic, and social interests of its members and the College of Law. FSU Law Student Bar Association’s main goal is to improve the overall quality of life for all students attending Florida State University College of Law. SBA offers the perfect opportunity to become involved in an organization that is constantly working to make the experience at FSU Law more enjoyable, rewarding, and fun. Further, SBA offers countless opportunities to become engaged and enjoy extracurricular activities while benefiting FSU Law and the Tallahassee community.”
During the year SBA hosts, and also assists other organizations in hosting several events. Throughout each semester we try to have at least one social gathering around the Tallahassee area planned for the general membership. These events are a great way for FSU law students to take a break from their studies, meet their peers, and develop those relationships that will extend far beyond graduation. Occasionally there is a fun theme in coordination with a holiday (i.e. Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day) or common interest among the students (i.e. 90’s Social), but more often the accepted attire is whatever the students wore to school that day. SBA has their staple social events that the organization continues to host each year, such as a Semi-Formal during the fall semester and Woodser and Barrister’s Ball during the spring semester. They also add new events each year. In the spirit and pride of “Seminole Nation”, SBA coordinates tailgates for almost all of the home football games and plays a vital role in hosting rivalry week (FSU vs. University of Florida) events.
Aside from the obvious social and networking aspects of SBA, there are many other events that we actively plan for the student body. Before exam week we often host events, such as yoga and meditation, to help students relax and find a release from the anxiety of studying. We donate and form teams for events supporting charitable causes such as the Race for the Cure and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. SBA also hosts prominent guest speakers in all different areas of law during lunch hours and supports other organizations in their endeavors through funding opportunities and advertisements.
As a 1L Representative, I had an equal voice on the board in deciding how, when, and where events would be held. Besides actively planning and executing these events throughout the year I also hosted separate events for my classmates. Each semester the 1L Representatives host a lunch for a group of 1Ls and a professor teaching a first year course. This gives 1Ls an additional opportunity to engage in conversation with some of our distinguished faculty outside of the classroom.
The role that SBA plays at the College of Law is both vital and ingrained in the culture of the law school. In 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2013, our Student Bar Association received the national Student Bar Association Award, beating out every other law school SBA chapter in the nation. I will be returning as a 2L Representative this fall and invite any law student (incoming or otherwise) to not only join SBA, but to actively participate. You will not regret it!
I have come to believe that people who have never attended law school and/or previous survivors of law school must have gotten together and signed a pact so that they could scare away prospective law students. You hear all kinds of stories about all the things you will have to give up and how you will never have any time for yourself. I am not sure why they decided to do this, but they got it all wrong.
When I started law school, I was actually under the impression that I would not have time to grocery shop, would never be able to work out, would barely have time to shower, and forget shopping for new clothes or getting a haircut; these things would be out of the question. After finishing my first year of law school, I can tell you that this is not the case.
During a normal semester, I get to work out an average of four times per week, shower every day, stay up-to-date on all my classwork, get sufficient sleep and prepare homemade meals for myself at least 90% of the time. The trick is to employ some simple time management techniques and plan ahead to make everything manageable.
Here are a few tips that I have for efficiently managing your time in law school:
- Use a calendar. Whether electronic or hard-copy, pick a calendar solution that works best for you. I created a Google account and use Google Calendar. Some of my classmates make fun of me for the extent of my calendar, but it is my lifeline. It keeps me organized and focused on what I need to do and if something is not in my calendar, it does not happen.
- Set aside time to study. Put study time in your calendar. This will make you feel the need to follow your schedule and will make it more difficult to negotiate your study time. It also will help you visualize the amount of time you put into each class.
- Figure out where you are most productive. If you study better in the privacy of your own home, schedule study time when you can be at home. If you know you are more distracted at home, schedule your study time at school before, after, or between classes.
- Find study buddies. Having someone to study with not only reinforces the material but will keep you on track with your scheduled study time. This will also force you to monitor your time and get you away from the TV or other distractions when you have promised to meet your study buddy.
- Determine a consistent sleep routine. Knowing your “bed time” each night and what time you will get up guarantees that you will get the sleep that you need. If you are more clear-minded and productive in the mornings, go to bed early and get up a few hours before class. If you are more of a night-owl, read, outline, or study up to your “bed time” and sleep in a little later.
- Use meal times for socializing and networking. No matter what, we all have to eat. You can kill two birds with one stone by using meal times, especially lunch, to socialize with friends, take a mental break, or network.
- Prepare meals and snacks ahead of time. Make sure to prepare and pack meals or snacks for yourself ahead of time so you can save time and energy from desperately looking for food or simply not being productive when you are hungry.
- Schedule breaks and time for fun. You should not feel guilty for taking time to go to the gym, go to the mall, or do other things you enjoy. Do not forget that these mental breaks are important, but should also be scheduled.
Time management is all about being efficient and resourceful. If you use your time wisely, you will get everything done and may even have some time leftover!
I can remember back to April 2013, the day I was officially introduced to the Florida State University College of Law. It was Admitted Students Day and I was terrified. It was a lot to take in but as happy as I was to have been admitted, I still questioned if I had what it takes. At the morning breakfast my stomach was in knots until a few students came up to me, introduced themselves, and said how happy they were to see me. I was so relieved and this put me at ease for the rest of the day. By lunch I was so excited about one day walking the halls and attending classes but it was not until the end of lunch that I learned who those nice people from the morning were. That was the day that I was first introduced to the Florida State University College of Law’s Black Law Student Association (BLSA).
I had been a member of BLSA as an undergraduate at the University of Central Florida but found that I was not able to fully commit to attending regular meetings. I again questioned how much I would be able to commit to this organization as I was being introduced to other members of Florida State Law’s chapter. Knowing what a great opportunity this would be for me to meet other students at a new school really helped me make the decision to join and I am glad I did!
I officially joined the Florida State Law chapter at the first meeting of my 1L year. Being part of this group of dedicated individuals is one of the most important things I could have done during my first year of law school. Before the end of the first semester I had met so many important people, attended event after crucial event, and knew that I had made the right decision.
I do need to point out that BLSA is not just for black students. It is an organization for any student who wants to learn more about issues facing black people and it is a great opportunity to learn about black people within the legal profession.
BLSA is also not just about networking and meeting people, it is a way to learn about real issues that are going on in our communities and across the country and has been a critical resource for me in gaining knowledge that will help me in my career as a future attorney. At our weekly meetings we discuss planned activities and fundraisers or host invited speaker panels of legal professionals. One of my favorite panels was “Life After Law School” which featured five attorneys who spoke about job prospects, time management, loan repayment, and so much more. It was great to hear about what it is like in the real world and about options after law school.
There were plenty of meeting days where we discussed real life cases impacting the black community as well as all other communities. We have had many in depth discussions about cases making the headlines as well as some very interesting cases I had not seen any coverage about in the media. At one meeting we watched the movie “Fruitvale Station” and discussed its impact on our community. Last year we also visited the Leon County Juvenile Detention Center where we were given a tour and had the opportunity to speak with juveniles about their lives and making better choices. This was especially important to me since I hope to one day work within the juvenile justice system.
Apart from the programmatic side, BLSA is a family and whenever you need something there is always someone there available to help. If you need help studying for a class, there is a member who has either taken the class with that professor, or who knows someone who has. We even have a library filled with practice books, horn books, and supplements to help with you with exams. Talk about having a release for your anxiety! Another great thing about BLSA is that there are plenty of members who are involved in other College of Law activities and organizations. From the Moot Court team to the Florida State University Law Review, BLSA members are everywhere.
BLSA has introduced me to a whole new set of ideas and goals that I had not previously considered. I am so grateful to those who introduced me to these new ideas and am excited about continuing my participation over the next two years. I hope that any student, regardless of color, will take the opportunity to join us and reap all of the benefits as I have done. This is what the Florida State University College of Law experience is all about; meeting people, getting out there, and making a difference for the school and for you.
I am an OUTLaw, but before you call the cops, let me explain. As a law student, I was a member of OUTLaw, the Florida State University College of Law’s student organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activism and community. You do not need to be gay to join OUTLaw. I am straight and was in charge of the outreach committee. Allies (the term for people who are not LGBT but support the community) are an essential part of the organization because they are able to be the voice for those who are still “in the closet”. It is sad, but even today there is still discrimination against people because of who they are and in many states this discrimination is still legal because some state laws do not include protections for sexual orientation or gender identity.
Changing discrimination laws is one of the issues that OUTLaw is always working on, including current efforts for marriage equality. Through my role on the outreach committee I was able to meet with candidates running for office as well as civil rights lawyers while bringing attention to issues of concern for the LGBT community.
It is not all policy and politics either. I met Serena ChaCha from RuPaul’s Drag Race while working at OUTLaw’s booth at the Tallahassee Gay Pride Festival. OUTLaw also helps put on the annual Professor Talent Show as part of the College of Law’s Diversity Week. We also have plenty of social activities, especially with the College of Medicine’s LGBT group Gays, Lesbians, and Allies Advancing Medicine (GLAAM). In fact, we partnered with GLAAM to host a screening of the documentary Billy & Alan which included a question and answer session with the filmmaker.
The member community is probably the most important part of OUTLaw. I can only imagine the pressure that comes from having to hide a part of your identity, or of always being afraid of being attacked because of your sexual orientation or gender identity. Part of my work with OUTLaw was speaking with current and prospective law students who are thinking about coming out or who just want to vent their feelings. In a world that still openly discriminates against the LGBT community I was proud to be able to serve as a safe place to talk.
So, I am an OUTLaw and you can be one too! Whether you are a current student or an incoming 1L, OUTLaw is welcoming and would be glad to have you. It is a mix of policy, politics, fun, community, and compassion, so look for our meeting announcements and come join us.