Externship Opportunities…Just Extraordinary!

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!

??????????????????????????????????? Brandon G. Little, 2L

Career Planning Begins on Day One

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.

??????????????????????????????????? Kristen Lonergan, 2L

Join the Student Bar Association and Make a Difference

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!

??????????????????????????????????? Luis Then, 2L

For Success in Law School, Practice Good Time-Management

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!

??????????????????????????????????? Melanie Kalmanson, 2L

You Don’t Have to Go It Alone Thanks to the Black Law Student Association

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.

Image Aseye A. Ablordeppey, 2L

I Am an OUTLaw!

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.

Image  Melissa Becker, Class of 2014

Children’s Advocacy Clinic Provides “Real World” Experience

Before graduating from law school, I wanted to get some hands-on, “real-world” experience. I also wanted to work under the close supervision of a professor. Florida State University College of Law’s Public Interest Law Center provided me with the opportunities to do just that. With three clinics to choose from, I chose to get my experience in the Children’s Advocacy Clinic during the fall semester of my 3L year.

Courts across the State of Florida appoint the Public Interest Law Center to represent individuals in different types and areas of law. The Children Advocacy Clinic specifically assists children in juvenile delinquency, dependency, educational, and medical matters. Student interns, under the supervision of Paolo Annino, Esq., work through the issues each case may present. Additionally, Certified Legal Interns (CLI’s) can directly represent their clients in court. In addition to gaining practical skills, students are instructed in the different types of law that they will most likely encounter.

My experience in the Children’s Advocacy Clinic was the most rewarding time for me in law school. I gained CLI status so I was able to not only attend court hearings, but I could also speak on behalf of my clients when necessary. The cases I handled were very involved and some required very thought-provoking analysis. I also had to interact with clients and opposing counsels as well as attend scheduled conferences and hearings on a regular basis.

My participation in the Clinic definitely helped me develop a variety of skills. Completion of weekly office hours helped me develop my interpersonal communication skills through interaction with other student interns. Professor Annino’s incorporation of simulated trial practice into his lectures helped me develop my litigation skills.

My participation in the Children’s Advocacy Clinic was definitely the most “real world” experience I had while in law school and I highly recommend it to others!

Image Sherri-Ann Grant-Clarke, Class of 2014

Getting Ready for My Criminal Law Externship

After spending the summer after my 1L year working for a criminal defense attorney, I knew that criminal law was the right area for me. While there, my employer told me that he had participated in the Criminal Practice Clinic while he was a law student and recommended that I consider participating as well. Upon returning the following fall semester, I applied and was accepted.

The Criminal Practice Clinic prepares students who are committed to completing either a 9- or 12-credit externship, working full-time as a Certified Legal Intern (CLI), with either the State Attorney’s or Public Defender’s office. Before jumping into the role of a CLI, students are required to complete the Criminal Practice Clinic class, which is taught by Professor Krieger. In this class we learned the process of a criminal law case from start to finish. We also practiced speaking at hearings, doing direct and cross examinations, and jury selection. The hardest task for me during the class was standing up and objecting.

I remember feeling extremely nervous about speaking in the courtroom when I first entered the class. However, this uncomfortable feeling slowly began to dissipate as the semester progressed. You learn that it is not the end of the world if your objection gets overruled, or if you feel a little nervous.

At the very end of the semester the students conduct two full-length trials. For each trial one half of the class acts as the prosecution and the defense, with the other half sitting in the jury box taking notes and offering constructive criticism of the prosecution and defense. I was assigned the closing argument for my trial and by that time I was much less shaky and much more organized than I had been at the beginning of the semester. This was a great way to see the progress we had all made and learn from our mistakes. I know that the experience will help me to become a better litigator.

Thanks to the class, I am excited about my externship, which I hope to complete with the State Attorney’s office this upcoming fall. As a CLI, I will be able to conduct my own jury trials, hearings, client interviews, and depositions and I will be responsible for my own case load. I cannot imagine a better opportunity for hands-on experience! Another great thing about this externship program is that it also allows you to participate in an office in the city of your choice. I hope to eventually practice in south Florida, so I can do my externship in Fort Lauderdale or Miami if I chose. Regardless of where it is, I am confident that it will give me a great head start into the field of criminal law.

Image Jessica Butler, 3L

My Unexpected Journey to Family Law

I suspect that many law students do not have a clue about what they want to do when they grow up, and those who think they know often change their minds. The important thing is to have a law school experience that helps you make the right decision for yourself. Sometimes it comes from the classes you love and sometimes the classes you did not think you would like turn out to be the most valuable. It can even come from the people you meet or the organizations you join. Either way, try different things before narrowing down your areas of interest and most importantly, remember to keep an open mind!

When I first came to law school I thought I knew exactly what type of law I wanted to practice.  I just knew I wanted to be an international lawyer. I wanted to be involved in international trade with a Chinese company. As an undergraduate, I spent my summers in China and even minored in Chinese. I was definitely on the international track. During the fall semester of my 2L year my focus began to change and my current career path could not have been further from international trade law. From that point I began to develop an interest in family law and now that I have graduated I will be working in a law firm handling domestic relations cases.

As I prepared for the fall semester of my 2L year, I enrolled in two classes, International Trade and Family Law. I learned very quickly that I did not have an interest in the business aspects of international law, but to my surprise, I loved my Family Law class. Professor Cahill taught the course and she was fantastic! The material was interesting, really grabbed my attention, and I started thinking that family law might be for me. Fast-forward to the spring semester of my 3L year, and I enrolled in the Public Interest Law Center’s Family Law Clinic, which provided me with the opportunity to practice with actual cases before I graduated. While I was working under the supervision of an attorney, the clients and the cases were mine and I handled each of them from the initial interview through the final hearing. I cannot say enough about what a great opportunity this was to get hands-on experience!

Another great opportunity was the Mock Trial Team. As someone who will be directly advocating for clients, this experience was huge for me. Mock Trial is basically a group of students who work on teams and simulate a trial. There is a plaintiff (or prosecution), a defense team, and participants make opening statements, examine witnesses, argue evidence, and offer closing arguments. While I never really saw myself as a trial lawyer, I now know that after this experience I have the tools to enter any courtroom and hold my own.

Some people really have a calling for what they want to do, and that is great. If you do not know, one of the best ways to help you decide is to try different things. There are plenty of courses offered at Florida State University College of Law each semester, as well as many activities and organizations you can participate in that will help you determine where you might fit. Even though I thought I knew what I wanted to do, I took a wide range of classes and became involved in different areas. I think all of these experiences were very important in helping me determine what I really wanted to do as well as what my future career will be.

Image Melissa Sinor, Class of 2014

Preparing for Practice: Education Law

Ever since I was young, education has always been a passion of mine. The thought that there is an endless amount of knowledge one could know is fascinating to me. I have always been curious about so many different topics and am always the first person to “Google” something if I want to find out more about it.

This passion for learning and education followed me to college and as I grow older I often reflect back on the opportunities I had during my childhood education. In doing this, I have come to realize how lucky I was to live in a school district with strong academic standards and that there are many children who do not have the privilege of attending such institutions. When considering law school, I soon became interested in education law and the rights of individuals receiving an education. While taking Education Law I became immersed in everything from a student’s  free speech rights while on campus to the rights and regulations of school facilitators and found that this is an area that I may want to practice.

As the education bug slowly emerged in my head I visited the College of Law Placement Office to get guidance on how to start a career in education law. They provided me with information on different areas that are related to education law and introduced me to the resources around Tallahassee that could provide me with additional information to help me succeed.

My advisor in the Placement Office then introduced me to the role of general counsel for a university and got me in touch with the Deputy General Counsel for Florida State. While meeting with him, he guided me on which courses to take while in law school that might help me in the future. His suggestions included labor and employment law, land transfer, contract drafting, and even immigration law. As I took these suggestions to heart, I also researched  the College of Law’s wide variety of courses and considered those that I felt would be helpful in the broad range of practice of a general counsel to a university. While taking these classes I realized that my ultimate goal would be to practice in this area.

Once again I utilized the Placement Office’s resources to perfect my resume and cover letter and to apply for summer internships. My efforts were rewarded when I obtained a law clerk position at Florida A&M University working in the office of the general counsel.

While in law school, your preparation to practice should integrate your choice of courses, participation in student organizations, experiential activities, networking, and interviewing. Explore all of the resources at the College of Law and take advantage of all of those that you believe can be factors in helping you prepare to practice in your chosen area of law.

Image Laura Bare, Class of 2014

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