Do I really want to stay in Tallahassee for three more years? Would I benefit from moving? Do I need a change in my life? These are the questions that pop into so many Florida State undergraduates’ minds when considering a transition to Florida State Law. These also happen to be the questions that popped into my mind three years ago. Being a third-year law student, I have had the time to reflect on my law school admissions journey and affirm that I chose the best school for me. The transition from being a Florida State undergraduate to being a Florida State law student was life changing for me, in all the best ways.
Law school is an experience that can often shift students’ viewpoints on how they can perform to the best of their abilities. During this process, the last thing a first-year law student needs is to learn a whole new city. Staying at Florida State not only brought me comfort, but it also brought me several advantages. While I was trying to learn how to read and brief cases, I did not have to find a new favorite place to study, where the closest grocery store was, or what was considered an iconic pizza shop. I was able to shift all of my focus to law school from the very first day of 1L year with nothing on my mind but performing well and learning everything I could.
More than that though, staying at Florida State has also allowed me to expand on the professional network I had spent four years creating during my time as an undergraduate. I am able to build on existing connections while creating new ones, rather than starting from scratch. Along with this, I am able to show future connections and employers that I am someone who they can count on for stability.
As for the concerns of needing a change, Florida State University College of Law, while reminiscent of the camaraderie of the undergraduate campus, is far removed from the main establishments of Florida State. This law school will feel different in every possible way because everything you need is in two buildings. Although I rarely go to main campus, when I do, it feels like a completely different place. Overall, the feeling of change will come, but the comfort will stay. My deciding factor for attending Florida State Law was that this law school felt like home from the very beginning, and that is something I could not have replicated at any other institution.
When people ask me about what shaped me the most growing up, I often point to my hometown. Quincy, Florida is about a thirty-minute drive from Florida State University College of Law, situated right in the middle of Gadsden County. Quincy is home to around 8,000 people. Growing up in a rural community was certainly different from the fast-paced lifestyle of a “big” town like Tallahassee. The legal profession itself cannot help but at least seem like fast-paced; thinking about my future as an attorney was a scary thought just two years ago.
For those who are also from small towns, law school and even undergraduate school can seem like a huge task. I always had this thought in the back of my mind that I could never keep up with a fast-paced profession like that of an attorney. When I first got to Florida State Law and started my studies I found out how fast-paced the law truly requires one to be. However, there have been several instances in which being from a small community has helped me while I’ve been here.
First, networking and communication skills are two of the most important skills to have in law school. I’m sure that others from small communities can relate to the idea of knowing everyone, or speaking to everyone if you don’t know them. Networking is important in law school because it benefits your professional future. An ability to network and communicate can help you land a legal job while in school and after graduation. If you come from a small town, those skills almost come naturally, so do not be intimidated by networking events!
Second, Florida State Law is comparable to a small town in that regard; you are seeing the same people almost every day, it’s a small population, and you get to know everyone quickly. Florida State Law provides that same atmosphere of camaraderie and tight-knit feel that Quincy did for me growing up. This helped me in my transition because it was a comfortable place to be. You get to know others quickly and it becomes like your own new “town.”
My time at Florida State Law has been a great experience for me!
Katie Mesa and her classmates video conferencing with students at the University of Florida Levin College of Law to discuss relevant topics, current events and individual aspects of their Immigrant and Farmworker cases.
This semester, I have the privilege of being enrolled in the Immigration and Farmworker Project within the Public Interest Law Center at FSU College of Law. The clinic gives us the opportunity to collaborate with students from UF Levin College of Law through a grant provided by The Florida Bar Foundation. We assist immigrants and agricultural workers who face employment barriers such as undocumented status, lack of housing and lack of healthcare. Particularly, in this day and age, this clinic is exciting to be a part of because no two days are the same. In addition to meeting for class twice a week, every Wednesday we video chat with the UF class to discuss relevant topics, current events and individual aspects of our cases. Our professor, Darby Kerrigan Scott, has also brought in prominent members of the Tallahassee legal community to discuss their individual legal work, working with victims of trauma, and explaining how the immigration judicial system operates. As students, we are also actively engaged as civic-minded citizens by preparing comments on proposed rules on immigration and giving community presentations to local migrant populations. The ever-changing nature of immigration allows for this field to be dynamic, challenging, and stimulating. My classmates and I discuss even the most controversial topics in immigration to try to get to the heart of a given legal issue and also engage one another in productive and respectful discourse.
With aspirations to work in international human rights, I saw this clinic as an opportunity to learn about the U.S. immigration system and to help victims of human trafficking, refugees, and those seeking asylum. As the daughter of an immigrant, it is important to me that people recognize that there is no one image of what an immigrant looks like and no template for his or her story. Through this clinic, I am able to help clients who have come from all walks of life and seen all forms of hardship but who have a desire to build a better life for both themselves and sometimes their families. Participating in this clinic has been a humbling and eye-opening experience, one that has shown me the range of work that is available in the legal field.
If you had asked me four months ago if I had had an interest in immigration, I would have likely said no. Having partaken in this clinic now, I can only give a glimpse as to the value of my experience and the value of the clinic as a whole. In addition to helping clients, I have learned so much about the U.S. immigration system, the types of relief and visas available, how federal agencies and immigration courts operate, and the impact that various changes in U.S. policies can have on current and potential immigration proceedings and remedies. I have also learned the value of trauma-informed lawyering. The clients we work with are real human beings, people who have been trafficked, abused, or who have had to flee their home countries to escape dangerous, potentially life-threatening situations. I am honored to be a member of this clinic in its inaugural semester and I encourage students who have an interest or who don’t know exactly what they want to do to check the immigration clinic out.
My mom always used to tell me, “You look good, you feel good. You feel good, you play good. You play good, they pay good.” She claims she was quoting former FSU football player Deion Sanders, but the quote applies for situations beyond being an athlete. I like to apply it every day because law school can be stressful. There may be days where you don’t feel so good about a lot of things, some of which you can’t control and some of which you can. How you look is one of those things you can control (for the most part). When I start off my day and I feel good about how I look, or I at least feel comfortable, then no matter what, I have that to feel good about.
So, one piece of advice I’d give any prospective law student is to take the opportunity when you can to dress in whatever makes you feel good while you’re in law school. Whether that’s jeans, leggings, track pants, dresses, or suits. Law school is likely one of the last times for a while you get to wear whatever you want (within reason) every day.
This might be surprising for some people since every law school brochure and website front page is usually a group of people standing in suits, but most law students are really casual. A lot of us only dress up when we need to for things like moot court, internships, or work. But if dressing up every day makes you feel good then you won’t be out of place either. People come to class in everything from full suits to pajamas.
In fact, holidays and other special occasions see a variety of outfits. On Halloween, some students dressed in costumes. We have a spirit week for the FSU vs. UF Powder-puff game where people wear jerseys and other themed clothes. And most days you’ll see law students walking around in a wide range of styles. Take the opportunity to feel good in whatever makes you comfortable and you’ll always start the day on the right foot.
And “dressing in what makes you feel good” applies before you get to law school too, like when you come for your tour. I know my first law school tour felt intimidating because I wanted to make a good impression and I didn’t know what to expect.
If you ask student ambassadors, most of us wore business casual or jeans with a nice blouse or button up on our prospective student tours. If you want to dress up, more power to you – if you look good, you feel good, and applying to law schools can be a stressful time. Keep in mind we’re also in Florida, so sometimes wearing full-on business professional can be very warm. While you want to make a good impression, you want to be comfortable too. It is a walking tour, so with that in mind, it’s okay to wear flats instead of heels.
If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, things will turn out good.
If you’re reading this, you may be considering the mere idea of attending law school, or your mind may be made up and you know you’ll be getting that J.D. as part of your five-year plan. Likely, you’re reading this because you are interested in public interest work and you have heard about FSU Law’s Public Interest Law Center.
The Public Interest Law Center, or PILC (pronounced like “milk”) for those of us who have started to take up second residence there, provides us with hands-on experience in real-life cases. We conduct discovery, draft pleadings, and even represent clients in court. It’s one of the opportunities we have on campus to actually practice our future career — and we get to help countless people from the community in the process.
PILC has three main clinics — the Children’s Advocacy Clinic, the Gender and Family Justice Clinic, and the Veterans’ Legal Clinic — but there is a special project that isn’t quite as well-known or publicized, but, to me, is one of the most important things we do at PILC: the Children in Prison Project. This project aims to legally represent children in adult prisons.
When I found out I was chosen to sit under Professor Paolo Annino in a 2:1 environment and learn from one of the most intelligent minds in this field, I was beyond ecstatic. Truly, what other law school could offer such an opportunity? I immediately jumped in with both feet, and now, after being in the clinic for a semester, I have made plans to continue on through a combination of school credit and pro bono work.
The Children in Prison Project was created by Professor Annino in response to Florida imprisoning children in the adult criminal system, especially for those who were sentenced to life without parole. Though this clinic, Professor Annino has helped shape national law and has been cited by the United States Supreme Court in a landmark decision in 2010’s Graham v. Florida.
Through this clinic I have been able to work with four main clients who have been sentenced to life in prison. I am actively working on research and discovery regarding resentencing, restitution, judicial reviews, probation, solitary confinement, access to prison programs and classes … and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve also been able to communicate with the imprisoned youth, discuss important case law with my peers, strategize with “outside” attorneys who are also invested in this cause, and learn about the science behind human development and growth as it pertains to these choices.
When I began working in the Children in Prison Project, part of my “homework” was to research the children we were representing and to gain an understanding of their crimes, their current situations, and, essentially, how they have changed and grown over the years. It’s been humbling to see those who, at the time, knew they had no chance of release (as they were sentenced to life in prison), yet they got their GED, took tons of classes, completed certifications, mentored others, and generally just blossomed into helpful, productive people as they grew up (in prison). It lends itself to the notion that children are amenable to rehabilitation.
It was through my homework and research that I ended up watching a handful of documentaries, two of which featured clients of the clinic. I was unprepared for how emotional I became in watching the footage of the crimes, the hearings, the interviews, and, in one case, the resentencing hearing. It made me more determined than ever to give my all to these clients.
This past semester, through the clinic, I got to fly down to Miami to attend a hearing for the project’s first ever client — and the youngest female to be in a Florida adult prison — and watch a judge order that her probation was over and her restitution was paid in full. I shared in the joyful tears as she hugged her husband, and then quickly pulled out her phone to make her first phone call as a free woman — a call to Professor Annino.
This next semester I will help Professor Annino and the Children in Prison Project team — Caitlyn Kio, Esq. and fellow law student Deni Kolev — represent one of our clients in a resentencing hearing. This hearing will determine whether or not the client can move from life in prison without parole to a 40-year sentence with a judicial review after 25 years. I’ve been tasked with interviewing, preparing, and then direct examining in court two of our team’s witnesses as a Certified Legal Intern under the clinic and the Florida Bar. It is humbling, exciting, terrifying, life changing (for the client!) and so vitally important to the work we’re doing.
Through heartbreaking conversations and hopeful research, I’ve experienced a rollercoaster of emotions as I navigate my way through the complex issues associated with incarcerating children. I am excited that the U.S. is on the right track for working to protect children, even when they are in the criminal justice system, and humbled to be working under the person who is driving this change, one case at a time.
Clinic work is a vital part of my experience at FSU Law, and I’m not the minority there. So many students find a second home at PILC, working with like-minded people to help provide justice, resources, and just all around help and hope to those who need it most. It’s a huge perk of attending law school here, and if you decide to attend FSU Law you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the opportunities and experiences you’ll get through PILC.
I’m a double ‘Nole, meaning it’s my seventh year here at FSU (yikes!), but more importantly it’s my seventh FSU football season as a student here. This season isn’t exactly how I thought my last season as a student would go (see October 27, 2018, Clemson vs. FSU), however FSU football is still my favorite thing about fall in Tallahassee. So here we go, let’s get into everything you need to know about going to the football games as a student at FSU Law.
At the beginning of the fall semester you will get an email from the FSU Student Ticket Office explaining how to activate your student ticket account and your Spear-It Rewards account (make sure to check your clutter and spam folders). The ticket account is how you will get tickets to football games and men’s basketball games. The Spear-It Rewards account will be how you accumulate points, which helps in getting tickets to high demand games, but we’ll get to that in a second. First let’s talk about getting a ticket to your non-high demand games. The FSU student ticket allotment is 16,000 tickets. All student tickets are given on a first come, first served basis starting at 5:00 p.m. the Sunday prior to the week of each home game. To get your ticket, sign into your student ticket account, click on “Student Football Home Games” and then follow the instructions on the website accordingly.
Second, let’s talk about those high demand games. Clemson, Miami, and UF are always going to be considered high demand games. I’ve also seen Notre Dame, Louisville, and Virginia Tech be high demand games. The process for getting tickets to the high demand games has changed almost every year since I’ve been here, so I’m not going to explain the system for this year. You will get an email next year explaining the process for how those tickets are distributed. However, Spear-It Rewards points are always involved in how those tickets are distributed. The more points you have, the better chance you have at getting a ticket. Well, how do I get points? First things first, you’re automatically getting a lot of points by just being a law student! At the beginning of the school year, points are distributed according to your year in school. Seniors and grad students get 1,000 point and everyone else gets less. You can earn additional points by linking your social media accounts to your Spear-It Rewards account and going to different athletic events on campus. You should take note that 25% of your points will roll over to next year and the rest will expire.
Last note on tickets: student guest tickets are available for all non-high demand games. I’ve seen them priced anywhere from $25-$55. I have no idea how they determine how much the guest tickets will cost. I’ve never seen guest tickets available for purchase for high demand games.
WOO! It’s game day! Time to head to the law school to tailgate. The Student Bar Association, sometimes in connection with another organization on campus, hosts super fun tailgates on the Green at the law school in front of the rotunda. It’s a great place to get some food, play games, and meet up with friends before walking to Doak to see the game.
Once you get to Doak, you can enter the stadium at any gate except gate A. Students can sit in any open seating in the following sections: 40, 41, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. I recommend sections 6 or 7 because they offer the best view of the field in the student section. However, sections 40 and 41 get shadier quicker, which is a bonus because it gets hot.
So, what can you bring and not bring to the stadium with you? Bring your FSU ID with you. Sometimes they ask for it, sometimes they don’t. But always bring it just in case. Bring a clear bag, no larger than 12”x 6”x12”, to hold your things. Some very tiny non-clear bags are permitted in the stadium, but in personal experience, they sometimes still give you a hard time about it. My advice is to just get a clear game day bag. You can find a list of things not permitted in the stadium here: http://seminoles.com/doak-campbell-policies/.
And finally, learn the fight song so you can sing it every time FSU scores! My hope is that you guys will get to sing it more next year than I have this year. Go ‘Noles!
In addition to having a love for caffeine, I discovered that Tallahassee has some of the best local coffee shops. When I was in the process of deciding where to go to law school, the local community and atmosphere of a law school was a very important factor for me. Tallahassee has so much more than people realize when it comes to culture and local uniqueness. One of my favorite Tallahassee eccentricities is the plethora of local coffee shops it has that are perfect for the many long nights of studying every law student faces. Here are the coffee shops that were always there for me as a stressed 1L and continue to be my studying getaways in law school:
Black Dog Café
Black Dog has the best outdoor studying area, there is a little waterfall and so many pretty plants and flowers. In addition, for a treat after studying, they have Sangria and spiked popsicles (they have regular popsicles too that are always nice in the Florida heat!). My favorite Black Dog location is the one at Railroad Square, because for study breaks, I love to climb at the rock climbing gym next door. The location at Lake Ella is nice as well, especially because you can get a big easy snowball, another local Tallahassee treat.
Au Peche is a new bakery/coffee shop and it is my current favorite place to study. They play French music and it is usually a very quiet, relaxing place to study. Plus, they have so many tasty treats, like macaroons and lavender chai tea lattes!
Catalina Café is only a five-minute walk from the law school. It has a trendy vibe and great outdoor seating. They serve food, too! Plus, it is right next door to Grasslands Brewery, so you can grab a beer with friends after long hours of studying.
Red Eye is another local favorite that has a mission to make the world a better place. Its coffee and tea are all fair trade and its profits go towards local and global humanitarian causes. My Law Review note is on a potential ban on plastic straws, and it is fitting that I am drinking out of a biodegradable straw from Red Eye as I write it. Red Eye has three locations near campus, one in Midtown, one on Capital Circle and one at Bannerman Crossing.
If a coffee connoisseur were to pick a Tallahassee coffee shop with the best coffee, he or she would probably pick Lucky Goat. Lucky Goat is a very popular study spot, so I try to go there in the mornings or on days I know it will be less crowded.
Many More: All Saints Café, Chi Chi’s Café, Southern Velvet Café, Calvin’s Coffee House, etc.
Basically, in Tallahassee if you throw a rock you are likely to hit a local coffee shop or great place to study. Law school can create its fair share of stress and it is good to have a place to escape to. The local coffee shops of Tallahassee became my escape and continue to be where I get my best work done in law school.