Should You Take a Gap Year?

Most law students come directly from undergrad into law school with only so much as the summer months off. However, there are a few who take a “gap year,” or time off in between.

corie 2I took 3 “gap years.” After graduating in 2015, I decided I needed to see what was outside of my backyard. With the exception of studying abroad for six months, I never had much chance to leave my home state of West Virginia. So, I took a job as a flight attendant with Delta Air Lines, moved to New York City, and truly made the world my oyster.

I visited Europe at least once a month, sometimes weekly in the summers, from Paris to Barcelona to Amsterdam to London. When I wasn’t crossing the Atlantic, I was crossing the country, bumping elbows with famous directors, actors, and even Victoria’s Secret models on flights between New York and Los Angeles. My office was an Airbus-330, or a Boeing triple-7. The only 9-5 I worked was a trip to a Caribbean island and back. The view was always sunny above the clouds.

corie 3It sounds like a dream, but the job certainly had its ups and downs (pun intended). After my first anniversary with Delta, I got the feeling that I needed more. I loved traveling but I didn’t feel fulfilled purpose-wise. That’s when I started studying for my LSAT and applying to schools. By my second anniversary, I was putting a deposit on my seat at Florida State University College of Law. In August of 2018, I unpacked my suitcase for the final time and traded it for a backpack full of  textbooks.

So, what’s the difference between jumping straight into law school and taking a gap year after undergrad?

First, I feel more confident in my decision to be here. I know that, for me at least, had I come straight into law school, I would have questioned if law school was right for me. By being out in the “real world” and taking time off, I had plenty of time to consider my decision and to be serious enough to make the transition.

Second, and maybe the most obvious, is that I am older than most of my classmates. To be honest, I rarely feel this difference because the people I’m surrounded by all take their studies seriously and are passionate about being a law student. Plus, I’m most certainly not the only non-traditional student here so I feel at home in any group.

Third, I feel like I am sometimes more relaxed about the “big picture.” I know that if I came straight from undergrad, I would be doing way too much in terms of extra-curriculars and would burn myself out. Because I had a few years off, I feel like I can see the big picture as to what is worth my time and what isn’t going to actually help me in my career after law school. As much as I want to put my name down for every opportunity, I know it would be better to spend my time wisely.

I’m not the only one who took some time off in between. My classmate, Luc Mazzini, also took a gap year, for three reasons. “I think gap years are a great way to clear your mind after four years of undergrad, get some experience in the workforce, and help you realize what you want to do next.” Luc spent his year off at a private firm here in Tallahassee as its Director of Marketing, a position which allowed him to network with local attorneys and find out what it’s really like to work in a firm. He said he was motivated to take a gap year after hearing many of his friends, already in grad school, talk about how they regretted not taking one. “Law school is hard enough as it is,” Luc says, “I recommend at least one gap year to everyone I know in order for them to take some time off of school, if it’s a viable option, and go experience either what it’s like to work, travel, or whatever they want to do before jumping into the thick of it.”

Think a gap year is right for you? If so, what are your options?

First, as Luc and I both spent our gap years, you have the option to work and get real-world experience. You can get your feet wet in the legal field, or you can do something entirely unrelated.

You could spend the time traveling. If you have the resources, seeing the world before buckling down for three years is a great way to gain some worldly perspective (and to have stories for your new law school friends).

You could even volunteer! There are a lot of great programs that allow you to give back to your community, or communities throughout the United States and the world.

Here at FSU Law, students come from all different backgrounds and experiences. No matter how or when you decide to come to law school, we can’t wait to welcome you to the family!

 

College of Law Student Ambassadors 2019 Corie Posey, 1L

Local Tallahassee Hot Spots

Local Tallahassee Hot Spots (from a native Tallahassean):

Good Eats

I am a huge (self-proclaimed) foodie and love that Tallahassee has such a great local food scene.

My go-to local restaurant is Bella Bella! Whether it’s just a Friday night with friends or a special occasion, Bella Bella is the perfect spot to enjoy local Italian cuisine. My favorite dish is the ravioli special. They have a different ravioli on special every weekend, and it has never disappointed! Whether it’s stuffed with lobster, chicken and spinach, or mushroom, it’s always delicious. The bubble bread is also a must try!

My other favorite local spots include:

  • Breakfast / brunch – Canopy Road Cafe, Uptown Cafe
  • Lunch – Hopkins, Paisley Cafe (best lobster bisque ever), Gordos
  • Upscale dinner – Table 23, Kool Beanz, Food Glorious Food
  • Pizza – Barnaby’s (my personal favorite), Momo’s, The Deck
    • Barnaby’s is another one of my Tallahassee favorites. I grew up going here almost weekly with my family, and it is still a frequent weekend spot for us. Now I will admit, Baranby’s is nothing fancy, but the square cut pizza with braided crust is to die for!

Activities in and Around Tallahassee

Growing up I constantly complained that Tallahassee was so boring and that there was nothing to do here, but as I got older, I quickly learned that I was wrong about that! Not only are there great things to do here, there are so many fun places to visit around Tallahassee.

Tallahassee is a hidden gem for outdoor activities. With the beautiful canopy roads and an abundance of parks, you could spend every weekend exploring the outdoors. My places for spending time outdoors are Maclay Gardens, R. Alford Greenway, and the FSU Reservation.

  • The FSU Reservation is located on Lake Bradford and is free to FSU students for canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, and much more.
  • Leon Sinks is another awesome place to explore the outdoors. Here you can hike to various sinkholes and caves.

There are some great places to day trip from Tallahassee.

  • Apalachicola is a quaint, coastal town just an hour and a half drive from Tallahassee. It is a fishing town that is known for its oysters. Eating seafood and visiting Oyster City Brewing Company are musts when visiting Apalachicola. If you want to make a weekend out of it, there are awesome bed & breakfasts there!
  • Thomasville, GA is my favorite place to visit around Tallahassee. It is a short forty-five minute drive north, just across the line into Georgia. Thomasville is the quintessential, historic South Georgia town, full of amazing food and local shops. I love to go up to Thomasville on the weekends for charcuterie and appetizers at Sweet Grass Dairy, dinner at Jonah’s Fish & Grits, and after dinner drinks at Liam’s. Thomasville is also a great place for shopping and is known for its antique shops. Be sure to drive by the hundred year old Victorian homes lining the downtown streets before leaving Thomasville.

College of Law Student Ambassadors 2019  – Hannah Brewer, 1L

Life as a Parent in Law School

Life as a Parent in Law School

I first took the LSAT on my 21st birthday and then took it for the second time on my 34th birthday. I had wanted to go to law school right after undergrad but life didn’t work out that way and here I am. My two children, my husband, and I uprooted our idyllic, comfortable life in a small beach town on the east coast to move to Tallahassee for me to become a Double Nole law student.

People ask, why now, and my response usually is that it felt like now or never, and thankfully my family agreed. Life as a parent and law student is interesting. My husband travels for work and my two kids are old enough to have lots of extracurriculars going on. It’s never boring!

Here are the main tips I have learned about being a parent in law school.

  • I had questions and needed the type of support a traditional student might not need so my best friend and I co-founded the Nontraditional Students Association. Having a group I can talk to about being older and facing challenges as a parent in law school has been immensely helpful.
  • Faculty and staff are great resources of information because most of them are parents. It had been so long since we lived in Tallahassee, I had lots of questions from the right doctors to the best school zones. To that end, the TMSC – Tally Moms Stay Connected group on Facebook has been a huge help.
  • I have always been an “A” student and thought I still would be. It hurt my pride to become an average student, but what is more important to me is my time with the kids. I put effort into school but my priority is my family and my grades reflect that. That’s why as a parent I rely heavily on networking and my job experience before and during law school to prepare me for my future career.
  • It is alright for traditions to change. “Mom Guilt” is huge but you have to let go. Every one of our holidays have been different since law school but the kids are still happy and healthy and that’s what matters.
  • I take less credits during fall and spring than other students. It’s easier for me to have online classes in summer so I can have more free time during the kids’ school year. Also, because in most law school classes, your only grade is your final exam grade, I base my class schedule on the finals schedule. With the kids, I could not handle back to back finals! Also, I outline as class goes along. It’s too much to do all at the end of the semester.
  • It’s okay to say “No.” It’s okay to not get caught up in the race. This one is hard. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath and remember your priorities and that your path is different.
  • The best part about law school as a parent is getting to go home to a house full of love! They give me motivation and help keep my sanity. It can be hard to remember sometimes that there is life outside the school, but my kids pull me out of the fog and make me smile every day.
  • Law school isn’t yet geared towards nontraditional students so the advice you get might not always be the right advice for you. Reach out to those who have been or are in your shoes.
  • I am a nontraditional student and the traditional path is not the one for me. I am not going into Big Law. I am not on any co-curriculars. I have never done On Campus Interviews. Now, I know other law school parents who have done all of those things and are near the top of their classes, but I’m just letting you know it’s okay if you’re not. You have to choose what to focus on and I have chosen to focus on my jobs in law school, my connections, and serving on executive boards of student organizations.

The most important thing I have learned as a parent and law student is to attend a law school where you have your best support system. Law school, even as a traditional student, is truly unlike any other experience. People say to me all the time, “I don’t know how you do it.” The truth is I am not doing it; there is a whole village with me. My law school friends, life friends, husband, therapist (which is on main campus and free to students), nanny, and family all have helped me in myriad ways and I am grateful to them all for helping me achieve my dreams.

College of Law Student Ambassadors 2019  – Stefanie Jo Osborn, 2L

Where to Take Your Family/Friends When They Come to Visit

If you’ve got family or friends coming into town for a visit, there are so many fun things to do! My brother came to visit from my home state of New York, and if there are two things FSU does better than New York, it’s football and fried food. Here are some must-see things that we did!

  1. Go to an FSU football game! Win or lose, the atmosphere at a football game is electric. Law students get preference for (free!) football tickets, so teach your guests how to do a proper “chop” and you’re in for a great game. The store at Doak has a huge variety of apparel for your guests to choose from. If they want FSU gear with a more boutique style, Barefoot Campus Outfitters in Collegetown has a wide selection of cuter clothes to show off your school spirit.
  2. Take a tour around FSU. The school itself is huge, but a photo-friendly location to commemorate your trip is the Westcott fountain on main campus.733BAB16-2383-43DB-84CD-6CD2E59F6256
  3. Visit Cascades Park. Cascades Park, and the Edison restaurant that sits on the property, really sold me on Tallahassee. It’s a great place to take a walk outside and enjoy good food. Fun fact: the Edison restaurant is housed in what was once a power plant. True to theme, the Edison is full of cool light bulbs and light fixtures that pay tribute to the building’s history. Another awesome place for Southern food that we went to is Table 23. It’s the epitome of Southern cooking designed to look like you’re sitting out on your front porch. It’s a big hit with my family!
  4. Beer tasting at Proof Brewing Company. I love bringing guests to Proof because, even though their beers are sold all over Florida, they started here in Tallahassee. The brewery has a large outdoor space where people can bring their dogs, play corn-hole, and listen to live music. If your guests are into beers, this is the place to go.09218F3B-82FC-47CE-83AF-835148633947

Have fun exploring Tallahassee!

 Amanda Varrone, 2L

UF to FSU: Finding Your Niche in “Enemy Territory”

When you think of fundamental rivals, many people will think of Batman and the Joker, Coke and Pepsi, left Twix and Right Twix – if you are from Florida, you think of UF and FSU.

My undergraduate degree is from the University of Florida. I’ve been a Gator since before I was born. My father and sister both graduated from UF before me so I never questioned that I was going to go there as well. Then, I made the decision to go to law school…at FSU.

Now, I know what you must be thinking. “How could you go to your main rival school?” “Are you a Nole fan now?” “What’s it like being a Gator at FSU?” Well, let me tell you.

I still have many opportunities to be a Gator here and to be proud about it. We have an organization on campus called LitiGators that is specifically for FSU Law students who attended UF for undergrad. It gives us a chance to catch up, wear our orange and blue proudly, and have a sanctuary of sorts in the middle of “enemy territory.” We even brought in, along with another organization on campus, Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga (a Double-Gator grad) to speak.

We have events with the Capital Area Gator Club, the local Gator organization in town. Sometimes we get together with them for gamedays because there’s definitely strength in numbers, especially in a place like Tallahassee. Not only do these events allow you to network with fellow Gators in the area, but it also gives you the opportunity to relieve some stress by yelling “Go Gators!” as loudly as you like, which we all need every once in a while.

We have an annual powder puff game between girls who went to UF and FSU for undergrad. While the outcome hasn’t always been in favor of UF (the record currently stands at 1-1 during my time here), it gives us a chance to cheer on our team and continue to show pride in our undergraduate institutions. People get really into it and it has a similar feel to the annual UF-FSU football game.

These are just a few of the opportunities I have as a Gator at FSU Law. Many people don’t know this but one of the students in the very first class of students at FSU Law got their bachelor’s degree from UF. In the 50 years since then, there is a long-standing tradition of UF graduates attending FSU Law.

Although my sister still teases me for being a “traitor,” I don’t feel like a traitor. I’ve found exactly what I needed in a law school here at FSU. I’ve found true friends who offered to give me their outlines when my computer crashed halfway through my first semester. I’ve found organizations that I’m passionate about being involved in. I’ve found opportunities to meet local attorneys and judges that have become true mentors and friends. Though I’ll always be a Gator, I couldn’t feel more at home here.

Do I still get a “Go Noles” when I’m wearing my orange and blue in hallways filled with garnet and gold? Of course. Do I love every minute of it? Absolutely.

Go Gators.

thornton-hillary  – Hillary Thornton, 3L

Advice From Law Students on LSAT Test Prep

See where we'll be (3)

The LSAT commonly deters people from thinking about law school, but it isn’t as scary as most people think it is. There are many different ways people approach the LSAT. Personally, I took the Testmasters prep course to help me study. I liked being on a schedule, and having an instructor to answer my questions. I definitely attribute my success on the LSAT to this course. However, this may not be what works for you. Whether it is self-studying or taking a prep course, I recommend being consistent and giving yourself time to get used to the exam. It’s difficult at first – but practice makes perfect.🏆

A new (FREE!) way of studying, is Khan Academy. They have practice exams available and give you instant help and feedback. While this was not available while I was studying for the LSAT, I wish it would have been to supplement my studies. Although I took a prep course, I did not limit myself to those materials. If I had a question and needed additional understanding, I often Googled the question and looked at different ways people attacked the question. Don’t be scared to use Google!

Here are a few different test prep options recommended by current law students:

  • “I studied using the LSAT Bibles by Powerscore. The first time I took the LSAT, I thought I could just get by with taking practice tests, checking my answers, and learning from my mistakes. I found out that method didn’t work for me when LSAT scores were released. The second time around, I bought the LSAT Bibles and developed a pretty strict study schedule for working through the problems and reading the books. After I worked through a section of the book, I would take a partial practice exam of that particular topic. As the test moved closer, I started taking full, timed practice exams, checking my answers, and going back to the LSAT Bibles for clarification on topics I seemed to be missing. This method worked much better for me, and I ended up raising my LSAT score 9 points between the October and December exams.” – Brooke Stewart (1L)
  • “I studied for the LSAT using Blackstone, which is run primarily by Mimi Longworth in Orlando and Tampa. The class was inexpensive and provided the students with many books and materials to study and take practice tests. As the test moved closer, there were more practice tests and they were timed in the classroom we studied in. We also could use the extra study materials and practice tests to prepare. Blackstone was a big reason why I jumped 7 points on my LSAT exam.” – Jorge Alfonso (1L)
  • “One of the biggest tips I have for taking the LSAT is to do as many practice exams as you can! The exam goes by a lot faster than your practice exams do so learn how to budget your time appropriately.” – Corie Posey (1L)

You can find even more options on the LSAC website.

I know the LSAT seems by a daunting task but planning out your time, and setting a study schedule will definitely help make it more manageable. Also, make sure to check the schools you’re applying to, as many now invite you to take the LSAT more than once for more opportunities.

Cream and Pink Donut and Sprinkles Good Luck Card

Best of Luck!

College of Law Student Ambassadors 2019  – Estefania Fakes, 1L

FSU Law’s Veterans Legal Clinic

veterans

What I love most about Florida State University College of Law is all of the opportunities that are offered outside of the traditional classroom setting. From being located in the Capital to having study abroad opportunities in Oxford, FSU Law offers its students exposure to so many unique experiences. We are even given the opportunity to work in several different clinical programs, where we can apply the legal skills we learn in the classroom to help solve real life legal issues. Currently, I am a student advocate enrolled in the Veterans Legal Clinic.

Coming from a military family and wanting to join the military upon graduating law school, I wanted to work with veterans and help those who have sacrificed so much for our country. Working at the clinic and with the veterans has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had during my time in law school. The clinics allow you to see the reason behind the long hours spent studying in the library, and the stress we put ourselves through to obtain a J.D. The Veterans Legal Clinic allowed me to see that I could apply my legal knowledge to make positive impacts in the lives of others.

I have been at the clinic for half of a semester so far, but I already feel I have experienced so much. The clinic has given me the opportunity to:

Work directly with clients: We meet at the VA and the American Legion every Thursday for veterans to meet with us about their legal issues. Through the intake process, we find out if there is a legal issue we can help the veteran with. If the veteran meets the criteria for our clinic, we take him or her on as a client. A student advocate gets assigned to the client and works on the matter under the supervising attorney, Professor LaVia. If the veterans do not qualify for our services because they are over-income or do not have a legal matter, we refer them out so they still can get help with their issue. This close interaction with the clients has allowed me to see how you can positively impact someone’s life just by solving their legal issues.

Gain experience in various legal matters: I was interested in gaining experience in family law, so I had the opportunity to do so in the clinic. I have worked on dissolutions of marriages, child support modifications, adoptions, and drafting wills. Other student advocates have worked in areas of property law, drivers licensing reinstatements, and more. This real-life experience has helped me better understand concepts that I learned in the family law class I took last semester.

Work with a team: As a clinic, we meet regularly for class and hold office hours at the Public Interest Law Center. I have learned the importance of “two heads are better than one.” In class, the goal is often seen to get the best grade possible. However, in the clinic the goal is to provide for our clients as best as we can. Success in the clinic is a group effort. I have learned how talking over our cases or bouncing ideas off one another can lead us to finding better solutions for our clients and work more efficiently.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to learn from Professor LaVia and the other student advocates in the Veterans Legal Clinic this semester. The clinical programs are just one of the many amazing opportunities FSU Law has to offer its students!

 

   Emily Michel, 2L