Foundational Law Courses AFTER Your 1L Year

The courses taken during the first year of law school are intended to introduce students to a wide range of legal concepts in order to prepare them for more specialized courses in their second and third years. If a law student assumes that their 1L courses are all that they need before they begin to focus on their intended practice area, they are in for a rude awakening. To really have a good legal foundation, students should consider taking some other foundational law courses that may benefit them, even though they are not required to take them.

Let me start by pointing out that few law students know for certain when they enter law school the area of law they will be practicing after they pass the Bar Exam. This is a good thing because this allows students an opportunity to explore various areas of law with an open mind. The down side is that students only have two more years to select the courses they think will best prepare them to become legal practitioners. My strategy was to consider a well-rounded set of course options and professors who I thought would best prepare me for a variety of legal positions and make me a more competitive candidate for future employment. I was not able to take every course that I wanted to take, but I believe that the following options would greatly benefit anyone as they prepare for their legal careers.

  • Administrative Law – It surprises me that Administrative Law is not a required course at Florida State. There are countless opportunities for an attorney to practice administrative law. The demand for individuals with this type of legal expertise is growing every day. For me, Administrative Law also filled in a lot of gaps and helped me better understand how the law works. Administrative regulations are everywhere, and nearly everyone who practices law will come in contact with an administrative proceeding at some point in their career. At Florida State, students have the opportunity to learn from Professor Mark B. Seidenfeld, who is regarded as one of the top administrative law authorities in the United States.
  • Evidence – Evidence is necessary for a basic understanding of court procedures. I do not need to belabor the point for this course, but if you do not take Evidence, you will wish that you had. Florida State Law has some great professor who teach Evidence, but Professor Charles W. Ehrhardt, author of Florida Evidence is the foremost expert in the State of Florida, and almost all attorneys in Florida who deal with evidence have a copy of one or more editions of his book.
  • Criminal Procedure – All first-year law students at Florida State take Criminal Law during their second semester and gain a basic understanding of criminal statutes and how they work. Criminal Procedure more precisely analyzes criminal law within a constitutional framework and Professor Wayne A. Logan was one of the most outstanding professors I had while I was in law school. Criminal Procedure is obviously a must for students interested in practicing criminal law, but I found it to be incredibly beneficial for me in my everyday life. So, if you want to know what your rights are anytime you are approached by a police officer, I recommend taking Criminal Procedure.

There are several other courses that I could recommend, such as election law, family law, and employment law, but my recommendations would fill up many more pages. Whatever your plan is for law school, do not focus on just the courses in your interest area. Instead, think about how each course you take will benefit you, both while in law school and in your future legal career.

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Alex Sarsfield, Class of 2017

 

Making the Most of Your Law School Job Experiences

Summer Legal Job Strategies – Kelsey Pincket, Class of 2017

Securing legal experience after my first year of law school was very different than after my second year. Even though I ended up working in the same city both summers, approaching each summer differently provided me with an opportunity to better evaluate my experiences.

During the summer after your first year of law school there is no pressure on you to find your forever job. At this point in your legal career it is alright if you do not know whether litigation is for you, or whether or not you like environmental law. So, you can use your first summer to explore potential career paths. My advice is to work somewhere that peaks your curiosity. For me, that meant working for a corporation in Daytona Beach, Florida on a wide array of different legal issues.

The summer after your 2L year requires more focus. First, if you are not sure where you would like to live after law school, do some research on those places that you may want to live long-term. Next, select classes during your second year that cover the areas that interest you or you would like to learn more about. For me, this meant heading back to Daytona Beach for a second summer to explore the area, get to know the city better, and work on the legal issues that interested me most. If you do not want to be in the same place you worked after your first year, try another location and use this time to get a better feel for where you might want to be after graduation.

Focusing on the Positive – Lauryn Collier, Class of 2017

Rarely does anyone come across the perfect legal job while in law school. Sometimes it is not what you thought it would be. Sometime the work, the work environment, or the location made for a less than ideal experience. This happens to many of us, but the important thing to remember is to focus on what you learned that can be applied to your next opportunity.

Every new opportunity is a chance to learn or hone a skill, work in a new area, or simply to network with new people while building your collection of legal expertise. If there were issues with co-workers, consider the experience you may have gained managing adversity, conflict, or addressing personnel issues. When the work is not as interesting as you had hoped, consider the opportunity you may have had to better articulate your interests, define what does actually interest you, and think about what you are really passionate about. Evaluating each experience like this will provide you with a chance to actively transfer what you have learned to your next job opportunity.

 Kelsey Pincket, Class of 2017

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Lauryn Collier, Class of 2017

Important Things to Know When Transitioning to Law School

The transition from being an undergraduate to law school student is definitely not the easiest. Often, students are dealing with moving to a new town while trying to prepare for what will likely be the most rigorous academic program they have ever experienced. Even with these challenges, your first semester will be one of the most exciting times you will experience in law school. Exploring new ways of thinking, meeting new people from all over the world, and discovering things about yourself that you did not know makes this time unique.

With all of the new ideas, concepts, and people that were entering my life as 1L, I wish I had gotten some advice, especially during my first semester. Adjusting to law school can be challenging, so keep some of the following things in mind. I hope you find some of my advice helpful.

The Summer Before Law School

Be sure to use the summer before law school to treat yourself and do some of those things you enjoy, because it is likely that you will not have a lot of time for them while you are in law school. I recommend hanging out with friends and family and going to the beach or some other place you enjoy, because you will be spending a lot of your time in law school studying, writing and researching, and the library will become more familiar than home. Try to get into a routine that you can transfer to law school that includes exercise, eating well (learn how to cook!), getting enough rest, and taking mental health breaks. All of this will help you better handle the stress that comes with a law school education.

Read for leisure, but If you feel inclined to read in order to prepare for law school, I recommend reading Law School Confidential by Robert H. Miller. The book is known to be incredibly helpful in preparing students for what to expect when it comes to law school lectures, homework assignments, and even applying for jobs. Unfortunately I was blissfully unaware of this book until my 2L year, so I was not able to  benefit from it as a 1L.

During Your First Semester

Writing case briefs – It will take time to become efficient at writing case briefs. Do not get discouraged, even if you are still not exactly sure what is going on after spending two hours on one case. You will eventually start to get the hang of it. Reading cases can be similar to reading in a different language, so do not hesitate to read things more than once and take the time to look up words you do not know. It does not take a lot of time before it will all become second nature to you.

Handling stress – Be sure to take some time for yourself to do something you enjoy. This can be done daily, or once or twice a week. Whether it is working out, watching something on TV, hanging out with friends, taking a nap, or going to the law school tailgate party before a home football game, you will need a break from studying every now and then.

Reaching out for help – Most of the people you will encounter in law school have been in your shoes and almost all of them want to share their knowledge and help you.

Professors: Do not be afraid to go to a professor’s office to talk about a case you do not fully understand. All of them have office hours, many have an open door policy, and most do not mind meeting with students right after a class. All of our professors are incredibly friendly and most are willing to help students almost any time of the day. In my experience, they all reply promptly to e-mails and some even give out their cell phone numbers for emergency questions.

Research Center Staff: The Research Center is our law library, and it is staffed with people who are trained to help you. Not only will they help you find the resources you need for your research, papers, and classes, but they are also there to help you hone your research skills. Our law librarians also teach legal research courses within the curriculum at the College of Law and provide non-credit workshops (with lunch!) on various legal research topics during the fall and spring semesters.

Upperclassmen: 2Ls and 3Ls love to give helpful hints and are motivated to help you get involved in student organizations and clubs. They will also share information about classes, professors, and other things they have learned while in law school. Many will even share their course outlines and notes with you for the courses they have had that you are taking. You will also be in the legal job market one day and the better they know you, the more willing they will be to vouch for you or pass on a job tip.

Student Affairs Office Staff: The Student Affairs Office has many services that students may not even know about. Students should not hesitate to reach out to them if they need help adjusting to law school, handling stress, or even to get advice on handling outside pressures. They are also the office responsible for helping students who request various accommodations while they are in law school.

Career & Professional Development Center Staff: The individuals in this office will help you improve your resume, explore job prospects, and schedule mock interviews so you can be ready when you come across that job you really want. They are a great resource that you should start taking advantage of your first semester in law school.

Remember how far you have come! It is an incredible accomplishment to be accepted to law school, and especially to Florida State Law! So, if you ever feel overwhelmed during your 1L year, just remember the hard work you did to get to this point. You can do it, otherwise you would not have been admitted. Just remember to take advantage of the resources that are available to you and the people who are here to help you.

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Abby Altman, Class of 2017

Florida State Law Offers Students Great Networking Opportunities

Besides completing your law degree and passing the bar exam, networking may be the single most important thing that a law school student can do to kick-start their legal career. While there is no specific formula for how to go about it, there is also not just one thing that a student must do to build their network. Therefore, a student must learn to recognize and take advantage of their opportunities, include networking as part of their career strategy, and look for ways to nurture the relationships that develop along the way.

Tallahassee: A Great Place to Build Your Legal Network

Catherine Lockhart, Class of 2017

The Florida State University College of Law has positioned itself as an active participant in the community and is located in a perfect area to provide students and alumni with countless opportunities to network. Law students often find themselves at networking events and functions in the hopes of meeting and impressing their dream employers. Home to the Florida Supreme Court, the Florida Capitol, and actively engaged private and non-profit organizations, Tallahassee has networking opportunities no matter what your interest or focus might be.

I have already mentioned the Florida Supreme Court, but Tallahassee is also home to the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida; United States Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Florida; Florida’s First District Court of Appeal; and Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit. Students have opportunities to meet justices, judges, and lawyers from these courts who visit the College of Law as guest speakers and as adjunct professors and who also offer opportunities for students to participate in internships and externships with them.

The annual legislative session brings not only the legislature, but also representatives from organizations highly engaged in public interest. Both legislators and notable figures from a variety of interest areas visit the College of Law to speak about their organizations, their work, and their issues. Many of these speakers come as guests of student organizations which provides students with opportunities to interact with potential employers, mentors, and future colleagues who share their interests.

While networking can often be intimidating it often involves your law school peers with more relaxed surroundings. It can also be as simple meeting at a restaurant or bar or having lunch with someone. To make networking even easier, the Career and Professional Development Center holds regular “Networking Nosh” lunch sessions where students can easily meet and learn from attorneys both inside and outside of Tallahassee. All in all, Florida State University College of Law makes networking as feasible and enjoyable as possible!

Networking Is What You Make of It

Laura Frawley, 3L

Before I started law school, I could list the number of lawyers I knew on one hand and three of them were because of their television ads. Once in law school it became apparent that to be successful I would have to expand my professional network to include more legal professionals and that there were many ways to accomplish this.

Mentoring: One of the easiest ways to start meeting lawyers is to find programs that match students with experienced professionals who have signed-on to mentor law students. Mentor/mentee relationships are great because your roles are defined in advance. Several of the College of Law student organizations can help match students with mentors and some can even match student with mentors in a specific area of law.

LinkedIn: It is amazing how many law students do not take advantage of the amazing networking tool that is LinkedIn. If you do not have a LinkedIn page yet, you need to create one, and if you have an account but do not use it, you need to start using it! Simply adding your fellow law students to your contacts list can vastly grow your network. There are also many interest groups that law students can join depending on the areas of law that interest them.

Networking Events: As cliché as it may sound, it really is all about who you know and networking events are a great way to meet people and build your network. These events can feature an experienced attorney in-person or via videoconference who will speak about a topical legal issue, how they got to their current position, and answer questions from students. Not only is this a great way to learn about different paths and meet people, but sometimes you can get a free meal in the process. After attending an event, I always ask to connect with the speaker on LinkedIn to thank them for taking the time to speak with the students. This simple act has helped me grow my professional network exponentially.

Justices and Judges and Lawyers, Oh My!

Marlie Blaise, 3L

Having access to so many accomplished justices, judges, and lawyers as we do in Tallahassee through the College of Law may seem intimidating, but having so many opportunities to meet them can be valuable, fun, and rewarding. They all love to talk with interested students and share their experiences and listening to what they have to say can be the first step to successful networking.

They also love to hear about what student’s professional interests are. This can be important because it can give a student some control over the direction of a conversation. If you are interested in learning about a certain area of practice, you can also target attorneys who practice in that area during a networking event. If you are simply interested in discussing contemporary legal issues, almost any legal professional will be willing to share their insights as well.

Most importantly, networking with justices, judges, and lawyers can lead to internships, job offers, and even mentoring opportunities. I have observed that students who establish and foster these relationships have an easier time landing a job opportunity directly and indirectly through these contacts.

I also believe that the more you are around experienced legal professionals, the more comfortable and confident you become over time. This will allow you to develop even greater connections, get more assistance, advice, and guidance, and expand your potential opportunities. Overall, a student can gain a great deal from networking with legal professionals and, as l see it, you have nothing to lose!

 Catherine Lockhart, Class of 2017

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Laura Frawley, 3L

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Marlie Blaise, 3L

My Summer Internship with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps

After a rigorous first year of law school classes I was looking forward to a change of pace and actually being able to experience the practice of law with supervision. Upon arriving at Naval Air Station Pensacola for my summer internship with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, I had no idea what to expect. When I applied for the internship, I thought that the Navy JAG Corps could be an appealing career, but I was not at all certain of it. Little did I know that my days would be filled with things like paddle-board PT, court martials, and watching the Blue Angels flying overhead.

 My adventure began with a three-hour drive west from Tallahassee and setting up my air mattress in the room that I rented for the summer. I had left my husband and three-year-old daughter behind in Tallahassee, and was already missing them. When Monday morning came, I immediately found myself immersed in uniformed personnel and Navy culture. I was warmly greeted at the gate by an officer dressed in her khaki uniform and sporting an insignia that I did not recognize.

 After locating the office where I would be working, I was assigned to a Captain (O-6) who was the Force Judge Advocate for the Naval Education and Training Command. He had been an attorney as well as a Naval and JAG officer for 28 years. While feeling a bit intimidated with only two semesters of law school under my belt, I also felt fortunate to have been placed with such an experienced officer.

My summer as a Navy JAG intern was amazing, but some of it is a bit of a blur. I quickly acclimated myself to the Manual for Court Martial (MCM), Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN), and the vast repository of Navy regulations called “Instructions.” I was then given my first substantive legal work which included reviewing Nonjudicial Punishment (NJP) and Administrative Separation (ADSEP) cases and providing recommendations for action. I also got to review JAGMAN investigations and draft endorsements, which were then sent to the Admiral for approval and signature.

 I had the opportunity to observe an entire court martial proceeding starting from pre-trial motions through the final verdict and sentencing, while debriefing with the trial JAG officers daily. I even had the opportunity to review Navy policies and provide my recommendations for action which were intended to avoid any legal challenges in the future. To my surprise, my recommendations were taken seriously by my supervisor and forwarded up the chain of command.

I also experienced other aspects of JAG life unrelated to legal cases and procedures like physical training (PT). I was welcomed, and highly encouraged by my JAG colleagues, to join them for Command PT. I commend the JAG in charge of weekly Command PT for keeping it interesting. One week we were paddle-boarding, which was awesome, and another week we were sprinting through Mario Kart relays, which is not as much fun as it sounds. I was also invited to a spin class twice a week with my supervisor and that was the first time in my career that I have been asked to leave the office early to head to the gym with my boss. This balance of work and physical well-being was definitely one of my favorite parts of the internship.

At the end of the summer my externship supervisor at the College of Law asked me about the impact of my internship on my personal and professional goals. I cannot possibly emphasize enough the enormous impact that this internship had on me. From the newest JAGs to the so-called “last-tour” JAGs, who had served for nearly 30 years, I was welcomed into the Navy JAG Corps family with open arms by everyone with whom I worked. The legal work was interesting and challenging and all of my colleagues were open, engaging, and honest. By the end of the summer I was also speaking in Navy acronyms and knew what almost all of those insignia on the uniforms meant.

After returning to Tallahassee I applied to the Fall 2016 accessions board for a commission and have been selected for a professional recommendation. I sincerely hope to make the Navy JAG Corps my career following law school. Currently, I am in the process of working through the medical and security screening and hope to be commissioned (inactively) by this summer. If successful, I would remain on inactive status until I pass the Bar Exam, at which time I would be sent to Naval Justice School and then to my first duty location.

College of Law. Student Ambassadors. Valerie Chartier-Hogancamp, 2L

Corporate Externship Program Provides Valuable In-House Experience

The Corporate Externship Program at the Florida State University College of Law is a 9-week summer program that places 10-15 College of Law students in the legal departments of corporations throughout the Southeastern United States. The program requires 20 hours per week of time in the office and a weekly conference call with Professor Benham and all of the other participating students.

Anyone interested in serving clients in businesses of any size should consider applying. The opportunity provides a great way to get business law-related experience early in your legal career. Not only will this experience provide you with college credits, but it can also be used to meet the practical experience requirement of the College of Law’s Business Law Certificate program.

While the work may vary depending on the company, participants also have some similar experiences as well. Substantively, students work in a variety of practice areas including real estate, corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, and compliance, but all assignments involve researching, reviewing, drafting document, having meetings with attorneys or outside counsel, and interacting with the company’s stakeholders. The work product completed by the students is actually used by the company. The weekly conference calls allow students to share their experiences and allow them to discuss a variety of common issues like employment law, intellectual property, contracting, and more. 

Ultimately, students also get the opportunity to see what a “deal” and litigation looks like from the inside of a corporation. Most law students do not have access to this type of hands-on opportunity and many practicing attorneys have to wait for years before they get to perform this type of work. So when it comes to looking for a job after law school, being able to showcase this type of experience can be invaluable.

Another benefit of the program is that each law student is surrounded by a large group of successful attorneys. This not only means that you are going to get a lot of attention, work, and feedback during the externship, but you are also going to form relationships as you network with these individuals. During and after the externship, they are only too happy to provide career advice and discuss job search strategies.

Overall, this program is tailored to provide a unique experience for anyone interested in pursuing business law. Not only will it stand out on a resume, but it also offers a very rewarding experience that can be drawn upon in a future career.

Seifter, Chris Chris Seifter, 2L

Co-Curricular Teams and Journals – How to Prep for Success Starting In Your 1L Year

Co-curricular activities are a very important part of your law school experience. By being a member of a co-curricular journal, the Mock Trial Team or Moot Court Team you will develop vital skills that will help you succeed in your future legal endeavors while also receiving college credit for your efforts. Many employers look for involvement in these types of organizations when hiring interns and associates. There are various ways to effectively prepare during your 1L year to receive an invitation to join one of these organizations.

Mock Trial

The best way to prepare to make the Florida State University College of Law Mock Trial team at the end of your 1L year is to join the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) or Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) mock trial teams at the beginning of your 1L year because they allow students to compete in mock trial competitions as 1Ls. By participating in the BLSA or PAD teams, you will become familiar with the intricacies of mock trial competitions while also gaining invaluable experience that will give you an advantage when you are trying out for the Florida State Law team.

Moot Court

Your 1L appellate brief will be one of the most important factors in your Moot Court tryout. I would recommend dedicating a lot of time to researching and writing your brief, getting input from your legal writing professor and completing your brief early. The Moot Court team will grade your written brief, which is why it is so important to write a great one! You also will be required to argue both sides of the issues included in your brief. This will be made easier if you finish writing it early and have time to become familiar with those issues.

Journals

By doing well during your 1L year you will improve your chances of becoming a member of the Florida State University Law Review, Journal of Transnational Law & Policy or Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law. There are two ways to accomplish this:

Grading-On: The journals operate their grade-on policies in a slightly different manner. Florida State University Law Review invites the top students from the entire 1L class, while the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy and Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law invite the top students of each legal writing class. The students with the best grades overall and who excelled in their legal writing classes have the best chance of grading-on to a journal.

Writing-On: There are two write-on competitions: winter and summer. For both, students are given a prompt and have to write a case note answering a proposed question. This requires them to use writing and citation skills learned in their legal writing classes and illustrates how important it is to diligently work on one’s legal writing memo and appellate brief. The Journal of Transnational Law & Policy and the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law allow 1L’s to compete in the winter write-on competition and all of the journals participate in the summer write-on competition.

The Florida State University Business Review, while not a co-curricular activity, also offers students opportunities to grade-on or write-on. They follow the same procedures as the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy and the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law and participate in both the winter and summer write-on competitions.

For all of these activities, current and prospective students are encouraged to reach out to current members to get more specific advice on how to succeed in making it onto a team or journal. If one is extremely passionate about joining one of the teams or journals, it is also never too early to start preparing.

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Abby Altman, 3L