Law School Presents Many Challenges, But Also Many Great Opportunities

One of the biggest things facing an incoming 1L student is adjusting to law school life and all of the associated challenges. The educational experience is very new and different. While it sometimes seemed like a chore to go to class as an undergraduate, I have never felt the same way about my law school classes. You may already have heard about some of the challenges you will face, but you may not have heard about some of the exciting opportunities you have to look forward to while in law school. With that in mind I thought it may be helpful share some of my experiences.

Challenges

Time commitment: The amount of time you will have to dedicate to your studies cannot be understated. You will find that you will have to dedicate more time in this area than you did as an undergraduate. Good time management is the key to success in this area.

Reading load: The reading load is tremendous compared to what you had as an undergraduate. Professors do their best not to completely overload you with the number of pages assigned, but it is still a lot. You may have three or four classes in a day, each with their own cases and briefs to read. You have to keep up with your readings because of the next challenge.

Cold calls: Professors randomly call on students in class to explain a case or to answer questions. It does take a while to understand how to read cases so that you can be prepared if you are called on in class. Once you have mastered this it will seem like you have learned a second language and only you and your fellow law school friends will understand.

Finals: Final examinations in law school are as tough as anybody has ever told you they are. Finals week is an extremely stressful time and will be very different from what you experienced as an undergraduate.

Opportunities 

Law student community: Being part of the student community at Florida State University College of Law is the most positive thing I have experienced since arriving as a 1L. Students are so nice to each other and everyone tries their best to help each other. You are also now among some of the best students in the country who all have the same goal that you do.

Legal community: Law school students, past and present, have all been in your shoes and know what you are going through. It is almost like a secret society, providing for an instant connection, whenever you are talking with another law student or attorney, and they all know and understand exactly what you are talking about!

Supportive faculty: The faculty is a tremendous help, both inside and outside of class. We are fortunate to have professors who are not only great teachers and expert researchers, but who also make themselves available to students. Take advantage of this!

Activities: Do not expect to just be sitting around studying all the time because you will have some free time and there are many ways to use it. You will have opportunities to gain work experience through externships and clinics and there are so many student organizations that you can join. Some of these activities provide for an opportunity to travel, including overseas opportunities. There are also concerts, sporting events, and other activities in Tallahassee and at Florida State that you will be able participate in. We are also only a short drive to some of Florida’s most beautiful beaches.

The best piece of advice I can give any incoming 1L is to work and play hard. It may seem like you are never going to make it through, but it does get better with time and practice. You will definitely be fine as long as you work hard, do what is asked of you, and always keep a positive attitude.

College of Law student ambassadors. Trey Howell, 3L

Public Interest Law Center Clinics Provide Invaluable “Hands-On” Experience

The Public Interest Law Center at Florida State University College of Law houses the Family Law Clinic and the Children’s Advocacy Clinic. Students who participate in these clinics receive academic credit for representing low-income clients and each clinic is limited to 8 students per semester. A portion of the clinic is taught like a normal law course, with slides and lecture. The rest of the time is spent working on the cases that have been assigned to you. The case portion involves communicating with your client, drafting pleadings, e-filing, attending mediations and hearings, and more. Additionally, students are required to attend and observe a number of court proceedings.

The requirements for participation in one of these clinics is that you first have to be cleared for character and fitness by the Florida Bar, have completed 45 credit hours, and be approved as a Certified Legal Intern (CLI). CLI’s can represent clients, even in court proceedings, but practice law under the supervision of a licensed attorney. I participated in the Family Law Clinic during the summer semester after my 2L year. This clinic handles various family law issues which could include dissolution of marriage, custody, visitation, and paternity cases.

For my first trial, I represented a father who wanted to spend more time with his son. We had previously attempted mediations with the child’s mother, but were unable to reach an agreement. During the court proceedings, I called nine character witnesses, presented several exhibits, handled a very emotional client, and even drafted the final judgment at the conclusion of the case. At the end of the proceedings, the judge ordered 50/50 timesharing, left the room, and left it up to the parties to agree on visitation for holidays. We struggled to come to an agreement, but in the end, our client was ecstatic.

It was extremely gratifying to provide legal assistance to individuals who otherwise would not have been able afford these services. The experience I received was invaluable and has helped me to feel more secure inside and outside of the classroom. During my 3L year, my Florida Civil Practice professor asked the class if anyone had ever sat in on a deposition. I was able to raise my hand because I had actually taken a deposition. Conversely, courses that I had already taken prior my participation in the clinic had helped prepare me to better serve my clients.

Participation in the Family Law Clinic also gave me the opportunity to observe and work with attorneys in the area. More importantly, this experience enabled me to start recognizing myself as a future lawyer, and not just as a law student.

?????????????????????????????????? Kelly Kibbey, Class of 2015

Getting to Law School and Beyond…

Law school brings people from various places and backgrounds and sometimes we forget just how different we all are. As students we are continually asked about what area of the law we are interested, however, we are rarely asked why we are interested in law in the first place. I thought it would be interesting to know why some of my classmates decided to attend law school, why they chose Florida State, and what they considered to be their ideal job after law school. I was surprised by their responses and how many different responses were provided. During my inquiry, I presented the following questions:

  • What made you want to attend law school?
  • Why did you choose Florida State University College of Law?
  • What would your ideal job be after graduation?

The following are the responses that I received:

Tia Huntley, 2L

  • Since I was a young girl I had always wanted to be a lawyer. In fact, my mom has video proof of this. I was in a little miss pageant and was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and I answered that I wanted to be lawyer and a judge.
  • I chose Florida State because it seemed like they truly wanted me to attend their school. Although I was accepted into other law schools, I felt a better connection here.
  • My ideal job after graduation would be to work at a smaller firm dealing with family, criminal, and personal injury law and one that sees their clients as people and not just a windfall or “just another case.”

Trevor Ruff, 3L

  • I chose law school because of my experiences and interests with international relations, Model United Nations activities and I wanted to find a way to change the world.
  • I chose Florida State because it provided a great value combined with a great education.
  • My ideal job would be a corporate transactional lawyer working on mergers and acquisitions.

Allie Akre, 2L

  • I really always knew I would come to law school. It was just part of the plan.
  • I chose Florida State because I wanted to practice law in Florida and to take advantage of the College of Law’s location in the Florida’s capital city.
  • My ideal job after graduation would be a federal clerkship.

Jaycee Peralta, 3L

  • I wanted to be more prepared before entering the “real world” and I determined that a legal education would help me.
  • I felt that I needed a different atmosphere from my undergraduate experience. I visited Florida State during the spring semester of my senior year and fell in love with the College of Law!
  • My ideal job would be working on research and writing at a public policy interest center.

April Zinober, 2L

  • My father and I have very similar personalities. We are both very outgoing, like to learn new things, and work hard. My whole life, I watched him enjoy his job and the work he did. In family car rides, we always played U.S. President Trivia, so I grew up interested in the political process and the way all branches of our government worked. Going to law school just seemed like a natural fit for me.
  • When I walked onto the Florida State University College of Law campus, I felt that same “click” that I did when I first walked onto my undergraduate campus. I also value the close personal relationships I have with other students and with my professors. Our professors actually care about us and go out of their way to make our law school experience interesting. Being in Tallahassee also provides incredible opportunities for us as students. Coming here for law school is was truly the best decision I could have made.
  • I was fortunate enough to receive a summer clerkship with a national firm and I will be placed in their litigation department. Ideally, I would love to be asked back for a full-time career position as part of their commercial litigation team when I graduate. I have also considered eventually working in the U.S. Attorney’s office, and I believe that starting out with a national firm will help me make the connections I will need to make that career move if I so choose.

Samantha Parchment, 3L

  • I initially applied to Florida State because of its overall ranking and because it is a “top value” law school.
  • After attending several open houses and admitted students day events at different law schools, I felt most at home at Florida State. When I visited I also met Professor Linford, who not only followed up with me after my visit, but was also very helpful in providing me with information about housing and school options for my son.
  • My ideal job would be to work in a small law firm with no more than three partners, so that I can learn the ropes and make partner myself!

Zachary Pechter, 2L

  • I always thought law school sounded interesting, but I actually decided to attend while clerking at a major law firm during my summers as an undergraduate.
  • Florida State was one of my top two choices and the culture at the College of Law was the determining factor. I can still vividly remember my initial tour of the campus with a Student Ambassador and also enjoyed meeting and talking with professors and hearing about clinics, externships, journals, and other co-curricular opportunities. Everyone here is so nice and helpful and the environment is so much more healthy and fun than what I had experienced at other law schools.
  • I would like to work in the public companies and securities practice group at the law firm I worked for during my undergraduate summers. I really loved it and even had a better time last summer when I had the opportunity to work as a Summer Associate. I will be doing that again this summer and will hopefully get a long-term offer when I graduate!

Lauren Vagnoni, 3L

  • I chose to attend law school to pursue my dream of working in criminal prosecution. My father was an attorney and though he practiced civil law, he encouraged me to pursue law school after I argued with him about a criminal law issue at the age of 12.
  • I chose to attend Florida State for several reasons: First, class sizes are smaller than other top state law schools. Second, I was impressed with the number of student organizations at the College of Law and about how welcoming the students are. Third, I was very excited to hear about the criminal law clinic that was available for certified legal interns interested in criminal prosecution.
  • My ideal job right after graduation would be to become an Assistant State Attorney or an Assistant United States Attorney.

Aline Bryant, 2L

  • I decided to attend law school because I saw a law degree as something that could help provide me with a stable, interesting career even if I decide not to practice law.
  • I chose Florida State because of its welcoming atmosphere. When I came to Admitted Students Day everyone made me feel welcome and seemed to really enjoy what they were doing here.
  • My ideal job after graduation would be as a political analyst or as an in-house counsel for a company.

Felisha Grizzle, 3L

  • After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I found myself interested in public policy and human rights. Before I left for a trip to Egypt, I applied to a few masters-degree programs, but once I was abroad, I determined that I really wanted to be more deeply involved and actually practice law.
  • I chose Florida State after attending an Admitted Students Day event, walking around the campus, and meeting deans, faculty, and students with my parents. It was a wonderful experience. Everyone seemed so enthused to be at the College of Law and everyone was so welcoming and helpful in getting me over my pre-law school anxieties.
  • My ideal job would be part-time creative director for a haute couture fashion house and a stay-at-home wife/mom with my husband when he is in the off-season of his professional athletic career. If that does not happen, I would love to work with the United Nations Environment Programme, Charity Water, or UNICEF and do volunteer work abroad with Islamic Relief.

Ashley Parker, 2L

  • I chose to attend law school because it is something I always wanted to do and because I always wanted to help people.
  • I chose Florida State because they made me feel welcome. Unlike other law schools I visited, it seemed like they wanted me here as much I wanted to be here. I was not made to feel like I was coming just to pay my tuition. They really seemed to care.
  • My ideal job would be to work for a company as in-house counsel, but I would also like to work for the State Attorney’s Office.

Kevin Alford, 3L

  • I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was a child. My aspirations were to get a business degree, attend law school, and go into corporate law.
  • I attended Florida State because of its location in Tallahassee. As a Florida State undergraduate I had come to recognized many advantages of remaining in the state capital for law school, not to mention not having to relocate!
  • The perfect job for me would allow me to specialize in law related to churches while also educating people on their constitutional rights.

Rachel Pringle, 3L

  • I applied to law school because I did not know what I wanted to do and I knew I wanted to obtain some sort of graduate-level education. Law was the program that most fit my interests.
  • Why Florida State? Because of it’s location in the state capital and because I love the campus. During a visit and tour I was able to meet some of the professors and students and they were so nice. This was reassuring because I had heard negative things about the environments at other schools and knew that I did not want to end up at a school that I would not enjoy for the next 3 years of my life. I can definitely say that I am very happy with my experience at Florida State.
  • I would love to work in a government agency and have had the opportunity to intern at a general councils’ office. I would also like the opportunity to work with the State Attorney’s office to utilize my mock trial experience and then possibly enter private practice.

Joey Coleman, 3L

  • I took several introductory legal studies courses as an undergraduate and wanted to better understand how the legal system works. I also wanted to use my writing skills as an educated man of law.
  • I chose Florida State because of the affordable cost of attendance, the high bar passage rate, the College of Law’s reputation, and because I had been a Florida State undergraduate.
  • I would like to be an entertainment lawyer because this combines my interest and undergraduate major in music and law.

Monica Carusello, 2L

  • I had always been passionate about education, loved working with children and thought that I belonged in the classroom. However, after working as a substitute teacher in Miami and serving a year with City Year in a fourth grade class in Washington, D.C., I realized that my passion and skills could be better applied outside of the classroom. I decided to pursue a law degree to help me better represent and champion the needs of children in under-served communities and to learn what I can do to make a difference in public education.
  • I chose Florida State because of its prime location in Florida’s state capital, excellent national ranking, small student body, and joint-degree offerings. I definitely made the right decision!
  • I think my ideal job after graduation would be clerking for a circuit court judge in the family or juvenile law division.

Joseph Salzverg, 3L

  • I had always thought about attending law school but became motivated while running political campaigns and dealing with individuals in the legislative process. I found that the individuals who were armed with a law degree proved to be the most successful and dynamic, so instead of becoming a lobbyist I decided to pursue a law degree.
  • I chose Florida State because of its location in Florida’s capital city. For the type of law I want to practice, Tallahassee’s location provides endless possibilities.
  • I would like to work at a law firm with a strong governmental affairs practice as an associate and lobbyist. Ideally, this firm would have offices in South Florida and Tallahassee.

Anika Boyce, 2L

  • I wanted to attend law school because my mother is a judge and I have experienced the legal field my whole life. In my senior year of high school I also determined that being a lawyer would bring personal fulfillment as well as allow me to use my talents to help the most people.
  • I chose Florida State because of its reputation as a top law school in Florida.
  • My ideal job would be to be the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS).

Chancey Smith, 2L

  • I chose law school because I wanted to have more career options and many people told me that I would be able to do anything with a law degree.
  • I came to Florida State because the staff in the Office of Admissions was so friendly and helpful. I applied from overseas during a long backpacking trip and they were very comforting and understanding of my situation. I also felt that the College of Law had a very interesting international law program.
  • I have no idea what kind of job I want. I just want to find a job that allows me to be happy, that is challenging and dynamic, and where there is an opportunity for advancement and growth.

College of Law student ambassadors. Alejandra Berlioz, 3L

From Honors Legal Scholars to the College of Law

I was accepted into the Honors Legal Scholars program in the spring of 2012, during my junior year at Florida State. I was overjoyed to know that I had been accepted because of the many perks of being a member. Now, a 2L, at Florida State University College of Law, I cannot stress how beneficial my experience as an Honors Legal Scholar was.

First, members of Honors Legal Scholars who achieve a Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score of 162 or higher and who have an undergraduate grade point average of 3.6 or higher are automatically admitted to the College of Law when they apply. This benefit definitely excited me, because I knew I wanted to remain at Florida State and attend the College of Law. Second, as an Honors Legal Scholar, students are able to attend events hosted at the College of Law that help prepare and introduce them to the admissions process, the law school curriculum, and much more. Third, being a part of Honors Legal Scholars allows members to network with each other and to share their experiences with the law school admissions process or preparation for the LSAT. I was fortunate to be able to take advantage of all three of these benefits, and also a much more!

Because I became an Honors Legal Scholar so late in my undergraduate academic career, I knew I wanted to do as much as I could. During my senior year, I attended every Honors Legal Scholars event offered. Each event was roughly an hour long and featured a law professor, visiting judge or attorney, or a law student who addressed a different topic. These events were my favorite part of an Honors Legal Scholar because after matriculating as a student, I already felt an instant connection with some of the professors and students I had met and all of the events helped me prepare for law school.

Networking is such a crucial part of being an attorney and Honors Legal Scholars provided me with the opportunity to begin speaking with people interested in or practicing in the field of law. I still remember meeting other students and talking with them about their experiences at my orientation luncheon. Some were freshmen and sophomores who were just starting to think about their careers, while others were upperclassmen, like me, navigating through the LSAT and admissions process. This networking turned out to be invaluable, because after speaking with three other students about an LSAT preparation course, I was convinced to attend, and was ultimately pleased with my results.

The program is designed to address the questions you will have about law school, gives you the tools you will need to be more knowledgeable about your responsibilities as an applicant, and makes you aware about what the College of Law expects of you as an admitted law student. I would encourage anyone who is eligible to apply to do so and anyone who is participating to take advantage of the opportunities the program provides. I only wish I would have applied sooner, because I know it would have benefited me even more!

?????????????????????????????????????????? Shelby Loveless, 2L

Public Interest Law Center Clinics Provide Real-World Experience Right on the College of Law Campus

One of those great opportunities students have to take advantage of at Florida State University College of Law is the Public Interest Law Center (PILC). PILC provides students with training in public advocacy through clinics that emphasize one-on-one and small group learning that allows students to earn class credit while working with real clients on real cases. PILC is also located right on campus in the College of Law’s Advocacy Center, making it a very convenient option as well.

PILC offers two different clinics for students interested in client advocacy. The first is the Children’s Advocacy Clinic which allows students to represent children in special education, disability, juvenile delinquency, and foster care cases as well as for other issues. The second is the Family Law Clinic, which allows students to represent low-income individuals in family law cases such as divorce, paternity, domestic violence, and custody and visitation. Both of these clinics operates under the guidance of amazing clinical professors and attorneys who supervise each student and help them as they progress through their cases.

To be eligible for a clinic and to be able to work with clients, a student must have 48 hours of law school credit and have their clearance letter from the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, which provides them with Certified Legal Intern (CLI) status. Once a CLI, a student is able to represent clients under the guidance of a licensed attorney. As a participant in a clinic, the student acts as an actual attorney representing their clients. The supervising professors teach the students about the law and skills necessary for their cases, as well as providing any guidance they may need.

Through these clinics students have an opportunity to gain real-world experience, develop the skills they need to become lawyers, and earn course credit while helping someone who otherwise would not be able to afford to pay for this service. If you would like to learn more about these incredible opportunities, please feel free to visit their Web page at: http://www.law.fsu.edu/academic_programs/jd_program/cac/index.html.

?????????????????????????????????????????? Matt Sulkin, 2L

Two Roads to DC

Opportunities Are Here for the Law Student Interested in a Career in Politics

One of the reasons I chose Florida State University College of Law was because of our unique position as the only law school in Florida’s state capital. I have always known I wanted to work in politics in some capacity and felt that attending law school in Tallahassee, Florida, would give me a head start on my political career. Although it is possible to have a career in politics without a law degree, I knew that pursuing my legal education would help me stand out as one of the most qualified, well rounded applicants in the sea of college graduates that flood the government job market each year.

During the summer after my 1L year, I landed a job as a summer legal intern for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) at their headquarters in Washington, D.C. At the DNC, I applied much of what I had learned during my first-year of law school in my everyday work. Legal Research and Writing prepared me to know where to gather pertinent information and how to draft effective policy memoranda. I used legal analysis skills developed in various first-year courses, especially Legislation and Regulation, while analyzing and writing about new policy proposals and the potential effects of policy changes. The focus I gained while sitting through all of my first year courses also served me well while attending briefings and committee meetings on Capitol Hill as well as committee hearings.

Upon returning to the College of Law for my 2L year, I knew that I wanted to continue gaining experience working in other areas of government. So, when I was notified by the College of Law’s Placement Office of an open law clerk position at the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, I applied, got the job, and began working on preparing litigation cases for the agency. While this position focused more on the legal side than the political side, it provided me direct exposure to administrative law and litigation, which is vitally important in government. Additionally, experience with this agency during and after a legislative session brought the legislative process full circle for me, as I experienced how an agency follows a piece of legislation, takes a piece of legislation directing a change, and actually implements that change.

If not for the College of Law’s proximity to the center of Florida state government and its natural relationship to politics and government in our nation’s capital, I would not have been able to supplement my legal education with such practical, real-world experiences. I have come to really appreciate the excellent staff in the Placement Office, as well as all of my professors who have encouraged me to pursue my dream of a career in Washington, D.C. I definitely believe I am well on the road to achieving that goal.

?????????????????????????????????????????? Brittnie Baker, 3L

Externships: Designed to Take You Where You Want to Be

Florida State University College of Law has provided a wealth of resources for me in the planning of my future career. Even though my goal is to end up in Washington, DC, working on Capitol Hill, I have received a great deal of help identifying jobs, connections, and networking opportunities from the College of Law’s faculty and administration.

During my 2L year, I applied for several positions in Washington, DC, to work during the summer, but with the large number of law schools within a 100 miles radius, and others, like me, applying form all over the country, the competition for these positions appeared ominous. I then reviewed the list I had assembled of my own contacts and finally decided to speak with someone in the Externship Office about my options.

The variety of opportunities offered through the Externship Office was nothing short of remarkable. I remembered thinking about my initial thoughts as a 1L and how I had questioned why anyone would want an externship. Now, with all of the opportunities presented to me, I could definitely see just how effective an externship could be in obtaining legitimate job experience while also earning college credit. Not to mention the possibility of an externship potentially turning into a job opportunity after graduation.

The staff in the Externship Office works around the needs of the individual student and there is a range of 3-12 credit hours that can be earned each semester. If a student has an interest in something other than what is available, Externship Office staff will work to find an option or negotiate an opportunity that fits with what the student would like to do or accomplish. They will also work to identify opportunities in whatever geographic area a student prefers. Professor Sally Gertz and Ms. Lauren Manders worked with me on applying for opportunities in Washington, DC, and I was able to land a summer opportunity working as a clerk for a United States Senator.

The Externship Office at the College of Law is a resource that is preparing me for the real world. It is helping me establish connections, networking opportunities, and possibly, future employment opportunities. I feel like I have every opportunity in the world afforded to me…even when the ones I seek are over 800 miles away.

Veatch, Courtney Courtney Veatch, 3L

The Summer Program in Law at Oxford Provides a Rich Educational and Cultural Experience

Studying abroad is something we all think about throughout our college years, but why stop there? Florida State University College of Law provides a wonderful option each summer, hosted by Oxford University in Oxford, England, to learn about law while abroad. This program provides students with the opportunity to learn about the history of law, as well as other areas of the law, with a curriculum that varies each summer.

Students can take two to four classes which include English Legal History and European Union Law. I was fortunate to also have the opportunity to take a Criminal Procedure course while abroad, which was valuable for me and my studies at Florida State. While the courses offered each summer varies, the one thing students can always count on is that they will be able to learn from world renowned Oxford dons as well as our College of Law professors. Being abroad with our own professors really gives students a chance to develop relationships with them that can make the learning experience much more enriching.

In my opinion, one of the most attractive features about this program is the location. Oxford is a historic, cultural city, which provides students an environment to dive into their education headfirst without being limited to just the classroom. If you are not satisfied with just the lesson about Blackstone in English Legal History, you can walk down the street to All Souls College where you will find his statue along with a wonderful librarian eager to tell you more about him. Interested in Shakespeare? Take a short bus ride to his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire and take a tour of his birthplace, followed by a night at the theatre where you can experience one of his many masterpieces.

Oxford is also full of museums to satisfy a wide variety of interests. While I was there I had the opportunity to walk down the street to the Ashmolean Museum and experience a special exhibition of beautiful Stradivarius violins. Other options include checking out the collection of shrunken heads at the Pitt Rivers Museum.

For those who aren’t interested in museums, there are plenty of other things to do as well. You can literary take a walking tour of the city or even a spooky ghost tour! If you need a break from studying or just want to relax, you can take a cruise or try punting down the River Thames followed by a delicious meal at any one of the city’s 50 historic pubs. Oxford is a pot of gold when it comes to things to do to keep you busy.

Another exciting feature about being in Europe is that transportation between countries and cities is so easy and weekend trips can facilitate students gaining even more cultural experiences. Feel free to hop on a plane to Dublin for a few days and celebrate with the Irish. Or take a road trip through the British Isles mingling with the locals as you make your way to the breathtaking coast of Wales. The possibilities are endless!

During my summer at Oxford I was lucky enough to partake in most of these activities and I must admit that the experience is still unmatched!

??????????????????????????????????  Jessica Fernandez, 3L