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

 

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

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

My First Law School Summer Vacation: From Distress to Delight

After my first year of law school I was very happy with how everything had turned out. I had been elected vice president of our Black Law Students Association (BLSA), had worked as a Student Ambassador since the beginning of the spring semester and I had been crowned Miss Tallahassee. On top of that, I was pleased with my academic performance and was active in my church. However, we were told that legal experience, employment and networking during the summer were important, even if we were taking some classes, so landing a summer job was high on my list of priorities.

While I explored different options, I did not have much luck at first. I participated in an on-campus interview (OCI) with one law firm and thought my interview went great. This was reinforced by the fact that I received a thank you note from the attorney that interviewed me even before I had the chance to send one. I did not get the job, though. I had also met an attorney from the sports industry at an organization lunch during the school year who encouraged me to apply for their summer internship opportunities. He had even offered to walk my resume into their hiring department himself and another contact of mine had arranged for me to talk to the company vice president. I thought I had that one in the bag until I received the rejection letter a month later.

By this point I was really discouraged. I did not understand why I was not getting any offers. I felt like I had the grades, the personality and enough documented leadership and involvement to qualify me for jobs in a variety of areas. So, I decided to enroll in a summer law class and began the on-line event management program offered through the Graduate School at Florida State.

A few weeks later, I was encouraged by Dean Ingram in our Office of Student Affairs to apply for a positions as a mentor for the Florida State University College of Law Summer for Undergraduates (SUG) Program. I submitted the application and got the job. I was very excited because the job included event planning, working with undergraduate students and they were going to pay me! Knowing that it would only be for four weeks, I continued my job search for something to do for the rest of the summer after the program ended.

I really enjoyed my time as a mentor for SUG. I was able to interact with faculty, staff, prospective and current students and even a lot of distinguished alumni who came to visit with the students. So, it also became an opportunity to grow my legal network and gain new perspectives on how to approach my legal education. I also participated in behind-the-scenes tours of the Florida Capitol, seminars with alumni and attorneys and luncheons with faculty and College of Law deans. By chance, I ended up having a conversation with one of my first year professors that turned into an offer to work for him as a research assistant after SUG ended.

I was also offered a job clerking for my BLSA Mock Trial Coach at the Florida Department of Business and Regulation (DBPR) Office of the General Counsel. I started working there too after SUG ended and got a lot of experience drafting administrative complaints, closing orders, motions, correspondence and other legal documents.

As it turns out, my first law school summer ended up being full of many different experiences that were applicable to various areas of my life and future legal career. After the summer ended, I continued working at DBPR and also started working as an assistant to the Director of Membership and Marketing at the Tallahassee Museum.

If you do not get that dream job you thought you would for the summer, do not give up! Just remember that there are other options out there, so keep trying and be open to opportunities you might not have first considered. If your experience is anything like mine, the opportunities you land just might end up being more valuable to you than the one you wanted.

Student Ambassadors for College of Law Lauryn A. Collier, 2L

Getting Experience During The Summer Can Be More Valuable Than You Might Think!

Following my 2L year, I received an offer to work as a summer associate with my dream law firm in Tampa, Florida after participating in the on-campus interview (OCI) process with our Placement Office. As soon I finished my final exams I headed straight to Tampa to begin my summer clerkship with the firm.

They wasted no time in getting me assimilated. On my very first day, I met another summer associate I would be working with, attended a meet-and-great breakfast with many of the firm’s attorneys, went through training exercises, and was shown to my office. I cannot express how exciting it was to actually have my very own office! I was nervous, but as I came into contact with more people, I was made to feel welcome and gradually felt more at ease.

As summer associates, we were treated like and assigned the same type of work as a first-year associate and were invited and encouraged to attend various department meetings whenever we could. The attorneys I came in contact with came from a wide variety of backgrounds and ranged from first-year associates to senior partners. The firm had approximately 70 attorneys, so I had the opportunity to observe a diverse range of legal practice. These included different writing styles, operational preferences, and approaches to legal analysis.

It was exciting to apply what I had learned in my classes in real-life scenarios and the supportive environment made me feel purposeful. As the summer progressed I became more acquainted with different areas of law and practice. I had never considered some of these areas before, and several really appealed to me.

On top of the work-related aspects of my clerkship, the summer associate program also had an incredibly robust social component designed to help us get to know the attorneys outside of the office.  In addition to being invited to lunch by different attorneys each day, the full-time associates planned structured events and put a great amount of effort into making sure that we had a one-of-a-kind summer associate experience. These events included happy hours (with delicious food!), a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, a Tampa Bay Storm arena football game (in the firm’s box at Amalie Arena), kayaking at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, a wine tasting event in Ybor City, and a social gathering that gave us an opportunity to meet summer associates from other law firms in Tampa.

By the end of my 10 weeks I was completely sold. I knew that these were the attorneys I want to work with in my professional career. I spent the next few weeks relaxing and enjoying a break, learning to catch lobsters in Key West, and ended up adopting a dog. Not long after arriving back in Tallahassee to prepare for my 3L year, I received a phone call from the firm offering me a permanent associate position after graduation. Not a bad way to top off your 2L summer!

Student ambassadors for the College of Law April Zinober, 3L

Balancing School and Outside Activities is Important to Success Following Your 1L Year

You hear all the time that your 1L year is the hardest, and it gets easier after that. It definitely seemed like that to me because I was focused on academics my first year. Now, as a 2L, I also have the freedom to choose my classes as well as what I want to do outside class to supplement my legal education.

There are many different approaches, but it seems that the focus in the 2L year shifts to building one’s resume. One of the many great aspects of the Florida State University College of Law experience is that you have many diverse opportunities to explore as a student. With so many opportunities—clinics, externships, internships, student organizations, and co-curricular activities—how do you determine where to focus your efforts?

For the people who know with 100% certainty what they want to do with their law degrees, the choices are a bit easier. But for those of us who are not even 10% sure, the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. Either way, it is easy to overcommit and then find yourself booked for every second of every day.

You will not be alone in the crazy endeavor to try and do everything but here are some simple tips for managing the seemingly unmanageable as your look forward to your 2L year.

Surround yourself with dependable people and make sure that you too can be counted on when needed. You cannot do everything yourself, so you have to be able to lean on those around you. This is especially important if you are going to be in student group leadership positions or team activities. Make sure whoever you work with are people you can trust to get their tasks done and make sure that you allot an adequate amount of time to get your tasks done.

Your calendar is your best friend (after caffeine of course). Scheduling and sticking by your calendar is important. Whether it is electronic or hard-copy, make sure it gives you somewhere to write down EVERYTHING in one place so that nothing will fall through the cracks.

Concentrate on things that you love. Getting involved in an activity, joining a group, or taking a job just to build one’s resume does not really benefit anyone. There are too many opportunities to be involved in something you will find rewarding. So, do not jump into something that will make you unhappy or dissatisfied.

School comes first. Personally, I love my job more than I love going to class, but one has to graduate and pass the bar to become a real lawyer. So, keep up with your reading assignments and homework and always go to class. Even those classes that begin at 8:00 a.m.

Take care of yourself. It does not do you or anyone around you any good if you are sick all the time or you are too tired to function. So eat well, get your rest, and set aside some time to spend with your friends. You need your health and your sanity to be a productive, so use that handy dandy super calendar I already mentioned above.

Don’t panic. Starting at the end of the fall semester of your 1L year, you will be able to start looking at your options. During the following spring many will be laid out in front of you by the various co-curricular organizations, the placement office, the externship office, and student groups. Just keep telling yourself not to panic because you do not have to do everything.

No matter what you choose to do, you will handle it like a champ if you keep these things in mind. You know what will be best for you, so take advantage of those opportunities that interest you and you will have a great experience!+

Student Ambassadors for College of Law  Katie Harrington, 2L

Mock Trial: A Great Way to Practice for Your Future Practice

Just as the new 1Ls are buzzing around town gathering their first set of books and hurrying to complete their first set of reading assignments, the 2Ls are congregating and having new experiences too. One group of 2Ls in particular is enveloped in enticing opening statements, expressive direct examinations, fiery cross-examinations and convincing closing arguments. All of this presented in full courtroom attire in the courtrooms of the Florida State University College of Law Advocacy Center.

These new members of the Florida State University College of Law Mock Trial team were chosen through a try-out process held during the past spring semester. Throughout the summer some participated in optional clinics to provide that extra “oomph” of practice for upcoming competition. In August and September, these new members are broken out into smaller, three and four-member teams with each being assigned to a returning member who will act as their coach for the upcoming intramural sessions.

All of the teams receive an identical case packet and each team practices for weeks determining how they will approach the case, perfecting their presentations, and strategizing. In the latter weeks of the process, the teams compete against each other in several rounds of intramurals, or “IMs”. The purpose of IMs is to simulate the mock trial competition experience and to give new members exposure to what mock trial competition entails. During this process, they learn about how the process works and are provided with the opportunity to actually go through the motions in a real-life setting. Local attorneys, often College of Law Mock Trial team alumni, are brought in to judge each round and offer feedback to each team.

As someone who has gone through this process, I can attest to just how much IMs help in getting one past the mock trial learning curve. It was an eye-opening and humbling experience to realize just how much talent, hard-work, and commitment each member brings to the Mock Trial team. Each night of competition we arrived with our game faces on, ready to give it our all. I was thoroughly impressed by my team as well as with the skills and abilities of the other teams. I was especially fascinated with how other teams presented the case in ways that my team had not even considered.

It was also amazing to witness the dedication of Tallahassee’s legal community to the College of Law Mock Trial team. They gave their time and undivided attention to judging each competition (each lasting 3 hours) and then provided individualized feedback to the competitors for improving their performance in future state-wide and nation-wide competitions.

Overall, Mock Trial is a great opportunity to acclimate yourself to the courtroom experience, especially if you are interested in a career in litigation. I was interested in Mock Trial because I wanted to become more comfortable with public speaking. I can definitely say that this has already come to fruition. Whatever your interest, there is a wide array of skills to be gained by any future attorney through participation in the College of Law Mock Trial team.

??????????????????????????????????? Melanie Kalmanson, 3L