Why You Should Be Involved in Extracurriculars

As law students, it can be a struggle to find free time outside of attending class, reading, and studying.  This was a struggle for me not too long ago when I was a 1L.  Especially for 1Ls, it is easy to have tunnel-vision and focus only on your schoolwork.  To be clear, I believe doing well in your classes is what’s most important for 1Ls.  Your first-year grades can open a lot of doors and have far-reaching effects throughout your law school career and post-school.  However, by solely focusing on grades, you are missing out on other ways you can benefit yourself while in law school.

FSU Law has 25+ student organizations and several co-curricular organizations, including Law Review, Moot Court, and Trial Team.  These organizations are entirely optional, but I highly recommend becoming involved in at least a few.  It can be difficult to meet other law students when just attending class.  Student organizations provide the opportunity to not only meet other students but meet students who share similar beliefs and interests.  In addition, every student organization has an Executive Board.  Serving on an Executive Board shows employers that you have leadership skills and experience.  Holding a leadership position also allows you to be involved in the decision-making process for a student organization.  You can help improve, shape, and promote your organization.

Currently, I serve as the President of Christian Legal Society, one of FSU Law’s student organizations.  Many of the friendships I’ve made in law school have been because of my involvement with CLS.  Being able to interact with other Christian law students is important to me, because it allows me to take a break from the rigors of law school and be in community with others who share my beliefs.  Since we have such a diverse law school community, you should have no trouble finding an organization that aligns with your beliefs/interests.  Last, student organizations provide networking opportunities.  Many practicing lawyers and judges are former members of our student organizations and love to stay involved through networking events, speaking engagements, and workshops.

Co-curriculars are student-run organizations where students can gain practical skills, such as oral and written advocacy, and editing, research, and writing skills.  Being a member of a co-curricular is a way you can make yourself a more competitive job candidate.  More so, some employers require applicants to be a member of a journal or oral advocacy team such as Law Review or Moot Court.  While co-curriculars are resume builders, they are more than that.  A law school class can only teach you so much.  Co-curriculars allow students to develop skills that they will use as future lawyers that can’t be gained in the classroom.

When I started law school, I made it a goal to try out for at least one journal and one advocacy team.  Sticking with this goal, I tried out for Moot Court and Law Review.  While I didn’t make it on to Moot Court, I’m glad that I decided to try out.  As an introvert, trying out for Moot Court was a challenge for me.  Part of law school is breaking out of your comfort zone and trying things you aren’t comfortable with.  Even if you don’t make it on, the tryout process is a valuable learning experience.  As a 1L, you will have to present an oral argument as part of your LWR class so no additional work is required to try out for Moot Court.

After completing my 1L year, the last thing I wanted to do was participate in the FSU Law journal write-on competition.  I talked myself into doing the write-on and as a result was accepted on to Law Review.  Personally, this was one of my proudest achievements as a law student.  Being a member of Law Review has allowed me to hone my editing, research, and writing skills.  Part of being a member of Law Review is writing a Student Note, an academic research paper that must be of publishable quality.  As a law student, this Note provides an excellent writing sample for employers, especially if you are considering a judicial clerkship.  Additionally, co-curriculars like Law Review provide opportunities to hold leadership positions.

Nothing I’ve mentioned in this post is required for students, but you are doing yourself a disservice by not being involved in these organizations.  Be able to say that you have no regrets rather than saying “I wish I would’ve done this or that.”  You’ll be better off because of it, even if you stumble along the way.

College of Law. Student Ambassadors. Nick Cleary, 3L

Parting Words of Wisdom by a 3L

My time at FSU Law has been such a rewarding experience, and as the reality of graduation has arrived, it truly disappoints me to know I’ll be leaving such a great community of people and scholars so soon.  Some see law school as a necessary evil to just make it through in order to become an attorney. But I see it as an opportunity to grow as an individual. To make the most of your time in law school, and to hopefully have such a wonderful experience as I did, I share with you just some of the ways to make your time at FSU Law meaningful.

  1. Go to the lunch meetings—One of the first things said on my tour was that there was free food available every day. This seemed like a stretch, but it very much is real. While free food is always a good move, the substance of the lunch talks is where the real benefit is. During my time at FSU Law, I’ve heard counsel from corporate entities such as NASCAR, HSN, and SeaWorld talk about the challenges and rewards of working in-house. I’ve listened to several judges share their insight of the judicial system. I’ve learned about the legal components of NASA and the difficulties in representing individuals located in Guantanamo Bay.  In addition to guest speakers, the Career Services Office and Research Center host workshops during the lunch hour that provide some helpful real-world skills. FSU Law prides itself on the variety of lunch time offerings, so it certainly is something to take advantage of!
  2. Attend professors’ office hours and lunch gatherings—In undergrad, it always seemed like a bizarre idea (at least for me) to actually go to my professors’ offices and ask questions. But here at FSU Law, that is exactly what you should do. Get to know your professors! They are incredible legal minds and love to talk to students about class related or non-class related matters. It really opens up a valuable dialogue and can lead to meaningful relationships. Many professors offer lunch table discussions which are also great opportunities to meet with your professor in an informal setting and talk about current events (go to Professor Stern’s lunches if you are able!)
  3. Go to the socials and events—SBA is the student government body for the law school, and they host weekly socials to help students get to know their classmates beyond a classroom setting. This is a great chance to make friends and take a break from the law school stress. There are also several events during the year, including the traditional Barrister’s Ball, that you should take advantage of. All of these offerings really contribute to your overall experience. After all, law school isn’t just about the books, but also about the people you meet!
  4. Join clubs and take a leadership role—There are dozens of organizations here at FSU, you can pretty much find anything to suit a particular interest. Have a specific area of law you want to pursue? Join the student organization that is tailored to that practice area. Want to get practical experience in oral argument or legal writing and research? Join a trial team or a journal. Is there something that you have a passion for that isn’t listed in our organization offerings? Then create the club! Being a general member of any organization is helpful and fulfilling, but I highly recommend having a leadership position for at least one organization.  Holding a position on the editorial board of Law Review has been one of the best decisions I have made during law school.  Not only does it give you more meaningful conversation to discuss during interviews, but the extra involvement gives you something to be proud of. Employers love to see leadership roles, so being involved is never a bad thing!
  5. Take advantage of the networking opportunities—The College of Law constantly holds networking events for students to meet professionals in a more casual environment to foster open conversation. These events are wonderful opportunities to meet local attorneys and can possibly lead to employment discussions.  These events also help to work on your interpersonal communication skills, which is often an important quality that employers look for.  There really is no downside in going to networking events, and I highly recommend it. (I got my full-time job offer upon graduation by doing so!)
Kiersten Denny - Graduation
Kiersten Denny in front of FSU’s Westcott Fountain

I have truly enjoyed my time at FSU Law, and I think you will too if you follow some of my recommendations.  FSU is special, you’ll create lasting friendships and learn valuable information both inside and outside of the classroom that you’ll take with you once you leave. Take advantage of this time; I hope you make the most of it!

Written by: Kiersten Denny #FSULawGoldenGrad

Steps From the Capitol

FSU law, while being one of the best schools in the nation, is also conveniently located less than a quarter mile from our state’s legislature. This provides both current and prospective students with a wealth of opportunity to work with and learn from lawyers who are shaping the laws of our state. Personally, I have had the opportunity to work with our state representative while here in Tallahassee. In my capacity as a volunteer, I was researching proposed legislation and writing memos on areas where the creation of new legislation could be beneficial. This provided me with a real-time look at the front-line issues which our legislature was facing and gave me the chance to be part of the conversation. This is due in no small part to being at FSU Law.

Capitol from Balcony
Tallahassee Capitol Building, as seen from the Admissions Office balcony.

Getting involved is as simple as sending an email. It does not matter if you have never worked with government, either locally or statewide, it’s all about how willing you are to put in the work. The majority of state senators and representatives are eager to get law students involved as our skill set as soon-to-be-lawyers translates well to the work they need done.

Students can also get involved in more formal programs, such as the legislative intern program and the gubernatorial fellows program. Legislative interns will be put into a committee or office in the legislature and work through both fall and spring sessions. This is an invaluable program for the networking potential alone, but you also get compensated through law school credits paid plus a wage. The gubernatorial fellows program is largely the same type of program but puts students within executive agencies.

This level of access to the leaders of your state and the wealth of knowledge and guidance they are able to provide is simply more readily available to the students of FSU Law than any other law school in the state. Do yourself a favor, if you are interested in working at any level in government or if you simply want to get involved early with the issues facing our state, FSU Law is the place to be.

Walk to Capitol
A short walk from FSU College of Law to Capitol Hill. You are always a few minutes away.

 

College of Law. Student Ambassadors.   Jorge Torres, 3L

Graduating from law school debt-free

“Law school” and “debt-free” may seem like an oxymoron these days. Main stream media and law school admissions blogs alike are filled with stories of newly-minted lawyers who are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and without an income adequate to pay off that debt. But I am here to tell you that it is not only possible—but entirely attainable—to graduate law school without any (or with only minimal) student loan debt.

To start, you need to know a few things about me to understand how and why I made it to my last year of law school without any student loan debt. I am a “non-traditional” law student; that is, I did not come to law school directly out of undergrad. I completed my undergraduate education, started my career, got married, and had a daughter. This path for me was part planning and part fate. I applied to law school for the first time just one year after I graduated from the University of Miami. I excitedly filled out applications, received acceptances (back when they only came via postal mail), and had to make a very tough decision. At the time, I weighed those acceptances (and scholarships) along with the prospect of a fantastic job offer—and I accepted the job. Before I signed on the dotted line and committed to the time and cost of three years of law school, I got out a piece of paper and figured out exactly how much those three years would cost me. For me, it just didn’t add up. Ironically enough, I was forced this year to calculate my “opportunity cost” of attending law school as part of my Law & Economics course. This would be a wise calculation for anyone thinking about law school.

Fast forward a few years and I found that I still wanted to get my law degree. This fact in and of itself was important—law school is a huge investment of time, energy, and money, and to get the full value out of it, you must really want to be here. The second time around, my application process was more focused and guided.

Step 1 – Pick a “best value” law school (hint—FSU is one!)

I looked very hard at the value of education I would be receiving at each school. I considered not only tuition costs and scholarships, but also things like job placement rates and expected starting salary. FSU College of Law had everything that I was looking for.

Step 2 – Savings

Consider student loans as your last option (at least for now), and start with other sources of funds such as savings. First, save early and save as much as you can. It may not seem intuitive to be saving money from your paycheck in your early twenties, but if that means not having to “live like you are a student” in your thirties, then it makes sense. For me, this was saving part of my paycheck from my career. But a little savings even from college and summer jobs can mean a world of difference if it means not paying interest on loans.

Step 3 Scholarships, scholarships, scholarships … (and more scholarships)

Reach out to law schools first. FSU College of Law was exceptionally generous to me with institutional scholarship funds that came from generous donors (often from attorneys who were in exactly the same spot as you are in trying to fund your legal education). So if you are still in a position to increase your GPA or LSAT score, focus on those. Next, think about what makes yourself interesting and unique and why you would be valuable to a law school, to the legal market, and to society in general. Personally, I am the wife of a veteran, the mother of a 4-year-old daughter, and a former environmental consultant. All of these facts resulted in scholarships for me because I was able to find and connect with organizations that supported these things. I am immensely appreciative that these organizations believed in me and my promise as an attorney enough to help fund my legal education; they have been supportive not only in terms of finances but also networking and moral support (hearing from attorneys that were in exactly the same position that I’m in now). I hope that one day very soon I will be able to help another law student graduate debt-free by supporting these organizations when I am an attorney. But remember that you can’t get these scholarships unless you invest the time into applying for them; I have applied for far more scholarships than I have been awarded.

Step 4 – Get the full value of the legal education that you are paying for

Once you have been accepted to law school (congrats!), likely signed for your first student loans, and started classes, there is still more work to be done. Your 1L year should be laser-focused on getting the absolute most you possibly can out of this legal education you so desperately wanted. That means treating it like you would treat your paying job—because after all, you are foregoing income to be here (that’s the “opportunity cost” I mentioned before). Stay focused on studying, stay focused in class (that means coming to class and staying off Facebook), connect with your professors, and take exams very seriously. If you have done everything you possibly can during your 1L year to be successful, then you will likely be rewarded with good grades. These good grades translate to more scholarships. That’s right—the pursuit of graduating debt-free doesn’t end once you’ve started law school. This is your chance to show that you are dedicated to the law and maybe a particular area of the law. Good grades, pro bono work (after your 1L year), and involvement in organizations and the legal community all demonstrate your promise as a future lawyer (and worthy of scholarship funds).

Step 5 – Consider taking on a legal job during your 2L and 3L year

The value of this is two-fold. You will be paid for your work (and have to take out less student loans), and you will gain valuable experience in the field of law that you may be practicing one day. If all goes well, your part-time legal job may even turn into your full-time legal career.

College of Law. Student Ambassadors.   Valerie Chartier-Hogancamp, 3L

International Opportunities at FSU Law

My time at the College of Law has not only been an engaging environment centered on academics and community, but has expanded my horizons into the international arena. Thanks to FSU, I have taken international courses taught by preeminent scholars, met alumni working in international tribunals and contract arbitration, and have travelled to Europe every year (with financial assistance from the school). Here are just a few of the amazing opportunities!

Study Abroad at Oxford (and more!)

Florida State has the longest-running law study abroad program at Oxford University in England. Unlike most other programs, ours boasts actual Oxford professors who teach English Legal History and European Union Law. I had the opportunity to reach deep into the roots of our common law system, while living in a hall originally built in the 13th century. The material, the environment, and the opportunity to travel every weekend made this an unparalleled opportunity. Though it does come at a cost, there is financial aid available! We also offer exchange programs with schools in The Netherlands and Australia!

International Opportunities 2
Pictured (left to right) : 3L’s Michael Hoffman, Sarah Leon, and Brent Marshall on a weekend trip to Amsterdam during the Oxford Summer Program (2016).

International Arbitration in Vienna

Every year, hundreds of law students from around the globe convene in Vienna, Austria for the Willem C. Vis International Arbitration Moot. Arbitration is becoming an increasingly preferred method of dispute resolution and this competition offers the opportunity to learn the requisite skills and network with practitioners. The College of Law sends a team every year and I have been fortunate enough to be selected twice for this wonderful experience. It has opened my eyes to previously unseen opportunities in the field of international arbitration and helped cultivate my abilities as a researcher and oral advocate.

International Opportunities 1
Pictured (left to right) : Melina Garcia, (#FSULawGoldenGrad18), Michael Hoffman (3L), Natalia Nincevic (3L) and Tyler Antolik (#FSULawGoldenGrad17) outside of Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria in April 2017.

Alumni Abroad

Law Noles have staked claims in international jobs for years now. Some of our illustrious alumni have served on international tribunals in Rwanda and Sierra Leone, and one currently serves as the Executive Director of the International Bar Association. In fact, the IBA accepts one student each summer to intern in London with the IBA. This network displays the possible paths from Tallahassee to work abroad, as well as guidance from these distinguished alums!

 

College of Law. Student Ambassadors. Michael Hoffman, 3L

Eliminating the Awkwardness of Networking

The truth of the matter is that most legal internships and jobs are found through personal relationships. For some, this means floating through a room of lawyers and judges, making small talk with ease. For others, networking is less of a graceful ballet and more of an awkward middle school dance. It has been my experience that most law students fall into the latter category. Nonetheless, good networking is the key to finding internships and jobs within the legal field, and therefore is unavoidable. However, if you are one of those people, don’t feel discouraged – networking is a learnable skill and can be enjoyable. I consulted with former Dean Janeia Ingram from the Student Affairs Office and put together a few tips to help you eliminate the awkwardness of networking.

1) I want to go, but do I really want to go?

Create a game plan for yourself, saying something like “I will go for an hour, talk to two people and then leave.” Don’t stand in your own way of creating professional contacts or obtaining a great internship opportunity. While it can be scary to attend networking events alone, be cautious of always attending with a friend or fellow law student. Too often, this will result in the two of you speaking only to each other instead of making those invaluable professional connections. However, do take advantage of your professional mentor relationships. If you have developed a mentor through a student organization, reach out to that attorney and ask if they can attend with you and introduce you to other attorneys at the event. This is one of the major reasons why student organizations have mentor programs! If all else fails and you must go alone, then do so. Chances are, most of the other attendees will be solo as well, so you will be in the majority.

2) “Help! I don’t know how to start a conversation.”

Before you attend the event, do some research about a few of the attendees and look for those familiar faces. Once you arrive at the event, walk over and introduce yourself to those people first. You should find that you are more comfortable talking to those people, since they are not complete strangers. Additionally, showing up to an event with a couple of “pocket questions” can go far in squelching the fear of a post-introduction mind blank. Begin your conversation with questions like “What area of law do you practice?” and following up with questions like “How did you get into that area?” Open-ended questions such as these will be your greatest tool, and will lend themselves to being more conversational and less like a cross-examination.

3) What do I do when the conversation loses steam?

We have all been there: the conversation has run its course, leaving both parties standing there in a forced discussion about the weather (or in my case, just repeating “so, this is a great turnout” several times before slipping back into the crowd). Once the conversation has run out of steam, it’s ok to put an end to it before moving on. The best way to accomplish this? Extend your hand to the other person and tell them that you have appreciated the conversation, but there are a few other people you would like to meet too. You are there to network, and attorneys expect you to move from one conversation to the next. Remember, the attorneys are there for the same purpose, not to remain in one fixed interaction for the duration of the event.

4) What do I do next? Follow up!

Many attorneys fail to carry business cards all the time, so take the initiative and invest in a small notepad. Once you meet an attorney or judge, record their name and area of practice. Make note of a few things that you spoke about that made your interaction more personal – did you discuss your pets, travel plans, or a shared interest for Italian food? If you did not get an e-mail address, do a quick Google search. You can also search websites like the Florida Bar’s member directory, where, chances are, you will find their contact information. In your follow-up e-mail, keep it short and concise. Let them know you enjoyed talking about (fill in the blank here) and ask if they wouldn’t mind you contacting them from time to time for advice or information. Remember, it’s not as important how you follow up, but that you follow up.

College of Law. Student Ambassadors. Jenna Von See, 3L

 

Why a 1L Judicial Clerkship was the best decision of my Law School career

The first year of law school can be nerve-wracking: lots of reading, being cold-called, and trying to comprehend Pennoyer v. Neff. As if worrying about classes wasn’t hard enough, by the time spring semester rolled around, I needed to start thinking about how I was going to be spending my first summer as a law student. Little did I know, this decision would have the biggest impact on me and only confirmed my passion for the law. Doing a 1L judicial clerkship was the best decision in my law school career thus far.

While it may seem scary to think so far in advance, your first summer as a law student is such an important time. For most people, they are finally getting some hands-on legal experience, and trying to put all of the theoretical concepts they learned during first year classes to work. The Career Services and Professional Development Office here has so many options for 1Ls looking for summer jobs.

A judicial clerkship is a two or three credit hour course, taken pass/fail, over six to eight weeks. You work directly with a judge and the experience is as varied as the people whose names grace the chambers in which you serve. A judicial clerkship gives a law student the experience of clerking for a judge, researching and writing different issues before the court, while also earning class credit. Students have the opportunity to summarize parties’ briefs, research legal issues, search through trial records, write memorandums, discuss their recommendations with the judge, and even work on some published opinions. The research and writing experience gained can be invaluable. To receive credit, you maintain a weekly journal of your observations and research as you complete your mandatory number of hours (150 hours for two credits and 180 hours for three).

Participating in a judicial clerkship can also prove beneficial upon returning to campus for Fall semester.  During on-campus interviews, which usually take place at the start of your 2L year, it can be a great topic of conversation with potential employers. As an added bonus, any hours that you work under a judge’s supervision beyond the mandatory requirement for the internship, count toward your pro bono requirement. The judicial clerkship can be a magnificent opportunity to see how the courts function. Clerking, in general, is a great opportunity to learn about the judicial branch, and how judges think.

 

garcia_web Melina Garcia, 3L

College of Law. Student Ambassadors. Michael Hoffman, 3L