The sound of thousands of students breaking into a wild applause in the Pasadena Convention Center after enduring three six-hour days of the California Bar Exam is something I'll never forget. Almost instantly, people have returned to their normal selves, are smiling, and life is good -- time to crack open the champagne.

The transition from graduation (one of the best days of my life) to bar studying was pretty quick -- really just about two days...cruel and unusual punishment, anyone? But, I quickly came to terms with my fate. As bar studying began, I was interested to see whether this exam would be the monster that everyone made it out to be. I always wondered, is the "hype" justified?

Having heard too many stories of people who burnt out way too early, the first month of studying for me was no different than a regular eight-hour work day. I spent my mornings listening to the videotaped BarBri lectures either at Loyola or from home, and my afternoons doing multiple choice and essay questions.

Before I knew it, July 4th came and went, and at that point (just three weeks shy of the exam), things began to change. Almost overnight, fellow bar takers started to crack and crumble from information overload. Refusing to walk down that path, the gym was without a doubt the single most important part of my day and a must-do for all bar takers. While there were surely challenging moments, I firmly believe that if you can beat the mental game and put in the work to learn just enough, you can prevail.

Now that all is said and done, I'm in Dr. Suess's "The Waiting Place...for people just waiting." Odds are if you're reading this, you may not have even started law school yet and the bar exam may seem so far away. But, if you can get in the right mindset early on, I think it's safe to say that the process doesn't have to be as crazy as many make it out to be.

My advice to future bar takers:

1) Things you can do during law school to make studying a little easier: Take a trial advocacy class; take part in an externship that will allow you to spent time in court- whether it's criminal or civil; participate in the law review write-on competition, which will give you a feel for what you'll have to do on a performance exam (worth approx. 1/3 of the bar exam).

2) Exercise: If you remember one thing, hands-down this is it.

3) Don't try and memorize: Instead, just try and grasp the underlying concepts as you go through the material, and try and learn through doing the multiple choice and taking practice essays. Any memorizing I did was within the last one and a half weeks- whether or not this will prove effective, I suppose time will tell...

4) Remember what worked and didn't work for you during law school and stick to it. If you've never been a flashcard person, now is not the time to change your ways. Trust in yourself to know what way works best for you.

5) Retain information through different media: I questioned whether or not listening to lectures was a waste of my time and whether I would have been better off just learning off of outlines. Looking back, because of the quantity of information being learned in such a short period of time, I'd recommend a combination!

6) Don't push too hard, too fast or you'll burn out.

7) You control the exam; don't let it control you. Keep your perspective, remind yourself that you're not supposed to know everything and that you're just human.

8) Visualization: Visualize your success; close your eyes and see yourself taking and passing the exam.

At the end of the day, "Somehow you'll escape all that waiting and staying. You'll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing."

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Located in Downtown Los Angeles amidst a bustling city, a day in Loyola's library never ceases to bring about these much needed reminders of life outside of the Law School's bright building walls.

IMAGINE--After snoozing your alarm for the third time and throwing together some concoction to give you a dose of caffeine to last the next few hours, you've finally made it to the library. You tell yourself that getting to school was the hard part- it's all downhill from now.

Just as you're about to embark on the exciting world of civil procedure, you hear the rustling sound of what can ONLY be the guy next to you opening up his freshly baked subway sandwich. You realize you should have picked one up yourself- a 20 percent school discount is not to be taken lightly.

You tell yourself, almost out loud, that THIS is gonna be a productive day. But wait--you escape to your childhood as the sound of the local ice cream truck rolls up right outside of your window; if you close your eyes long enough, you can even pretend you're at the park.

Within the hour, you've justified the fact that it's okay that you never made it to that concert last week at Staples Center. After all, there's no need when you're getting a free concert, courtesy of the local neighborhood festivals who pulled out all the stops with their live music and accompanying marching band.

Sound hectic? It may be. But it lends itself pretty well to the type of experience I've had as a law student here. While at Loyola, my legal education has not been isolated from the realities of the working world; rather, my career began from day one of my first year. I've regularly been taught by example, through my professors and otherwise, that my degree is a tool to help my immediate community and those who cannot help themselves. Even with classmates from all different walks of life, I've come to see that at the end of the day our visions are inspiringly similar.

Even in the most isolated and quiet places, it's important to be reminded that there's a life outside those legal jargon-filled walls.

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Just about two weeks ago, I was searching -- searching for a small way to challenge myself. Just 24 hours later, the perfect opportunity landed in my inbox. Amidst the flood of emails for speaker events and free lunches, I saw my answer.

I decided to join the Loyola Women's Law Association's (WLA) team in the Susan G. Komen Los Angeles County 5K Race for the Cure, to help end breast cancer -- FOREVER. Not only would I get the "challenge" I was looking for, but I could do something great for a cause that has impacted my life, and probably just about everyone's life in some way or another. In just a few moments, I set an attainable personal fundraising goal, began reaching out to friends and family and started training to run the 3.1 miles to the finish line.

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The race took place this past Saturday at Dodger Stadium, and was unbelievable. I joined together with other WLA members and their families, and we felt so proud to represent our school. To raise funds, WLA sold raffle tickets for several weeks at Loyola, and raffled off a Kindle and also a Kaplan Bar Review Course. Through WLA's joint efforts, we raised over $1,000 for Susan G. Komen.

With graduation just weeks away, I am yet again reassured about the common principles and value system that I share with my law school peers -- It's not a marathon. Hell, it's not even a half-marathon. But it's about showing up, and knowing that a little distance can go a long way.

A special thank you to WLA President Elisa Herrmann for her hard work and commitment to planning this event.

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Airports, hospitals and courthouses--three of the most interesting places you can ever be because they are truly cross-sections of the community. Making my way into the Compton courthouse and past the metal detectors in the early a.m., it was, as per the usual, buzzing with people. As I squeezed my way into the elevator (personal space? forget about it) to be surrounded by prospective jurors who think they've finally come up with the perfect excuse to get out of jury duty, or spirited family members accompanying a brother or sister who was a witness in a case, I could only smile. I knew it would be a great day. This was a typical morning as a certified law clerk at the Compton D.A.'s office.

How did I end up at the D.A.'s office? Three Words: The Hobbs Program. The only way to truly learn is to do--which is exactly what Loyola's Hobbs program is all about. A more intimate and specialized trial advocacy program, Hobbs gives a taste of what the criminal law world is about, and prepares students for the twists, turns and the realities of dealing with witnesses on the stand. After a semester of learning in the "classroom" (technically it was in Loyola's courtroom and did not feel like class), we were sent on our merry way to extern at the D.A.'s office.

Through Hobbs I learned, alongside a group of my amazing peers (and hopefully future colleagues), how to conduct criminal trials and preliminary hearings. Every defendant charged with a felony has the right to a preliminary hearing, which is where the judge decides if there's enough evidence to hold the defendant to answer on the charges he or she is facing. As a certified law clerk coming through Hobbs, I felt prepared to handle anything that came my way because it taught me how to think on my feet and to ask the right questions. Additionally, Hobbs taught me the proper courtroom lingo, so much so that people in court were surprised to later find out that I am still in law school.

At the D.A.'s office, I got to work with an incredible team of people (many of the D.A.'s there actually graduated from Loyola and did the Hobbs program). I ran prelims for cases dealing with a range of criminal charges, from standard drug possession charges to robbery to attempted murder. Additionally, I conducted suppression motions, which is where the defense tries to suppress a piece of evidence (ex. a gun, drugs, etc...), and where it was my job to demonstrate to the court why the evidence should not be suppressed.

Dealing with multiple witnesses, their families, law enforcement, the court staff, opposing counsel and the judge, is not for the faint-hearted. But for those like myself that thrive in these moments, it's one of the best experiences (if the not best) that I've had through Loyola. For those looking to break away from the "traditional" classroom experience, Hobbs is a dream.

"The Hobbs program offers students a rare and valuable opportunity to appear in court handling actual criminal cases on a regular basis. While other programs allow students to extern at the D.A.'s office as a certified law clerk, what sets this program apart is that our students receive a full semester of intense training to prepare them before they begin their externship. This provides students a sense of confidence and comfort that allows them to develop their skills at a very fast pace."
- Professor Susan Poehls

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JLSA hosts DA Elan Carr
By Emily Shaaya

Earlier this semester, the Jewish Law Students Association of Loyola Law School Los Angeles brought Deputy District Attorney Elan Carr to speak to an audience of approximately 80 law students on Loyola's campus in commemoration of September 11.

Of Iraqi-Jewish descent, Mr. Carr returned to his family's roots as a military officer in the JAG Corps, and shared with us his experiences and interactions with the Iraqi people, and military operations he took part in designed to help the Iraqis build a free, pluralistic, and democratic society. Mr. Carr's experiences in Iraq also included training Iraqi judges in criminal law and process.

Mr. Carr addressed the issue of self defense in the context of the war of terrorism (one example being Iran, a country who has openly expressed its intention to wipe Israel off the map and its measures to create nuclear weapons). While the law today provides for anticipatory defense where the harm is imminent, Mr. Carr presented the question of the right to defense where the harm may not be imminent, but is still so overwhelming and severe so as to trigger the right.

Additionally, Mr. Carr spoke about non-state actors such as Hamas in the Gaza Stip, a terrorist organization launching rockets at civilians in cities like Sderot in Israel. Carr stated, "If protecting your own citizens is not a part of sovereignty, what is?"

The issue of collateral damage was also addressed during the speech. Collateral damage is acceptable if it is proportional to military gain, but the problem with terrorists is that they use civilians as human shields. Carr spoke of how Hezbollah operatives intentionally surround themselves with children before launching a Quassam rocket.

Mr. Carr posed this unanswered legal question to the audience: What is a terrorist? An international criminal or an enemy combatant (unlawful) who we target as a combatant? Mr. Carr concluded his speech by emphasizing the important role of the legal profession in being ambassadors of the rule of law in fighting legally and fairly, while acting to protect the interests of the United States.

Mr. Carr was well-received by his audience, a diverse group of students who eagerly engaged in a question and answer session following the speech. Following the event, a number of students approached Mr. Carr to express their gratitude for his visit to campus, seeing as many students also had friends and loved ones in the military.

The JLSA leadership is overwhelmed by the positive responsive we continue to receive about the event. Mr. Carr is truly an engaging speaker, and we hope that he will continue to share his unique experiences as a military officer with both undergraduate and graduate students, so as to shed light on the importance of supporting Israel and bringing democracy to the rest of the Middle East.

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You've got the law school rankings nearly memorized at this point, and you're just waiting to hear back from schools. A school's rankings are important, but there are a few other things to do and things to consider before making your decision:

  1. Visit the School & Talk to Students: Your law school will be your home for the next three years. You should love the campus, love the library, and most importantly, love the people. While visiting, talk to as many students as you can find. They will really tell you what's on their mind, and will be completely honest about their quality of life, their workload, their professors, and anything else you could possibly want to know about law school. Also, if the school has a visiting day for admitted students, be sure to attend!
  2. When you graduate from school, where do you want to practice law? Law school is a career from day one, and that means meeting practicing attorneys and creating a name for yourself in the community. Every speaker that comes onto campus is a new opportunity to network, and every job, internship, or externship that you have during law school is its own social network.
  3. Personally, I look forward to our alumni coming back to speak at Loyola. Just last week, we were honored to have alumnus Robert Shapiro come share his life experience as a trial attorney, speaking about the turn of events that led to him becoming of the most well-know criminal defense attorneys and of course the OJ Simpson trial.
  4. Clinical Programs, Law Review, Trial Advocacy and Moot Court teams: Look at the prestige of what other programs the school has to offer, and the opportunities that it provides to obtain practical experience.
  5. Sit in on a Law School Class...or Two: These are potentially your future professors. I can't emphasize enough what a different environment this is from undergrad, where you could graduate in four years without ever having spoken to your professor. In law school, your professors can and often times will become your life-long mentors and friend.
  6. Got Competition? I've heard horror stories of what students do to get ahead, and am happy to say that I've never personally experienced any of them. While it's natural for law school to attract lots of "Type A" personalities, I'd say if you're the competitive type that's going to push aside your peers to get ahead, Loyola isn't for you. Your classmates are people you may eventually open up a law firm with after graduation, may run into in a job interview 5 years from now- If that message resonates with you, we'd love to have you. Depending on your personality, this is something you may want to ask students about when visiting schools.
  7. Talk to Practicing Attorneys: You see the rankings in the book, but why not ask the people that you want to hire you one day?
  8. Other fun fact: Just because a school you're interested in doesn't offer a law school study abroad program to the country of your dreams, doesn't mean you can't go through another school's program!

Bottom Line: This isn't a black and white decision, and a number isn't going to give you the answer you're looking for: talking to people will.

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A judicial externship is a must. It's been a little over a month since I began my externship at the U.S. Central District Bankruptcy Court, and every day is more amazing than the next.

The Top 5 Benefits:

  1. Getting to see the best and worst practicing attorneys- Just through observing, I've seen some of the biggest mistakes attorneys make, and what stalling on deadlines or showing up unprepared can do. Alternatively, there are attorneys who take immediate control over the courtroom as soon as they enter
  2. Learning about a new field- This is my first exposure to bankruptcy law, since I've yet to take any coursework in bankruptcy. Learning outside of the classroom is such a different learning experience and is a nice change of pace. The term "bankruptcy" doesn't, to say the least, have a positive association. However, it's been incredible to see often times that the laws are really here to allows people to regain hold of their lives and start anew.
  3. Your Judge- Every opportunity I have to interact with my judge is a chance to learn something new. Following hearings and trials, the judge has been willing to answer any questions about why certain ruling were made, explaining procedural issues, and even broader life lessons. I feel incredibly privileged to be working with a judge who knows his cases inside and out and really takes all factors into account when making decisions. Especially in a field like bankruptcy, someone's life really will be impacted by the decisions made.
  4. Your Law Clerk(s)/Judicial Assistants- These are the folks that run the show and they have so much to teach you. Be open to constantly learning from them and you're on the right track. I've had the chance to get to know our law clerk well and learn not only about bankruptcy, but about her life experience.
  5. Knowing Other Judges- This externship has allowed me to visit proceedings conducted by other judges as well, to see the varying styles with which judges choose to conduct their courtroom. Some are more technologically advanced with video-conferencing, while others still prefer and in fact require all persons to be physically present in the courtroom. As a practicing attorney, you've got to know which judge you're in front of and know how they run their courtroom.
  6. Fellow Externs- I've been fortunate enough to be one of five externs, two of whom go to Loyola and the other two from other southern CA law schools. It's been amazing to get to go through this experience with them and to really learn from each other- these are people that I can guarantee I will stay in touch with long after this externship has come to an end.

The Five Questions to Ask Before Deciding Where to Extern:

  1. Who's the Law Clerk? Most of your learning and training will be provided by the law clerks. Are they approachable and will they take the time to explain things to you?
  2. What Type of Work Will You Be Doing? Make sure you'll be given an opportunity to do some writing. Ideally, you're supervisor will be able to provide you with feedback on a regular basis.
  3. Who's the Judge and Do Our Interests Match Up? Take the time to research your judge; look at their experience prior to becoming a judge, and what other activities they may be involved in.
  4. How Many Other Externs Are There? While there's certainly a benefit to being the only extern in that you might have more personal interaction with the judge, I've found that I love having a full-house of externs. If you're the type of person that needs to be constantly interacting with others, this is something to take into consideration.
  5. How Often Will You Get to Sit in on Hearings and Trials? I think this is a critical part of the learning process.
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My name is Emily. I'm a second-year day student at Loyola. In the hopes that I can give you a glimpse at life in law school, and particularly at Loyola, I will share my thoughts, experiences and maybe the occasional coffee-spill and other glorious moments.

Surviving your 1L year is really a rite of passage. And yes, I'm a believer in actually attempting to enjoy the first year of law school. I think I succeeded in doing so (for the most part) for a few reasons: First, I figured, "I signed up for this, so might as well enjoy the process." Second, I ignored the advice I received to not get involved in anything my first year of law school. In fact, I went ahead and did just the opposite. Third, it's the highest learning curve you'll experience...probably ever. So if you're even slightly interested in learning something new, it's pretty awesome. And finally, besides changing (miraculously) my life-long procrastination habits, I managed to always keep the bigger picture in play.

When I got to know my first-year section mates (your first year you are assigned to a section of approximately 85 people and travel with them in a pack to all your classes), I was pretty shocked to find out what different backgrounds everyone brought into law school. We had the musician, the military officer, the SAT tutor, the ballroom dancer and the hardcore Dodgers fan--all in one group. Our professors added a whole new dimension to that, as well--some born to be comedians and even a Spanish romance novelist. And so from the very beginning it was an adventure...

I came straight into law school after completing my undergrad at UC Irvine. It was a toss-up between (1) going to law school or (2) pursuing a career as a teacher. Clearly, I ended up choosing option 1, with option 2 still a possibility for the future. Thankfully, I got lucky and it turns out I've found something that I love.

After completing my first year, I consider it a priority to try and get as much legal experience while in school as is humanely possible. I wish I could say with confidence that I have "found my niche" and gear my resume accordingly as has been suggested by many attorneys/working professionals that I've spoken to. However, at this point I think it would be tragic to confine myself to one area of law.

Just to give you an idea of where I've been, where I'm at and where I'm going: This past summer I went to Israel, where I did a law study abroad program and also had an amazing internship at an organization called Shurat Hadin: Israel Law Center. The organization represents victim of terrorist attacks and their families by filing lawsuits against organizations that fund terrorists--a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This year I'm a staffer on the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review. We just finished our second production cycle (editing and preparing articles for publication), and I'm currently working on writing a paper on teen sexting--the sending of sexually explicit messages via text. This coming spring semester, I'll be giving bankruptcy law a shot and externing for a judge over at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. (One of the things that I personally appreciate about being at Loyola is that the courthouses are nearby, so that I can take on the externship and still be able to take a few classes.) This summer, I'll be over at the Los Angeles Public Defender's Office, which provides representation for people who have been accused of crimes and who are unable to hire private defense counsel.

Until the next post, just remember--enjoy the process. Apply, visit schools and talk to students about their quality of life. Feel free to send any questions/comments my way.

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Catching up with Emily
By Emily Shaaya

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