Saturday, May 23

My 2L Year of Law School

At the end of last year, I did a post on my 1L year of law school. I tried to be super honest about what I was feeling and experiencing, because last year was really hard for me. I had friends, but I was away from my "regular" friends and family. The coursework was really hard. I struggled. I thought about dropping out or transfering at least twice. But I didn't, and I made through 2L year - happier, definitely healthier, and so much more stable!

My hope here is to be just as honest about what I experienced, which is actually easier this year because I actually enjoyed my 2L year immensely.

1st Semester

At first: 
I started out my first semester feeling pretty great but also dealing with some insecurities. I had been rejected from a few programs, and I had been essentially wait listed in this program at school called the Daniel Webster Scholar Program. The program's intent is to create lawyers who were actually client- and practice-ready, so the Scholars learn more practical skills versus reading about the skills in a book. They're also judged by actual Bar exam reviewers for the last two years of law school, so they don't have to actually sit and take the Bar - which makes sense, because they're literally doing a two-year Bar that actually looks at your skills, not just your ability to answer questions.

Long story short, I was accepted into the DWS Program almost immediately after being wait listed (yay!!!) and came to school feeling so enthusiastic about UNH Law and the DWS Program. At the same time, I felt insecure that I hadn't gotten into DWS immediately and therefore didn't really "deserve" to be there. I felt like I needed to really prove myself.

To be perfectly honest, I mostly just remember doing DWS homework first semester. I was in a DWS class called Pretrial Advocacy where we were split up into firms and simulated filing an FMLA case in New Hampshire Federal Court. To say it was labor-intensive would be an understatement. We were all learning how to do these documents for the first time, but we kept time sheets and I ended up averaging anywhere from fifteen to sixty hours of work for this class a week.

I also took Evidence, Wills, Personal Income Tax, and Professional Responsibility. The homework for those classes was mostly jut doing the required readings. Looking back on my 1L year, I remember being really overwhelmed with all the homework. This wasn't the case at all last semester. Even the classes that were case book-intensive were really doable, and while Evidence was probably the hardest for me to learn, that was probably my own fault for not keeping up as much in the beginning.

I had a new roommate last year! Her name was Ashley, and she was an absolute DELIGHT. She was an incoming 1L, super respectful, fun, sweet, and so caring. I loved coming home from class to see her and talk about how she was dealing with her first year. I also had both James and Leif here, which was nice. They play fight pretty hard, but it's so much easier to deal with two cats than one. They cuddled and entertained each other and kept each other (mostly) out of trouble!

This was maybe the biggest (and most helpful) change for me from 1L year to 2L year: I actually had established friendships! I already knew everyone, I knew personalities, and my friendships from the previous year really blossomed! It didn't feel isolating or scary anymore, and I actually gained a whole new set of friends from being in the DWS Program. I was in a "firm" of people that I didn't know well, but we all ended up getting along so well and I really appreciated their friendships.

I did fine in all my classes, and I actually really enjoyed my first semester of 2L year - which was really necessary since 1L year had been such a struggle. Everything seemed to come easier to me, even though I was definitely faced with more work than 1L year. I just felt like I finally knew what I was doing! I also got the chance to argue a Summary Judgment Motion in front of a judge in New Hampshire Federal Court for my Pretrial Ad class, which was an amazing experience!

I was still far away from my family and J, but like a lot of this past year, it just didn't seem as difficult as it did 1L year. J and I knew when we were going to see each other, we skyped a LOT more, and I felt really happy and secure, even though I missed him desperately. I also got to see my family more! I saw them and J in September for my cousin's wedding, and then I saw everyone again over Thanksgiving, when my family met J and part of J's family in Las Vegas! It was a total blast, even though I came back from fall break totally exhausted. It was 100% worth it! I also saw my family over Christmas, when I spent about three weeks down there with J!

All in all, I just got to see my loved ones more and it made a huge difference to me. I felt secure, safe, and loved!

I hardly worked out at all, but I also didn't gain any weight. I mostly felt really good, physically, because I was still eating healthy foods. On the other hand, I was drinking an ungodly amount of coffee and savoring every moment of it because at least I was awake!

I did have one scare where I thought I might have a cancerous tumor on my back. I have a benign tumor (a lympoma) on my side that grew in high school. It's relatively small (no one knows I have one until I point it out), doesn't hurt, and doesn't get in the way of anything, so I've never had it removed. This one on my back felt the same, but it scared me because I had literally just found it. Obviously my first thought was cancer, but Web M.D. actually reassured me that it was another lympoma - and the doctor confirmed that it was a lympoma and definitely not cancer! I can't tell you how relieved I felt after that appointment!

2nd Semester

At first:
I was honestly excited to go back to school in January. I had a good class schedule that I was actually pumped about, I had morning classes every day (I'm definitely a morning person) except for one night class on Wednesdays, and I had established a good schedule for myself as far as working out and eating healthy, so I felt super upbeat and ready to go!

It felt like I didn't HAVE homework compared to how much I was doing for Pretrial Ad first semester! I thought Trial Advocacy would be the same way, but it certainly wasn't overwhelming. I had to practice my speaking skills in front of my classmates, but the actual grunt work wasn't as difficult as I was expecting. Speaking in class? Terrifying, but I really worked on improving myself all semester, and it became one of my favorite classes!

I was also taking Employment Law, Business Associations, DWS Miniseries, and Negotiations. Employment Law assignments took me about three hours to do per class, but I found readings for Business Associations super easy! Negotiation usually took a lot of outside work to complete each week, because we were expected to be competent in the specific legal area the negotiation was in and we filled out complex outlines each week before the negotiation. Miniseries homework really depended on which week of class it was - some weeks were more like lectures, while some weeks we were required to read up on all information, while some weeks it was more about practicing specific skills.

It was definitely a work-intensive semester, but the homework was spaced out enough for me that I wasn't usually overwhelmed.

My roommate actually ended up leaving school to follow her dream to be a teacher. She was so happy about this change that I couldn't be that sad about it, even though I missed her desperately! I was worried having the apartment to myself would be lonely and isolating, but I ended up really liking it! I've spent so many of the last seven years trying to be a considerate roommate, and I actually got to have an entire apartment to myself. It was kind of freeing and relaxing! I got to do what I wanted, when I wanted to, and not worry if someone else didn't like that I left my dishes out or wasn't super tidy. I also loved being able to have friends over and not worry about bothering another person. And, while this is going to sound super lame, the cats were great company and never let me feel alone.

The biggest thing that changed between first and second semester was that we were pulled out of our DWS Pretrial Ad firms and mixed up for Trial Ad. It was still the same DWS group, but I got to see a lot more of my friends who had been in the opposing firm first semester. It was really fun and interesting to get a new dynamic and create a supportive environment with people I had literally been opposing first semester, especially since a lot of them were my friends before this year. I liked not having the rivalry that was apparent first semester, and I feel like all of us bonded a lot more because of that!

I kept expecting this semester to be exhausting, but I found school really doable second semester. I had more than enough time to do my homework each week, my classes were really interesting and (dare I say it) fun! It made me really look forward to practicing law!

I also took and passed the MPRE, which is like the legal ethics test you need to take to be a lawyer. It's not unheard of for people to fail it, so I was a little nervous about having to retake it... but thankfully I passed well enough to be accepted in every state in the US! :)

I saw so much of my family this semester, and I felt amazing. I saw my family in Hilton Head over spring break, J visited me over his spring break, and my mom and grandma came up to go wedding dress shopping in Boston with me over a long weekend! I loved seeing so much of the people I love. :)

I really focused on my heath this semester! One of my goals for 2015 was to work out five times a week while I was in Concord, and I did this almost every single week all semester. I was so proud of myself! While my weight didn't change at all, I felt so much better every day. I was less stressed, I was awake and ready for class every morning, I felt accomplished, I felt beautiful, and I loved feeling my muscles grow. I also worked on tracking my food, so that I was eating enough or not overeating.

I also cut out coffee cold turkey about 2/3 of the way through the semester. I was drinking around 2-3 cups a day and one weekend experienced terrible, splitting caffeine headaches. I decided then and there to stop temporarily, with the hope that I could really cut down on how much I "needed" to function. That weekend was terrible. I took three Advil the first day, and only one the next day, but then I was done and no longer in withdrawal from the caffeine. I added tea back into my diet, and I'm still drinking only one or two cups of coffee a week now.

Overall, I had a really good 2L year. I found myself actually enjoying law school and feeling like I really belonged here, after spending most of 1L year wondering what I was doing and why. I could actually see myself as a lawyer, and maybe even as a good one! 1L year was so difficult for me that 2L year felt like a breeze in comparison - but it's also possible I'm just better at practical classes than reading case books.

It was so apparent to me that a solid support system and friends are so important, whether or not you're in law school. Everything was easier when I felt secure about my family and J and when I got to see them more.

Everything was also easier when I made working out a priority. It really surprised me how much it made a difference.

This summer is going to be one of the greatest I've ever had. I've accepted a job with New Hampshire Legal Assistance in Concord, and I couldn't be more excited about it! I'll be helping domestic violence victims and low-income clients all summer, and I'm thrilled to be helping the kind of people I came to law school to give a voice to. J just moved in to my apartment, and we're working on our little love nest. :) It's my first summer actually in Concord, and I can't wait to explore more of the area since I'll have some evenings and weekends free!

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