Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Inevitable

I can't believe it happened on the first day! Now, remember, I have been preparing for class since before orientation. I did all the orientation assignments and then started reading all the first chapters of the books to get a feel for the subjects. I even read the entire Legal Research Suvival Manual. I just knew I was prepared! And then it happened.

The professor asked us to pull out our briefs* on a certain case and I just couldn't believe what was happening to me. All I could pull out was some other work I had done for the class. But he must have told us to brief this particualar case because everyone else pulled out their beautifully typed briefs with all the right headings or their thoughtful hand written analysis. My mind was spinning. What to do? As the professor passed by glancing at everyone's work, he gracefully moved past my flurry of notebook pages to the next person, giving out encouraging words about the neatness and thoroughness of all the other students work.

What happened? How did I just totally miss an assignment? And on the first day?

The short answer is that I was just overexcited and didn't write down the assignment when it was given. When I looked back over all the things I did since Friday, I remembered reading and repeatedly pulling out the case which was handed to us in our Friday orientation session. (I could claim fatigue, but everyone else had been there all day, too.)

To make my blunder worse, the professor had made a pretty big deal out of the case by showing us the opening scene of a famous law school movie dealing with the case. How could I forget to brief it? I don't know, but I certainly should have asked one of my classmates what we were supposed to do with the case. All I did was read it and put it back in my notebook after thinking "They sure used a bunch of strange legal terms back in the '20s. I'm glad I don't have to figure all this stuff out right now. Maybe the professor will explain what it all means in class."

And of course, I was called on in class, but the answer was easy mainly because it was set in a paragraph all alone. What was the holding of the court?

Lessons learned? Right down all assignments and ask a classmate (or even the professor) when I'm not sure about an assignment.

So even though I briefed the case during the class discussion of the case and even though the professor gave us a book-briefed version of the case, I still came home and briefed the case.

*A brief of a case in law school is a "written synopsis of the important points of the case." Helene S. Shapo et al., Writing and Analysis in the Law (4th ed. 2003). [I hope this cite is right.]

Monday, August 22, 2005

And They're Off

I am at the law school anticipating my very first law school class. Technically, we had a session in Legal Analysis, Research and Writing on Friday, but it was during orientation and was more like an introduction to the class. The professor seems to be very good, and I love his speaking style.

One of the the things I like about an academic environment is that everyone is so sincere in their quest for knowledge and understanding. The level or intensity of the commitment varies due to people's age, maturity or other variables, but in general, everyone wants to learn, everyone wants to "get it."

My undergraduate experience at the University of Texas at Austin taught me to navigate a large system and not be too intimidated by large crowds, aloof professors, and loads of information. I think I'm experiencing a healty level of intimidation, but more so, I am awed by the legal profession and am very grateful that I have this opportunity to be initiated into this amazing area of study.

It's not that I don't have experience working with lawyers. I just worked for one who is a graduate of this school. In my career, I worked with many Texas judges as a communications director at the Texas Center for the Judiciary. I also worked with the legal departments at the Texas Council on Family Violence and Catholic Charities in Houston. However, in the past, I was a regular citizen, a civilian who could take things lightly. Someone in orientation told us that she believes the chemical make-up of our brains actually changes after going through the rigors of the study of law. We will see.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Orientation and how I got there

The first day of orientation finally arrived, and it was very enlightening. The best thing I took from all the welcomes and presentations is that the first year will be really, really hard, but if you do the work and get the help you need, you can be successful.

Since my goal is to encourage other people to reach for their graduate study dreams, I want to share a little about how I ended up as a first year student at Texas Wesleyan School of Law. (This may be boring if you already know how to get into law school.)

In late Spring, 2004, I started out by making a list of all the law schools in Texas and discovered Texas Wesleyan when I was compiling this list. As I researched the school, it became more and more appealing to me because it had part-time study options. As a mother of two small children, this was important to me because I was unsure of what kind of support system I would have.

The next step in the process was registering for law services (www.ldas.org) which is the organization that gives the LSAT and collects your transcripts and letters of recommendation (LORs) for law schools. I also researched test prep courses. I knew I didn't want to do a course that took weeks so I looked for short, lower cost, weekend alternatives and found the PowerScore company (www.powerscore.com). They offered a great class, and I think my score was higher because I took the course.

I took the December LSAT and chose the option of getting my scores online. I think they came within two weeks of taking the test. I completed the application at Texas Wesleyan online, and monitored the LDAS site to see when my LORs arrived. I chose to apply only to Texas Wesleyan because Fort Worth was the only place where I had the family support system I will need to get through the next three years.

If you have specific questions about this process, I would be happy to answer them specifically. Just send me and email and I'll give you more details and let you know about resources that are helpful in the process of researching, applying and getting into law school.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Meant to Be

Right after I set up this blog, I checked my email and received an invitation to do a diary of a first year law student on the official site for Texas Wesleyan University Law School. So I guess one way or another, I'll fulfill my wish of sharing my experience with the general public. I'm really excited about this because when I was looking for blawgs by black students, I didn't find anything. Maybe they're out there and just not getting on the search engines. In any event, I hope I come across them as I venture on.

I received my orientation notebook back in July and bought all of my books. I've done the writing assignment for the Analysis, Writing and Research class. There is a multiple choice grammar test and a writing assignment in which you must state your opinion on a lawyering ethical issue. I also completed the reading assignment in the Legal Analysis book. Being the enthusiast that I am, I've also started reading the introductions in some of my books. The lesson here is, if you're going to invest in law school or any other academic endeavor, it only makes sense to do the work. I don't know if I would have had this attitude coming right out of undergrad. Living, working and suffering consequences goes a long way in making a person see the benefits of doing the right thing.

Six Flags with my daughter was GREAT! The only problem was I forgot to get her a souvenir. She did get her face painted, but by the end of the evening, I was so tired, I passed up all the stores for a mad dash to the trolly.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Few Days of Freedom

After dutifully reading One L by Scott Turow, I knew I had to create a blawg to relay my own experience in law school. Trying to see what other law school students were saying, I searched and read many a blog (blawg when the topic is law). I didn't find anything by a student who looks like me. Not only am I in the non-traditional student category at 37-years-old, I am also a newly single black woman with two small children. Needless to say, this law school thing is quite a challange for me at this point in my life, but I'm always up for a challenge.

This brings me to the explanation for the title of this blawg. I was tempted to name it Crazy Black Woman in Law School (CBWLS), or something descriptive like that. I decided to name it Crayons and Case Law because in my heart, my children will always be first for me. Somehow, with the help of my family support system, I will get through the first year and still be the cool mommy they love and adore.

Orientation is August 19, so I have a few days of freedom left. I plan to take my 5-year-old to Six Flags and do all the last minute preparation for her to start first grade on August 15. Being a bit of a procrastinator, I have a long to-do list.