The ways readers find my blog . . .

August 26, 2010 at 1:02 am (Misc.)

Each week I checkout the report on search terms readers used to find my blog.  Some of them are pretty funny.  It’s really interesting to see what people are searching for. And I feel bad when they may not have found it on my blog, so this post is an effort to help them find what they were looking for. In no particular order, here’s the search terms:

Hillary pantsuit green.

-Ew. I hope you aren’t considering purchasing one!

Proper court attire paralegal.

-Nothing too racy, but don’t got for a green Hillary-style pantsuit. This post may be helpful: https://mylawschooldreams.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/tips-for-law-students-and-associates-aka-freshies/ and https://mylawschooldreams.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/gen-y-and-professional-appearances-for-the-ladies/

Law School Anxiety

-Yep, I have it too, and I don’t think it will stop until after law school.  Yipee.

Are You Happy as a Paralegal

-Actually, yes.  Don’t mistake my desire for law school as an indication that I’m not happy as a paralegal or that the paralegal profession isn’t great because I think it is. I just know that for what I want to accomplish in my life, I will need a law degree.  Paralegals do many wonderful things, but they are limited to assisting supervising attorneys and can never give legal advice.

LSAT Study Buddies

-They do work, if both of you are totally committed and will hold each other accountable.

List of Tier 1 Law Schools

-This is my favorite one which also has profiles on the schools: TLS Rankings and Profiles

Paralegal Personal Statement

-Don’t feel that because your a paralegal you have to write only about being a paralegal.  My personal statement touched on many aspects of my life even though ultimately it was through my work as a paralegal that led me down this path.  Its important to not be a one-trick pony.

How to Check LSAC Urm Status

-Your URM (under represented minority) status is self-reporting.  It is what you say it is. No one else can tell you what your status is. Its what you self-identify as. To select a specific URM status, go to the CRS (candidate referral service) section on the left side of the page and click edit.  Also, each individual law school application will ask you to select your race/ethnicity.

How Long Does LSAC Take to Process

-LSAC takes an ungodly 3-4 weeks to process the LSAT score, a week for transcripts, and a week for personal statements (if snail mailed).  When one of my recommenders faxed his letter of recommendation, it appeared in my account an hour later, but there recently have been som reports that LSAC is no longer accepting faxed LOR’s due to the poor quality in the received faxes.

Law School Predictors for ABA Accredited

-Check out this blog post.

How to Address Law School Reference Letter

-I had my letter of recommendation writers address it “Dear Admissions Committee” or “To Whom it May Concern” but my boss insisted on his old stand-by, “Dear Ladies/Gentlemen”

Software For Law Students

-I’m a techie nerd, but I’m not totally sure on this. I do know that Black’s Law Dictionary has an e-version that is an add-in for a web browser or wordprocessing program that sounds pretty cool.  I also plan to use Microsoft OneNote for my note taking. I use this now for my undergrad notes and love it! It records while I type so that when I later want to review my notes I can highlight the text and it will plan what was recorded as I typed that particular text. Very handy. It also outlines without the hangups that are often problematic in Word.

How to Qualify for LSAC Fee Waivers

-You have to be broke. The threshold for this seems to be lower than what it is for qualifying for need-based scholarships.  I only qualified after appealing and demonstrating that my income this year is half what it was last year. (And it was pretty low last year!)

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Law School Gunner Comedy

August 25, 2010 at 4:57 pm (Law School Life)

I find this youtube video about law school gunners totally amusing and thought I’d share!

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I am officially a Law School Applicant

August 25, 2010 at 4:36 pm (Applying to Law School)

Woot! I submitted my very first ever law school application yesterday!!!  I’ve got to be honest, it took way more time than it should have, and once I clicked “submit” I couldn’t help but dance and sing around my house for about five minutes . . .until my dogs started howling at me. Ha!

So what took so long?  Well, I wanted to specially tailor my PS for this law school, so I researched the website and paper literature I had on the school and spent about 45 minutes writing, re-writing, and obsessing over this one additional paragraph specifically targeted for this school.  Then, when I uploaded my personal statement and resume I clicked “continue” and previewed what my app and accompanying materials looked like in pdf form, only to find that there were some formatting issues when LSAC converted my PS and resume into a pdf.  So I had to go back and fix those issues and go through the steps again.  Only to realize, I forgot to include my name, contact info, and LSAC # on every page.  This wasn’t required and it wasn’t mentioned on any of the application materials, but since it doesn’t take any more space (since I inserted this into the header) I thought it would be good insurance just in case.  Besides, I certainly want to make my information handy to the admissions person so they can send my acceptance letter!

About an hour after I finalized everything and sent it off I received an email from the school thanking me for applying – it also included information about checking the status of my application . . . which I’ve already checked twice! Yes, I’m anxious – did you expect anything less coming from me?

Now I have to just wait for more law school apps to come out, and most of them will on September 1st – but I’m ready for ’em!

I celebrated this morning with a gooey chocolate-filled croissant and a giant mocha late, from my favorite coffee shop – compliments of a good friend of mine from Tx!

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A-N-X-I-E-T-Y

August 23, 2010 at 9:37 pm (Applying to Law School)

I thought I had a major case of anxiousness when I was prepping for and taking the LSAT.  It turns out, the application process overshadows the LSAT in comparison!  I’ve re-written my personal statement at least in part, twenty times.  I fret over whether to spell out “bachelor of arts” or to abbreviate “B.A.”  Its actually the little stuff that is driving me crazy. 

I took a drive up North on Sunday to one of the law schools I will be applying to.  The weather was great and it provided a wonderful opportunity to relax on the drive in the open air of my convertible (no jealousy needed, its 16 years old).  What I really liked about showing up at this law school unannounced on a Sunday was learning the surprisingly candid thoughts and views of the students.  I’m a people person, so I was able to strike up several conversations with current students in the library.  One student confided that if “X School of Law hadn’t been literally the only school to accept me, I would never have chosen to come here, based on its rank – but it turned out to be for the best anyway!” 

I was still able to check-out the law school classrooms and the moot courtroom and no “intruder alert!” sirens went off by my snooping around.  It was really great to have a relaxing day hanging out as an undercover spy, but I will likely decide to go back later for an official tour.

The weird part though – the next day there was a letter from the same school inviting me to apply and waiving the application fee!  Hmmmm, fate?

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Staying Organized.

August 17, 2010 at 2:35 pm (Applying to Law School, Legal Professional Tips)

I learned early-on in my paralegal career that organization is key.  And as other paralegals know all-too-well, its not about keeping yourself organized, its about keeping others organized as well (Mr. “where’s the damn document” I’m looking at you).

Scanning technologies and file management is an ever growing area of the legal profession.  Some offices are now even moving to a completely paperless file management system.  My firm isn’t quite there yet, but I’m increasingly realizing the benefits.  Papers get lost.  Its inevitable.  When someone loses an important document and I am easily able to reproduce it by bringing up the scanned version through our document management system, I get this rush of “you go girl” euphoria, having felt like I saved the day.  Our copies are also scanners, so whenever I’m having to run a copy I also run a scan. I’ve also made a rule to spend the last 30 minutes of my day, when my mind is shot anyway, to mindlessly scan the day’s documents into our system.

Anyway, what does this have to do with my law school application process, you ask?  Well, a lot.  I’m finding that my paralegal-organizational skills are lending themselves nicely to this stressful, bound-to-be disorganized time in my life.  I’m applying to 10-ish schools.  Actually, that number is increasing almost daily, so by the time you read this I’ll probably have doubled that.  (Thanks to solicitation emails and fee waivers.)

To keep myself organized I put together an excel spreadsheet that tracks the school, date the application is available, whether I’ve been granted a fee waiver (some schools will automatically waive their application fee if the applicant has been granted an LSAC fee waiver), the date I applied, whether I’ve received a response, what the result was, and whether I was granted scholarship money.  I’ve provided a PDF copy here: Applications Tracking Spreadsheet and would be happy to provide the actual excel spreadsheet to anyone who would like a copy (shoot me an email at lawschooldreamer at gmail dot com).  By sorting the document based on the date the application is available I can prioritize which apps to work on first.  In my case, most of the apps for the schools I’m applying to will become available on September 1st.  There are several that won’t be available until September 15th, and a few that are holding out until October 1st (grrrr.)

I’ve also created electronic folders for each school I’m applying to in order to further keep myself organized and limit the potentiality of uploading my PS to “Esteemed School of Law” that was intended to be sent to “Fabulous School of Law.” Additionally, within each individual school’s folder I’ve also included a sub-file entitled “misc. info”  where I keep a word document containing a list of why I want to go that particular school, copies of any articles pertaining to that school, and any school-specific tips or ideas I have on the application process, and any tidbits that may help me in writing a slightly modified personal statement for each school.

Whew! I’m super-eager to get started! I cant wait to fill up my spreadsheet!

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Distracted?

August 17, 2010 at 2:30 pm (Misc.)

I was searching for an entirely different image and came across this:

Which, I find totally scary yet very practical! I’m easily distracted and often have difficulty focusing throughout the day.  Plus, my snoopy co-workers won’t have a clue that I’m really updating my blog, browsing zappos.com, and updating my facebook status.  Hmmmm, I wonder how much this would cost to make . . . .

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5 Things I’m Loving Right Now

August 15, 2010 at 4:35 pm (Misc.)

I just completed my summer semester and have two weeks off until my hectic fall semester begins.  I’ve used up my remaining vacation time to relax and regroup.  Having this free time has given me an opportunity to reacquaint myself with my surroundings and what’s actually happening out there in the world.  5 things that I’m loving right now . . .

  1. Netflix.  Not just netflix, but streaming videos instantly and on demand.  I just watched this really compelling documentary entitled, “A Lawyer Walks into a Bar. . .” it follows six prospective attorneys studying for and taking the bar.  Not all of whom, pass.
  2. Erasable highlighters and pens. I’m a total geek when it comes to office supplies.  I picked up these new “FriXion” highlighters and pens from Pilot, but the neat-o thing about them is they are erasable, and they actually do a super job.  Plus, they write and highlight exceptionally well.
  3. “The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law” by Deborah Rhode.  Reading this book has made me realize that appearance is in fact a source of discrimination not just in the legal world, but all sectors of employment.  Like it or not, I’m inclined to say, appearance matters.
  4. The ability for my LOR writers to fax their letters into LSAC.  One of my recommenders did this and it appeared in my account the same day.  Another recommender snail mailed it a week ago and it still hasn’t appeared. (Although I’m not loving the fact that the LSAC website is down for updating, apparently an all new and improved website with a new appearance will launch Monday).
  5. Also, . . .

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Dear attorney/boss . . . please recommend me. Best, Law School Dreamer. ~LOR’s Part II~

August 9, 2010 at 8:23 pm (Applying to Law School, LORs)

Hopefully my boss will leave the proofing up to me.

Hopefully my boss will leave the proofing up to me.

I mentioned my LOR requests of my academic professors in this post.  Part II focuses on my request for my letter of recommendation from my attorney/boss. . . a greater, and even more intimidating challenge.  Why?  Because he is an ATTORNEY who has been in LAW SCHOOL.  For some reason, I find that intimidating.  Its like he’s the one who “really” knows how fit for law school I am.  Plus, I know my professors love me, they keep in touch and tell me about scholarship opportunities and send me links to articles they know I will enjoy.  My relationship with my boss has always been, well, weird.  He is moody, temperamental, and cold.  I remember five years ago when I began working for him he didn’t speak to me for the first three weeks, five weeks later I’d be lucky to get a nod.  He’d just plop his dictation on my desk and walk away.  I thought for sure he hated me.  Then his old secretary who had been promoted to paralegal (a journey which I later pursued) filled me in.  She told me that odds are, he loves me and is very happy with me.  If he doesn’t like me, he’ll tell me.  Otherwise, assume that lack of words means I’m doing a good job.  Huh!?

It wasn’t actually until a year-in to my employment when he invited me and a few other attorneys, secretaries, and paralegals to his lake house for a fun day of boating that he introduced me to his folks and friends as “the best secretary he ever had.”  Huh!?

Then the next day, it was back to cold, shivery, silence.

Anyway, I provided a similar packet to my attorney/boss, who had already told me he would be happy to write a letter for me as long as I provided some guidance or examples of what to write.  I complied.  I provided a few excerpts of the book “How to Get Into the Top Law Schools” by Richard Montauk which provided examples of employer LOR’s and specifics on what employer LOR’s should address.  For instance, rather than speaking to one’s academic credentials, an employer LOR should obviously focus on work-ethic, problem solving skills, professionalism, etc.  I also provided the following:

  • Copy of a recent research memo and a few other examples of my work-product.
  • Full-length resume (again, not the shortened version for law school admissions purposes).  This is helpful for my boss, especially since he and I never had a close relationship, so that he could touch on some of my community activities, how I described my work details, etc.
  • My personal statement, marked draft.
  • Excerpts from book and example of employer LOR’s.
  • Official LSAC letter of recommendation writer form.
  • Cover letter:

Dear Iceman:

Thank you for your willingness to write a letter of recommendation for my law school applications.  As you know and can attest to, I have chosen to attend law school only after careful thought and consideration and it is my work experience which has led me to this important decision.  During my work with {name of firm} I have learned  . . . .

I hope that you will mention some of the special projects I have been involved in  . . . .

It would be helpful to law school admissions committees to know about my work ethic, professionalism, and on-the-job problem solving skills.

I am applying to {insert schools}.  So that you do not have to write a letter for each individual school, it is customary for recommenders to write one letter but to address it “Dear Admissions Committee” or “To Whom It May Concern” and omit the specific school.

As we have discussed, I am applying to law schools in just a few short weeks.  If at all possible, the letter should be submitted no later than August 20 to allow for processing time so that I may submit my applications as soon as they become available.  The letter must be sent with the accompanying LSAC form and may be either mailed to the address on the form (I have also included an addressed, stamped envelope for your convenience) or it may be faxed to the Law School Admissions Council at: (215) 504-1444.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything I can do to aid you in your letter-writing process.  Thank you again for taking the time to help me in my journey to law school.

I’ve got to admit, I am pretty nervous about my attorney/boss LOR.  Like I said, we’ve never been close, though I do know he appreciates my work ethic and over the years he has entrusted me with a multitude of tasks and seems to appreciate my work even though he’s never opened up to me.  Its just the type of person he is.  Its not personal.  But, it is unfortunate that he can’t attest to my outgoing, extroverted, friendly personality.  Well, I suppose he could since I’ve always been that way toward him just as I am to everyone, even though the exchanges were never reciprocal.  Hopefully one of my other LOR writers will weigh-in on that sort of thing.  Nevertheless, I thought it was important that I have a LOR from my employer since, after all, I would not be journeying down this path had it not been for my work experience which I weigh-in heavily in my personal statement.  It just wouldn’t make sense not to have an employer LOR.

 

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Dear Professor . . . please recommend me. . . . Best, Law School Dreamer ~LOR’s Part I~

August 9, 2010 at 7:38 pm (Applying to Law School, LORs)

All last week I assembled packets of information to provide to my letter of recommendation writers and distributed them accordingly.  I contacted my recommenders roughly two weeks ago to ask if they would be able to write a “strong letter of recommendation” for me and to arrange a time that I could drop off some materials.  This way, I could get a feel for how eager they were to write the letter for me, and so that I could give them the heads-up (I think its disrespectful to just spring this on someone).  All recommenders were grateful for me making their job easier for them and one complimented that my organization came as no surprise.

My academic letter writer packet included:

  • Copy of my transcript with classes taken with the professor highlighted.
  • Full-length resume (as opposed to the shortened one for law school admissions purposes).
  • Copy of my personal statement marked draft (to encourage the recommender to make any comments or changes deemed necessary – I figured if it was assumed to be finalized there would be less interest in offering advice).
  • Official LSAC letter of recommendation writer form which must be included with the letter when sent to LSAC.  (This form is produced by logging into the LSAC account under the credentials>LOR page.
  • Cover letter to recommender, which followed a similar form to:

Dear Esteemed Professor:

Thank you for your willingness to write a letter of recommendation for my application to law school.  I want to make it clear to law school admissions committee members that I  . . . . .

I think I stand out as an applicant by my involvement in  . . . . .

I hope you will consider mentioning my success in your {class} in which I earned an {grade} and focused my efforts on {whaever project}.

I am applying to {insert schools}.  So that you do not have to write a letter for each individual school, it is customary for recommenders to write one letter but to address it “Dear Admissions Committee” or “To Whom It May Concern” and omit the specific school.

As we have discussed, I am applying to law schools in just a few short weeks.  If at all possible, the letter should be submitted no later than August 20 to allow for processing time so that I may submit my applications as soon as they become available.  The letter must be sent with the accompanying LSAC form and may be either mailed to the address on the form (I have also included an addressed, stamped envelope for your convenience) or it may be faxed to the Law School Admissions Council at: (215) 504-1444.

If you have any questions, I can be reached at  {phone number}.  Thank you again for taking the time to help me in my journey to law school.

 

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Law School Dreamer Interview with “J.D. Lifeline” Author, Zenovia N. Evans, J.D.

August 1, 2010 at 11:57 pm (Applying to Law School)

After reading “J.D. Lifeline,” authored by recent law school graduate (and former paralegal!), Zenovia N. Evans, J.D., I made contact with Zenovia, which later manifested itself to an informal interview, the contents of which are below:

What inspired you to write the J.D. Lifeline series?

The same things that upset current students and recent graduates – the lack of real, updated information regarding the law school experience. The sad part is that there are millions of legal professionals that have taken the journey before me, but no one wants to share their wisdom. I could never understand that thought process. The legal community itself is just that, a “community.” Accordingly, we must work together to breed stronger professionals and build a better profession.

Did you find that your past work experience as a paralegal helped boost your chances of admissions?

Yes, because I wasn’t afraid of law school or attorneys for that matter (lol). My previous experience as a paralegal emphasized my practical skill set, understanding of the legal system, and respect for the industry. It further depicted my desire to complete the program since I had already experienced the things that typically deter students (i.e., long office hours, legalese, irate clients, and office politics).

As a paralegal journeying through the law school application process, I worry about finding the right balance of demonstrating that my past work experience is what has led me to law school and going overboard, so as to seem as though I know it all, and law school is just a way of making it “official.”  What are some tips you can provide for paralegals addressing their past work experience in their personal statements?

For this situation, I suggest emphasizing the reality of what you have seen and endured in the workplace and how those experiences shaped your desired career path. For example, even in a paralegal capacity, it is freaking cool to participate in a $50 million real estate closing or help an attorney obtain a truly deserved victory for a client. Legal professionals, including law school administrators, know that legal victories are not won by attorneys alone; the legal staff is an important part of the team. Personally, I viewed my legal support positions as highly paid internships. There is no other way to get so close to the action without literally being an attorney.

It is my understanding that most entering law students have had very little introduction and dealings with the law and the legal profession, did you find that having worked in the realm as a paralegal you had a “leg-up” on your classmates when it came to understanding the concepts learned in law school?

I think that I did and that the advantage continues even today. Although law school teaches you how to resolve certain legal issues, the application of that knowledge comes easier to students with previous legal experience who have seen the way problems are practically resolved within a legal office (i.e., knowing who does what and why, how to assess the personalities of your support team, knowing who will take a hit for the team, etc.).

Broadly, how has being a paralegal prior to becoming an attorney impacted your journey?

It impacted my journey by taking the fear out of the experience. I am now comfortable in any office environment and have an understanding of office hierarchy (from both perspectives). Essentially, I am able to concentrate on solving problems because I have already figured out the trivial things such as working with staff and effectively utilizing my computer software.

In your discussion of alternative admissions programs you mention part-time matriculation, how has the new U.S. News and World Report part-time rankings affected the ability of applicants with slightly lower numbers than what would typically be acceptable for full-time admission, use part-time admission as a means of an alternative admission program?

I don’t have enough information to answer that question. However, I believe part-time admission programs should be effectively used as alternative admission programs if it best fits the student’s personal and professional plan regardless of their academic standing. A goal is simply that, a goal. It doesn’t matter what barriers stand in your way (such as low LSAT scores), you either want to achieve it or do something else meaningful, albeit less satisfying, with your time.

How difficult is it for part-time law students to juggle school and work?  As an undergraduate, I took a full course load (15 credits) while working full-time, and quickly learned that to do this, I had to be a master of time management.  Can I expect a similar challenge if I chose to go to law school part-time and work part-time or full-time?

Law school is extremely demanding and can be difficult to juggle with work although it can be done. Time management and discipline are essential skills. The difference between juggling the two in law school versus undergraduate school is the effect that the law curriculum itself will personally have on you and the limited availability you will have to develop and maintain personal relationships.

How does past paralegal experience play into the post-graduation job search?  I assume most law students have had some opportunity to work in a legal setting through internships during law school; does this level the playing field?

Previous legal experience as a paralegal may not greatly impact the post-graduation job search as much as your paralegal skills will. However, one advantage does come to mind. Paralegals have had an opportunity to build relationships with firms and other attorneys who have worked with them in the past. On the surface, this advantage is not clearly distinguishable from other law students with similar legal experience. But, your previous firm and attorneys will have a different level of respect for you having watched you make the transition from support staff to peer. This does go a long way in terms of recommendations and job referrals.

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