The U.S. Legal System

March 26, 2011 at 6:45 pm (Law)

It’s been over two years since I’ve taken my “introduction to law” paralegal course and I know I’ve already forgotten many of the basic structural elements that I believe would serve me well as a 1L law student. So I hope to dig-out my notes over the summer to refresh my memory.  In addition to a short “refresher” of my paralegal course, if time permits, I would love to read this FREE book available online in PDF form by the U.S. Government entitled, “Outline of the U.S. Legal System.” In just skimming the chapter contents, it looks this will be a great refresher for anyone who hasn’t taken a civics or “intro to law” type course in a few years.  I’m really excited to read it and hope I can find some time to do so soon.  I love that it is free plus in a handy electronic PDF.

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Thank you!

March 25, 2011 at 3:06 am (Law School Gear)

I won! Many months back I asked for your support (and nominations) in the Vicious Cycle Awards over at http://www.AdmissionsDean.com.  The winners were announced today and I am delighted to report that I won the “Most Organized” Award – which comes with a prize of Aspen Law Study Desk and “An Introduction to the Study of Law: What Every Student Should Know.”

I especially want to thank Paralegal Hell for voting early and often!

As always, I appreciate your support throughout my journey.  Knowing I have such awesome readers who encourage me helps motivate (and re-energize) me along the way.

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3 Things I Love Right Now

March 23, 2011 at 1:28 am (Personal Thoughts)

I apologize in advance for my randomness of this post – but there are three things that I’m absolutely loving right now and thought I’d share.

1) The Good Wife is new (finally!) so you know what I will be doing at 10 p.m. tonight . . .

2) The iPhone app “Find my iPhone.” But not for its intended purposes.  You see, my boss turned 50 and the office planned a surprise party. Because I of course, had set up his Apple ID account name and password, I switched the “mobile me” app on while a co-worker distracted him – then we sent him off on a wild goose chase at the court across town. While the cat was away, the mice played. We brought out the usual “over the hill” garb and spewed black crepe paper all over his office – all the while tracking his whereabouts using the app.  I’m totally evil muahahahah!

3) Dropbox. Oh Em Gee. I don’t have to carry around my flashdrive anymore! I absolutely LOVE using the Dropbox (and yes, I realize I’m a bit “behind the times” with cloud computing. I also love that its free!!!! Well, 2GB’s are free – if you want more it costs. Except if you click this link, you’ll get an additional 250 mb.  It is great that I can sync my files across several computers (my PC at the office, my Mac at home, and even my iPhone) which is so handy! 

Oh . . .and I love that I’m 150 days away from officially being a law student!

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Seat Deposit: Paid

March 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm (Uncategorized)

This is probably one of the most exciting posts for me to write since beginning my journey nearly two years ago. After a lot of worry, hard work, and stress I have finally arrived at the part of my journey in which I commit to attend one law school. I feel so giddy – like a little girl who just received a giant pink-haired pony with a glittered star on its butt! If I could stick some sparking glitter on to this blog posting, believe me, I would!

Last night as I logged onto the school’s admitted student website to pay my seat deposit I was so excited that I couldn’t resist jumping up to do a little “happy dance.” (You know, the one we all have but put on reserve to be used only when we are so overjoyed that it can no longer be contained – and we are sure no one is looking).

I’m just really thrilled to know where the heck I will be in 155 days. Now I can start planning ahead (official law school t-shirt, check). Since this means I will be relocating, I feel good about getting a head start on my housing plans, too. 

Happy day!

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Its Here! USN&WR 2012 Law Rankings

March 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm (Choosing a law school)

I don’t buy into the hype of chosing a law school solely based on its USN&WR ranking; especially considering there are only very slight numerical differences between schools that are ranked in the 30’s from those ranked in the 50’s and 60’s. Nevertheless, it’s still exciting to see where each school lands within the rankings. Aside from the rankings themselves, viewing the online edition of the rankings allows me to see an insane amount of information about each law school and compare stats side by side.  This year a few changes and additions were made; including best schools based on Law Firms (though the methodology in this seems a bit sketchy) and best schools for Healthcare Law. (Hint: one of the schools I will most likely attend has been ranked in three of the specialty rankings!)

This year, USN&WR has decided to rank beyond the Top 100 and rank 75% of all law schools – those schools which are assigned a numerical rank are now called the “first tier” (I doubt this will catch on). The remaining 25% of law schools are now known as the “second tier” (and just like the old school 3rd and 4th tier) are listed alphabetically.

As Above the Law reports, there are not a lot of changes between schools in the rankings except the “Top 14” has been pierced. As some of you already know, the Top 14 is called the Top 14 because it is comprised of the same Top 14 law schools year after year. This year, however, Texas has broken into this coveted group of 14.

Online access to USN&WR costs $19.95 and can be purchased at www.usnews.com.

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Greetings from my new Mac

March 11, 2011 at 2:14 am (Law School Gear, Uncategorized)

As luck would have it, my PC died the day before the new Apple Macbook Pro’s came out. So I went shopping for a replacement the next day and like magic, I came across a Macbook Pro (herein, “MBP”) for just $900 (a discount of over $300) that had been the brand spank’n new model until the newest MBP model came out (in other words, I have the April 2010 edition). Needless to say, I jumped on it and am now blogging from my new (and first-ever) Mac.

Having been a life-long PC user, I was very concerned about the transition from PC to Mac. But Macs are so intuitive, that I really haven’t had much difficulty acclimating.  For a few days I constantly was looking to the upper right-hand corner of the page to close/reduce/maximize but am now instinctively knowing where to go to get what I want.  Originally, I had thought that I would run bootcamp so I could run Windows with Microsoft Office. The only two applications which I use that are not available on the Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 edition are OneNote and Publisher. However, there are many good non-Microsoft alternatives to Publisher – though compatibility issues would likely arise if I were to collaborate on a Microsoft Publisher document.  However, I am delighted to discover that Microsoft Word 2011 for Mac has a “notebook” view that is nearly identical to OneNote – including the ability to audio record and link recordings to typed-text. For example, say I take notes during a lecture and later want to refer back to a particular part of the lecture. I would simply refer back to the text I typed at the point I want to listen to and voila – the audio recording plays back to me whatever was recorded as I typed that text.  That said, I’m told there are several really good alternatives to OneNote, including Circus Ponies Notebook and OmniOutline.  I’m currently on day 2 of a free 30-day trial of the Circus Ponies Notebook.  Though I still have no clue how to make use of its wealth of features, I’m intrigued.  (If anyone wouldn’t mind sharing their circus ponies notebook template or an example of a law school setup, please send it my way to lawschooldreamer at gmail dot com!)  Additionally, this forum is dedicated to lawyers who use Circus Ponies.  I’m sure this is handy for paralegals, too!  My firm happens to be hopelessly devoted to PCs and Blackberrys, so I’m actually a little surprised to find that so many lawyers and firms are actually using Macs. The Mac Lawyer has certainly enlightened me. Also, checkout the Mac Law Students Blog. Though it could use some updating, its been a great starting place for me to explore using my Mac as a (future) law student.

Lastly, a few oddities that I hope some of my Mac readers can help me figure out:

1) How do I “insert” instead of “delete” text. For example, as I proofread, I tend to want to change text from the beginning of a word where my cursor already lies – not at the end of the work and backspace to delete the word. How can I delete the text in front of the texture, and not behind?

2) How do I make shortcuts to a flashdrive that would appear on my “finder?”  I save everything to a flashdrive and because I’m so “Type A” I have everything organized 2-5 layers (folders) deep. How can I make a shortcut to a particular folder on my flashdrive that I use frequently?

Mac users – what are your favorite apps? Please share your tips and thoughts with me! Your comments are always appreciated.

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FAFSA

March 2, 2011 at 1:46 pm (Financing Law School)

If you are an undergraduate student or looking to enter law school next year and haven’t yet filled out your FAFSA (the “Free Application for Federal Student Aid), drop everything and do it now! In order to receive Stafford loan money (the $20,500 afforded to graduate students at a low and sometimes subsidized interest rate) you must complete the FAFSA.  Additionally, some law schools have specific scholarships reserved for those who exhibit financial need (as determined by the FAFSA-generated expected family contribution amount). Many law schools set a deadline of March 10, though others have a “priority deadline” of February 15th. I realize this all may be routine for those who have already received financial aid or federal Stafford loans to finance their educations; but I know many of my readers are fellow non-traditional students who may not otherwise be familiar with how the Stafford loan program or need-based financial aid works. 

It is easiest to complete the FAFSA form if you have already filed your taxes but you can also use your 2010 wages and W-2 information. You will need your law school’s federal code and you can enter up to 10 schools you may attend this fall. A handy list of law school codes can be found here, or you can use the search tool integrated into the FAFSA form. The FAFSA form is filled out directly on the website and submitted electronically.  Best of all, the form took me just 20 minutes to complete.  The website for filing out the FAFSA is: www.fafsa.ed.gov.

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Attorney Salaries

March 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm ($)

The ABA Journal has provided a useful tool which provides attorney salary data for any given county in the U.S.  Additionally, the tool provides data including the number of attorneys practicing in a given area as well as population and growth.  I think this serves many purposes: 1) Law students can get a more realistic idea of what attorneys earn and the “saturation” of a particular market; 2) Paralegals and other support staff can guesstimate what their bosses earn; 3) Attorneys can compare their salaries to the mean and median (resulting in either temporary euphoria or extreme anger).

Nevertheless, this is a great tool! Check it out at the ABA Journal website, here.

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Seat Deposits

March 1, 2011 at 1:39 am (Choosing a law school, Relocating for Law School)

Paralegals Always Have an Emergency Preparedness Plan

Paralegals Plan. It’s what we do. If you are a paralegal and not already thinking twenty steps ahead (and in at least ten directions) then I would guess you are in the extreme minority of us in the profession.  In my six years working as a paralegal, my planning-ahead has saved my job and the derrière of my supervising attorneys a number of times. I am literally rewarded for stressing out over many variables that may or may not happen. But having an emergency preparedness plan for everything from a scanner breaking down in the middle of a CM/ECF filing to my boss’ wrinkly-crinkly shirts (even in court) has surprisingly kept me sane.

Seat deposits ruin who I am as a plann’n ahead kinda gal! While I fully understand the need of law schools to firmly compile their entering law school classes in enough time to admit students off the waitlist and be rest assured they will fill all seats by the time law school begins in August – I, the super duper neurotical planner without a crystal ball have a hard time knowing in April that all will be well in August.  This is even more difficult for non-traditional adult students with a lot of “baggage.” No, I don’t mean kids, though those can apply here as well.  What I really mean is the fact that relocating for an established adult is a big pain. For one, its been over ten years since I lived in small quarters with dollar-store silverware, a few cooking utensils, and paper plates (seriously). In fact, I would guess that my current closet is about the size of my first apartment.  I by no means live an extravagant lifestyle, but I have a lot of stuff! In addition to my “stuff” I have pets.  I also have a husband, with a ton of stuff.  He suffers from duplicating-junk-disorder. Every time I turn around, it has duplicated ten-fold! So how will I know that he will find employment in our new city, that we will find suitable housing, and that I won’t absolutely lose my mind between now and August.  Of course, I have no plans of backing out of my law school plans if things don’t fall into place but some sort of reassurance of a backup plan or escape hatch if all goes south would make me feel a little more at ease.  All planning must go out the window. But can I let go?

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