Saturday, October 8, 2011

Midterms

So it's time to get some feedback, mid-semester, on my work so far. However, I am used to getting mostly positive feedback and not much, if any, negative. Well, that's not what law school is all about...apparently.

My first returned assignment was in Legal Writing, a Memo worth 10% of our final grade. Generally, I do well with writing classes and assignments. It's a frustrating thing that we're not allowed to get any feedback along the way. No one at all can read what we've written, not even a friend, a peer, or a professor can read our work, even just for missed spelling or grammar errors. Even getting our basic questions answered is near impossible.

Then, when it's grade time, the professors seem to revel in our failure! There are many sections of this class, a required class for all first year students. Several different professors teach the class and, though they all follow the same syllabus, there seems to be wide variation in terms of how the run their classes. Total points available for this assignment was 80. I heard one section had a couple of students who scored right around 70. That class had inflated grades, compared to all of the other sections. Most sections had an average score of between 45-55...out of 80. My class? Average score was 50. I got a 51. There are only 14 of us in there and overall, the students aren't raving about the professor. We can't figure out how to play the game. No one will tell us the rules. The approach seems to be learn by failure. Great! What happens if the "learn by failure" method isn't particularly effective for me?

So now on to the actual midterms. We took the Contracts midterm a few days ago. We won't get our scores back for some time, but we've already been told that almost all of us will get a C or a D. How reassuring! And the Torts midterm is next week, so we can expect more of the same. We're told that that's just the way it is...don't stress too much and keep moving forward. In theory, that's a good idea. But since our scholarships are tied to our grades, that's easier said than done.

The other thing I learned during midterms if that I haven't really made any friends in law school. Most of the students have found a group, either by assignment or choice, with whom they study and socialize. I have not. I have my assigned group and they have all connected, but I am clearly a friendly outsider. I am a part-timer among mostly full-timers. Plus, I have a job and children and more than 15 years more of life experience than most of the other students. I get it. I'm different. Mostly, that's okay. But it sure would have been nice to feel connected to someone during midterms.

Oh well, we keep marching onward...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Oh, How I Love the Socratic Method...

So, I survived my first week of my regular schedule without incident. In general, I kept up on the reading and felt relatively well-prepared. This is good, because in law school, showing up unprepared is not an option.

Though this varies from Professor to Professor, in general, students will be called upon blindly and at random to answer what is often a series of questions that really feel more like an interrogation. In my Torts class, we are to stand if called upon, and may be left standing for anywhere between a few minutes to the length of the 1 1/2 hour class.

So today, I got to stand...lucky me. I had read the cases (on Battery) and I had done the reading about battery. Turns out what I didn't know by memory (though it was buried in the reading) was the difference between parental liability when a child commits a battery under common law, as opposed to under statutes pertaining to the same subject. By the way, "I don't know" is never an acceptable answer because it means that you'll be standing for a very long time and that the class will wait, all eyes on you, while you fumble to try to find the answer. And, turns out, even if I had known, the Professor then says something like, "Okay, how do you know that? Where did you find that information?" Really?? I need to now know where to find this buried gem of information in my text? Right now? In front of everyone? Well, yes, that is exactly what is expected.

Needless to say, this is a bit of a pressure cooker situation, but it also wasn't earth-shattering because everyone is subject to the same treatment, which means there is a great deal of empathy to go with the fumbling and the excessive anxiety. Interestingly, so far, I like my Torts Professor. And, as it turns out, I will always remember that, under common law, parents are NOT liable for a battery committed by their children, as indicated in the second paragraph on page 18 of the textbook.


Monday, August 22, 2011

First Week Down

So I've completed my first week. Still, that probably wasn't a great indication of things to come, as the first week included only Introduction to Legal Methods, a class for first year students that meets twenty hours pre-term and then one hour per week for the rest of the semester. This means I only had to prepare for one class, but we met for lots of hours.

During this class (ILM), we were assigned to a year-long study group. My group is made up of myself, a recent UCSB grad, a recent SDSU grad, a recent University of Chicago grad and a fifth, can't remember from where she graduated. All young women, all recent graduates. All of them are full-time law students, none of whom have outside jobs. Three of them graduated in the last year, one Lit major, one Sociology major and two Psychology majors. None of them has children. One is married and another engaged. All that is a long way of saying that I have very little in common with these women, which doesn't surprise me all that much. Still, they are a pleasant group, though one strikes me as very quirky and a little annoying.

The workload was extensive for the week. I have so very little experience that, before this week, I didn't even know the definition of a holding or a tort. I have a lot of work to do and the students that surround me seem pretty bright. I am used to being among the most competent students. I'm not sure that will be the case here. Plus, my family/school/work balancing act puts me at a distinct disadvantage.

I did learn some things from my group members about the quality of my school of choice. This is the only school to which I applied, since proximity and a part-time program were the key deciding factors for me. But my group members applied to lots of schools and it was interesting to hear about their experiences and how their credentials stacked up. Many of them had several choices available to them, but they chose to be here. The Bar passage rate this last time around was 83%. Not bad. This gave me a new-found respect for the quality of the education I will be getting, but it also pointed out to me the level of work that will be required to keep up with my cohort peers.

So now I face my second week. I was completely overwhelmed by the middle of last week, questioning my decision to go to law school. However, I spent the weekend really getting organized and I am feeling much better. Plus, I read all day. What's in store for my first week of my full schedule? Well, this semester, in addition to continuing in my ILM class, I will also be taking Contracts, Torts and Legal Writing. Let the fun begin!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Orientation Day

Our orientation was a five hour long Saturday of presentations from each department and introductions to professors and such. Seems like a pretty supportive environment. Still, there were assignments and To-Dos flying from the very first moment. I don't get overwhelmed easily, but felt the need to come home and sort everything out.

I met a few people, the ones who happened to sit at my table. A couple of them are assigned to classes I will be taking. My first semester includes: Intro to Legal Writing, Contracts and Torts. Doesn't THAT sound exciting?

The students are, for the most part, much younger than me and have limited college experience. Since I already have an advanced degree (one in Sociology and one in Counseling), I do feel like I have a bit more experience with study skills and time management. But then, I also have far greater responsibilities (full-time work and kids to raise) compared to most of the other students.

I have some lofty goals as to my involvement and grades for this first year. I really do want to be immersed and engaged in this experience. It will help that it will be nearby (once I move next month) so I won't be commuting. Work/school/family life balance will be my bigger challenge.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Time to Get Started...

I made a decision to take the plunge. Law school orientation is tomorrow. The timing seemingly couldn't be worse. I am going through some major life transitions in my personal life. My girls, 13, 12 and 10 need me. I don't live near family, or really much of a support system. Still, I am excited. I look forward to recording my experience of this new journey.