Thursday, December 15, 2011

Drowning in Debt? Learn How Government and Nonprofit Workers Can Earn Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Equal Justice Works is offering a free webinar tomorrow, Decebmer 16th from 3-4p EST. I love EJW, they are so helpful and provide useful information for government and nonprofit attoreney. 
This webinar is sure to be a valuable resource for anyone with high educational debt planning to work or currently working for the government or a nonprofit, this webinar explains how you can benefit from the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, the most significant law affecting public service in a generation.
From this interactive webinar, you will learn and be able to ask questions about:
  • Understanding your Federal loans
  • How the Income-Based Repayment plan works
  • How to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

To Register for free, click here. For more information about other Equal Justice Works offerings, click here

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

5 Great Mobile Apps for Law Students

I got my smart phone halfway through law school. I swore I didn't need the costly device...and then, six months later, I didn't know what I ever did without it. If you're a law student or new attorney here are some mobile apps that are worth checking out.

Nolo's Plain English Law Dictionary - You know, like Black's but cheaper. In fact, it's free through the iTunes app store, it's $16.99 for andriod. We all know that guessing at words during your first year of law school is probably a bad idea. If you aren't using West Law to access Black's Law dictionary for free, then I recommend adding a legal dictionary to your phone. It's more convenient (and cheaper) than getting out the big hard copy version.

Google Shopper - Sure, it may not sound law related, but hear me out. When you're in law school (or, um, job hunting) you have no money. Well, you have some money, but it's faked loaned money so really shouldn't count that. Stretching a dollar matters and Google Shopper is one way to a buck go farther. This free app allows you to scan bar codes, the magic of google then scourers the internet to determine if the product is cheaper somewhere else. So, before you buy those 30 packs of flashcards at Target, consult Google Shopper to see if they are cheaper on Amazon.

Kindle App - I had a Kindle in law school so I found this app very helpful. Now that the app is available for laptops as well as mobile devices this might be great even if you don't have a Kindle. You know those West Law and Lexis print outs? The 100s of page so of journal articles you printed for that tax paper you're working on? Well, you can save an electronic copy and then save it as Kindle content. Suddenly you carrying around your kindle, laptop, or smart phone rather than three binders worth of print outs. This app was, literally, a back saver for me.

Barbri & Kaplan  - Both of the largest commercial bar prep companies finally have mobile apps. You have to be signed up with their service, but if you plan to take the bar you should sign up for bar prep as soon as possible anyway since both companies offer discounts for advanced registration. Both these apps offer bar prep as well as MPRE prep. Hey, you never know when you're going to be stuck on the bus have time to get a few practice questions.

Evernote - This free app is a to do list on steroids. It allows you to take notes, capture photos, make to-do lists, and record voice notes...and then makes them all searchable. Thanks to the handy dandy sync feature you can access the notes on multiple devices. So much better than the crappy memo app that probably came pre-loaded on your phone.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reflections on Taking (and Not Taking) the Bar Exam

I got this email a few months back (fan mail! woot!)...and I was too ashamed to write back to her. I suppose I should start from the begining, here are the important parts of the email:

I, like you, graduated from one of the law schools in May 2011. After a week of attending Barbri, last night I decided I had it with the law school and law profession. I decided not to take the bar exam. I typed something along those lines in Google and your weblog came up. I am not even sure why I decided to email you. I think if I tell anyone I know that I decided not to take the Bar, they will freak out. I do not think anyone who is not involved in law have an understanding of how it is and how it can destroy your spirit.

Years of isolation and feeling that I did not have a tiniest bit in common with the people in law school from the law students to professors and 100K plus in loans with one of the most dehumanizing experiences I have ever had in an educational setting, today, I think back and am not even sure why I did not stop the first semester, the first year. Why did I continue? What was I trying to prove?

I do not even know where to start to put my life back together. What should I do now? Where can I work, so I can start paying back for my four years of expensive education which means nothing if you do not take and pass the bar, MPRE, and do the 30 page moral character application. I am done. I do not want to do any of those anymore. But what now? What am I now? I am not a lawyer and will not be one. So having a mere JD puts me in what category?

I have not socialized with people in 4 years. I have been so isolated in my own world studying. I am not even sure if I know how to socialize anymore. I do not know where to start. I am so tired, broken (emotionally and psychologically), and confused. I feel so lonely.

Reading this now, and admitting that I didn't respond, is making me feel like and even worse person. So...Dear author of this email, I am a bad person and I am sorry.

I didn't write back because I was ashamed that I didn't have the courage that this person had. Admitting that something is not what you thought it would be takes courage. Especially when that something is a $150k law degree and all the societal expectations that accompany it. Realizing that you made a choice that you're not happy with is only a failure if you stick with that choice.

So, do I think it was a mistake for this person to not take the bar, I don't. As I mentioned in my last post, I did take (and pass) the bar exam. And, honestly, I'm still not sure if I'm glad I did it. I took it mostly because my family and the people at one of my jobs wanted me to. For the record, "because other people wanted me to" is almost never a good reason to do anything. I passed and I like the fact that I'm licensed and now have the option to practice law, but at what cost? I just finished paying off the $2,000 it cost me to take the exam, I gained 15 pounds while I was studying, I spent a couple hundred dollars on therapy, and I didn't got to bed at the same time as my significant other for the entire summer. I also feel like I validated the system by participating in it.

On the upside, it gives me the opportunity to do pro bono work that I'm actually pretty excited about.

I think there's an inclination to try to justify the importance of law school and the bar exam once you've cleared both hurdles. If you don't justify it, you are forced to admit that you just spent a boat load of time and money...on something that may actually be a little bit silly...and may not actually make you competent at practicing law. In short: It's hard to admit that lottery tickets may have been a better investment.

Ok, ok. I'm not being entirely serious. I'm not actually suggesting that student loans would have been better spent on lottery tickets. But I do think that the author of this email is buying into the law school sales pitch a little more than she probably should. Law school can be alienating and awful and if a legal career isn't for you, walking away can be honorable. There are no shortage of "recovered lawyers" (check out Leaving the Law, The Recovering Lawyer, and But I Do Have a Law Degree just to name a few).

I do think that this person will (and probably already has) find/found a great job. Most importantly: a job she is happy at with people she is happy with.

A few months back I read Munneke and Henslee's Nonlegal Careers for Lawyers. Honestly, I wasn't super impressed. There was a lot of "you can be a [insert job that requires a high school education]...but with a law degree!" Despite the book, I do think there are a lot of jobs/careers where a law degree is useful (if not necessary). In fact, according to The National Jurist less than 69% of 2010 law school grads are employeed in jobs where bar passage is necessary. 

Moral of the story: Email author, you probably made a good choice. Kudos for being true to youself. I'm sure you will find a job and a career that are great fits for you...and who knows, once you get some distance from the emotional beating that was law school, you may even be glad you got the JD.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I'm back!

Sorry I've been gone so long. It's been a busy few months...

I took a job.
I got conned into decided to take the bar exam.
I got a dog during bar prep (note: this is a horrible terrible no good idea).
I worked two part time jobs while studying for the bar exam (also, not really recommended).
I passed the bar exam.
I blogged a lot for other sites.
I neglected Reconstructing Law School.
I worked really hard at the job(s).
The job made me cry.
A lot.
I resigned.

And now I'm back with new ideas for Reconstructing Law School. Great things are coming. I hope you're still willing to read after my long time away.

I've missed you!