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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Practice

If I could go back to my 1L self and advise me on what to make sure I do in law school, I'd say take as many practical (rather than substantive or theoretical) classes as you can, because learning by doing can be way more effective than learning by reading theory.

This semester I am taking two practical classes: the small business legal clinic and contract drafting. Both of them have already provided some of the best experiences I have had in law school.

In contract drafting class, I am rewriting some form contracts, which is a very useful skill to learn. You might imagine that this is a very regular thing for law students to learn in law school, but actually I have heard that contract drafting classes are quite rare. The one at my school is a very small class that always has a huge wait list, so I am glad I got the opportunity to take it before graduating. It's much more useful than my technology licensing class I took a year ago, in which I read about licensing, and looked at some rather dense and unintelligible contracts, but didn't really learn much because I wasn't asked to draft anything.

There is so much garbage out there in contract language. When was the last time you read a contract that you understood even half of? Ok, ok, I know. You don't read the contracts you sign. I don't either. But wouldn't it be nice if you could understand what they said when the shit eventually hits the fan and you have to actually go back to read them? I am planning to eventually amass a collection of coherent form contracts that I can use in my future practice. This class is a great chance to get a start on that.

The small business legal clinic is turning out to be something I probably should have done last year to build up some of the confidence that the first year tore down. I started it with a great measure of anxiety. I have been struggling with anxiety issues for many years, and sometimes it is more bearable than others, but before this semester started, I was in a pretty bad place in terms of managing it. It was getting to the point where I was starting to contemplate seeking professional help, but that's not something I want to do before the bar application process, so I've been holding out. But in the last two weeks, I have been able to work on a lot of my anxiety issues via the clinic class. I have already had to interview two clients, which is an intimidating thing, but they went well and my confidence is growing by the day, noticeably.

On the day of my first interview, I was nervous as hell. But I got through it in pretty decent shape and had a nice endorphin high the rest of the day. I was so insanely cheerful that day, and had a bunch of positive interactions with people throughout my day, including random strangers. The following day, I was exhausted from having had so much positive energy the prior day, so I kind of crashed and retreated into my shell again. But clinic is forcing me to come out of that shell on a regular basis, and it is having derivative effects in my life outside of clinic that are starting to stick around a little longer.

Today I had my second client interview, which went great, and I carried my positive attitude into my after-clinic hours. I am beginning to realize how important human relations skills are to the practice of law. It's customer service, really, and in any industry that performs customer service, it is a boon to be kind and pleasant to people in general. You never know who may walk into your law office needing help some day. And you want to build interpersonal skills so you can provide good customer service for the needs of your clients, because they are at the center of what lawyers do. I am feeling more confident, and can actually envision myself getting into this profession and eventually being good at it, one step at a time. It's nice to have positive, confidence-building experiences at last, instead of just being torn down in the classroom all the time.

I think this last semester will be a good one.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

In the end

Lately, I am very resistant to going to bed. I am not resistant to sleep: I love taking naps during the day. But even if I am tired, I don't want to go to bed at night, because that means my day is over, and tomorrow will come by the time I am next cognizant. I just want to grab on to time and hold it back for a bit. Hold it until I am ready for it to advance again, and I'm not sure how long that would take. It could be quite a while. Maybe it's that I'm finally starting to feel "old", or maybe it's that I feel like there is just too much in front of me to handle, and I don't want to get to it yet, or at least not all at once. It's kind of paralyzing, when you see how many obligations lay ahead of you. Ironically, all I really want to do is sleep right now. Sleep until winter is over, like a nice hibernating bear, those lucky bastards. (See how much of a break they get from life every year.) But sleeping means time advancing, and I don't like that right now.

So yeah, these are my last few days until my very last semester of law school begins. What's that you say? You can't believe I'm here already? Feels like just yesterday this journey began? Yeah, that's what pretty much everyone who hasn't had to live with me or otherwise suffer with me through the past 2.5 years seems to be saying. Time is relative, my friends. Of all the notable 3-year blocks of my life -- junior high, high school, most of college, my first full time job -- this has been by far the longest and the most self-transformative. I feel like a completely different person from where I once was, and it has taken a long, long time to become like this.

What lies ahead for me? In short term, a Capstone paper; a few classes; some writing assignments; a single remaining final exam; a clinic; graduation; the bar exam. Then? I don't know. Everyone asks what's next, and all I ever say is I want to get hired by anyone who will hire me, pretty much. But then the advice begins. You could practice such and such law. And sometimes they are right, sometimes I could practice in that area. But usually they just bring up some area in which I have neither experience nor interest, and they've never gone to law school anyway, so they don't really understand why it's not feasible for me to do whatever they think is a brilliant idea for me to do. I just want people to not ask me what I'm going to do next, because I don't know, and no, you can't help me figure it out, most likely. But I will find something, at some point, and when I do, I'll let you know.

As my friend heidikins recently wrote: It all works out in the end. If it hasn't worked out, it isn't the end.

I think that's going to be my new mantra.


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