Law School Blogs

What I Learned in Law School Is…

Hello, everyone! Long time no talk. My law school journey has come to an end, and I am officially Legally Complicated, Juris Doctor. What a great thing to see and hear. If you have followed me throughout these three years of law school, you will see my name is pretty fitting. I have reflected on my journey to and through law school and everything has been… well, complicated. Who would have known “Legally Complicated” would have been such a fitting name to describe journey? Who would have known that this blog would be as big as it is now? I am thankful for all the love and support I received on this journey, it has not gone unnoticed. None of this would be possible without the support from everyone who helped me along the way. This blog is  a reflection of my journey.

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Being Fit and Healthy in Law School

Hello!

First and foremost, I am sending positive vibes to every single person in the world right now. It is a difficult time. It is important during this time to stay home if you are able to. A few reminders to frequently wash your hands, do not touch your face, stay home if you are feeling sick, practice social distancing, and cover your cough.

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Essay Writing in Law School with Crushendo

The Compelling Case for Ditching CRAC and IRAC for UROC

“Lord, please help me,” I pray in my silent school library. Although I’m a pre-law student, I understand that law school will probably be, as my attorney siblings put it, “the hardest three years of my life.” Researching how to best tackle law school finals and the bar exam only reminds me of the daunting beast I’ve committed myself to slaying.

So far, I’ve focused my attention on the essay component of law school finals and the bar exam. I have investigated how to best structure exam essays to score the most points.

You don’t have to look far to find the traditional legal writing roadmaps, known as CRAC or IRAC. If you’ve never heard of those, I will explain them in a moment. But before I do, I want to introduce you to what I feel might be an even more effective acronym: UROC. I first found UROC through my experience as an intern at Crushendo. Adam Balinski, the founder of Crushendo, coined UROC and first publicly shared the structure through a popular tips and tricks video, which was later updated to make even better.

For those who may not be familiar with the old-school legal writing structures, known as IRAC and CRAC, here’s a short explanation. They are traditional acronym-based mnemonics (or memory hooks) for remembering when to write what on the bar exam and law school finals. Each essay will have multiple IRAC or CRAC structures, depending on the number of legal issues involved. Each letter in these acronyms stands for a key part of effective essays.

  • I / C – Issue / Conclusion
  • Rule
  • Analysis
  • Conclusion

As you can see, IRAC and CRAC only differ in how they start, as they both utilize “RAC.” The “I” in IRAC stands for Issue, where one identifies the issue that is at play, while the first “C” in CRAC stands for Conclusion. In other words, you can start with a question or a conclusion, depending on which traditional approach you use.

In both acronyms, “RAC” stands for “Rule, Analysis, Conclusion.” Rule identifies the legal rule that pertains to the issue, Analysis applies the rule to the issue and the facts, and Conclusion states (or restates) the likely legal outcome.

 So, what makes UROC a better way to slay law school and bar exam essays than CRAC or IRAC? Well, for starters, it just sounds cooler and has some positive psychology hooked to it. When you say it aloud, it reads like, “You rock!” Meanwhile, the old methods sound more like an illegal drug or worse, an instrument of torture (to parrot some observations made in those handy tips and tricks videos).

But to fully explain why everyone should abandon CRAC and IRAC for UROC, we need to break it down letter-by-letter:

  • Upgraded issue
  • Rule
  • Operate on the facts
  • Conclusion

            An Upgraded issue statement earns you an upgraded first impression with your grader. In just a couple of seconds, an Upgraded issue statement conveys a clear message that you really understand the issue and the key facts at play. You better believe that will color how the grader experiences the remainder of the essay.

            An Upgraded issue statement means you don’t just settle for how the issue is framed in the prompt. To borrow an example from the tips and tricks video, an essay question may ask, “Is Jane liable for Bob’s injuries?” Sure, you could regurgitate that in your answer, but all that would tell the grader is that (1) you noticed that that was a question, (2) you knew how to copy that question, and (3) this is where you are probably going to try to answer that question. Pretty much anyone could do those things, so they don’t really prove anything, except maybe mediocrity (which is not what you want to prove).

            To borrow again from the tips and tricks video, you could upgrade that basic issue statement by injecting specifics and vocabulary that scream competence, like: “Can Bob recover damages from Jane under a negligence claim when they crashed after Jane ran a red light while Bob was speeding?” Not only would that upgraded issue statement instantly set you apart from the competition, but it would also provide a rough outline for the remainder of that UROC structure.

            Now, the Rule and Conclusion parts of UROC are fundamentally the same as those parts in CRAC and IRAC. And the “O” reminding you to “Operate on the facts” is admittedly much like any solid application (or analysis) section under CRAC or IRAC. However, I find the “operate” mnemonic more helpful for recalling what it means to apply the law well.

“Operating on the facts” creates a powerful visual metaphor. Like a good surgeon, you need to cut out all the bad stuff and leave the good stuff. Identify the relevant facts and purge the irrelevant ones that could be “deadly” to your analysis.

Further, good surgeons are organized and predictable. They don’t prep a knee for surgery and then suddenly slice a malignant mole from the patient’s face. Legal analysis should be just as orderly and predictable.

Another important part of the “operate” mnemonic is it reminds you to apply the law to the facts with a figurative scalpel rather than a hammer. This is the part of the essay where you dig into legal nuances and lay those out, side-by-side, with the specific relevant facts. Watch the tips and tricks video for a great example of what I mean by this.

Finally, another healthy reminder from the “operate” mnemonic is that you should not “leave behind foreign objects.” Just like how a good doctor shouldn’t stitch surgical tools up inside their patients, a good legal analysis shouldn’t conjure up “foreign objects”—facts or assumptions that go beyond what the fact pattern of the prompt actually said.

In conclusion, UROC not only sounds cooler than CRAC or IRAC, but it is also more helpful. With an Upgraded issue statement, you can impress graders right off the bat. And when you think of analysis as “Operating on the facts,” it’s easier to remember everything that good legal analysis entails.

About the Author: Scarlett Mills is an intern at Crushendo and a pre-law student at Utah Valley University. If she isn’t writing, she’s probably eating pasta, watching Netflix, or making short films.

Resumes and Cover Letters in Law School

Hello, everyone!!

I am back! I had writer’s block for a while, but I finally am back and have topics I want to blog about. As you may know, I just accepted my post-law school attorney position in NYC! Fall 2019 has been challenging but so rewarding. I am convinced I would not have been as prepared if I didn’t have the help from multiple people within the Criminal Law arena and outside of the Criminal Law arena. Going through this process made me want to discuss resumes and cover letters while applying to internships or post-graduate attorney positions.

I am in NO way an expert in resumes or cover letters but this is just an overview of what I believed worked for me in my journey. So, let’s dive in! Let’s hope I am not too rusty with this whole blogging thing. 🙂

RESUME

HEADER:

In the header part of the resume, I put my name, physical address, and email. I have gotten mixed reviews on putting addresses. However, I decided to put mine.

FONT:

I never thought about font when it came to resumes. I always did Times New Roman because that seemed like the most popular font to do. However, I posted a tweet sometime this summer asking what font people preferred, and there were SO MANY options!

Here are a few options that were brought up: Georgia, Garamond, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial (some say no Arial or Calibri), Book Antiqua,  Cambria, New Times Roman, Comic Sans, or Century Series.

Personally, I tried them all out and fell in love with Garamond and that is what I used for my post-law school applications. It looks professional and saves up space. One of my followers recommended ALWAYS use justified margins.

SECTIONS: All my resumes I created have been separated into sections to make it easier for the reader. Some of my sections included Education, Legal Experience, Interest, and Certifications.

Education Section – in this section, I first put the school I obtained or will obtain my degree from including a comma and the city and state the school is located. Below, I put the degree earned or degree I will be obtaining sometime in the future.

For example:

Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

Bachelor of Arts in Sociology

XYZ Law School

Juris Doctor Candidate (NOT Juris Doctorate)

In my law school education, I put law journals I am on as well as the activities/organizations I have done in law school and listed positions I held within the journals/organizations. Additionally, for my undergrad education, I listed my study abroad experience and activities/organizations I was a part of and positions held. I listed my position like, “Black Law Students Association, Secretary” and decided not to put any dates next to it.

Legal Experience Section – I labeled this section legal experience because it will only be the work I have done within the legal field such as internships and externships. However, this can be more broad to say Experience or non-law related experience, etc.

In this section, I give an overview of the most important things that I have one in the position. I listed firm name and then directly below I listed my position at that firm and put it in italics.

For example:

The XYZ Law Firm

Law Clerk

I personally do bullet points but I know some people will say do not do this. During my internships and externships I would keep a journal and take notes on all the assignments I did. I do that because of this section. After you list the firm and title, then list the assignments you did while at that place of employment. I always started the sentence with words such as, Prepared, Conducted, Performed, Drafted, Negotiated, Managed, Attended, Reviewed, etc.

Interest Section – I have been informed that in the Midwest, people typically do not like this section. However, when I was in the northeast and the south, people said they would like to see it. So, ask around and see what the norm is to see if this section is needed or not. If you decided to add this section be sure to not make anything up and be prepared to potentially talk about it in an interview.

SMALL CAPS – Small caps is a tool I used for my name at the top of the resume, section titles, and schools listed in the Education Section. However, this is just stylist.

Small caps is a tool someone told me to use to look better. You can do this by highlighting the words you want to put in small caps, right click, then click on font, click small caps, and then press okay. I personally liked adding small caps because it looked so much better with it.

BE CONSISTENT:

Be consistent in whatever you decide to put in your resume. An example of this is if you are doing bullet points and you put a period at the end of the bullet point, then do it for all them. Do not have some with periods and some without periods. Either do the either document with periods or without periods. This can also come up in the dates. For example, June 2019-August 2019 OR June 2019 – August 2019 OR June 2019- August 2019. One of my resumes had a couple of these mixed because I overlooked it. Choose ONE.

COVER LETTER

In a cover letter it must be short, sweet, and to the point. Cover letters should only be one page. I used a four paragraph breakdown when I was applying. Additionally, just like the resume, used Justified Margins.

HEADER

I use the same header as my resume so everything is consistent with what I am submitting. This is the same for references.

EMPLOYER

Next, I put the person you are addressing name, person’s title, the office name and office address information.

For example:

John Smith (put the name of the person you will be addressing in the body.

Legal Hiring Recruiter

The XYZ Law Firm

1000 Legally Complicated Lane

Denver, CO 80239

BODY

1st – Introduce yourself

I personally do not put my name at the beginning because my name will be at the end. I have started my law school cover letters off like addressing the person who will be reading the cover letter and then going into it.

Example: I am a third-year law student at XYZ Law School, and I write to apply in the Internship position at The XYZ Law Firm.

2nd – Why that office?

Next, I talk about why I want to hold that position at that office. Like interviewing, you should do research on the place you are applying so you can describe why you want to be there. What inspired you to do the type of work they are doing? What is the reason you became interested in the position? What are they doing that you want to do? What goals do they have for the firm?

3rd – Work Experience

I have heard a few times that you should not solely be saying why this experience would be good for you but also address why they should hire YOU out of all the other applicants. This is where you can stand out. It is important NOT to repeat what is already in your resume. Here, I gave a story about my work experience that I had that make me capable of doing the position I was applying for.

4th – Skills

At this point, we have given a brief introduction, said why we want to be there, and listed the experience that makes us able to do the position. We must not forget about those soft skills, such as communication skills (written and oral), leadership skills, problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills, adaptability, organizational skills, paying attention to detail, critical thinking, and time management. I personally like to add this because if I fall short on work experience or any other area I point out that I have the soft skills. Additionally, these can be everyday skills needed to do the position well.

CONCLUSION

I close out with, “My experiences demonstrate my goals and values are well-aligned with [insert office name]. I am confident my passion, legal experience, and education will enable me to be a great [insert position applying to]. I then write the enclosures (if mailing) and attachments (if electronic submission) and thank them for their time and consideration. In the past, I have put I look forward to discussing my qualifications in an interview.

Additionally, I put “Sincerely,” or “Respectfully,” and put the enclosure/attachments below it.

Example:

Enclosures/Attachments: References, Resume, Unofficial Transcript, Writing Sample

No matter what, have a couple people look over both documents before submitting it. I had a few people look over mine and they all caught something different. I liked that I had people in the same field of law that I was applying to look over it but I also had people look at it that were in a different field of law. There may always be changes that you can make. However, you must know when you want to submit. Look over it one last time and then submit!

I hope this was helpful. This is what has helped me up to this point. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns. I would love to read over your resumes and cover letters. Also, do not be afraid to reach out to your local career services, other law students, or practicing attorneys.