When starting law school, there is a common assumption you will finally be relieved of all the math and science you dreaded through undergrad and before. But little did you know, law school is just another three years of equations and balancing tests. In Torts, you deal with Judge Hand’s negligence formula. In Con Law, you use the Pike balancing test. Even in Lawyering you are supposed to balance all these factors in some sort of totality of circumstances way.
I’ve come to accept I will never escape these scientific formulas. Instead, I decided to enjoy the math and science of law school. This led me to my greatest law school accomplishment: the Coffee Consumption Calculation. Unlike these other law school formulas, this five-part test is absolutely crucial to functioning properly in law school. It has been tested for approximately two full semesters, and I assure you it is infallible.
Keep track of your points carefully:Part One
What half of the semester are you in?
- 2 point for first half
- 3 points for second half
What day of the week is it?
- 5 points for Monday
- 4 points for Tuesday
- 3 points for Wednesday
- 2 points for Thursday
- 1 point for Friday
How many hours did you sleep last night?
- 0 points for 8+ hours
- 1 point for 6-8 hours
- 2 points for 4-6 hours
- 3 points for 2-4 hours
- 4 points for 0-2 hours
How many classes do you have today?
- 3 points for 1-3 classes
- 4 points for 3-5 classes
- Don't get out of bed for 5+ classes
- OCI day: Cut the points in half so you don't squirm all interview
- If you’re "up" in class: Add 1 point
- Have a lot to drink last night? Add 2 points
- Sitting in one of the freezing rooms for class? Add 2 points
Add up all your points.
- Every 4 points = 1 pot of coffee
- An extra 2 points adds 1/2 pot
- 1 extra point adds a shot of espresso
Example 1: 13 points = 3 pots plus 1 point leftover adds 1 shot of espresso.
Example 2: 14 points = 3 pots plus 2 points leftover adds 1/2 pot of coffee.
Disclaimer: Please keep in mind this calculation is a bare minimum. Nothing, including this calculation, is keeping you from drinking more coffee as needed.
— Ashley Akers is a first-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Casper, Wyoming.
Back in February, KU's international moot court team traveled to Denver, Colorado to compete in the 55th annual Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. The Jessup Moot Court competition is the world’s largest moot court competition, with participants from 80 countries and more than 550 law schools. The competition is based on a fact pattern that draws on contemporary international legal issues and themes.
This year, the problem focused on the law of the sea, and included pirates, artificial islands, and shipwrecks (oh, my!). I, along with my four other team members and Professor John Head, our faculty advisor, packed our nicest suits, eye patches, and peg legs, and took off for Denver University’s Sturm College of Law to compete in regionals.
The competition was fierce, and our team faced many worthy opponents. Our performance was based on our memorial submission, which took most of winter break to complete (hey, I can’t make Jessup sound like it is all fun and no work) and our performances during oral arguments. While our team did not advance to the international rounds this year, we did not come home empty handed. One of our team members, Ashley Akers, was a Top 5 Oralist at the competition and plundered a shiny new plaque from the high seas to show off around Green Hall. We also had the chance to make friends with students from the region, who were able to share in some of the highs and lows of the competition. (Please do not insert Colorado “Rocky Mountain High” joke here). Although it was an unofficial honor, our competitors graciously bestowed upon us the honor of “Best Team to Have a Beer With.”
When we weren’t facing off against competitors or making friends, we were enjoying Denver. Between rounds, we fortified ourselves with Qdoba and Snarf’s sandwiches, which became my local favorite. We also worked in some sightseeing and saw the very first Chipotle. Our team nearly passed out from all the excitement.
All in all we had a lot of laughs and worked our tails off. I could not be more proud of the team. It would have been great to advance to internationals and compete in Washington, D.C., but it sure tempers the sting of defeat coming home with a new plaque and having met some wonderful and incredibly talented new friends. Now if only Southwest could give Jon his luggage back, we could all retire our peg legs, fog machines, and pirate jokes, and resume our lives back here in Green Hall. Until next year!
— Kasey Considine is a second-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Boston.
To my surprise, the warnings I received were true. Law school is, in fact, hard, and it does take up the majority of my time. So I had to find ways to stay healthy and sane in such a pressure cooker of an environment.
First, I have found that it is imperative to have at least one fun thing to look forward to each week. Although most of my time is spent studying, there are plenty of ways to decompress. I recommend carving out some time each week to do something fun.
My personal happy place is playing pick-up basketball with other law students once or twice a week. On the first day of 1L orientation, I quickly found that a number of my classmates enjoy playing basketball, too. There's even a Facebook group that helps law students find dates and times to organize a few games. I find that these weekly games are a great way for me to escape the traditional worries of school and just enjoy the moment.
If basketball isn’t of interest, there are many other ways to spend your time. KU Recreation Services has a fantastic gym, equipped with a climbing wall and racquetball courts.
Beyond physical activity, the law school itself, or groups within it, facilitate and host fun social events. In the past couple of weeks, three events have taken place that bring together law students, professors, guests and alumni to enjoy an evening out: the Diversity Banquet, the Hope Gala (formally known as Pub Night), and Barrister’s Ball. Most notable of the three for me is Barrister’s Ball, also known as Law Prom. This was my first year attending, and it was a blast. It is always fun to have a reason to dress up and enjoy a night of food, drinks, friends and dancing. Law Prom is one night that the law school student body looks forward to each year, and it almost always sells out.
I have also found that spending time with friends and family has been helpful in relieving stress. Taking time off on a Friday or Saturday to grab a bite to eat or watch a basketball game with friends helps take my mind off school just long enough to for me to recharge and prevent burnout. The key is finding a balance that works best.
Last, but not least, sleep is crucial to my success. If I want to fully function each day, I need an adequate amount of sleep each night. Getting the right amount of sleep and practicing healthy eating habits (or at least eating regularly) helps keep my mind and body strong enough to endure the ups and downs of law school.
Law school is hard work. What makes it bearable and more enjoyable is managing your time and taking advantage of fun activities outside the classroom. I encourage students to find the balance that works best for them.
— Johnathan Koonce is a second-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Colorado Springs, CO.
"As a young lawyer, I never learned how to do a deposition," Valdez said. "If I could give our students an opportunity to learn that in an educational arena where they can make a mistake and clients’ interests aren’t at stake, why not?”
Valdez's vision inspired the Deposition Skills Workshop, a simulated deposition and case theory discussion performed under the guidance of experienced alumni faculty. The course has grown from 18 students to 48 in six years, becoming a model for the Expert Witness Workshop, which was developed with the same format. Valdez hopes to eventually offer a Negotiation course with a similar structure.
Valdez, L’96, was working with Kansas Legal Services when she got a call from Professor Webb Hecker. KU was hiring a supervising attorney in its Legal Aid Clinic, and given her fondness for Green Hall, Valdez applied. She was hired, with the opportunity to teach Practice in Kansas, her favorite course, and eventually Criminal Prosecution Clinic, Pretrial Advocacy and Professional Responsibility.
“I said, ‘I’ll give you three years,’” Valdez recalls. “I like new experiences; I like to move around.”
But 15 years later, Valdez is still teaching at KU and practicing at a firm in Lawrence, with a case load ranging from civil cases to employment law, family law and landlord/tenant issues.
Throughout her career, Valdez has watched the legal profession evolve and the KU curriculum respond to those changes. She says employers today are looking for practical, hands-on experience and solid lawyering skills in addition to the traditional academic background.
“Doctrinal teaching is necessary, but it’s not the only thing,” she says. “The days of firms hiring kids out of school and bringing them on for two years and paying them to learn on the job, those days are long gone. The days of having a law review and moot court alone on your resume are gone.”
Thanks in part to Valdez, KU Law students have plenty of opportunity to fill their resumes with practical skills before they leave Green Hall, which she says is just as enriching for her as it is for the students.
“Teaching makes me a better teacher and better lawyer,” she says. “It’s one of the most gratifying experiences for me. I see these workshop students dressed in suits, and they evolve in a matter of four days into fabulous lawyers who can do a deposition. That’s a great thing.”
When deciding to go to law school, many of the people I consulted told me of the cutthroat practices among law students: classmates ripping pages out of casebooks, destroying each other’s class notes and giving false answers in study sessions. It was with apprehension I began establishing my relationships with the other incoming students.
The truth is law school by its nature creates a competitive environment. Long gone are the days of an “A” for effort. Pressures from class rankings and the forced curve are obstacles that can be hard to overcome. Learning among brilliant, talented and diverse students creates an intellectual culture that most will never encounter in undergraduate studies. It can be both rewarding and frustrating at the same time.
During my first semester at KU Law, I was exposed to the balance between competition and congeniality. When I missed class, classmates from my small section emailed me class notes before I asked for help. The weeks before finals, we spent our time together, studying and encouraging each other. We are there for each other in both our academic and personal lives. In my short time at KU Law, my classmates have become my family who I lean on during difficult times and support during theirs.
Law school is competitive, legal jobs are competitive, and we all want to succeed. Despite the common thread of far-reaching goals, we are all searching in the dark together trying to decode the text and transform it into knowledge. We are not only peers, but also friends and future colleagues. At KU Law, success is not defined by a number on paper, but by the ability to compete while creating lasting relationships.
— Julia Leth-Perez is a first-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Wichita, Kansas.
'Everywhere you've lived and all the jobs you've ever had': Tips from a 3L to prepare for the final year of law school
As my time at Green Hall winds down, I wanted to reflect on what I’ve learned. I’m not talking about which classes to take or how to study. Instead, as I scramble to finish my bar application by the deadline, I want to share five practical life tips so hopefully 1Ls and 2Ls will be more prepared than I am.
First, when you take the MPRE, it will ask you to select your reporting state. Maybe I’m the only one who made this mistake, but I understood that to mean where you go to school. For some reason, I thought the score would be reported to the school, and then I would get it from there. Wrong. Your reporting state is wherever you plan to take the bar. If you change your mind later, or if you’ve already taken it and made the same mistake I did, it will just cost you $25 to transfer the score, so it’s not the end of the world. But it’s still one more thing I had to do for my bar application.
Second, start writing down all of the addresses of everywhere you’ve lived and all of the jobs you’ve ever had. For the bar application, you will need to include your addresses for the past 10 years. Luckily, for Missouri at least, you’ll only need the full addresses for the past three years, and after that you’ll just need city and state. But it can still be a challenge to think back that far. For your employment, you’ll need to remember when and where you worked, the address and phone number, and your boss’s name. If you’re like me and you had a summer job at a retail store one year in college, you might have forgotten some of these details. Write them down while you remember, or look everything up now so that when the time comes, you can just copy and paste all of that over to the application.
Third, while we’re on the topic of the bar application, start saving now. I know that might not be possible for everyone, but if you have even just $50 or $100 extra a month, put it in a savings account or just make sure not to spend it. You’ll have to pay quite a bit for any of the bar review courses, and the actual bar exam application itself costs a lot. Right now for Missouri, it’s $910 just to apply, plus whatever I owe for the bar review course. And the worst part is you’re going to owe all of this right at the same time. So put away as much as you can right now so it’s not too overwhelming when you get to this point.
Fourth, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of graduation, but make sure you think of a plan early, especially if you have family and friends coming from out of the area. My family is coming from the West Coast, so my mom booked hotels all the way back in August and got the last three rooms at that hotel. Also, places like the Oread and Johnny’s will book their event rooms quickly, so if you’re thinking of having a party with your friends, get on it early in the semester. Remember, we aren’t the only ones graduating that weekend. Plan ahead and get everything taken care of by September or October at the latest so you don’t end up getting shut out.
Finally, enjoy your last year! Go to events you haven’t been to yet. The law school has so many great ones all year, like Casino Night, Pub Night, the Halloween party and, of course, Law Prom. Most importantly, enjoy winter and spring breaks. Even if you don’t go anywhere or do anything super fun, just relax and watch TV and sleep in. Unless you end up being a teacher some day, these are probably the last breaks of your life until you retire. Yikes! So make the most of them!
— Michele Kraak is a third-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Oklahoma City.
I first heard of the television show, “American Ninja Warrior” (ANW), when one of my classmates confessed that he could not stop watching it. I stifled a laugh as I thought of “Wipeout,” a television show intended to produce comedy rather than competition—but ANW is no laughing matter. Consisting of an obstacle course that demands agility, endurance and grip strength, only three competitors in 34 seasons of the show have ever touched the final buzzer.ANW intrigued me immediately. The course plays well to my strengths, and I am always on the lookout for a physical challenge to shake off the psychological distress that so often accompanies law school. Exercise as a tool to combat stress and elevate mood is well documented. The researchers of one study reported that participation in any form of daily activity was associated with reduced risk for all types of psychological distress, even when controlling for factors, such as age, gender, SES, marital status, BMI, chronic illness, and smoking.1 Research has also consistently shown that exercise alone can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.2It has even been shown to be as effective as antidepressant medication in the treatment of clinical depression,3 which may not come as a surprise, given that exercise acts on the same pathways in the brain that antidepressant medications target.4I have always been active, but during law school I have made a concerted effort to capture the stress reducing and mood enhancing effects of exercise. One method I have used is to commit myself to demanding activities. During my first semester I trained for a winter backpacking trip to a mountain cabin that sits at 12,000 feet. During my second semester I trained for and completed a triathlon. Many law students put aside their personal life and health in their efforts to become a lawyer.5 Research shows the incidence of clinical depression among law students to be as high as 40 percent.6Incidence of other symptoms such as clinically elevated anxiety and hostility among law students have been measured at 15 times the general population.7This significantly exceeds the emotional distress of medical students, and even approaches that of psychiatric populations.8 Most troubling is that these problems seem to carry over into professional practice. In a Johns Hopkins study, practicing lawyers ranked highest in major depressive disorder among 104 occupational groups.9 At the beginning of my 2L year, I was in need of a new physical challenge. So when I discovered ANW I thought, why not audition? I organized a training regimen around the obstacles on the ANW course: rock climbing, strength training, agility drills, and mobility work. This was certainly a time commitment, but intense training took my mind completely away from law school, and soreness was something to feel good about—especially when I was stuck in a chair for most of the day. When I got the announcement that auditions videos were being accepted, I recruited some of my cinematographer friends to capture my best ANW moves, and a little personality, on film. Along with 7,000 other ANW hopefuls, I submitted an audition tape and waited.10I got the call during finals. I had taken three tests, had two to go, and, at that point, had forgotten what ANW was. Still, I was awarded one of 400 slots to compete on ANW. The competition would happen in Denver 10 days after I was scheduled to take my last final. All I could do at the moment was make a note to buy a flight to Denver, and I went back to my study carrel.Check in for the competition was at Denver’s Civic Center Park. The obstacle course constructed there took 10 semi-trailers to transport and a staff of 130 to assemble.11Security staff was on hand to keep the public—and competitors—outside of the gates surrounding it. They bristled as other competitors and I loitered at the gates, peering in at the obstacles and running through them in our heads. The competitors were divided into two groups. The start times for the obstacle course was an obstacle in itself, with the first group running the course between sunset and 1 a.m., and the second group running between 1 a.m. and sunrise. I was assigned to the first group, and we were finally allowed inside the gates surrounding the course but only for a demonstration of each obstacle. We were not permitted to attempt or otherwise touch any of the obstacles. After the sun went down, the temperature dropped into the mid-40s. The challenge quickly became to stay warm and loose. The designated warm-up area was equipped with pull-up bars and a vault trampoline; not ideal equipment to stay warm for hours on end. Sleeping bags appeared all around, and many competitors disappeared into them. My turn to run the course came just after 11 p.m. To see how I did, you will have to watch the show, but I can say I was awarded the “Warrior Wipeout of the Day.” Not exactly what I had in mind, but being featured on the show, especially in slow motion, bodes well for making a repeat attempt at the course, which I’m training for now. After all, I have another year of law school, and I need a little competition to get my mind outside the walls of Green Hall. — Zen Mayhugh is a third-year law student at the University of Kansas. He hopes to practice in recreation risk management. You can watch his audition video and the ANW episode in which he was featured on his blog at www.zenmayhugh.blogspot.com. This article first appeared in the November/December issue of the Journal of the Kansas Bar Association.Footnotes1. Mark Hamer, Emmanuel Stamatakis, & Andrew Steptoe, Dose response relationship between physical activity and mental health: The Scottish health survey, 42 Brit. J. Sports Med. 238 (2008).2. Stuart J.H. Biddle & Nanette Mutrie Psychology of Phsycial Activity: Determinants, Well-Being and Interventions(2007); Lynette L. Craft & Daniel M. Landers, The effect of exercise on clinical depression and depression resulting from mental illness: A meta-analysis, 20 J. Sport & Exercise Psychol. 339 (1998); Bonita C. Long & Rosemary van Stavel, Effects of exercise training on anxiety: A meta-analysis, 7 J. Applied Sport Psychol. 167 (1995).3. James A. Blumenthal, et al., Effects of exercise training on older patients with major depression, 159 Archives of Internal Med. 2349 (1999).4. C.P. Ransford, A role for amines in the antidepressant effect of exercise, 14 Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 1 (1982).5. Lawrence S. Krieger, Institutional Denial About the Dark Side of Law School, and Fresh Empirical guidance for Constructively Breaking the Silence, 52 J. Legal Educ. 112 (2002).6. Id., at 114. 7. Id. 8. Kennon M. Sheldon & Lawrence S. Krieger, Understanding the Negative Effects of Legal Education on Law Students: A Longitudinal Test of Self-Determination Theory, 33 Personality Soc. Psychol. Bull. 883 (2007).9. Krieger, supra note 5, at 114. 10. Alexandra Cheney, How to Beat the “American Ninja Warrior”Obstacle Course, The Wall Street Journal (June 29, 2013), http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2013/06/29/how-to-beat-the-american-ninja-warrior-obstacle-course/.
Law school, on the other hand, is not so nice.
Over the past year and a half, every time I begin to feel like I know what I’m doing and maybe I’m getting this lawyer thing down, I am pushed to try something new. As a result, I have had a whole host of experiences I would not have expected before starting at KU Law.
1L year was full of these moments because I just had no clue what was happening. In Lawyering, rather than just talk about what oral arguments were, we had to do our own oral argument. Sure, it was only 10 minutes for a mere 10 points in front of the most laid-back professor in the building. Even so, I panicked for days beforehand and my classy/professional look was sullied by some major sweat stains. And yet, I survived, and now I know how to do an oral argument.
Over the summer, I worked at a litigation firm. Midway through the summer, we did an all-day trial practice program. As a 1L, I had not yet taken Evidence; the only trial techniques I knew were the ones I learned from Law & Order SVU. Armed with a few questions I threw together and a vague idea of what I was trying to accomplish, I stumbled my way through a direct examination of a witness. I did not know how to get my witness to go where I wanted him to go. I did not know when or how to object. I literally said at one point, “Uh, I don’t know how to say what I’m trying to say.” IN FRONT OF THESE AMAZING TRIAL ATTORNEYS I WAS TRYING DESPERATELY TO IMPRESS. I was terrified. I sucked. And yet, I survived, and now I know how to do a direct exam.
This year I have a judicial internship for a district court judge in Kansas City. Even after a year of Lawyering and a summer of legal writing, this internship has been a totally different experience. It’s a whole new ball game when there are real people with real problems involved. The stakes are high when I know my draft order will influence whether a plaintiff can pursue his or her complaint or whether we will dismiss the complaint altogether. Whether it’s an employment discrimination claim or a civil rights action, people trust the courts to give them a fair and just result. The judge and his clerks are counting on me to provide a comprehensive, accurate draft order. Every time I turn something in, I feel nervous and question whether I got it right. And yet again, I have survived, and each week I feel more confident that I can write a good draft order.
Law school has pushed me out of my comfort zone in a big way. KU Law professors and the surrounding employers and mentors understand that the only way to prepare us for practice is to push us into the deep end. They offer us opportunities to safely try new skills with minimal potential for failure. We receive meaningful and constructive feedback so that when the time comes to do all this lawyer stuff for real, we’ll be ready. As terrifying as it can be, they are teaching us how to swim.
— Jordan Carter is a second-year law student and a KU Law Student Ambassador from Topeka, Kansas.