A Third Bite at the Apple?

Very few private citizens get to have their case heard by the United States Supreme Court, but one in particular has been there twice. In 2005 the United States Supreme Court held in Kelo v. City of New London Conn., that eminent domain can be used to take property from one private owner and given to another private entity so long as the transfer promotes economic development. The Supreme Court also said that states could restrict the rule if they wanted. Shortly after this ruling on May 11, 2006, then Governor, Jeb Bush, did just that and signed a Florida state law restricting that type of eminent domain use in the state. One day prior to taking effect, however, the Riviera Beach city council had a closed-door meeting where it voted to move forward with a plan to redevelop approximately 800 acres of the city. This plan was set to condemn and take properties from private owners, who were unwilling to sell, and transfer to a private development company. The company would then construct private buildings and a yacht club, on the Riviera Beach marina.

Daytona Beach Marina, Photo by Eugene Chystiakov on Unsplash

This is where the unwavering Fane Lozman first appears. Mr. Lozman moved his floating home to the Florida marina in March 2006. He spoke out against the plan at public city council meetings and filed a complaint at some point after May 10,2006, alleging that the closed-door city council meeting violated Florida’s sunshine law. This case was ultimately dismissed, and the redevelopment plan was scrapped amid several other lawsuits and public outcry. However, this seems to be where the animosity between the Riviera Beach city council and Fane Lozman began and would ultimately lead to the Supreme Court twice.

In August 2006, three months after that first lawsuit, the city sent Lozman an eviction notice. The eviction notice stated he failed to muzzle his 10-pound chihuahua and he used unlicensed repair persons. At the state eviction hearing in March 2007, Lozman argued as his  defense, the city was improperly retaliating against him for his protected speech against the marina redevelopment project. After a three-day trial, the jury agreed and ruled in favor of Lozman. A few months later, in June 2007, the city council unanimously voted to institute new dockage rules for the marina. The rules included new insurance and registration requirements and required crafts to be operational and capable of vacating in case of an emergency. Lozman’s floating home would violate all of the new rules.

Although Lozman claims not to have received most of the notices, the city asserts it sent notifications of the new rules starting in July 2007 through March 2009. The notices stated if Lozman did not sign the new dockage agreement, he would be in violation and his permission to be in the marina would be revoked. The final notice gave a deadline of April 1, 2009. On April 20, 2009, after Lozman failed to agree to the new dockage rules, the city filed a claim in admiralty court in rem against Lozman’s floating home for trespass and past due dockage fees. That same day, a United States Marshal arrested the craft and had it towed to Miami. Lozman argued that his floating home was not a vessel for the purpose of federal admiralty jurisdiction. In November 2010, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida found for the city of Riviera Beach and awarded $3,053.26. The District Court in January 2010, entered final judgement against the vessel and ordered marshals to release and auction the floating home to pay the award. The City of Riviera Beach then purchased the floating home at auction and immediately destroyed it, at a cost to the city of $6,900.

 Lozman appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court. Lozman v. Cty of Riviera Beach, became a landmark case in admiralty law and narrowed the definition of a vessel.

United States Supreme Court. Photo by Adam Szuscik on Unsplash

Lozman took a rare second bite at the Supreme Court apple with another claim stemming from his opposition to the city’s redevelopment plan. On November 15, 2006 during a city council meeting, Lozman was arrested when he failed to yield the podium after less than a minute of his speech, as he attempted to speak about public corruption. After transcripts of a closed-door city council meeting revealed some members were speculating about intimidating Lozman, he filed suit for retaliatory arrest based on his removal from and arrest at the November 2006 city council meeting. Lozman lost in the United States district court for the Southern District of Florida and in the 11th circuit court of appeals but prevailed again at the United States Supreme Court. In Lozman v. Cty of Riviera Beach, the majority opinion stated that probable cause for an arrest doesn’t automatically bar a plaintiffs first amendment retaliatory arrest claim. The case was remanded and Lozman settled with the City of Riviera Beach for $875,000.

Lozman came back to Riviera Beach with a new larger houseboat and a banner thanking the United States Supreme Court. He is currently in a new legal battle, now with the United States government over the environmental impacts of his houseboat where it is anchored in Signer Island, Riviera Beach, Florida. Only time will tell if this case gives Mr. Lozman a third bite at the Supreme Court apple.

Stacie Whitt

Sol Blatt, Jr. Law Library Research Fellow

Juris Doctor Candidate, May 2022

Posted in Legal Research, Uncategorized, United States Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Cognitive Effort: How to Study More Effectively and Efficiently

Dear Law Students,

Law School is hard. Everybody told you, but you did not listen. A few weeks into the semester and you are already wondering if you can complete this task. Can I ever truly learn this intense topic? Will the homework ever stop? Are others having the same struggles I am?

The answer to these questions is simple. Yes. You are on one of the most challenging yet rewarding quests you will ever face but will make it through.

“How?” you might ask. Well, it is simple. With every achievement, others have come before you. From their lessons, we can learn how to better prepare ourselves for the challenges to come. This blog post will teach you some practices that will take your study habits to the next level.

How to Study.

Cognitive effort is the key to your study success. A study conducted at the University of California-Berkley concluded that more cognitive effort leads to better subject retention. Under “The Generation Effect and Memory” study, one group studied for a test with only questions and answers. A second group studied for the same test with the same questions but researched their answers. After the researchers administered the exam, they found the second group had the higher score. The researchers determined that cognitive effort leads to strengthened neural connections that lead to better retention of knowledge.

Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, by Peter C. Brown and How to Become a Straight-A Student, by Cal Newport recommend three study strategies to increase cognitive effort: active recall, spaced repetition, and interleaving. Big words, right? Please do not shy away from these strategies because they are pretty simple to understand and apply to your study habits. Let me show you.

Active Recall (a.k.a Practice Quizzing)

A study, Test-Enhanced Learning, by Roediger and Karpicke took three groups. The first group was allowed to read their class lecture notes four times. The second group read their class lecture notes three times. Then they took one practice exam. The third group read their class lecture notes only once. Then they were able to take three practice exams. Then, all three groups took the same exam. The third group far outperformed the first and second groups.

The third group performed better because they were forcing their brains to retrieve and use the information. The extra quizzing helped improve retention, memorization, and overall comprehension of the topics. Roediger proved the more cognitive effort placed in retrieving information, the more likely we are to retain and better use that information.

Adding active recall to your study habits is relatively easy. All you have to do is find quizzes and begin studying. How might you get quizzes and study materials? You can ask your friends and upper-level students if they have any practice exams your professor gave in previous years. The library is also an underutilized source for practice exams and testing materials. In addition to written sources in the library, one may find practice problems and study aids in the electronic databases provided by the Sol Blatt Library at the Charleston School of Law. Some commonly used study aids are Wolters Kluwer and West Academic. If all else fails, go to your professor and ask them if they have any practice quiz material or if they could direct you to where you can obtain some. The worst that they could say is, “no.”

Spaced Repetition (a.k.a. STOP CRAMMING)

I guarantee you will hear about Herman Ebbinghaus’ “Forgetting Curve” at some point during your law school years. Ebbinghaus conducted a study that showed over time, information learned begins to decay. Meaning, over time, you begin to forget what you learned. Ebbinghaus’ analysis showed that one should continually study the material at peak moments of decay, ideally when the decay reaches the 20% mark. When one revisits the specific information at this peak moment, it requires significant cognitive effort. This cognitive effort helps enforce mental retention of the data to better recall the information in the future.

Now, you may be wondering, “how do I know that I am at the 20% decay mark?” Well, to know that, you would need to perform years of study and practice, which you do not have time for while you are in law school. Since you do not have time to calculate your cognitive decay, here are two easy ways to implement this strategy.

The first of these techniques is the “Leitner System.” To use the Leitner System, you will need:

  • Five boxes big enough to hold a deck of flashcards, like a shoebox,
  • Flashcards filled out with the information you would like to retain,
  • A Pen, and
  • Discipline

You will need to label every box uniquely. Label your first box, “Every Day.” Then, mark your second box, “Every Other Day.” Specify your third box as “Every Week.” Label your fourth box, “Every Other Week.” And finally, label your last box “Retire.” You will then place all of your flashcards in box one and begin studying them. Every time that you get a flashcard right, then you will move it to the next box. Every time you get a flashcard wrong, then move it back to the first box. Alternatively, you can move the card back only one box if you believe such punishment is too severe. Space out your study based on the labels on your box. Once you have “retired” all of your cards, then you have mastered the topic.

The second, and less frictionless, of these techniques is using a Spaced Repetition Software (also known as an SRS), which automatically implements an algorithm to space the cards. There are multiple reputable programs that you can use, such as Anki, Quizlet, Remnote, and SuperMemo. These programs are great because you can import your notes directly into the system, eliminating the time needed to make flashcards. Additionally, many of these programs have phone applications so you can study better on the go.

Pro-Tip: If you want to save time making flashcards and you still prefer physical cards, then utilize the Sol Blatt Library’s collection of “Law in Flash” by Emmanuel.

Interleaving (a.k.a. Mix It Up!)

A study in Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, by Peter Brown tasks two groups with throwing a ball into a basket four feet away. Before the task, the first group practiced with a basket that was four feet away. The second group practiced with two baskets, one was three feet away, and the other was five feet away. After twelve weeks of practice, they measured both groups’ ability to make the ball in the four-foot basket, with the second group having more success. The study concluded mixing up practice habits helps one better understand the task at hand and creates better connections between distinct ideas. Make It Stick is available from the Sol Blatt, Jr. Law Library.

In How to Become a Straight-A Student, by Cal Newport, he also champions interleaving. He suggests a practical way to accomplish such a task through the “Fifty-Minute Method.” To implement the “Fifty-Minute Method,” one must study for 50 minutes on one topic. Then, the individual will take a 10-minute mental break. After the 10-minute break is up, the individual should start another 50-minute session on the same subject but a different topic within that subject. The “Fifty-Minute Method” helps one connect the individual topics and better understand the subject because it demands the cognitive effort of the studier. Look into Pomodoro timers and techniques to better diversify your study.

You Can Do It.

We get it. Law School is hard. But with any challenge, there is also a reward. Keep your eyes on your goals and keep pushing forward. You can conquer this task; it might just take a little “cognitive effort.”

Marshall D. Walls

Sol Blatt, Jr. Law Library Research Fellow

Juris Doctor Candidate, 2022

Posted in Articles Worth Reading, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Pros Behind Procertas

Many 1Ls are familiar with the software-training program Procertas. Many students may find the exercises in the “Word Contract” tedious as it is required homework for all LRAW classes. However, the exercises are helpful as they allow users to explore obscure features within these programs. For 1Ls, this is useful for overcoming certain formatting issues within their trial and appellate memos. The program also helps those who might think they are inept with other apps, like PowerPoint or Excel.

  However, the story behind Procertas might interest a few. Founded in 2015 by Joseph Colucci and Casey Flaherty, the program was originally named “Cost Control,” however, they decided the name had a negative connotation. They later changed the name to Procertas: an amalgamation of “professional” and “certification.”

The two met when Joseph sold legal technology services to Casey. Together, they formed a friendship and realized there was a need for technology training within in the legal field. They acknowledged that many lawyers do not receive technology training in law school, they started the program to help instruct those in the legal field to become competent in software.

They admitted that selling this idea to firms was difficult as they stated many lawyers are confident in their knowledge of the apps and their training. In an interview, Joseph claimed that younger lawyers who are naïve in their abilities create this “myth of the digital native.” Even Joseph admitted he was a part of this myth of being technologically savvy but learned several new skills while starting Procertas. Both hope that students in law school receive the training necessary to be competent in practice.

          One interesting tidbit of information is that Joseph is based in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, minutes away from our school. I was a part of this myth of the digital native that Joseph discusses as I was overly confident in my abilities in Word and Excel; however, I’m glad I was able to see the light and use Procertas to widen my skills. I highly recommend the students who moaned and groaned when given a Procertas assignment reflect on the program and see what they gained from the experience.

Addison “Oz” Osborne

Sol Blatt, Jr. Law Library Research Fellow

Charleston School of Law Class of 2023

Posted in Electronic legal database, Law Practice Software, Library service | Tagged | Leave a comment

Women’s History Month 2021

Most of us have seen in the news or through social media that March has been deemed as Women’s History Month, but do you know what led to the creation of Women’s History Month? Read below about the evolution of Women’s History Month and how we got to where we are today.

History

The first Women’s History Day began in 1909 to honor the women who marched in the garment factory strikes in 1908. Women took to the streets of to protest not only the economic rights they were not afforded, but also the unreasonable, and often gruesome, work conditions they were exposed to. Within two years of this protest, Women’s History Day had become an international celebration and that was how  remained for the next 60 years.

It was not until the 1970s, that a movement began to address a problem in the K-12 curriculum in California. What was that problem? A lack of women’s history. The local community created a Women’s History Week and a subsequent essay contest that quickly spread to other communities around the country.  President Jimmy Carter issued a proclamation in 1980 to solidify that March will be Women’s History Month.

By 1987, following the lead of many states, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month. Every year the President passes an annual proclamation for Women’s History Month.

Evolving out of the movement in California, the National Women’s History Alliance still operates today to provide education on the contributions of women throughout history. Additionally, they provide a theme and a campaign for Women’s History Month every year. This year, the theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.” This theme is in acknowledgement of the centennial celebration around the ratification of the 19th Amendment. This was also the theme for 2020 but is being continued due to most events being canceled as a result of the pandemic.

Women Who Made a Difference in the Legal Field

We all know of the beloved Ruth Bader Ginsburg and many of the contributions that she made to expanding women’s rights. Many women, despite political differences, were excited to see the first female elected as Vice President this year. I want to introduce you to some of the lesser-known female influences that created paths for women in the legal field.

Tiera Farrow

Often referred to as the “Dean of Women Lawyers,” Tiera Farrow practiced law before women were even allowed to vote in most places. She enrolled in Kansas City Law School in 1901 and became the first woman to argue before the Kansas Supreme Court. She also became the first female attorney to defend a female client who had been charged with murder. She was denied admission to the Kansas Bar Association, so she simply created her own bar association for women, which still exists today. She published Lawyer in Petticoats which is quite an interesting look into her life as a lawyer in the early 1900s. This book can be found on HeinOnline on the library database page.

Image: Kansas Historical Society, https://www.kshs.org/
publicat/history/2002autumn_butters.pdf

Sara Weddington


Slightly more familiar than Tiera Farrow, Sara Weddington entered into the practice of law in the late 1960s when it was still a male dominated profession. Sara attended University of Texas School of Law and served in the Texas House of Representatives. Her most notable achievement? At age 26, Sara was the youngest attorney to argue before SCOTUS and win. Can you guess the case?

Roe v. Wade. Sara has continued her activism through the work of her foundation, The Weddington Center, and is an active guest speaker at women’s events throughout the country.

Image by: Sara Lim via https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/12/sarah-weddington-roe-v-wade-lawyer-legalise-abortion-america-donald-trump

Bella Abzug

Bella Abzug was a member of the US House of Representatives and some of you may recognize her campaign slogan, “This woman’s place is in the House—the House of Representatives.” We see the slogan printed on t-shirts and stickers today, but to Bella Abzug it was a reality. She attended Columbia University and was admitted to the New York Bar in 1945. Prior to running for the House of Representatives, she primarily worked with labor rights and civil rights cases. Her activism landed her on the master list of Nixon’s political opponents. Following her time in United States Congress, Bella Abzug actively served as an advocate for women’s rights and environmental protections.  

Image: Library of Congress via https://history.house.gov/People/Detail/8276?ret=True

Sol Blatt, Jr. Law Library Resources

HeinOnline has a database dedicated to Women in the Law that has some wonderful articles and resources. The subtitle for the guide is Peggy and is named for Hein’s President’s Mother. She was an avid supporter of women’s rights and thus the database was named after her. The library also has some great print resources such as Notorious RBG and Feminist Legal History: Essays on Women and Law. Check these out to find some wonderful articles and information.

Written by: Katherine N. Fuller

Candidate for Juris Doctor, May 2021

Library Research Fellow

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Job Hunting in the COVID Era: Networking in a Time of Uncertainty

“To Whom it May Concern”

How familiar is the phrase “It’s about who you know?” One thing COVID hasn’t changed is the relevancy of this old maxim Are you worried about not knowing enough people or anyone at all? If you feel as if you don’t have the requisite connections to secure a job or even just a lead, that is okay. There are many ways to create connections in this difficult environment for job hunting.

file folders with text Jobs placed on top of computer keypad.

Networking

Networking is not as hard as it sounds. Before Covid, many institutions occasionally had “happy hours” or “networking events” where people in the community would gather socially to create connections with other people, whether professors, students or other professionals. As these events are no longer available in most places, we must network remotely. In the era of social media and technology, networking is as easy as connecting with people in your field of interest on Facebook or LinkedIn. Join groups on Facebook or LinkedIn that deal with your area of interest. Here are a few tips for networking remotely.

Take Initiative and Get Connected

clip art hands with magnifying glass examining document.

Most businesses have halted hiring until the end of Covid. The Inability to hire is very apparent when applying through websites or services provided by your institution when you are receiving no interest in return of your application and resume. Just because online job hunting is not posting results, does not mean jobs are not available.

Go to the internet and search businesses in your interested area of practice. Go to those websites and find a contact information for the hiring coordinators or even the head of the department. Contact those people directly. Contacting the hiring coordinators or company heads directly show initiative and interest in that company. Not only does it put you on the radar for those positions, but it also keeps your name in the back of their head if a position comes available. After talking or emailing back and forth, try to find those people on Facebook or LinkedIn, connect and send a follow up message thanking them for their time. Again, this is networking. Showing initiative and creating these relationships increases your odds for hire. Use those new contacts for referrals if possible.

Stay in Touch

Once you’ve connected with a potential employer and they show interest but there is not an available position at the time, stay connected. Be sure to stand out by staying in touch with that person or institution every so often. Not all jobs come down to a perfect resume, but rather the personality or personal connections with the applicants. If an employer witnesses your effort to stay in touch and your interest in the company, you’ve already put yourself ahead of other applicants. You have networked and built a relationship to get you ahead.

According to Choosing small, choosing smart: job search strategies for lawyers in the small firm market, by Donna Gerson, the best way to be successful in the job search is to stay get to use as many contacts as possible and stay in touch with those contacts. For more information, this book can be found through the Charleston School of Law Library Catalog. Call Number: Car. Serv. KF297 .G47 2012

When observing the statistical data of networking, it begins to look very beneficial. According to CareerPivot.com, referrals have a 50% chance to get an interview rather than 3% without a referral. To supplement that, Jobvite.com reports that 40% of new hires come from referral pools rather than the basic applicant pool.

Keep Gaining Experience

Lastly, while waiting for interviews or other opportunities, keep brushing up that resume. Take part in anything that will help gain more experience to make you standout. Take courses to brush up your skills on a computer. Have other professionals or colleagues show you how to use certain software used in the company’s day-to-day business. Keep growing that network. Gaining as much valuable experience as possible will never hurt and gives companies more incentive to hire. All of this starts with networking. Put yourself out there and market yourself as an asset rather than just another applicant.

Written by: Austin MacManus

Candidate for Juris Doctor, May 2021

Library Research Fellow

Posted in Articles Worth Reading, Career services | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Preparing for Your Oral Argument

“Good afternoon, Your Honor.

May it please the Court, my name is __________ and I represent the __________.

courtroom bench, folder with text oral argument and gavel. Illustrate prepare for oral argument.

The most important part of effective oral argument is thorough and effective preparation. Benjamin Franklin once said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” And while the chaos of balancing classes, homework, internships, and part-time clerking gigs cannot be eliminated, hopefully these few tips will help make preparing for your oral argument a bit less painful.

Read the materials.

Understand how the documents connect to one another. Listening to and understanding the judge’s questions requires a solid grasp of the materials; you must know what the judges are asking you in order to fully answer their questions. You want to be familiar with all the materials provided so that you can state the best points for your side persuasively and forcefully.

Know the facts of the case.

Know the record. You will earn major points with the judge(s) for including record cites to the facts of the case. Be the expert on the facts of your case so you are able to field any questions from the judges regarding the record. The record facts should be an aspect of your case that you clearly know better than the court.

Read the authorities relied upon by each side.

At a minimum, you should review every case cited in the brief, making sure to note the details of the most important cases: their facts, their reasoning, their outcomes, and how they support or do not support your position. You need to understand how the cases apply to your case and the argument you are attempting to make.

Create a theme.

A focused argument built around a theme is far more likely to succeed. You have the most focused attention of the court as you first being your oral argument; introduce your theme as an intrinsic part of your opening statement. Your theme should be confident, succinct, and slanted in favor of your version of the case.

Give a road map for your argument.

Tell the court the two or three issues you plan to discuss early in your argument. Make these issues clear and straightforward. This lets the judges anticipate where you are going and allows them to bring you back to other points if questions from a judge takes you off track. The most successful oral advocates memorize their opening roadmap and maintain eye contact with the judges throughout.

Prepare responses to likely questions.

Know the weakest points of your arguments and understand that those weakest points will likely become the foundation for many questions. Formulate questions in your mind regarding the weakest points of your argument and then answer them.

Create a brief outline of your argument.

Do NOT write every word of your argument down and take it to the podium with you. Writing your argument out word for word persuades you to rely on those written words when nervous. Maintain strong eye contact throughout your argument

When you deliver your oral argument put everything you want to have at your fingertips during the argument on FOUR sheets of paper. Maybe those four sheets include important case quotes and citations; key factual points and their record citations; main themes you want to stress; arguments to fall back on; and responses to your weakest points. It does not matter how you want to organize your materials as long as your information is outlined in a way that is clear, concise, and easily navigable.  

Take a manilla folder and staple a sheet to every side. Make sure you’ve included in your outline exactly what you want the court to do; your claim for relief must be clear.

Your outline should be a backup when you’re presenting your oral argument and it should be very easy to find the information you need.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Know your argument completely.

TALK. Talk it out loud. Talk to anyone who will listen. Talk to yourself. Recite your argument in the mirror. Switch up your argument; ask yourself questions.

Get comfortable with the way your argument sounds and with saying the names of the parties, cases, and statutes; get comfortable with the language of the case. Practice speaking slowly, taking your time. Be prepared to talk for minutes on end, but also be prepared to stop for questions every 30 seconds.

Where can I find more resources within the Library?

Sol Blatt Jr. Law Library offers several books that provide examples and step-by-step instructions with regard to oral arguments. Adversarial Legal Writing and Oral Argument, written by Michael D. Murray and Christy Hallam DeSanctis (KF250 .M887 2006), provides an in-depth analysis of oral argument and moot court skills and strategies as well as multiple annotated samples of pre-trial motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, a writ petition, and appellate briefs. An Advocate Persuades, written by Joan M. Rocklin, Robert B. Rocklin, Christine Coughlin, and Sandy Patrick (KF8915 .M338 2016), places its reader in the role of first-year attorney and provides step-by-step explanations and examples on how to develop and refine trial-level and appellate arguments and how to eventually present those arguments orally.

REACH OUT

Remember that we’ve all been there and we’re here to help. Ask questions, prepare, and most importantly PRACTICE because if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.

Written by: Hannah Smith

Candidate for Juris Doctor, May 2021

Library Research Fellow

Posted in Legal instruction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Show Must Go On

TheShowThe classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022 are facing unprecedented times right now in society. Law school is already stressful enough but now we must deal with adapting to a new way of life and of studying. Covid-19 has changed our lives in ways we did not see coming. The new remote learning and stay home orders may feel to be overwhelming. Be that as it may, the show must go on!

I am the Sunday School teacher for the teenage class at my church. My class consist of middle school, high school, and college students. While teaching my Sunday School class, we came up with ten ways they can do to excel in a virtual school world. These ten practical tips can help add a sense of normalcy and familiarity to one’s study life while dealing with Covid-19.

Create a workspace:

Most places are on lockdown orders, making popular study locations such as the library and Starbucks unavailable. In order to be more productive, create a workspace that feels comfortable. Get in a place that is well lit. Gather all necessary materials before study and/or class begins.

Establish a routine:

Morning routines have been considered the best way to start a day of productivity. Start the day with a balanced breakfast, work out, meditate, try to find ways to replicate your normal class-day rituals. This will help you mentally prepare to study.

Get dressed:

Lounging around in PJs does seem appealing but it goes against the above tip establishing a routine. Start the day by getting dressed as if it were a normal day. Lounging clothes also promote an atmosphere of being lazy and sleeping.

Limit distractions:

Being focused during this time is hard, especially where there is no one to monitor your actions. Limit your distractions in order to provide the best environment for study and production. Turn off your phone, your webcam, and social media to keep you focused while working. Connecting like this is not easy but we must limit distractions to be more productive.

Take breaks:

Commuting to school takes up a lot of time in the day. Take advantage of these times still. Take a deep breath and relax during the breaks from classes.

Exercise:

During these times it is easy to binge watch our favorite shows and eat our favorite snacks. While this taste good, it is not good for our bodies. Exercise not only stimulates our mind, but it also releases endorphins to help burn stress and calories at the same time. Not only does exercising clear our heads of stress but it also helps burn off those extra brownies.

Ask questions:

Although meeting with your professors’ face to face is band due to social distancing, this should not deter you from asking questions. This situation is a definite learning curve for everyone. Professors are under stay home orders as well and they are looking for someone to talk to. This makes them more inclined to spend an abundant amount of time answering questions.

Stay organized:

There are so many things changing with in our society, especially with school. Stay up to date with the new due dates on assignments. Find out your professors’ virtual office hours. Set a daily schedule that way productivity can be increased.

Make the most of video lessons:

As stated earlier, your professor is going through these unprecedented times as well. Try to stay to the schedule they set as much as you can. If you are allowed to record the lecture, then do so for play back options. Ask questions and vocally engage the same way you would in normal class.

Stay connected:

Social contact is essential to mental sanity. Stay connected with friends and classmates via video conferences, social media, or phone calls.

By: George E. Graham, II
Candidate for Juris Doctor, Spring 2021
Library Research Fellow 2019-2021

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letters for Lawyers: a book review

Letters for Lawyers I think I do pretty good as a writer. When I was in undergrad, if I could elect to write a paper instead of taking a test, I’d write the paper – and get an “A” on it almost every time.

When I got into the legal business and had to come up with original letters on every topic imaginable from client intake to discovery to…well, I started slowing down. Often I’d turn to legal eagles who had been in the legal business for suggestions (or samples) of legal letters. Often they’d ask for a favor or something of value for their offerings. It took time but over the years, I collected quite a sampling of letters that, with a few changes, could work with any number of situations.

I often pondered whether there was a resource that contained sample legal letters. The law librarians didn’t know of any and so I was left to my wonderings. But just imagine having a resource like that – a book full of legal letter templates?

Wouldn’t that be something?

Yeah…a book containing templates full of letters to help you in your legal representation of clients. Considering what attorneys have to stress about day in and day out, having something like that would be a real godsend.

Well, turns out, there is a book with a whole bunch of letters designed for lawyer types and it’s called: Letters for Lawyers KF 320 .L48 2004 (“Letters”). Letters contains about 146 templates covering communications with clients and referral sources (Chp. 1), communication with employees and prospective employees (Chp. 2), communication with prospective clients and other contacts (Chp. 3), and Communication with the Media (Chp. 4).

I remember one time a lawyer I was working for had been asked to be interviewed by a local television station regarding a case he’d been working on. Lawyer asked me to draft a letter agreeing to be interviewed.

Wait, what?!

No amount of undergrad writing prepared me for that request. I got something together but it was not a suave as the one on page 144 (Agreeing to Interview: Radio/TV). In two short paragraphs, the letter lays out the situation and coolly addresses what is wanted. I would have died for this template.

Anyway, other great letter templates in Letters for Lawyers include:

  • Engagement Letter (new client)
  • Follow-up Letter (after initial meeting)
  • In-person Client Interview (pre-interview letter)
  • Merger Announcement Letter
  • New Client Welcome
  • Rate Increate Letter (send before Invoice)
  • Referral “Thank You” Letter
  • Employment Interview Confirmation Letter
  • Jury Duty Postponement Request Letter
  • New Employee Welcome Letter
  • Sample News Release
  • “Thank You” to the Media
Yep, this is one of the great resources we have in our library and which can be obtained at the American Bar Association’s website

By: Bret N. Christensen
Outreach, Instruction, Reference Librarian

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STRESSING ABOUT LAW SCHOOL STRESS: HOW TO MANAGE IT

Have you ever caught yourself stressing about not doing more work when you have already dedicated 8 hours of your day to studying and homework? Turns out, you’re not alone! 96% of law students experience significant stress, compared to 70% of med students and 43% of grad students. Law school is stressful. There are days when your body is physically exhausted from all the information retained throughout the day from classes and/or studying, but when you get home you feel like you have to do more because you need to keep up with the Joneses. The key to transcend in law school is not solely based on the amount of time dedicated to studying, rather being able to manage that stress. Here are some tips in managing that nauseating law school stress.

What is stressing you out? Acknowledge it.

Law school is stressful in general with the workload presented to its students. But this is much more than law school in general. What is stressing you out? Is it the fact that you spend three to four hours a night reading for classes after you have already gotten home for the day? Is it because you’ve skipped your last two meals to make sure you know everything for assessments around the corner? Is it because you haven’t started your outline for the semester? Or is it because you think you ought to be studying more at 10:00 at night because you think if you are not doing it, someone else is and they are gaining an advantage on you? The first step in becoming less stressed as a law student is acknowledging what is stressing you out and fix it! If you have a lot of reading to get done throughout the week, start early on the weekends and get ahead. If you have assessments and need to cram information into your head with little time, get a head start so you can sit down and eat those meals. If you haven’t started your outline, start it and allot a certain amount of time to it periodically to get it finished. Everyone is in the same boat, to a certain degree. It is not about keeping up with the next person, it is about identifying what works best for yourself and sticking to that plan.

Be organized and take care of yourself.

Being organized to some is much easier said than done. There are some routes to being organized that seem to be easier than most may think. Create a schedule. At the end of each weekend, create a schedule on what need to be accomplished through the week. If you create a soft tentative schedule to guide you throughout the week, this may alleviate some of that stress immediately as you are addressing your stressors at the outset of the week. Your schedule should include times of your classes, study sessions, study breaks, meal prep time, time to eat your meals, time for friends and colleagues, etc. If you plan these events ahead of time, you could always steer away from that schedule when need be, but for the most part your stressors are addressed and you can stay ahead in school, all while maintaining a social life outside of school.

Participate in self-care. When taking time to schedule meal prepping sessions, meal prep healthier options. Schedule your work so you have time to get sufficient amount of sleep each night. Allow yourself to have a life outside of school. People often think that taking time to do all this takes away from their study time and ultimately putting them behind everyone else. That is not necessarily true. Many people discover that taking time to eat healthier, getting physical activity in, or even having down time with friends allows them to be more productive while studying because they feel as if they are not just drowning in the schoolwork. Thus, partaking in self-care for most actually turns out to be more efficient!

Make sure to be social. Maintaining a life outside of school may the best most important aspect of lowering your law school stress. Remembering what life outside of law school is like will keep you sane and refreshed. Whether it be watching a movie in the evening before bed, playing 18 holes of golf, or even visiting family and friends for a few hours; taking time out of your week to stay social will keep your mind lucid and clear headed about what needs to get done and how to get that work done more efficiently. Law school may dominate your life for the better part of three plus years, but who says it can’t be the best three years of your life?

Remember why you chose this path.

Lastly, remind yourself on why you want to receive that JD. Is it because you want to have a 10-car garage or own that car you’ve been dreaming about since you were five? Pin a picture of that car or house on your wall. Is it because you want to live comfortably and be able to provide a comfortable lifestyle for your family? Spend quality time with them to keep yourself reminded. Or is it simply because you want to help those people who can’t afford to help themselves? Do some pro bono work or read articles about lawyers helping those who can’t afford to help themselves. Keep yourself motivated on reaching the goal of graduating law school and becoming an attorney.

Looking for more way to Cope with your stress? Check out the following:

By:
Austin MacManus
Candidate for Juris Doctor, Class of 2021
Library Research Fellow, 2020-21

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The Texas’ “Hemp Program” Problem

TexasWeedWhen Texas enacted their “Hemp Program” it caused mass confusion for law enforcement officers, attorneys, and judges. People have claimed confusion to the point of identifying if the flower in someone’s possession is legal or illegal and some have even accused officials of decriminalizing marijuana with the enactment of the “Hemp Program.”

First, let us look at the argument regarding to not being able to identify if the product in someone’s possession is legal or not. Marijuana and hemp are the same plant called cannabis and for all intents and purposes, they look and smell the same.  The difference is a hemp plant cannot contain more than .3% THC and if it the plant does contain more than .3% THC, it is a marijuana plant. Therefore, in order to determine if the flower in someone’s pocket or glove compartment or rolled up in papers is under the .3% level, it must be tested to determine the level of THC in it.

Unfortunately, this test is expensive and Texas crime labs are unable to perform the test – so it has to be tested by a private lab. This has cause district attorneys to be unable to accept marijuana cases without a test proving that the THC level in the product confiscated was under the .3% limit – resulting in counties and cities having to decide how much they are willing to spend to enforce the state’s marijuana laws. Which takes us to the second issue of decriminalization accusations.

The constant accusation of the hemp laws decriminalizing marijuana has state lawmakers and even Governor Abbott having to reaffirm that marijuana is still illegal in the state of Texas. Counties and cities all over the state are having to adjust, some have noticed over a 50% drop in marijuana cases, some are holding open all cases until a state lab is provided to test and yet others are trying to determine how much money should be budgeted to test cannabis for possible prosecution.

With these issues it is easy to understand why people are claiming the hemp laws in Texas have inadvertently decriminalized marijuana. It is up to the State, now, to help alleviate this confusion.

While law enforcement needs a way to test THC levels in products quicker, easier, and cheaper a possible solution to all this is to first figure out this testing conundrum and then start-up with the prosecutions (instead of putting the horse before the cart).

By: Ashley Ann Sander
December 2020 Graduate

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