Welcome to Raina's Blog! The Life of a 3L.....
After an exciting career in home-design and A&E journalism, I decided that it would be great to go from a life in which I was paid to peruse beautiful homes and gardens and attend music and theater shows to one in which I might never have time to attend another concert or even clean my own house! Just kidding - I do have time for plays and concerts...but definitely not housekeeping.
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
Undergraduate: University of Arizona, History/Journalism/Spanish
Before Law School: Journalist (Arizona Daily Star and The Seattle Times) and Adjunct Writing Professor (University of Arizona)
Law School Activities: Arizona Journal of Environmental Law & Policy; Black Law Students Association; Law Women's Association; Volunteer Lawyers Project; National Lawyers Guild; Sports & Entertainment Law Society
1L Summer: DeConcini, McDonald, Yetwin & Lacy (Tucson, Arizona)
2L Summer: K&L Gates (Seattle, Washington)
"Thank you for your interest."
I’ve spent a few entries telling you all the wonderful things about being a 3L - lots of course options, real lawyering experience through internships and clerkships, and of course, the sweet vacay schedule.
Despite all that good stuff, though, your 3L year will come down to two primary and not-so-positive things: getting through to the end of a long school year and finding a job.
You’ll find that by the time you’re a 3L, you will have been job-hunting for two-plus years. The career office of every law school is bound by an American Bar Association rule not to do outreach with 1Ls until December 1. Many legal employers bind themselves by the deadline and won’t accept applications from first-years until December, either.
But after that? It’s a constant cavalcade of fellowship applications, job fair uploading, on-campus interviewing, off-campus trips, out-of-state outreach ... and then another round of job fair uploads for good measure.
2L bloggers Ashley Zimmerman and Nate Wade and 1Ls Alla Goldman, Daniel Arellano and Leah Burcat can fill you in more on the job processes they’re going through right now to secure volunteer (or maybe paid!) positions for their 1L and 2L summers. (Link to other applicable blogs here.) Some law students do find summer jobs in the fall of their 2L year, but just as many don’t land something until the spring job hunt heats up. In the next month, Arizona Law’s Career & Professional Services Department arranges on campus interviews (OCI) and the Sonoran Desert Career Fair. Most 1Ls and 2Ls find summer positions through these programs. (I did my first year.)
But all that is just warm up for the Big 3L Show. Sometimes the jobs you find for the summers lead to real employment after graduation. I’ve had two summer jobs with two wonderful firms: DeConcini, McDonald, Yetwin & Lacy in Tucson (www.dmyl.com) and K&L Gates at their regional office in Seattle (www.klgates.com/seattle-united-states-of-america). I was one of the lucky ones; while the Tucson job did not lead to further employment, the summer associate job at K&L Gates led to a job offer! So my family and I plan to move back to Seattle after graduation.
The summer associate hiring calendar is crazy. I landed the K&L summer gig through a job fair I attended in August of 2010, right after 2L year started; I sent my initial application to that job fair in April 2010, before my 1L year was even done. The August interview led to a callback in Seattle in October 2010, and then a job offer that same month for Summer 2011. I worked May-July 2011, and got offered the job for post-graduation, Fall 2012 employment in August 2011. Like I said - crazy.
But because the 2L summer associate hiring happens on this extremely early calendar and I got a job through that process, I was spared a lot of the job-hunting angst that has haunted many of my classmates this year. The job market is so tight still, and those of us who have already landed something know we are blessed.
Having a “real” job lined up doesn’t actually spare you from all the 3L application processes, anyway. It’s great experience to work in a judge’s chambers after graduation - or “clerk” - and just about all of us in the class of 2012 have been applying for 2012 clerkships. Law firms like the experience clerks get too, so they are usually willing to defer employment for a clerkship year or two. The clerkship application process is very competitive, but members of the Class of 2012 at Arizona Law have already secured clerkships at the Arizona Court of Appeals, the Arizona Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, and several U.S. District Courts.
So even though I had a job offer in the fall, I decided try to take the clerkship route, too. This meant asking professors for letters of recommendation, writing more cover letters, preparing application “packets” (electronic and paper), and steeling myself for more rejection. Yes, more rejection. I know I told you I’ve been lucky and have actually gotten jobs through job fairs and on-campus interviews - but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my fair share of rejection letters. I uploaded my resume to dozens of OCI positions and got a just a handful of interviews, and fewer callbacks. I couldn’t count the number of applications I’ve sent electronically. And since I was hunting out of state, I sent scores of letters to law firms that never even acknowledged receiving my resume.
When you do get rejected, it’s always politely: “Thank you for your interest.” Thanks, but no thanks. We’ve hired someone else.
My most-recent rejection was for a clerkship position here in Tucson. This one job - a two-year position at the District Court - garnered more than 400 applicants. The judge’s email began the same way they always do: “Thank you for your interest.”
But here’s the thing. Sometimes, you don’t get that email, or that letter. Sometimes, you get a phone call. And on the other end of the connection, there’s a job.
No matter how many rejections you get, that’s not a number that matters. This is the number that matters: 1.
That’s the number of jobs you need when you graduate. Just one.
Posted by: Raina 04/16/2012 2:08 PM
Gimme a Break!
When finals were finally done back in December, I started a very significant stage of my life:
My Very Last Winter Break Ever.
As tough as it is to be a law studen - the monster papers, the Bluebook citechecking, the marathon study sessions - the truth is, there are some pretty awesome parts of student life, too. We hardly ever have classes on Fridays, meaning every weekend is a three-day weekend. You can pretty much do your work when you want to. I happen to be a morning person, so when I don’t have 8 a.m. classes, I have a homework session from 5 to 8 o’clock in the morning each day. And night owls can stay up as late as they want. This leaves daytimes open for classes (typically not more than 3-4 hours per day), working out, long lunches, networking, clerking or working. Simply put, students have more flexibility and choice in the way their days and nights play out than most working people, anywhere.
And our vacation breaks are killer. At Arizona Law, students get just over three months over the summer (and summer legal positions are typically eight to ten weeks), just over one month over the winter holidays, and a whole week off in March for Spring Break. Plus, we get the bank holidays, a five-day weekend for Thanksgiving, and some “dead days” before each finals session. (See the 2012-13 Academic Calendar here: http://www.law.arizona.edu/current_students/academic_programs/Calendar1213.cfm.)
As a person who has worked before (more than a decade in the journalism biz), I can tell you this sincerely: You will never have a job that replicates this vacation schedule. Ten weeks vacation out of a fifty-two week year? That’s nearly 20% of the year on vacation! This is simply unheard of.
So I knew going in to the post-finals break on December 16, 2011, that I’d better enjoy it. I’ll be a hardworking first-year associate next December; I’ll be lucky to find enough time to do my Christmas shopping! So during My Very Last Winter Break Ever, I lived it up.
Now, I’m a 30-something mom. My living it up had no trip to Las Vegas, Mexico, Europe, or even California. No, it involved addressing Christmas cards, some shopping, and a lot of errands. But it also meant being able to say “Yes!” when my kids asked if we could go to the movies or the mall. It meant having time for holiday adventures like strolling through the Winterhaven Festival of Lights, hosting a massive tamale-making party, and letting everyone under 5 feet tall stay up way too late at our “wild” Family Night New Year’s Eve Party ... playing Kinect of course.
And we did squeeze in a trip, just not to Vegas. My kids and I hit the slopes at Sunrise Ski Resort in the Arizona White Mountains.
Why just me and the kids? My husband, who’s not a student, had to work.
Law school can be hard, and it can be easy; some days can be nightmarish, and others can be no less than the best days of your life. When you’re a 3L, you know that rollercoaster will soon be replaced with something much more steady, without those peaks and valleys. And you know you’d better treasure Your Very Last Winter Break Ever.
Posted by: Raina 04/16/2012 2:08 PM
Freedom of Course Choice...and Finals
One the best things about being a 3L is the fact that you truly get to choose the courses in which you’ll spend a semester of your life.
You know by now that the 1L course load is almost entirely proscribed, at the University of Arizona College of Law and every other law school. 2L year is not nearly as boxed in - but there are enough required courses that you don’t get to in the first year (Evidence; Ethics; a practical course such as Trial Advocacy or Advanced Legal Writing; and your substantial paper) that you really don’t have true choice of scheduling until you’re nearly done with law school!
This lack of freedom in the early going is actually a good thing. If you law schools didn’t make you take Civil Procedure and Contracts, you might not enroll in them, and trust me - you need these courses to pass the bar exam of any state, and in all likelihood, in your actual legal practice as well. Still, it sure feels good when you can look at a schedule offering courses as varied as Sports Law, Education Law, Animal Law, Secured Transactions, Pre-trial Litigation, Employment Law, Estates and Trusts, and Environmental Law and think to yourself, “What do I WANT to take?”
True, even as a 3L, there are some limits on your freedom of choice. You might not have gotten to all those remaining required courses 2L year ... I sure didn’t. Then there are the “recommended” courses for all law students, including a second semester of Constitutional Law, Business Organizations, Criminal Law, Federal Tax, and others. Plus, there’s that pesky bar exam to think about. While no one really recommends filling up your schedule with “bar courses” these days (rather, the advice is to take what you want, and study for the bar exam after graduation, since you’ll need to study your butt off whether you’ve taken the class or not), it’s still probably a good idea to tackle a few a bar courses anyway.
So fall semester of my 3L year ended up being a mix of required units (Ethics, also called Professional Responsibility); recommended units (Business Organizations, typically on any state’s bar exam); courses I wanted to try because I might go into the fields (Education Law and The Mortgage Crisis); and a class that seemed like it would just be fun (Basic Trial Advocacy, or Trial Ad).
At Arizona Law, this “fun class” - which was offered for pass-fail units, not a grade, making it even more stress-free - is taught by a practitioner, as are most of the practical courses. It makes imminently more sense to learn about litigation from someone who spends time in a courtroom, as opposed to a professor and a casebook. For my small group of Trial Ad participants, that instructor was Pima County Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini (http://www.law.arizona.edu/faculty/facultyprofile.cfm?facultyid=61), a longtime litigator who has had her seat on the bench since 1994. Judge Bernini’s no-nonsense approach taught me and my classmates how to conduct ourselves in a courtroom. We were offering exhibits and cross-examining witnesses before we even knew what hit us. The final? Dressing up in our seldom-worn business suits and conducting an entire trial before a mock jury. It took a lot of prep time, but was actually a fun final. (And my side won! Yay!)
The rest of finals? Not so fun. Not ever fun. Not even when you’re a 3L and not even when you know that even if you ace every final, your GPA has enough units that it’s practically set-in-stone, so even a 4.0 will barely bump it up (not that you can get a 4.0 anyway ... hardly anyone ever does). That end-of-semester thing takes over in spite of it all, and it’s a time of study, study, STUDY!! Fair or not, your final grade is representative of what you learned in a given class, and since you always learn so much, you want that grade to be as high as possible.
Even when you’re a 3L.
Posted by: Raina 04/16/2012 2:08 PM
The Working Life
This week I have just finished up my 150 clinical hours for the fall. All semester I have been working as an intern at Southern Arizona Legal Aid (SALA), a nonprofit law firm here in Tucson.
SALA has a long history of working with volunteer interns from Arizona Law (every summer there are at least three students getting tons of legal experience at SALA), but this fall, SALA and the UA launched a new project. With funding from the Arizona Attorney General, SALA and the College of Law trained and placed eight students to work with people facing bankruptcy or foreclosure (or both), through the Mortgage and Bankruptcy Clinic.
Along with 3 credits toward graduation, we student volunteers got legal experience in everything from filing Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy petitions, writing and filing complaints in Pima County Superior Court and Justice Court, to completing loan modification paperwork. Legal Aid received clerk hours on nearly 40 different clients - surely helping move those cases through the SALA case load more quickly.
Balancing that workload and my class load this semester was pretty tricky (I worked for 10 to 12 hours a week at SALA, starting at the end of August). Luckily, it wrapped up this week, just as finals preps bears down on us all.
My balancing act was far from unique. Nearly all third-year law students at Arizona Law work - at a school-associated clinic, such as the Mortgage Clinic or the Family Law Clinic; clerking for judges through the externship program; or continuing to volunteer in government positions that began during their 1L or 2L summers. And many 3Ls actually get paid for their time!
Though this might sound like just another time crunch, working is one of the best things about being a 3L. First of all, the class load is less demanding than it was earlier in law school. And secondly, we actually know enough law that we can be assets to our employers. Therefore, we garner enough respect to be able to take on more responsibilities.
And it is in these jobs or volunteer positions that we are finally learning how to lawyer.
Posted by: Raina 04/16/2012 2:08 PM
3L: A Whole New World, A Whole New Variety of Stress
Allow me to introduce myself. I'm a "3L." The rest...my name, age, gender, marital status...it's just not very important. That's right - the most important thing about a third-year law student is that he or she is a third-year law student.
How did we get here? How did the individual existences of 150 third-year Arizona Law students - and thousands upon thousands of other law students nationwide - get reduced to two tiny symbols, one letter one number, juxtaposed in a fashion that doesn't even make sense to anyone outside of the insular World of Law?
Well, it was getting through 1L and 2L years, of course. Getting through the introduction to reading cases, writing legal analysis, and somehow sorting out an assult from a battery. It was surviving your first-ever final -- a three-hour test worth your entire grade -- and then surviving your second one three days later.
And there was more, mostly resume builders: Negotiating the law review write-on competition, suiting up (literally) for your first job fair, and working up the nerve to ask a professor you were sure did not know your name if she'd write you a letter of recommendation. And at the end of it, if you were lucky, it led to an OCI interview call back or two. To be fair, lots of that non-class stuff was plenty of fun: making new friends, going for Thursday-night "Bar Review," and joining at least six too many clubs. Volunteering int he community was fun, helpful, and made you feel good about yourself.
But all of it, all of it, led here, to 3L, a land where the classes are manageable, you pretty much like them all (or, since you chose them of your own volition, you have no one to blame but yourself if you don't), and you and all your classmates spend upwards of either hours per week working or volunteering at a legal job, externship or clinical position. So while you've finally learned how to do law school, you now have a completely different kind of stress: you are about to graduate and go out into the real legal world.
Yep, that's 3L in a nutshell: Right when you master law school, law school kicks you out.
There are - fittingly - 3 big themes to 3L year:
1. Looking for a post-graduation job (for many this actually begins in the fall of your 2L year - but more on that in a later entry).
2. Working as a legal clerk, extern or clinical student - real practice at being a lawyer.
3. Beginning to freak out about taking the bar.
For the rest of the academic year, I'll be filling you in more about these big themes, all of which are VERY present in my 3L life. I'm looking forward to sharing my journey with you.
And...a few more details. My name is not "3L." (Big reveal!) It's Raina Wagner. I'm a woman. LIk e alot of law students (but certainly not most), I am married. Unlike a lot of law students (but certainly more than a few), I am a parent. I've both loved law school and hated it. And like every 3L, I've figured it out. I hope I can help you do the same.
Posted by: Raina 04/16/2012 2:08 PM