Saturday, December 1, 2012

Light at the End of the Tunnel

My sister took the LSAT today, and endured 4.5 hours of cruel and unusual punishment that only pre-law students can appreciate. She told me her brain is tired, which is a feeling I am sure she will revisit once she goes to law school. Unlike me, I think my sister will be a good fit for law, considering she had the gumption to sue the IRS. Watch out, legal world, another Akao is on the way!

Is the pain worth it?

I recently interviewed a friend of mine, Doug MacLean. Like me, he was a fellow English major from UNR, but unlike me, he had a specific reason for attending law school. Four years ago, I had helped Doug with his personal statement to Georgetown. Not only did he get in, he excelled. Doug is now in Japan for a year on a Fulbright, studying exactly what he wanted to: international women's humans rights. Doug told me that many professors in the legal world agree OneL is "pedagogically bankrupt," but are unwilling to do anything about it. I translate this to mean that there is absolutely no reason why law schools across the country have to make learning law so hard for first year students. Will the system ever change? I hope so.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? For advocates like Doug, absolutely. Is studying law uncomfortable? Most definitely, yes. Is it worth it for some? For sure, yes.

If you are thinking about law school or in the process of applying, my advice to you is this: write down your goals and be specific. Include those goals in your personal statement. Years later when you look back at that document, you will see why the pain was worth it! Or, if you're like me, you will find a passion that doesn't require so much suffering.

Cheers, Gina

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Recommendation: Should You Really Be a Lawyer?

Are you planning to go to law school? You must read this book, Should You Really Be a Lawyer? The Guide to Smart Career Choices Before, During & After Law School

The author, Deborah Schneider, came to speak to my Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity club the summer before I attended law school, and out of all of the career decision books I have read, this is the only one that could stand the test of time. I wish I had a dollar for every time I said, "I wish I had listened to Deborah's advice," especially when, toward the end of my law school stint, I would rather have scratched my eyes out than read another legal case about murder and manslaughter (too gory for my classical pianist eyes!).

Deborah has a JD, and is the former Associate Director for Career Development at the University of California Hastings College of Law. Her book has three main audiences: prospective law students, current law students, and practicing lawyers. However, I think the career advice would apply to almost any career path.

My favorite part of the book: the assessments. Deborah and her co-author, Gary Belsky, have provided their readers with short, magazine-quiz-like assessments that challenge your assumptions about the legal world and the dazzling, high paying careers you think law will lead you to once you finish law school. For example, Decision Assessment 2 asks you to:

Check all the statements that apply to you:

I'm considering going to law school because...

A) I'm not sure what I want to do, and a law degree will keep my options open.
B) People whose opinions I trust are encouraging me to get a law degree.
C) I've thought about what I'd enjoy in a job, and the law would be a good fit for my skills, strengths, and interests.
D) The people whose jobs I'd like to have in a few years all have law degrees, even though they no longer practice.
E) I've already worked in legal and non-legal environments, and I would prefer a legal setting.
F) I was a liberal arts major, so a law degree seems like the next logical step.
G) Everyone says I would make a good lawyer.
H) I'm competitive by nature, so I think I'd enjoy law school and the legal profession.
I) My prior professional experience sparked my interest in law.

(Schneider & Belsky, 2005, p. 23-24).

At the time, I checked C and F, then eagerly proceeded to the paragraphs below my answers to read what my responses said about me and my assumptions. Once I had finished my entire assessment, I received a score of 71, which put me in the gray area. I laugh when I read the description of the gray area, because it was dead on: "You probably do have some valid reasons for going to law school and a sense of what you want from a JD, and you have done a little research. But you may be reading this book because you're still not sure that law is the right decision for you." (Schneider & Belsky, 2005, p. 44).

Was Deborah right? Absolutely! So if you are looking for a magic 8 ball to tell you if law school is the right fit, don't let the LSAT tell you that, read Should You Really Be a Lawyer? It is well worth the $21.86 bucks, which is nothing compared to the debt you will take on if you wait to address your uncertainties until after you are too invested to get out! Of course, you may read the book and decide law school is the right path for you. And if so, all the power to you.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Assault v. Battery

I am always surprised when I am listening to the radio how often people mix up assault with battery. In my torts class, we studied assault and battery by the elements. We had the elements drilled into us, to the extent that one of the torts teachers said we should be able to wake up in the middle of the night and recite the elements from memory. I can just imagine sleeping peacefully, and suddenly, my eyes popping open. I would sit up in bed and, in a zombie-like haze, start announcing:

1) act
2) intent
3) imminent apprehension of the harm or offence
4) the harm or offence

1) act
2) intent to touch
3) intent to harm or offend
4) the harm or offense

The elements look the same, right? Well, the difference is that assault is just the apprehension of a harm or offence, so it doesn't require contact. Battery usually involves contact while assault only involves thinking you will get hurt. It's the difference between someone faking a punch (assault) and actually punching someone (battery).

Of course, you don't have to take my word for it. Any good lawyer would say it depends on the circumstances. And of course, when you are a law student, you get to say that anything you do or say should not be construed as legal advice.

So there you have it: the difference between assault and battery.

Sweet dreams!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Writing Your Personal Statement

Writing your law school personal statement can be daunting, but it isn't difficult if you follow a few simple guidelines. Law school admissions committees are looking for three basic things: who you are, why you are applying to law school (and why now), and what will make you complete the program.

  1. Give up on trying to write the perfect personal statement. Several drafts are standard. Your first draft can be a "freewrite" where you just brainstorm whatever is on your mind, and what made you consider applying to law school.
  2. Revise. Show some of your later drafts to a few people you trust. I ran my law school personal statement by 20 students in an English class. If at least three people recommend the same improvement, make the change. Some comments are useful, but the author always knows best. Trust your instincts. The last person you show your draft to should be the person whose opinion matters most to you.
  3. Do a final edit before you submit. Nothing looks worse than an admissions essay that has typos. Admissions committees can tell if you drafted your personal statement for the first time as you were filling out your application. Trust me. I participated on an Admissions Committee as part of the Honors Program at UNR. A panel of professors, myself, and the Honors Director read through every essay and letter of recommendation and then met multiple times to debate which applications would go into the "accept," "reject," and "maybe" piles. Standardized test scores and grades determine which initial pile your application gets put into, but after that, especially if the committee is on the fence about your materials, your personal statement and letters of recommendation get scrutinized.
There are several books out there on how to draft a good personal statement. Sometimes it is helpful to look at sample essays that were successful. But remember, your personal statement is about you. In the end, those example are just examples. Admissions committees want to know who you are, so give them enough detail so they can visualize you in the graduation processional.

Good luck!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Your Legacy

What will you be known for?

This question was posed to us during one of my Educational Leadership classes. The moderator of the discussion asked us to turn to our neighbor and tell him or her what we thought we would be known for. I said, even though it is a hobby, I might be known for playing and teaching classical piano. When I recently posted a book reading to YouTube, alongside a collection of piano pieces I recorded, the piano videos gained me more subscribers.

After I thought about the question more, however, I might answer the question differently.

On May 20, 2012, my cousin, Luke Akao, was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was 30 years old. My sister and I attended the memorial service this past Saturday. Although we did not know Luke well, I was so impressed by how many people said how much he had helped others. He lived. He loved. He laughed. He could fix just about everything. He had graduated from UCLA with a degree in Political Science, but he was so much more than just a student. His friendship, his daredevil qualities, and his goofy sense of humor endeared him to everyone around him, be it co-workers or family members.

We are all multifaceted beings. There is no "one" thing that defines us. I teach piano, yes. I write. I work with databases. I conduct institutional research. I am a lifelong learner. I am committed to excellence. I give Toastmasters speeches. Life is a series of changes. At any given time, one talent may rise above another. Sometimes it is work. Sometimes it is school. Sometimes it is family. It could even be play.

A colleague of mine in the Educational Leadership program at UNR had commented that he had seen my blog and noticed that I had attended law school and dropped out. He had gone to law school too and had decided it wasn't for him. Now, both of us hold a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership. Even though it was not a good fit, law school did not prevent us from succeeding in the future, nor from following new goals and dreams.

By writing my book, I hope to encourage people to find the best path, uniquely designed for them. It could be law. It could be something entirely different. Whatever your passion is, do it! If my cousin taught me anything, it would be to live life to the fullest.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Studying for the LSAT

Hi everyone,

One of my main objectives in writing my book is to give my readers what I wished I had known before I went to law school. Today's topic is studying for the LSAT, and what I found most helpful and not so helpful as I was studying for the LSAT.

Kaplan Courses

I chose to take a Kaplan course to give me the motivation to study for the test. However, the teacher wasn't very good, and the course material jumped around schizophrenically, which didn't allow for mastery of any particular part of the test. Unless the format has changed since when I took it in 2006, the LSAT is half logical reasoning, a fourth logic games, a fourth reading comp, and one wild card section. There is a writing portion, but it is not scored. Kaplan courses are expensive (mine was $1099 at the time I took it, but is more now). I recommend skipping the expensive course and buying access to the online resources Kaplan has. I found that Kaplan's test answer explanations were particularly helpful.

Previously Administered LSATS

You can buy sets of 10 previously administered LSATS, and this is well worth your money. I recommend taking as many practice tests as possible in a timed environment. Once you learn the basic types of questions on the test and the common mistakes, all you have to do is repeat. Score each test and review your answers. Then review your answers some more.

Find a Strategy

Each question on the test is worth the same amount, but some questions are more difficult than others. Don't be afraid to skip around and do the easy questions first to maximize your points. Also, you won't get penalized for guessing, so don't forget to fill in all the answers, even if you are close to running out of time.

Get a Study Buddy

Let's face it, the LSAT is just unfun. You will need someone who knows what you are going through to keep up your morale. Don't worry, the LSAT has nothing to do with your worth as a person or how smart you are. Although the LSAT is an important part of the admissions process, it is not the only factor. Don't beat yourself up. You can do it!

Have a wonderful day.



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Goodness of Fit

At church last week, the pastor gave a sermon about reality. One of the verses he pointed out stood out to me:

"Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
'This is the way, walk in it,'
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left."

- Isiah30:22, NKJ

Sometimes life throws you choices, and you don't know whether to turn left or right. Law school was one of those turns for me. There was a time that I thought God wanted me to go to law school. Maybe there was a reason why I was there even though I did not end up becoming a lawyer. After all, if I had not gone, I wouldn't have a book!

A few weeks before I withdrew from law school, my Sabbath school group leader presented us this quote by Arthur Miller, author of The Crucible:

"It is wrong, it is sin, to accept or remain
in a position that you know is a mismatch
for you. Perhaps that's a form of sin you've never even
considered--the sin of staying in the wrong job.
But God did not place you on this earth
to waste away your years in labor
that does not employ his design or purpose
for your life, no matter how much
you may be getting paid for it."

- Arthur Miller

Occasionally I revisit the quote, and it has always been helpful when I consider redirecting my path. We all have abundant possibilities. Sometimes they are just a turn away.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ex parte and Lingerie

Last Wednesday, I went to my favorite Toastmasters group (Toastmasters is a nonprofit that teaches public speaking and leadership skills). During every meeting we have Table Topics, in which we have a Table Topics Master assign topics to speakers randomly, and then the speakers talk for a few minutes about the topic. If you know about the subject you can go for it, but if you don't, you can "dazzle with BS," as one of our veteran members likes to say.

The week's table topics came from Black's law dictionary. The Table Topics Master, a local attorney, thought (however sadistically) that we might enjoy talking about legal subjects.

The first topic: ex parte. The Table Topics Master called on one woman in our group. She started off, "Thank you Mr. Table Topics Master, Fellow Toastmasters, and most welcome guests...ex party." (She pronounced it party). A blank look crossed her face, but then she began to smile. We knew some dazzling BS was in store, and she didn't disappoint. The topic became a mini speech about lingerie parties, "ex party" style. I would tell you the rest, but I have been sworn to secrecy.

If you want to know the real definition, you can always follow the link: It basically means "on one side only," which I'm sure would be a lot less exciting to hear about during a Table Topic.

My point is, there are so many legal words that can't be discerned at first glance. Love it or hate it, the language of the law is a beast of its own. But hey, if you don't like legalese, you can always join the "ex party" crowd.

Gina :)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Arguing in the Alternative

When you go to law school, you learn to "think like a lawyer." But what does that mean?

It means you can spot a lawsuit wherever you go. When you walk through a parking lot of a grocery store, and you see a large pothole in the pavement, you think, "oh, that's a tort lawsuit waiting to happen." Someone could easily fall if they were to accidentally step into the pothole. Is the injury foreseeable? Yes. Is the grocery store responsible for maintaining a safe parking lot? Most likely yes.

But wait. There is another side to the story. What would the other side say? 

I was recently editing a legal memo for my sister for her paralegal class, and recommended that at the end of the memo, she add a brief paragraph to "argue the alternative". When I was in law school, my torts professor took great pride in getting us to think like a lawyer. Part of that process is learning to argue in the alternative. In other words, what would the opposing side say? What would they argue in response to your case?

For example, the hypothetical scenario from my sister's legal memo was about a guy who went to a bar and got drunk. He left the bar drunk and got into a terrible car accident. The issue was whether the bar was responsible for the damages caused by the drunken man's behavior. My sister argued the bar was indeed liable and cited several cases with similar circumstances in which the court found the bar responsible.

However, what would the other side argue? Perhaps they would say the guy was drunk before he got to the bar. Maybe they would say that nobody saw him leave the bar drunk, so the injury was not foreseeable. There is always another side...and another lawyer to argue it.

What does all of this mean for me now that I am not a lawyer? I can't enjoy myself when I walk across a parking lot.

Gina :)