Ask Our Alumni: Featuring Attorney Kristine Saul
Question: What do you find law students don't do enough of in preparing for exams?
Answer: One of the biggest mistakes law students make around exam time is not effectively managing their time. Sleep and breaks are just as important as actually studying. A tired mind and body greatly impact one's ability to retain information and move effectively through the material.
Lastly, the use of practice exams (if available) is vital. Being able to apply all the information you learn is the best test of your proficiency and will help to focus your studying in the homestretch before the actual exam. Study groups can be the most helpful here so you can also learn from your classmates and note how they may work through a question.
Question: How can law students alleviate stress during the exam period?
Answer: Creating a schedule can be key in reminding yourself that there actually are enough hours in the day to get your work done. By making a list of upcoming exams/papers/projects and then blocking off time to accomplish each task can assist in making sure you are utilizing your time effectively.
Lastly, it's important to build breaks into your schedule (i.e. watching a TV show, exercise, talking with a friend) that allow for short escapes from the work.
About Kristine: Kristine Saul is a first year associate at Day Pitney in Hartford, CT and is working in their Financial Services practice. She attended Columbia University School of Law and completed her undergraduate degree at New York University. As a law student, she served on the NEBLSA board as the Regional Director of Moot Court.
Ask Our Alumni: Featuring Attorney Conway Ekpo
QUESTION: What are firms, and other legal employers, looking for in hiring a summer employee?
ANSWER: With respect to what firms are looking for, I would caution students to keep in mind that firms are still in recovery mode from the recession of 2008 which saw over 10,000 "BigLaw" attorneys lose their jobs in major legal markets across the country. Hiring has been on the incline since 2008, but it is on a slow pace and, unfortunately, is nowhere near 2007 levels when standards were more relaxed. What this means for law students today is that you must focus on two things: (i) academic excellence and (ii) networking. Firms are placing much more emphasis on grades today than they were in 2007, so students should make every effort to increase their GPA's as much as possible.
For 1L's, this means preparing for the exam by taking as many practice exams as possible and going in for office hours to have your respective professors review your answers. Also, 1L's should prepare an outline for the final exam which is streamlined and tabbed specifically for the exam. This should not be confused for the more bulky outlines which they may have prepared in order to follow along in class. An exam outline should be shorter, organized by the issues which have been covered by the professor, and each black letter law rule statement should be written exactly as it would be written on the exam (ex. "a battery is established when there is a harmful or offensive contact with the body of another") so that both issue and rule statements can be simply transcribed verbatim directly from the student's outline onto the exam answer without wasting any time.
For 2L's, this means that more difficult classes should be postponed until 3L and replaced with a more manageable workload because, believe it or not, 2L grades do matter. Especially if you find yourself in the unenviable position of still being on the job hunt during your 3L year. So take care to keep your 2L GPA up as high as possible and take at least one externship with a judge (preferably a federal judge) during either the fall or spring semester. Judges are well connected and the dividends that can be reaped from doing good work for a judge can lead directly to employment.
For 3L's, since your GPA is effectively established at this point in you law school career, your focus should shift to networking. Again, apply for an externship with a judge if you haven't already. If you have already externed with a judge, set up a time to take your judge out for lunch to discuss your career goals. There is a good chance that your judge either knows somebody directly or knows somebody who knows somebody who can hook you up with employment in whatever field you are interested in going into. Repeat the same process for professors and former employers. Leave no stone unturned.
QUESTION: How can students set themselves apart from others during the interview process?
ANSWER: With respect to setting yourself apart during an interview, students should always be in the habit of researching their interviewer(s) BEFORE the interview in order to make the best impression. Care should be given to study not only your interviewer's accomplishments, but also the firm's accomplishments as well. Being able to cite to your interviewer's recent cases or large landmark transactions can make the difference between a student who is memorable and a student who is simply grouped with everybody else. Also, your tone and demeanor should be conversational. Lawyers like to talk about themselves, so let them. However, during the conversation you should strive to get at least 2 or 3 memorable facts about yourself into the dialogue so that when the hiring committee goes back to review all of the applicants, everybody will remember you as the "XYZ" law student. Your memorable facts do not necessarily need to be law related; you could discuss a common alma mater that you and your interviewer share or a recent accomplishment that you achieved that not many other students have achieved. Think of what you talked about in your personal statement when you applied to law school to give you a few ideas of what to include.
As a quick example, an interviewer at a NEBLSA job fair once asked me at the end of the day to tell him one thing that stood out about myself that made me different from everybody else that he had interviewed that day. Without hesitation I answered by saying that unlike all the other students he had interviewed that day, I happened to be one of the NEBLSA job fair coordinators for that year that made the entire job fair possible, so but for my personal efforts and the efforts of my team, my interviewer would not have been in a position to interview anybody that day, let alone ask me to differentiate myself from my fellow students. He nodded his head in approval and a week later I received a call back from his firm. So think outside the box about what bit of information would be impressive for your interviewer to know.
About Attorney Ekpo: Attorney Ekpo is an associate at Riker Danzig, and practices in litigation. He primarily focuses his practice on advising and defending financial institutions, corporations and other business entities on matters including commercial contracts, compliance issues, and securities litigation. He graduated from Rutgers University School of Law in 2007, and served on both the NEBLSA Board as well as on the National Board.