Friday, August 26, 2011

The Summer I Learned to Spit Sunflower Seeds

It was a dark and stormy night. 

Somewhere in the world.

Watch this video
But not where I was.  I was in a room stuffed with tables, books, and overworked people.  The people were my fellow students.  The books were bar review books.  The tables, well, you know what tables are for. 

Resting your head for a nice nap.

It was 8 weeks into an intensive review of everything law school had taught me (and then some). The final hour was drawing nigh:  the Bar Exam.  This meant that at least once an hour, somebody would throw a pen at a book because they disagreed with the book’s answer.  They could articulate exactly why they disagreed and provide the law for why they disagreed with the book’s answer.  They could discuss little legal nuances for an hour with other people in the library, who were also looking for a release.  They could do so much but they could not calm down. 

I say “they” when I should really be saying “we”. 

It was a tough two months to prepare for a “mere” two days.  Friends and family members were letting loose with the F word. Not THE F word, rather, the other F word.  “You’re going to do fine.”  “You’re a smart kid, you’ll be fine.”  “When have you not done fine?”  “You parked here too long, now you have to pay a fine.”  But, we as law students had done our research.  We knew that lions before us had fallen victim to the Bar Exam.  Lions who did amazing things in the real world, that shaped our country to be what it is today, fell prey to the Bar Exam.  Nobody wanted to go through the rigors of retaking the Bar Exam; the physical and emotional stress would be much too much. 

So we did what we could.  We took the exam.  8,000 people in the Javits Center in New York City.  And now we wait until November when the results come.  I could not help but think that just outside the building, there were people who were on vacation, visiting NYC for the first time.  There were people rushing to work.  There were people who just broke up with their boyfriends or girlfriends. People who just experienced death.  The world kept on going.  No matter how I did on this exam, no matter how I would do later, the world would keep on moving.  And that was something that did not make me bitter (because nobody else knew the pain of this struggle), it just eased me through the process.   A couple nights before the bar exam, a good friend of mine said, “No matter what happens, we’re all coming out of this alive.” These few words were a powerful sentiment as he said this a few days after the shootings in Norway ended so many lives. 

Rock stacks are much better than book stacks 
The exam came and went, just as any other 24 hour cycle goes.  People even gave birth right after the exam.  My wife was waiting after the exam ended.  We packed up the car and went to the Adirondacks for a few days.   Just a few days prior, I had been surrounded by gadgets and technology.  My laptop, iPod, smartphone.  All these things I traded in to simply go camping in the woods.  Instead of gadgets in both hands, I had my wife’s hand in one, and sunflower seeds in the other.

Both were my wife’s doing. 

I agree, too many Disney pics.
But, even Mulan learned to spit.
I had no idea how to spit sunflower seeds.  My brain had been crammed with tons of information over a two-month period and I thought I could not put anything else in there.  But then I put the seeds in my mouth and all the tensions and stress went away.  When camping, chewing on sunflower seeds are an essential, you could say it is a law of the land. 

And I had a new law to learn. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Trust me, I have a J.D.

As soon as law school begins is as soon as law school ends. That is the way it tends to work.

And once it ends, bar review rapidly begins.  Sometimes, bar review begins as law school is ending.  And when that happens, that means you did not plan your schedule out right for your final semester.

Speaking of planning, what do you plan to do now that the Bar exam is over and while you await your exam's results?  This is a waiting period of a few months.  In NY, we take the Bar at the end of July and have to wait until Mid-November for the results.  That is three and a half months of being suspended in limbo.

Law School purgatory, if you will.

By now, the Bar exam taker has de-stressed to some extent (from taking the exam at least).  Life is weird because days filled with studying non-stop are now days filled with doing nothing non-stop.

Well, not exactly nothing

Thousands of law students across the nation are not only stuck waiting for results, but they also cannot find a job.  And so, they start googling and binging what others are doing.  From the looks of it, people are applying to all sorts of jobs like there is no tomorrow.

In a nutshell, everybody should now be applying diligently to jobs and networking.

Here are some things you should NOT do:

1.  Visit forums online
These places are depressing and will only make you feel miserable.  Many people are voicing a lot of negativities and it just is not worth your time. Do not do this.  You have other things to do.

2.  Give Up
Listen bub, you spent three years of your life to get a J.D. to become whatever it is you wanted to be.  Do not settle for something so far removed from that goal that it would be very difficult to become an attorney or whatever you want to be.  However, if you are having absolutely no luck finding a non-legal job, it might be because you have "J.D." on your resume.  Employers may view you and your salary requirements moreso as "high maintenance".  But, if you are proud of your J.D. (which you should be), then in your cover letter, let the employer know how that J.D. will help you help them.

3.  Sit Around Doing Nothing
This is the worst thing you can do right now.  You have to apply, en masse, for jobs.  And not just that.  You have to network.  Major emphasis on networking.  Let me show you in font language how much emphasis is on networking:  NETWORK! Why?  Because employers are getting hundreds of applications, yes, even for the jobs you think nobody would want to do.  Who knows if they will ever read your cover letter.  But, they might be at the next bar association meeting and they would much rather hire somebody they met in person and had a chance to talk to than filter through email after email and page after page of people talking about how great they are.

Here are some things you should do:

1.  Apply to a few jobs a day at least 
Keep churning out your resume and cover letter each day.  A few a day is better than many at once.  You might miss some errors if you churn out too many in a day.  For example, in cover letters, always make sure the date is correct.

2.  Bookmark webpages
When you find a good site that has lots of potential jobs, then drag the link onto your toolbar and make it a habit to check that daily.  I have a few on my toolbar.

3.  Conserve resources
By this I mean do not waste money or time.  For example, Netflix recently changed its payment plan.  If you have both streaming and DVDs, your cost is going to go up.  Ask yourself if you really need both services and if you really need the whole thing and if you can go without it for a few months to save some cash.  There is always Redbox and the internet at your disposal for cheap or free entertainment.  Retail stores keep sending me coupons and sale informations, but, even though I would save a lot of money in purchasing discounted items, I save even more money by not buying anything at all.

I hope this helps and please leave any comments if you have any other helpful tips!