Everything is Fine

By: Eleanor (“Nell”) Tebbetts (JD ’21)  with a Preface and Afterword by Professor Abigail L. Perdue

Preface: Each spring during our final session, I invite my first-year Legal Writing students to complete an ungraded reflection exercise. I provide several prompts, one of which encourages each student to write a short letter to the person he or she was on the first day of law school. Nell’s funny and candid letter is reprinted below with her permission.

___________________________________________________________

Dear August 2018 Nell,

So here are the two things that really matter:

  1. Yes, you can do this…
  2. but you’re not always going to be the best anymore. Continue reading “Everything is Fine”
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Untangling Students’ Fears about 1L Oral Arguments

By: Professor Heidi Brown

It’s 1L oral argument season again. Many legal writing faculty colleagues are eagerly gearing up to schedule argument practice rounds for their students as part of the course curriculum. I’ll admit, this component of our 1L legal writing curriculum gives me residual angst. I sit in my office staring at my syllabus and wishing my students could just slide their appellate briefs into a dropbox and skip right to summer break. I know, I know…I’m the educator now, not the traumatized 1L student I once was. My disastrous oral argument was nearly three decades ago. I should be over it by now, right? I should be excited to impart wisdom to my students about the substance and style of oral persuasion. I’m not. Instead, I absorb the anxiety and fear that many of them experience about this law school rite of passage. The anxiety and fear are real. They’re palpable. Continue reading “Untangling Students’ Fears about 1L Oral Arguments”

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Educating The Whole Lawyer: Mind, Body, and Spirit

By: Kathleen Elliott Vinson & Shailini J. George

“I am anxious, stressed, and tired all the time.  I have a headache, and my body aches. I feel stupid.  I’m not good enough. Why am I the only one who doesn’t get it?  I’ll never get all this work done.  I feel so overwhelmed.  I feel like I am surviving but not living.”

Does this sound familiar: negative thoughts, physical tension, anxiety, and stress?  You are not alone.  This message plays in the mind of many students, colleagues, and even clients.

Lawyer well-being should begin in law school.  While law school tends to focus on teaching students how to “think like a lawyer” to prepare them for practice, what about students’ psychological, emotional, and physical well-being?  How are students learning these important skills that are also essential in preparing them for the stresses of law practice?  They may be more important than you think to enhance lifelong resilience and success.  To be an effective advocate for your client, you must first take care of yourself.  It is hard to be a good lawyer if you are not a healthy lawyer. Continue reading “Educating The Whole Lawyer: Mind, Body, and Spirit”

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Legal Writing Like an Entrepreneur

By: Professor Joe Regalia

“Tomorrow becomes never. No matter how small the task, take the first step now!”

–Tim Ferriss 

Elon Musk’s work style embodies what every entrepreneur wants to be: ridiculously efficient, meticulously organized, and so productive that everyone around him wonders how he manages it all. He runs multiple mega companies, dozens of projects, and spends several days a week with his five children. And he does it all by taking the same sort of productivity and organizational principles that startups use to build good businesses–and applying them to his own life.

This very silicon valley trend of maximizing personal efficiency works. Musk reportedly schedules his day in five-minute increments, making it impossible for him to waste time. “From the second [Musk’s] head lifts off his bedroom pillow at 7 a.m., his day has already been pre-planned in advance.” And Musk is not an outlier: the best entrepreneurs are famous for bringing efficiency and productivity not just to their businesses, but to their personal habits, too.

Then you have lawyers. We may be the most inefficient, unproductive gang. We seem to take about twice as long to do everything. People literally talk about hiring a lawyer just to delay things.

It’s not just what others think about us: lawyers and law students really struggle with efficiency and productivity. And a lot of it comes down to our writing. I constantly get questions about how to deal with procrastination and the overwhelming feelings that come with putting together briefs and motions. When you step back, it’s easy to understand why. Legal writing is overwhelming. You have to figure out your goals, research tons, research some more, organize your points, write something, edit, scrap things (and maybe start over) when it all doesn’t turn out–and on and on. Then mix in some unreasonable deadlines. Little surprise that legal writing is where many of us have our meltdowns.

But entrepreneurs seem to be able to handle multitasking and deadlines just fine. So what can they teach us here? Continue reading “Legal Writing Like an Entrepreneur”

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