Julissa Ranchor

September

Reflecting on these first few weeks of my 1L semester has brought me to the conclusion that I am so grateful I was given the opportunity to take a course in Criminal Law over the summer. Doing so allowed me a chance to get my feet wet in the law and shorten down my course load for fall semester to just four classes, which means I will only have three finals come the end of the semester. So, if there is any advice that I can impart onto prospective students it would be that they consider taking criminal law over the summer, if possible.

Fortunately, I was admitted to Seattle University School of Law through the Access Admission program that is headed by the Academic Resource Center. This program makes an effort to admit a small number of students whose undergraduate GPA or LSAT scores may not be a true reflection of the student's potential to succeed and ultimately practice law.

If you are admitted through this program you are required to take Criminal Law over the summer, along with participating in various workshops and opportunities to meet with alumni of Seattle U Law, as well as the opportunity to meet with various members of the Court and legislative branch on a trip down to the Capitol, in Olympia, Washington.

Being a first-generation college graduate and a non-traditional student, this program proved beneficial and crucial to my success in beginning my 1L Fall semester. When I started in the summer, I struggled with finding a study schedule that worked best for me, balancing my studies with my life outside of school, and finding ways to maintain healthy habits. Luckily, I found a great group of friends from the program, along with having an amazing professor who through his words of affirmation continued to inspire and give us hope that we belonged here, and we were chosen.

Taking Criminal Law over the summer prepared me on how to brief a case, how to respond to cold call's, and how to ultimately prepare for finals. I owe a lot to the Access Admission program for preparing me for the Fall semester and while these last few weeks have not been exactly easy; they have definitely been much more manageable.

My last piece of advice to any future students or prospective students is to get involved, ask questions, and learn about the great opportunities offered by the Academic Resource Center.


October

October. It is a time in the semester where everything felt manageable, but by the last week felt as if every professor was cranking up the speed in all of my classes. By this time, most 1Ls began feeling the anxiety creeping through as deadlines loomed for drafts of their second memo, and fears that they were not as prepared for finals as they thought they be.

However, the good news is that there is still five weeks left in the semester, which means that we as a 1L's have officially completed two thirds of the semester and still have plenty of time to prepare for finals in December.

With these next five weeks, it means that I along with the majority of 1L's need to buckle down and really make some headway on outlining for each class, memorizing key terms and codes, and making time to meet with professors.

I cannot stress how important it is to meet with your professors as soon as you can in the semester. It may seem daunting or even terrifying but trust me when I say that they want you to do well and want to ensure that you're understanding the material. The only caveat I have to scheduling a meeting or dropping in for office hours, is to make sure you have written down at least three to four questions you have regarding the material. Walking into a meeting saying you don't know where to start is not a good use of your time, or theirs.

And now as I head into November, I have my trusted Outlook calendar to keep me focused, accountable, and sane for the next two months ahead of me. Key factors as a 1L to keep in mind as I go into November are preparing for networking events, scheduling time to outline for classes, reading for classes, and preparing my materials for applying in December for my future 1L summer internship.


December

At the age of 7 I knew that I wanted to go to law school. By the age of 17, I was committed to choosing the major that I believed would prepare me for law school. However, by the age of 22, with five years of undergraduate studies behind me, the idea of law school did not sound as good of an investment in my future. I recall one professor who crushed my rose-colored view of what law school meant to me, and why it was a poor decision on my part to go. Yet, here I find myself, six years later, on a three-year journey to obtain my juris doctorate. So, why did I choose to come to law school? Well, I did not choose to apply based on a fantasy I had created when I was 7 years old. Rather, I came to law school to stay true to my goal and find my identity as a legal professional.

As I enter into these last few weeks of my first semester of law school, I am struck with the realization of how much I have changed in these short, 15 weeks. My goal, this time last year was to be accepted into a law school in order to fulfill my dream of becoming a criminal defense attorney and master the art of legal writing. However, after seven weeks of taking a summer course in criminal law, my goals have dramatically changed, and continue to do so. Unfortunately, the idea of my goals changing from week to week or even month to month has created in myself an identity crisis.

I think anyone who is suffering from an identity crisis while in law school is going to find it difficult to navigate. For a non-traditional law student like myself, who has spent years in the work force, it feels very much like I am missing a part of me. However, I am slowly beginning to discover that there are a great many students who are constantly changing their minds about the field of law in which they would like to practice, and it is perfectly fine to not know what you want to do after graduation. What matters is that each summer I am taking the initiative to work with a firm, organization, or program that is enhancing my skill set in the workings of the law.

As I reflect on this past semester, I realize that I took time for granted. Of course, I completed the readings for all my classes and did not miss any of my classes, but I definitely did not take the extra initiative that I am realizing is so important to excel here in law school. By extra initiative I mean attending weekly office hours with professors, spending time outlining before finals, obtaining a tutor through the Academic Resource Center, and reviewing my class notes over the weekend.

It is the week before finals, and up until this morning as I sat down to write this reflection, I oscillated between feelings of regret and failure. Regret because I did not complete my outlines for two of my three classes until this week. Failure because there is subject material, I feel that I am unable to grasp, and it is too late to ask my professor for clarification. Nevertheless, my only feeling now is acceptance. I cannot change what I did, but I can change the way I go about using this last week and half to prepare for the three finals I have ahead of me. What I have learned in my first semester of law school is that time must be managed correctly. Organization is crucial to my success in the completion of my studies and meeting deadlines. Also, taking time for myself is important, but remembering not to squander that time is important as well.

So, what do I plan on doing differently next semester? I am going to endeavor to begin outlining as early as the first week and make time to meet with my professors weekly. I am also going to make an effort to meet with the legal writing department because I know my skills in legal writing need work, but I am hopeful that by the time I graduate, my skills will be strengthened. Thus, my new goal over the next three years of law school is to create a memo, an appellate brief, or any legal document with little to no errors.

I stand today as a law student ready cultivate my identity as a legal professional and pursue my goal.