Here are some words to live by: try never to live anywhere with a season called ‘mud.’ It was a typical late winter weekend in South Western Pennsylvania which means we had nine inches of snow here in the Laurel Mountains on Saturday and Sunday. Now, on Tuesday, it’s close to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The streams and rivers are gorged with snow melt. Our pasture moved well beyond spongy and water-logged under my feet to something like gooey chocolate pudding. Even the horses and my dog are happy to gaze longingly at the soupy fields from our perches in the barn and tack room where I’ve taken to studying. We’re patiently waiting for mud season to pass and everything to turn summer-green. Continue reading
Have you seen the episode of ‘How I met Your Mother’ where Marshall is waiting to see if he passed the New York state bar exams? The conflict is that he lost his password and can’t log into the candidate portal, which means he was to wait even longer to see if he passed or not. The writers did a masterful job building suspense and tension. If you are waiting for exam results, you might feel the same way. Everything is on the line while you wait.
Sometimes waiting for results feels more stressful than taking exams, but no matter, all you can do is sit tight. I try to keep calm, but for the first few weeks that’s virtually impossible. Here is how I have learned to cope.
When writing fiction an author has two ways to create a sense of tension and urgency in a reader and set the pace of the story. One is a time lock. The other is an option lock. A time lock means the character has X amount of time to accomplish Y and avert the consequences. It’s a race against the clock. An option lock means the character has to make a choice between two or more options to achieve their goals and avert disaster. If you are feeling behind in your studies, chances are the narrative around your dilemma contains an element of both time and option locks.
Writing science says that groups of people respond in different ways to each kind of lock, but more about that another time. For those of us engaged in post-graduate study I think the two get conflated. To solve the option/time lock we have to answer two simple questions. How much time do I have to prepare, and if I do option A, B, or C what results will I get? The consequences and looming potential for disaster are self-evident. So, how do I assemble my resources and move past the time/option lock that inevitably comes before exams?
I’m sitting behind a mountain of study materials trying to work out an effective revision plan. For me, revising is not the same as studying. It requires a very different attitude and awareness about what I want to accomplish. When I have a good understanding of those goals, I can then develop a plan to approach my materials.
My study materials include primary texts and essential reading, recommended reading, study guides for each module, and my notes. That’s a lot of material to collate and use together effectively. You can see why a clear goal about outcomes is very helpful. So how do I start?
“Law school is no joke.” That’s what a friend of mine said when we last talked about my study program. He wasn’t lying. He’s a professional athlete, a downhill skier. He inspired me to think of note-taking like one of his epic runs to the finish line on a Super-G (super giant slalom) course – a combination of precision, technical expertise, and speed.
I have wanted to say Happy New Year for a few weeks now but felt I really had to work this out first. Sooooo, I’m sitting here in post-fact America trying to decide what courses to select for the new term. There are a lot of excellent options to choose from. This required a good think. I came close to pushing the registration button a few times then paused to consider how my choice will help me interpret and contribute to the world around me. For me, those opportunities are the point of education generally and of post-graduate legal education particularly. I’m going to invest a lot of time in this as a student and as a professional. It’s important to get it right.
Attending law school has been in the back of my mind for quite some time. Now that I am a law student, every time I sit down to study I tend to react like someone opening a surprise gift from a loved one. It is a wonderful feeling. It helps me keep track of my goals and how I want to use this education. One of my chief goals is learning to think like a lawyer.
I work in nonprofit management with an international NGO. It’s a good match for me. After years of trying I caught on that I really don’t have a corporate soul, so to speak. But I do have a somewhat corporate way of thinking, meaning I like a methodical way of approaching issues and having a plan. It helps to approach things like a lawyer, to apply this particular structure to my critical thinking process.
Let’s really explore distance learning this week. To my surprise, this is a topic I find myself discussing quite a bit. Every day I find myself in conversations like: “What is distance learning really like? How do we implement it? What kind of results can we expect to see? What kind of measurements are best applied to our particular distance learning program?” I talk about it at work, in social settings, during board meetings and in job interviews. Keep in mind that I do not work in education at all, not even remotely. (No pun intended) Distance Learning is now that important.
Next week I will tell you about how moving and starting a new job drove me to distraction. This week I would like to say a word about how studying law has already helped me quite a bit in personal and professional projects. One reason this course appealed to me is its application to my work managing nonprofit organizations. It helps me to be better informed and be a better advocate. It does that in a few ways from subject knowledge to critical thinking and reasoning skills. That is really wonderful. It is the reason I chose this course. But there is something even better and more satisfying that I didn’t expect. Legal studies made me take notice of a few things in my vocation moonlighting as a novelist.
We are sliding into autumn and registering for another year of study. I am also in week two of a new position and we are moving to a new home. It has been a wonderfully interesting year as being a first year post graduate law student is bound to be. The professional and personal pandemonium certainly added a bit of zest to the excitement of legal studies. The process of shifting house and starting a new position at the same time is a bit hair-raising so you can appreciate why I decided to wait on exams. As the Hermione Granger of law school – the one who looks forward to taking exams – I had to overcome my disappointment at missing them.