“So…what have you learned?”

Mariesha Keys is a 1L at the University of Houston Law Center

This question, among others, has been asked of me many times by friends and family. With the perfect amount of enthusiasm and genuine honesty, I reply, “A lot. I have learned a lot.” So, as a show of good faith (I’ve learned this term as well), I am going to share a few things I have learned as a first semester law student.

  1. Headings, Subheadings, and Outlines (oh my!)

Outlining is strongly encouraged in law school. Not only is this a useful technique to keep organized, but structured outlines function as personalized encyclopedias that can be updated as needed. In addition to having an outline in law school for reviewing and note taking purposes, structuring your outline to have headings and subheadings is extremely helpful. In law school, your grades are determined by essays, typically written in I.R.A.C. (Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion) form. As you address your issues, it is very useful to add headings. Headings function as guidelines for both you and the professor, and they make the writing process easier.

Think of headings and subheadings as friendly tour guides leading you on a trip. Imagine you have a tour guide for the University of Houston Law Center, and this tour guide is extremely general with directions. She says, “Just go through those doors, you can’t miss it” (whatever “it” may be). Guess what – you’ve missed it, and now you’re lost. Let’s change this scenario. You have a fantastic tour guide who knows the Law Center like the back of her hand, and she tells you, “Go through the first set of double doors, then make a right, and go down the stairs.” See the difference?  Specifics help! Similarly, guiding your professor through your final exam and guiding yourself through a personalized outline can only benefit you in the long run.

*Tip – I.R.A.C. is a great method to use for analyzing the cases you’ll read in class. Find those four components, in addition to writing a brief summary of the facts, and you’ll be good to go!

  1. Law School is READING

This should go without saying, but law school is mostly reading. You will have so much reading for all of your classes that you might forget you once had a life. Some classes have entertaining cases that remind you of short and sweet “Buzzfeed” articles. Other readings will remind you of the reading comprehension section on the LSAT. Don’t despair. If you feel like this is a lot to balance, know that you are not alone – I work at this every day!

*Tip – Try crafting a schedule for yourself; carve out a few hours on the weekend to read for the upcoming week!

  1. Remember your reason for applying

As time sails by, and the first semester comes to a close, I find myself focusing on why I applied to law school. Many people have different purposes for applying, but remember why YOU want to be a lawyer. Do you want to work for big firms, small firms, governmental agencies? Whatever your passion, whatever your reason, hold on to it as you go through this process. Remember your best motivation comes from within!

*Tip– this tumblr for some studying inspiration: http://studying-student.tumblr.com/

So, those are my three takeaways and tips! To those of you considering law school, I hope this post gives you a realistic perspective from someone just starting the journey. Until next time!



Full-time student, full-time mom

Rachael Thompson is a 1L in the full-time program at UHLC.

People keep asking me what it’s like: fellow students, friends and family, other moms at the baseball fields. I’m a mom who until very recently stayed home with her kids and did all those things stay-at-home moms do like volunteer for church and the PTA, go on field trips, and have lunch with friends. Now I’m a full-time 1L. It’s crazy. I’m crazy! I felt called to start a new career in law, and somehow it worked out that I’m here at UHLC, working alongside fellow students many years younger than myself. So, what it’s like to be a full-time law student and a mom of two adolescent boys?

My tasks as a mother have not changed. Dinner needs to be made, laundry piles up, and homework needs to be checked. Oh, and carpool—lots of driving my kids and other kids all over. Now I get to add in about four hours of homework a night and lots of work on the weekends, too, not counting the hours spent in class. Thankfully, my husband is very encouraging and, more practically, enjoys cooking.

To keep up with the student side of my life, I need to be fairly organized. I have to look ahead each week and plan out what needs to get done each day. I’ve been able to keep up and get my work done. If I know I have an important event at my son’s school one evening, I’ll work ahead the weekend or day before so I can take care of my motherly responsibilities. I fit in reading when there are breaks in some family event. I’ve read Torts in the car during a rain delay at a band competition. I’ve read Torts during baseball practice. I’ve also read Torts between games at a basketball tournament. I’m not sure why, but Torts seems to be my go-to choice to bring along to kid events.

Life with my family while I’m in school has had its ups and downs. There have been quite a few times when I’ve forgotten something important my son asked me to do or we’ve run out of bread again because I had no time to go to the grocery story. I missed my youngest son’s first home run in a baseball game. I wanted to finish some studying before heading to the game, and next thing I know, my husband is calling me to tell me the exciting news. I haven’t missed everything, though. The highlight of my weeks lately has been watching my oldest march in the band at Friday night football games, and I’ve been to lots of other good baseball and basketball games my youngest has played in – with my Torts book in hand, of course. Through it all, my kids are learning to be a little more independent and are taking on new chores to help around the house, which is good for them to do regardless.

Back to the oft-asked question: what’s it like? Life is busy and challenging. I work hard to do what needs to be done, one day at a time. I get my homework done, and I take care of my kids. It’s not perfect. My house may be messier than it used to be, and the laundry piles a little higher, but I’m thankful each day that I get to embark on this crazy adventure.


UHLC’s Career Development Office: Setting 1Ls Up for Success

Student author McKenna Andrepont is a 1L at the University of Houston Law Center.  

It’s the question prospective law students face even before the first day of their legal education: how will I find my place in the legal market? (Alternatively: how will I get a job?) Determining your legal career options and how to secure them is the ultimate end game of your three years of law school. Lucky for University of Houston Law Center (UHLC) students, our Career Development Office (CDO) is a phenomenal resource for achieving this goal. All of our career counselors have JDs and past practical legal experience and offer a wide range of resources and services to students. One such service is a series designed for 1L students entitled “The Passport to Success.” In the first session of this series on September 10, the CDO partnered with Andrews Kurth and industry professionals to discuss legal career destinations, maintaining a professional presence, and networking. The event concluded with a practice networking session with over two dozen attorneys.

“The Map to Career Success: Exactly Where Are YOU Headed?” was another event filled with local legal professionals sharing their advice on how to determine where you want to go and how to get there. Reece Rondon, who is a UHLC alumnus, former judge, and a current member of Hall Maines Lugrin, PC, began the first workshop with an overview of legal practice and its various branches. Natalie Weakly of Signature Style followed with a workshop detailing how to present oneself in a professional manner in both interviewing and networking environments. She included advice on suit styling and power posing. Amy Hancock of Andrews Kurth, LLP, presented the last workshop; she advised students on strategies of effective networking as a key to lawyer development.

As other posts on this blog have noted, networking is a huge part of integrating oneself in the legal community. After the workshop sessions ended, the CDO finished its first The Passport to Success event with an incredibly helpful session (and my personal favorite): “Networking in Practice.”  For one hour, 1Ls were encouraged to mingle with over twenty-four local legal professionals who in turn provided real-time feedback on their networking techniques. Several of my classmates left with the email addresses of attorneys who specialized in areas they were interested in; one spoke with an attorney specializing in family law, while another connected with an attorney who practiced in the town where they ultimately wish to practice.

Overall, the first session of the CDO’s Professional Development Series was a great help and hugely successful in communicating the importance of building networking skills in the legal community. I’m very thankful to UHLC and the CDO for pouring so much time and effort into building my skills as a growing legal professional and am looking forward to their next event!

Information regarding the UHLC’s Career Development Office can be found at https://www.law.uh.edu/career/.

A day in the life of a UHLC 3L

Andrea Ortiz is a 3L at the University of Houston Law Center.

The old adage about law school seems to be true looking back: 1L year, you’re scared to death; 2L year, you’re worked to death; and 3L year, you’re bored to death. But as a 3L student, it doesn’t seem to be that we’re just relaxing and having the best time ever; it’s more likely that we’ve figured out how to manage our time efficiently. Any typical day for me runs from 6 am to approximately 11 pm. My workday starts at 7:30 am in a Greenway Plaza law office where I work as the Head Law Clerk overseeing six other law clerks. Working in a firm has really brought together the theoretical civil procedure learned in class with how it actually works in day-to-day practice. After leaving work at 11:30 am, I head straight to school and hope to find a parking spot. On a related note, I haven’t bought lunch since school started. Almost every day at noon, some student organization is having a presentation and almost always has food.

From there, I venture into the library or the sub-basement for a quiet place to prepare for class. Because I’ve already finished my graduation requirements of taking an upper-level writing class, Professional Responsibility, and a skills course, I’m limited on what I can take because I also have to consider my work schedule. That being said, my classes begin in the afternoon and run from 4:00-9:30 pm. Sometime between lunch and class, I’ll also work on my duties as Managing Editor of the Houston Journal of Health Law & Policy, keeping track of our budget and every candidate’s and editor’s hours.

My first class lasts until 5:20 pm, leaving me a 40-minute break to pop over to the Nook for a large coffee to go. Thankfully, I have an amazing professor – Professor Doug Moll – for my last class, which goes until 9:30 pm. Without his enthusiastic persona and love for the material, I don’t think I’d be able to stay awake. I get home about 9:45 pm and get myself ready for a new day.

If there is one piece of advice I would give myself just starting out as a 1L, it would be not to worry so much about what everyone else is doing and concentrate on doing my best. Not everyone is on the same path. These three years pass quickly and everything will work itself out. Cheers to all my 3Ls out there biding our time until graduation. #3LOL



Standing Out – Are the Numbers in your Favor?

While some law schools have yet to seat their incoming class, a significant number of programs across the country have commenced their fall semesters.  Typically, the focus is on the seated class and the unique students that have elected to join a specific program.  While stats are certified by the LSAC at the beginning of October (they are currently uncertified [and may not be]), you can find the University of Houston Law Center’s newest class profile available for review.

As we celebrate those that enter into this storied profession, let’s take a moment to understand just how difficult the admission process is to select the Law Center’s incoming student body.  The Admissions Office received 2,565 applications for the Fall 2016 entering class.  Numerically, the applicant pool presented GPAs ranging from above 4.0s to sub 2.0s and LSAT scores ranging from above 175 to below 125.  Regardless of GPA and LSAT, every completed application received full file review as the Admission Committee evaluated each candidate for admission.

The statistics should illustrate the importance of working hard to have your application stand out as admission officers across the nation read and review your application and application materials.  In contrast and as an example, take a look at the top 5 undergraduate programs applicants represented as well as the top 5 majors for applicants:

Applicants represented more than 450 undergraduate programs, the top programs represented were:

  • the University of Texas-Austin,
  • Texas A&M University,
  • the University of Houston,
  • Sam Houston State University, and
  • Baylor University

There were more than 100 different majors represented in the applicant pool. The top majors were:

  • Political Science,
  • Psychology,
  • Criminal Justice,
  • English, and
  • Economics

As you can see, this is not terribly dissimilar from the incoming student profile.  Taking advantage of the multiple programs offered by the Law Center’s Admission Office (Information Sessions [online and in-person], Group Advising, tours, etc.) as well as re-applicant counseling, offers options for applicants to understand the importance of their submission and the relevant pieces of their application both as an incoming student or as a transfer student.

To misquote Public Enemy, “lemme hear you say fight the [numbers]” and educate yourself how to stand out as an applicant.