Wednesday, June 30, 2010

housing & budget workshop

Things to consider when looking for a place in NY.

- What can you afford? If you're going through a realtor, give him a figure you're comfortable with. Look at all your expenses and see if your rent is going to limit them in some way.

- Make the roommate decision before hunting. Decide if you're capable of sharing a place with one or more people and try to find them and discuss your budget and where you'd like to live. Also, try to be honest in what you can live with and what will drive you bat-shit crazy.

- NY is a big place and you don't have to confine yourself to Manhattan. Wherever you decide to live, look around and familiarize yourself with the neighborhood.

-Take public transportation into consideration. Make sure you say you want a place close to a subway line. The 1 takes you a block away from the school etc etc

-Be open with your realtor about what you want and need from an apartment. 1Ls spend most of the day at the school, so you need a place that will give you an opportunity to relax, be quiet enough to study, is well-lit and safe. Take into consideration laundry, internet, cable and whatever else you deem necessary.

-Give feedback to the realtor about places you've seen: you liked this and hated that. It will help him narrow his field of search for you and show him you are serious about the search and not just wasting his time while you troll Craigslist.

-Be careful of Craigslist. Many times the apartment listed is "no longer available" and they have a more expensive place to sucker you into.

- If you're coming from out of state, tell the realtor when you plan to visit NY and have him schedule the places you might be interested in seeing. Have him send it to you, along with photos, and strike what you can from your home state. If it's out of your price range, strike. You won't want to waste time during a short visit and you'd want to leave knowing you have a place to live.

- Have your paperwork ready. If you love the place, chances are someone else will, too. As the student-tenant, you need photo ID and proof of being a student. You will also need a guarantor, even if you've worked your entire life and plan to play for the place out of your own savings, the landlord will require a guarantor, by virtue of the fact that you are a student. Your guarantor will need to have his previous year's tax returns, should be able to show he has 80 times the rent (depends on the landlord), his bank statement and 2 current pay stubs. Find out before you go to see the place of you need anything else and start ensuring your guarantor can put these documents in your hand when you leave so you can give it to the realtor/landlord as soon as you see the place you want.


-You financial aid (see below) is only calculated for 9 months. Only if you are in classes over the summer, will you get any money. I'm trying to see if I can restructure it for 12 and live within my means! It's important to me not to touch the Hwang family money for law school stuff. That's what the loan is for.

-Factor in your additional costs. The school can help with the purchase of a laptop, health insurance premiums and child care. This will increase your financial aid/loan. You must purchase the laptop during the school term. If you buy if on August 17, you take the receipt to the Financial Aid office and they will notify you when the reimbursement check comes in. You are only allowed one laptop per student for your career at NYLS. Child care is only for the time that is given up because you are attending law school: eg, you were a stay-at-home parent and need daycare for your baby.

-Check to see the status of your Direct Graduate Plus loan. I had many questions that Jade Kolb answered for me. She took me into her office and checked my status in front of me. Because banks no longer give out student loans, this federal loan business is new to the school and the first year it's in full application. But Jade was very patient in talking me through the steps I had taken and assured me I was set and my tuition is going to be paid. This is hard for me to explain and one of the reasons I was so paranoid about it is because it was so foreign to me and I couldn't seem to ask the proper questions that would satisfy me. Actually seeing the information in front me was exactly what I needed.

-In case you lost your financial aid letter (like I did) here is the breakdown of expenses
$46,460 - tuition
$17,082 - room & board (board is whatever fees and bills you pay for upkeep)
$1,300 - books and supplies
$3,510 - personal expenses (cell phone bill, groceries etc)
$801 - transportation (a monthly metro card for subway and bus use)

-There's a 4% fee for the graduate plus loan and that's per year. The loan interest rate is 7.9% and that's fixed for the 17 years you have to pay it. Go to for an actual free credit report.

-We get a copy card the first week of school and are given 300 free copies.

-Everyone who attended the workshop got a cute NYLS lunchbag to encourage us to brown-bag it over buying food in Tribeca!

Friday, June 25, 2010

gettin' started

So, since I'm waiting for the book to arrive, and feeling bad that I am reading a novel, and knowing that the book covers one case and its procedures, I thought I'd research the case and write something in order to (1) familiarize myself with it and (2) build up some typing speed.

The long and tall of it is that federal courts have to apply state law in cases where diversity jurisdiction applies. Now what is diversity jurisdiction, you ask? Well, let's see if I have to ask LP for my money back because I didn't learn nothing.

Diversity jurisdiction applies when both the plaintiff and the defendant come from two different jurisdictions: eg, one is from New York and the other is from Idaho. Now, who decides where the case is heard and which state law is applied is case-dependent. If the infraction occurs in NY vs the P by the D, then the P can sue D in NY and NY laws applies. P has the choice of making it a federal or state issue but if he decides on federal court, that court has to apply applicable state law and cannot create federal common law.

Think I got it! At least I got diversity jurisdiction!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I got my first reading assignment for school today. An email came with a buncha information and a book for Legal Process: "Whose Monet? An Introduction to the American Legal System". Thankfully, from a skim of the contents, I covered a lot of this stuff in LP, so at least I won't feel like I'm swimming up a creek with no paddle.

I had dinner with my LSAT Tutor a couple of days ago. He looks just as fine as ever and he's even smarter now. He's been really helpful and if I was his mum, I'd be really proud of him.

He was great with the advice of his approach to 1L. He highly recommended swearing by "Getting to Maybe" for exams, as much as I recommend "1L" to people who have spouses. LP Dude suggested people in not-married or not-living-together relationships break up with their b/f or g/f. By the end of the week of prep, two people confessed to breaking up with their boyfriends. I'm glad I won't be a part of those conversations.

But I understand. I can't exactly take a break from my kid, who is my greater concern over my husband, at least relationship-wise. I've done the single parent thing and I feel so bad for leaving it up to John for at least the first year. I didn't take the LP classes over the summer because I thought it would be unfair to ask John to go out of his way twice a day to take Pie to camp and pick him up. Once in a way is fine, but every day for a week is a bit much for someone holding down a full-time job. At least Pie's camp will be over by the time I start school and we've made arrangements for the rest of his summer vacation.

Tutor pointed out he didn't have a girlfriend. Apart from wondering how someone so pretty can be without, I know it makes sense to be single. I like my husband and kid and I don't want to be single, but it would make things a lot easier. Of course, the irony is that I wouldn't even be in law school if I didn't marry the man and bring the kid for him.

So, while I continue to struggle with that, my first reading assignment came in. It is beginning to start and I am so excited. I just bought the book and it should get here in a couple of days.

The school is sending emails every few days with info about the first week. Lots of stuff going on. It looks like we will be doing either Civ Pro or Torts in small classes of about 40 or so. I'm hoping I get into Torts for the fall, as it's the one I think I might have most trouble with. I liked Civ Pro a lot and hope I get a Prof who is going to sustain the liking.

That's the other thing. Apart from Nadine Strossen and James Grimmelman, I don't know anything about the other NYLS Profs who will be teaching me. I won't find out who they are until that first week and won't be able to ask upperclassmen any questions till then either.

There's so much to think about, but I still cannot wait. I am dying to immerse myself and hope that I don't get lost in there.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

the end of law preview is just the beginning

I wish I could go away on vacation today. Sleep on the plane and wake up in Trinidad, spend a week at Annabelle's eating all the doubles, bar-be-que and Lucky's preserves plums I could stand. The thought of the next few days at home seem unpalatable.

I can't wait for school to start. I feel so much smarter already. I'm really tired, still, and cannot wait to go to bed. But I met some cool people at this thing and saw the best of the academic world. These teachers were so smart, so articulate and knew their stuff. More importantly, they knew how to impart it with passion so that I am impassioned as well. No Professor Binns among this group!

I did feel a bit old. Twice "The Paper Chase" was raised and the second time I heard the giggles when I was only person who raised my hand when the prof asked who saw it. Not everyone just graduated from college this year, but I felt the gap.

I'm sure I have more to say, but I'm really exhausted. I'll find the words next week.

Friday, June 18, 2010

they don't call it law preview for nothin'

Prof Exam Prep pointed out that by 3:30, he will start to see people under the table, sleeping. I thought the was joking, even as my own eyes were closing and I was fighting to stay away. Not because I'm bored. Nothing about this week has been even the tiniest bit boring, but exactly the opposite. I haven't been this stimulated since my days at "The Guardian" and I am exhausted.

I came home a little earlier than usual and crashed for 4 hours. I only woke up because I was hungry and then Pie pulled me into "Avatar". I don't have any reading for tomorrow and I am looking forward to going back to bed. And I was so glad it wasn't just me. I actually saw people putting their heads on the desk and heads bobbing onto chests. It stopped being funny.

While the actual work in law school will be more intense, at least I won't be sitting in a classroom for 10 hours.

This class has been such a good experience. It has been pleasant to see how people, myself included, have grown in just a few days. Many of the diffident are more confident when trying to make a point and that alone makes them more interesting to listen to. If someone is willing to get behind what he says, you want to hear it, if just to refute it. Saying, "really quickly, I have a question" and then droning for 90 seconds over an unformed thought is painful for the listener and certainly I stop caring what you have to say.

We have Legal Writing tomorrow and NYLS has some decent emphasis on this, so this is the class I have been looking forward to most. But I have enjoyed the overviews given by all the teachers this past week. I have such a better understanding of what I am getting myself into, many of my pre-conceptions have been clarified and dispelled in some cases.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

today, in law preview

Property. I think I likes it. I also think that the rule against perpetuities is going to kill me.

I thought I'd be bored to tears in Property. I thought it would be full of esoteric terms and I'd have to learn about deeds and other dry stuff. I was prepared to work a little harder for Mr. Property, as I need a good grade for 2L IP.

But, maybe I'll just work harder because I like it. Prof Property didn't let the side down with his class today. I don't know how Law Preview Dude found these professors, but bless him for doing so. These are some heavy hitters in the academic world. I thought it might be a little fly-by-night, but nuh-uh.

It's not just that they come prepared or that they are entertaining to people who are understandably nervous about learning a new language. They really work hard to present a bigger picture of law school and what a student can get out of it.

It's more than just the case or the doctrine applied. All of the profs so far have hammered home the necessity of the argument and how to form the argument. Every one has thrown hypotheticals out to see if we can change the argument or form a new one. It has been most instructive.

Prof Property gave a larger overview of the scene. He went into some detail as to what a professor expects out of a student, using the Socratic method mostly, and what the student should take away. He even took us back into Torts and Contracts and it was like a mini mid-week review. Very nicely done.

I've been hearing and reading that these pre-law school readiness attempts are not such a good idea. I'm not so such they should be dismissed out of hand so summarily. I don't think my NYLS Torts prof is going to waste any of the precious 13 weeks he/she has to get through the casebook holding my hand and telling me what she expects of me. I don't think she is going to hold up one law course against another and show me how to utilize doctrines in tandem or when a cause of action might have more than one recourse and this is how it could go in Contracts or Torts.

But, I digress.

This class was also different because the Prof threw out many questions and hypos and got the class to really act and think like lawyers. I have to say, in comparison to the previous 2 days, it was like the overall intelligence went up 50 points today. People really stepped up and asked useful questions and made decent arguments. It was a terrific learning experience.

Some personal shit and an inevitable observation.

I was so tired today. I had a cup of coffee at home, an iced mocha with a shot of espresso when I got to class and another cup of coffee at lunch time and I still barely kept my eyes open. I felt beat up from yesterday and it was especially hard to wake up this morning. I am not even sure how I managed to stay focused today. It was a real effort. And worth it. I'm proud of myself.

I've read in a couple of places how law school completely takes over once you start. It's a total immersion in the law and the difference in a person is almost immediate. Noticing yourself change into someone else is a tricky thing. You want to enter school to learn and grow, but to change the way you think and speak, even at the most basic levels, is a lot to get used to.

I noticed that on Monday people's conversations were mostly about learning about one another. They were chatty and full of personal-type questions and mostly still very shy. By this morning, we were looking at everything in terms of the law. And questions and statements were bolder. This is 2 days into Law Preview. What is going to happen one week into law school?

I confess, I'm looking forward to it.

am i a gunner?

I've never heard that term before yesterday. I found out today that it's particular to the law school student who is an ass in class, hides material in the library, cuts out pages and blacks out lines in books, etc. Apparently, a very derogatory term.

So, by virtue of me being in a Law Preview class, does that make me a gunner? I was told I was not. I have good reason for taking this class. So do a lot of people. Today's Prof (Property) asked for some of the reasons people were taking Law Preview. Most people just wanted to not be knocked out by what's a whole new language and way of looking at the world. Some have been out of school for a long time and some wanted to lose the bad habits they made as undergrads.

I've been looking at the people who are in this class (and in others I have taken) and it's really true that you can find certain types anywhere, even if they don't qualify as gunners.

There's the eager beaver. I've gathered that these are the peeps who got into several law schools, think they are doing the one they pick a huge favor and make claims that they did no work and graduated magna and summa cum laude. Now, those mean nothing to me and I will stare as blankly at you as you will stare at me when I say I graduated with Upper Second Class Honors. So what? We're on equal footing from day one at law school, no matter what happened at undergrad.

So the eager beaver has to talk in class. He or she usually asks unformed questions, just for the sake of asking something, anything. And his or her voice gets just a little louder, to mask the nervousness and add some bravado. He or she must hover around the group of students who stop after class to ask the professor a question, regardless of whether he or she has a question of his or her own.

Then there the "unprepared" vs the actual unprepared person. The first makes it known that he is behind in the reading, didn't finish the assignment, watched reruns of "Seinfeld" instead of outlining, etc etc. All the time he is swotting like a motherfucker. The second actually doesn't do anything because ... well, I don't know why. The first slouches in class and rattles off eloquent answers when asked. The second sits up straight and tries to bullshit his way or answers his own questions instead of the professor's.

Then there's me. I sit, trying to follow, getting irritated with the people who start every sentence with "okay" or "so" and use "like" every third word. I cultivate my sense of superiority by not doing those things. I raise my hand when I have something to say and don't when I don't.

And, as I saw and heard for myself, there will be someone who pronounces Arkansas as Are-Kansas.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


One thing about the Socratic method is that it keeps your mind on a level of alert that it's not normally at and when it's over, you feel like you dug a deep ditch. I ache everywhere.

But, if all Profs are like Prof Contracts today, then excuse me while I leave to lay a wreath on Dean Langdell's grave.

Law Preview Dude warned us yesterday that Prof Contracts uses the Socratic method, and I read like mad on the train home, last night (after blogging, of course) and before class. I did the crossword on the train ride. Seemed like the right thing to do. Finished it before my stop, too.

Prof Contracts was also very entertaining. He has a very engaging way of teaching and discussing concepts. He lectured for a bit about Contracts on the whole and then used the Socratic method to discuss a case. We spent almost an hour with one case and he really held on to people for a fair amount of time. He wouldn't allow raised hands during the dialogue and that was a bit frustrating. Watching someone fumble when you know the answer is tough, but it's even tougher when you're in the hot seat.

I got into it after the break and I was so glad I was prepared. He called my case brief "very eloquent" and really gave me a chance to find the answer to the questions when I didn't know. The case I had didn't really give you everything in black and white and I had to infer about shit I knew nothing about. But he held on and I finally got where I needed to be.

The one thing I tried not to do was blather on when I didn't know. A lot of people talked around the answer and I found that frustrating. We would move a lot faster if you just said you didn't know and let him guide you. Or ask someone else. When I said I didn't know, he asked me pointed questions until I got it. At no point did I feel singled out or humiliated. I knew a lot and learned even more. He even called back to me when a point that was in my case needed raising again. He had to pull up a couple of people who apparently missed the conclusions in the case I just spent 20 minutes talking about. I think that was the only time I saw him just a little bit impatient.

He pointed out that once you're prepared, a Prof is willing to forgive a mistake or you realizing you didn't get it. It's not even reading the case is what pisses them off. He called me at lunch break and told me I did very well. I was just so pleased. After class, I stopped to shake his hand and thank him when I was leaving and he was so gracious and complimentary. I wonder if I can sneak into his class at the law school where he teaches? Must remember to look into that.

Being older than most people there has its merits. I don't feel the need to impress anyone. I've done my time with that. I'm not afraid to say "I don't know" or ask for help. Or show that I do know.

He asked people if they had any questions about the method and one guy said he felt really brilliant until he was asked a question and then he couldn't believe how unbrilliant he was. He asked how long would it take for a student to feel more comfortable with the method and to feel more secure about speaking out.

Prof Contracts said it's rare to get called more than once in a class to take part in a Socratic dialogue because classes are so big. He also made it clear that impressing the Prof by saying what you think he wants to hear or being belligerent is not the way to go. Just be yourself, he said. If you look dumb, so what? Learn from it and move on. Earlier, Law Preview Dude said the only person to impress is yourself. I agree. Although, I try to impress my husband a lot. And fail miserably. I need to get over that quick. Teachers, I've never had to try. I'm just naturally book smart!

ASIDE: A couple of people stayed back to thank him for making the experience not Kingsley. He had asked during the class why is the Hairy Hand case famous. I said it's featured in "The Paper Chase". NO ONE else in the class had seen the movie. It's a class of about 60 people and I am the only person who saw that movie. So when I say "not Kingsley", only I know what I mean. Sigh.

Monday, June 14, 2010

i dislike "like"

Man, I cannot describe the boiling feeling inside of me when someone uses "like" every second word. I do not know how a teacher can stand hearing someone expound and have to sift through every "like" to get at the real words. Every time that happened in class, I wanted to scream out, "Stop saying like!"

That, and the fact the husband lambasted me almost as soon as he saw me, out on the street (the man couldn't wait for me to get inside the damn house because that bag damn heavy), were the only stains on a very good day. I'm trying to think about the good day.

So, Tort Law is something else, but I cannot describe how happy I am to be taking this class. I do not think any 1L prof is going to break down the thing quite like the prof did today. It is so much easier to approach a case actually knowing what the law is about.

Prof Tort described herself as not funny and lacking any sense of humor, but she managed to keep us laughing right through. Everyone in her hypotheticals died very dead and I wondered if I took a drink for every dead person...

While I was thinking that the defendants get the short end of the stick, I realized today that the onus is on the plaintiff to bring the proof out. Many times, the defendants win. Maybe that should be so because the world is pretty litigious as it is.

She really got me to think and, although I never actually got called on, it was a good feeling to see I was moving in the right directions in many cases. I used up almost my entire notepad b/w the case briefings and the notes from today. Thank goodness I left the undersides of the pages I wrote about the cases blank. It made it easier to take notes about them on the blank sides.

We were told that Prof Contracts cold-calls in class and we'd better be prepared. Naturally, Contracts is tomorrow and I managed to read 3 of the cases on the train ride home. And briefed none. You KNOW I'm getting called on tomorrow. And what am I doing now? That's right! Writing in my blog!

I'm still also reading "One-L" and that book is scary. The pressure these 1Ls put themselves under is overwhelming just to read about. I sat next to a fellow NYLS student and The Law Preview Dude had us go around the room saying what law school we are attending. When he came to us, he asked if we knew each other before and we said a little bit. He asked if it was a love match getting started and I held up my left hand over my head and pointed at my wedding band. The Dude said it wouldn't last beyond the first year. I laughed, but...

I read about Turow's marriage stress and wonder how we're going to get through it. We're already so separate in so many ways. Maybe that's a good thing. We don't rely on each other for friendship or doing things and one of us always has a Pie to contend with. When we do spend time together, just the two of us, it's nice, but we really don't count on it to fulfill us. At least, I no longer do. I used to hate not seeing John or not being alone with him. But I think that in preparing myself for the undertaking that is law school, I kind of let that go.

Le Pie wants his dinner.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

the day before law preview

So this class starts at 7:30 in the morning. Which means I have to leave home by 6:30. I wake up at 6:40 usually. Now I have to wake up at 5:30. I also had to save up my birthday money to spend on breakfast and lunch next week b/c we just poured a set of money into the Jersey City place because of a bed bug infestation.

I've made up a lunch menu for John to help him out as he is on Pie duty all of next week. Mostly by himself. Pie has 2 major events in school that I am so disappointed to miss. Second grade opens up a "store" and sells stuff, as they have been learning about money all year. John went to last year's 2nd grade and had a good time. I was looking forward to seeing my son and I'm heartbroken and trying not to let him know.

On Friday is his school's annual Field and Family Day, and the last day of school. The school hits up a park and has a huge field to play and picnic on. I had to say all my goodbyes last Friday as I won't be seeing any of the teachers or parents this week.

I've also lagged in the reading I'm supposed to be doing to prepare for the course. They advised that we read up to Wednesday's class but I'm barely done with Monday's. Granted, it's quite a few cases and I'm trying to brief them all and forgetting almost as fast as I take notes. I'm hoping that the fact that left some for today means I will remember them tomorrow!

Torts is going to be trouble, I can see it. I also think the fact that I am already set on what I want to do is going to work against me. I'm going to have to motivate myself as far as Tort and Criminal Law goes. I need Property, Contracts and Civil Procedures to move into 2nd year IP courses. Plus, there's that whole top 15% Harlan Scholar thing and Law Review. Tort counts too!

Also, instead of case-briefing, I am distracted by
(1) popsicles
(2) "Avatar: The Last Airbender" marathon on Nick
(3) blogging

The good thing is that I have only 2 cases left to go. They are short, but that doesn't mean they are easy to grasp. Tort Law is very odd. Not only have ambulance-chasing lawyers given it a bad name, but sometimes I feel a bit sorry for the Big defendant. The plaintiff seems to be able to get away with a lot. Not that Big Tobacco didn't deserve it, but some of the defendants I'm reading about seem to be getting the short end of the stick. Of course, I am only reading the decision of the Appeal Court and it always sounds very reasonable. But reading between the lines a bit makes me wonder if giving the plaintiff such a wide berth to litigate is a good idea. Maybe it's just me and I'm not even in law school yet.

At least I'm thinking about it, right. One good step alongside all the bad habits I'm struggling to break.