Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Stress Relief

Tuesday, November 29, marked the Second Annual Capital University Law School Ugly Holiday Sweater Contest.  Students scoured eBay, thrift stores, and their mothers' closets in search of the most fashionably heinous garment they could find.  With finals beginning next week, stress levels are running high.  But, yesterday, instead of worrying about exams, students were able to spread some holiday cheer and share a lot of laughs together.

The 2L class hosted the contest.  Participants were required to give a brief explanation of their ugly sweaters before strutting their stuff down the aisle in front of the distinguished judging panel.  The judges, Dean Jennifer DiSanza, Dean Rachel Janutis, and Director Shawn Beem, proved to be critical, yet fair.  The Dean of Capital Law School, Richard Simpson, was in attendance as well.  Unfortunately, he showed up in a suit, not an ugly sweater, but, there is always next year...

The student outfits did not disappoint.  A wide variety of clothing and accessories were modeled:  a shirt with a bedazzled Barack Obama in a Santa hat, a penguin onesie, and a sweater with a colorful collage of scenes from The Grinch.  A special thanks to Ryan Schick, who not only participated in the competition, but was also the primary planner of the event.  I encourage everyone to be a part of the Ugly Sweater Contest next year.  You are guaranteed to have a good time!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez

The Chief Justice of The Supreme Court of the United States calls upon the Petitioner to approach the podium and begin oral arguments.  The first advocate rises from counsel table.  Although there is great confidence in his stride, his mind is racing.  He tries his best to suppress the nervous thoughts creeping into his head.  Standing behind the podium, he stares into five sets of eyes.  The judges look eager to ask questions, hoping to find holes in his argument.  He has spent countless hours over the last two months preparing for this day, and, now, it all comes down to this.  He takes one last deep breath, and proclaims, "Mister Chief Justice, and may it please the court."

The four members of the Fall National Moot Court Team experienced this scenario first-hand the weekend of November 19 and 20.  The team traveled to Thomas M. Cooley Law School, in Lansing, Michigan, to compete in the regional competition.  The competition was scored using points from a written appellate brief and points from an oral argument.  I was lucky enough to accompany these students as a Moot Court 2L Fellow.  Throughout the semester, I helped the team members prepare for the competition.  It was such a great experience to watch these talented individuals steadily improved with each practice, and their hard work paid off in the end.

The team of Emily Jackson and Courtney Yeager excelled in the first two qualifying rounds.  After the first day, Emily and Courtney were the second seeded team in the tournament.  The next day, they skillfully argued their way into the semi-finals.  In the semi-final round, these two fantastic competitors put forth truly amazing arguments.  Ultimately, the team lost to a talented Cleveland-Marshall duo by a margin of a few points.  But, Emily and Courtney did not leave Michigan empty-handed.  Out of all of the competitors at the tournament, Emily Jackson won 2nd Best Oral Advocate and Courtney Yeager won 4th Best Oral Advocate.

The team of Rachel Sabo and Stefan Thomas also performed brilliantly.  After watching both of these competitors in action, I hope I never have to argue against either one in court.  Rachel and Stefan prevailed over teams from Ohio State and Case Western on oral argument points by large margins.  Additionally, Rachel was awarded with the Best Oralist prize at the Capital Law Honor Round, and Stefan was the only competitor at the regional tournament to score a perfect oral argument score of 50  in a preliminary round.

Traveling with the Moot Court Team to Michigan was a very rewarding experience.  These four Capital Law students were fantastic representatives of the law school.  The coaches, Professor Susan Simms and Professor Jeff Snapp, also deserve recognition.  They worked hard throughout the semester organizing practice judge panels and offering valuable advice to the competitors.  Knowing how hard these students and faculty members work has given me a greater appreciation for the Moot Court program.  I hope I will be able to compete on the team next year, and I wish all of the additional Moot Court Teams competing in the spring the best of luck!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Professionalism Week

This week is Professionalism Week at Capital Law.  Last night, I attended an event entitled, "Ethical Landmines that New Attorneys Face in the 21st Century - Twitter, Facebook, Blogging . . . How much is too much?"  Hosted by the SBA, Phi Alpha Delta, Legal Professionalism Society, and the Office of Professional Development, this event highlighted ethical dilemmas dealing with social media.  Jonathon Coughlan, Disciplinary Counsel for the Supreme Court of Ohio, and The Honorable Kim Cocroft of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas sat on the distinguished panel.  Former Dean and current Professor, Jack Guttenberg, served as the moderator.

I thought it was very interesting to hear that jury monitoring via Facebook is a common practice these days.  Jon Coughlan joked, "It is practically malpractice if [an attorney is] not doing it."  When someone sits on a jury, that juror should be aware that the attorneys are searching the internet for any information that may reflect his or her opinions and biases.  No ethical violations are imposed on attorneys who search public pages, like Facebook and Twitter.

Attorneys are not the only ones watching these social media sites.  During a long trial, jurors are admonished not to speak about the trial outside of the courtroom.  If a judge finds out that juror number four has been posting status updates on Facebook or tweeting about how he thinks the defendant is guilty, severe consequences could result.  Not only will the juror be removed, and possibly fined, but this may be grounds for a mistrial.

Everyone, especially law students, need to be cognizant of how they hold themselves out to the rest of the world.  In fact, it does not hurt to Google yourself.  An unprofessional social media site or other inappropriate online material can easily hurt your chances when applying for a job.  Last night, Judge Cocroft said it well, "All you have is your name and reputation, and once those are ruined, it is over."

Professionalism Week continues on Thursday.  Jonathon Coughlan will return to Capital to lead a discussion on the unauthorized practice of law.  This event is presented by the Legal Professionalism Society and the SBA Professionalism Liason Committee.  This event will be particularly beneficial to 1L students since many of them will soon be working at their first legal internship this summer.  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Five Tips for Interviewing

As hard as it is to believe, spring semester is just around the corner.  With each new semester comes a new recruiting program organized by the Office of Professional Development.  One of the most beneficial aspects of the semester recruiting programs is on-campus interviewing, or OCI.  OCI is an opportunity for employers to visit the law school, interview students, and select candidates for available positions.  A wide range of employers participate in OCI, including, but not limited to:  large firms, small firms, government agencies, and corporations.  Here is a short list of tips to help students prepare for the spring semester recruiting program.

1. Have Someone Proofread Your Resume
A solid resume is the first step to landing an interview.  You do not want to have any errors hiding in places you may have overlooked.  Having a fresh set of eyes check it out is always a good idea.  Students can email their resumes to the Office of Professional Development and the Director of Professional Development, Shawn Beem, will gladly review it.  I worked with the Office of Professional Development my first year and changed the entire format of my resume.  After working with Director Beem, I now have an organized and well-developed resume to send to potential employers.
2. Make Your Cover Letter Unique
Employers can tell when you send them a generic cover letter.  Instead, do some research, and include specific reasons why you are drawn to the particular position for which you are applying.  This will give you a competitive edge and make your application stand out from the rest.  Also, end your cover letter on a strong note.  Avoid passive language such as, "I look forward to hearing back from you in the near future," and replace it with, "I will contact you within the week to follow up on my application.  Meanwhile, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or requests.  Thank you for your time and your consideration.”
3. Practice for Your Interview
No matter how comfortable you are with your speaking ability, it is always important to practice.  Research commonly asked questions, write out possible answers, and then practice your responses.  Do not be afraid to practice in front of a mirror.  Sure, it may be awkward, but practicing in front of a mirror can help you improve eye contact, posture, and gesturing.  Students can also schedule a mock interview with the Office of Professional Development.  Mock interviews are recorded.  This provides students the ability to re-watch the interview, and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
4. Dress the Part
Students need to look their best when entering an interview.  If you have not yet built up your professional wardrobe, it is time to do so.  A professional image is key to a professional reputation.  Not wearing a suit, donning colors that clash, or showing too much skin can easily harm your chances for getting a job.  On November 14, the Office of Professional Development, Women's Law Association, and Phi Alpha Delta are presenting "Dress for Success."  This event will highlight what to wear (and when), how to infuse your style, how to build a professional wardrobe, and where and how to shop.  I attended this event last year, and not only is it informative, but it is also highly entertaining.
5. Be Confident
Confidence is essential.  During an interview, all of the attention is on you.  You are the star; so make yourself feel like one.  Recognize your strengths, and have confidence in your experience.  When you enter the interview room, stand tall, smile, make eye contact, and use a firm handshake.  Keep in mind that it is important to distinguish confidence from cockiness.  The moment you enter the realm of cockiness, you begin to look arrogant and unprofessional.  For example, be proud of your accomplishments, but do not brag about them.  Never act like you are better than the job for which you are interviewing.  Projecting an attitude of confidence will command attention and respect.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Stay Healthy: Physically and Mentally

It should not come as a shock to hear that law school is a huge time commitment.  Students face a lot of pressure each day.  They are expected to read numerous cases per week, complete legal writing assignments with an extreme attention to detail, and consistently update their outlines.  How in the world, then, do law students find the time to stay healthy and active?  It is not easy, but, it is very important.  It takes discipline and organization.  Exercising and eating a well-balanced diet increases a student's energy level and mental acuity.  Staying healthy just might give you that extra edge you need to succeed.

When it comes to physical fitness, all law students have access to the Cap Center located on the Capital University main campus in Bexley.  But, for those that are interested in alternative options, Capital offers discounted membership rates at three different fitness centers.  The Grant Fitness Center (located in Grant Hospital) is just a couple of minutes away from the law school.  Students can purchase a semester-long membership pass for $60.  Urban Active Fitness Center offers membership passes for $29.95 per month.  This membership grants students access to all Urban Active locations.  Seven locations exist in the Columbus area alone.  Finally, The Athletic Club of Columbus offers student memberships for $75 per month.  While this is more expensive than the others, the student fee is drastically lower than the normal rate.  Also, because a lot of practicing attorneys are ACC members, students can take advantage of networking opportunities here as well.

For runners, bikers, and walkers, Columbus has a fantastic trail system.  The Scioto trail is my personal favorite because it showcases a beautiful view of the city, especially at sunset.  Columbus is also home to the largest marathon in Ohio.  The Columbus Marathon is held in the fall, and this past October, 14,000 people, including a handful of Capital Law students, participated in either the half or full marathon.  Cycling enthusiasts will not want to miss out on Pelotonia, a two-day ride to Athens and back that raises money for cancer research.  The new and exciting Capital Law Cycling Club organizes a team for this event each year.  Last summer, six students along with Professor Jack Guttenberg and Dean Richard Simpson participated and raised almost $13,000 for cancer research!

Mental health is also very important.  Stress levels are always high throughout the year, but they tend to skyrocket when finals roll around at the end semester.  Ward off that stress by taking advantage of Capital's health and wellness program.  This year, Capital started a program called Wellness Wednesdays.  During the semester, the Achieve Balance group sponsors multiple wellness workshops including:  Tips to Healthy Living, Building Healthy Relationships, Wellness Assessments, Performance Enhancement, and Tackling Stress.  On top of that, students also benefit from FREE massages during finals week.

Law school is a stressful undertaking, but students at Capital are lucky to benefit from discounted fitness center rates, and school-sponsored wellness programs.  Living in Columbus, a city committed to fitness, fosters a desire to lead a healthy lifestyle.  By staying healthy, physically, and mentally, students maximize their potential to focus and succeed in law school.