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Law School Snapshot: Charlotte School of Law

3L, Charlotte School of Law

First of all, I always wanted to be a lawyer. From the age of three, for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be in this profession. My report cards, from kindergarten on, always mentioned something along the lines of "Kristen has a strong sense of justice." I'm not sure exactly where I got the idea that being a lawyer was for me — I don't come from a large family of attorneys, or anything like that. I just picked up that idea, and ran with it.

I didn't take the direct route to law school: I graduated from my university after going part-time for the last two years of my program, and then I decided I would continue to work full-time at the job I had had for the past five years. I got comfortable in that job for a while, and I guess, in a funny way, I can credit my boss (and now my friend) with motivating me to finally apply to law school. She had spoken to me in a certain way, that made me say to myself, "Enough with this! I'm going to law school!"

I ended up choosing Charlotte School of Law for a variety of reasons, one of which was the 'practice-ready' approach the school has to learning; another that I loved is the school's open door policy: I had gone to a school where professors were a bit unapproachable. At Charlotte School of Law, the school advocates and openly fosters unique relationships between students and professors, where you can approach them and go to them with ease. I also loved the city and all it had to offer.

When I came to law school, as I stated before, I had been working full-time for quite some time. Honestly, my full-time job was more stressful than law school. The problem was the distance; just being so far away from my family and friends for the first time, as I went to undergrad at home. What really helped was the group of friends I made at orientation — we were all in the same section, the five of us, and we've managed to stick together ever since. Sure, we've added a few new members to the group, but it's always been us core five. We make sure to build in times each week to have fun — particularly Thursday nights, where next door to our building is Charlotte's Epicentre entertainment complex, with lots of fun Thursday night activities. A newer ritual is a trivia and karaoke night on Wednesdays that my friend Candice and I go to religiously. Trivia fits in well with my Type-A personality, and the karaoke is just so I don't take myself too seriously. It does wonders to help relieve the stress of the week, particularly on Hump Day!

I spent the summer interning here in Charlotte at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse's Trial Court Administrator's Office, as a "camp counselor" for their Court Camp program. It's a unique opportunity for high school students, ages 14-17, to have access to the ins and outs of the court system: they get to observe different courtrooms (criminal and civil); they meet judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys; visit the city crime lab and jail; visit our law school; visit a corporate law firm; and at the end of each week, they would put on a mock trial. It was a great opportunity for me, as I got to get to know a lot of our county's district court judges, assistant district attorneys, and our county's chief public defender — all of which I hope will prove fruitful in my job search for next year.

The best place to study at CSL is the student lounge. It's usually too cold and quiet for me in the library, and the lounge has it all — it's not crazy loud, but it's not quiet; there are vending machines there, and I can eat and study with the necessary level of distractions I need (oddly enough) to be able to concentrate. The best place to unwind near our school is at the Carolina Ale House — on the ground floor of our building! Who told them to put a law school in a building with a bar? They have a great beer selection, and a full menu available until 2am (very helpful during exams).

My study habits have changed a bit since I started law school. During my first semester of my 1L year, it would take me hours and hours to read. I would carefully brief each case, and 40 pages would take me 8 or 9 hours to read. I quickly learned how to look for key information to build case summaries that include just a quick procedural history (where are we now?), key facts the case turned upon, and the main rule to pull out of the case. For the most part, those three things are pretty much the key. . . The dictum is important in Constitutional Law, but that's a whole other ball of wax. . .

If I could give my 1L self any advice, it would be that it's okay to ask for help. Law school is a place where no one wants to look stupid. It's a competitive environment full of Type-A personalities, all looking to be top of the class. Given that, it's okay to admit that you don't fully understand a concept, or that what everyone else in class thought was "so easy" wasn't that easy for you. Professors have office hours for a reason — use them. The library offers course supplements for a reason — use them. I would never have gotten through Contracts first year without my E&E. I now make sure to use an E&E with all of my important subjects — from Constitutional Law, Business Associations, Wills, Trusts and Estates, Evidence, Commercial Law, Criminal Procedure. . . I wish I had felt comfortable enough to ask for help sooner. Now I have, and my grades have markedly improved.

My ideal job after law school would either be working at the public defender's office, or joining a small to medium-sized criminal defense firm here in Charlotte. I'm in the Criminal Advocacy Certificate Program here at our school, and I look to be practice-ready as soon as I get out!

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