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Law School through My Lens: Advice for the Creative Law Student

When I received my acceptance letter, my mother and I did a happy dance in the living room. My dream came true – I was going to law school! I started my photography business about 2 years earlier and so naturally I packed my things along with my camera gear, without batting an eyelash. I was determined to continue being creative and moved from Toronto to Ottawa to begin my journey. The choice wasn't a surprise to the ones closest to me. They believed I could do it all. Before law, I managed extra-curricular activities while studying since elementary school. To them…

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Susan Smith Blakely

OnRamp Fellowship for Women Lawyers Re-Entering Practice Is a Big Success

Finally.  Yes, finally we are seeing some progress addressing the very low retention rates for women lawyers --- even if it is in the form of mitigation.  Getting back into law practice after being absent for any significant amount of time is tough going, and there has not been a lot of progress on that issue in the past.  Years ago, maybe 2008, I was a panelist in a program at Washington School of Law at American University on the subject of re-entry.  The personal stories from program participants were chilling for anyone hoping to make that happen.  Other law…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Women Lawyers Get the Official Green Light to Wear Dresses to Work

Women in business, and that includes women lawyers, are now free to wear dresses to the office.  So sayeth the Washington Post.  Thank goodness.  We all know how much fun little dresses are, as compared to the standard fare pantsuits of prior decades, and, according to a leading news source, we are now free to wear them on the job and enjoy the experience. Even though most of us already knew this --- because we watch TV shows like The Good Wife and Scandal --- it is good to know that the Washington Post is on our side.  After all,…

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How Maya Angelou Can Help Us Be Happier Lawyers

The contrast between Maya Angelou’s joyful life and the misery of so many lawyers is unavoidable.  Yesterday, as I listened to remembrances of her, I was struck by how vibrant and full her life was, so unlike the lives of many lawyers.   According to the Dave Nee Foundation, lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer depression than non-lawyers; some studies show as many as 37% of lawyers suffer from depression.  What did Maya Angelou do so differently than we lawyers do?  Maya Angelou is, of course, unique and nobody can hope to replicate her life.  But we can learn…

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Attorneys Across America:  Featuring Elizabeth Levy

This is the second post in Ms. JD's "Attorneys Across America" series, focusing on women attorneys practicing law from sea to shining sea.  We hope that the insights provided by the featured attorneys are helpful to those who are navigating the job market and considering pursuing careers in different practice areas and various geographic locations. Last month I spoke with Suzie Scanlon, a partner at the virtual law firm of Berger Legal LLC and Co-Founder and Managing Director of Bliss Lawyers.  This month I spoke with Elizabeth Levy, Counsel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Ms. Levy advises the…

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3 Essential Tips for Women Embarking upon their Law School Journeys

FIND MENTORS OUTSIDE OF YOUR LAW SCHOOL EARLY ON As a woman, and especially as a woman of color, it is sometimes difficult to trust women within your law school who may be competing for the same opportunities. You may begin to doubt if such women have your best interests at heart, and peer mentoring can at times seem disingenuous. Moreover, 2Ls and 3Ls who may have not been accepted to the firm of their choice or may not have gotten onto the journal of their dreams may unconsciously discourage you from applying to certain opportunities. Since they could not…

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The Advice I Never Got: Having a Healthy Relationship with Yourself is Imperative for Success

Above All, Trust Yourself. When beginning law school, I was swarmed with professors, older students, and new classmates who all seemed to think they had the secret code to dominating law school. I was told that law school was completely different from anything else that I had encountered, so I would have to learn how to do everything from studying to taking a three-hour exam. No one ever asked me how I had prepared for tests in the past. No one cared that I had taken several legal courses where I learned how to brief cases. No one ever told…

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Best Advice I Never Got: Choosing the Right School for You.

The best advice I never received was “visit schools and take advantage of all the community contacts that schools provide you with before choosing a school.”  Coming into law school I knew that I wanted to practice public interest law, specifically doing government work.  This career path led me to look for public interest resources and support networks offered by each school and nearly every school has these resources.  My particular school offered a variety of resources on its website, however, if I had visited the school and made an effort to reach out to faculty and students I believe…

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Find Your Passion & Don’t Let Go

One piece of advice I got leading up to law school that I’ve dwelt on is this: If you plan on having kids, do it while you’re in law school. While I haven’t followed this advice yet, it has made me think a lot about what law school and a law degree does to people and to women in particular. During my conversation with this experienced attorney and mother I was warned that having children early in my career would set me back, and that professors are much more forgiving than partners. She told me that going to law school,…

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Stay in Your Lane

Editor's Note: This post is published as part of a series of works submitted by applicants to Ms. JD's 2014 Public Interest Scholarship Program. Each applicant was asked to describe the best advice they never got when it came to law school, lawyering, or public interest law. Applications are open until May 23, 2014. For more information, click here. Everyone’s journey is individual. This is important to remember because law school can be cruel. Not only is it notoriously difficult and stressful, but the grading curve and competitive legal market pits you and your classmates against each other. What’s often…

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