How to survive law school in 2020

Photo by Ashley Golledge

A global pandemic and statewide shutdowns and contested elections, oh my!

In true 2020 fashion, this semester has been a whirlwind and brought with it lots of uncertainty. We have all made adjustments and if you are like me, still making some. So, I am sharing a short list of things that I have learned from mentors, professors, and friends that have helped me survive the semester in hopes they might be helpful to you as we all trek on into 2021.

Be aware of your mindset.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

– Henry Ford

It is hard – especially nowadays – to have a good mentality when approaching law school curriculum, but I have found that consciously trying to have a good attitude has helped me work through it. This semester has been challenging in many ways but believing you can overcome and succeed in a time like this seems to be half the battle. I would also encourage you to give yourself grace in this moment and know that success can be defined as doing your best.

Use a planner.

Whether your class is fully online or in a hybrid format, chances are not every class will be run in the same way across different learning platforms. I have found that compiling all the information into one place is helpful. Be sure to mark meeting dates, due dates and important deadlines in your planner along with what platform is needed for each. I know this has helped me feel less overwhelmed at the beginning of the semester.

Time management

I have found this to be the most challenging adjustment to make this semester. Hello distractions! Some distractions are unavoidable, but I have found that limiting the distractions that are within my power helps me pay attention and helps my stress level, too.

Practice, practice, practice. And then practice again.  

Spending time on practice problems is an invaluable way to study. This is the best way to engage with the material, test your understanding and practice exam-taking strategies.

Do not lose sight of your “why.”

Most of us did not come to law school with a dream of merely completing law school. We have dreams of using our law degrees to advocate for those in need, to negotiate deals in the boardroom or to change public policy. I have found it helpful to return back to the reasons why I came to law school. It gives me motivation to keep going and also helps the obstacles that are in front of me not seem so daunting.

— By Lexi Christopher, a 2L from Denver and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Finding balance in law school

Photo by Ashley Golledge

At each stage of life, we are tasked with the challenge of finding balance. As children, we are taught to balance time spent playing video games with time spent outside getting fresh air. In college, we must learn to balance time spent enjoying our friends’ company, with time spent in the library enjoying textbooks. In the professional world, there’s a struggle to balance time spent fulfilling work obligations with time spent tending to household duties.

For my entire life, I have been expected to find balance, and as far as I can recall, have done so relatively easily. Law school, however, presents new challenges that require almost expert deftness. Balancing staying up late to finish the next day’s reading, with going to bed early and getting a full night’s sleep. Balancing reducing anxiety by napping or going for a walk, with feeding anxiety by foregoing reading and outlining. Law school requires mastery of many balancing acts, but among the most nuanced, is finding balance between navigating the competitive nature of law school, with establishing and maintaining meaningful and authentic relationships with classmates/competitors.

We are told often how important it is to establish relationships with our classmates — the people who will one day be among the most important parts of our network. This seems counterintuitive given the fact that while in law school, we compete for scholarships, interviews, internships and grades. How much stronger could our networks be if just about every aspect of the law school experience wasn’t a quasi-zero-sum game?  

A recurring theme from my legal education so far, is that in any given situation, there is rarely (if ever) one, and only one, reasonable solution. How do you find balance in law school? It depends; what are your goals? For me, the goal is, of course, to always be as prepared for class as possible. This naturally involves being caught up on reading so as to enhance my understanding of the concepts and be able to meaningfully contribute to class discussion. Likewise, the goal is to be competitive in law school and the legal profession.

But more than one thing can be true at the same time — the goal is also to maintain effective selfcare routines, and ultimately, a sustainable lifestyle. Some days, that requires me to spend more time outdoors with my dog, than I do indoors briefing cases. Most days, that means I prioritize a full night’s sleep over checking more tasks off my to-do list. Every day, that means I rank nurturing meaningful relationships over clinging to unhealthy competition.

Finding balance in law school and in life isn’t easy. But identifying your goals; setting your priorities; and recognizing that there are many solutions to finding balance and many ways to succeed in law school, is a good place to start.

— By Cortez Downey, a 2L from Edmond, Oklahoma and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Alumna advocates for veterans, military and their families

Kelly Circle, L’95

After a yearlong national search, Kelly Circle was selected to serve as the executive director of the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) National Headquarters in Indianapolis. Circle, L’95, began her role in November 2019.

The ALA is one of the nation’s largest patriotic service organizations, which works to honor and support veterans, military and their families through programs, events and educational initiatives. The ALA celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2019.

“As executive director, I want to help inspire every single unit member to do what they can to help veterans,” Circle said. “When we all work together, we can really make an impact to help our veterans, military and their families.”

Circle joined the Olathe, Kansas unit of the ALA in 2006 to honor the military service of her parents, who are both veterans. Circle’s parents met while serving in the U.S. Navy during the 1950’s.

“I’m proud to be an ALA member to honor my mother and her service to our country,” Circle said.

Circle’s husband, Russ; brother; and father-in-law are U.S. Army veterans. Russ Circle is also a member of the Sons of The American Legion.

Over the years, Circle has been involved with the ALA on a volunteer basis as a member of the Department of Kansas constitution and bylaws committee; second district vice president and president; and government staff at ALA Girls Nation, a weeklong civic training program for high school juniors.

As executive director, Circle oversees 43 employees at the ALA’s national headquarters; reviews legal documents; manages fiscal assets; works with the governing board and its chair; and builds external relationships.

“There are no two days that are the same,” Circle said. “It’s been great. I absolutely love it.”

More than 600,000 people are involved with the organization nationwide. The ALA has units in all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Kelly Circle, L’95, serves as the executive director of the American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters in Indianapolis.

Circle strives to increase ALA membership and awareness of the work the ALA does to benefit veterans.

“My goal is to increase membership and awareness of the American Legion Auxiliary and the American Legion Family,” Circle said. “I want to encourage post 9/11 veterans and families to get involved in the American Legion Family to serve veterans for the next 100 years.”

The ALA works with veterans and their families at local, state and national levels. Most notably, the ALA joins the American Legion to meet with Congressional representatives each year in Washington, D.C. to advocate for veterans’ rights and discuss legislation affecting veterans. The American Legion Family played a role in the G.I. Bill and lighting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Veterans are willing to sacrifice their lives,” Circle said. “The least we can do is give them the benefits that we promised them and make sure they’re taken care of.”

Circle also looks forward to the opportunity to be more involved with the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, which highlights performance art and artwork created by veterans. The festival is co-sponsored by the ALA and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“To see the power of art and how it can help heal is amazing,” Circle said. “I think that’s pretty special and something we do with the V.A. that really makes an impact.”

In the past year, the ALA worked to adapt their operations to address some of the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Meetings, conventions and festivals shifted to a virtual format. ALA volunteers launched letter writing campaigns, sewed masks and organized drop-off food drives for veterans.

“Units have shown how creative, resilient, and resourceful they can be,” Circle said. “The ALA is set up for the next century of service in a way that I couldn’t have expected.”

Prior to taking on a full-time role with the ALA, Circle worked in the field of higher education for 25 years. Most recently, Circle was a dean of instruction at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado.

She received a B.A. in psychology from Northwest Missouri State University, a J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law, and a Ph.D. in education from Saint Louis University.

“I use my law degree every single day in this job,” Circle said. “It has been an incredible asset in my professional career.”

— By Ashley Golledge

6th Semester in D.C. experience was ‘invaluable’ to professional career

Marissa Hotujac, L’20, poses for a picture in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Marissa Hotujac.

Participating in the 6th Semester in D.C. program turned out to be the best part of law school, and I hadn’t even considered doing it until my 3L year. Going into my final year at Green Hall, I wanted real-world experience in environmental law, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to do that. A short conversation with Professor Jennifer Schmidt pointed me in the direction of the Equal Justice Works (EJW) Conference and the 6th Semester program, which ultimately led to an amazing environmental law clerkship in Washington, D.C. 

Every fall (at least prior to COVID-19), KU Law sends a few lucky students to the EJW Conference in D.C. for a weekend of networking and interviewing with employers in public interest law. It is a great professional opportunity to interview with employers from all over the country, but it also allows those attending the opportunity to explore our nation’s capital (which for me was a glorious first full of museums and monuments).

Marissa Hotujac, L’20, participated in KU Law’s 6th Semester in Washington, D.C. Program in the spring of 2020. Photo courtesy of Marissa Hotujac.

I interviewed with several NGOs and government agencies in the environmental law field during the EJW Conference and secured a spring semester clerkship with the U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division (DOJ ENRD).

After landing a stellar opportunity, the only thing really holding me back from D.C. was the cost. Like many large cities, Washington, D.C. is notorious for its high rent, which had me feeling apprehensive. As it turned out, an extremely generous alum offered to help me with housing. And the location was about as good as it gets – in beautiful DuPont circle, just steps away from the metro.

Once I got to D.C., I began my clerkship with the DOJ ENRD where I was placed in the Environmental Enforcement Section with about 20 other clerks. This section enforces the federal environmental laws of the U.S. by bringing civil actions against individuals and entities who are not in compliance with federal laws like the Clean Air Act.

My experience working in the ENRD can only be described as invaluable, and I gained skills there that I will carry with me throughout my professional career. There, I worked on complex environmental law issues with a team of knowledgeable DOJ attorneys. I participated in meetings with DOJ and EPA attorneys from all over the country (including the Kansas office), and I was able to present my legal research to them. I also gained practical experience drafting motions, memos, and briefs, all while receiving mentorship and guidance from DOJ attorneys along the way.

Marissa Hotujac, L’20, poses for a picture in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Marissa Hotujac.

My clerkship and the experience I gained were certainly highlights of my semester in D.C., but it didn’t end there. Outside of work, I attended two Supreme Court oral arguments and spent my weekends exploring the city with other DOJ ENRD law clerks from the East Coast and West Coast law schools. Our adventures included day-long walks in Georgetown, museums and gallery marathons, relaxing under the monuments, picnics on the National Mall, and even hosting our own “law clerk prom” in D.C. since none of us could attend our schools’ law proms.

Spending my 6th semester in D.C. was one of the best decisions I made in law school. I would never have anticipated the professional and personal growth that I would experience during my time in D.C., and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity and the memories made. It was well worth taking the leap out of my comfort zone.

— By Marissa Hotujac, L’20

Melanie DeRousse takes on leadership role at Best Practices for Legal Education blog

Clinical Associate Professor Melanie DeRousse

Melanie DeRousse recently became editor of the Best Practices for Legal Education blog. DeRousse has been a blog author and commentator for several years. She is also a clinical associate professor and the director of the Legal Aid Clinic at KU Law.

Since 2007, the Best Practices for Legal Education blog has discussed, documented and recorded reforms in legal education. The blog, which is updated twice a week, serves as gathering place for discussion of ideas about how to best educate lawyers.

“I’ve always been interested in the recent energy around reforming legal education and bringing new ideas to the table,” DeRousse said. “I am continually intrugued by how we teach and train lawyers for the market they are now entering and the clients that they need to serve.”

DeRousse began her new role in July. She co-edits the blog with Davida Finger, a clinical professor and associate dean at Loyola New Orleans College of Law. DeRousse and Finger took over leadership of the blog from former editor and founder, Mary Lynch.

The blog grew out of the work of the Clinical Legal Education Association’s (CLEA) Best Practices Committee. DeRousse has served as co-chair of CLEA’s Best Practices Committee since 2018.

As an editor, DeRousse takes an active role with the blog’s 39 contributing authors by organizing a posting schedule, soliciting topics, communicating with authors, publishing blog posts, moderating comments, and ensuring deadlines are met.

“It gave me a chance to have a platform to encourage authors to think more deeply about issues and start writing about them as they relate to legal education,” DeRousse said.

DeRousse and Finger plan to highlight three content areas on the blog: teaching justice by doing justice work, pedagogical evolution and large-scale policy changes affecting teaching.

“As we move forward into this new era of leadership, Davida and I have talked about continuing to develop that robust discussion. Keeping it as an experimental space where we can discuss new ideas and vet them among colleagues who are also interested in those ideas,” DeRousse said. “We also want to push the blog in a direction where we talk about equity and inclusion in legal education.”

The Best Practices for Legal Education Blog is recognized as a voice in the national dialogue about legal education. The blog was named to the ABA Journal‘s Blawg 100 Hall of Fame in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. It was ranked as the #1 legal education blog by FeedSpot in 2020.

“This blog is such a great opportunity for KU to be a national voice in the conversation about changes in legal education,” DeRousse said. “It’s a good fit for what KU is as an institution.”

DeRousse joined the KU Law faculty in 2015. The lawyering program at KU Law emphasizes experiential teaching methodologies, which piqued DeRousse’s interest in teaching at the university.

“KU has a really strong position on teaching and legal pedagogy,” DeRousse said. “We have really diverse methods of teaching, and my colleagues here strive for a level of inclusivity and engagement in their teaching.”

Prior to entering academia, DeRousse was an attorney at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri Inc., where she focused her civil practice on the legal needs of survivors of intimate partner violence. She also clerked for Hon. Kathianne Knaup Crane at the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District.

— By Ashley Golledge

How to stay connected with your classmates in the era of social distancing

Photo by Ashley Golledge

Stephen King may have been an undercover law student at some point, and was talking about law students when he exclaimed, “If we don’t have each other, we go crazy with loneliness. When we do, we go crazy with togetherness.”

Before COVID-19, most of us law students spent the better part of our time together. Even on the weekends, we would get together to study. All this togetherness did make us cherished our brief moments alone. However, it has now been over seven months since many of us have seen each other in Green Hall. I know I miss you all! You understand what I’m going through as a law student. My husband just doesn’t seem to care or participate in the grumbling when I randomly and frustratingly blurt out “BLUEBOOK.” A fellow classmate in the library would not need any explanation and just join in with his own protest. I miss that!

With many of us only taking classes online and group meetings being held virtually, we have to be purposeful to connect with one another. It’s not just important for us as students (we all need that person we can text during class to ask a “stupid” question), but these peer relationships are meaningful as we embark on our careers. Our peers will be people we call on for references, advice and support for years to come.

To help combat the isolation and loneliness, as well as help facilitate the meaningful building of relationships, the various student groups have worked hard to create opportunities for us to interact together outside of our classes. If you have yet to get involved with a student group, I highly recommend checking some of them out soon. Many are just now having their first meetings and even if you’re not an official member, they will all welcome you to join their events.

I am honored to be president of KU Women in Law. We have already had deep meaningful discussions about our role as women in racial reconciliation, in politics and voting as we commemorate 100 years of the 19th Amendment. Our meetings do not look like they have in the past, but that’s OK. Even with being completely online, the group has been able to think outside the box with various activities, including teaming up with the Association of Women Lawyers of Kansas City to help match our members with a legal mentor in the KC area! I’m thankful that I have personally gotten to know some of my peers on a deeper and more meaningful level.

If you are not sure what groups or events are available, make sure to check your class’s Facebook page, Dean Crystal Mai’s announcements, or ask those in your section what they are involved in. You can also reach out to Dean Leah Terranova. There really is a student group that fit every kind of interest waiting for you! Because if we’re going through this crazy time, we should at least do so together!

— By Kendra Stacey, a 2L from Kansas City, Kansas and a KU Law Student Ambassador

KU Law welcomes largest class of LEAD students this fall

A group of LEAD students tour the Kansas Supreme Court building in April 2019.

The University of Kansas School of Law welcomed 15 students from the LEAD Program this fall, making it the largest class of LEAD students since the program launched in 2013.

The Legal Education Accelerated Degree (LEAD) Program gives students an expedited opportunity to earn both a B.A. and a J.D. degree in six years, instead of seven.

“We believe KU Law to have the largest, or second largest, 3+3 program in the country,” said Lumen Mulligan, LEAD program director and professor of law. “LEAD students accounted for nearly 15% of our 1L enrollment in fall 2020.”

The program is designed to prepare students for law school and a legal career. As undergraduates, LEAD students have the opportunity to learn about law school, law-related internships and legal practice; build relationships with law professors and practicing attorneys; and participate in off-campus activities, such as a tour of the Kansas Supreme Court building and discussion with a justice of the court.

Sixty percent of the 15-person class of LEAD students are Kansas residents. The remaining 40% arrive at KU Law from five states across the country.

The LEAD program at KU started in 2013. The University of Kansas School of Law and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences collaborated on the degree track to provide an opportunity for high-ability students to maximize their coursework at KU.

The size of the program has grown over time. There are 125 undergraduate students at KU currently enrolled in the LEAD program. The program is offered at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.

Sarah Wood, a first-year law student from Tulsa, Oklahoma, said she was grateful to be a part of the LEAD Program because it helped guide her goals from the very beginning of her college experience.

“Choosing to go to law school and all that comes with it can be an extremely stressful time, but with the guidance I received from KU, I felt fully supported each step of the way,” Wood said. “After my first full month of law school, I am more appreciative than ever to the LEAD Program and all that it offers.”

— By Ashley Golledge

Alumna strives for change

Sarah Deer, L’99, aims to end gender-based violence in Native American communities through legislative change, legal scholarship and advocacy

Photo by Ashley Golledge.

Sarah Deer, L’99, has dedicated her career to ending violence against women in Native American communities. For nearly 30 years, she has advocated for the protection of Native women and worked with survivors. Her scholarship and advocacy focus on the intersection of federal Indian law and victims’ rights.

Deer is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma. She was instrumental in the development and passage of landmark legislation that protects Native American women from gender-based violence, including The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, and the 2013 and 2019 reauthorizations of the Violence Against Women Act.

She has also testified before Congress on four occasions and filed five amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court. Deer is also the chief justice of the Prairie Island Indian Community Supreme Court.

“My testimony to Congress about violence against Native women and my Supreme Court briefs advocating for the interests of Native women and children are two notable examples where I have used my legal education to ameliorate the status of underprivileged communities,” Deer said.

Deer, who grew up in Wichita, is a two-time alumna of the University of Kansas. She earned undergraduate degrees with honors in women’s studies and philosophy in 1996. Deer also earned a J.D. and a Tribal Lawyering Certificate from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1999.

“The law school at the University of Kansas is also a great value,” Deer said. “It’s an excellent education at a reasonable cost.”

Deciding where to pursue her education was an easy choice for Deer because she is a second-generation Jayhawk. Her mother, Jan Deer, graduated from KU in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in science education. Her father, Montie Deer, also went to KU.

“I already had an affinity to KU because I studied here as an undergrad,” Deer said. “Both of my parents attended KU.”

After law school, Deer worked at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. and at the Tribal Law and Policy Institute in Los Angeles as a victim-advocacy legal specialist and staff attorney. She also co-directed the Indian Law Clinic at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Sarah Deer presents “Sovereignty of the Soul: Centering the Voices of Native Women” on October 1, 2019 as part of the Hall Center for the Humanities Lecture Series. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

In 2016, she served as the Langston Hughes Visiting Professor at KU.

“In the Fall of 2016, I returned to Lawrence as a visiting faculty member as part of the Langston Hughes program,” Deer said. “I enjoyed my time in Lawrence and working with other KU faculty. I was fortunate enough to be offered a permanent position at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. My positive experience with students made it an easy decision to return to KU.”

Deer is now a University Distinguished Professor in KU’s Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. She has a joint appointment in the School of Public Affairs & Administration and is a courtesy professor at KU Law.

“I like sharing my own experiences as a graduate of KU, and I encourage students to dream big,” Deer said.

Deer was awarded a “Genius Grant” from the MacArthur Fellows Program in 2014. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2019. She was the first woman from KU and the fifth Kansan to receive the honor. Earlier this year, she was selected to be in the 2020 class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows. Through the fellowship, Deer will author a book, Indigenous Democracies: Native Women and the Future of Tribal Nations in the United States, about the basis of indigenous democracies in Native women’s political activism.

Deer has co-authored four tribal law textbooks. She also published a book, The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America, in 2015. Deer has published articles in law journals, including the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, and the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law.

In addition to her scholarly work, Deer serves the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma as a formal consultant on legal reform efforts.

— By Ashley Golledge

How to manage stress in law school

Photo by Ashley Golledge

Law school can be frightening because of all the unknowns, especially in these strange times. The material is challenging and it can be hard or nearly impossible to fully understand everything in the course of a semester, or even just in the course of a week. This can lead to a feeling that you don’t belong or are somehow not understanding the material as well as others. The good news is, as I’ve found it, you’re almost never alone in finding material hard to grasp. The even better news is that at KU Law, the professors are eager to ensure that you have a full grasp of the material. The open-door (or open-Zoom chat) policy at KU is real! 

That feeling of not knowing can follow some people throughout their entire career in the law. I know that at my job with a firm over the summer, it being my first legal job, I felt like I had no idea what was going on. Supreme Court Justice Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her memoir that even with all her success, she has dealt with what’s called “imposter syndrome” throughout her career. Imposter syndrome is essentially the feeling of not being smart enough and being worried about every little mistake you may make. It’s something that a lot of law students deal with. I find that discussing difficult topics from the day with a few of my classmates can really help. It can be difficult not to follow the urge to compare everything you do with other law students. The reality is that every person studies and learns differently. Above all, the fact that you’ve gotten good grades in undergraduate, done well on the LSAT, and gotten into law school is on its own enough to show that you belong at law school. 

What’s helped me deal with that stress is making sure that law school doesn’t consume my life. For me, a way to escape the stress of law school life has been with friends, both from the law school and elsewhere. Working and worrying yourself to death every day isn’t a recipe for success in law school. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your law school success is to take a day off from studying and go out for dinner with some friends. On a day-to-day basis, I typically try and cut myself off from studying at 9 p.m. Then I have the remainder of the evening (I stay up late) to myself, either to watch a movie or to just relax. KU Law’s atmosphere also helps take the stress out of things, as everyone is eager to help you in any way they can.  

— By James Schmidt, a 2L from Houston, Texas and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Living With The Bluebook: 4 Quick Tips

Photo by Ashley Golledge

The story of Sisyphus is a Greek myth, one that concludes with Zeus condemning Sisyphus to Tartarus and forcing him to push a boulder to the top of a hill. No matter how many times Sisyphus brings the boulder to the peak, however, the boulder falls down the other side, dooming Sisyphus to an eternity of boulder pushing.

On an unrelated note, bluebooking can sometimes seem like a daunting task. Thankfully, with my Five Star Bluebook Tips™ in tow, you can learn how to stop worrying and love not loathe everyone’s favorite somehow-not-obsolete citation guide!

Tip #1: The Quick Reference Table Is Your Friend

Located on both inside cover pages is the Bluebook’s Quick Reference Table. This table provides an example of a properly bluebooked citation for every garden variety source variant that you’re likely to stumble upon, including cases, legislative reports, and, my personal favorite, pamphlets. By looking to this table first, you may save yourself a trek through the spiral-bound hellscape that is the Bluebook’s actual text.

Tip #2: “The Power is Yours!” Go Digital!

Recently, I learned that the Bluebook has a digital edition. After enrolling in a free trial and spending some time working on some citations for Law Review, I can say with certainty that my life has been made easier. The display is clean, the Ctrl + F capabilities are life-changing, and best of all, as I cite Law Review articles that discuss how best multinational oil corporations can escape liability for their contributions to global climate change, I get to feel good that I’m saving paper! With an annual payment of $39, you too can live life with my peace of mind.

Tip #3: Don’t Trust Anyone

Sometimes you’ll hit a wall and catch the urge to coast off the work of judges and scholars to complete your citations. The temptation is understandable; these are high credential individuals citing the exact source you’re needing to cite, so why not just lift it straight from the case text on Westlaw or Lexis? Among other reasons, you shouldn’t do this because, unbelievably, one can be an extraordinary legal mind and not pay much heed to the conventions of the Bluebook. For one illustrative example, you can look to Judge Posner, who states that the Bluebook “is 560 pages of rubbish,” and states that that a proper first step for our profession is to “burn all copies” of the noble uniform system of citation. Unfortunately, such a cavalier attitude toward conformity with the Bluebook will result in a less-than desirable grade on your Open Memos, so just trust your knowledge and do the work yourself.

Tip #4: The Bluebook is Inevitable, Suffering Is Optional

Duḥkha is the First Noble Truth of Buddhism; it tells us that suffering is inextricably linked to the human experience. For the Buddhists, the paradoxical first step to disengage oneself from suffering is an acknowledgement of its inevitability. In many ways, this wisdom applies with equal force in learning to accept the Bluebook as a fixture in your life. The Bluebook is inconvenience in corporeal form; it is hundreds of pages of idiosyncrasies, counter-intuitive rules, and opaque explanations and examples. You could spend every waking minute of the next couple years trying to memorize each one of its inexplicable rules and exceptions, and even if you succeed, you’ll have just minutes to celebrate before a joyless cabal of Ivy Leaguers decides it is time to change a dozen or so rules and force everyone to pay for a new edition. True, you may never fully escape from the Bluebook’s gaping maw, but with each year your grasp on it will improve, your sense of where the proper rule is located will develop, and God willing, an unitalicized comma will matter less and less. Embrace its absurdity, understand its inevitability, and feel the stress wash away.

—  By Griffin Albaugh, a 2L from Lawrence and a KU Law Student Ambassador.