Midterms

Hey all, it’s been a few days since I’ve last written my last post. In fact, I think this has been the longest I’ve ever gone without posting since I started my blog. Well, that’s because it’s midterm week here at Northwestern, and everything has gotten pretty busy. Personally, I’ve spent most of my time in the library re-reading legal cases, catching up on chapters I skipped earlier in the semester, creating outlines for classes, discussing cases in study groups, and scrambling to memorize legal rules and theories.

Dean’s Email
Just last week, the Dean of Students, Cliff Zimmerman, sent an email to the entire class, reminding us that midterms were on the horizon. In the email he told us that we’re officially half-way done with our first semester of law school. I think he intended to both congratulate us and to scare us. For me, it seems like we just began the semester yesterday, and when I think about it, it’s pretty scary to be half way through already. It’s also pretty inspiring considering the hours I’ve spent in the library, the number of times I’ve had to start over after not understanding so many of these legal cases, and the sheer number of pages I’ve read for class. This is especially true considering that as an MBA applicant, I didn’t even expect to be in law school this year.

But despite all of these warm and fuzzy feelings about accomplishment, I don’t have much time this week to reflect on the past two months or to be inspired. The idea of having midterms is quite stressful, and the notion of getting evaluated in law school is pretty foreign. Additionally, for the JD-MBA crowd, most of us are a bit older, so the thought of grades is a thing of the distant past. But we’re all hanging in there, and everyone seems to be doing pretty well so far.

First Exam
Just this past Sunday, my section took our first midterm exam. It was a take-home exam, and we had three hours to complete it. While most students seemed to have a pretty smooth transaction, I unfortunately didn’t quite have the same luck. Upon logging into Northwestern’s internal website, I found that I didn’t have access to the test. Initially, I thought it was just a simple technical glitch that I’d be able to fix pretty quickly. But then disaster stuck! After about 20 minutes of not being able to grab the test, I realized that I had gotten locked out of the system and that I didn’t have access to the exam.

I tried my best not to panic and ended up calling the professor on her cell phone (kudos to her for giving it out before the exam) and then emailing her as well as her assistant, the class TA, the IT team, and our academic affairs person. I sat for a couple of hours waiting for someone to respond but to my surprise, nothing came. Instead of taking the test at 3:30pm I ended up not getting access until closer to 9:00pm. It was really tough waiting around, so I tried running to the gym, grabbing dinner, and chatting with a few friends as a distraction. After a really long day, I ended up finishing my exam a few minutes before midnight, which was the final submission deadline.

Second Exam
Just yesterday, we had our second midterm. We took the exam in class, and we only had an hour to get through it. Going in, I felt really well-prepared, because I had kept up with the reading all semester and because I studied quite a bit. I read and memorized most of the rules, took a couple of practice tests, and went though a couple of study aids and outlines, but the test still proved to be a challenge. I was a bit nervous going into the exam, but I was pretty surprised that even after the initial shock, I still struggled a bit, and after a couple of post-exam conversations, it became clear that I wasn’t the only one.

During this whole process of taking my first two exams, I found how easy it was to become flustered. Most of us here in law school and in the JD-MBA program have led largely successful careers, and for most of us things have come pretty easily. But even in my first exam, I am reminded that the thing that most of us have done here at law school so far is struggle. We’ve struggled through cases, through late nights in the library, through thick legal theories that we don’t really understand, and sometimes to try not to fall asleep in class. What I’m learning is that people who are successful in law school have to learn how to learn to struggle well….to keep control in tough situations, rebound quickly from the ups and downs, and retool themselves to finish strong.

Relation To Business
Back in the business world before school, I saw that the high-performing leaders were those who did the same in the workplace. These were the people who adapted quickly to change, dealt seamlessly with ambiguity, responded optimistically to challenges, and leveraged the resources around them to get things done. I certainly felt challenged this way the last two days, and with a couple more exams later in the week, I am doing my best to be resilient.

Finishing Up
This is especially important since later in the week I have a Contracts exam, a Torts exam, and a Criminal Law exam. I really like my Criminal Law professor, so I want to do well in that class. I also really enjoy the material in my Contracts and Torts courses, so I’m interested to see how well I understand everything. I know that the rest of the week won’t be easy but I’m going to struggle through it and give it my best. Law school is certainly more work than I ever expected, but I look forward to stepping up to the challenge and growing personally and professionally as a result.

Fortunately, as a reward after my last midterm exam on Sunday, I’m planning to go grab brunch with a friend here at Northwestern. Should be fun and a nice break from all the hustling around this week.

I’ll let everyone know how the rest of my exams turn out. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009 Law School

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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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