Midterms Are Over at Kellogg

At long last. Midterm week in our first quarter at Kellogg is finally over. Although most students here did not spend the entire time immersed in their books and outlines, there was certainly a difference in the energy here on campus.  In large part, students spent less time hanging out on campus, spent more time reading and doing problem sets in study rooms, and walked around campus with more purpose and less time to chat. But this doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, some people are recruiting for banking and consulting, where sometimes grades can factor in.

Over the last two weeks, all the first years here at Kellogg partook in their first exams here at business school. Surprising was the number of students that stayed here and studied here on campus in the in the study rooms. I suspect that the number of people studying on campus will change over the course of the year, as space is a bit limited and as people start to have other priorities as the school year goes on

For the most part, I’ve did a good job of staying out of the studying frenzy. I think many of the JD-MBAs do that well, in part because we’re used to taking exams now given our experience last year in law school. But that doesn’t mean the week was easier for everyone in the program. After all, not all the JD-MBAs have quantitative backgrounds, nor do all of them have the same levels of business experience.

On the other hand, a number of my MBA peers have pretty significant finance and quantitative experience, and some of them put in much less time studying than I did. My hypothesis is that the number of hours people spend here at Kellogg is very different for everyone individually and that it largely depends on the specific subject.

It’s been a pretty interesting past few weeks, but the journey isn’t over yet. Since Kellogg is on the quarter system, rather than semester semester, the pace of the quarter is fast and final exams are looming – my first final exam is only four weeks away.  In fact, we’re already starting to bid on classes for next quarter.

But the good news is that we’ll be able to start new classes soon and that after final exams, we’ll all be headed to Aspen for the school wide ski trip.

Stay tuned to hear how the rest of the quarter plays out.

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Friday, November 5th, 2010 Business School No Comments

Running Past The Finish Line

With just one final exam to go [in employment law] I find myself changing things up a bit from last semester, and even from earlier in this exam period.  For many of my other exams, I was a bit more worried, felt a little more pressure, and did a lot more cramming than I’m doing for this one. Hard to say exactly why that’s the case, though I suspect it’s the result of a number of factors …

For one the class is not curved, so there’s less pressure to perform on a relative basis. In addition to that, I think a lot of the material is a bit more intuitive than some of my other courses, especially since I already have a good grasp of employment issues, so perhaps I’m hoping to rely on that a bit in order to do well.  And finally, while the content of the class is especially interesting, the day-to-day classroom dynamic this semester may have been a bit less than hoped for, though I’ll note that this dynamic is likely the result of a combination of factors (number of 1Ls in the class, number of 3Ls in the class, professor style, being second semester, bad classroom, etc) not just the professor.

More importantly however may be the fact that I’ve got a few big picture things on my mind which seem to be taking precedent over any singular class. I’ve got a few business ideas that I’m working on. I’ve got some improvements to my website in the works. I’m in the process of making some important partnerships. I have a few plans I’m trying to finalize for summer 2010. And I also have a interesting opportunities in the works for summer 2011. So for me, the year, or even the week doesn’t end with finals. I’ve got to keep moving things along for a few weeks after finals and in reality will be just as busy up until I start work on June 1. In essence, I’m running past the finals “Finish Line.”

In any event, I do have to get back to studying, so I’ll keep this post short.  I suspect this is going to be a pretty long night of studying, especially if I decide to head to a Cinco De Mayo get together later this afternoon, as I’m currently planning to do. Fortunately employment law is interesting.

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Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 Law School 4 Comments

Crunch Time: The Countdown To Final Exams Begins

It’s that time of the year again. Just like in the NBA playoffs where last second shots and game winners that leave you on the edge of your seats become all too common in the spring time, in law school last second epiphanies, and changes in study techniques that result in pulling all-night’ers become common as final exams approach. And while I’d obviously prefer watching game winning shots on TNT with championships on the line, instead, I’ll be joining the rest of the school in the library as finals week is approaching far too quickly.

It’s business as usual here at Northwestern Law School as we’re now in the last few weeks of the semester. 1LS are hiding away in their apartments or in corner library cubicles, 3Ls are finishing projects and papers in anticipation of graduation, and some of the first year JD-MBAs are deciding if they should take a break today to attend DAK’s final event in downtown Chicago. It’s a hard choice given our first final exam is in less than 48 hours.

Last semester I did a good job managing my time when it was crunch time. I read intensely. I wrote and edited multiple outlines. I pulled multiple all-nighters. And I marshalled the information in a way that was both effective and informative. I even used the book series named Crunch Time to help. But second semester is always a bit different.

This semester, I’ve personally spent more time on a variety of chores and activities and have spent more energy organizing more chaos around me. It’s been more of a balancing act. In some respects that’s because we all know what it feels like to take the exams and we’re more well-prepared than we were last semester. Nonetheless, now it’s crunch time, which means it’s time to stop balancing so much and time to continue to increase hours reading, studying, outlining, and then re-doing all of those things until we’re ready for the exam.  I hope that things will work out the same as they did last semester.

The good news, though, like I said is that we all know what to expect.  So people are less stressed, my classmates are going home a bit earlier, and as a result, everyone seems to be a bit happier, at least relative to last semester. I suspect that the three hour- exams will also feel like a piece of cake this go round, especially for those of us that took part in the seven hour marathon exam in our Criminal Law Final exam with Len Rubenowitz last semester.

In the end, the exams won’t catch us by surprise, that’s for sure. Whether everyone’s new strategies are effective or not, we’ll see.  For me, the question now is whether what I did before will work again. Stay tuned to find out!

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Saturday, April 24th, 2010 Law School No Comments

Being Strategic With My Time During Reading Week

I remember the busy days of working at a consulting firm.  While we did have some normal days, sometimes there was a real sense of urgency, a lot more beeps and buzzes from BlackBerrys in the offices, and often people ran around at a more frantic pace in, especially when the work involved our big clients.  I’ve notice how many people who are this busy often like tell themselves, no big deal, this is just for today, tomorrow things will be better.  But it’s funny how that pace often extends for days at a time. In fact for some it goes the full week, and for others, it becomes a lifestyle. Interestingly enough, something similar thing happens during your first year in law school.

Managing your time is very important both in business and in law school. In law school, we spent weeks upon weeks scrambling around trying to get through four or five classes. We read multiple textbooks, analyze hundreds of cases, we meet with study groups to try to figure out what’s going on, and we read supplemental materials to gain better understanding. During the semester everyone moves at their own pace and develops their own styles.  But then at the end, we have what’s called Reading Week, and during reading week, everyone really starts to picks up the pace.

Law schools tell us they have reading week so we can have time to study thoroughly for exams. And at one point in the semester, when you’re all caught up, you start to think the extra time should be plenty of time to master the material. But from my perspective that’s not entirely true because most people get behind, get involved in other activities, and sometimes just get a bit tired. And so in my experience, reading week is also a time to make up for all the reading you didn’t do, to catch up on outlining, and to catch up on administrative things you have to finish (i.e. I just did financial aid last week). And as such, it also becomes a time where some people constantly remind themselves of how much they need to study before our final exams.

A lot of people stress out about reading week, although this semester seems much more lax than last. I suspect that is both because people are too tired to be relaxed and because with one semester under our belts, people are relying a bit more heaviliy on their legal analysis and analytical skills rather than pure work ethic to do well.

Most of us have our first final exam on Monday, in Constitutional Law.  That should be the toughest one. Despite that, I’ve personally, I’ve still maintained a pretty balanced lifestyle though. Not only am I still writing posts on my website, but I’m also keeping active with other things.  This past weekend I went to a full day leadership seminar and networking event for Stanford alumni, called Leading Matters (Click here to see my recap of the event) Last night I went to a talk by renowned economist, and Nobel Prize winner, Amartya Sen, and it was well worth the time. Today, I’ll be having lunch with a JD-MBA admit, who also happens to be a Stanford grad, and I hopes to show her how great the JD-MBA program here is.  Tonight I’ll be headed out to Evanston for a kick-off event for Kellogg’s second Admit Weekend (DAK 2), which like last year, should be a lot of fun. And concurrently, I’m also gearing up for my role on the Executive Committee for BMA at Kellogg. Since most committee members are first year MBAs about to head into their second year, and not entering students, I have to play a little catch up before I can get started. And unfortunately, a lot of that happens now, in the final quarter at Kellogg, right in the middle of law school final exams.

So yes, I’m pretty busy, just like the old consulting days when we had to cater to a big client. Or perhaps a better analogy, just like the old consulting days when I was also applying to business and law schools, which was right in the middle of the economic recession, and where we had to bill every hour we could get.  And no matter how busy I am today, I’m not sure I’ll ever be that busy again. But I guess we’ll see soon enough. Either way, I’m off to go do some reading. After all it is reading week.

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Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 Law School No Comments

Leading Matters: Stanford University At The Forefront Of Change

As an anthropology major, I’ve read a lot of papers by the great anthropologist Margaret Mead. In one case she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” Well, if this is true, than we certainly need more of these groups today. The current economic crisis is still on everyone’s mind, in addition to other issues like clean energy, new Supreme Court justices, and failing investment banks and law firms.  I’m not surprised that many of the law students and business students, not only at Northwestern but also across the nation, are feeling a little nervous in the midst of uncertainty. But in my opinion, times of uncertainty are good because they also create opportunity. And “we have to be willing to take chances, to push the boundaries, to work in collaborative new ways to try to make a difference in our world.” At least that’s what Stanford President John Hennesey told us at a leadership conference in Chicago this past weekend.

This past Saturday, I returned to Stanford to reconnect with hundreds of alumni and former classmates. No, not literally; it’s finals week here at Northwestern Law. Instead Stanford came here, to Chicago, as part of their Leading Matters tour to showcase how the school is playing a leading role in helping solve some of the world’s biggest problems. And the Cardinal crowd in Chicago was well represented—students and alumni from the GSB, alumni from the law school, and others from various departments and schools at Stanford–and there were over 500 alumni registered for the Chicago event.

Among others, Penny Pritzker, President Hennesey, and Helen and Peter Bing were there.  And for all my law school readers, I also had a chance to hear and meet Constitutional Law expert, former Stanford Law School Dean, and current litigator at Quinn Emmanuel, Kathleen Sullivan. I found her talk to be especially compelling, given my first final exam is in Constitutional Law and given that all 65 of the rest of my section mates were in their apartments or at the school studying while I was at the event downtown. (Click here for my follow up post on the Constitutional Law exam).

The entire crowd was engaged and ready for an inspiring afternoon. After almost every remark for the first five minutes, a series of claps, and “wows” would ripple through the audience from front to back, and sometimes back to front, often ending with those around me, an entire row of Stanford MBAs. In his welcoming address, Mr. Hennesey ended with the remark I mentioned above … that “This is a university willing to take chances, to push the boundaries, to work in collaborative new ways to try to make a difference in our world.”

In that moment, right at the outset, I re-connected with Stanford, which unfortunately has been a rare experience given I’ve spent the past four years in Boston, Phoenix, and Chicago. And for the day, I didn’t think much about my upcoming finals here at law school. Instead, I took the day to engage in the event, connect with old friends, conjure up old memories and traditions, think about the broader vision that Stanford had, and finally to do what I enjoy most, meet lots of new people.

I attended the first few sessions with GSB alum Marquis Parker (MBA & M.Ed, Class of 2006, and Stanford MBA blogger).  I also re-connected with fellow 05 Anthropology major, Andrea Lazazzera, who also happened to be the master-organizer of the Chicago event! I saw two of my good friends from my undergrad days, who I met during Stanford’s Engineering Academy. I had drinks with  a good buddy who also lives in Chicago but who I don’t see often because of law school.  And I even ran into a Stanford grad that graduated from Northwestern Law in 2009. It was great seeing everyone again.

But more than the great connections that I made at the event, the underlying purpose was to show that leadership matters and that Stanford is playing a leading role as the nation is facing real challenges ahead.  And “in a series of panels, speeches, and seminar sessions, President Hennessy, deans and faculty shared their bold visions for Stanford in the 21st century.” They discussed the current financial crisis, foreign policy issues, clean energy, Obama’s appointment for the Supreme Court, and how Stanford leaders were leading in all the fields.

“It was pretty impressive. The entire event blew me away. I was inspired,” one of the guests said to me as the day concluded.  Another alumni commented that “it was good to see everyone again in such an inspiring environment.” I agree with both of the comments. And what I found most interesting about the event was that topic of money or donations never came up, at least not to my knowledge. Instead, the focus of the event was on education and on leadership.

And in the end, I re-engaged with the idea that when we bring ourselves together around a common purpose and when we connect with others, with ideas, and with inspiring leaders, then we can effect change on a broader scale.  Not only because we have more hands to help and minds to come up with ideas but also because you can connect with the hearts of the people, and inspire them to do more than they could have ever imagined on their own.

And after being capped off by a 15-20 minute video during dinner, the event did just that.  The message was compelling and well worth the time, even in the middle of finals week. In fact, after the event, I’m now even considering heading to the one in Boston toward the end of the year (I spent a few years in Boston before Chicago) and maybe even to the one in the Bay next month, depending on how my summer work schedule plays out.  The event in San Francisco already has nearly 900 registered attendees, and could turn out to be a huge reunion-type event.

Either way, Bravo Stanford! And best of luck the remaining events!

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Monday, April 19th, 2010 Leadership 13 Comments

Torts Midterm

I took my torts midterm yesterday early afternoon. For those who don’t know what torts is I’ll briefly explain. Tort law covers the civil (i.e. not criminal) wrongdoings that happen around you, except those happen to be under contractual agreement. It includes all the things you’ve heard of on TV shows like Law And Order … battery, assault, negligence, due care, and more. The classic example of tort law that most professors give at the beginning of class is a “punch in the face,” hence the picture above. And tort law answers questions like is the act a violation, who is at fault, and what is the penalty?

What business students often enjoy about torts is torts’ interplay with economics. In the class we talk a lot about damage calculations, economic efficiency, risk calculations, product liability, and insurance. Many of the JD-MBAs here especially like the “Learned Hand Formula.” This formula is a widely-accepted mathematical model used to test the economic efficiency of a person’s risky actions, and it’s used to determine if someone acted negligently or not. It’s pretty interesting to do the calculation and see how stacks up against what actually happened in the case.

The midterm itself was pretty fun. We had 55 minutes to complete the exam, so it was a mad dash the entire way. The midterm only consisted of one storyline and there three short questions. On any law school exam, we basically have to read the storyline (called a fact pattern), identify the issues, discuss the relevant laws (i.e. tort laws in this case), and then argue for both sides of the case in terms of liability. Midterms usually have dozens of issues, and the more you can spot and discuss articulately, the better off you are. I asked around after the exam, and it sounded like most people typed between 2.5 and 3 pages single-spaced. I ended writing closer to five pages. I am confident that I identified most of the issues. Hopefully the rest of my analysis was up to par.

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Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 Law School No Comments


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!

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Tuesday, October 20th, 2009 Law School No Comments

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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