Giving Your All as a Law Student

The following blog post was written by Sydney Coelho, Regent J.D. Class of 2022:

Every time I receive grades, the first thought that comes to mind is a story my mother told me from her high school days. It was the first time she ever received a “C” in a course, and she was reprimanded severely by her mother. To this day the incident remains a profound memory for her—not because she was reprimanded, but because of what came after. Her father, a man of few words, actually took the time to come out and talk to her. “Did you do your best?” he asked. Honestly, I can’t remember what she responded, but the last thing he said to her was “That’s all that matters.”

Like my grandfather, Scripture also tells us that “If [you] give away all [you] have, and if [you] deliver up [your] body to be burned, but have not love, [you] gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3 (ESV).

When reflecting on the above passage, I cannot help but think about what my grandfather told my mother all those years ago, or the impact the story had on me growing up. You see, giving your all (or doing your best) means more than just what is at the surface. It also includes the heart we put into the tasks before us. In order to do our best, we have to have our heart in something because the human heart is at the core of who we are. It allows us to experience the world and all its emotions. As a law student, these principles are important for many reasons, including (a) serving as a measure of what you gave, (b) serving as a measure of what you’re willing to lose, and (c) showing you where your heart still lies. Knowing these things about yourself then serves as the foundation for which you can build upon your self-knowledge, exercise better judgment, and learn compassion, not only for others, but also for yourself. For how can one be a leader and be able to lead others without first understanding him or herself?

Did you give your best this semester? If you find yourself saying no, I challenge you to take the time you would be beating yourself up and, instead of asking where you went wrong, ask where you went right. What distractions did you face that prevented you from giving your all? What did you learn about yourself because of those distractions? You may have a “C” in a course, but you may also have taken on increased responsibilities such as managing your children during the day. Perhaps it wasn’t children, but you have trouble focusing outside a classroom environment, or you have pets that demanded attention after not seeing you for several months. Whatever it was, think about where your mind was, and you may find that you didn’t or couldn’t give your best to classes under the conditions you were in. Yet you still passed, didn’t you? You’re still on the same path, and with a much better understanding of your limitations.

For those who did well, I also have a challenge. Ask yourself: What did you give up? Why were you able to perform at your best? Is the way you practice sustainable in the long run? For example, how much sleep did you get a night on average? Were you able to enjoy other activities outside of law school or did you eat, breathe, and dream in legalese? Did you study every day or did you give yourself a sabbath?

Whether you made the grade or fell short, be honest with yourself in your analysis. Remember, law school is just the first step on this journey into the legal profession. Grades and ranks are important, but to remain sustainable one must be sure to have balance in his or her life. The more you are willing answers to these questions and reflect, the greater likelihood of long-term success. Let these questions become your template for practicing a well-balanced life and for sustaining a fulfilling career as leaders in the community and in the legal profession itself.


Counsel for Law Students Grieving During the COVID-19 Crisis

The following blog post was written by Sydney Coelho, Regent J.D. Class of 2022:

A recent article by the Harvard Business Review reminds us that it’s common for people at times to feel stressed or anxious. It may even be just as common to grieve.

As Psalm 34:18 reminds us, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (NIV). So what would grief look like right now for students during this COVID-19 crisis? Grief comes in five stages, which may or may not come in order. Those stages and ways to recognize them are:
  1. Denial – Everything is normal. I can still go to the office. My internship didn’t fall through. The bar exam is still on.
  2. Anger – You’re taking away my rights. You’re kicking me out of the dorm I paid for. You’re moving classes online and I have to wake up at 4:00 a.m. You cancelled the bar exam. I lost my job.
  3. Bargaining: After two weeks it will all go back to normal, right? If I take a pay cut, they may not fire me, right? If I graduate with a law degree, I can still work without taking the bar, right?
  4. Depression/Sadness: This will never end. I will never get a job. I will be behind my peers because I lost my internship. My hard work doesn’t matter because exams are all open book.
  5. Acceptance. It’s real. It’s happening. What steps do I need to take? I should file for unemployment. I may not have a job until early next year. I should try to get an internship during the school year to make up for the summer.
In the event you or someone you know may be struggling right now, remember:
  1. Grief is a natural part of life. We all grieve at various points for various reasons.
  2. There is no wrong or right way to grieve. As the Lord makes each of us different, so too did He make our processes different.
  3. There is no set time to grieve. Grief affects each of us in different ways. Just because it may appear easy for some does not mean it’s easy for everyone.
  4. Don’t assume that someone isn’t grieving just because the person doesn’t show it or talk about it. Some people are better than others at hiding their emotions.
  5. Know that grief is a rollercoaster ride. Some days you will feel better than others.
So what can you do to cope with grief?
  1. Enjoy time with friends and family via apps like Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype.
  2. Exercise to get endorphins pumping and get out of your head.
  3. Enjoy your hobbies, or discover a new one.
  4. Finally, look for adventure in the smallest places. For example, try a new recipe or challenge yourself to put down electronics for 24 hours.
If you’re still having trouble with grief, please don’t be afraid to talk to someone. There are friends, family, Regent’s Counseling Services and Psychological Services Center, and even a national helpline. Until the restrictions are removed, be sure to stay healthy, stay active, and stay safe.


CEFLER Guest Speakers Address Students on Bar Passage and Formative Habits

Recently, the Center for Ethical Formation and Legal Education Reform sponsored two presentations . National Bar Exam expert Sara Berman of AccessLex, who has written several books on the Bar exam, including Pass the Bar, spoke on strategies and tips on preparing for the Bar. Professor Berman also discussed the ways in which law school is a means for students to prepare not only for the Bar but also for law practice, addressing issues from time management to establishing a bar preparation fund to having healthy attitudes that foster success.
In the same week, Justin Early, Esq. presented to students in Professional Responsibility, also sponsored by CEFLER. Mr. Early is graduate of Georgetown who began practice at the prestigious firm, McGuire Woods, and is currently an attorney at Gammon & Grange. He is also the author of The Common Rule – Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction. Mr. Early told the story of how his efforts to be a busy lawyer led him to severe anxiety and panic attacks. He spoke on the need for formational habits, highlighting prayer and breaks from technology as ways in which he coped and ultimately has found a way to practice law without debilitating anxiety. He offered practical ways, many of which are similar to practices encouraged in Regent’s first-year Foundations of Law course, for students to develop habits that keep them in touch with their faith (and soul) as they study and practice law. These habits, he argued, serve as important safeguards to ethical decision-making.


Guidance for Legal Career Success: CEFLER 2018 Mentor Program Student Training

On November 5, 2018, the Center for Ethical Formation and Legal Education Reform (CEFLER) held its annual mentor program training for over 30 students who signed up to be paired with a lawyer or judge mentor in their field.

Regent University School of Law started a mentor program several years ago in which incoming students are paired with practicing lawyers and judges who can serve as professional mentors to students during their time in law school.  The purpose of the program is not for the mentor to help find the student a job; rather it is to help the student develop his or her professional identity by talking with the mentor about the mentor’s area of practice and the ethical and professional development issues the mentor has faced.  The mentorship experience allows participating students to learn from their mentors the character traits and professional development skills the mentors believe are important for the students’ success in the legal profession.

Dean Natt Gantt and Professor Ben Madison, co-founders of CEFLER, discussed expectations of the program, how and how often to contact mentors, and what mentees should discuss with mentors at their first and subsequent meetings. Students learned the characteristics of a successful mentee, mentor activity possibilities, and aspects of a healthy mentor relationship.

Teaching Beyond the Classroom

2L students Corrie Faith Lee and Chris Dunn spoke to students about their first-year experience with their mentors.  Corrie shared how she was able to form a trust-based professional relationship with her assigned mentor early in their relationship. She described how the relationship with her mentor has helped to enhance her professionalism, self-confidence, and legal skills.

Chris also shared important lessons he has learned from his mentorship experience.  He encouraged students to realize that their professional success depends on more than their knowledge of the law and legal skills—that their professional relationships and emotional intelligence matter.

Chris described several “job shadowing experiences” that he had with his mentor that provided many practical and professional “insider” strategies that came as a result of his mentor experience. For example, Chris discussed how his mentor has helped him know how to handle inevitable ethical situations, deal with demanding clients, and navigate the local court system. He also shared that his mentor helped him develop strategies to career plan effectively.

Lastly, CEFLER mentor program coordinator Diane Hess-Hernandez encouraged students to let the mentor-mentee relationship develop organically and to use the support at Regent Law if mentees have questions or any issues arise with trying to connect with a mentor.


Going Beyond Program Learning Outcomes

Assessment of Program Learning Outcomes: Law Schools Move into the Twenty-First Century

Center for Ethical Formation and Legal Education Reform (CEFLER) Co-Director Ben Madison recently posted about law school pedagogy changing over the years.  He gives five suggestions for implementing pedagogical practices:
  1. Find an expert in assessment. 
  2. Read The Rubric Meets the Road in Law School Program Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes as a Fundamental Way for Law Schools to Improve and Fulfill Their Respective Missions
  3. Read Student Learning Outcomes and Law School Assessment (Carolina Academic Press 2015). 
  4. Involve your faculty in the process of assessment. 
  5. Do not be afraid to engage in self-assessment of your law school’s program of learning and its learning outcomes.

Read more about these suggestions and Professor Madison's full blog post here >>


CEFLER Presentation at Regent Law Admitted Student Day

On March 23, 2018, Dean Natt Gantt and Professor Ben Madison had the opportunity to speak to a group of admitted Regent Law students who will start school this fall. They spoke on "Distinctives of the Regent Law Experience," discussing what Christian legal education looks like through an integrated curriculum.

The Center for Ethical Formation and Legal Education Reform (CEFLER) plays a part in this integration by supporting the Regent Law programming that seeks to develop the professional identity and ethical judgment in our students, including the following:

  • Biblical Integration throughout the curriculum.
  • Devotional time in each class.
  • Courses such as Foundations of Law, Foundations of Practice, and Professional Responsibility, which include training on moral decision-making in the real world.
  • Partnering with Regent's School of Psychology and Counseling for testing and vocational recommendations for students to help them discern their calling.
  • A mentoring program to promote individual character formation and professional development through lasting relationships with lawyers and judges nationwide.
CEFLER was founded in 2012 after Gantt and Madison were influenced by a landmark report published by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The report, titled "Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Practice of Law," contends that law schools need to place greater emphasis on offering an integrated curriculum that cultivates students’ moral formation and understanding of what it means to practice law with professional and personal integrity.

In their presentation, Gantt and Madison referenced a quote from this Carnegie report: “Law school provides the single experience that virtually all legal professionals share. It forms minds and shapes identities.” Such positive forming and shaping is what CEFLER seeks to do: to produce lawyers who have an understanding of the nature and purpose of the legal profession and are committed to the ethical practice of law.