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Soon to be Recent Law School Graduates and Future Bar Examination Takers

Ginger Bredemeier is a licensed California attorney, and is the Past President of NAPALSA and graduate of the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.

ATTENTION! In case you were not yet aware, everyone has advice about the bar exam. People (otherwise known as those individuals who have graduated just prior to you, but whom have already passed the bar exam) will tell you that it's hard, but doable. Then, these same recent bar passers will proceed to give you every study tip imaginable, tips that "worked for" them, every tip of which will most likely be entirely inapplicable to you. People will tell you they barely studied, still passed, and tell you not to worry. Bar study programs will give you similar encouragement, more knowledge than is possible for the human brain to absorb in eight weeks, and the opposite advice, which is to study every moment of every day. And you will never, ever be able to study the recommended amount of time, because unknown to the bar exam study guides, there actually are not 27 hours in a day. Well, you could meet the recommended number of hours, but you would have to forego eating, sleeping, and any other generally necessary bodily functions.

BUT, take heart, bar sitters, I am about to bestow my entirely inapplicable advice, summarized into one short phrase: "Use common sense." If I learned one thing important in law school, it's that common sense isn't always common, so here are my top five pieces of unsolicited advice on how to pass the bar exam:

* Remain calm. Above all else, do not let your anxiety subsume your knowledge. If you were moderately diligent during your legal studies, you have retained more knowledge than you think. The bar exam only requires that you relay this stored knowledge in written form. You earned your law degree in this same method, do not fret unnecessarily.
* Develop a reasonable schedule. This isn't as rigorous as the Reasonably Prudent Person, just plain English reasonable. If you're tired, sleep. If you're hungry, eat. If you need a two hour break to walk your dog and watch "Days of Our Lives," that's okay. Use the remaining time to study smart.
* Know your substantive strengths and weaknesses. If you barely passed contracts, you probably aren't going to have the entire UCC memorized and ready to execute an essay with lawyerly application. Allot appropriate amounts of time to review all of the possible bar tested subjects, but also be sure to reserve enough energy to get the basics solid on the subjects you struggled with during law school.
* Don't over study. Law professors have always told me that students who know the rules really well, often study themselves out of an "A" because they jump to the conclusion in their examination. Depending on your jurisdiction, the bar exam is probably like law school: the points are in the application. Any person can look up a rule of law or statute, lawyers are needed to assist their clients in the proper application of the law. The bar exam is about demonstrating you can do this.
* Keep going, even when you don't feel confident. No platitudes about the bar exam being a marathon, not a sprint, or other such analogy. Just KEEP GOING. There are times when it will feel exhausting and demoralizing, and you will have doubts. Remember those who supported you, encouraged you, taught you, nurtured you, and mentored you all through law school. For the heart of the matter is: you were designed for this, trained for this, EDUCATED for this very test of mental strength and tenacity. And you are ready.

Community Consciousness

Trinh Tran is a law student at Hofstra University, School of Law in New York. She is the former President for APALSA and interned for the Asian American Legal Defense and Eduction Fund (AALDEF).

I always had many questions about my parents' lives when they first came to America. This curiosity grew deeper when I was in Mali as a Peace Corps volunteer. Whenever I found myself being stared at by crowds of people or felt self doubt about speaking the local language, I wondered how my dad felt trying to speak English among fast paced Americans or my mom being taken aback by the sheer abundance of America. Even against the odds of feeling like outsiders; my parents made a life for themselves and turned their hopes into a reality. I know my own story could not be possible without the determination and fearlessness I have learned from my family. I draw on their strength in the service work I do.

I grew up in an immigrant community where streets were lined with authentic Vietnamese, Chinese, and Mexican cuisine and where I came home from school to a Vietnamese-only speaking environment. It was not until I left for college that I learned how unique and influential my upbringing was. I left California to attend college in Washington, D.C. There I sought out the Vietnamese communities first as a means to cope with being far from home but soon found a community with issues I could not ignore. There were youth choosing to join gangs over being seen as a foreigner and people who did not understand laws or know about public services that were implemented to protect them. I chose to take part in the local community because I saw parts of myself in the youth trying to make sense of their dual identity and parts of my parents in the hard working fathers and mothers trying to make ends mean. These experiences have deepened my commitment to working in public interest especially in the Asian American community.

The responsibility to be conscious of social realities that affect the poor and to take action has been a driving force in my decision to intern at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) during the summer after my 1L year. As an intern assigned to the Anti-Trafficking Initiative and Immigrant Access to Justice projects, I was able to combine my interests in local and international community work with the legal education I was gaining at Hofstra Law. I was given the opportunity to work under Asian American lawyers who to me, epitomized the true role of a lawyer: activist, counselor and confidant. I learned that as far as the social media has glorified the social-economic status of Asian Americans, many especially, immigrants, domestic workers, and the elderly, encounter injustices that require attention.

The best advice I received from a mentor of mine is how important it is to be at the table when important decisions are being made. I think there is no more important forum than the practice of law. I recognize working for the APIA community is not easy. I have learned that not everyone welcomes help, that there is no easy solution, and even the best intentions will not create positive outcomes. However, beyond the doubts and discouragement, the work is important because the opportunities that are created do improve people's lives. These are aspirations not of a naïve volunteer but of a dedicated advocate for social justice. I believe in the small victories of service work and that is the foundation of my dedication to the APIA community and what inspires me to continue on this career path.

Will I Ever Escape the Asian Stereotype?Picture

Steven Tran is a law student at Hofstra University, School of Law in New York. Steven is a former 1L representative of APALSA at Hofstra.

I own a rice maker. There is a 25-pound bag of rice to accompany it. I use chopsticks to flip my chicken nuggets, and yes, there are towels on the seats in my car. As I have discovered my own identity outside the labels and stereotypes prescribed to me, I slowly realize I cannot escape my 'Asianness.' And even then, I find that being Vietnamese American is still very foreign idea.

I grew up in a strict household, where conversation was almost nonexistent. Even within the family, we had images to protect. I never felt like I could let my guard down, let alone have an honest discussion where I shared weaknesses and fears I had as a child. This was and continues to be my definition of family.

I knew I was different for as long as I can remember. I knew I was not 'one of the guys.' I played with the girls on the school playground. When I entered middle school, my 'different' found a name: gay. Even though I was the smart, nice, quiet Asian in my class, I realized that being labeled 'gay' was not socially acceptable. If my friends could not accept 'gay,' I knew my family would not either. So I hid my thoughts, withdrawing further into myself. Fast forward to high school, and I found myself in the darkest of depressions. Being Vietnamese and gay? The combination could not exist.

As a result, I 'shed' my Vietnamese identity, and spent four years of my undergrad interning and advocating for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. I toyed with the ideas of 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity and expression,' and when I graduated, I did so as a queer, transgender Vietnamese individual.

I came out to my parents in a letter. I let them know that the son they dropped off freshman year was not the same person they would meet at graduation. When I went to see them after they arrived in town, I expected the worst. I got more than I ever imagined. This was going to be the first time my parents would see me being honest to myself. I was sharing all of who I was, leaving myself vulnerable to them for the first time. I was nervous-imagine Mothra-sized butterflies, beating their wings against every corner of my stomach.

How did my parents respond? I was a monster. I was not their son. Even though I got this far, how could they bear to look at me? I left in tears and in complete disbelief of the words my parents spoke. I have not spoken to my father since. My relationship with my mom is strained, completely changed from what it used to be.

Having just started law school, I am re-discovering my Vietnamese identity, fitting it nicely alongside my transgender identity. As much as I have advocated for the LGBT community, I feel a barrier-a fear-of speaking about the LGBT 'taboo' within the Asian American community. Just how do you bring it up? I want to ask: where are the other LGBT Asian Americans? Do they even exist? How are we advocating for them? I have no idea how to reconcile who I am with my own family. How many others out there experience the same thing?

Our diverse community includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members who remain minorities even within our community. I hope that as we give back, we use our skills and our education to break down the walls of silence surrounding LGBT issues-issues that affects the entire Asian American community.

A Perspective from Rosa Lee

Rosa Lee is a graduate of Hofstra University School of Law. She is the founder of the Inter-APALSA Council (IAC) in New York and former Vice President of her local APALSA chapter at Hofstra. Ms. Lee resides in New Jersey and is pursuing a career in immigration and family practice.

Growing up in a highly competitive Korean-American community meant only sharing your best accomplishments and never disclosing anything that can be the subject of the neighborhood gossip. As such, throughout high school and college, I strove to be the best at school and behaving in manners that would only be complimented by the adults within my family's circle. I had no idea that anything other than striving to be financially and/or academically successful went on.

My college roommate from the "ghetto" of Trenton once told me that her mother was regularly beaten and threatened of her life by her own father. And I was deeply puzzled by the fact that her mother endured such conditions throughout their marriage (to this day, they are still "happily" married). When she told me that tragic story, I brushed it off by thinking that they live in a completely different culture; they are not Asian, not Catholic, and they are blue-collar thus such horrid violence against women can be tolerated. Man, was I wrong.

My summer associate position at a small firm in New Jersey opened my eyes wide and big to the fact that I was completely oblivious to violence that had been going on within my so-called "highly competitive" Korean-American community. I saw numerous divorce cases just during those three months that detail various kinds of physical and/or psychological abuse inflicted upon wives. The sad fact was that the firm was unfamiliar with domestic violence, so the attorneys did not know how to assist the clients in ways other than their legal cases. As my interest in domestic violence grew, I learned that Korean-American women make up only a fraction of Asian-Americans living with domestic violence on a daily basis.

The biggest problem for Asian-American women is that domestic violence is a topic that is not openly discussed within Asian communities. Even when it is discussed, people with no knowledge of domestic violence quickly brush it off and blame the abused woman: "oh, how unbearable must she have been that her husband beat her to that point?"

Additional problems grow out of the fact that the abused women do not know where to seek for help. Many times, these women are in the United States illegally and have a false perception that they cannot look for assistance or that help does not exist. They are afraid of deportation and separation from their children in the United States. Further, they believe that help is unavailable to them due to their language barriers.

It is critical that domestic violence is an issue that is discussed more often especially amongst Asian-Americans. Professionals must reach out to the communities with information on what domestic violence really is and the types of help that are available. Attorneys servicing heavy number of Asian-American clients should become familiar with domestic violence issue so that they can appropriately guide clients on how to get victims' assistance.

Life in a 4 Law School State

Amy Johnson is the former NAPALSA co-Regional Director for the Central North region.

I am a 3L student at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, MN. William Mitchell is just one of the four major law schools in the surrounding area. The other law schools in this region are Hamline Law School, The University of Minnesota Law School, and St. Thomas Law School. The University of Minnesota and William Mitchell are both ranked in the Top 100 Law Schools in the Country. Each year there is a growing number of admissions to the schools. This year St. Thomas admitted 161 students, William Mitchell admitted 357 students, Hamline admitted 227 students, and the University of Minnesota admitted 826 students. This growing number of law students seems daunting and may present a problem for those looking for a job and for those already practicing.

Throughout my law school career I have heard all about the negative things that are associated with going to school in an area that has 4 major law schools. Things like there are not enough jobs available to accommodate all of these students and there are too many unemployed lawyers as it is in the area which has created somewhat of a worry for those graduating or those just about to graduate.

To the contrary I have actually found the opposite of this problem. Even though there is competition between the four schools to be the best in the region and competition for jobs, there is also seems to be a strong relationship and sense of connectedness. All of the law schools participate in quad school events and networking opportunities with one another which create long lasting relationships and possible future colleges. Another perk to living in this region with these four schools is that any student from any of the four law schools can take up to a certain number of credits from any of the surrounding law schools if that course is not offered at their school. I have found this beneficial because it gives me and others a wider range of course that I can choose to take.

Lastly, a benefit of being a part of this large legal community is that there seems to be a large number of Asian American attorneys, judges, and law students. Being a part of this community has opened up doors for me to be a Regional Director for NAPALSA, attend many legal networking events and conferences, attain internships, and do things that I couldn't normally do in a smaller legal community. So far I have had more positive experiences from being a part of a larger legal community and I hope that it will continue on for me when I begin to look for a job!

Asian Gangs: Yes, they Exist. No, they are Not What You'd Expect

Vivienne Nguyen is NAPALSA's former Vice-President and former President of the local APALSA chapter at Hofstra University School of Law. She is co-creator of the VOICES project.

Last week I was sitting in the library studying when another graduate student-friend approached me and asked the usual "How was your summer?" I was definitely in the middle of demystifying my M&A reading and was not in the mood to be sociable let alone conversational. Knowing that my friend was not a law student, presented a prime opportunity for me to rattle off on a boring legal discussion on the type of work I did during the summer. I was zoning out and not really paying attention to what I was saying when my friend suddenly perked up and said, "there are seriously Asian gangs?" Not immediately recalling what I had said, but realizing that I probably had mentioned the kinds of cases I had worked on, I was suddenly surprised that he was in disbelief over the concept of full-on Asian gangs. "Yeah, they definitely do exist and they are actually pretty violent," I responded. Thus began a tsunami of explanations to validate my now nonchalant attitude towards the existence of Asian criminal street gangs.

I write about my encounter with my friend in the library because the sense of naivety he had was analogous to my own sentiments prior to clerking for the Alternate Public Defenders in Orange County, California. It is a little funny that after going to college and trying to fend off the notion of Asians being the "model minority" (whatever that is suppose to mean), I am currently exploring whether there is such thing as a model minority within gang culture and how Asian gangs (as I now perceive many of them) fuel the myth of Asians as the "model minority." Consider the following: a lot of Asian gang members are polite, articulate, and straight A students who just happen to engage in crimes on the side; Police in the area also openly discuss that Asian gangs differ from say their rival gangs in the fact that most other gangs engage in primarily drug trafficking, but Asian gangs tend to be involved in complex enterprises (more sophisticated if you will); Asian gangs also are "nomadic," (as in they do not claim streets or turfs e.g. Jeffrey St., Santa Ana 5th St., Cherry St.) which makes them a little harder to locate. Whatever great expectations I had of Asian gangs upon learning all these distinguishing facts were shot down this summer when I heard of their "creative" names: Viets for Life, Asian Boyz, Viet Boyz, Koreans Gone Loco, Lao Crips, Scissor Sisters. (Personal tangent: Seriously, V4L? Viets for Life??? This is definitely negative 10 points for creativity.)

As a Vietanamese American, learning about Vietanamese gangs fascinates me because growing up in the same area, I am in awe of how oblivious I have been to all of this gang action I grew up alongside with. Asian criminal street gangs are more mobile than Hispanic or white gangs. This provides good reasoning as to why Asian gangs are typically more violent. As "nomads" there is a greater need to carry weapons (i.e. knives, firearms) for self-defense purposes because the risk and fear combined with membership to a known gang increases the probability of a surprise encounter with a rival gang. (The pressure to act in rival gang encounters escalates the more "respect" becomes a valuable intangible of gang membership regardless of whether the gang is engages in criminal activity or not.) This is all pretty crazy....and even crazier is why/how Asian gangs have recently emerged with such great presence. Is it because Asian youth are feeling more culturally alienated to their parents/family? Is it because Asian gang members feel that the gang will provide the respect they desire in lieu of gaining respect from the illusive "American Dream" expectations their family and our society has for immigrants? Even more puzzling is why victims of criminal street Asian gang activity are predominantly Asian (What kinds of racial lines have been established and what prevents or encourages acting in a racially homogenous nature?)

I sit here now and contemplate all these questions and realize that law alone provides no answers to any of these questions. (No surprise there.) Law, as I see it, and particularly law as practiced by public defenders, requires so much more than application of doctrine. It is understanding the community you work in and understanding how individuals have morphed into what their community shapes them to be. I believe that the more I unveil people's stories, I get closer to the heart of being a great advocate.

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