i The Frugal Law Student | 2007

Law School
Frugality
Personal Finance
Productivity
Nutrition

When Mind Hacks Won’t Work: Brute Force Memorization

Written by Brett McKay

dreamstime_1127573.jpgI’m always on the lookout for new ways to make my studying and learning more effective and efficient. I’m a big fan of the peg system, image linking, and mindmaps. Unfortunately, I’ve found these techniques useless for memorizing 40 page law school outlines filled with abstract legal doctrine.

The Brute Force Memorization Process

While reading aloud the sentence of the thing I want to memorize, I’ll type it in my computer. I’ll repeat this process five times with each line of data I want to memorize.

I’m getting visual stimulation by reading and auditory stimulation be reading aloud. Writing things down is one of the best ways to remember things. These three done simultaneously produce a trifecta of memorizing power. Repetition crams the info into your brain. If I’m having trouble memorizing a particular piece of information, I’ll keep repeating the process until I’ve got it down.

It’s not pretty and it’s not efficient, but it gets the job done. I’ve been doing this for years and it has always helped me remember those pesky details I’ve needed to know on exams. I make sure I leave myself plenty of time before the test to do this.

Caveat: I don’t completely abandon memorizing techniques while doing this. I often incorporate them in the process when I see they would work. For example, I include mnemonics to help memorize a list of elements to a crime. But when I have to remember the definition of “connivance” or “proximate causation”, my brute force technique steps in.

I use text editor for writing the information. I have a friend who uses a similar technique but prefers writing it by hand.

Bottom line: This technique works for me. But do what works for you.

What are your memorization techniques? Drop a line in the comment box and add to the conversation!

If you liked this article, please bookmark it on del.icio.us or vote for it on Digg. I’d appreciate it. :)

Free Classic Christmas Cartoons in the Public Domain

Written by Brett McKay

When I was a kid, a holiday tradition my family was watching old Christmas cartoons. We had a VHS with a bunch of cartoons from the 1930s and 40s that are in the public domain. We watched it so much, the tape wore out and we had to chuck the video. It’s been years since I’ve seen these charming Christmas cartoons, but thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I’m able to recapture a piece of my childhood.

Because these cartoons are in the public domain, they’re freely distributable. No worries about copyright. I’ve gathered all the cartoons here for you to view. This is a great (and frugal!) way to help get yourself in the Christmas spirit. Sit back, relax, sip a cup of cocoa, and enjoy this bit of Christmas nostalgia.

Christmas Comes But Once A Year

This one is my favorite! This cartoons stars Professor Grampy from Betty Boop. He makes Christmas merrier for an orphanage using his ingenuity.

Somewhere In Dreamland

Two poor and hungry children have a dream of a magical land filled with chocolate rivers and popcorn fields. When they awake, a feast awaits them supplied by a some kind merchants.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer


This rendition from of the classic story was done in 1948. As a kid, I always thought the Santa in this cartoon sounded like James Earl Jones.

Santa’s Surprise

Kids from all over the world somehow sneak a ride to the North Pole on Santa’s sleigh. While Santa sleeps, the kids join forces to clean his workshop. Like so many things from the 1940s, this cartoon is full of what would today be considered offensive racial stereotypes in what was probably an attempt at diversity. Still, the cartoon is charming.

Jack Frost

A young grizzly bear ignores his mother’s warnings about the coming winter and heads outside only to meet Jack Frost himself.

Snow Foolin

Anthropomorphic animals enjoy the winter weather. Can someone explain how a kangaroo ended up in a winter wonderland? Best part: singing “Jingle Bells” by following the bouncing egg.

Hector’s Hectic Life

A dog named Hector has a hectic time cleaning up the messes of puppies left at the doorstep at Christmas time. If his owner finds finds out about the messes, Hector will be thrown out to the cold.

The Frugal Law Student Month In Review- November 2007

Written by Brett McKay

November was a brutal month for me in school. My law review article consumed most of time during the month, so I wasn’t able to post as often as I usually do. Let’s see how the Frugal Law Student did this past month.

News

The Frugal Law Student got quite a bit of press this November. The big news is that FLS was named one of the top 100 law blogs by the ABA Journal! They’re now taking votes on which blog is the best in its category. If you haven’t voted, please take second and do so by clicking here. I’d really appreciate it! Anybody can vote, so tell your friends to vote as well! (It’s just one click. No registration is necessary.)

The other bit of press FLS got this past month was in the Tulsa World. Check out the article about the site here.

Stats

FLS had 16,627 visitors during November. That’s down from the 27,000 we had in October, but October was an unusually good month for FLS with social media sites like Digg and Stumbleupon.

RSS subscriptions are up to 675. Thank you to all my loyal readers who subscribe!

Popular Posts

  1. 12 Meals That Are Cheap, Easy, and Healthy. Long time FLS reader Erica wrote this post back in September and it’s consistently in the top 5 each month. Lots of great ideas here.
  2. Do It Yourself Pottery Barn Halloween Countdown Calendar. My sister Shannon wrote this back in September. I’m surprised that this was number 2 during the month of November seeing how Halloween was in October. Perhaps people are taking the idea to make a Christmas Countdown Calendar. Definitely give it a look.
  3. The Garage Sale Without a Garage: Declutter Your Life and Make Money on Ebay. This was a fun post to write. If you feel like you’re being bogged down by clutter, here’s a step by step plan to clear it out and make some money in the process.
  4. 180 Money Saving Tips to Turn Your Life Around 180 Degrees. I wrote this post back in May and its still one of my more popular ones.
  5. Frugal Experiment: Brushing Teeth With Baking Soda. While brushing your teeth makes your teeth with baking soda makes your teeth feel squeaky clean, it leaves your breath smelling like poo.

Subscribe

To make sure you don’t miss a post on The Frugal Law Student, make sure to subscribe:

Subscribe in a reader

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Make sure to join The Frugal Law Student Facebook Group, too!

27 Holiday Gifts for Law Students That Are Under $25

Written by Brett McKay

With Christmas just a month away, its time to start Christmas shopping. If you have a law student in your life and are having trouble coming up with frugal holiday gift ideas, here’s 27 thoughtful gift ideas that cost less than $25.

Supplies

A box of pens. Every semester I buy a box of Pilot G2 Mini. By the end of the semester, I’ve used them all up. The G2 mini writes well and are small enough to carry around in a pocket easily. This would make a great stock stuffer. Cost:$5 for a pack of four.

Highlighters. Law students read. A lot. And they go through highlighters like gangbusters when reading. Office Depot sells a big tube of 24 highlighters for about $15. This would definitely last the entire year.

Thumb drive. Thumb drives come in real handy at law school. Law students use them all time to transport digital files to other computers. Cost: Varies on the amount of storage space you buy. You can get one with 2GB for about $13.

A yearly planner. Part of effective time management is writing things down. Help your law student start the year off right by buying them a planner for the new year. There are tons of planners to choose from. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Cost: $10-$20. At-A-Glance makes great planners for about $13.

Stapler. My mother-in-law gave me a stapler last year as a stocking stuffer. It was one of my favorite gifts I received. I use it all the time in law school. Cost: $10. Swingline always makes a great stapler.

Personalized stationary. This past semester I wrote a lot of thank you notes after my job interviews. It would have been nice to have some personalized letter head or thank you cards to send to my employers. Over at VistaPrint you can get 30 custom made thank you cards for $20.

Books

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Success in law school depends on effective time management. Getting Things Done by David Allen is a great book that sets up an efficient and effective time management system. The idea behind GTD is clearing your mind of all the stuff you got going on in your life and capturing it somewhere else. Once you’ve collected all your information, GTD sets up an efficient system so you can process it all and get things done. I got this book last year and found it to be extremely helpful. Cost: $8
Law School Confidential (Revised Edition): A Complete Guide to the Law School Experience: By Students, for Students. This a great book for the soon to be law student. The author covers every aspect of the law school experience-taking the LSAT, surviving first semester, internships, the bar, and finding a job. In addition to describing what the law school experience is going to be like, the author gives practical tips on what a student can do to succeed in law school. For example, the author has a section in which he gives advice on how to study for exams. Cost: $10.
What Can You Do With a Law Degree?: A Lawyer’s Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside & Around the Law. Some people aren’t meant to be attorneys. Many find this out while in law school. This book suggests tons of career options one can take with a law degree that doesn’t involve being an attorney. If you know someone who’s in law school, but doesn’t want to be a lawyer, this is a great gift for them Cost: $10.
Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text With Exercises. Good legal writing is supposed to be so simple that any non-attorney could read a lawyer’s writing and understand it completely. That’s hard to do. This book can help. In addition to the great tips it gives, it also has exercises you can do to help lawyers write more clearly. Cost: $10
Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time. Success in the legal profession requires effective networking. This is probably the best book I’ve read on networking. Lots of great practical advice. Cost: $14

DVDs

I’m suggesting if you by DVDs, buy them used. There’s no need to buy new. They won’t care. Prices on used DVDs vary on Amazon, but generally they’re about $5.

Legally Blonde 2 – Red, White & Blonde (Special Edition). Reese Witherspoon plays a stereotypical blond who gets into Harvard law school. Hilarity then ensues. This is a fun movie to watch when your brain needs a break from studying. Cost: $5 used
The Paper Chase. This is a good movie to give to soon-to-be-law student if you want to scare the bejesus out of them. The Paper Chase is about a Harvard law student who finds himself the adversary of the school’s most harsh professor. The professor tears students to shreds with the Socratic method. The story becomes more complex when the student learns he’s fallen in love with the daughter of his nemesis, the contracts professor. I haven’t had any law professors like the one in the Paper Chase, but I think the movie does a good job in showing how engrossed law student can become with the law. Cost: $5 used.
The Rainmaker. The Rainmaker, starring Matt Damon and Danny DeVito, is based on the John Grisham novel of the same name. This is your typical David v. Goliath story. Matt Damon plays a young attorney who, having just passed the bar exam, represents a family whose son is denied treatment for leukemia by their insurance company. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Cost: $5 used.
A Civil Action. A Civil Action, starring John Travolta, is actually based on a true case. The story revolves around industrial pollution in a New England town that has contaminated the drinking water. Consequently, children start getting sick and die. John Travolta plays the attorney who takes on the polluters. The movie does a good job portraying how civil procedure can be used win or lose a case. Cost: $5 used.
A Time to Kill. A Time to Kill another movie based on a John Grisham novel. The film stars Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey (I think he keeps his shirt on the entire time during the film), Samuel L. Jackson, and Kevin Spacey. Set in Mississippi, Samuel L. Jackson plays a father who takes justice into his own hands and kills the two men who raped his daughter. Sandra Bullock plays an idealistic law student who assists Matthew McConaughey in defending the vigilante father in this racially charged court drama. Of course you can expect Samuel L. Jackson to yell alot, because that’s what Samuel L. Jackson does best. Cost: $5 used
The Pelican Brief. Hey! What do you know? Another lawyer movie based on a John Grisham novel. A law student (Julia Roberts) discovers evidence of a conspiracy to kill two Supreme Court Justices. She teams up with an investigative reporter (Denzel Washington)and the two are hunted down by those who don’t want the plot revealed. If only being in law school were this exciting. Cost: $5 used
Rounders (Collector’s Edition). Matt Damon plays a law student who likes to play high stakes poker. He tries to quit so he can focus on law school and his girlfriend, but we know that’s not going to happen. Cost: $5 used
Inherit the Wind.This is a classic lawyer movie about the Scopes Monkey Trial. It’s a fictionalized account of the trial, so you can expect some over dramatization. Lots of good actors in this one: Gene Kelly, Fredric March, Spencer Tracy. Even Daren from the classic TV show Bewitched is on it! Yeah! Cost: $8 used
12 Angry Men. This is a dramatic tale of standing up for what you believe in, even though everyone else is against you. Henry Fonda plays a juror who somehow convinces his fellow jurors that a murder suspect should be acquitted. In the process, Henry Fonda breaks the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Cost: $5 used
To Kill a Mockingbird. Movie based on the popular novel by Harper Lee. You can’t help but get pumped up to defend truth and justice after watching this film. Atticus Finch is the man. Cost: $5 used
Runaway Jury (Widescreen Edition). This movie’s got a stellar cast. John Cusack, Gene Hackman (the man), and Dustin Hoffman. The story is about jury manipulation in a gun case. Cost: $5 used
The Client. Brad Renfro (what happened to that guy) plays a kid whose life is in jeopardy after witnessing the death of a Mob lawyer. An attorney (Susan Sarandon) decides to look after him. Cost: $5 used
The Firm. Tom Cruise plays a recent Harvard grad that takes a job at a prestigious firm. Associates at the firm start dying and the Feds ask Cruise to spy on the partners. Begin suspense. Cost: $5 used

Just For Fun

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney If your law student owns a Nintendo DS, then get this game for them. The games consists of five cases that Phoenix takes on. Present findings from the investigation, listen to testimonies, examine witnesses, and determine the truth to prove your client’s innocence. Cost $20 used.

5 Cubes of 24 Pack of Diet Mountain Dew. I love Diet Mountain Dew. It’s the nectar of the gods that keeps me going in law school. I’ve noticed that a lot of other law students enjoy drinking it as well. What better gift than to give your law student boxes of the drink they love! You can buy a 24 pack of Diet Mountain Dew for about $5 each. With our $25 budget, you can buy 5 cubes. That’s 120 Diet Mountain Dews! That’s enough to last an entire semester if your law student just drinks one a day. Awesome. Cost: $25.

Magazine subscriptions. Law students do a lot heavy reading during the day. Every now and then its nice to read the fluff you find in magazines. You can find some good deals on magazine subscriptions on the internet. Here’s a quick list of places you can check:

Once you make the subscription, go to book store, buy a copy of the magazine, wrap it in a box, and put in a note telling your law student that you’ve given them a subscription. You’ll be their favorite person. Cost: $10-$25

Any other frugal gift ideas for law students? Law students, what kind of gifts would you like to have sitting under the Christmas tree? Drop a line in the comment box!

Frugal Law Student: ABA Journal Blawg 100

Written by Brett McKay

I found out today that the Frugal Law Student has been named one of the top 100 blogs by the ABA Journal! What an honor! The fun doesn’t stop there. From now until January 2, people can vote on which blog is the best in its category. The Frugal Law Student is listed under “JDs in Training.” So if you happen to check out the top 100 blawg site, you’ll know where you can find me. (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.)

Fuel-Efficient Vehicles: To Buy or Not To Buy

Written by Brett McKay

Editors note: This is a guest post by Jennifer Barnett and Chrissi Nimmo, two of my classmates in my Environmental Law class at the University of Tulsa College of Law. Thanks for the great post!

energy-hybrid.jpg

So, you want to buy a vehicle with better gas mileage. Perhaps a vehicle that is “good” for the environment? But where should you look? Commercials and news reports peak your interest, but you just aren’t sure if you have all the correct information. This article addresses these concerns and more, and will highlight some sources of information that will help you with the decision of which fuel-efficient car to buy.

What is a fuel-efficient car?

One of the most important things to consider when researching fuel-efficient cars is the vehicle’s miles per gallon (mpg) rating. Fuel-efficient cars create lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, one type of greenhouse gas. Burning one gallon of gasoline can produce 20 pounds of CO2. (www.epa.gov) A car that gets 25 mpg, as opposed to 20 mpg, can save the production of 10 tons of CO2 over the vehicle’s lifetime. (www.epa.gov) In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will amend its fuel-efficiency ratings to more accurately reflect today’s driving habits, which are much different than 20 years ago. Consumers have complained that the mpg on the car’s sticker doesn’t match how the car performs. As Dan Edmunds explains, “[t]he reason why fuel economy estimates have been coming out too high is simple: the EPA-specified testing and reporting method has not been updated since 1985.” (www.edmunds.com) A lot about car-driving has changed since ‘85 – for example, maximum allowed highway speeds are now up to 80 miles per hour (as opposed to 60 mph a couple of decades ago), and this affects the vehicle’s true mpg. So, note to the buyer: don’t be surprised if you are comparing sticker mpg between a 2007 and a 2008 fuel-efficient car. 2008’s sticker will look like it has a much lower mpg, but will more accurately reflect fuel usage. For the buyer who wants the greenest car they can buy (assuming that the electric car isn’t a real option), the source to turn to is the EPA’s SmartWay green vehicle rating system. (www.edmunds.com) Cars are rated on two separate scales from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. The two scales are: traditional tailpipe pollutants and the amount of CO2 produced per mile. This means that to qualify as SmartWay rated, a car must receive a 6 and a 7 rating, (the minimum combined score must be 13). The Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid are two examples of cars that have achieved the SmartWay rating, with scores of 18 and 19, respectively. For cars, like the Prius and Civic, that earn a score of 9 or higher in each category, the ultimate green rating is bestowed: the car is SmartWay Elite. Other Elite cars include the 2-wheel drive Ford Escape Hybrid and the 2-wheel drive Mercury Mariner Hybrid. (www.edmunds.com)

Which cars are the best-rated?

Across the board for the 2007 year, the Toyota Prius dominated the fuel-efficient car ratings. At 60 city and 51 highway mpg, this car is an efficiency dream. When re-evaluated using the new 2008 EPA standards, the Prius dropped to 48 city and 45 highway mpg. But remember, this is still the best in its class, and is probably what the sticker should have listed in 2007. Other comparable vehicles for fuel efficiency were the Honda Civic Hybrid (in 2007, 49/51; in 2008, 40/45), and the Toyota Camry Hybrid (in 2007, 40/38; in 2008, 33/34). (www.fueleconomy.gov) For trucks, the Ford Escape Hybrid led the pack with 36/31 mpg, followed by the Mercury Mariner Hybrid at 32/29 mpg. (www.edmunds.com) (1)

An important caveat

The buyer who truly wants a car that leaves the least footprint should consider every facet of the fuel-efficient car propaganda, because nothing is ever as it seems, right? Take the Toyota Prius – great mpg, looks pretty good, much better for the environment than, say, a Pinto – right? Well, maybe. If you, the buyer, truly want to be “green,” there’s something you should know. The Canadian plant that makes the batteries in the Prius (the special batteries that allow the Prius to have that awesome mpg and SmartWay rating) pours out poisonous sulfur dioxide fumes that have so totally destroyed once beautiful terrain that it looks like the moon’s craggy surface – astronauts use it to test vehicles slated for lunar exploration. That’s not very green. On the other hand, the Ford F-150 plant is pretty damn green. Sedum on the roof filters rainwater, and the plant boasts several energy-saving techniques. The Ford F-150 may have lower fuel-efficiency rating, but it isn’t destroying the environment around the plant like the Toyota Prius plant. (www.edmunds.com)

Are they safe?

Another concern of people tempted to buy a hybrid may be the safety of these vehicles. Many of them are much smaller than your average car and may give green-minded people nightmares about driving in rush hour traffic surrounded by huge SUV’s. The Toyota Prius, the smallest of the “mass market” hybrids, has a surprisingly good crash test rating. (www.motortrend.com) The Prius receives 5 out of 5 for side impact collisions and 4 out of 5 for front end collisions. (www.motortrend.com) This is comparable to similarly sized gasoline compacts and even better than some of Toyota’s other gasoline models such as the Matrix. (www.motortrend.com) The bottom line on most of these cars is that they are as safe (sometimes safer) than their purely gasoline-driven counterparts.

However, what about the really “green” (and small) cars? The Smart Car, available from Daimler Chrysler and available for sale nationwide in the U.S. beginning in 2008, is very small. It is a mere 8.8 feet long and 5.1 feet wide. (www.smartusa.com) The web site boasts that you can fit two of these cars in one parking space! (www.smartusa.com) So, they are small, but are they safe? As the owner of a small car myself (a Toyota Corolla, which measures 14.85 feet long and 5.57 feet wide, www.toyota.com) and the typical skeptic, I jumped at the recent chance to test drive one of these funny little cars during a national tour stop in Tulsa. As my partner and I had already decided on this paper topic, I took the test drive very seriously, asking questions and taking notes. The promoters assured me that the car had many advanced safety features, such as the “tridion safety cell” (which basically means the entire passenger compartment is made from a unified steel cage). While the SmartCar was fun to drive around city blocks, I think I would be a little nervous to drive this glorified golf cart down the expressway next to a tractor trailer rig. However, because I live downtown and do most of my driving in town, I could see myself in this little car, it definitely has enough “get-up” for city driving and I would always be able to find a parking space!

Cost

Everyone wants to help save the environment right? But can the average American afford to go green? The SmartCar, mentioned above, is surprisingly affordable. The base model starts at just $11,590, making it one of the cheapest new cars, green or otherwise, available for purchase. (www.smartusa.com) However, most hybrids are much more expensive than their counterpart gasoline models. For example, the 2008 Honda Civic hybrid has a base price of $22,600 and gets 45 mpg, while the base price for the gasoline model with the same features is just $15,810 and gets 36 mpg. (www.motortrend.com) (www.automobiles/honda.com) So, is the initial difference of $6,790 worth it? Well, $6,790 worth of fuel in the gasoline-only model would get you 90,869 highway miles, whereas in the hybrid, it would get you 113,587 miles, and save you from burning 504 gallons of gasoline, which according to the estimates from above keeps you from emitting 10,080 pounds of CO2 into the air. (Author calculations using the current gas price of $2.69 per gallon). In addition to the gasoline savings, almost all hybrid cars qualify for a federal, and in some cases state, including Oklahoma, income tax deductions. The federal tax deductions range from $650 to $3,150 dollars depending on the model. The above mentioned Civic qualifies for a $2,100 federal income tax deduction. (www.hybridcars.com; www.irs.gov)

Bottom Line

The hybrid cars are as safe as pure gasoline models, comparable in price, and have far better fuel economy, so the big question is why everyone isn’t buying them. We think the answer to that question, is they will. (Some of these cars/dealerships even have waiting lists, see www.smartusa.com). Remember, the hybrid car has only been available nationwide in the U.S. since 2004 (the first models, introduced in 1999, had only limited availability). (www.motortrend.com) It seems that as the fuel efficiency, options, and availability of these cars increase, so will their sales. The bottom line is to find the car that fits all of your needs: price, safety, reliability, and “greenness.”

1. Author’s note: there are several great websites to visit for research. Consumer Reports gives the reader a very comprehensive list of fuel-efficient car ratings, including top lists of vehicles tested by their researchers. The EPA’s website is also a great place to get the scoop on past, current and future fuel-efficiency ratings, and includes tips and information from the basic to the technical. Dan Edmunds, mentioned above, heads a terrific website for the technically unsavvy buyer. Mr. Edmunds is the Director of Vehicle Testing, and his articles are informative, and his research is broken down into easy to navigate lists of efficient vehicles.