Episode 17: Law School during a pandemic!By Stewart J. Guss on November 17th, 2020
For our inaugural episode of the Breaking Down The Law Podcast we’re joined by Victor Rivera. He is joined by Breaking Down The Law Podcast host, Ashley Rodriguez.
During today’s episode we’ll be asking Victor about going to law school during the coronavirus.
- What is your current position at Stewart J Guss?
- How long have you been at the firm?
- Can you talk a little bit about your journey through positions with the firm?
- Stewart J Guss always stresses that we are a client’s first experience, What does Client first mean to you?
- What was it like to be in law school during a pandemic?
- How was the process of preparing for the bar exam changed because of Covid?
- Was taking the bar exam a few weeks ago different because of the coronavirus?
- Why did you decide you wanted to become a lawyer?
Victor shares about his journey to start law school, through law school and how he handled the changes during a pandemic. so we hope you’ll join us for this episode!
Stay tuned for the next installment of the Breaking Down The Law Podcast with Stewart J Guss and Ashley Rodriguez!
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Transcript [This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors]
Intro: Breaking down the law a podcast hosted by attorneys and legal specialists discussing everyday law and how it affects regular people, regular people. Let’s break down the law with our host, Stewart Guss and Ashley Rodriguez. They have the inside scoop on everything legal and newsworthy.
Ashley Rodriguez: Welcome to breaking down the law. Today’s topic is to help all those students in law school or thinking about going to law school in a pandemic. We have a special guest with us today, who has just experienced this.
Victor Rivera: Hi, I’m Victor Rivera. And I’m currently a law clerk, Stewart J Guss and Associates.
Ashley Rodriguez: Alright, so how long have you been here at Stewart J Guss.
Victor Rivera: I joined the firm in October 2016. So I guess on and off going on, but four years, four years almost.
Ashley Rodriguez: Awesome. So can you talk a little bit about your journey, the firm because you’ve done different kind of jobs and stuff like how it started and then where you are today?
Victor Rivera: Sure. So after I graduated from UT Austin, I knew I wanted to go to law school, but I kind of wanted to make sure that I really wanted to go through the whole journey of going to law school and everything. So
Ashley Rodriguez: it was right for you.
Victor Rivera: Right, I jump around working at different firms. I worked at big firms or worked at little family owned firms. I did not like either the small or big firms. And I applied to Stewart J Guss. And when I jumped on team, I think it was the right fit for what it was right between a small and a big firm. It was not too big, not too small, and
Ashley Rodriguez: still had good experience.
Victor Rivera: Yeah, I was able to learn a lot as opposed to being in a big firm.
Ashley Rodriguez: So when you started here? What was your first job?
Victor Rivera: I started off as a legal assistant. So filing was preparing demands, I was calling insurance companies to get a policy limits. Pretty much anything they throw at me, I’d be glad to
Ashley Rodriguez: get in and learn and see if it’s right for you and if it was really wanted to do
Victor Rivera: Yeah, I was getting my feet wet. And every sort of department here, firm,
Ashley Rodriguez: when you went to several different firms, when it is small and large. Were you trying different types of law to or just personal injury law.
Victor Rivera: they were all personal injury
Ashley Rodriguez: Did you always know you wanted to do personal injury?
Victor Rivera: I did not it just so happened that most of the jobs available at the time were for personal injury firms, and kept getting more experienced started to get a lot more into the field.
Ashley Rodriguez: So after a legal assistant, then what happened?
Victor Rivera: I joined the settlement department, which was just getting reductions for our clients, reducing their medical bills, trying to get smaller child support leins that’s about it pretty much just in the back end of the case getting the most money in pocket foot client.
Ashley Rodriguez: So what he liked about personal injury?
Victor Rivera: I like that we can stand up to the insurance companies and get what the client deserve and what they’ve been paying for. A lot of these clients, I’ve been paying their monthly fees for a year. Yeah.
Ashley Rodriguez: Never use them.
Victor Rivera: And when they actually need them, they can’t get anything from the insurance company.
Ashley Rodriguez: Yeah, exactly. Stewart always stresses that we are a client first experience and also definitely an employee first experience here, from what I found, but what does a client first experience mean to you?
Victor Rivera: To me, that means that we do anything possible and necessary to not only satisfy the client, but to make sure they feel comfortable here with those hoping them and just make sure that they feel like they’re getting what they’re paying for.
Ashley Rodriguez: That’s one good thing here is there are no upfront fees,
Victor Rivera: right?
Ashley Rodriguez: We work on a contingency basis. And if we don’t win your case, you owe us nothing. There’s nothing that we come back and say, Hey, we didn’t win, but we spent all these billable hours on you know, nothing like that.
Victor Rivera: Right.
Ashley Rodriguez: So what was that like? Being in law school during a pandemic?
Victor Rivera: It was a little weird. I mean, the past two and a half years of law school, we’re all in person. So actually just staring at a screen for what an hour or two a day for lecture was a little weird. On the plus side, I did not have to drive to school, so there was no commute time. I could just roll out of bed, log on, sit there and listen to lecture but it wasn’t a little weird. I do feel bad for the incoming class for the one else because that one L year is really crucial. It helps to be there in person. I feel like you need to be there to be able to ask the questions you need to, I feel like maybe online, he might feel a little discouraged from like interrupting and asking questions that you need answered. So, for me, it wasn’t too bad. It was my last semester. But for that incoming class, I feel for them.
Ashley Rodriguez: Yeah, it’s a little harder. I mean, it’s a lot that’s being thrown at you a lot of knowledge you have to learn. Do that in front of a screen I can’t imagine.
Victor Rivera: Right? It’s a lot to take in.
Ashley Rodriguez: So how is the process of preparing for the bar exam during COVID?
Victor Rivera: That was a little more stressful than actual going to school during COVID.
Ashley Rodriguez: The bar exam is stressful period, I’m sure
Victor Rivera: right. It’s already stressful as it is. But they ended up splitting the July administration of the exam into two administration’s they had kept the July date, but they had added the September date. As the first month passed by my bar prep was as scheduled, everything was going great. And then they decided to cancel the July registration of the exam. So at that point, all that was left was September, and they had kind of left us in limbo, regarding another day, possibly. But the board of law examiners here in Texas had a couple meetings discussing how they were going to move forward. And they finally decided on a additional October date, which would be completely online. The September one was still going to be in person, they actually ended up booking hotel rooms for all the test takers where they could stay there. And then they would also take the exam there.
Ashley Rodriguez: Wow.
Victor Rivera: Right?
Ashley Rodriguez: That’s definitely different. So did you take it in September?
Victor Rivera: No, I decided to take it in October because I had sick grandparents living at my house. And I did not want to risk going out there and possibly mingling with people and bringing back the virus home. So I decided just to play it safe and take it in October online. Just got an Airbnb somewhere with a stable internet connection and not just took it there.
Ashley Rodriguez: was that a requirement that you had to be in a different area or anything or you just wanted the peace and quiet to take it.
Victor Rivera: I wanted the peace and quiet but they also required a quiet place where no one would be bothering you. And they just required a stable internet connection because they were recording the exam as you took it
Ashley Rodriguez: So recording you to make sure you arent cheating in any way. That makes sense. definitely interesting how we can adapt to these situations. But sometimes, I’m sure it’s nerve racking because a lot easier to take a test in person or how we’ve been accustomed to doing everything.
Victor Rivera: Right, I give the board of law examiners credit and their craftiness and how they adapted to it booking the hotel rooms for the people in September. And just getting the software, right for October.
Ashley Rodriguez: Yes. I can’t imagine going through that. So when you took the bar exam, was there anything different besides just then courting you and online? Do you think? Is it more nerve racking?
Victor Rivera: For me? It wasn’t more nerve wracking. It was different as they changed the format. The original Texas bar exam is two and a half days. For COVID. They had reduced it to two full days. But the September and October, people basically took two different tests. Believe in September, they had 200 MBE questions, too much a multiple choice questions and six essays. We had 100 multiple choice questions and 12 essays. So you kind of had to strategize and pick your strengths pretty much. I’m stronger as a writer, so I figured I’d take the 12 essays, I had a better chance than taking the 200 multiple choice questions.
Ashley Rodriguez: That’s interesting point where you strategize which one you should take. So did it affect your studying habits? like did you strategize in that factor of what to study for? Depending on the test you were taking?
Victor Rivera: Oh, yeah, my bar prep completely changed when they made the test online. I had to adapt to online only format. Because the October exam was going to be all on computer. There’s a section of the exam where it helps to have scratch paper. And at first we didn’t know whether or not we would be allowed to have a scratch paper. So we had just switched to completely electronic format at the end the last batch paper but by then I was just ready to take it all online.
Ashley Rodriguez: So you had practice and you prepared.
Victor Rivera: Right I prepared just to be all on computer.
Ashley Rodriguez: So why did you decide in the beginning to become a lawyer or maybe test it out by working at some firms.
Victor Rivera: Well, I guess it all goes back when I was a kid, I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. And my grandparents basically raised me my brother for the majority of our formative years, while my parents worked. And I remember always helping them translate stuff into English, reading stuff for them filling out forms, calling people on the phone since Spanish was their first language, and didn’t know how to read or write in English. So ever since then I kind of figured out what to do something like that. But when I was a kid, I mean, I didn’t know the lawyer was the job to do something similar to what I was doing as a kid. So when I found that out, I kind of knew what I wanted to do.
Ashley Rodriguez: Yeah, and then just help out people. That’s a big thing too, like me, especially a legal document and stuff. Like I think a lot of times in the Hispanic culture, like people are afraid that they’ll get taken advantage of it’s not their first language when they’re, you know, signing documents. And to give them a peace like, Look, I can help you through this. So are you set on personal injury Are you still like, deciding if a different type of law might be fun.
Victor Rivera: I think at this point, settle on personal injury for now have learned a lot in the field. And I really want to go further and have already for several position at this firm. And I kind of want to go through each one.
Ashley Rodriguez: Like you got to experience the whole thing, which I think is a very unique thing for someone in a firm because you were going through law school, but yes, you’ll be trying the cases, but you went through like what every other person does to help the lawyer, get to that point. You know, what needs to be done and how you can ask for help when you need it, which is awesome. Is there anything else you want to tell us or tell those law students and encouragement of going for it during this pandemic time anyway, if it’s their dream to become a lawyer,
Victor Rivera: I just like to tell them to just keep the head up. Just roll with the punches and like Bruce Lee said, Be like water, be adaptive. Now’s the time to try different things out and just adapt to these new times.
Ashley Rodriguez: Sounds good. Well, thank you guys for listening to breaking down the law. If you have any questions about a personal injury case, please call us at 281-783-3934