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Learn how to be successful in law school in the Law Student Podcast

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed

Having difficulty navigating your hectic law school schedule? You’re not alone! Your new hosts for the ABA Law Student Podcast, Ashley Baker and Kristoffer Butler, talk to Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed, chairwoman of the ABA Law Student Division, about law student life and her goals as chair. They discuss tips for handling a busy schedule, give internship advice, and talk about prioritizing what matters during finals.

Episode Transcript

Ashley Baker: Hello and welcome to another edition of the ABA Law Student Podcast. My name is Ashley Baker. I currently serve as the Law Student Division Delegate of Communications, Publications, and Outreach. I am a second year law student at Southern University Law Center. My co-host Kris and I, will be your host of the podcast over the next year.

Kristoffer Butler: Hey everybody. My name is Kristoffer Butler, I’m the SBA President at Detroit Mercy Law up in Detroit, Michigan. I’m a third year and I am grateful to be your host, with Ashley.

Ashley Baker: We have a lot of great programming plan for you. This year we’re aiming to focus toward relevant law student issues like mental health, passing finals, and transitioning into work life.

Today’s topic is going to be “How to be Successful in Law School.”

Kristoffer Butler: And there is no better person to answer that question than our very own Chairwoman of the Law Student Division, Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed.

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: Hey everyone.

Ashley Baker: Hi Negeen. How are you today?

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: I am good, I am good. I am happy to be here.

Ashley Baker: So Negeen, as we start this interview we pretty much want to know where are you from?

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: Sure. So I was born and raised in California. I lived in Northern California till I was about 12, and then I moved to Southern California, and basically went to college in Southern California, but now, I’m living kind of in the DC area.

Ashley Baker: Is that where you go to law school in DC? What school do you go to?

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: Yeah, so I go to school at American University’s Washington College of Law here in the nation’s capital.

Ashley Baker: That’s exciting. I would love to be studying law in DC.

Kristoffer Butler: Yeah, what an exciting time.

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: Yeah, right now it’s an exciting time.

Kristoffer Butler: You see.

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: Yup.

Kristoffer Butler: So there are a lot of different reasons that people decide to attend law school, what made you decide that you wanted to go to law school? What is it that you’re passionate about?

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: For me, I think the main reason why I decided to go to law school was my background as a community organizer and social activist, like before I went to law school kind of paved the way for me to decide like where I was going to go to grad school in terms of the school I was going to choose. And I always wanted to be a lawyer ever since I was around I’d say like 13, maybe even younger.

My uncle is a lawyer and I got a chance to watch him in court one day and I just fell in love with the idea of going to trial and that’s basically the start of the whole process.

Kristoffer Butler: Very cool.

Ashley Baker: How did you get involved with the ABA?

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: So I attended annual meeting when it was in New York. I kind of just went to see what it was all about, I was kind of in the area, decided to check it out and I loved it I thought it was awesome. I didn’t really see myself as part of leadership to be quite honest. I did student government when I was an undergrad and I kind of thought I was retiring from student government days.

But I decided to throw my hat in the ring, kind of like the — I think the application was due at midnight for chair and I had gone back and forth about applying probably for a week leading up to it, and then finally at 11:59 p.m., I submitted my application and just kind of thought to myself, well, if it happens, it happens and if it doesn’t I’m going to dedicate myself to student issues anyway and try and help students as much as I can.

And if I’m not serving as a Chair, maybe I do something else but it didn’t really work out that way, it ended up working out in my favor. So that was pretty cool.

Kristoffer Butler: It’s a lesson to all law students out there, you can go up until the deadline, but once you pass the deadline, it’s not there, but it’s never too late for that deadline here.

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: Exactly. Exactly.

Ashley Baker: So what do you plan to accomplish during your term as Chair?

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: Well, I have a lot of goals which I hope to accomplish as many as I can, but if not, definitely pass that down to the next chair that comes along. But one of my main priorities is mental health and wellness. Most law students who enter law school don’t have a kind of mental health issue like anxiety or depression.

But when you graduate law school, the numbers increase significantly. A lot of students walk out of law school after graduation with depression and anxiety. We forget how to take care of ourselves, we forget that sleep is important and we should definitely eat healthy, and going out to exercise every once in a while is important.

So mental health is a huge thing for me, something I definitely want to bring awareness to throughout my term. Other than that, student debt is a huge issue. I want to make sure that we take the issue of Public Service Loan Forgiveness and issues like student debt just generally, bring more awareness to that and see how we can organize around those issues.

And then lastly, I really want to get law students engaged in ABA Day. It’s a huge, huge, huge event that takes place in DC kind of in April and we lobby legislators to keep different services, so Public Service Loan Forgiveness is one of them, to provide legal assistance to low-income individuals and those issues are really connected to student issues but we don’t get enough students to come out to ABA Day. So hopefully we can get that accomplished this year as well.

Kristoffer Butler: Just as follow up from your answer earlier how you are really big into social activism, how has that played into your law school career, what are the roles of social activists in law school?

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: That’s a really good question. So the study of law is essentially setting the system and for an activist like myself, I find it really important to learn how the system works so that we can improve it, both from within and the outside as well.

So for me, it was really important to take classes like business associations and to take classes that would not normally be considered like the social justice class, because it’s important to know how everything works in order to improve everything holistically, and then also for me diversity is a huge issue and the legal profession is undoubtedly the most or the least diverse profession. And so for me, it’s been really important to kind of assert myself in these spaces and make sure that people know that women of color can do great things as well.

Ashley Baker: Well Negeen, I imagine that there are a lot of students out there that don’t really know exactly what the ABA does, and I was wondering if you could speak to that and talk about what exactly the ABA does, do they play any role in activism and how can students get involved outside of ABA Day?

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: Yeah. So I was definitely one of those students who had no idea what the ABA did. I was very unaware. I kind of thought the ABA was just this large regulatory body that creates like model rules of ethics and model rules for everything. Honestly, I really didn’t think it had any kind of like personal impact towards every lawyer but it really does, and I think the beauty of the ABA is that it creates policies that the rest of the legal community end up adopting.

So when the ABA talks about the rights of undocumented students to be able to take the bar exam and not face repercussions, people listen and I think for students, it’s a really important organization to get involved in as a student, because there’s so much upward mobility in the organization in terms of being able to network your way into different sections.

So like myself I’m interested in becoming a public defender after law school. For me, the next kind of division and section that I’ll be involved in is first the Young Lawyers Division because hopefully, I’ll pass the bar and become a lawyer and be a young lawyer at that.

And then second, the Criminal Justice Section and there’s so many impactful policies that come out of sections divisions and forms at the ABA, but also really great direct service that I think sometimes doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves but I really think that the ABA is a great place to get involved in the community and even just on a governance policy level.

Ashley Baker: So you’re a very busy woman as Chair of the division, a social justice activist, a Mock Trial finalist. Congratulations on that as well.

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: Oh thank you.

Ashley Baker: How do you balance all of your extracurricular activities with your studies?

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: I don’t. I really need to and I don’t. I do a really poor job of this and I always — my mom always says you don’t take your own advice, this is exactly one of those situations because I’m always like sleep is very important, eating healthy is important and then like I’m the worst because I’ll sleep at 2 a.m. and wake up at 6 or 5 or 6, and be like okay now, I got to like get to class.

Kristoffer Butler: Oh no.

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: But yeah, it’s really bad, don’t be like me. But at one point I was really, really good at this and I would wake up like at a specific time every day. I work out, I only ate healthy and like meal prep and do all that great stuff. But I think what I’ve learned about balance is sometimes you got to cut yourself a break too, because you can’t be like perfect all the time. And I think that’s a part of balance because I’m very hard on myself, I like to have everything in order all the time.

I’m very Virgo like that, like everything is like written out on a list and I have to accomplish this list before I sleep. But truly there’s like something to be said about things not being perfect and allowing yourself to kind of take a step back and reevaluate where you are, but for me in terms of like being really at the end of the day, priorities really matter to me.

So Chair of course matters to me. Mock-trial obviously matters to me a lot and then the rest of it is kind of like, I mean school is very important too and then the rest of it besides those three things, everything else kind of falls secondary and I think this is the only time in my life where that can be the case because after this like life will start hopefully and starting a family and having a job and all this stuff.

So right now, I can be a little selfish and my balance can be reflective in that way.

Ashley Baker: Okay.

Kristoffer Butler: All right. So we’re all passed our 1L year so we’ve made it over one of the humps. I don’t know about you guys, but I remember being extremely stressed out, once finals came. How would you Negeen give advice to 1L students do not be as stressed or how to manage their stress during finals?

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: Yeah. so I got really lucky. I had an amazing mentor or femtor if you will, and she really helped me kind of — I guess prioritize what mattered and what was going to be on the exam. And once she did that for me, I really stopped worrying, I guess.

So I think the most important thing I would stress is that there isn’t art to writing a law school final exam, it’s not a literary work of art, it’s definitely not a novel which is something that I had an issue with because I’m very like flowery with my language, but that’s really not what I think at least professors are looking for. They’re looking for the answer, Chiraq or Iraq, these are super important.

So they are looking for the answer like what is the issue and then obviously like the rest of the analysis, but I think the key is like sometimes people focus on the framing of what they’re trying to write rather than the substance. And I think all law school exams are just substance.

So as long as you focus on like spotting as many issues as you can and analyzing them to the best of your ability, you should be fine on an exam and like, there’s no shortcut to like just some good studying and making your own outline is super important, but not like overdoing it, right.

So an outline should not be like a 150 pages, and I think that there’s this like weird culture in law school where we try to act like the more work we’ve done, the better we’re doing and I’m not sure exactly how to explain that more eloquently. But I’ve heard in my own law school like oh my outline is 75 pages, how long is yours and someone else will be like, oh my outline is a 120 pages.

Nobody really — it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, the amount of pages that your outline is not going to make you get an A or a C in your class, it literally is how many times did you look over past exams, how many times have you practiced if you have multiple choice questions on your exam? Multiple choice questions, are you utilizing the outlines that BarBri, Themis and Quimbee outlines or Quimbee videos?

Are you taking advantage of like all your resources and if you are, then you’re doing your best and I think at the end of the day, the thing that calms me down is knowing that like I may be stressed out but as long as I’m doing my best, I can’t really be upset at myself, and I can’t really be upset at the outcome because I’m really only capable of doing my best.

So I know that’s probably really intense but that’s just the way I live my life, I guess. But I’m just — as long as you’re focused and that focus will help you later on in your legal career as well but as long as your focused, take the time out of your however long day to like do the work, you should be fine.

Kristoffer Butler: That’s some great advice.

Ashley Baker: That’s great advice.

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: Thank you.

Kristoffer Butler: So we’re at the end of our law school careers and that seemed to fly by and I think, I don’t know about you Ashley, but maybe your first year sort of you blinked in here you are. But do you have any tips for 1Ls or even 2Ls that are looking for internships or beginning to network with legal professionals on how to do that or what to do and what not to do?

Ashley Baker: Yeah I think for me what worked was I mean I guess this is pretty unique to my situation but I knew what I wanted to do when I entered law school. But I know a lot of students don’t. And I think for students who do know what they want to do, I think that, it’s important for them to get started early, get a head start in terms of like if you want to be a prosecutor, intern at a DA’s office, intern with the State’s Attorney’s office, get your application in early.

Those things all make a difference in terms of like getting your foot in the door early, take advantage of networking events. Oh my gosh, they’re so important, also getting business cards is like so impressive, it’s also kind of like a alpha move when you pull out a business card and the employer is like oh, you’re a 1L with a business card. It’s definitely super alpha. I really recommend it.

And then I think also for 2Ls and for folks who kind of like are not sure about where they want to go, I think for criminal law, it’s interesting because in DC, if you want to be a defense attorney, a public defender specifically they really don’t want to see any like prosecutorial experience on your resume.

So if you’re trying to figure that out, I would err on the side of caution and maybe intern at places that aren’t very specific to kind of like one side or the other but for folks who are kind of like not sure exactly, what they want to do generally, working for a judge or interning for a judge is always a great idea, because you get an understanding of kind of how what they — where their mind is that.

You’re always going to be dealing with judges I think in any kind of field you go into and at least in my opinion, but maybe not for everyone. But I think it’s kind of like a safe bet in terms of like being able to get what you want out of an internship. I also interned for a judge, I learned so much from her. She’s somebody I consider a mentor now or a femtor now.

So yeah I would really recommend that and I also recommend like not being afraid to just like go for it. Sometimes I think we talk ourselves out of things we may be qualified for and even if you’re not a wholly qualified for something, just apply, like nothing’s going to come out of it that would be so negative besides like a rejection.

Kristoffer Butler: More Grade A advice from our Law Student Division Chairwoman.

Ashley Baker: Well thank you Negeen for agreeing to come on our podcast. It was such a joy having you on.

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: Well thank you for having me. It’s always a pleasure hanging out with you all via online or in real life.

Kristoffer Butler: Yeah definitely cosign that. So are you going to be popping in again on this podcast or any other podcast?

Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed: I think for the most part, I’m just going to be helping you all create kind of the amazing show that Law Student Podcast is, and maybe I’ll make a guest appearance as a host, but we don’t know yet. So we’ll see, stay tuned.

Kristoffer Butler: All right. Well, we hope you have enjoyed this episode of the Law Student Podcast. We would like to invite you to subscribe to the ABA Law Student Podcast on iTunes.

You can reach us on Facebook at ABA for Law Students and follow us and all of our student leaders at #ABAforLawStudents.

Ashley Baker: Signing off, I’m Ashley Baker.

Kristoffer Butler: And I’m Kristoffer Butler.

Ashley Baker: Thank you for listening and remember this quote by Abraham Lincoln. ‘If you are absolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself the thing is more than halfway done.’

ABA Law Student Division The Law Student Division empowers law student by providing them with meaningful connections to practicing professionals, job resources, relevant programming, and practical skills competitions. We represent the law student community by advocating for policies that improve legal education, champion diversity, and strengthen public service.