Education Week

Unlike college, where I liked to try a little bit of everything (a cappella, fraternity, intramurals, newspaper), in law school I am very picky with my extracurricular activities. Outside of my journal and clinic, which I consider important elements of my legal curriculum, I have restricted myself to two activities that both deal with Education.

This year I am the co-president of BU Law’s Education Law Association along with Jameson Rice, a 3L. Both of us were teachers before law school and have tried to organize events and discussions that explore the intersection between Education and Law,  areas ranging from special education litigation to government work to labor and employment law.

This year I am also a member of the Greater Boston Alumni Board for the Education Pioneers, an organization that funnels talented graduate students into careers committed to education reform. Last summer, I completed a fellowship with the organization, while interning at the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and this fall I began serving on the alumni board.

Earlier this month, both groups had events in one week filled with networking, career advice, and spelling.

Spelling Bee 1

On Tuesday night, the Education Pioneers hosted a fundraiser for the organization in the form of a spelling bee. My team, with a very unoriginal name (Lauren, two Jeff’s, and Cole) couldn’t out-spell the much sharper “South End Stingers” who won the competition. But we did raise almost $1,000 and had much more fun than I ever remembered having in spelling bees as a kid. Unlike more traditional bees, each team grouped around a dry erase board and spelled a word together, then one member ran the board up to the front of the room before time ran out.

Spelling Bee 2As a former English teacher, and a naturally competitive person, I was very revved up to win the bee. After the first round, in which we misspelled multiple words and had to “buy back in” like a poker game, I took control of the dry erase marker and ran our submissions up to the front of the room with seconds left, at one point almost knocking over a small child. Nevertheless, a string of French words like “boutonniere” got the best of us, and my team was the first eliminated. Despite the major hit to my ego, I enjoyed hanging out with some of my peers from the summer fellowship and raising money for a good cause.

On Thursday night, the Education Law Association hosted an event in Barrister’s Hall during which six attorneys spoke about their careers in Education Law and offered advice to law students. Speakers represented the General Counsel’s Office for Boston University, Boston Public Schools, Deutsch Williams (a private law firm that does education work), the General Counsel’s Office for Massachusetts Community Colleges, and OCR.

My favorite part about the event was learning how many different legal paths intersect with Education. The General Counsel’s office deals mostly with corporate law, the Boston Public Schools with labor law, Deutsch Williams with private litigation, and OCR with administrative and constitutional law—yet they all overlap in important ways with K-12 or higher education.

In addition to the career exploration piece, I also took advantage of the networking opportunity by introducing myself to the speakers and chatting over refreshments. I spent a good part of the networking portion talking with the two lawyers from OCR, including the head of the summer internship program, who had interviewed and hired me for last summer’s internship. In addition to reminiscing about the summer and getting updated on changes in the office, I hoped to continue developing my relationship with the lawyers, both for my own interest and for our organization’s membership. For all of us, such contacts can translate into a summer internship, speakers for future Education Law Association events, or even a post-law school job.

Participating in these two events, on top of my normal law school responsibilities, was well worth the extra time commitment. Besides the more concrete benefits like raising almost $1000 for a good cause and making or developing six professional contacts, the events had a salutary effect on my psyche. Sometimes law school makes me feel one-dimensional, but interacting with working lawyers and contributing to a non-legal cause reminded me that law school is only one element, albeit an important one, within the broader context of my career and life.

One Comment

Jean D posted on February 27, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Several of the blogs this month deal with how to keep one’s aspirations strong, while avoiding becoming one-dimensional. It’s sort of like trying to keep your eyes on the stars, while avoiding looking just at the rocky terrain that you are walking through. You have to look at the ground so you don’t fall, but you also have to look at the stars, to remember who you are and what you can become.
Go for it!