It’s 2:45am the night before my first day as a summer associate. As I lie in the tiny room I’m subletting in the West Village, unable to sleep, I hear a tenor saxaphone on the street below soulfully playing “Summertime.”
What a fitting way to start out my summer in the city, I think. After college, I taught English for three years here, spending my days further uptown in the Bronx and Harlem, and now after two years in law school in Boston, I am back. So, in addition to the excitement of being in the city about to start my summer law job, I can’t help but think about the changes that have occurred in my two years away.
On a superficial level, I no longer have the red beard or the ear piercing that once intrigued my teenage students. I am still wearing business casual attire to work (luckily my firm doesn’t require business formal), but now I don’t have pen or chalk marks on my slacks, and my dress shoes are newer—I threw out the beat-up Doc Martens that I had worn since I was in ninth grade.
On a deeper level, I feel that I have a new set of skills to use at my disposal in the world, either “to do good” or “to do well” or both—my current goal. Some of my peers bemoan that they haven’t actually learned anything practical in law school, but I disagree.
This last year, I worked with five different clients in the Civil Litigation Program on undeniably practical matters. I helped a woman facing eviction and health concerns obtain unemployment benefits, for which I had to interview her, conduct legal research on unemployment law, write a direct examination and legal memo, and appear in an administrative hearing.
I helped a disabled tenant also facing eviction remain in his apartment and negotiated a settlement agreement that would allow him to get his unpaid rent forgiven in exchange for resolving an existing bed bug claim. I personally drafted the settlement agreement and went back and forth with the opposing counsel for about a month on specific words and provisions in the agreement, an experience that was not always pleasant but ultimately informative for me and beneficial for my client.
In addition to the Clinic, I wrote a thirty-page note for the American Journal of Law and Medicine, satisfying my upper-level writing requirement while honing my legal research and writing skills. Next year, as a Note Editor on my journal, I look forward to helping rising 2L’s do the same.
Now, as I approach my third week at a mid-size law firm in Manhattan specializing in high stakes civil litigation, I feel confident in my ability to put the skills and experience I have developed in the last two years to use. For eight hours per day (I have to bill everything I do, which, despite the hassle, does wonders for one’s productivity), I conduct legal research, review documents, and draft memos and other documents.
In addition to the excitement of returning to the Big Apple, it feels good to be working. To be using my expensive and hard-earned legal education on a daily, if not hourly, basis. To know that my work is being valued and rewarded generously by my employer. To finally feel like the professional I came to Boston University to become.