First Year Lawyering Lab: What is it?

At 10am on Tuesday, January 9th, I knew one thing about Lawyering Lab: my teacher was super displeased to not be wearing his slippers.

“Let’s just be honest,” Professor Donweber said while introducing himself to the class. “You don’t want to be here.” A timid laugh overtook the room, and Lawyering Lab had officially begun.

Because I appreciated his frankness, in the spirt of Professor Donweber, I’ll just admit something straight out to begin this blog post: I was grumpy starting Lawyering Lab. Outside of the attendance policy, which we received ad nauseam over break including once immediately after finals, I felt like I had no information about what the course would entail before it began. And given that my classmates and I had to come back early from a well-deserved break after a rough semester, this vagueness was enough to make me exceptionally grumpy. Like we are talking extreme levels of grump. Winnie the Pooh having not eaten honey kind of grumpy.

I would like to say that the grumpiness began to subside after Professor Donweber made me laugh and started to give my class more information about the daily schedule; however, in all honesty, things had to get much worse before they got better. Let me paint a picture for you. First, we were told that the days would be long. Not only would we be expected to be at school by 9am every day, which most of us knew going into the program, but we also learned we would be responsible for submitting homework assignments by 9pm every night. Moreover, all this homework, as well as all other assignments, would have to be done as a team – a team mostly comprised of people with whom you did not normally have class and perhaps with whom you had never interacted. Many of these activities would consist of public speaking and team building activities… including competing with your team to build a free-standing tower out of spaghetti, tape, string, and a marshmallow. Only to be told after the tower was done that all of your teams performed worse than the average kindergartener. Sound like your worst nightmare yet?

Let’s just say that Tuesday at 11 am, I was still grumpy, and I anticipated staying that way.

Imagine my shock then when Tuesday around 4pm I found myself laughing, being teased by my new teammates for having what might be the shakiest hands of all time. I had just been introduced to my team, none of whom I had been in class with prior to Lawyering Lab, and we had been handed a box of spaghetti, a piece of string, some tape, a marshmallow, and instructions to build the tallest tower we could that would be able to support the weight of the marshmallow.

Now, if there’s one thing I hate more than team building exercises, it’s arts and crafts. Seriously, I’m

Not pictured: my super shaky hands

Not pictured: my super shaky hands

astounded that I didn’t just fail kindergarten.  Yet, from the very beginning of the activity, I found myself having a good time, and I slowly realized it was because I had a team of people helping to compensate for my lack of spatial skills and shaky hands. Yes, I wasn’t excited to build a tower on my own because the reality that I would probably fail terrified me. But I realized I was having fun because I wasn’t on my own. I had four brilliant, kind, motivated classmates backing me up, and together, we were going to get through it. (PS. We won!)

This theme continued with me throughout the week – through the long nights planning for client counseling meetings, through the silly in class activities, through memo writing, through the moments when I thought someone might kill me during the negotiations… The realization that everything I did was being supported and improved upon by my team made everything feel easier. I dare say at moments it was even fun.

So, come Friday at 9 am, I can say I knew three things about Lawyering Lab.

  1. Silly artificial exercises can be meaningful when approached in right way. Professor Donweber and our co-teacher, Professor Walker, made the activities enjoyable for treating them as what they were – exercises that no one wanted to do but that could actually be useful if we just went into it as a team and with an open mind.
  2. Working in a team among professionals (or, wannabe professionals in any case) is both the same and different than working on a team before now. The same anxieties of working with a team are there – worrying how interpersonal dynamics will play out, determining who will do which tasks, etc. The difference is, in a law school like BU, everyone wants to be a leader, and everyone wants to do their best. Need proof? Just wait until the last few hours of Lawyering Lab, when every student, after spending the whole day claiming that they don’t care what their team wins in negotiations, suddenly will not surrender even the tiniest amount of imaginary discretion. Law school projects are intense, but in the best way.
  3. Everything is better with slippers.

Choosing a Bar Prep Course

I’m excited to report that I just hit another law school milestone: I registered for a bar prep course! This can be a daunting decision, especially if your friends are student reps for competitors. Below are a list of factors that helped me (and friends who passed the bar in several different states) determine which company was the right fit:

Online v. In-Person. Are you planning to hunker down in a basement during the most vibrant months of the year (like me!), or will you study for the bar while sipping virgin mojitos on the pristine beaches of Costa Rica? Even if you study in your test jurisdiction, some people prefer online courses that they can review at their own pace. Alternatively, I have friends who were adamant about taking in-person classes to help keep them motivated and feel less isolated during the grueling marathon.

Location. For folks who prefer to attend in-person classes, I highly recommend researching the classroom locations and conditions beforehand. I looked at two companies’ locations in Seattle, and one had much nicer accommodations than the other.

Passage Rates. I was strongly considering registering with a particular company because of a great deal they were advertising—until I learned that the company did not keep a record of bar passage rates for the jurisdiction. That was all it took for me to choose a different company.

Cost. There is no denying that bar prep courses are expensive. Some, however, are far more exorbitant than others. (Themis, for example, is about half the price of BARBRI.) Some companies also offer discounts for public interest students. Here’s another consideration: Do you have to pay for books, or just give a deposit?

Fixings. Will you feel more confident with a personal tutor who can provide you with feedback? Do you prefer memorizing information with flashcards? Different companies offer different perks. It all boils down to knowing your learning style and which study methods work best for you.

Jurisdiction. If your state diverges significantly from the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), local companies may offer materials that better prepare you for that exam. Although BARBRI is a better-known brand, until Washington switched to the UBE a few years ago, Rigos had the highest reviews because its materials were developed by a Washington lawyer for the state-specific exam.

Quality of other products. Prepping for the MPRE is a great way to test out a company’s materials. Some friends learned that they preferred X company’s videos and practice questions over Y’s. Similarly, if you’ve tried a company’s services in the past and haven’t been satisfied with the structure or format of their lessons, you may want to stay away.

Retakes. Nobody wants to imagine having to take the bar twice, but the reality is that some people end up retaking the exam. You may want to investigate a company’s policy regarding access to their materials if you have to study for the bar again.

 

A Day in the Life – LLM in European Law

Bonjour all! I thought it would be fun to give you a glimpse at what daily life is like for me here in Paris while I’m doing my LLM in European Law! Hope you enjoy!

  • 7:15am: I usually wake up between 7:00 and 7:30am. I scroll around on my phone for a bit, catch up on the emails I missed from the US while I was sleeping (that 6-9 hour time difference is rough for business-y type stuff), fold up my clic-clac (my French pull-out couch bed thingy… I have a studio apartment), and make coffee.  Then I check my schedule to make sure I have all the right books for the day. This LLM program is a bit unique in that your classes are not on a strict semester schedule; there are 12 classes spread out in various intervals over the course of the year. We currently have 9 classes running at the same time, so it is easy to muck up the schedule and bring the wrong books!
  • 8:50am: I should leave my apartment at 8:45am, but I’m someone who is chronically late- oops! I say “bonjour” to the man who runs the fruit and veg stand next door and buy a banana or an apple if I lingered in bd too long to eat cereal or yogurt before getting out the door. I walk two blocks to the bus stop and wait for the bus to the main Assas campus, near Jardin du Luxembourg, for French class.
  • 9:20am-10:50am: French class. While all of my LLM classes are in English, Assas provides us with the opportunity to learn French! I am in beginning level French with three other students from my LLM program. We have class 3 times a week for an hour and a half with Mme Sevestre, the nicest French teacher ever. Having such a small class means we learn quickly and we learn a lot! I didn’t speak any French when I got here, and I can now get through daily Paris life all in French when needed.
  • 11:00am: I grab an espresso or cappuccino from the Assas cafe with my classmates and we chat about classes, how hard the French language is, or plan excursions. Since our program is small and selective (just 9 students this year!), we have all become fast friends and we hang out quite a lot!
  • 11:30am: We all meander over to the Institut Droit Comparé (the Institute of Comparative Law) where we have most of our LLM classes, and which happens to be just 4-5 blocks from my apartment. I had NO idea we would have classes there; it’s a shared building with two other Paris universities that is about a 20-25 minute walk from the main Assas campus, but just a 5 minute walk from my apartment! Being so close is EXCELLENT for the 8am LLM classes we sometimes have.
  • 12:30pm: I eat my packed lunch in our classroom and go over the materials for whatever classes we have those days. Like I’ve said, with so many classes at once, it is easy to mix up materials and classes!
  • 1:00pm-6ish: LLM classes. On days we don’t have French class, we usually have a 9am-12pm or 10am-1pm class (pretty much all of our classes are 3 hours), and then we almost always have at least one afternoon lecture, sometimes two. If there is no afternoon lecture, I go to the library at either the Assas or IDC campus and work on whatever presentations I have that week (we do LOTS of in-class presentations), read for class, or work on papers. During our class breaks, we sometimes run to the corner cafe for a pastry or coffee, or a sandwich for anyone who didn’t eat enough lunch.
  • 6:30pm: If it is a Monday, I’ll grocery shop, if it is a day I’m too lazy to cook, I’ll stop at a cafe to grab dinner (steak frites, raviolis Royan, sometimes just wine and cheese…), or if I already have things at home to cook, I’ll just go home. I climb the gazillion stairs to my 6th floor walk-up apartment, collapse on the couch from exhaustion, and then get up tp cook on my teeny-tiny stove.
  • 7:15pm: My time to call home! Most of my family lives on the West Coast of the US, so I try to call around 10am-ish PST. I FaceTime my mom every day (ok, sometimes multiple times per day) (OK fine, it’s usually to see my dog :P), catch up with my siblings, and text my friends who are all finally awake.
  • 8:00pm: I’ll catch up on what I call my “Boston work”- pretty much BU emails, job searching/applications, moot court stuff, graduation paperwork, etc, etc. If I still have school work to prepare for the next day, I’ll do that too (it seems like I ALWAYS still have school work to prepare… the reading never ends!!!).
  • 10:00pm: I do my French homework for the next day as a night cap. If I don’t have French the next day, I try to watch an episode of a French language-learning program on YouTube.
  • 10:30pm: I open up my clic-clac and transform my living area back into a bedroom. I’ll watch Netflix (French Netflix has awesome shows available that we don’t have on Netflix in the US- Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Downton Abbey…), catch up with my friends some more, or call my dad if he is on rotation in China (he works as an engineer in China, on a rotational month-on, month-off schedule).
  • 11:30pm-ish: I go to sleep (hopefully… sometimes that 8:00pm “working” time carries on for many hours)!

So that is a typical day for me here in Paris! It’s a pretty good life. And, of course, there is always some sightseeing or traveling thrown in on the weekends or on days off!

3 Favorite Classes

BU Law is a top-ranked law school. It is also one of the highest ranking law schools for best professors. Princeton Review’s most recent ranking puts us at #3. It’s truly one of the aspects of the school I am most thankful for. My professors are not only brilliant and outstanding in their field, they also sincerely love teaching. They are highly skilled teachers, and I deeply appreciate how much time and effort they put into developing our understanding of the law.

As I enter my last semester of law school, I have been reflecting on the various classes I’ve taken. It’s hard to choose my favorites, but here are my top 3:

  1. Legislative Policy and Drafting Clinic

This clinic was hands-down my best experience in law school. The clinic has two components – a class and an externship with a state legislator. Professor Kealy teaches the clinic, and guides us through the intricacies of the state legislatures, and teaches us how to draft bills for our externship (as every first year law student learns, bill drafting is exceedingly more complicated than you would think!) I drafted a family law bill, and I loved being able to immerse myself in a topic that is dear to my heart. I was also very proud of ending the semster with a final draft of a bill.

  1. Disability Law Seminar 

This class had the most dynamic discussion of any law school class I’ve taken. Professor Powell encouraged the conversation, and accompanied it with an in-depth, methodical explanation of the various aspects of disability law. I took the class because the intersectionality of foster care and disability law is very important to me. I was able to write a paper on the overuse of pscychotropic medication on foster care children; I analyzed how the Americans with Disabilitites Act applies to the psychotropic over-use.

  1. Education Law Seminar

This class covered the very complex landscape of education law and policy. Professor Silbaugh is an amazing teacher. She taught in a very methodical manner, but simultaneously encouraged student discussion. Most of the students were former teachers, and had compelling experiences and thoughts to share. I found myself frequently chatting with my boyfriend about this class – there were always so many challenging, tough topics to reflect on.

It was hard to choose the top 3. Close runner-ups were Administrative Law II and Immigration Law. Also, as every other BU law student will tell you, BU offers so many more fascinating classes than we have time to take! Looking forward into my last semseter, I am most excited about Professor Wexler’s First Amendment and Professor Silbaugh’s Family Law classes! Last semster, here I come!

New Year’s Resolutions as a 3L

It’s that time of the year… the time to make resolutions for how we want to live and what we want to accomplish in the next 365 days. Typically, my resolutions include things like “try more new foods,” “run one mile a day,” and “don’t procrastinate.” But as I’m approaching my last semester of school ever and getting ready to go take on the big, bad world, I’m trying to make more targeted, appreciative resolutions!

Resolutions for 2018 – 3L Edition

  1. Find the joy in my classes: As difficult, taxing, and downright frustrating as law school can get, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like school. I actually love school. I think if it was feasible, I would go to graduate school for the rest of my life. The realization that school, which has been an all-consuming part of my life for 20 years straight, is coming to an end for me is sinking in. While on a daily basis, I want to tear my hair out over choice of law between EU member states and third countries, over water policy, or case presentations, or whatever else is plaguing my overloaded brain, on the whole, I love what I learn. So one of my resolutions for this last semester is to really try to be present in my classes and to acknowledge how lucky I am to be learning such amazing things, from such amazing people, in such an amazing place.
  2. Trust my work ethic: One of the hardest things about studying law, I think, is that you could probably study for any given class until the end of time and STILL not know everything. This was something I had a hard time adjusting to as a 1L- the fact that it is physically impossible to master every single aspect of every class. And realistically, this is something I still struggle with. I’m a perfectionist and I want to know everything there is to know with 110% certainty. But the law isn’t like that. Law school really is about giving you the tools to solve any problem at any point in time by doing the proper research, taking the proper precautions, and consulting the proper sources. I know that looking ahead to bar prep this summer, I am going to have to really focus on trusting the process and trusting how hard I work. I have heard from previous bar takers that, just like in law school, you will constantly feel like you only know a fraction of the material. Since this is something that is hard for me, I am resolving to trust myself and trust my methods, and to realize that if my work ethic has gotten me this far, it is not likely to fail me now!
  3. See the future purely as opportunity: As a 3L who has not yet been hired for after the bar, I easily fall into a complete panic when I think about post-law school life. I start to freak out, worry that I’ll never find a job, tell myself I am not qualified or smart enough, etc, etc, etc. But there really is no reason for this. I am fortunate enough to be a BU Law student. BU Law has prepared me in every way possible for employment, and I am 100% confident that each and every BU Law graduate will find not just ANY job, but their dream jobs. I should be no exception to the confidence I have in my peers. It is easy to just worry about the mechanics of it all and to get so consumed by physically applying for jobs that I forget about what getting hired actually represents. Getting a job means meeting new people, going new places, trying new things, honing my craft, doing what I love, and learning something new every single day. Every bit of that excites me. My resolution for this year is to look at every job application as an opportunity to experience the best years of my life, as an opportunity to bring something positive to a company, a community, and the world, and as an opportunity to grow.

So there you have it! The New Year’s resolutions of a 3L. What are your law school resolutions? I’d love to hear! 

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Happy New Year from Paris, y’all!!! Fireworks over the Arc de Triomphe!