State Courts and Fed Courts and Specialty Courts, Oh My!

Today I had the honor of being a panelist for a Public Interest Scholars clerkship event. I will be clerking with Justice Mary I. Yu on the Washington Supreme Court during the 2019-2020 term. Other panelists included several current and former BU Public Interest Scholars. My friend and fellow 3L Kenneth Meador will clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims following our graduation in 2018. Recent graduate Matt Lawrence is currently clerking at the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, while Blair Komar (class of 2012) clerked at the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, LA.

Several 1Ls attended and asked excellent questions, many of which I remember wondering myself not two years ago. Here are some of our answers:

How did you decide to apply to your respective courts?

Some important considerations include your preferred locations, jurisdictions, and areas of interest. While applying to a wide array of federal judges is probably the most common strategy, it’s important to think about how the clerkship will further your individual career goals. Your unique interests or objectives may take you in a totally different direction from your peers. For example, Kenny’s passion is connecting veterans with services after they return home from war, so his experience with an administrative law court that deals exclusively with veterans’ issues will serve his long-term career goals well.

There are a myriad of other specialty courts in Massachusetts and beyond—Family Court, Land Court, Drug Court, Juvenile Court, Veterans Appeals, etc. The list goes on and on! Being selective about your court gives you the opportunity to focus on issues you are truly excited about. I personally can’t wait to return to Washington State after law school, so I prioritized clerking within Washington’s state court system.

Another consideration is the duration of your clerkship. My clerkship is one year long, whereas many others are two years, particularly federal district court clerkships. Depending on your career goals or family situation, the length of the clerkship may factor into where you want to apply.

What is the application timeline?

This varies a lot! Look up the timeline for your particular court, and don’t trust blanket advice on application timing. While federal courts generally have the most predictable timelines, state courts have a much broader range of dates. There may even be significant variance between two judges on the same bench! I submitted my application during 2L fall, then interviewed and received an offer the following spring. As a rule of thumb, apply early unless other rules or customs apply. If you are applying to a state court, be mindful of any elections or judicial terms that may impact your judge.

What if my grades aren’t stellar?

 Apply anyway. Don’t disqualify yourself! Great 1L grades are certainly a plus, even a requirement for some chambers, but less stellar grades may not eliminate you from the running entirely. It is worth your time to research the type of clerks your judge typically employs. Do they prefer clerks who have practiced law or who arrive straight out of law school? Non-traditional clerks with interesting work experience? Clerks with connections to their jurisdiction? Clerks with connections to a particular school or the judge’s alma mater? Clerks who have specific career goals in mind in the public or private sector?

Is it possible to get a clerkship if I don’t do a journal? 

Yes—although be prepared to discuss why you chose a different path in law school. My decision to not do a journal was very deliberate; I did not even participate in the write-on competition. Because my goals centered on honing my brief writing and oral advocacy skills, I believed participating in BU’s Stone Moot Court and the national Judge John R. Brown Admiralty Moot Court Competition was a wiser use of my time.

As a 1L, what can I do now to set myself up for success?

In addition to studying hard, my foremost piece of advice is to develop strong relationships with your professors. Convey your intellectual curiosity by participating in class and attending office hours. Many professors will happily recommend a thoughtful student who happened to have a bad test day. Similarly, receiving an A grade does not necessarily guarantee a recommendation, particularly if the professor has trouble remembering your name.

Any final thoughts?

Don’t sell yourself short, put your best self forward (even if your best self is hopelessly terrible at law school exams), and apply to the chamber that is right for you! Good luck!

Pumpkin, cinnamon, and Justice Ginsburg

Extra pumpkin; extra cinnamon. That’s the simple secret to my favorite pumpkin bread recipe. Last night I took a study break to heat up my kitchen with this festive recipe.

I grew up baking with my dad, and it has always been a way for me to de-stress (which has been very helpful in law school!)  The link to the recipe is below, for anyone looking for a study break or for a recipe for the holidays. I’ve also included my own special twist on the recipe.

What does baking have to do with SCOTUS? In 2011, the cookbook “Chef Supreme: Martin Ginsburg” was published. It was a posthumous compilation of recipes from Justice Ginsburg’s husband, Martin Ginsburg. Despite having a brilliant legal mind, notorious RBG apparently lacks culinary skill. Her husband, however, was a talented cook. Justice Ginsburg shared that “[m]y husband was a great tax lawyer, but we had more cookbooks than tax books at home. We had an entire section in the living room – three sets of shelves from floor to ceiling – with nothing but cookbooks.”*

Stocked with pumpkin bread, I can get back to the law books – replete with Ginsburg opinions. And now I have a new goal – cook with some of Martin Ginsburg’s recipes!

Pumpkin Bread recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/6820/downeast-maine-pumpkin-bread/

But here are my alterations to the recipe:

  1. Double the amount of pumpkin
  2. Add an extra 1/2 cup sugar
  3. Extra 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (or just add it to taste!)

*http://www.theblaze.com/news/2011/12/20/new-cookbook-tells-you-how-to-eat-like-a-supreme-court-justice

 

Coffee, Kit Kats, and Continuing Orientation: The 1L Story

Barely two months ago, 280 1Ls, survivors of the second week of law school, meandered into the auditorium for “Continuing Orientation.” The air buzzed excitedly with conversations about outlines, weekend plans, class questions… Meanwhile, I sat what I hoped what unassumingly amongst everyone, trying desperately not to need a KitKat bar.

Let me explain. Picture1We haven’t been formally introduced yet. Hi, I’m Kim Crowley, and I’m a bit of a nerd. Actually, a lot of a nerd. Such a nerd in fact that one of my childhood family traditions centered around the night before the first day of school, when I would lie awake for hours like an excited toddler anticipating Santa Clause. Except, I wasn’t awake because I was excited. I was awake because I was downright petrified – petrified enough that I would inevitably jolt my parents awake by midnight and start sobbing hysterically about how I would not be able to handle the work in 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade… you get the picture. Anyway, every year, the debacle would end the same way. Mom and Dad would give me a hug (while rolling their eyes I assume), give me a KitKat bar, and send me to bed. And while I did eventually stop waking my parents up in the middle of the night, KitKat became my almost involuntary, Pavlovian-response comfort food for “I don’t think I can do this” scenarios.

Fortunately, after two weeks of law school, my nerves had settled, and I felt ready to listen to Professor Leonard talk about classes.  “Read the cases and try to pull out the rules of law,” he advised.

“But,” he continued, “that’s not the end goal. Our goal is for you to learn how to think like a lawyer.”

Uh oh. Break me off a piece of that KitKat bar.

Let me explain. There was a reason for the trigger – mainly, the fact that thinking like a lawyer did not sound like something within my control. My awareness of my own stubbornness had been the only thing keeping my anxiety at bay up until that point. I knew I could read the casebooks over and over until I understood them. I could google secondary sources all night. I could stalk my professors until they either answered all my questions or stopped having office hours, whichever came first. I knew that I could control those things...

 But what if I never learned to think like a lawyer?

For several days afterwards, I worried. I worried I would not be able to do it. I worried that everyone else could. I buried my head in my books to compensate, and I worried I wasn’t reading them correctly. I worried that I wasn’t worried enough. I worried that I was the only one worrying.

As my stress mounted, so did my need for caffeine. Turning to one of my classmates, I started babbling: “I think I’m going to go get coffee,” I said. And then, as I do, I kept babbling, “I mean… Coffee costs money. I shouldn’t spend money on coffee. But it keeps me sane. There’s a Starbucks down the street. I could go there. But it’s raining.”

At the confused look on my (hopefully?) new friend’s face, I started to laugh and felt compelled to explain, “These are the considerations I take into account before I make a decision as a matter of law.”

Picture2

Nerd level remains the same.

All of the sudden, I stopped rambling, because there it was. It hadn’t been in my control, but there I was, thinking like a lawyer – involuntarily relating my thoughts to the frameworks the professors had been teaching.

As my friend laughed along with me, asking, “Oh, you don’t send these things to a jury?”, I realized what I wanted the message of my first post to be: For anyone who is still wondering if you can do this, please know so many of us first years feel the same way. This experience is intimidating, and almost everyone I have met is nervous. But because of that, everyone is supportive, and it gets a little bit easier each day. So when you finish this post, whether you’re a prospective applicant or a current studet, instead of worrying about what comes next, take a minute to feel pride in whatever small accomplishment you’ve managed so far – every little time you’ve made a new friend, taken an LSAT practice test, or thought like a lawyer. Everything you’ve achieved is a meaningful step, and take comfort in knowing that for
the next three years, you’ll never have to take the next one alone.

Plus, if you ever need a KitKat bar, you now know who to ask!

 

 

A Day in the Life of a 2L

I did a similar post last year about what a typical day was like for me as a 1L. Looking back on it, it’s pretty startling just how much time in my days (and weeks!) were dedicated solely to school work. I will be the first to admit that the word “balance” was not in my vocabulary last year. Luckily, that has changed dramatically now that I am 2L. While things are still busy and classes are still demanding, the nature of 2L is completely different from 1L, and for that – I am eternally grateful. Take a peek below for what a typical day is like for me as a 2L here at BU. This is a sample of my “long day” of the week.

5:30am – Wake up (this is my Monday/Wednesday wake up time, as I have IP at 8:30am, but on Tuesdays/Thursdays/Fridays I sleep until around 7:00am and it is glorious).

5:30 – 6:30am – Make breakfast and lunch to pack for school; eat breakfast

6:30 – 7:45am – Shower and get ready for the day

7:45 – 8:15am – Commute to school

8:30 – 10:30am – IP Class

10:30am – 12:30pm – Print readings for Thursday’s Corporations and Entertainment Classes; complete Entertainment homework

12:30 – 2:00pm – Lunch with friends

2:00 – 4:00pm – Work on Corporations homework

4:20 – 6:20pm – Contract Drafting Class

6:20 – 7:00pm – Commute home

7:00 – 8:00pm – Dinner (I meal prep during the week so that on the nights where I get home late, I don’t have to spend time cooking).

8:00 – 10:30pm – Other homework (Finish up Corporations readings; Source and Tech Checks for Journal; Note Topic work for Journal; etc.)

10:30/11:00pm – Sleep

This year is so much different than last in that I: (a) have time for a regular workout routine (just not on my two early days), (b) have time to be social and explore the city more, and (c) find that the structure of my classes is much less stressful than last year. I’m still being challenged, but the energy of this year is so much better than last. Needless to say, I’m very happy to be a 2L!

 

Veterans Day 3.0

For Marines, Veterans Day has a special place on the calendar, just one day after the birthday of our beloved Corps. It’s a sort of one-two punch: On November 10, we remember the privilege it is to have worn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor insignia of the United States Marine Corps, and on November 11 we remember the men and women who served with us and before us to make our armed forces the venerable institutions they are today.

My favorite part of this time of year is hearing from old pals I served with. There are texts, Facebook messages, and phone calls where we catch up to see how things are and to wish each other a happy birthday in honor of the USMC founding in 1775.

Many of my friends are out of the service now; building businesses, going to school, raising families. We’ve gone in many different directions, but we are still held together by common experiences in uniform. It felt like a whirlwind at the time, but when I look back at my time—all the training and working and deployments—I often remember the stillness within those moments.

For example, I remember a quiet moment at Officer Candidates School.

OCS was not a peaceful place. From the moment we showed up, we were in a hurry to get wherever we were going. Sergeant Instructors hounded us relentlessly throughout the day to get dressed faster, to eat faster, to run faster, to march better, to speak louder. I remember standing for inspection on the sweltering asphalt parade deck in Quantico. My body ached from maintaining a parade rest position for hours, and droplets of sweat stung my eyes since I couldn’t wipe my face while standing in formation. I tried to get my mind off the discomfort by focusing on what was going on around me. The sun reflected off the Potomac as it lowered in the afternoon sky. A breeze picked up as if to cool us off for a while, and for a moment, the only thing that could be heard was leaves rustling over the faint stamp of boots in formation and cadence calls of platoons passing by.

Fifth Platoon

At flight school, the training sorties were stressful tests of knowledge, skill, and attention to detail as flight instructors threw simulated emergencies at us while constantly calling out minor errors in altitude, airspeed, or heading. I remember doing everything I could not to screw it up, sweating through my flight suit wondering what the instructor could do next to test me. The pressure made the flights mostly joyless affairs, but I remember those times when all of the necessary training was completed for the day and we headed back to base. The radios were quiet, and the only sound was the hum of the engine and the wind whipping over the canopy. The Gulf of Mexico stretched out over one wing, green fields extending past the Florida border and into Alabama over the other. Best of all, I was flying.

In Afghanistan, it was six straight months of work without a day off– the work was urgent and high stakes to meet our mission of supporting the troops on the ground throughout the Helmand Province. The summer temperatures would exceed 120 degrees, pushing our aircraft to the very limit of the performance capabilities. We’d often fly at night, where the darkness was nearly complete over the desert, and the faint glow of tracer fire could often be seen in the distance, amplified on night vision goggles. It could be eight or nine hours straight of sitting in the seat, keeping track of aircraft weight, cargo load, troop counts, navigation, and looking out for threats. It made for long, exhausting days. But at the end of every flight, when the de-briefs were done and paperwork complete, we’d often just sit out behind our hangar without saying much, looking up to see the stars pierce through the industrial lights that allowed us to keep working around the clock. Despite the constant buzz of aircraft coming and going, it was a moment of calm in a tumultuous place.

DSCF1229

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Now I’m in law school, and the extensive readings and essay writing and job hunting bring a familiar twinge of the busyness of the military life I left behind, even if the stakes are different. I still find those quiet moments, and I can’t help but think of all the adventures I had and the remarkable people I had them with while serving. Today, I’m thinking of those in uniform that are serving now and have served before, wishing them peaceful moments in this busy world on Veterans Day.