What is a “Note?”

A note is a publishable-quality writing you must do for your law journal. Different journals require different criteria. Most individuals who choose to be on a journal (yes, it is a choice) know they must write a note and will generally use their note to be certified by a professor to meet the graduation requirement. One of the graduation requirements is an Upper Writing Requirement. If you do not wish to use your journal note to certify, you can choose to certify through a class paper or an independent process. Not all classes that require a research paper will permit you to use the paper to certify, so you will have to check with the Registrar’s office and the professor.

It is highly recommended you try or at least start the process to certify your second year – whether you choose journal note or the class route. Some of the reasons are you want to create enough buffer before graduation in case there are any issues that may arise during the process, and you really do not want to stress in your third (and final) year of law school over a paper’s certification sufficiency.

If you choose to join a journal and use the journal note to meet you certification requirement, you must finish your note by the end of your second year. Do not confuse the journal’s note requirements with the upper writing requirement. You must separately meet the criteria for your journal’s note and the upper writing requirement. Upperclassmen will generally discuss it as interchangeable, but while they overlap, there are differences. Your journal will usually have a note editor (who gives feedback), require several drafts, and impose deadlines throughout the year.

If you’re using your note to certify, you must pick a professor and talk to that professor about being your faculty advisor for your certification. You will want to pick someone who is either interested in your topic or at least has some experience in your topic. If you have no idea who to ask, your journal and note editor can provide some guidance usually. The professor may or may not require draft submissions. Some professors generally will become involved once you have a substantive draft and others may want to be more involved and require an outline and see each draft. You will also need to submit paperwork to Registrar indicating how you intend to fulfill the writing requirement and who the professor is.

However you choose to fulfill your Upper Writing Requirement, keep in mind the balance you’ll want to maintain in your second year and third year.


You may recall my last post, (http://blogs.bu.edu/lawblogs/2015/01/31/snowed-in-a-tale-of-yetis-snow-forts-and-burning-marshmallows/) where I could not have been more thrilled and excited to see snow. I wanted to jump in it, shovel it, throw it, play in it. All of it.

As the days have passed and the snow has continued to fall, and fall, and fall, as the MBTA shut down, was shoveled out by the National Guard, and has struggled to make a feeble recovery back to normalcy, the temperature has stayed below freezing, and the sun seems to have made a permanent retreat to the clouds, my views have changed. Survival is my only instinct.

National Guard to the rescue!

National Guard to the rescue!

As we reach the point where Boston breaks every snowfall record in history, it seems fitting to memorialize some of the ways I’ve found to beat the winter blues, just in case I find myself in snowmageddon any time in the near future.

The BU campus has assumed a mystically snowy charm, in spite of my complaining.

The BU campus has assumed a mystically snowy charm, in spite of my complaining.

1. The guava jelly – Kona coffee – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole trifecta. This is not as odd a combination as you might think. Flooding your senses with the tastes, scents, and sounds of an island paradise lets you almost escape, even if just for a moment, to somewhere lovely and warm. (It also helps to hug the radiator).

2. Imagining yourself in heroic situations while shoveling snow: you’re tunneling through the tundra to rescue hikers stranded in an avalanche! Fighting abominable snowmen on the craggy peaks of Mt. Kilimanjaro! Digging for buried treasure with a crew of pirates! There’s enough snow that the possibilities are actually endless.

Hunting the elusive Boston Yeti.

Hunting the elusive Boston Yeti.

3. Berating the family members and friends from warmer places who have the nerve to complain about the terrible winters they’re having, until they feel so bad that they send care packages. Yes, please complain to me about the two inches of snow in DC. I will make you feel bad about my frozen eyelashes, and the snow banks I keep falling into, and you will send me brownies. (How do I keep doing this once winter is over?)

Another day, another shovel!

Another day, another shovel!

4. Bob Marley on the erg machine at the gym. It turns out that if you “row” at just right speed, the sound is almost that of waves crashing against a warm, beautiful beach. This is also the only possible way to sweat in Boston in February. Plus, it turns out that the erg machine is not all that challenging, given all the muscles you’ve grown shoveling snow!

5. Resisting the urge to swan dive off my porch into the deep, beautiful snow below. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/02/17/mayor-urges-knucklehead-bostonians-not-to-jump-out-of-windows-and-into-the-snow) For now, I’ll abide by the mayor’s exhortations against it, and vicariously live through the crazed actions of others. But one can only resist temptation for so long!

Tomorrow brings the start of March, and yet another snowstorm. At this point, I’ll certainly be throwing snowballs at the St. Patty’s Day parade. I’m grizzled and grouchy, but feeling triumphant. I’ve shoveled eight feet of snow, literally trudged miles in the snow (uphill!) to school, and ice-skated down my street. I can say with confidence that I have DONE WINTER.

A Week in the Life

As a former English Major, I am quite familiar with writers block. I’ve been struggling to think about what to blog next so I decided to look at a list of optional prompts graciously offered by the Communications Office and saw “a week in the life.” So for any readers who would like to see what a week in the life of a 1L is like, here is a week in my life as a 1L.

Last week we had the first draft of our Moot Court brief due for our legal writing class. I’ll probably blog about the moot court component of our legal writing seminar but I’m still feeling traumatized from the stress of last week to blog about it now. The point is, I’m looking forward to this upcoming week because our briefs are out of our hands for a few weeks and this is the last week of classes before spring break. This seems like a good week to share so I’ve chosen to link my schedule for the coming days below.

In preparing to come to law school, I read that as a 1L whenever you’re not in class you’re reading and whenever you’re not reading you’re in class. I think that’s pretty much the golden standard and my calendar below accurately describes it. Generally, I’m either in class or preparing for class. Throw in some student group meetings, some time at the gym, and a couple hours socializing with my fellow classmates on the weekends and you have my current life. Of course this is my calendar and it certainly varies from person to person. I generally can’t focus at school unless I’ve worked-out for the day so I tend to wake up on the earlier side as well as go to bed earlier than a lot of my friends because I function better in the morning. Nutrition’s also a big part of my life so I always set aside a large chunk of time on the weekend to prepare all my meals for the week. I also have to plan everything I do in advance because if it’s not on my calendar then it’s not going to happen. All in all, 1L year is certainly filled with reading and reading and more reading. However, there’s definitely still time to be yourself and do the things that you enjoy.

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A Tale of Two Professors

As a 1L at BU, you are randomly assigned to a “section,” a group of roughly 75 people who you then take your entire first year curriculum with. As you might imagine, this insular environment breeds both an intense sense of community and an incredible amount of tension. You’re all stressed and sleep-deprived, and it’s just not possible to get along with every single one of those people every single day. But for the most part, I loved my section (A!). You know that line from Harry Potter, about how you can’t conquer a 12-foot mountain troll together without becoming friends? That’s pretty much the same thing as your 1L section. We experienced the sometimes awful, occasionally hilarious, and generally baffling world that is 1L together, and that really cements you to your fellow Section-mates in a weird way.

As a 2L, I still find myself sitting with Section A people at lunch or in classes, due mostly to probability (as 90% of the 2Ls I know were in Section A). And one interesting thing I’ve noticed is how much we, as a Section, disagree about some of the professors we had during 1L. For example, both our Property professor, Lawson, and our Contracts professor, Pettit, teach Evidence to upper-class students. Because the vast majority of students take Evidence, Section A was in a unique position of taking Evidence with one of two professors, both of whom we were already familiar with.

And that’s when something odd happened. It was almost an even 50/50 split between who chose to take Evidence with Professor Lawson vs. with Professor Petit, who have essentially polar opposite teaching styles. Professor Lawson does not cold call – ever. Class discussion is limited essentially to when someone asks a question. The rest of the time, he lectures in this totally unique narrative style. His lectures are meant to take the entire class period, and they do, often swooping into planned tangents of 10 or 15 minutes before returning to the ultimate point. Professor Pettit, on the other hand, relies almost exclusively on cold calls and hypotheticals to drive his classes. The pace is very fast and, during the few moments Professor Pettit IS lecturing, the class is frantically scribbling down his words verbatim because he only explains the most complex points in his own words.

Both Professors Pettit and Lawson are clearly experts in their fields. Section A is lucky to have had them both, and I think they are incomparable professors. (Which is no surprise. BU Law is consistently ranked as having some of the best professors in the country.) But even the absolute best professors don’t work for everyone. Personally, I had a hard time focusing on Professor Lawson’s lectures. I often felt unsure about which parts I should be writing down, and that frustrated me.  Yet other people in my section loved Lawson’s lectures and found Pettit’s classes to be too fast-paced and rigid. Some preferred to hear the professor explain what he felt was important in his own words, rather than relying so much on the cold call system.

Both of these positions are completely valid. The huge contrast in styles of BU professors is actually one of my favorite things about our school. During 1L, when you have no say in the matter, you are exposed to a wide variety of teaching styles. You learn which ones work for you and which ones are more of a struggle so that when you pick your classes as a 2L, you can often choose between two contrasting, but equally amazing, professors.

Speak Up!

I enrolled in First Amendment law this semester, more because I felt I shouldn’t graduate law school without taking it than because I had a real passion for the subject material. It turns out that the decision is, quite possibly, the best course selection I made all year.

As seems appropriate for a class on the First Amendment, our professor weaves in allusions to literature and philosophy, which I love. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to talk about Shakespeare in a legal setting, and it’s wonderful to do it. While many law school courses touch on the history underlying legal doctrines, and the general political-philosophical lines underlying the doctrines, it’s rare to take a law school class that delves deeply into underlying philosophy. First Amendment is different. Its broad philosophies escape politics, and deal with the value of knowledge itself. I leave class pondering the source of truth, thinking of the big questions that have no answers.

The class has brought me two insights. The first is an understanding that free speech has shaped the face of modern America. Our country affords broad protection to political speech. Rather than criminalizing certain kinds of speech that we don’t wish to hear, we support a philosophy expressed by Justice Brandeis in 1927: where individuals express ideas that are harmful, hateful, or offensive, the best thing to do is “apply more speech.” It is through the exchange of ideas, rather than government regulation, that the truth will emerge. This puts a responsibility on people to reason through controversial ideas, and talk about why they are right or wrong, why they make us angry or fulfilled, why they should be suppressed, altered, or expressed. Without free speech, we would not have been able to engage in some of the significant social movements of the past few years, from the protests growing from the tragic deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, to the Occupy movement. We may not have been able to start important discussions about race, class, and inequality. We have an obligation to use the freedom fundamental to our country to make our country a better place.

The second insight I’ve gained from this course is that fear has often gripped our world, and in such times, people have a habit of suppressing speech about the topics that scare them: think back to a time like the “Red Scare.” I believe we are entering another such time of fear. Lately, when I read the paper, or flip through the pages of TIME, I’ve been accosted by images, captions, and headlines reminding me of our world’s increasing uncertainty, from ISIS’s brutal fearmongering, to the attacks at Charlie Hebdo, to recent devastating trends in the weather.

We must enter this time armed with knowledge, rather than fear. As we face unprecedented terror, fierce religious and cultural battles, and environmental disaster, our answer should be speech. We must articulate the things that scare us, dissect the reasons for our fear, defend and hone our views and beliefs, sway and be swayed. We must speak up for the marginalized, fight for equality. It is our right, but it is also our responsibility.