The 3L Hourglass

I love the fall, always have. Autumn heralds my favorite things: marching band, vibrant foliage, and new school supplies. Nothing says new beginnings like a blank school planner. The possibilities are endless!

For me, this fall is particularly poignant. I’m re-acclimating to Massachusetts after a positively dreamy, thoroughly west coast summer. Last year, this transition was primarily centered around reestablishing my rhythm and focusing on academic excellence. In short, I braced myself for another rigorous year of law school.

This fall is different. Not only am I coming to grips with the fact that this is my last year of law school—the end of a short, but deeply meaningful chapter in my life—but the significance is magnified because this will be my last semester on campus. I will spend spring semester externing in Washington D.C. through BU Law’s Semester In Practice program. (More on this later, as this exciting news is a blog post of its own.)

Suddenly, the sand in the hourglass seems to be accelerating. How many more weekends do I have to explore Boston neighborhoods that I’ve never stepped foot in? Can I squeeze in any road trips around New England? I still haven’t accomplished my goal of visiting Philadelphia!

I already find myself staying later at social engagements than is typical for me. As my departure nears, the recognition sinks in that our impromptu meet-ups will no longer be an option. Our gatherings will be less frequent, formally scheduled, and anchored not by whims but by weddings, baby showers, and other milestones. So yes, I will happily come over to watch a movie or grab a late night coffee. Time is of the essence, and I intend to savor every minute. spoons

Last One, Best One

With school emails rolling in by the boatload and scary 1L Orientation beginning, I finally feel like I am in my last year of law school. While it’s ellard to fathom that I’ve actually lived through (and at some moments thrived) two whole years at BU Law, I realize I’ve made it as I prepare for my last day of my last year of school ever with not a worry in the world. The 180 degree change between my attitude as an incoming 1L and now as an incoming 3L is more than tangible. I’ve lived and I’ve learned, I’ve laughed and I’ve cried, I’ve studied and I’ve partied……and then I studied and cried some more. But, I am here to share my 3L wisdom in what will be my last post of Fall Advice:

1. BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID. Law school is absolutely no joke. No matter how old you are, how much experience you have, what undergrad school you went to, where you’ve previously worked, how many degrees you have, or how many episodes of law and order you’ve binged…..law school is hard for everyone. I haven’t met a single person in my two years of attendance at BU Law that said law school is a breeze. Be aware this journey is hard, and appreciate that fact. Also, make sure you really live your best life before you start law school and even in the first couple weeks where you’re not too swamped in work. Thank me later.

2. CLUBS ARE COOL. The first year of school is much like the first few years you were alive: you have no say in what you do and you just do what you’re told. Your schedule is already made for you and you can’t change it. Your classmates are already picked for you and no matter how annoying that girl is in the front row you can’t swap her out for someone who’s less of a gunner. The only thing you really have a say in, besides how much you study/how well you do, is your extracurricular activities. JOIN AS MANY CLUBS AS YOU FIND INTERESTING. Clubs will not only be a great way for you to escape the same routine week after week, but it gives you the chance to meet people in other classes and even older students. The Org Fair (Sept. 8th, 2-4pm) features tables on tables of every organization the law school has to offer and allows you to sign up to receive emails and info about all of them. I still receive emails from clubs I naively thought I’d join only to routinely read their emails these last two years and never attend a single meeting. But hey, it’s the thought that counts?

3. COLLECT OUTLINES EARLY. Piggybacking on #2, you NEED to meet new people and preferably 2Ls/3Ls not only to gain friends/a social life, but also for the invaluable outlines that will single-handedly get you through your 1L year (I spent my entire 2L year thanking the 3L whose outlines I used throughout my entire first year, #ShoutOut Misha Patel I miss you!!!!!). Us upperclassmen are not scary, (most of us) are not rude, and we surely will be happy to send along some outlines for you as long as that’s not the very first thing you ask us (how about starting the conversation out like a normal human and ask how we are that’s all we really want from you). Again, thank me later.

4. FIND WHAT WORKS AND FIND IT EARLY. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you but I will anyway: Law school is a stressful environment and it only progressively gets worse as you get closer to finals. You need to find the best, most non-destructive way to relieve stress so that you can work that into your schedule and maintain a semblance of sanity. For me, stress relief came in the form of working out and cooking. I would set a time at which I would make myself leave school, go to the gym, and then come home to cook myself a good dinner. It’s the little things that help you get through the big, scary, stressful things!

5. IT WILL END. The best piece of advice I can give you is probably to realize that the rough times do not last forever no matter how much it feels like it’s never ending. 1L is just one year of law school–basically just 8 months–that you’ll get through in no time. Looking back on it now, 1L felt like the slowest crawl of my life where I didn’t actually get anywhere and just stayed put in the same exact place no matter how badly I tried to move. Now, I don’t know where the time has gone and in 8 months I’ll be graduating and experiencing the new hardship of studying for the bar (but really, does it ever actually end????). Enjoy the ride (or try and tell yourself you will) because it goes by faster than you think.

What’s important?

It’s no understatement when I say that I’m an entirely different person now than who I was at this time last year. 1L provided me with immense opportunities for growth, both inside and outside of the classroom. One of the biggest lessons I think I’ve learned is to always remember to keep in mind what’s important and what’s not.

 

What’s Not So Important:

Grades: Yes, grades can mean a lot of things for a law student, and a 1L in particular. But I cannot stress enough how these numbers, or letters, rather, do NOT define who you are or what type of lawyer you’ll be. Good grades don’t ensure a bid from a top firm at OCI, and bad grades don’t mean you’ll miss out on being on a journal.

OCI: There’s a stigma in top law schools that OCI is the end-all, be-all, king of internships and jobs. I really dislike this stigma, and I’m here to tell you that your self-worth is not going to be measured by how many pre-selects you got chosen for or how many callbacks you attended. Working at a big firm can be a great fit for some people- and a poor fit for others. I urge you to spend 1L looking for the qualities and characteristics of law that you want in a job, and then matching jobs to those elements. For example, in-house jobs are similar to big law in the type of environment they provide. Don’t make big law be your only goal.

Doing it all: One of the best things I’ve experienced at BU is having an endless resource in upperclassmen and young alumni to tell you what paths they took and all of the amazing things they were involved in. One of the biggest downfalls of this is that all of this wisdom gets compiled and can seem like you need to do EVERYTHING there is. Update: don’t do things just because you think you should be doing them. If you’re doing something just because you feel like you have to, you won’t enjoy it, and it will be uncomfortable and a source of more stress. Don’t do OCI if you don’t want to work at a big firm. Don’t go for law review only for the prestige if your heart isn’t in it. Do pursue OCI if you think a big firm is the type of environment you’d enjoy. Do go for law review if you’re interested in that journal for its breadth and experience you’ll gain.

 

What’s really important:

Taking care of yourself: Yes, you’ll be putting a lot of time and effort into school. But don’t let that distract you from things like eating, getting enough sleep, taking mental breaks, and decompressing. You will burn out and do far worse if you don’t listen to your body. I cannot stress enough how important this is, and how important it is to reach out for help when you need it. Talk to a best friend on the phone for thirty minutes. Reach out to the administration. Call your parents. Visit your niece or nephew. It’s very, very, important.

Learning how to Adapt: This has been the toughest lesson for me to learn over and over. I’m a planner. But more often than not the plans don’t always play out how I had hoped. I think learning how to adapt is a crucial thing, especially for law school. There’s a lot of moving pieces and sometimes they move in a different direction than you may have hoped. It’s okay if you don’t get the clinic you wanted, or the journal you wanted, or your dream summer job. What’s not okay is to give up when something other than “Plan A” happens. You could be thrown a curveball as little as not getting the partner you wanted for moot court to a curveball as big as needing surgery in the middle of the school year. Everything will work out as long as you work to make it so.

Remembering why you’re in law school: It is so extraordinarily easy to get lost in the work and stress of school to the point where you don’t remember why you came to law school in the first place. I know I complained, “Why am I even here?!” countless times to my family friends. But when I started feeling that way, all it took was something minor to bring back that rush of feelings about my passion to be an attorney. A news story, a book, a panel you attend on a whim- something to re-ignite that passion- can be crucial when you’re in spots like that. And at the very least, always keep in mind that it’s an honor to be at such an amazing institution getting a top-notch legal education. At the very least, be in law school because you got to law school- that’s an accomplishment in itself.

Requiem for the Summer

As cliche as I feel typing this: it feels like just yesterday I finished my last exam of 2L year, packed my bags, and flew home for summer. Four months ago at the end of April, I was studying hours on hours for all my exams without a single clue as to what I was going to be doing this summer or where I was even going to be working. I know I preach this a lot but I’ve come to find it’s the truest statement: things will always work itself out in the end. Whether it’s regarding the job hunt or figuring out what kind of law you want to practice for the rest of your professional career, things will always work themselves out in the end and my law school experiences, thus far, are the epitome of that.

Take, for example, me as an incoming, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 1L with dreams of doing corporate law or international law and sailing through law school. I learned very quickly that there is no sailing through law school; it’s more like trying to sail through a hurricane, tsunami, and the perfect storm all while dodging huge icebergs ready to take you down at any moment. Luckily, I had a supportive crew aboard my ship (I’m talking about friends and family…just trying to keep with the metaphor theme here) and I was able to land safely ashore and make it through 1L year. But now, as an incoming 3L, I am excited and set on my goal of becoming a tax attorney–a career path I would have never even considered as a 1L. Yet, things always work themselves out in the end.

Even better was my experience with job hunting for my 1L summer internship. I vividly remember everyone I knew securing a job throughout the spring semester as I patiently waited for that internship offer to pop up in my email. The day before my last final exam, when I was still jobless and fast approaching all hopelessness, I finally got a job offer to intern for the General Counsel of Barneys New York in New York City–I couldn’t have dreamt up a better job for myself. Although I had lost all belief that I would ever get a job for that summer and felt like a complete failure, the Barneys internship ended up being the best experience I could have ever hoped for. Things always work themselves out in the end.

Now, here I am as an incoming 3L with my last year of school left and it’s much of the same story: I have no post-graduation job offer, I have no idea where I want to apply, and I have no idea where I even want to live post-grad nor where I’ll be taking the bar exam. If you told me two years ago this was the status I’d be starting my last year of law school in, I would have passed out from a panic attack. But present-day Alissa? Well, she knows that things always work themselves out in the end.

1L Summer Wind Down

As the summer begins to come to a close, I’m reflecting on what my first summer as a law student has brought and what I’m looking forward to for 2L. I can’t believe how quickly the hazy days have gone by, and I only wish 1L year went as quickly!

Internship

My internship was engaging and kept me on my toes. I learned a lot of transferrable skills, especially research and writing skills. I also got to be working with ever-changing regulations in an emerging industry, and it was exciting to be on the cutting edge.

RA

As an RA for two different professors this summer I got to immerse myself in two very different projects. I enjoyed both projects and their different take on the way things like statutes can impact actions, both in government and in the real world.

OCI

Ah, OCI. The mythical process that you never fully understand until you’re in the throes of it, and even then you still don’t understand it. All in all, OCI was less scary than I had imagined it would be. There’s plenty of time to get all of your materials in well before the bidding deadline, and the interviews really aren’t as intimidating as one can imagine them to be. It’s still a stressful process, don’t get me wrong. But it’s okay. And it’s not everything– not getting an OCI job doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. 

2L

I’m really looking forward to 2L year and the classes I have lined up, along with the International Law Journal. My schedule is a lot different this year than last, and my classes are more spread out for the most part. I’m really excited to jump back into coursework and learn more about the topics I’ve chosen.