The Legal Hero(ine)’s Journey: Part One

One of my favorite topics to teach when I taught English literature was The Hero(ine)’s Journey, an archetypal progression that countless myths and epics stories have incorporated to some degree. Whether you pick up Gilgamesh, Harry Potter, Twilight, or the Bible, you will inevitably encounter the same handful of tropes in some form or other. Law school, too, is an epic quest, and I offer you some reflections on my first year cast in the form of the Hero(ine)’s Journey! See a nifty chart here!

This will be a three-part series, tracking the lead-up to law school, the first and second semesters, and then the summer after the first year. Enjoy and check back soon for the second installment!

The Journey comprises three stages: (1) Separation, (2) The Supreme Ordeal, and (3) Unification.

The first and third stages take place in the “ordinary world” while the second stage takes place in a “special,” often supernatural world.

A Fledgling’s Guide to the Hero(ine)’s Journey through 1L

First Stage: Separation (Preparing for and Taking the LSAT)

The Journey begins with a “call to adventure.” This, obviously, is whatever wonderful decision led you to begin thinking about law school and studying for our friend the LSAT. I personally was called to law school by a desire to put the skills to work that I had cultivated in graduate study and my teaching career.

lsat studyOf course, the call to adventure usually involves some moment where you “refuse the call” before gaining encouragement from friends, family, or some sort of loss. For me the choice to pursue law school also meant leaving the career I had spent almost a decade cultivating. It was difficult to leave the educational community, but my colleagues, friends, and family gave me the support I needed.

The stage culminates in the “final test,” which of course is the LSAT. It seems scary and challenging at the time, but by the end of the journey the hero realizes that it was just the first step. Think: Harry Potter fighting Professor Quirrell in The Philosopher’s Stone or Frodo choosing to break away from the Fellowship and travel alone to Mordor.

frodo samOf course the call to adventure also usually involves a long and tedious “road of trials” where it seems like not much is happening. The hero(ine) needs to gain entrance to distant places, prepare him or herself, and gain new allies (i.e. that really long part of The Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo just walks across the countryside for 200 pages. Think of this like filling out your applications, interviewing, and choosing which law school to attend.

By the end of the first stage in the Journey, the Hero(ine) has achieved some degree of separation from his or her normal life by “Crossing the First Threshold.” He or she has struggled, but the initial fight was really just a prelude to real challenges that lay ahead.

Stay tuned for part two of three!

Summer time

As many of you saw, a while back I wrote a post on rejections. So you were probably wondering if I got a job for the summer… I did! No need to freak out. I am almost 100% sure that everyone gets a job for their 1L summer out of BU. The CDO makes sure of it, even if BU has to employ you themselves – you will have some type of legal position for the summer. Obviously, you should still work to get a job, but just know that you are in good hands if you are at BU law.

I was a little bummed because I have been trying to stay in Boston for the summer – my girlfriend is here and the summer is awesome. However, I got a great internship at the Colorado Supreme Court. Though I had only applied to ten judicial internships just to cover all my bases, I initially did not think that this was the right choice for me. It’s unpaid, I still have to pay rent in Boston, and the hours are long. Logistically speaking, it sounded awful – so I kept applying to Boston jobs. But, little did I know Boston is a tough legal market. We have students here from numerous nearby schools and states who also trying to enter the market. The environmental law community here is extremely small, which makes pursuing my interest in Boston real tough.

So after countless rejections and radio silence from numerous employers, I heard back from the Colorado Supreme Court. I accepted the position after the weekend while waiting to hear from some other employers who had been ghosting me for some time (happens to everyone so don’t feel bad). If this happens to you, make sure to rank the jobs you want, reach out to them and see if they could expedite a decision, and then give the employer who has offered you a position a timeline for when you think you could accept. Don’t drag them on for too long, but don’t miss out on a chance you really want because you accepted the first offer you got.

That being said, this was one of the best offers I had seen and I was not about to let it go for less prestigious unpaid jobs in Boston. Many people in 1L will tell you that if you get a paid legal job for your 1L summer – take it. However, if you are worried about money and are offered an unpaid job know that there are countless resources to get paid your 1L summer like work-study, the PIP grant, and even part-time research positions. I am supplementing the judicial internship with a regulatory research position where I’ll be looking at 7 states and their regulations on fracking. It’s a good chance to learn about the oil and gas industry and get my feet wet in environmental law. Now that you’ve seen the ups and downs of the process, know that everything usually works out in the end.

Looking Back on BU’s Lawyering Course

This week I completed the final component of BU Law’s 1L Lawyering Skills course: The Esdaile Moot Court. It feels great to be done and now all that’s left is a final, celebratory class meeting next week.

I feel like Lawyering has crammed a lot into the academic year, but it also feels like the time has flown by. Such a cliché, but it’s true.

This past year I’ve been able to practice (1) writing research memos like those circulated in law offices, (2) conducting research into an open-ended topic using online legal databases, (3) interviewing and advising clients about legal issues, (4) negotiating and drafting a purchase and sale agreement, (5) researching and writing a motion to dismiss, (6) researching and writing an appellate brief, (7) presenting an oral argument before a 3-judge appeals court, and (8) learning technical citation skills useful for legal writing and any of BU’s law publications. We also made visits to courtrooms around the area to hear motions argued by practicing attorneys, which put our own work into perspective.

Legal-Writing-2The writing that BU’s Lawyering program requires trains you in the neutral writing useful for interoffice memoranda as well as persuasive writing useful for advocating for a client in court. Personally I found the persuasive writing came more naturally. The neutral writing requires that you flatly state an issue, cite to any relevant case law, and identify both sides of any relevant issues so that a more senior lawyer in a firm can understand a client’s needs holistically. I had anticipated that it would feel simpler than persuasive writing, but in fact it challenged me more.

Without a side to advocate for, it can be difficult to accurately identify all of the potential issues relevant to a legal topic. If you feel sympathetic for the paralyzed climber who has come to you after falling on a wealthy landowner’s property, your memo may reflect that by omitting—consciously or not—potential facts and legal rules that might benefit the landowner who is trying to avoid liability for your client’s fall.

The point of this type of writing, however, is to inform your more senior colleagues and, most importantly, your client about the relative strengths and weaknesses of their potential case. A client may be seriously in need of some sort of relief and be keen on suing, but as a lawyer your responsibility is to inform him or her about all the relevant factors at play. In the scenario we were given, for instance, the landowner likely had immunity from our client’s suit due to a statute shielding landowners from liability who opened their land to the public free of charge.

Looking back, I see a dozen things I would have done differently in my memo, but part of Lawyering is getting a chance to make mistakes and learn in a controlled environment, before you’re out at a firm or and office.

The persuasive writing we completed this spring semester came more naturally. While you may not deny or mischaracterize law moot courtroomor facts in persuasive writing, the necessity to advocate for your gives you a clear vision of how to structure your arguments to best suit your client’s needs. For the storytellers out there, this form of legal writing will feel like second nature. Did the federal agent desperately rummage through your client’s private trash for evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment? Or was your client the U.S. government completely justified in collecting some papers from near the defendant’s home that looked abandoned and just happened to end up being incredibly incriminating?

The culmination of this semester of persuasive writing was a moot court experience judged by two law students and an alumnae/us. After memorizing the cases pertinent to your brief, anticipating the counterarguments of your opposing counsel, and working with your co-counsel to articulate the best argument for your client, you get to present in a 10-minute oral argument. I personally have no fear of public speaking, having been a classroom teacher and coach for the past several years, but this type of performance was totally different.

appellate cartoonThe judges were not shy about interjecting when they had a question. Most challenging was that, even though you have an outline with all of your arguments sketched out in order, the judges often ask questions that force you to skip ahead to a topic you haven’t introduced yet. It may seem wrong to skip over what you’ve prepared and have to circle back, but ultimately you are there to convince the judges. If they ask a question, you will do better to answer it right then and there. Telling them, “I’ll get to that in a minute,” can come off as rude, and they’ll be distracted during the rest of your planned-out speech until you get to the part where the answer they wanted comes up!

Overall, the entire Lawyering program definitely felt like a liiiitttlle bit extra to cram in with all the doctrine I was trying to absorb in my foundational courses, but it has certainly left me feeling prepared for my internship this summer and for my future career as an attorney.

April & May Events

Hi! Here’s my favorite type of post for all of you! A roundup of all the amazing things happening around Boston in the next month!!

IT’S RED SOX SEASON: Check out the schedule to catch a game!

April 5 – June 2: Happy Place Boston– get all the best Insta pics here!

April 15: MARATHON MONDAY!!

April 18: The Humanitarian Crisis at the Border and Beyond at BU Law featuring Maria Cramer as moderator, Congressman Joe Kennedy III, Nicole Ramos, and Professor Sarah Sherman-Stokes

April 19: 10th Annual Empirical Health Law Conference at BU Law bringing together top scholars on cutting-edge research projects in the field

April 27 – April 29: Museum of Fine Arts’ Art in Bloom– a festival of fine art and flowers

April 28: Mexican Street Food Festival in Cambridge

May 11: Boston Night Market in Boston City Hall Plaza

May 17-18: HarpoonFest (21+) Tickets go fast!

May 24-26: Boston Calling Lineup includes Hozier, Travis Scott, Tame Impala, and more!

 

Lawyering Moot Court

Hi Everyone!

I want to give you a quick overview of another component to “Lawyering”: Oral Arguments. As part of Lawyering we write an appellate brief and then argue in front of a “Chief Justice”, an alumnus of BU Law.

The oral argument was a good way to see how the written argument is a persuasive piece that aids in arguing for a client. Essentially, the oral argument is a skeleton of your written brief and tests your knowledge of the cases as applied to your client.

The oral argument can shed light on weaknesses in your argument as posed by the Chief Justice. I found it important to concede on some elements of the argument, but also make sure to steer the answer back toward favorability of my client. When the Chief Justice provided feedback at the end of the argument, he said it was important to be able to concede on certain elements but make sure to be persuasive for your client by citing and quoting cases that support my argument.

Additionally, it is important to anticipate what questions can be asked. Our lawyering fellows and professors did a great job of giving us a mock argument to start thinking about these questions. There was also an important element of public speaking, speaking confidently, and carrying yourself well. Eye contact with the judges and being able to hold yourself up under questioning was definitely important. In order to do this it was really crucial to know your argument so you don’t have to look down at your paper to answer questions.

The oral argument is a great way to gain exposure to litigation work, but also in public speaking!