I have to admit- when I first heard that BU Law Review members write a thirty-page paper on a “novel” legal theory, my first thought was, is that mandatory? I certainly hoped not. I had survived my first year of law school reading cases and thinking about legal rules. But come up with original ideas? Think of a legal argument that no one has made yet? Seemed like a near impossible task.
At the end of 1L year I, along with many others in my class, participated in the writing competition to get onto a law journal. We got the 300-page packet of instructions and research materials as soon as we finished our last exam. Four law school exams immediately followed by a week of footnote citations and memo writing is not exactly a time in my life that I look back on fondly. But we powered through, and by July we were getting phone calls and congratulations from one of the six different journals at BU Law: BU Law Review, American Journal of Law and Medicine, Review of Banking and Finance Law, International Law Journal, Journal of Science and Technology Law, and Public Interest Law Journal.
I am now a member of BU Law Review, which means that three times each semester I spend about 10 days editing an article that is being prepared for publishing. This is a large time commitment in itself. And now that we’re five weeks into the semester I have to start thinking about the dreaded thirty-page paper, called a “Note.” Turns out, its mandatory.
When I sat down to brainstorm, I tried to think of a general topic first. Most of my ideas were about legal issues I had come in contact with over the summer – either in the Health Care Fraud Unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office or during my part-time research for Professor Jeffrey Cohen on publicity sanctions for corporations.
Once I took the time to really think about it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only do I have some identifiable interests, but I also have enough knowledge about them to have some opinions. You know how people say that you know you understand something when you can explain it to someone else? Well, you know that you understand a legal issue when you have an opinion about the direction that the case law should go in.
Now I’m starting to push myself to come up with some original thoughts and novel arguments. It certainly isn’t going to be easy, but it seems a lot more possible than it did a few months ago.
This is an example of how law school is both frustrating and amazing: you read and struggle and at times feel like you are drowning in – instead of actually absorbing – information. But, eventually, all of that struggling slowly settles into a strong foundation of legal knowledge.
And that foundation is constantly growing and getting stronger. Even five weeks into the semester, I know so much more than I did over the summer. Remember that time I tried to explain my interest in the False Claims Act to a potential employer during an interview? I clearly had no idea what I was talking about. But now, I could probably have a halfway intelligent conversation about the False Claims Act. Another five weeks from now, who knows – maybe I’ll have an original thought!