‘Let me take a break from writing to do some more writing,’ I thought to myself as I settled in for my gabillionth consecutive afternoon-into-late-evening cert paper work session and opened up my blog home page instead of my saved WestLawNext research folder.
As the website reads, “BU School of Law is committed to ensuring that our students graduate with a thorough understanding and ability to conduct legal research and writing.” The work product certifying that you’ve gained these skills is known as a cert paper; ‘cert’ is also a verb in that you can “use a seminar to cert” or “really hope that your note advisor will cert you”. There are a number of ways to fulfill the requirement: writing a note for a journal, writing an independent research paper, or writing a paper for a seminar. I’ve opted for the last option and am accordingly immersed up to my eyeballs in Mental Health law… the irony of the project driving me slightly crazy is not lost on me.
My topic evolved from something I had a deep personal interest in. As I believe I’ve blogged about before, throughout law school I’ve held a part time job as a caretaker for a young woman with severe mental impairments: she is fortunate to have parents able to care for her, but I began to think about what would happen if she weren’t, prompting an examination of public guardianship and the nature of competency. I had hoped to examine if a right to treatment existed for treatments that increased competency, only to discover after consulting with a psychology research librarian at the BU undergrad Mugar library* that indeed almost nothing could increase competency in a legal sense (some treatments and services can increase function, but nurturing cognitive ability to the point of being competent to handle financial and personal affairs is a practical impossibility).
This tangent was not a total loss -although my paper has since diverged into a discussion of plenary versus limited guardianship- because it uncovered the single greatest piece of academic writing I have ever encountered. “Dolphin Assisted Therapy: Flawed Data, Flawed Conclusions,” a scathing critique of a clinical study attempting to improve the communication skills of developmentally impaired children by exposing them to dolphins which apparently, shockingly, hugely disappointingly, wasn’t all that effective.
While I am accordingly unable to make a case for the constitutional right to dolphins, I am making decent progress on wrapping up the first 30-ish page draft of the paper. Wish me luck.
*Did you know that as BU grad students we have access to virtually all the resources that the undergrads do? That is a staggering amount of resources, from subscriptions to paid databases of psychological research journals to discount movie tickets at the student union. The more you know.