Spring into Action

I just wrapped up the second week of my spring semester, and I already feel out of breath. Don’t get me wrong—my classes are stimulating and I readily embrace the challenge—but the pace is dizzying nonetheless.

I’ve got a fantastic schedule lined up this spring that offers a healthy mix of doctrinal classes, a policy seminar, and a professional skills course. For starters, I’m taking criminal procedure, a bread and butter foundational course that every law student should take. Attorneys are expected to have a basic understanding of criminal procedure (it’s on the bar exam!), but more importantly, nothing is more empowering than knowing your rights.

My second doctrinal class is Intro to Federal Income Tax. Are those groans I hear? A year ago I would have laughed a good long while if you told me I would be taking a tax class in law school.

hahaha-no

In the end, I reluctantly followed the advice of multiple mentors who independently urged me to take a basic tax course—and I couldn’t be more grateful. Professor Walker’s class has been engaging since day 1, when we walked through Vice President Pence’s tax return. (Usually he starts the class by reviewing the President’s tax return, but that option wasn’t available this year…) After only a few days rifling through the behemoth Internal Revenue Code, I already have a greater appreciation for tax law as a window into our country’s moral compass. With each new provision we learn, we dissect the policy rationales, which range from incentivizing economic behavior to cherry-picking groups that Congress deems worthy of special tax benefits. (I’m looking at you, § 107!)

I love seminars. Juvenile Delinquency was one of the best courses I’ve taken at BU Law, so I saw fit to follow that up with an Education Law & Policy seminar that centers on the development and evolution of K-12 public schools in the United States. While this is by far my most homework-intensive course, I feel nothing but glee at devoting so much of my week to learning about critical issues that impact our schools. Having attended excellent public schools from first grade through college, and having taught at public high schools, a private elementary school, and a public junior high school in Japan, this seminar has helped me reflect back on those experiences and evaluate them through a more sophisticated lens. My classmates bring a wealth of knowledge to our discussions; they include former Teach For America members, charter school teachers, and teachers of students with disabilities. In our last class we confronted the legacy of Brown v. Board—segregation, desegregation, and resegregation—which will inform our subsequent discussions of contemporary education policy issues.

Finally, I signed up for Mediation on a whim, and I’m so glad that I did. Each weekly three-hour class begins with theoretical discussions before moving to a series of simulations where we practice the skills that we have learned. I have yet to mediate a conflict; thus far I have been role-playing clients seeking justice for their perceived harms. As a naturally collaborative person, this class is right up my alley. We practice active listening, principled negotiation, and consensus building from a position of neutrality. We don’t control the outcome; rather, we empower our clients to find a solution that works for them.

On top of my four courses, I’m also participating in the Judge John R. Brown Admiralty Moot Court Competition. Tulane University Law School is sponsoring this year’s competition, which will take place between March 23-25 at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, Louisiana. Our three-person team has been diligently working on our brief ahead of next week’s submission deadline. Once that’s in, our next stop is New Orleans!

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