Reflections from a post-first-semester-1L

When my fellow classmates and I were seated in the Law auditorium in August, Dean O’Rourke began speaking by expressing that, “our primary goal is to make Boston University School of Law the best place in the world to be a law student.” Obviously, I’ve only attended BU Law so I don’t have a strong foundation for comparison (although I do have several friends at various other law schools). There are a lot of law schools in the United States, let alone in the world. In fact, there are a lot of law schools just in the northeast alone. So throughout my first semester, I’ve consistently pondered what may distinguish BU Law. It should be no surprise to anyone reading this that law school is extremely challenging so I’ll try and refrain from the generic law-school-is-miserable-and-everything-they-say-about-it-is-true descriptions and outline why I frankly think BU Law is a fantastic place to be a law student (at least a first-year law student).

Professors: I’ve expressed previously that BU Law professors are consistently rated among the best in the country. Our contracts professor would sing us a song related to a case we had recently read at the end of (almost) every class. Our torts professor never failed to make us laugh each session. I remember when we were discussing a McDonald’s coffee-spilling case, I thought to myself—no one should be laughing this much in a torts class. As I mentioned in a previous post, our civil procedure professor went on a run along the Charles with us. It’s felt very good to be excited to go to class each day. It became clear very early on that BU Law prioritizes teaching quality and I am very grateful to have benefited from that priority this semester.

Diversity: I remember during orientation, one of my classmates mentioned how privileged she felt to be surrounded by so many intelligent and interesting people. Every single one of my classmates contributes something unique to the classroom. People come from all four corners of the United States as well as abroad. From the multitude of languages the 1L class speaks to the varying interests, academic experiences, and ethnic backgrounds of everyone—there is a rich dynamic throughout the building.

The Building: While I probably don’t appreciate the new Redstone building as much as the upperclassmen, I did visit the tower last spring when I sat in on a class so I think I can still appreciate the upgrade to an extent. Coming to the law school seven days a week is a lot easier when you have a building as nice as ours. It’s a little compact right now with only five floors so I’m really excited to have both the new building and the renovated tower when it re-opens next year.

Students: I wrote a whole post on the mentorship support at BU Law so I wont go into detail, but the atmosphere in the law building is very different from what I expected a law school to be like. Throughout these past four months, my classmates (generally) are always excited to see each other and catch up on life. I had to miss contracts one morning for an eye doctor appointment and I immediately received several texts from my classmates asking if I was ok and offering to share their notes from class. Misery loves company and I know the biggest reason I survived my first semester was because I had the support of my classmates.

To say law school is challenging would undoubtedly be an understatement. In these past four months, I’ve discovered qualities in myself that I didn’t know I had. It was right around this time last year when I received my admit letter from BU and in the midst of 11 other applications, I would have never foresaw that BU is where I would end up. I have genuinely enjoyed my time these past four months, as difficult and challenging as it has been. With one semester in the books, I’m 1/6 lawyered. I’m thrilled to have a much needed break these next two weeks but am also excited to return and face the challenges and opportunities of next semester, including the inaugural 1L lawyering lab.  I do think that BU is an exceptional place to be a law student and I’m thankful to have the privilege of studying the law here.

 

Bench-to-Bedside Biomedical Innovations

I’ve written previously about the fantastic extracurriculars in the BU community, but as far as the academics themselves we’re totally confined to legal studies, right? No. You can actually cross register with almost any school on campus. It is however up to you to consider how future would-be employers will evaluate your decision to eschew Trusts, Wills, and Estates in favor of three credits of 16th century pirate lore or whatever course description most delights you. Maybe you’re better off auditing that. BUT! There are some classes that are designed to be interdisciplinary, and actually help you build incredibly useful skills supplementing your legal education.

One such class is ‘Bench-to-Bedside: Biomedical Innovations’ or B2B as I came to refer to it in shorthand, which is through the School of Management but includes bioengineering, medical, and clinical investigation students in addition to MBAs and JDs. The course discussed the legal, business, and technical implications of translating new technologies into biomedical products and the many hurdles a would-be techs start up company has to clear. Each week we read a case study on a different product or company, and frequently speakers active in the field from patent attorneys to venture capitalists would come in for guest lectures.

All this was very informative of course, but a huge chunk of the course was interactive: the class split into groups with every graduate program represented by one or two students and were assigned real technologies currently under development at MIT, the Forsyth Institute, and even Boston University itself. (The breakdown of students from different disciplines was somewhat unbalanced in that there were only three law students enrolled and six different groups, and the professor made a particular point of emphasizing how much each team would appreciate having someone capable of handling patent law: as soon as it was time to form groups I was swamped with team invites.  It was like being the belle of the ball.)  In the ten years the course has been offered quite a few groups have continued their involvement with the projects after the class concluded to enter and win business planning competitions, and some had even formed actual legitimate start up companies around the innovations they were working with. It became apparent fairly early on that some significant technical limitations would prevent that from becoming a reality for my team’s project, so we did ultimately have to give the project a ‘Kill’ recommendation, but we walked through the steps of tech start up anyway for education’s sake.

Throughout the semester we assessed the scientific and funding issues of the products and processes (my particular group had a new diagnostic test) and the likelihood of success of a venture based on that innovation. This meant learning more about price analysis, antigens, funding schemata, and FDA regulations than I’d ever anticipated having cause to learn as well as a fair bit of trial-by-fire for my tentative grasp on the formalities of patent law. I delivered an ‘elevator pitch’ wherein I role-played describing the entire product and requesting funding in a mere 90 seconds to an investor with dubious interest in speaking with me and gave not one but two team powerpoint presentations (or ‘slide decks’ as MBAs seem to call them) on subjects I’d known next to nothing about (my group and I decided that since everyone else had hard science backgrounds and I was the closest we had to a layperson that I should explain the innovation itself as well as its Intellectual Property status, under the theory that if I could explain it in a way that made sense to myself anyone would be able to understand. This was a good theory, but did mean I had to master tongue twisters like “urine-based antigen detection multiplex assay”).   I collaborated with teammates from four different schools and three different countries who were actually lovely people, but by the end of meetings that would sometimes stretch until 11pm at night we frequently parted with “Y’all are great but I really hope I don’t have to see you again this week”. It was a dramatic amount of work and much of it was outside of my comfort zone, but the takeaways were well worthwhile. And I know so, so much about tuberculosis now.

Do You Blog?

We live in an age dominated by social media. Twitter has become a news source for millennials and broadcast networks alike. Facebook allows people from all over the world to stay connected. When people have thoughts that go beyond the scope of these social networks, they often turn to blogging. Blogs are a way for individuals to express their thoughts on different topics and share them with others. Now that they can be easily shared through social media, they have become more widespread and influential than in the past. The question is, do you blog? If not, why not?

It’s fairly simple. Find a website like WordPress to create a space online for your blog. Pick a subject, write what you think about it, and voilà! You are now a blogger. Post a link to it on LinkedIn. Tweet about it. Share your thoughts with the world!

Plenty of people do it. It’s a nice way to reflect on things. Lawyers in nearly every area of law write law blogs, otherwise known as blawgs, to discuss various legal topics. They have a more personal feel to them and really give you insight into how lawyers think and feel about different subjects.

If you’re not blogging already, you should be. Blogs are yet another important tool to use to build an online presence and get your name out there. Your thoughts are more important than you think. There are those out there that would be more than happy to read them. So get out there and start blogging!

Home For The Holidays

Here I am back in Florida, enjoying the sunshine and the warm weather before heading back to Boston for my last semester of law school. It’s always great spending time with family in addition to getting some much needed rest and relaxation. I appreciate being able to make it home for the holidays. Even though school may be ending for me and the future may be uncertain, I will always remember where I came from.

They say home is where the heart is. Boston has become a home for me as I’ve grown to love things about it, but I still love many things about Florida as well. I was born there, my family is there, and the weather is very nice. I’ll always be from Florida, just as I will have always attended Boston University for law school. Each new chapter in our lives adds something to who we are.

I came to Boston somewhat unsure of myself. The first year of law school was challenging yet rewarding. I developed skills I never knew I had before and met people that have changed my life for the better. My second year allowed me to explore my interests further and to find a path to follow after my time as a law student is over. This third year is already preparing me for life after graduation. My next and final semester will be filled with completing the tasks necessary to finally become a practicing attorney, and I am more excited than ever before.

Though this chapter of my life may be coming to a close, the next one looks promising. The bar exam will be a new challenge; one that I am eager to overcome. My life as a lawyer is closer than it’s ever been, and for that I have BU Law to thank. I look forward to joining the community of alumni very soon.

Free From the Curve

There are times when the law school experience can be rough to say the least -at times that is a catastrophic understatement- but fellow law student friends can be an absolute saving grace. It’s incredible to have people who know firsthand what you’re going through, and even better to have people who know exactly what you’e going through because they’re in the same classes with you. So while of course you have got for the large part to choose classes that are most interesting to you and/or likely to be beneficial to your legal career, it’s really great if you’re able to coordinate to have a friend or two taking the same courses at the same time*. So, ten friends should be amazing, right?

Yes, but also no. Because of The Curve. If you weren’t previously aware most law school classes are ‘graded on a curve’ which means that only a certain percentage of the class can receive top grades and the rest move down from there- there is some sort of rationale to this I think involving avoiding grade inflation and maybe also evening out GPAs but I can’t precisely say I understand the method. This is not the case for clinic classes and courses that are under the size cap (which I believe is 22ish? Foreshadowing…) but if it is a curved class, study groups can sometimes be a sticky situation.  The better anyone else does the directly less good a grade you are likely to receive yourself, which  is something of a disincentive to helping out your classmates. One doesn’t like to think of oneself as “up against” their peers but in a sense you sort of totally are. A good coping tactic is a small insular study group which could operate under the theory that technically the three or four of you could all get A’s, and that’s how I’ve handled group studying for most of my curved courses.

Trademark presented a unique circumstance because literally ten of my favorite people were enrolled with me. There were roughly 40 people in the class so it was definitely going to be curved. But then! Surprise! Turns out LLM students are not part of the curve, and a headcount of the JD students fell just below the required curve minimum! (Neat side note to that: many of the LLM students were practicing attorneys in their home countries, some specializing specifically in intellectual property, and they frequently had interesting commentary to share on differences in international laws.)

What followed after that revelation was one of the best and certainly most fun collaborative learning environments I’ve had the pleasure of participating in. We reserved blocks of time in group study rooms and while everyone had certain times they had to prioritize a different course or exam, for the vast majority of that two week period any time you wanted to discuss the nuances of Trademark law someone was going to be there who could help you out. Need an acronym for the factors of the Grimaldi test? Put it in the group Google Doc. Notice your notes are a bit sparse from a class day you must’ve been sleep deprived? Someone’s got you. Realize a succinct means of determining secondary meaning? By all means share it! It was wonderful. It remains to be seen how any of us actually did on the exam of course, grades are still weeks away from coming out, but if I had to hazard a guess I’d say we all benefited from being able to work together without the curve.

*Although there is also something to be said for staggering classes and then being able to harass people who’ve already taken your course to explain things and/or share outlines, which is especially nice 2L and 3L year because it becomes harder to track down outlines for upper level classes.

Type “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog,” 500 times, fast

Yesterday, I typed about 5,000 words in 2.5 hours. That works out to about 33 words per minute. It’s not a very impressive speed in general. To get into upper-level journalism courses at The University of Texas at Austin, I had to pass a mandatory typing speed test (now repealed; I’m guessing they realized that “kids these days” all can type like maniacs) with 29 WPM. I had to take it twice to pass because I was so nervous about my entire future riding on my ability to type a paragraph about a bear in the woods. (It was traumatic enough that I still remember the gist of the nonsense paragraph that took up 2 whole minutes of my life, a decade ag0.) These days my pure typing speed averages 60 WPM; I’ve typed a lot since 2004.

Of course, my typing speed yesterday was slowed somewhat by the fact that I was typing an exam rather than someone else’s nonsense. My nonsense (or knowledge — semantics!) was all I had for this 3-hour Family Law exam, and I tried to spend every possible minute typing.

Not every exam is a race to see how fast your fingers can go, but this professor had made it clear that “more is more” in her course, and past exams, made available to us online, backed her up. The best past exams were 20 to 25 pages, and with an average double-spaced page containing 250 words (or so I’ve heard), I was just barely in the range, content-wise.

Now, I can hear you thinking, “So what? You typed a lot? Isn’t the content more important?”

My cat is very excited about my break, too. She is tired of batting at highlighters and Post-it flags.

Yes, it’s definitely, definitely important. But the exam hasn’t been graded yet, so I have nothing to go on but my gut and that word count, until grades come in late January. My hunch says I really knew this material; I missed a few things in the mad dash to type it all out, and probably lost my train of thought a few times, but I don’t think it was catastrophic.

Of course, I’ve been wrong before. The traditional law school exam format is not my forte. I prefer to have the time to think things over and create decent sentences. Alternatively, I like having a tight word limit so I know it’s not a matter of me vs. the person in the room who knows exactly as much as me but can type 60 WPM while thinking about complex legal issues.

It’s funny. I liked this class a lot. It was extremely informative and engaging, and touched on such a range of issues important to daily life, as well as legal life. I looked forward to each class, but I can’t help but feel immense relief that it’s over. That’s law school for me: I really like it in the moment (most moments!); but, added up, it’s often overwhelming.

A month’s vacation does feel like a fitting reward for reaching the halfway point in law school. Now, to give my fingers their well-earned respite …

1L Mentee

Today was my first final exam as a 1L. I’ll write more on my thoughts on finals and my first semester as a law student in my next post but, as a way to decompress before I hit the books again tomorrow morning for my Contracts final next Monday, I want to express the gratitude I feel towards all my mentors this past semester.

Here at BU Law, 1L’s are offered a tremendous support system. It’s no surprise to anyone that 1L year is hard. Extremely hard. However, with such an overwhelming amount of stress and difficulty comes an overwhelming amount of support. Many of the affinity groups at BU provide mentors to 1L’s in order to better facilitate the transition to law school. At BU, I am a 1L rep for LALSA (Latin American Law Students Association) and a member of APALSA (Asian Pacific American Law Students Association). In LALSA, the 1L’s who opted into the mentorship program were all assigned a “family” consisting of several upperclassmen that would serve as mentors throughout the year. My LALSA “family” consisted of five people not including myself. Prior to the Thanksgiving “break” (not really a break since finals began in a week), all of the LALSA mentees were given care packages and holiday cards from their “family” members  in order to help them survive the following weeks.  In APALSA, we were all given one upperclassmen to serve as a mentor throughout the year. I know I speak for several of my friends when I say that having an upperclassmen to whom we can turn to when we feel stressed out or overwhelmed or unsure whether we are going clinically insane has provided a priceless avenue of support.  Aside from the mentors I have received from the affinity groups, 1L’s are able to opt into an alumni mentorship program as well as a faculty advisor program as well as a general upperclassmen mentorship program. When I was given my alumni mentor, I was thrilled to find out he was successfully working in the same field of law I am interested in. I was also excited to find out that my faculty advisor had similar interests to mine.

Throughout my first semester, my LALSA and APALSA mentors have taken me to lunch and offered invaluable advice on how to succeed as a law student. I am consistently reminded of how lucky I am to have such a strong and dedicated support system at BU. My alumni mentor met with me (extensively) via phone call (since he works in DC) and also gave me important advice with regard to my career goals. My alumni mentor even introduced me to one of his past mentees that was also pursuing similar goals to mine so that I could pick her brain for further advice. My faculty mentor took all of his advisees out for some great Thai food.

On a day-to-day basis, I am consistently greeted by upperclassmen that show a genuine interest in my success and well-being which makes coming to the law building every day less of a chore and more of something to which I look forward. I know I personally visited this blog as a 0L to get a sense of BU Law so I will definitely talk about my experiences as a first semester 1L once finals are over (December 19th!). However, after my first exam as a 1L, I wanted to express how proud and grateful I am to have joined a community that shows a sincere concern for the success and personal health of its students.

IT Help Desk Staff Are Your Friends

I’ve been having a little trouble with my computer lately. It wasn’t too bad, but for some reason it was having trouble downloading a few necessary updates. I did some trouble shooting and couldn’t figure it out, so for the first time in my BU Law career, I went to IT Help.

A note – I did not buy my computer from BU. I bought it at Staples the summer before 1L. I have an Acer laptop that runs Windows 7 – BU does not even offer any Acer products. I did purchase a third party 3-year warranty (which came in handy when my LCD screen broke last spring,) but I have no contract or relationship whatsoever with BU’s computer store.

Luckily, IT Help at BU Law doesn’t even ask where you bought your computer! I went in and told them what was going on. I took a seat and worked on some class reading while they fixed my updater and uploaded the 73 (!!) missing updates that showed once the fix was applied. A+ BU Law IT Help Desk!

(As a side note, I would like to reiterate something you likely know. As awesome as BU IT Help Desk is for minor computer problems, they cannot save your information if your hard drive crashes or needs a factory re-set. After watching several of my classmates have melt downs because of computer crashes right before exams, I implore you: back up everything. We have cloud computing now, so you have no excuse. Personally, I save EVERYTHING in cloud file (Drop Box is a favorite at BU), which I have protected with 2-step sign in. When my LCD screen broke last semester I had no panic – only annoyance – because all of my school documents were available through the internet. I did not lose a single thing, and living with a borrowed computer for two weeks was no big deal.)

Boston in the Winter

The single worst part of being a student is the fact that winter, Christmas, and a whole bunch of other holidays directly coincide with the busiest part of the fall semester. Guys, I love Christmas. I LOVE Christmas. I am THAT person. Christmas starts on November 1st for me, and no, I do not care about Thanksgiving. I love binge watching those bad Christmas movies and I never get tired of Christmas music and my ideal holiday would be filled with snow and wrapping paper and warmth and delicious baked goods. Christmas was made for me.

And then… there’s what December is actually like. The finals. The outlines. The stress. The fact that my bank account balance, comprised entirely of my fall loan disbursement, only goes down and I have gifts to buy. The crushing realization that, if I wait until finals are over to celebrate Christmas, my holiday season will be anywhere from 3-7 days long.  Not so good, right?

I write about balance a lot, and it’s never more important than this time of the year. So I give up some things – like 8 hours of sleep and frequent gym time, sadly – in exchange for time to celebrate Christmas. Those bad TV movies? I watch 5 or 6 in one day, in my pajamas, on the couch, while outlining. (The plots are not complex. Trust me, it can be done.) I burn Christmas tree and peppermint candles constantly. And, most importantly, I make time to go out into the world and see the beautiful parts of December. I’m including photos below of some of my favorite things about Boston in the winter!

sunset

Sure, the sun sets at 4:30 in the winter and that’s depressing. But if you end up at Long Wharf around that time? Perfection.

tree

The Christmas tree at Faneuil Hall is one of my favorite traditions! I go to the big ceremony where they light it every year. (Bonus points: our tree is even bigger than the Rockefeller Center one!)

Snow in the Public Garden, which is quite possibly my favorite place in Boston.

Snow in the Public Garden, which is quite possibly my favorite place in Boston.

 

Law school is really, really, really hard, and grades are really, really, really important. There’s no getting around that. I still look forward to a Christmas season where I don’t have finals and can fully embrace the season.  But, for now, making the time to enjoy it for even just a few hours keeps me sane and helps me get through the toughest part of the semester. I came to BU in large part because Boston is so beautiful. Might as well enjoy it when I can!

Efficiency & Studying: Split Up the Grunt Work

As many people will tell you, studying for law school exams is often about the process as much as the final product; writing an outline is generally more important than having an outline next to you during an exam.

There are some parts of studying that are just task work that must be completed before you can really get to it. For tasks such as these, it is incredibly helpful for everyone if you find a group of people and split up the work.

For example, in my Partnership Tax class this semester, a group of us agreed that we wanted to capture all of the hypotheticals given in class in certain weeks of the class, as they will likely be similar to some of our exam questions. However, each of the four classes we wanted to review is two hours long. So, instead of each of us watching eight hours of tape, we have agreed to each watch one of the classes, write down the hypotheticals and their correct answers, and share the results. This will give each of us the opportunity to spend more time reviewing the actual problems instead of re-watching full classes.

Other good tasks to break up can include scanning pages of hornbooks that include practice problems, or downloading and compiling materials posted on Blackboard Learn. In the words of Samwise the Great – “share the load.”

p.s. you might even get some new friends and study buddies out of it!