The Rules of Health Law

I’ve had the opportunity to gain a great deal of practical skills during my time in law school.  I took a course on contract drafting, where I learned to review, edit, and write a variety of agreements. I did a health law externship, which allowed me to spend time outside of the school and gain experience dealing with legal issues related to clinical research, drug development, and conflicts of interest. This semester I decided to take a class that combines my interests in health law and administrative law. A class that has never been offered before. A class known as Administrative Rule Making in Health Law.

This was my first course with Professor Kevin Outterson, who teaches health law and corporate law here. I have taken many seminars at BU Law, but not one like this. Professor Outterson structures the course like a clinic, allowing us to participate in an agency’s rule making process directly. We get to choose an agency and a rule that is related to health law and open for comment. We then take a stance on the rule that has been proposed and write a comment to the agency advocating our position regarding how the final rule should look. Professor Outterson provides feedback and advice throughout the course to help make our comments more effective, but in the end it is our name on the comments that will be submitted and read by the agencies.

I chose the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, otherwise known as CMS, as my agency. The Proposed Rule I chose to comment on was on that related to the coverage of preventive services under the Affordable Care Act. I wrote my note for the American Journal of Law & Medicine on the cases leading up to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc, which was decided by the Supreme Court this summer. This rule was a response to the Court’s ruling and proposed to change the definition of an “eligible organization” that could receive an accommodation instead of being required to provide contraceptive coverage to which it religiously objected. I felt the need to comment on this rule to make sure the regulations stayed true to the Court’s reasoning in Hobby Lobby and made sure the definition remained narrow.

Writing the comment involved plenty of research. I read through many articles and treatises on corporate law, especially the law related to close corporations. The Proposed Rule sought to add a “closely held for-profit corporation” to the definition of an “eligible organization,” so I included precedent from state and federal law as well as data from studies to support the idea that such a corporation should have a limited number of shareholders.

Professor Outterson was a great resource for both the health law and corporate law components of my comment. He suggested sources to find and read, helped me to refine the thoughts I had on different parts of the rule, and guided me in writing a comment that an agency would not only be forced to respond to, but one they would be interested in reading. By taking a clear position and providing support for that position, I was able to write and submit a comment I was proud of. I look forward to seeing how the agency responds.

If you’d like to read my comment, just click on the following link:

Zachary Rothman Comment on Proposed Rule CMS-9940-P

 

Legal Follies, Part 3L

If you follow this blog back to the very beginning, you’ll see that the one extra-curricular with which I have stuck throughout law school is the legal follies. 1L year I was on the cast and was challenged to step up and embrace the intense spring semester rehearsal schedule. 2L year my plate was very full with my responsibilities to the International Law Journal and the Health Law Association, so I dialed by involvement back to just being on the follies’ stage crew. This year I’ve rejoined the follies cast, and I’m also serving as the show’s producer. Knowing what I would be getting myself into this time, I’ve front-loaded my most difficult classes this year so I won’t feel too overwhelmed this January and February.

This year we’ve been dealing with a number of logistical changes. As producer, I’ve been practicing my financial and leadership skills in working with our directors, the law school, and BU’s Student Activities Organization to find a new venue for our show since the Law Auditorium will be closed this spring. While we’re sad that we won’t perform where we’ve always performed, I am optimistic about our  new space, which is in the GSU Conference Auditorium.

I love the follies. We are such a fun group – our whole purpose is to come together and create humor. Our alumni come back year after year to watch and support our performances. We work our butts off spring semester – when we have three hours of rehearsal four days a week for six weeks straight on top of all our classes – but in doing so we become closer. If you like theater or comedy and you’re willing to take on the challenge of our spring rehearsal schedule, I highly recommend trying out for the follies! Joining the follies has added a special community and a great outlet to my law school experience.

As an example of the fun you can look forward to if you join us in the future, this past weekend we had our annual retreat. We drove up to a weekend rental house in Cape Cod and spent the days getting to know each other and come together as a new group by taking part in theater exercises, improv, and writing exercises. We cooked and cleaned together and got to know our four newest cast members. We have a great group this year and I think we can look forward to great show this February – we hope to see you there!

 

“If you aren’t afraid of getting it wrong …”

My Evidence professor says we are going to go over the hardest problem in the book. He explains that it is the best-written problem, with the most complex answer, in the entire semester.

He gives his usual speech about he doesn’t embarrass anyone, ever, and I have my usual thought: How would you know? Isn’t embarrassment 99 percent internal? My tag sticking out doesn’t embarrass me, I’m embarrassed by my tag sticking out. (Yes, law school logic is infecting my inner monologue.)

Then, he asks for a volunteer: “So, if you aren’t afraid of getting it wrong …”

I had gone over the problem with a classmate ahead of time, and worked out the kinks we recognized. The problem-based teaching method isn’t entirely new to me — my Criminal Law class was about 30 percent working through hypotheticals — but this course is made or broken on your understanding of three to six problems from the textbook each day. Even worse (in a class of 70 or so students), participation counts, and it’s primarily on a volunteer basis. “What the heck?” I think, and raise my hand.

“Ms. Margolis!” the professor shouts.

Oh, great. I am the only one with a hand up. I guess I’m in for it.

“Just so we’re clear,” I couch my reply, “I’m definitely not afraid of getting it wrong, or I wouldn’t have raised my hand.”

I outline the scenario, and start to give my take on the outcome. I’m on a roll. He interjects, “But what about …”

I try to give the answer. I know the answer. But my terminology is just slightly off. I feel clumsy, unsophisticated.

He throws me a bit of a bone. I still fumble, flustered by my misstep.

“Anyone else?” he says.

I guess my turn at the hardest question in the book is up.

But there’s always next class, and the one after that, and the one after that. Participation doesn’t stop counting just because you give a dumb answer (or an answer that makes perfect sense in your head but comes out sounding less than). I keep participating, more or less, because that’s how I learn best. I need that feedback to tell me where I’m floundering and where I’m all set. Luckily, I’m not afraid of getting it wrong anymore, and somehow, most of the time, I don’t.

 

Young Alumni Networking Event

When we talk about networking, I think we sometimes forget what we’re actually talking about. We aren’t (or aren’t *just*) amassing a rolodex of business cards and contacts in various parts of the country and sectors of industry: we’re forming connections with people. And some of those connections may end up being essentially superficial, email-check-in-every-few-months type relationships. There’s nothing wrong with that. But others are real friendships that happen to have a legal career-tinged flavor to them. You’ll text a former supervisor to see if they caught the latest episode of the show you’re both addicted to and also have they heard anything about that position that was maybe going to open up, you’ll grab lunch not just to review your resume but because you both love that one Thai place, etcetera. Networking contacts are people too!

This was reinforced when I attended a BUSL young alumni networking event last week. You hear the word ‘networking,’ you look at your calendar, and if you can possibly make it work, you go. Whether you have a job already lined up or not, whether you plan on practicing in this geographic area or not: if you’re serious about this whole being-an-attorney-in-the-legal-community thing (which is both a much bigger and yet simultaneously smaller pond than you would think), you should go.

Who are the young alumni though? Some graduated ten or more years ago and it’s not my business to say why they’re attending events with an adjective in the title that perhaps no longer applies to them quite so accurately, BUT others graduated last year. You know, when I was a 2L. So, Fall 2012-Spring 2014, we were classmates. So the dreaded ‘networking’ became more catching up with old friends, commiserating with the anxiety of those who haven’t gotten bar exam results back yet, reminiscing on the greatest moments from our Trial Advocacy class… and trading business cards, hearing a bit about what life as an actual first year associate is like, and introducing each other to yet more students-turned-alum. It turned out to be a thoroughly fun as well as successful evening.

Team Me

I am a workaholic. I know that about myself. I tend to dedicate full force to whatever it is I have committed myself. I tend to neglect my physical, emotional, and mental health. Last year, I stressed too much about school and pushed myself harder than ever to improve my grades. By the end of the year, I was burned out. I filled my first year with learning, laughter, tears (no shortage of tears), and stress, but I didn’t fill it with time for me. I definitely pushed aside all of the things that mattered to me before law school (like exercising), and I deeply regretted it.

I decided I am on “Team Me.” I can’t put myself last and hold myself to an unrelenting and unreasonable standard to work, work, and more work. This may sound very obvious to many of you, but you will get swept up in law school’s stress, anxiety, and pressure. You’ll convince yourself to sacrifice an hour you would otherwise give yourself, and you’ll justify it by saying, “I’m showing dedication and commitment to my studies.” Yes, sacrificing one or two additional hours a week to your studies especially during peak times is perfectly reasonable, but slowly those one or two additional hours become zero hours for you. You start by slightly tipping the scales for one over the other then you completely give everything to one. Whoa. How did that happen?

You forgot that you are a priority too. Sometimes that priority shifts depending on varying circumstances, but it should never completely miss the list altogether. It’s incredibly easy to forget about making time for yourself just like you make time for everything else you deem important. You may feel guilty doing it because it means taking away from studying, but it’s a necessary balance. What is the “right” balance boils down to who you are and how you learn. For me, I need to exercise a few times a week because it allows me to clear my head, push out negative feelings, and come back to my books refreshed. For you, well, you decide but don’t forget to make it a priority.

Things To Do In Law School: Be A Campus Representative

Many of us are going through law school without having school-year jobs that require a big time commitment. Some people take some work-study positions during 2L year and beyond, such as working at the law library. Some people work as Research Assistants for professors, which gives you both research experience and also pays. Even if you do not do these things because you are keeping yourself very busy with classes, journals, moot court, or other time consuming law school activities, I highly recommend taking some time during your 1L or 2L year to research bar review companies and to become a campus representative for the company you prefer.

Personally, I’m a Themis representative. After looking into the companies that recruit on campus during 1L year, I decided that I like their education and recruiting models. I also liked their regional managers, and they offered courses for all the states for which I’m thinking of taking the bar. I have friends who are representatives for other companies, such as Barbri and Kaplan. For most of us, the commitment is the same: you sit for an hour a week at your company’s table and let other students know what that company offers and why you chose it. I believe some companies set recruitment goals and  sometimes offer incentives based on recruitment numbers. Once you do this for a specified period of time (for Themis, it is currently two years,) you earn a yourself a bar review course. Some companies offer varying incentives to students willing to ‘table’ for a third year. Keep in mind that these days, 3L is usually too late to sign up as a representative and earn a full course – researching this early in your 1L or 2L year is to your benefit.

Come on, you might say, how valuable is this, really? Well, bar review courses range in price from ~$1,400 to $3,000+ depending on what you need to sign up for (e.g. multiple states’ courses). Student loans are not available to cover these courses, but “bar loans” are. However, bar loans tend to have high interest rates, which means these loans are expensive to you as a consumer. (For example, Sallie Mae rates range from 3.75% – 12.74% APR; Wells Fargo rates range from 7.23% to 9.53% APR; Discover rates range from 2.99% to 10.99%. Harvard has published this guide to understand bar loans that can also be helpful.) Since they are not government loans, bar loans cannot be ‘bundled’ with any federal student loans you take out.

You may well succeed in your plan to get a firm job which will pay for your bar review course. If you don’t, or if this is not the kind of job you’re looking for, being a representative can keep you out of the bar loans situation, or free up savings you would have had to use on the bar otherwise. Even if you do get a job that pays for bar review, you may be able to use the fact that you don’t need your bar review course paid for in salary negotiations. It shows initiative in any case.

Being a representative gives you occasion to understand how bar registration works, and what is on the bar, before that last minute when you need to learn it. It also provides you with additional connections, as well as practice speaking publicly and giving a sales pitch. All this for the very low cost of one hour per week sitting at a table, and a willingness to talk to your friends and classmates about why you chose your company’s bar review course over the others that are available.

You Can Rarely Go Wrong With Saying Too Little

If you aren’t sure if you should say something, the advice I received from the Chief of the Violent Crimes Division of the Pittsburgh United States Attorney’s Office was simple: don’t.

This isn’t bad advice in life in general, but in the legal profession in particular, you can never go wrong with saying too little. Unsure if telling your friend or parent an amusing antecdote from work could compromise a case? Don’t do it! Will mentioning a colleague’s peccadillo to a third party in passing reflect poorly on them and you in turn? Don’t do it! Is it devastatingly relevant to something you aren’t even aware of that you ran into so-and-so when they weren’t expected to be in town? You just don’t know, and safe is so much better than sorry/fired, even if it means having to be frustratingly vague about your work life and keep some fantastic seemingly-harmless details to yourself.

If something hilarious happens in open court -and things frequently do- it’s technically of public record, but does it reflect well on your office for you to recount it on the bus, or even worse in the courthouse elevator in earshot of who knows? It does not. Pro-tip: Just don’t speak in courthouse elevators at all ever, odds are far too high that jurors or opposing counsel are crammed in there with you, soon you’ll get used to just pausing conversations for the duration of your lift. 

So who can you confide in? With occasional exceptions, your coworkers are probably a safe bet if there aren’t other conflicts of interest involved. Or, can you craft a hypothetical that shares the best part of your story without disclosing any of the incriminating details? Maybe! But if not… well, by now you know what to do.

New Building, New You

Within a few days of returning to the brand new Redstone building, the transition occurs quickly. Everyone is excited to see one another again and trade summer stories that range from work experiences to new adventures. For those of us who were the last to see the tower before its renovation, we eagerly examined and scrutinized the new building. Are two elevators enough? Are the elevators fast enough? How congested are the stairways? Where are the printers? What are the new classrooms like? Did I get a fancy new locker?

These questions quickly faded away as 2Ls bustled around the building experiencing new classes and juggling both class workload and extracurricular commitments. 3Ls are harder to find but if you squint really hard, you may see one happily trotting towards an externship or a seminar. The 1Ls are much harder to spot as I’m unsure where their classes are and whether they have been corralled into one area like we were (fifth and sixth floors were our domain last year). I met a few of the 1Ls at orientation and offered whatever little words of wisdom I possessed and an ear whenever they may have questions or concerns.

The first week of school was not even over yet when 1Ls approached me with questions. Their questions were much like my own when I was floating between classes and feeling confused, befuddled, discombobulated, and a little frustrated, but goodness, they are feeling it much sooner than I did. There’s so much advice to be given, sought, and absorbed, so I will provide the one thing I learned the hard way: you are starting a new path. You will feel confused and sometimes immensely overwhelmed, but it’s early. It will take time to adjust. Part of this process is not simply mastering the reading, but it is also figuring out your strengths and weaknesses. You may need to overcome shyness to seek help in office hours. Supplements such as Examples & Explanations or hornbooks may be an invaluable tool for you. You may thrive in a study group or you succeed studying alone. Whichever the method, whatever the means, and however you do it, it must fit who you are right now and throughout this process. As you change, so will your tactics. Do not be afraid to take a deep breath, allow the process to occur, seek help if you’re unsure, and most importantly, allow yourself to make mistakes, be wrong, and change.

“One of these days, I’m gonna get organizized”

“Taxi Driver” image from http://shakyghost.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/taxi-picture.png

My goals this year are:

(1) Find wonderful opportunities, pursue them, and succeed in them.

(2) Have more fun. Laugh much more.

(3) Stay organized, efficient, and ahead of deadlines.

They are lofty — I don’t like setting goals I won’t have to work to achieve — but not inaccessible. They’re somewhat reactionary, but that’s what growth is about: recognizing where we fall short and establishing posts along the way that will give us satisfactory indicia of progress.

They’re also broad. The first is about setting up for the future, while the second and third are corrective. They are all heavily applicable to life in general, but especially poignant in law school. And they’re all urgent!

The first goal arose around the time of the first On-Campus Interview deadline. OCI is the scheme through which  incoming 2L students apply to big-firm jobs. I agonized about whether to apply, thinking about the money and prestige that awaited at the end of the daunting tunnel.

In the end, I realized it wasn’t for me. I’m interested in family law, particularly child welfare and custodial issues. Unless there’s a magical, invisible big firm unicorn out there that focuses on these issues, that world is mostly closed off to me. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other opportunities — public interest organizations, small and mid-size firms and solo practitioners, policy advocacy groups, nonprofits — but it does mean I’ll have to work that much harder to find the best fit, apply, and be hired for the summer and beyond. I’m slowly finding these opportunities.

The second goal arose around the end of last year. When I reflected on my attitude, I was shocked to realize that I wasn’t laughing nearly as much as I am used to. So I’m taking the time to eat lunch with friends, enjoy on- and off-campus events, set a fun tone in my student organizations, watch a silly sitcom or two once a week, and enjoy evenings with my great goofball of a husband.

Still, it  took me most of a year to realize what I was missing, so it will be easy to fall back into the oh-so-serious law school trap. Making this a conscientious goal will hopefully have the happy side effect of staving off the Boston winter/finals blues, too.

The last goal is a less of a challenge and more of a reminder or mantra: Don’t stop putting things in the calendar just because you “know” they’re coming. Don’t put off to tomorrow that which you could finish today. Don’t let that pile of papers on your desk get too big. Don’t sacrifice the little things for the big picture. Outline before your notes get out of hand. See deadlines as red lights and the days leading up to them as increasingly dark yellow. Keep papers in the proper folder. Eat three (or so) healthy meals a day. Get to bed at a decent hour. Go to yoga when you can. (BU Law has free weekly yoga at FitRec!)

The obvious has a way of getting obscured when you’re hyper-focused on the big picture, too. With a clinic, moot court, three different student organization leadership roles, a journal, and a full class load, I’m setting these goals so I don’t get lost in the future.

The Boston University Package: How is the Law School Integrated into BU?

If you’re in the process of looking at law schools, you’ll notice that there are some which are fully integrated into larger universities (like BU,) and some others that stand alone (for example, Vermont Law School). This post is about everything I know about how BU Law is integrated into the larger university, and how I’ve found that useful.

First – let’s talk about what’s not included. Law students generally don’t get BU meal plans. No one I know has any kind of BU meal plan, but it’s probably possible to do if you want to. You can put money on your Terrier Card to use at BU dining facilities, or you can pay in cash at those facilities. We law students tend to live off campus with other grad students or young adults & grocery shop/feed ourselves. In all honesty, I eat (and see others eating) so many frozen meals. Amy’s Organic Kitchen is basically located in my microwave.

Dinner: frozen fish sticks and peas with minute rice.

Second – there are, however, a number of BU facilities and services to which you will have access as a BU law student. For example, you can get seen by a doctor or nurse practitioner at Student Health for free. I just had my yearly physical and had my annual prescriptions renewed at Student Health – they’re great.

You can take BU gym classes for credit for no money, or you can sign up for classes for a fee with a student discount. You get free access to the BU gym and athletic facilities, but will need to pay for a gym locker and/or towel service if you want it. There is purportedly a lazy river at one of these facilities. I haven’t seen it yet. This semester I’m taking Intro to Golf for .5 credits, and a weekly Pilates Yoga Fusion class for $107 for the semester. I had golf this morning and it was a nice way to start the day, plus I hope it will be a useful thing to know. I have friends at BU law who have taken Tae Kwon Do, swimming, and sailing for credit.

Some graduate student housing is available through BU, though your lease on such apartments starts a month after you sign – so, you have to wait until July to sign for an apartment you want to start living in in August. It doesn’t give you a lot of wiggle room if such an apartment is not available by July. BU Law students are also eligible to apply to be Resident Assistants or Resident Directors of BU undergraduate housing. These positions usually include housing and sometimes meal plans, in exchange for the work you do as an RA. You must apply to these positions early, so if you’re interested, make sure you keep your eye on the deadlines.

Third – you will also have some limited options for taking classes outside the law school. If you sign up for one of the dual degrees, you will definitely take classes at the other relevant graduate school – e.g., the business school, the school of public health, the medical school, etc. You can also take classes from BU law’s graduate programs in Tax or Finance. (I’m taking 6 credits in graduate tax classes this semester and aiming for the 7-semester JD/LLM in Taxation, myself.) Outside of these, you may take elective graduate-level classes from any school at BU, though how many of these will count towards your law degree is limited. If you are interested in taking such classes, make sure you do some careful planning, as it may limit how many credits you can receive from classes taken Pass/Fail or from externships and clinics. Finally, it is my understanding that you can take a class at Boston College law school if they have a class BU does not offer.

Fourth – other things. As a BU student, you can get a Boston Linkpass (which gives you access to all busses and trains on the T system in Boston,) for $250 a semester. I highly recommend this. It costs slightly less than a Linkpass bought at a station, lasts 3-4 months, and if you lose it, you can apply to have it replaced (which is not true of normal Linkpasses.) You can also get a parking space through BU Parking & Transportation. Unless you waive it to save a few hundred dollars, you also get a BU Sports Pass as a student, so you can go and watch BU’s sports teams at home games. BU law students are involved in a few of the school’s intramural sports leagues.