The home stretch

In less than one month, I will be done with law school. 21 days, in fact.

So, in this home stretch, I thought I would share a few closing thoughts – the first on making friends in law school.

Making friends is both difficult and easy. In your first year, you are stuck with the same 70 people day in and day out. You have all your classes with those people, which means you stick with that cadre like a lost lamb and you eat, study, party, study, and study with those same 70 faces. You can’t escape them – they share the same locker room; you see them in the elevator, in the library, at the gym. It’s almost suffocating. But then, in 2L year, you start to realize how much you miss those familiar faces, the familiar names, and the sense of camaraderie.

And, those familiar faces are the same people I still hang out with two years later. Okay, so maybe not all 70 of them. But all of my closest and dearest friends are from my 1L section.

As an older, non-traditional law student, I was worried about being able to connect with my fellow students. But, even I have been able to cultivate a hilariously fun and talented group of friends. BU is a very collegial place – people are more likely to commiserate with you over a beer than steal your crim law outline. The trick is to find your tribe, your law school family. For me, it was finding a group of people who are serious about their careers, but who do not take themselves (or school) too seriously and know how to unwind.

Please take note – I am not the social chair of our class. I hardly attend bar review. You don’t have to be the most popular kid in school to find a lunch date. But you do have to try. Study groups form and disband. Friendships will be tested by gossip and short-term romances. Grades happen. Stress happens. But, you will find friends, I promise.

Running Through Law School

Note from Elizabeth: This is a guest-post from my friend and  BU Law classmate Amy Baral. The Boston Marathon is coming up in just a few short weeks, on April 21. Last year, I wrote about what it was like to see my home shattered, and what it might be like to pick up the pieces. This year, Amy is running the Marathon to support the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. If you can support her, do so here. I can’t wait to watch Amy, and all the Marathoners run, run, run.

Amy, on the left, and our fellow classmate Michelle Pascucci, on the right, after running the Hyannis Half Marathon earlier this year.

Amy, on the left, and our fellow classmate Michelle Pascucci, on the right, after running the Hyannis Half Marathon earlier this year.

Law school is sometimes referred to as a marathon. It takes three years of hard work that just cannot be rushed – don’t try skimming cases during 1L year, you will most certainly miss the most important parts!

So, who would try to run an actual marathon during law school? That would be me, and several other current and former BU Law students. On April 21, I will be running in the 118th Boston Marathon as a charity runner raising money to support the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

I decided to run the Boston Marathon for several reasons:

I believed in the charity I am running to support. The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp is a camp for children with seriously illness, like my young brother who attended camp for two summers while he was undergoing treatment for leukemia. Camp is such a magical place that I wanted other kids to have the same opportunity to attend. I could raise $7,500+ for charity, right? Will you donate?

I wanted to get back into running. I ran on my high school’s cross-country and track teams, but since high school I had mostly been elliptical-ing. BU Law’s 5K race – the Ambulance Chase – never fit into my schedule, so why not try the Boston Marathon?

I thought the Boston Marathon would be a great way to cap off my 3L year. After 2+ years of law school, I was ready to shed my books and pound the pavement. Wouldn’t it be great to run through the streets of Boston (and Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, and Brookline) to throngs of cheering fans?

Training for the Boston Marathon has been tough. But, I’ve learned several life lessons along the way, applicable to running and lawyering alike:

Never doubt yourself. Running 26.2 miles is hard, training is hard, law school is hard, and life is hard. I’ve learned to try to turn a difficult task into a more manageable one. Is your next training run 16 miles? It doesn’t sound as bad if you know that you can eat all the ice cream you want after! Are you doing an assignment for the highest-grossing partner in your firm? That’s okay, ask the associates that usually work with her for advice and whether they will review your work.

Network, network, network. If you start networking during 1L year, you’ll meet attorneys who will become mentors and people you can rely on to key you into pro bono, internship, and job opportunities. As a bonus, you can reach out to your legal network while you’re trying to raise $7,500+ for your Boston Marathon charity team!

Don’t forget to eat. During law school, I’ve often forgotten to eat while studying or writing papers. But, while training for the marathon, I learned that it’s very important to fuel your body before the run, on the run, and after the run. You don’t want to crash, do you? Remember to eat – snacks, meals, coffee – to keep up your stamina and focus.

Balance is so important. Yes, I’ve slipped on the snow and ice while training this winter during the polar vortex, but that’s not the balance I’m referring to. I’m talking about the work-life balance. Somehow everything will get done – schoolwork, running, and wedding planning – that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the past several months. Training has helped me balance the things in my life better. You have a 15-mile training run planned for this Thursday? Well then you better get ahead on your schoolwork now because you’ll only have the time and energy to do a couple of hours of homework on Thursday.

You have to work for what you want. It wouldn’t be a good idea to run a marathon if you hadn’t trained, just as it wouldn’t be smart to sit for the bar exam if you hadn’t studied. So train, study, and do all that you can to perform your best.

The Boston Marathon is only three weeks away (which means spring semester exams are only four weeks away . . . yikes!). It’s time to taper, carbo-load, and do plenty of schoolwork so I can run my heart out on Marathon Monday and then relax in the days that follow.

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April Fools

April Fools’ Day is all about pranks. Websites change, special offers are introduced, and big announcements are made. Many of these turn out not to be real, but some are so realistic that many people actually believe them. It all comes down to the power of persuasion.

When it comes to legal issues, there is almost always an argument that can be made for either side. It is our job as lawyers to persuade a judge or jury that the outcome we are arguing for is the right one. Persuasion is more about personality, though. In order to have a truly persuasive argument, you have to have something to back it up.

That’s where legal precedent comes in. Cases decided in the past can often decide the outcome of a case in the future. Depending on the court that decided the case, precedent can be simply persuasive or binding on another court. Find the right precedent and your argument becomes much stronger.

There’s no tricks involved. You may have to engage in some courtroom maneuvering, but in the end it is about researching and writing in the most persuasive way that you can. With enough support, almost anyone can be persuaded to your side.

A Foodie’s Paradise

Before moving to Boston, I was unaware that the city had such a vibrant restaurant scene.  For my first two years of law school, I didn’t venture out of Brighton too much.  Now that I live in South End, I have all the wonderful restaurants within walking distance.  Little did I know these restaurants were totally accessible from campus.  The BU medical campus is located in the South End and BU operates a shuttle bus that runs from the law school to the South End, with a stop near a Whole Foods along the way.  To help you take advantage of the free transportation, here’s a list of some of my favorite restaurants in the South End:

  • Toro – Great tapas and a South End staple.  The catch is that they don’t take reservations, and if you put your name in on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, it could be up to a 2 hour wait.
  • The Gallows — Good food, better drinks.  Hop on over while you are waiting for your table at Toro.
  • The Beehive — Great vibe with affordable drinks and live music.  Well-known for their jazz brunch, the Beehive is a great place to revive yourself after a long night on the town.  It’s also a really cool vibe at night too.
  • Union Bar and Grill — Again, really good food and drinks.  They change their menu seasonally and their venison hit the spot for me.
  • The Butcher Shop — One of Barbara Lynch’s restaurants, the charcuterie boards are the best in town.

Looking for a new place to study?  Find a change of scenery at the BU’s medical campus library.  Make sure to take a break nearby at Blunch or Flour to recharge with coffee, sweets, and awesome sandwiches.

Time Flies

I cannot believe I am nearly finished with my first year of law school. Simply typing the sentence makes me shake a little. When I started law school, I was fresh faced, alert, and nervous, and I am finishing my first year fairly exhausted and anxious.

This spring semester is so much more difficult than the first semester because of the extra class and Moot Court. A few people warned me to not slack off and it overwhelms you so quickly. I cannot stress enough how true it is. I struggled near the end of last semester with preparing for finals, and while I am not struggling as much, I am  incredibly overwhelmed. It honestly feels like the minute one assignment goes out the door, I am working on another assignment already.

Today, our Moot Court final briefs were due. Tomorrow, I have a negotiation assignment to complete with my partner then on Wednesday, I have my oral argument practice, and I need to go to office hours and keep outlining and reviewing. The most positive thing is I have been able to manage my time efficiently to ensure I am not working on assignments until the very last minute.  I cannot imagine this workload along with my normal reading assignments and working until late into the night to scrape by the deadlines.

I know the next few weeks will be incredibly hectic, stressful, and overwhelming, so I hope this post will help exorcise whatever anxiety I may have before the crunch time. I hope my successful time management skills stay sharp to ensure I do not crack under pressure. Most of all, I hope I know in a few weeks, it will be over. My first year will soon be a memory.

I Ran (So Far Away)

3.1 miles to be exact!  Last weekend, BU Law hosted its annual 5K race.  The race is open to students, friends and alumni, and faculty.  It was very well attended this year, and the school did a great job running (pun intended) the race.  This was my first year running and was pleasantly surprised to turn in a time of 20:55.  I was just hoping to break 25 minutes (I haven’t been running recently — it’s been a cold winter, folks) and exceeded my own expectations.  All around, it was a run to feel good about.

I feel even better about the funds raised from the race, which go to BU Law’s Public Interest Project.  If you don’t know, PIP provides law students with grants so that they can do awesome non-profit and government work over the summers while still making rent and eating (both important things).  PIP at BU Law is very strong, and it’s great to help out your classmates who choose to do work in the public’s interest.  Helping classmates while exercising, what could be better!  And that brings me to the real focus of this blog post: exercise!

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the facilities at BU, and in the City of Boston generally.  FitRec, the BU gym, is a great place to relieve some of that law school stress and stay healthy.  We even have an indoor rock wall!  Additionally, since Boston is such a big running city, there is no shortage of 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon races to check out.  Another benefit of being in a big city is that there are a ton of gyms offering fitness classes — from CrossFit to spinning, and everything in between.  The FitRec also offers some classes that you can take for credit (don’t worry, no extra charge!).

In law school, it’s important to stay healthy.  Lawyers deal with a lot of stress, and we are often stuck at our desks all day, so make the most of your time away from the tower and remember raise your heart rate a bit.  BU makes it pretty easy!

Making the Case

When I toured BU (in 2009!) my tour guide took us by the Stone Moot Courtroom. All first year students, she explained, have to do moot court, where you write a brief on a fake set of facts and then argue in front of professors, lawyers, and judges while they pepper you with questions. I didn’t even know what a brief was. However, I understood enough to conclude that the idea of standing at a podium in a suit trying to answer legal questions on the spot did not seem particularly appealing.

I have since changed my mind (except on wearing suits, wearing a suit is always a pain). It turns out that moot court is much less scary when you understand a bit more what it actually is. So: if you sue someone and you don’t settle, you go to trial. At trial, lawyers give opening and closing statements, witnesses testify, everyone presents evidence – this is the Law & Order type stuff. BU has a killer mock trial team that competes against other schools. But moot court is different from mock trial. Let’s say you lose your trial, and you appeal. At that appeal, there are witnesses, no evidence, none of that. Instead, lawyers just get up and argue, usually for 15-30 minutes at a time, and judges interrupt them with questions. That’s moot court.

If public speaking’s not your thing – well, you have lots of practice time, you only have to do it for 15 minutes out of your entire law school career, it’s pass/fail, and there’s wine and cheese afterwards. If public speaking is your thing, lucky you, because BU also has a killer moot court program. Your second year, you can compete in two intra-school competitions, and then if you do those, your third year you can apply to join a national moot court team. Public speaking is at least not-not my thing (I have been called “very audible” by some). So, this year I, along with my (super wonderful) classmates Kristen Dooley and Marco Romeo competed for BU at the Sutherland Moot Court Competition in D.C., at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law. We had a wonderful time. And (spoiler alert) we won!

We got to D.C. Friday midday, had lunch, unpacked at the hotel, changed, and did some last-minute prep – including Kristen and I spending a good 20 minutes trying to figure out how to make the lobby computer with Windows 8 work so we could print our notes. Jen McCloskey, associate director of BU’s Appellate Advocacy program, travelled with us, which meant she got the thankless tasks of reminding us to pause and think before answering questions, helping us spin arguments we really hated making, and remembering which courtroom we were in. Catholic gave us goodie bags (moot court party favors!) with lint rollers, mints, cookies, candy, and water. After that preliminary round, we had dinner (at a ping pong dim sum place, and no, I don’t get it either), then crashed back at the hotel so we could get up bright and early the next morning for preliminary round two.

Both of the teams we faced in our preliminary rounds were excellent. One of the opposing team members had such a mellifluous voice I wanted to find him an agent to get him doing audiobooks. After prelim 2, we had lunch (provided by Catholic, and including powdered sugar cookies. Here’s a tip: if you are wearing a black suit, do not eat a powdered sugar cookie.) We spent all afternoon slowly moving our way through rounds, a little surprised every time we found out we were moving on. Then, we found out we were going to argue in the final. I was the first speaker after the bailiff announced, “Please rise, the court is now in session.”

I got it through, “May it please the court, my name is Elizabeth McIntyre,” listed the issues I’d be discussing, and reserved time for rebuttal. But then, right when I took a breath to begin the meat of my argument one of our judges interrupted me with a, “Counsel, let’s move to the weakest part of your argument.” She then preceded to point out what was, unfortunately, absolutely the weakest part of my argument. I spent half a second inwardly cursing that I was going to have to start there, another half a second cursing the lack of helpful caselaw, and then launched into, “No, Your Honor…” One of the tricks to moot court, I have learned/decided, is to not be intimidated. Don’t be an idiot by trying to convince judges of argument they are just not at all buying, but don’t cave the first time a judge challenges you. Push back. Make your case.

This case was about a qualified first amendment right of access to the termination review hearing of a state employee. I very much doubt I will ever again care about that issue. The skills moot court has taught me, however, are eminently transferrable. Those skills could still use quite a bit of refinement – I still have two volumes, loud and louder, which don’t always work well for smaller courtrooms; I am sometimes too combative or talk too fast; I don’t pause long enough before answering questions or often enough during argument, etc. But, I’ve learned how to spend the time developing the best argument I possibly can, and then having the confidence to stick to it. That, I think, is called being a lawyer.

Friday, April 4: Syrian Refugee Presentation at BU Law

From time to time, I’ve posted information on the Boston University International Human Rights Clinic’s fieldwork and research concerning Syrian refugees in Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.  Now that our report is close to completion, I wanted to let everyone know about two presentations that the Clinic is hosting: one at BU Law and the other at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Our first presentation is at BU on Friday, April 4 in Rm. 920B from 10:30AM to 12:30PM.  The event is open to everyone, and we encourage you to drop by even if you are unable to attend the entire presentation.  Sarah Bidinger (2L), who recently posted about her trip to Turkey, will be discussing the research she and the Turkey team conducted in Istanbul and Ankara.  Danielle Hites (2L) will discuss her research in Jordan.  And I will be explaining our findings from the interviews that the Egypt team conducted in Cairo.  At the end of this post, I’ve included the flyer for our event, which contains further information about our presentation.

Then, on Monday, April 7 at 4PM the Clinic will be presenting our Syrian refugee report again at the Harvard Kennedy School.  Details for that presentation may be found here.

Our report addresses the situation of Syrian refugees focusing on international law and refugee law and policy in Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.  During the presentation, we will highlight certain improvements that each state could make in their treatment of Syrian refugees.  The purpose behind our individual analysis of each state is to isolate harmful legal and political trends and to make broader recommendations to the international community on sharing responsibility in refugee protection.  The Clinic urges major international actors, such as the United States and Europe, to take a greater role in the protection of Syrian refugees.  With responsibility for Syrian refugees spread more evenly across the international community,  problems with detention and return of refugees in the four frontline states will hopefully diminish.

If you’re interested in refugee law or comparative and international law in general, the Clinic would welcome your attendance next Friday!  We hope to see you there!

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Transitions

I know I’ve written a lot about my involvement in the Health Law Association, but this time I’m writing about passing the torch to a new president. We recently held elections for the new board and the last task of the year is to help the new board transition into our roles.

While standing there listening to the candidates give their brief speeches, I was struck by how quickly time has passed. It seems like just yesterday that my section-mates and I eagerly attended all of the student organizations elections and watched each other get elected to various boards – committing the next year of our lives to a legal specialty, an affinity group, or student government. Even before signing up for classes (or even finishing our 1L exams), our 2L years were taking shape and we were beginning to carve out our own spaces within the school.

Now that I’m approaching the end of 2L year and helping to guide a new board into their new roles, everything has come full circle. Taking on this leadership role has led to other opportunities and other leadership roles. I’ve be able to collaborate with the leaders of other groups and meet so many interesting people through HLA events – both those affiliated with Boston University and those who work in the health law field.

Now it’s time to help the new board transition. Like the previous president did for me, I’ll pass down information about everything from financial forms to event planning to publicity tips. Next year will be slightly more difficult for the new board; since the law school is moving into a new building, there will be limited space for student groups to host events. But just as the previous president was there to talk me through our first few events, I’ll be there for the new president.

When I was on the beginner side of the transition meeting last April, my 2L year stretched out for months ahead of me and Spring 2014 seemed very far away. Hard to believe it’s here. Now that I’m on the experienced side of the meeting, I’ll remember to tell the new board to enjoy every minute of the experience;  it goes by all too quickly.

Upper Class Writing Requirement

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.