Evolution of the BU Tax LLM

I like taxes. Not always in the political sense (if you want to geek out about tax policy chat me up and I’ll pencil you in for two hours…), but in terms of interesting law, I really like taxes. Tax law is business law, and a puzzle, and full of rich economic policy. This year I’ve been taking a lot of my classes through the Graduate Tax Program here at BU. Since late 2L  year I’ve been considering completing the accelerated 7-semester J.D. LL.M. dual degree, but a recent turn of events changed my plans and I’ll be working next fall instead (hooray!)

So, I emailed the head of the Grad Tax Program (a.k.a. the “GTP”) and asked if BU allowed accelerated completion of the LL.M. on a part-time basis. I was pleased to hear that BU was one step ahead of me, and they were voting on that very issue the following week! I was even more pleased when I received the news that I will be able to complete the LL.M. on both an accelerated and a part-time basis. I got exactly what I wanted, and it makes me so happy! I think this also illustrates something great about our school – the administrators here are always considering what’s next – what do students need and employers want? Students are invited to comment on new and old programs annually at our school’s community meeting with the dean. I really appreciate the fact that we have a forum to make suggestions regarding classes we’d like to see, administrative issues we’ve experienced, or anything else that comes to mind.

What’s this accelerated LL.M. program though, you ask? Well, it is simply BU’s nationally-ranked Tax LL.M., but instead of studying for my LL.M. full-time for a year, or part-time for, say, 3 years, I am taking twelve qualifying GTP credits during my J.D. studies, and those twelve credits will count towards my LL.M. This should halve the time it takes me to finish the LL.M. on a part-time basis while working! I love everything about this: (1) I can take great tax classes now; (2) I can take great tax classes to enhance my practice when I start working; (3) all the classes will count towards my LL.M and half of them will also count towards my J.D. So, for BU J.D. students, the dual degree J.D./LL.M. in tax is now available on a 6-semester, 7-semester, or 6 semester plus part-time basis. If you attend and are interested in getting a tax LL.M. you can begin by taking Federal Income Taxation as a 2L and continuing on from there!

The Tax LL.M. is also available to J.D. graduates from any school on a full-time, part-time, or now even an online-only basis. (The fact that all our tax classes are videotaped for the online-only students, and are also available to us on Blackboard is also incredibly helpful to those who occasionally have to miss class due to, say, job interviews.) Tax LL.M. students are also eligible for a program-specific recruiting schedule, which provides great access to the Big Four accounting firms, as well as law firms with established tax practices.

“Do My Shoes Match?” and Other Thoughts from 2L Year

Hello everyone!  This is my first post as a BU Law blogger, and I am super excited to be joining the team this semester.  I wanted to post a quick introductory post to let everyone know a little bit about my commitments so far as a 2L.  The short version is that I have a lot of them. However, that’s not atypical. If you haven’t heard this maxim before, I have  to say that, in my experience, it’s proving true: “1L = scare you to death, 2L = work you to death, 3L = bore you to death.”

Don’t get me wrong, 1L year was no cakewalk.  (What the heck is a cakewalk anyways?)  Being scared to death is no fun. But 2L has been approximately twice as busy, which is both overwhelming and exciting.

A little summary of my school life:

I am a 2L editor on BU’s Public Interest Law Journal (otherwise known as PILJ).  I am in the process of writing my Note, which is essentially an article about a legal issue that no one else has addressed yet.  I am also a student advisor, meaning I have been assigned three 1Ls who I will hypothetically provide sage guidance and uncompromising emotional support to.  (In reality, I will probably just bake them a lot of unhealthy desserts because I am such a stress baker.)  I also participated in Stone Moot Court, an optional competition which helps to improve oral advocacy skills.  This is essential for me since I hope to practice litigation some day. Finally, I am diving headfirst into the legal networking world of Boston in my continuing attempt to, you know, have a career at some point.

I am, of course, also taking classes.  I am in Corporations, Family Law, English Legal History, and European Historiography.  If you are saying to yourself “But wait! Those aren’t all legal classes!” you would be completely correct.  I am actually enrolled in BU’s dual degree program, which is essentially the best thing ever.

BU offers simultaneous degrees in several fields; because I was a history major in undergrad and because I would love to teach at some point (way) down the road, I am in the process of getting both my JD and my MA in History.  The beauty of this program is that the two schools allow me to share credits: I get 2 degrees with no extra classes, no extra tuition, and no extra semesters of school!

Guys, I cannot overstate how obsessed I am with this program. I was always that kid who was annoyingly peppy and excited on the first day of school.  I love learning, and I love being in academic settings.  This deal was just too good for me to pass up. It’s not that I enjoy my history class more than my legal classes, but that sort of thinking definitely comes a little more naturally to me.  It’s just the best opportunity I could imagine to blend my professional aspirations with my personal interests.

If you lost count, that’s four classes!  Although that is not an insane amount of classes to take, a lot of people choose to only take three their 2L year due to journal commitments and the job search process. Although I technically could have taken one less class, I really don’t want the dual degree program to limit my opportunities to take substantive legal classes. After all, I did move to Boston primarily for law school and I do need to pass the Bar when this whole show is over.  So, I chose to do four classes and have potentially a bit more stress than some of my peers.

I am not complaining at all, because I knew what I was signing up for, but I just have to be really careful with budgeting my time.  Despite what you might hear about law school, we do actually have lives.  I still make time to go to the gym and have Wine Nights (a Thursday tradition) with my friends and yes, occasionally, eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s while marathoning Orange is the New Black.  Law school is absolutely going to be stressful, but it absolutely won’t be unbearable if you find the time to relieve that stress.

The Proverbial Gorilla in the Room

In 1L year, my philosophy was “try everything and see what sticks.” Problem was, nearly everything stuck. I liked so many of the things I tried, I was fated to have that incredibly busy 2L year I swore I wouldn’t have. One activity I promised myself wasn’t so great, to the point where I swore I wouldn’t try it again this year, was moot court.

And then came time to sign up for moot court. I was in line for free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (an annual tradition at BU Law that may in fact be designed to capitalize on students’ brain freeze and resulting poor decision-making). My friend was behind me in line. He said he hadn’t found a partner yet. One fist bump and two scoops later, I was committed, with sprinkles on top.

Writing my brief took up the better part of an entire weekend and had me regretting my choice to participate and declaring that I refused to care about the outcome. My oral argument was yesterday — Halloween. My partner came in a gorilla suit, as promised — I thought, tongue-in-cheek. But there he was, in a gorilla suit with a moderately shredded business suit on top. I told him to take it off. He refused. I asked the judges how it would affect my scoring. (That’s the scoring I didn’t think I cared about at all until I was there, with a gorilla.) It wouldn’t.

Getty Images; Imagine trying to argue with (or against) this.

Getty Images
Imagine trying to argue with (or against) this guy.

The nerves I didn’t have an hour before — or the day before, when I was in real court for the first time — were all kinds of worked up, and it was all because my friend, my partner, my classmate who normally looks decidedly not like a gorilla, was in a goofy, smelly gorilla suit. But at that point, I didn’t feel that I had a choice but to give it my best shot. My best was good enough to be named best oralist in the room. It was gratifying, to know that even the proverbial gorilla in the room (that’s a proverb in some culture, right?) couldn’t shake me too much.

I don’t know whether I had a good enough score to advance to the next round, and I certainly don’t know whether I want to compete if selected. But I surprised my worst critic (you guessed right, that’s me) yesterday by having fun doing something I didn’t even know I wanted to do, so who knows where I’ll be this time next semester.

Section Bonding

For our 1L year, we’re all split into three sections—A, B, and C. We have the same schedule as everyone in our section for the whole year. Clearly, we’ll all get to know each other very well. Also, for just one class during the year, each section is split in half to form a smaller section. My section (Section A) was split this semester for Torts into A1 and A2. Coming from a small college, I really like my torts class because it’s half the size of my other 70-person classes and we get a lot more interaction with the professor.

In several ways, the first year of Law School is a lot like high school:

• You spend all day, everyday with the same group of people in your section

• Students bring their baggies/packed lunches (and dinners) to school

• We all have lockers (for which I am incredibly thankful considering the dinosaur textbooks we need)

 

Obviously though, there are many ways in which Law School is not like High School

• The cold calling

• The dense reading

• The cold calling

• The endless reading

• The curved grading and,

• The cold calling

Needless to say, the possibility of being “on call” kept me on my toes the first few weeks of school. I’m lucky, however, because of my three courses this semester, only one course (Contracts) really employs cold calling in the traditional, legally blonde sense. My other two classes (Torts and Civil Procedure) have a much more relaxed way of using the Socratic method.

So in the spirit of surviving our successful cold calls, my A1 section did “section bonding” after the first two weeks of school. There was a general consensus to go bowling so a bunch of us went to Kings on a Saturday night to have some drinks and bowl. It was nice to get to know each other outside of our torts class. A couple weeks ago we had another “section bonding” and had an A1 potluck. As you might guess from the pictures below– the. food. was. amazing. It was definitely a successful night evidenced by the food comas many of us experienced.

I would say the thing that has surprised me the most during my first two months as a law student is how friendly and supportive everyone has been. I came to law school expecting an aggressively competitive atmosphere but have fortunately not found that to be the case. Although at the start of the semester, cold calling had us hiding behind our laptops, it was nice to know that many of us were rooting for each other and could laugh at one another about how bad (or good) we were at bowling. So in spite of the fact that we spend a large portion of our day (life) with the same students (especially those in our subsection), I’m very grateful to be at a school where I am consistently surrounded by such an encouraging and intelligent group of people. Shout-out to my A1 section!

 

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The Process

Many people request upperclassmen outlines. It is very helpful to see how others who have gone through the 1L process organized, formatted, and understood the information. While upperclassmen outlines are great reference point, they are not meant to be a shortcut to the process of outline. When law students talk about outlines and outlining, it isn’t the end product that is truly valuable. The process of reviewing your notes, organizing it into a comprehensive and understandable system, and editing as your knowledge builds upon itself are what make the final outline a valuable tool for your finals.

When you receive an upperclassmen’s outline, it is a pared down, systematic, and very, very personal system of how that person learned, reviewed, and pared down his/her notes. As a 1L receiving it during week four of the semester, you will feel overwhelmed or confused or just plain lost. This outline is the by product of 26 weeks of learning and studying the subject whereas, your four weeks barely encompasses a quarter of what the upperclassmen has done. Not to mention, everyone learns differently and has his/her own preferences in how to format. For instance, I prefer to organize my outline by major doctrinal topics and include under such topics tests, factors, or rulings with case names. Depending on the class or the professor’s focus, I may or may not include the case’s holdings. If I give a 1L my outline in the first few weeks of the class, it would probably seem like my outline were missing a few steps from A to B, so it will probably confuse more than it will help.

This is not to say seeking upperclassmen outlines will not be helpful. It can immensely help you find a starting point in your process for your own personal outline. It may even provide some insight into particular sections or cases with which you struggled. It should not be a shortcut or replacement for your own process to review your notes, check your understanding of key concepts, and find any areas you feel fuzzy about. Those fuzzy areas are opportunities for you to talk to classmates or go to office hours to ask the professor to clarify. The sooner you start reviewing and outlining, the sooner you can work through what you do and do not understand. Even if you use other outlines, the process is still the same; you need to review. In the end, your outline is personal to you and don’t take shortcuts.

Being Professionally Responsible

The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, otherwise known as the MPRE, is this weekend. For those of you who may not know much about the test, it’s a 2-hour, 60-question multiple-choice exam that is administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners 3 times each year. It’s also required for admission to the Bar in all but 3 states. The test is based on the rules the govern the conduct of lawyers, such as the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Each question provides a fact pattern involving a lawyer’s conduct followed by 4 possible answers to a question related to the rules. Since I’ve been studying for the MPRE, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be professionally responsible as a lawyer.

Lawyers have certain duties to their clients. They have a duty to represent them competently, which means they have the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation to handle a legal matter. These are the traits that many law students have and will only improve upon during law school. There’s also a duty of diligence, which means a lawyer cannot procrastinate and must act as a zealous advocate for their client. Again, most law students will know what procrastination entails as well as what it means to zealously defend a position.

While law students may not have much experience with the duty of confidentiality, it is one of the most important duties that lawyers owe to their clients. With few exceptions, any information relating to a lawyer’s representation of a client must be kept confidential. This is an essential part of the client-lawyer relationship, and a duty that should not be taken lightly.

There are many other rules that all lawyers must know and follow in order to be professionally responsible, but I believe it is the duties we will owe to our clients that should be our guiding principles throughout law school and beyond. Our time in law school is preparing us to be the kinds of lawyers that we should aspire to be. It is up to us to follow through.

Dear 1Ls

Dear 1Ls,

It’s almost November. I have no doubt most of you are beginning to feel the acidic feeling of panic in your throat every morning when you wake up. I am here with a  message for you: you are not alone, and you are going to be okay.

You know why 1L year is more nerve-wracking than the other years of law school? In my opinion, it is mainly the fear of the unknown, coupled with the pressure to succeed in the first year that is imposed by the legal recruiting schedule, that makes 1L so stressful. Here’s the thing though – here’s the thing - everyone feels like this. Even the ones that were paralegals, yes. Even the ones that are going into IP practice, yes.

Law school can be very isolating. You have to study, and that includes many hours of reading books and writing outlines, all of which you must do yourself. I think this isolation only amplifies the feelings of fear and stress that so often accompany the first semester of 1L year.

I know that there is a culture in law school of keeping quiet – we do not talk about our grades at all in law school. When it comes to jobs and internships, we speak mostly privately with our trusted friends. This derives, I think, from a culture of sensitivity to others’ private pains that come from disappointment about grades that did not meet our type-A expectations, or jobs we wanted that we did not get. Though this hush can feel a bit oppressive at times, I think you’ll find that if you make a few very close friends, you can discuss these sensitive subjects privately, and this will satisfy your desires to celebrate or commiserate.

Here’s my punchline, dear 1Ls: now is not the time to stay silent and alone. This very year is the time that you should reach out to your classmates! Want to know the best way to figure out if you’re understanding the course material? Create a study group among a few people you like – promise each other to be supportive and positive – and you will find, by completing practice exercises with your peers, that you can come to understand what aspects of your classes you already understand and what aspects you need to spend more time on. You will feel so relieved to find that, for the most part, your peers are very near where you are in your understanding of the material. Together you can come to understand more, as you help each other fill in the blanks. My friends from my 1L study group (which we named “the LOL study group” after Professor Hylton shortened “loss of enjoyment of life” to LOL in torts class one day,) are three of my very best friends now. They will be for the rest of my life.

Trust a few people. Commiserate together and work together. You will learn from each other while at the same time, you all help each other relieve the fear that comes from being alone and not knowing. Then, you will celebrate together just as we did at the end of our first semester:

The original LOL study group at  our first post-exams bar review, December 2012.

The original LOL study group at our first post-exams bar review, December 2012.

Finally, I want to remind you that there are so many people here that can help you through this difficult time. BU’s behavioral health services can speak to you if you’re feeling overly stressed and want some tips on reducing that stress. If you want to talk to a friendly 3L about one of your classes, finding a summer job, etc., I am happy to speak with you. Just leave a comment on this blog with your bu email address (I have to approve them before publication, so your comment can only be seen by we BU law bloggers,) and I will email you back. We can have coffee.

With great sympathy and encouragement,

Dee.

Trial Advocacy: Great Class, or Greatest Class?

Some people come to law school knowing what they want to do with their JD: maybe further a lifelong interest in public service, maybe they knew that their math degree would be an asset to a tax law career. All I knew for sure was what I was not going to do: talk in front of people. I was all about transactional practice, no litigation for me thanks. At 5’1″, naturally soft spoken and with a NYC-paced speech pattern if not actual accent (which is exceedingly odd that I picked up during my childhood in suburban Philadelphia but that’s neither here nor there), public speaking was an uphill battle I had no inclination to fight.

In a way I was glad that BU requires 1L participation in the Moot Court competition, because I knew that it was a valuable experience and knew with an equal certainty that I would never elect to do it voluntarily. The feedback I received from the judges was predominantly along the lines of “What we heard of your argument was really good, but… we couldn’t hear most of it.” This simply wasn’t going to do. Maybe I’d never be up in front of a courtroom, but I’d certainly have to speak to conference rooms and other assemblages. I should work on this.

I decided to take Trial Advocacy solely for the experience of forcing myself to speak in front of a class every week for a semester. It was the scariest thing I could thing of, which is why I knew it was so important that I do it.

It was scary, and a good deal of preparation was required every week… but it was also way more fun than I anticipated, from “witnesses” (i.e. fellow students) who got the giggles to not being entirely sure what you were objecting to but just having the sense that it was appropriate and justifying your outburst as you went along. The instructor, a federal district court judge, told me that although I definitely had to get my pacing under control, he’d seen being softer-spoken serve as a tremendous asset in his courtroom (especially during longer litigation when a jury could easily tire of too much bluster and gusto).

The course culminated in a full scale trial in the judge’s courtroom, giving us the actual experience of standing up in district court to address a jury (comprised of my sister and friends and relatives of my co-counsel and opposing counsel), cross-examining a witness (a friend bribed into participation with a bottle of wine), the works. And while it was terrifying, it was also an incredibly exhilarating experience. While there’s still a lot I’m interested in in other forms of legal practice, now I’m not so sure about a transactional-only career trajectory after all.

Life After OCI

“OCI” is “On Campus Interviews,” and there are also “Off Campus Interviews.” The Career Development Office (CDO) invites several firms to select from applications you submit online through Simplicity. You will be asked to submit your application and wait to find out if you are selected. Based on which firms pick you, you will find out which days you will need to show up for the on campus interview. The interviews are approximately twenty minutes and are back-to-back with a break for lunch. The CDO sends more detailed information as OCI nears, and your upperclassmen are always available to provide more information.

Overall, OCI is a nerve-wracking experience and not everyone receives an offer for a position through it. A large portion of my class participated in OCI even if many of them were unsure if they wanted to try the big law route, but only a smaller percentage of my class actually received offers. I recommend you try to make the process as painless as possible by understanding there is life after OCI.

By the time callbacks and offers finalized, 2L fall semester picks up speed, and I hit the ground running. Somehow between classes, journal assignments, note research, and affinity group events, I squeeze in time for job applications and interviews. There are times I am quite overwhelmed, but the two things I do to keep my sanity are (1) schedule priorities and (2) take a deep breath and focus on one thing at time.

Firstly, schedule priorities literally means to  schedule into my calendar everything and anything I need to do so I can see it clearly in my calendar and budget my time. This method helps keep me focused on the task at hand and ensure I don’t outright forget to do something. Time is important in law school and if you don’t manage it strictly, it disappears quickly. For instance, I normally schedule a time in my calendar to remind me to print my notes for one of my classes where we are not allowed laptops. I forgot to input a reminder to print my notes, and sure enough, I showed up to class without my briefs. Oh, the horror! Luckily, the professor gives us a ten-minute break during class during which I ran to print my notes. As you can see, a busy schedule means small things fall through the cracks.

Secondly, I do not let the list overwhelm me. I simply review my day, take a deep breath, and focus on one thing at a time. Sometimes we forget that we can only do our best. There are only so many hours in the day and so many things you can do before you run out of steam or need to rest. Mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting yourself is bound to make you feel more rundown than you are and you won’t perform as well as you can. When scheduling my day, I make sure to schedule realistically and in order of priority. I am guilty of always trying to do too much at once, and if I realistically plan for one class, I accomplish as much as I can before moving onto the next task.

Finally, once you handle your schedule and already full plate, you schedule time to apply for jobs and interviews. Yes, there are job opportunities outside of OCI, and yes, you will find something. Keep an open mind because law school is a process constantly shaping and molding you.

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