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.

3L Update

Unbelievably this is my last year at BUSL. It seems like just yesterday I was bewildered and lost in the halls of the law building… oh wait, that totally was yesterday, I have in no way shape or form grasped the layout of our shiny new building yet.

This fall I’m taking:

  • Corporations: because I have no business background and consequently no business going into bar prep  (ha, puns) without taking this,
  • Family Law:  because no matter how totally unrelated your area of practice is, if you are an attorney, the rest of your life people will consult you about their divorces. I’ll be taking Trusts Wills and Estates for the same reason in the Spring,
  • Trademark: because no matter how impractical it may turn out for me to be to work in soft IP I’ll always have a soft spot for it… I mean, intellectual curiosity. It’s one of those courses that helps you understand how the world works a little bit clearer and, as an added bonus, a preposterous number of my friends are taking it with me,
  • B2B: Bench-to-Bedside Biomedical Innovations: because why not- an interdisciplinary class with MBAs, PhDs, MDs, and all other manner of acronyms wherein we’re assigned up and coming tech from an actual Boston area inventor and form groups so that the engineering/biology students can help decipher what it is we’re talking about, the business/management students can formulate a business plan, and the law students can handle the intellectual property aspects that arise. It’s unlike any coursework I’ve done before, a monumental amount of work, and absolutely fascinating. (Fun anecdote: the professor required us to self-assembly into teams “like nanobots” and advised us only of the makeup of the class in terms of what types of talents we had to balance- only three law students are enrolled in the course and we had to form six groups, so his advice was simply “You’ll want to make sure your group has a law student. Fight for them!”. It was a little terrifying.),
  • Advanced Beginner’s Ballet: because physical education credits are ‘free’ with the cost of tuition and for once a dance class actually fit into my jigsaw puzzle of a weekly schedule. It’s been many years since I made my debut in the Nutcracker in… 2010 (you don’t see very many twenty year olds in introductory ballet classes- I was a latecomer) so I’m a bit rusty, but looking forward to having exercise/relaxation time built into my schedule.

 

Oh, Those Summer Nights

It’s beginning to feel a lot like fall here in Boston. I enjoy the cooler weather, but I’m also going to miss the summer. This was my last summer as a law student, and it was a great one.

Some of you may know that I did my health law externship last spring at Boston Children’s Hospital. I mostly worked with Dianne McCarthy on legal issues related to research being done at the hospital. I had such a great experience that, after my externship ended, I found myself wanting to go back. Fortunately, I was notified that they were looking for someone to work on a new project for the summer.

That’s when I began working at the hospital’s Technology and Innovation Development Office, otherwise known as TIDO. They are responsible for protecting the intellectual property of the hospital and its employees. I had the chance to work with patent and contract specialists along with licensing and business managers. It is definitely an interesting and educational place to work.

I began working on a large healthcare transaction involving a license for a novel, patented drug product. It involved a good deal of research on patents and licenses for other drugs. I also looked through the FDA’s list of approved drug products, known as the Orange Book. I synthesized my research into exhibits and memoranda in order to assist with negotiations with pharmaceutical companies. The goal was to find a partner that would help to develop and market our drug product.

As negotiations move forward, I have been lucky enough to be able to stay on at TIDO this fall. I hope to continue learning about the many legal issues that the office deals with and to see the deal that we have been working on come to a close. Summer may be over, but it’s looking like a great semester and an even better year.

New Year, New Building

Summer is over, and the fall semester of the 2014-2015 academic year at BU Law has officially begun.  With it comes a new building that all law students get to enjoy. The Law Tower that many of us spent the past two years taking classes in is now closed for renovations, but I am happy to say that the new Sumner M. Redstone Building is an even better place to have class.

photo 1

As with any new building, it can take some time to find your way around. The Redstone building has five floors, but they are big and spacious compared to the floors of the Tower. When you first enter the building it is very welcoming. There are plenty of tables and chairs along with a large staircase leading up to the second floor. Overall the design is very modern, warm, and open. Lots of natural light and space to move around!

photo 2

The new building gives a greater sense of community to the law school in that there are many areas for socializing and relaxing, including a great dining area where you can order a variety of different meals throughout the day. On top of that, the classrooms are equipped with the latest technology and more comfortable seating. BU Law is striving to obtain the highest LEED Certification it can for this building. That means it will both look nice and be green!

I am really enjoying the new building so far. As I find my way around I run into new spaces that continue to impress me. The Sumner M. Redstone building is outstanding on its own. The Law Tower’s renovations are supposed to be done in a year. I can only imagine the amazing experience that the law students who get to experience both buildings together will have when they come to BU Law!

Before the First Bell Rings

The golden days of summer are almost over. I’ve finally seen why people look forward to this time of year: Instead of the endless 100-degree-plus Texas blazes that I’m used to, we got moderate temperatures and sunshine.

The end of summer (and yes, it does end here, unlike the South’s “Autumn? What’s that?”) means the beginning of school. I’ve done my first week’s reading and I can’t wait to see what this semester holds–starting tomorrow.

My internship wrapped up at the beginning of August, and now that I’ve had some time to reflect on it, I’ve concluded that it was an altogether great experience. I now understand why it’s virtually unheard of not to spend your law school summers as a legal intern (especially if you have a grant from the BU Public Interest Project).

The folks at the Committee for Public Counsel Services Children and Family Law Division were encouraging, empowering, and, most of all, wonderful at their jobs. I could not have asked for a better team to learn from. I produced a handful of research memoranda for a new database that the agency’s appellate attorneys will rely on in writing their briefs to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. As a cap on my experience, I spent several days with the agency’s trial office, learning about trial practice and participating in simulations of everything from client interviews to closing arguments.

This summer, I also had the good fortune to attend a leadership conference in Washington, D.C. The national office of Law Students for Reproductive Justice brought together almost 100 student leaders and some world-class speakers to teach us how to better guide our local chapters, and how to stay engaged with tools like social media, outreach across campus, and networking with far-flung chapters. As a bonus, I met some wonderful women and saw a new-to-me city!

Finally — and this might only seem exciting if you’ve been a working stiff for a few years, like me — I actually got to have a summer vacation! I have spent days and days reading fun books, cooking too-elaborate meals, and taking long walks, which is exactly my idea of a good time. Boston is built for easygoing fun. And we took a week’s real vacation and hit up Montreal, too. It’s just a 5.5-hour drive from Boston through the gorgeous White Mountains (stop and sight-see!) to the French-speaking, funky island city. A museum-and-Metro pass is a steal if you’re a museum junkie like my husband and me.

After a grueling first year, I think this final month of breathing easy actually has me looking forward to 2L! Bring on the books.