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.

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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!

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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.

A True Story of Nets and Working

Last summer I worked with two spectacular attorneys who became friends and mentors, lets call them A and B.

A worked with C, D, and E at the District Attorney’s Office. C turned out to be the head of the internship program at the United States Attorney’s Office (where I’m working this summer), where D also works and became my supervisor. E went to law school with my uncle and is married to F, who was my supervisor at the university office of general counsel I worked in during undergrad. E also worked with G, who was a presenter at one of the panel discussions for my internship program this summer. B gave piano lessons to the daughter of H and introduced me to her-  she turned out to be a BUSL alum. A law clerk in H’s firm, I, became a colleague of mine while we were both interning in the chambers of a judge, J. B’s husband is golfing partners with K, who was my mentor in a program I participated in during undergrad. K introduced me to a partner at his firm, L. I was introduced to J by magistrate judge M, who I met while I was at lunch with N… who interned with A.

Is your head spinning yet? Welcome to the legal community of a mid-sized city.

It’s easy to think of your networking efforts as an endless series of cold emails and buisness cards accumulated at events. Don’t. Your contacts are real live people, and each of them has contacts.

More about the International Law Journal and the Writing Competition

Soon, you’ll finish your final 1L exam.  Hooray!  Overcome with joy (or something), you’ll head downstairs on a path that you hope will lead you to the most delicious beer of your life.  Not so fast!  Smirking 2L’s will greet you near the tower’s exit.  They’ll stuff a monstrous packet of paper into your hands, the writing competition, which will occupy almost the entirety of your first week of “freedom.”  My initial advice: grab the packet and go get that delicious beer.  The writing competition will still be there the next day.

Let me back up.  Next year, I will be serving as the Editor-in-Chief of BU’s International Law Journal (“ILJ”).  A few weeks ago, the other EIC’s and I were able to speak at the law auditorium to a crowd of you overworked, overtired 1Ls.  I realize that I probably wasn’t able to answer all of your pressing questions.

First Question: Why shouldn’t I just put that writing competition in the recycling where it belongs?

Well, maybe you should.  But first take a moment to consider everything a journal has to offer.  Working on one of BU’s legal publications provides you with technical experience that is difficult to obtain elsewhere.  On the ILJ, for instance, you’ll spend at least two weeks in the fall pouring over the bluebook, fixing citations, and editing articles to perfection.  That may sound tedious, but at the end, you’ll be a bluebook master.  After next year, the citations in any paper, brief, note, or memo that you write will go down like aged whiskey.  You’ll have more time to focus on the content of your arguments, and you won’t have to worry so much about the finicky, technical aspects of legal writing.  This will come in handy at that fancy law firm you’ll be working at after graduation, or when you’re saving the world from itself with an NGO in a faraway land.

Beyond developing your writing skills, you’ll also get the chance to work with your peers in publishing important contributions to legal scholarship.  The ILJ publishes articles on topics ranging from international human rights to international business written by professors and practitioners all over the world.  If you have a specific area of interest in international law, you’ll likely get the chance to learn more about it on the ILJ.

Still not convinced?  Well, a journal isn’t for everyone.  But it does look good on your resume.  Now, I’m no advocate of suffering through the writing competition just for a better job offer (there’s no guarantee of that anyway).  Although a job is important, journal work is difficult, and it’s even more difficult if you don’t really want to be there in the first place.  All the journals at BU work tirelessly and selflessly to put out their publications.  If raw academics are not what you’re into, don’t forget about your other job-acquiring curricular and extra-curricular options.  I like to think that law students should follow the “Rule of Two.”  That is, pick at least two out of three of the following: journal, moot court, and clinic.  If you do all three, you might be a superhero.  But if you’re unsure of where you want to end up, remember that employers like to see any of those three things.  A combination of your two favorites will give you a lot more to discuss enthusiastically in interviews.

Second Question:  Will I ever have free time again?

That’s entirely up to you and your schedule.  On the ILJ, however, we work hard to strike a balance between our staff members’ journal work and their other studies.  For instance, the ILJ publishes twice per year.  This means that all of your editing assignments will take place in the fall semester.  Each editing assignment lasts one week.  You’ll edit once in September and again in October/November.  That’s about it.  If you’re thinking about joining the ILJ, keep this in mind when registering for classes next year.

Also, don’t forget that you have to write a note!  The note is a 30-40 page legal research paper that you must write and finalize by the end of March 2015.  Because 2L ILJ editing all happens during the fall semester, you will have almost your entire spring semester to finish your note.  We do this on purpose.  It cuts down on the amount of things you’ll have to focus on, and we hope that it will allow you the time to turn out a quality work product.

Third Question: Should I be stressed out?

No! Take solace in the fact that hundreds of students before you have finished the writing competition, completed their journal assignments, and written their notes without loss of life or limb.

Last Question: What do you like about the ILJ?

Almost everything (I would say everything, but only the Sith and non-lawyers deal in absolutes…).  Through the ILJ, I became close friends with students that were interested in all sorts of things.  It’s not just an academic experience; it can be fun.  For example, every time the ILJ has a mandatory meeting, we host a social after that’s paid for by the journal.  Also, although we’ll be losing our 18th floor office, we’ll still have a space in the annex just for our staff where you can work, relax, or eat lunch.  Finally, the ILJ’s note requirement allows you to explore an area of international law in great depth.  You’ll also have the chance to publish your note as a 3L.  The ILJ publishes four student notes per year.

In all seriousness, good luck on your exams!  The incoming ILJ Board very much looks forward to reading your writing competition submissions and meeting our new 2L editing staff.  If you have any questions about the ILJ, please feel free to leave them in a comment.  Also, you can learn more about our journal here (Note: We will have our own website up and running by September 1st!).  See you next year!

Finals, we meet again.

Now with nearly a year under my belt, I  admit I feel so much differently about finals. Firstly, the stress level is high but it is not crippling me or causing me to cry almost every other night. Secondly, after seeing so many things I did wrong, I corrected bad habits this semester so I am in a much better place (for instance, I am not scrambling to outline right up until the day of the final). Lastly, I am a little burnt out.

I know you were not expecting that last one, but I have to be honest, I am so burnt toast. The first semester is a gigantic adjustment to the system, the atmosphere, the reading, the teachers, and the other students. Second semester is about keeping up. You have one additional class (4 instead of 3) plus your writing class plus Moot Court oral arguments. Additionally, you are applying and interviewing for summer positions. You will have a lot on your plate. It shall spill over. I did not need to remind myself to stay vigilant studying and building better habits for this semester because I came into second semester determined to improve where I could.

I did notice some people slack off a little. My mentors all told me some of it is people did well last semester and underestimate this semester’s workload and others are simply burnt out like me and feel a little complacent. I admit I do feel less worked up about things. For me, it is a good thing because the stress, anxiety, and frustration I felt last semester for finals were not positive feelings. I feel almost nothing. I feel tinges of stress and anxiety, but they have a miniscule impact on me right now. I can only do my best. I can always do better, but right now, I can only do my best and stressing is not a positive influence on me. It may be slacking or it may be, just like me, people are not working themselves up. You’re just too tired to get worked up. Stay positive, get sleep, and do your best. When you are at this point as well, I will nod sagely and say, I know that advice served you well.

Moot Court Fears

The Socratic method can be a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing when you have lively discussion and listen to people ask questions you may also have but are too scared to articulate or cannot even form words coherently to ask. The curse is when you freeze up with anxiety or you have no idea what is going on. Even if you love the spotlight, and admittedly sometimes I do love the spotlight, being called on is not the ideal spotlight. 60+ people looking at you with a variety of expressions ranging from “you poor thing” to “OMG, did you even read the materials?”

Well, Moot Court oral arguments are sort of like that, except you are in a room with only six people, and instead of one professor grilling you, you have three “judges” (mix of students and guests) staring at you. If you want to be a litigator or prosecutor, you’ll find Moot Court quite helpful because it does require thinking on your feet, being prepared for questions about your issues, and composure. If you are like me and you will avoid the courtroom like the plague, it is not so much a fun experience.

A large portion of Moot Court is the time and the unknown factor. You may receive a panel of judges who hardly ask any questions (this is known as a “cold” bench) or you will receive a panel like mine, and it is a “hot” bench. A hot bench means the judges fire questions rapidly at you and do not give you an opportunity to actually just spit out your argument and sit down. It is pretty scary. You are standing for a full 15 minutes and being grilled, but once it is over, it is not the worst experience. You build it up in your head to be so much more stressful than it really is.

My biggest piece of advice (now that I am on the other side and much wiser for it) is to relinquish the fear of “sounding stupid” and looking foolish. Feel free to apply that advice to not just Moot Court but also the Socratic method. See what I did there? There is a method to my madness. Law school is really about being brave enough to be wrong and sound wrong because you need to understand how you are wrong in order to learn more about yourself and the subjects. When you relinquish this fear of looking foolish or sounding dumb, you can focus on figuring out the material and how to tackle it.

Judge Denise Casper’s Tips for Law Students

Recently, I’ve had a chance to work with the Law School’s marketing staff to produce some articles for the main school website. It’s a win-win: The school gets coverage of its events; I get to attend the events and get paid. Any extra money helps during law school, of course, but I honestly enjoy attending these events and learning more about the legal profession.

The student organizations at BU Law bring in panels and individual speakers an average of twice a week, I would guess. I’ve seen some excellent presentations by leaders in their field, both scholars and practicing attorneys. The events the law school puts on are equally likely to be entertaining and educational.

My final big event of the year was part of the James N. Esdaile Jr. Lecture Series. While I’m sure the Hon. Denise J. Casper of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts would have been an interesting speaker on any number of subjects, I appreciated that she chose to focus on her advice to law students and young lawyers.

Judge Denise J. Casper (Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe image labelled for reuse)

We get so much “career advice” in law school that it has started to run together. I chose, however, to listen to Judge Casper with an open mind, and I’m glad I did. My personal takeaways from her presentation were:

  • Be the type of lawyer who chooses wisely at the outset: Go for “zealous advocacy” when appropriate, even disagreement with the court, but also know when you don’t know something.
  • Remember that your reputation will be set early and that it will stick with you.
  • Don’t restrict yourself to your office–get to know other lawyers and join professional organizations.
  • Keep the idea that you’ll likely change jobs at least once in mind. Diversify your education.
  • Advocate for well-funded courts and representation for indigent individuals.
  • Look for good mentors and keep those relationships strong.
  • Balance work and life for better perspective on both.

It’s encouraging to hear that the things I see as important are also important to a successful judge. It gives me hope as I put my first year of legal education to rest that I might even be on something of the right track!

Read the full story on the lecture here.

Spring is finally coming to BU. Flowers bloom and grass gets green on the last day of classes!

Spring is finally coming to BU. Flowers bloom and grass gets green on the last day of classes!

Collecting Advice

Last week I had my last corporations class, my last administrative law class, and the last day of my externship. At the end of each of my classes – like in years past – the professor took a moment to impart a little advice. Some of the advice was specific to law school exams but much of it was general career advice: things they wish they had known, things that we should keep in mind as we strive to find the job/specialty that is right for us, and some comments about the legal job market.

Though some of the advice is frustrating (“law school exams don’t reflect what you need to know to be a good lawyer” – thanks a lot), I appreciate these brief insights from professors. I’m sure they say similar things to their classes every year, but I believe it is genuine each time. They truly do want us to succeed and are happy to send us to the next phase of our education/career with a few gems of advice.

During the last day of my externship, my supervisors took me out to lunch. As the lunch ended, more welcome advice: how to best position yourself at a law firm, a comparison of different types of jobs they have held within the legal field, and wise words about the reality of being a female litigator (and about being a mom and a litigator).

I pay close attention when these words are spoken, and truly appreciate them. But then it’s off to the next thing – taking the T back to campus, or settling down in the library to finish my outline, and the advice is only as good as my memory. Will I remember my supervisor’s recommendations about which government agencies are the best to work for if, someday in the future, I want to apply to work at a government agency?

So, from now on, I’m going to take a moment to write down any pieces of advice that really resonate with me. And if I could go back in time, I’d start this project at the beginning of law school. Whether it’s school-specific or about your broader legal career, there will be many people – professors, supervisors, mentors, older students – who offer excellent tidbits of information. You will recognize it and try to commit it to memory in the moment, but if you have the foresight to jot it down you’ll soon build up a resource to turn to when you’re gearing up for the next semester or next career move.

Journal Community

Exams are fast approaching, but the 1Ls won’t be done with the semester after time is called on their last exam. After that last exam comes only a brief respite, followed by the (in)famous 1L Writing Competition.

In preparation, the current 1Ls are – as I was last year – starting to think about which journal might be the best fit for them, their legal interests, and their contemplated career path.

But no matter which journal you join, you’ll be doing mostly the same things: gathering sources and checking citations in articles, and working on your Student Note. And, no matter which journal you join, you’ll be entering a new community.

Joining a journal means joining a group of 2Ls and 3Ls all working toward the common goal of creating quality publications. The number of books you will help publish depends on which journal you join – each has a different schedule – but each repeated publication process brings you closer to your peers as you work to bring articles up to publishable quality.

Sometimes this camaraderie means commiserating about the terrible quality of the citations that you have been tasked with fixing or the looming deadline for a draft of your Student Note. But other times the camaraderie manifests itself in more positive ways like hanging out in the journal office and attending journal social events together. Some journals even make t-shirts, or take professional group pictures (yes, very high school).

While you spend your 1L year with your section, this section community disappears during 2L year. For me, the journal community has come to take its place. Through the Law Review community I’ve become friends with students in my own class who I never even met during 1L year. I’ve gotten to know the 3Ls too – not only are they great leaders for the journal, but they’re a great source of advice, mentorship, and support.

In a previous post, I mentioned my new role as Senior Articles Editor of the BU Law Review. I hope to use my role to cultivate that sense of community I have enjoyed so much. Commiserating over the challenges of publishing is inevitable, but I hope that our class will be as welcoming and positive towards our new journal members next year as this year’s 3L class was to us!