Gaining Proficiency

I was walking down Commonwealth Avenue near the law school earlier this week when I heard a familiar sound; a deep and steady rumbling that seemed to shake the air. The noise slowly grew louder, and I started looking up in anticipation of the only thing that could make that sort of racket: an MV-22 Osprey taking off. Sure enough, a gunmetal grey Osprey flew over at low altitude as it transitioned into forward flight from somewhere on the Cambridge side of the river.

I wasn’t the only one looking up—other pedestrians were staring at the unusual aircraft passing overhead. I realized this sort of thing was pretty rare in Boston. Every once in a while you see Army and Coast Guard helicopters flying along the Charles, but generally military aircraft are not a common sight.

Just a couple years ago, that sound was a part of my workday. Just outside the doors of my workspace in a hangar in Hawaii, the roar of turboshaft engines and spinning rotors was a constant. Quiet was the exception for a squadron that worked round-the-clock to maintain its fleet of aircraft. A bit of nostalgia washed over me. While I didn’t fly Ospreys (or plopters, as everyone who doesn’t fly them affectionately calls them), seeing a Marine airframe flying low over the city brought back happy memories of my days flying the beloved CH-53 heavy lift helicopter.

Boat Helo

AKA: The Dirty Bird

There is lots to miss about flying. Plenty of work goes into planning and preparing for every flight, but the ritual of getting my gear on, walking out to the aircraft, and taking off for a mission never lost its magic. In fact, it actually got to be more fun as the years went on and my experience grew.

One of my favorite types of flights was a functional check flight, or FCF. After spending years of training in flight school and as a co-pilot and eventually an Aircraft Commander, I was qualified as a functional check pilot, or FCP. My job as an FCP was to take aircraft that had undergone maintenance and ensure that they were in working order before putting them back into the rotation for training missions.


My old office

The job was high stakes. Marines could spend hundreds of back-breaking hours working on these aircraft to get them into a mission capable status, and the operations department was relying on the birds to be ready to support a full flight schedule. Completing an FCF and returning an “up” aircraft to maintenance control was vital to the squadron’s ability to keep up with mission requirements.

Because of the unpredictable nature of check flights, they could only be flown between the hours of sunrise and sunset, and we took advantage of every moment in that window. After major maintenance, it could take the days to complete an FCF checklist. I loved being on the flight schedule for those days.

It might sound boring, but we could spend hours repeating the same ten or twelve checklist items to make sure everything was in working order. A small detachment of avionicsmen, airframers, and flightliners would troubleshoot issues while we repeated the steps until we were within acceptable parameters and we could move on. It was slow, methodical work. But it was also teamwork, and work we took seriously to make sure we were handing off safe aircraft to the next crew.

I’m not sure why all of that came rushing back to mind when I saw that aircraft flying low over Boston, but it did. I think part of the reason I look back on those days on the FCF schedule so favorably is because it was from a time in my life where I had reached a level of professional competence that made me an asset to my organization; I knew my job, and I knew it well. It was a difficult decision to walk away from a field of work that I had dedicated years of my life to studying and training for and throw myself into something entirely new here at law school. Like anything else in life, it will take a while (and probably a few mistakes) to get to that professional level of requisite knowledge and experience where I can feel like an integral part of an organization. I have to keep that in mind as I chip away at the various law school rites of passage like tech checks and memos and exams and transition back into the working world after graduation.  But one day all of this work that has been put in will lead to a moment where it all clicks—and suddenly, you’re flying.

3L Courses

Like many schools, your 1L schedule at BU Law is created for you and generally consists of Contracts, Torts, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Property, Lawyering Skills, and Lawyering Lab. For the most part, students are free to choose from more than 200 courses and seminars after 1L. For this post, I thought I would share the courses I am currently taking so readers can see a few examples of the seminars offered at BU Law.

DiscoveryAs a future litigator, I love this class. My favorite class 1L was Civil Procedure and I have since remained interested in understanding the Rule of Civil Procedure and the way in which the United States’ courts operate. Discovery covers an in-depth analysis of discovery under the federal rules of civil procedure with an emphasis on ESI—electronically store information.

Privacy: Last semester I took a 1 credit course on Information Privacy. I found the course interesting and so this semester I enrolled in the 3 credit Privacy course. The course has been very engaging in understanding Privacy law in the United States and around the world.

Advanced Constitutional Law: Citizenship, Immigration & the Constitution: Having spent a significant amount of my time in law school learning and practicing immigration law, this is probably my favorite course this semester. The course is also taught by my 1L Civil Procedure professor so it has that “everything is coming full circle” feeling to it.

Restorative Justice: This seminar is the only law school course that is taught at the BU School of Theology. The course is quite laid back but at the same time very thought provoking as it challenges us to understand Restorative Justice principles and practices within our own personal lives. I’ve recently written about my experiences with this course here.

Judicial Writing Like my other seminars, this seminar only meets once a week. However, Judicial Writing is only 2 credits compared to the 3 credits my other seminars are. This class has allowed me to further strengthen my legal writing through majority opinion, dissenting opinion, and appellate opinion writing assignments.

A Week in the Life: Part Two

When I was a 1L, I wrote about a week in my life as a 1L. Two years later, my life as a 3L has become very different. Notably, I have much more free time now, despite taking five classes. The overwhelming stress of 1L and 2L has largely disappeared, although the white hairs have unfortunately remained. 1L year was nice in the sense that all I had to worry about was grades and classes. Further, BU Law is an incredibly supportive environment which made coming to the law tower seven days a week less of a chore and more of something to which I looked forward. 2L year was incredibly busy between classes, moot court, clinic, and being a Co-President of LALSA. Despite what many people expect, I actually enjoyed my 1L year the best—largely because of the comradery, professors, and mentorship.

3L year has been nothing like the past two years. I spent every single day with the same seventy people in my section 1L year. This year, I’m lucky if I catch a few of my friends at the law school to catch up. Many 3L’s are more removed from the school and getting ready to begin their careers. Personally, I am only at the law tower for a few hours each week as I essentially have five days off from school. The rest of the week I spend working at the firm where I summered last summer. Thus, my life has become much more work-related and less about school. The great part is that I have so much extra time 3L year that I can continue to work and gain experience (and get a weekly paycheck). Below I have attached a screen shot of my iCal for the coming week. The comparison is striking as I look back at the screen shot I posted of my 1L schedule.

Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 4.09.07 PM

A Day in the Life of a 1L

I’ve been meaning to write a post like this for a while because I always love reading interviews about how people structure their days. My daily routines and schedule have not changed dramatically since last semester, but I have definitely made some changes as I’ve learned more of what works best for me when it comes to law school. So, without further ado, here is a peek into my typical weekday as a 1L:

5:00am – wake up (people are not shy about how insane it is that I do this, but I am such a morning person – I actually spent the first month of law school fighting against that and staying up until 1 or 2am until I finally had a teary-eyed realization that sleeping earlier and waking earlier are where it’s at for me)

5:00 – 6:00am – cook breakfast and lunch for the day; eat breakfast

6:00 – 9:00am – work on readings for classes

9:00 – 10:00am – shower and get ready

10:00am – commute to BU

10:30am – 4:00pm – classes, lunch, break, more classes (this time frame varies depending on the day of the week)

4:00 – 4:30pm – commute back home

4:30 – 5:30pm – dinner (I know I am 80 years old, but eating early gives me a huge chunk of time after dinner to get solid work done; also: I meal prep on the weekends so I never have to cook dinner during the week)

5:30 – 9:30/10pm – work on readings, outlining, etc. (I love doing work in my apartment as opposed to the library, and I find that I’m much more productive at home, which I know is atypical)

10:00pm – sleep (if I’m lucky – this has been turning into 11pm for the past few weeks as the semester comes to a close)

This obviously isn’t always how my days go, but for the most part, that’s the typical structure. There are definitely some tweaks that I’ll be making come Fall (i.e. carving out more time for exercising and (hopefully) more balance when it comes to life outside of school), but this is what has worked for me so far. One book that I would recommend that helped me in this process is titled “I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time” by Laura Vanderkam. I’m a huge organizational/efficiency nerd, and I read this book the summer before school started and would highly recommend it.

Bar (Application) Review

One thing law students are not told about when pushing towards the finish line of law school is how much information and organization is needed to complete the application to take the Massachusetts bar exam. Two weeks ago, as I sat in an information session hosted by Dean Muir, it dawned on me how completion of the bar application is really an encapsulation of your life. Between letters of recommendation, the character and fitness application and the laundry list of employers that are required, the bar application tests your memory and investigative skills to track down the missing pieces of your past years. I can only speak about the application for Massachusetts, but from what I understand, it is the same for bar applications for other states as well.

I recently started working on my application to sit to take the Massachusetts bar exam. When recently completing the employment section of the application, I was shocked at how many different employers I had since I turned eighteen. This included college internships, part time summer jobs, jobs in between undergraduate and law school and law school internships. Not only is it required to get the correct contact information for the employer but it is also required to obtain when you worked for them. Tracking all this information down and figuring out who to contact to get the information is part of the time consuming process that is the Massachusetts bar application.

Another element of the application that caught me off guard was the letter of recommendation requirement. Perhaps it was my own ignorance but before exploring the requirements for the application, I did not expect to have to get two different letters of recommendations. In addition, the recommendation letters differ from what is required for a job application. This means that the individual who is writing your recommendation letter has to discuss not how you would be as an employee or student, but instead, your commitment and character to practice of law. This requires a much deeper level of knowledge. It is valuable advice to start thinking about developing relationships with professors and colleagues who know you well enough to discuss these certain characteristics. Luckily, I had two people in mind, both coming as a result of connections at BU School of Law, who I could turn to right away that would have no problem writing this type of recommendation for me.

Finally, the character and fitness requirement of the bar application is an animal in and of itself. The way the questions are phrased on this part of the application leave you with constant doubt if you are doing the right thing. The most important advice one can have, which was relayed by Dean Muir, is to disclose anything and everything if you are in doubt. Because this part of the application is important and looked into carefully by the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners, it is important to carefully evaluate whether there is anything that you need to disclose, however minor it may be. It is equally important to discuss any possible situations with the support staff at BU Law.

Overall, the Massachusetts bar application can be an arduous and time consuming process. Gratefully, BU Law does a good job of informing all applicants of the requirements for completion well in advance of the mid-May deadline to complete the application.