Starting Second Semester

Between finals and the end of break, life seemed like a blur. Before I knew it, I was on my way back to Boston for Lawyering Lab. Lawyering lab is a unique, week-long opportunity to put skills into practice. Students are divided into teams that will work together all week representing one side or another. At the end, two teams will be paired up to take part in a final negotiation. Lawyering Lab consists of a simulated deal between two companies looking to either merge or contract. Teams counsel their client, edit contracts according to their client’s needs, and negotiate a final contract with a team representing the other client. By the end of the week, the deal is concluded. A couple days later, second semester starts.

The beginning of second semester was even busier than the beginning of the first. Instead of having three classes plus writing, my section now has four classes plus writing. Though I didn’t imagine that this would make much of a difference, it certainly does. Time is flying faster than ever and there can’t possibly be enough hours in the day. However, I believe that it is crucial to take time away from schoolwork, job applications, activities, and everything else to have some fun and stay grounded. That being said, I thought I would include a few things I’ve been up to since returning to Boston.

The Boston Athenaeum

Located downtown, just a couple blocks away from the Common, the Athenaeum is a fantastic, historical, private library. Better yet, they have special exhibits that are open to the public for a small fee. Their recent exhibit included old (very old), rare maps. Additionally, the first floor is open to the public and is definitely a Boston landmark worth checking out. Even though I found myself once again surrounded by books, the Athenaeum and its exhibit offered a nice break from everything law-related.

The Museum of Fine Arts

A banner advertising a Vermeer and Rembrandt exhibit sparked my interest in the museum. One of the Louvre’s two Vermeer paintings was traveling when I visited Paris. Traveling, in part it seems, to Boston. I decided to go track it down and found so much more. The Museum of Fine Arts (free to BU students!) is a great place to spend a day and has something to offer everyone. Moreover, it’s a nice distraction from casebooks for a few hours.

Wandering Around Boston

The Boston Public Garden, Newbury Street, and Beacon Hill are my favorite places in the city to wander. The Public Garden is like an oasis in the middle of a busy city. Newbury Street is constantly bustling and has great spots for coffee, treats, nice dinners, and shopping (of course). Beacon Hill is classic. The historic cobblestone streets are surprisingly peaceful the further into the neighborhood you walk. These spots, and many others, are great places to go walking with friends. It’s always fun to choose a spot and see what you end up finding! Tackling tourist traps is another favorite, especially when guests are in town. However, I will leave the details of these spots up to the guidebooks.

First year is flying by, and it is sometimes easy to get swept up in all of the work that second semester demands. Sometimes, it is necessary to stay in for a weekend to get everything accomplished. However, when possible, getting away from it all is important. Boston has a lot to offer and can even feel like a mini-vacation. Law school can be stressful, but there is still plenty of time to go out and explore a bit in the midst of it all.

The Space Saver Conundrum

With the first major snow event of the season occurring last weekend, space savers once again entered the stream of conscious for many Boston residents. Residents who must park their cars in crowded neighborhoods such as Allston, Brighton and Jamaica Plain often use a variety of items such as garbage cans and lawn chairs to save the spot that they originally shoveled out. However, after Boston received approximately 6 inches of snow last Saturday night, the Boston Public Works Department began removing these space savers from spots. Mayor Marty Walsh, who has been largely inconsistent in his treatment of space savers, stated that space savers should only be used on a short-term basis during a snow emergency. The city’s regulations of this issue remains largely inconsistent because most Boston residents do not shovel their cars off during the immediacy of a snow emergency and instead, make use of space savers only once they attempt to travel by car after the snow has ended.

Last winter, space savers were used seemingly throughout the entire winter as a string of storms from late January throughout February made parking in many neighborhoods nearly impossible. A number of violent incidents occurred when people removed space savers and then parked in that spot. The original resident who shoveled the spot would then come back and see the space saver removed and often caused damage to the vehicle. This past Monday in Dorchester, a 34-year old man was shot over what was believed to be a parking dispute. This type of violence led some neighborhoods such as the South End to outright ban space savers last winter.

In my opinion, the arguments on each side of the issue are fairly understandable. The resident who uses a space saver did the hours of work shoveling the spot and believes he or she is the rightful “owner” of the space saver. However, if you do not live in the area or choose not to use a space saver, you feel like you should be able to park where you want because the street is a “public space.” Unfortunately, the already shrinking space that is Boston parking becomes an even greater premium during and following major winter snow events. It becomes somewhat of a vicious cycle when if you don’t use a space saver, you have no place to park your vehicle and have to then walk an unreasonably long distance to get to your car.

Throughout last winter, the Mayor’s Office would often attempt to regulate the use of space savers or limit the time that space savers could be used on city streets. However, these regulations and loose rules were rarely enforced. If the Mayor does want to regulate this issue and not have parking turn into the wild west, then the Boston Public Works Department should be active throughout this winter in removing space savers. A clear policy of no space savers throughout Boston should be easy to enforce and will provide a clear rule for all Boston residents to follow.

Checking off boxes

So, I’m graduating in May. (And yes, I do plan to start every blog post this semester with some variation of this sentence.)  As I mentioned in my last post, this is weird to me in many ways, not least because I feel like my life is speeding by me at a truly bizarre rate; but speeding it is. For example, I just got my bar review materials in the mail yesterday. I didn’t want these books this early precisely because they remind me of my impending graduation and huge life change, and I immediately shoved them in a locked trunk in my room so they couldn’t continue to haunt me for the next three months. But, before I could fully satisfy my avoidance problems and hide the books, they reminded me yet again of all the boxes I’ve checked off towards graduation.

Pictured: the offending, months-too-early bar review books.

Pictured: the offending, months-too-early bar review books.

  • Bar Review: Check. Although this isn’t technically a graduation requirement, it might as well be since you have to work it out before you graduate so you can start studying soon after. I chose a plan, I paid for the plan, I got the traitorous books, and I am officially ready to spend a summer locked in my house studying for the bar. Check!
  • Upper Class Writing Requirement: Check. Now, this one is a biggie. There are several academic requirements that you have to fulfill at BU in order to graduate, and the writing requirement is a particularly time-consuming one. My situation is a little more complicated because I’m in a dual degree program (concurrently getting a Masters in History while I do law school). This means that I had to write a legal history paper that would satisfy both this requirement with my law school advisor and my history advisor. As you can probably imagine, two people = double feedback = lots of revisions. But, about two weeks ago, I finally finished my 45-page masterpiece (she said ironically) and got approval from both of them! I’m so, so happy to cross this off the list.
  • Professional Skills Requirement: Check. There are tons of ways to satisfy this; I did mine by becoming a director for the Stone Moot Court program last semester.
  • Professional Responsibility Requirement: Half-check. Hilariously, even though I passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) last year, I never technically took a class to deal with this requirement. I’m in Professional Responsibility now and, although you probably shouldn’t technically wait until the last semester to do a major graduation requirement, I should be fine on this one.
  • Credit Requirements: Almost check. You have to get 84 passing credits in order to graduate from law school, which is no big deal, right? Well, this was also kind of challenging for me because of the dual degree program, where I share credits between the two schools. Although I have loved this program, it was way more logistically challenging to get all of my credits worked out. For example, my American Historiography course is 4 history credits but only 3 law credits; my legal history class in the law school is 3 law school credits but counts as 4 history credits. I know, very confusing! Luckily, though, everything worked out and as long as I don’t have some sort of meltdown this semester and fail all my classes, I should have 87 credits in May. Whew.
  • Language Requirement: Half-check. This one is for the History program, not law school, but it’s still something that I really needed to get done (and left until the last minute) in order to get my second degree. I’m in a French class right now which is pretty fun, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how much my high school French has been coming back to me. As long as I pass the “final” (it’s a no credit class so I use that term loosely), I will satisfy this requirement.

And, tada! I’ll graduate! I’ve always been a prolific list maker, so it’s really nice to see everything all laid out and realize that, despite the scheduling issues and occasionally poor course selections I’ve made, I am actually going to graduate in May with both a J.D. and a Masters in History.

It’s Raining Men(tors)

Hallelujah, it’s raining mentors.

As I continue navigating through my first year in law school, I am continually reminded of just how different it is from my past experiences. Having to contend with what feels like mountains of reading, hunting for summer positions, and writing briefs and memorandums is maybe a little on the exhausting side. Add in extra-curriculars like the client counseling competition, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, and you have what amounts to a pretty full plate for someone who was used to sleeping roughly 10 hours a night in undergrad.

I will say, though, that BU has been pretty great about giving me some resources to help me wade through it all. There are plenty of offices and programs that provide support, which have excellent staff and benefits, but the impetus for this post has been the commitment to mentoring that BU so clearly values. Coming in to law school, I was moving to a new city with no connections. Now, I have 4 student mentors, 2 attorney mentors, and 1 faculty mentor specifically assigned to deal with my incessant questioning. I have to say, I am usually someone who is pretty skeptical about taking on school provided mentors, as in the past I have found that usually taking some initiative on my own got me farther with my endeavors. However, as a first generation college student with no experience to draw from in my family, I decided to put aside my skepticism and give it a shot. Now, looking back, I am unbelievably happy that I did. As I continue to face challenges and questions that I’ve never been confronted with before, I find myself relying on my mentors more and more. Questions about jobs, questions about grades, questions about where a fun date night spot in the city is: my mentors have been more than happy to help with it all. And having so many mentors to go to means that I have more opportunities to ask someone who knows exactly the right answer, or get multiple perspectives on the same issues. Each has their own experiences, goals, and advice, and having that all at my disposal gives me just enough support to make it through my 1L year without wanting to rip my hair out.

My mentors have been an invaluable resource for me in law school. Especially now that the job search has folded itself into the daily mix of things, I appreciate their guidance as I try to figure out what it is I even want to be doing with my career. I plan on becoming a mentor myself next year, in the hopes that I can provide even just a little of the support to new students that my mentors have given me. Not to say that I won’t still be relying on my mentors, too!

A law student abroad

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Hey look! Buckingham Palace! Can I please come in and have all of Duchess Kate’s clothes?

This semester, my last semester of law school, I’m studying abroad at Harris Manchester College at Oxford University in the U.K. I’ve been in Oxford for about 3 weeks now, attending classes for the past 2 and I feel comfortable now saying that it’s an extremely different experience than school back in Boston.

First off, the school year is divided into three 8-week terms instead of two semesters and students only take 2 “tutorials” per term. I’m visiting for what’s called the “Hilary” term, which runs from mid-January to mid-March. Then, though, I’m done! I can travel or come back to Boston and catch up on three years of sleep (but in all likelihood I’ll get a part-time job and study for the CPA and the Bar because that’s how adulting works). Still, my semester is done in March! I can’t overstate how excited I am about that perk.

An even bigger difference, though, is the way classes are structured. During this term, I am taking a primary tutorial (corporate finance), a secondary tutorial (comparative contracts), and a third tutorial (British Legal System–because I’m from abroad and it’s part of the program). For tutorials, one to three students meet for an hour with a “tutor” (who should be thought of as a super-smart-expert-in-their-field professor) either every week (for primary tutorials) or every other week (for secondary tutorials). These teeny-tiny classes are enormously different from the large lectures, and even the small seminars, I’ve experienced at BU.

First, I’m assigned about 500 pages of reading for each tutorial. Coming to Oxford, I was told to abandon any prior ideas I had about finishing reading before a class–it basically can’t be done. Second, I have to write a 2000-3000 word essay due the night before each tutorial meets. Third, tutorials are run like small group conversations or oral exams, where the tutor asks questions and you all discuss the answers. Now, because I chose subjects that most students take in the first term of the year, for my primary, it’s just me and the tutor and for my secondary it’s me, the other BU student here (hi Alex!), and our tutor. Tutorials structured this way have their definite pros and cons. On the pros side, I get one-on-one or nearly one-on-one time to discuss a topic with an expert in the field. I can ask whatever questions I want and poke around the intricacies of a topic without worrying about bothering an entire class with my seemingly asinine questions. On the cons side, though, if I don’t know the answer to a question, I’m on my own. Also, when you’ve got other students in your class, they can often think of things that you never would have gotten to on your own. Either way, the system is what it is, so I’ll take the good and ignore the bad.

The third main difference I’ve noticed is that history is EVERYWHERE. Compared to some places in the U.S., Boston is old. We’ve got old historical sites like the Common, the site of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s house, and the Boston Tea Party, but compared to Europe, the U.S. is simply young. Here, every building, every brick has a story. Is that where Sir Isaac Newton studied? Over there, is that where they planned D-Day? I thought that was just my dining hall–my mistake. I also think there’s legitimately a 50% chance any given building in Oxford is a library, a bookstore, or somehow related to Harry Potter (and as a Potter fan, I’m particularly excited about that).

All of this combined means that I highly HIGHLY encourage anybody who’s thought of studying abroad to apply to come here. One out of one law student does recommend. If England isn’t your thing, don’t fret. There are a ton of programs available through the study abroad office. I don’t know much about them, but there’s a website (http://www.bu.edu/law/current-students/jd-student-resources/study-abroad/) and people who can help you. (No, I was not told to write this.)

So, I suggest you collect a friend to come along (because how much better is traveling and studying somewhere new with your bestie?) and study abroad. I mean, if not now, when?

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And London is just a short bus ride away. Hey there Ben!

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Harris Manchester College library. Don’t worry, the skeleton is cool.

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Were those stairs in the Harry Potter movies? Why yes, yes they were.

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This is where I live. Aww, look how cute it is.