“Please be sure to buckle up for the descent”

The captain’s command lured me from my daydreams. Back to reality. Back to Boston, where the 12 degree weather felt acutely insulting after leaving San Diego’s 70 degree embrace.

In hindsight, perhaps my spring break itinerary was a bit too ambitious. Never mind the “Academic Goals” portion of my To Do List; I only managed to check every box under “R&R”: spend time with family, bask in the sun, catch up on sleep, and eat loads of Japanese food. I do believe I accomplished those objectives admirably, though.

Japanese Breakfast

I fully expect March to whiz by at warp speed, with restorative justice and boats at the top of the agenda. BU’s graduation requirements include completing a lengthy research paper written under the supervision of a faculty member. Most students accomplish this through their journal note, but since I’m not on a journal, I decided to “cert” through the marvelous Juvenile Delinquency seminar I took last semester. My cert paper explores the benefits and drawbacks of restorative justice interventions as both alternatives and supplements to traditional criminal proceedings. I’m now three drafts and 92,000 words into the process—it’s officially longer than my master’s thesis!—with the final draft due next week. My one piece of advice is to cert on a topic that captivates your interest, one that will continue to inspire curiosity and tender devotion many months later. Some of my friends made the unfortunate mistake of certing on a subject they felt only lukewarm about. “It’s like taking a cross country road trip with a nettlesome companion,” or so I’ve been told. By contrast, the experience has been extremely rewarding for me. Juvenile justice reform was a driving factor motivating me to attend law school, and I couldn’t be happier to come away from the process with a rich and nuanced understanding of restorative justice programs.

Admiralty Moot Court is the other carry-over from first semester. Our rock star team of three proudly submitted our brief in mid-February, and since then we’ve been diligently preparing for oral argument on March 23. Prior to spring break we argued before two separate panels of judges (many of whom are members of the admiralty bar) in BU’s courtrooms. Two practices remain before we head to New Orleans, and I’m feeling confident that our team will make BU proud. Participating in moot court has noticeably sharpened my oral advocacy skills and has taught me a great deal about the eccentricities of admiralty law. I now await the day I can contribute my knowledge of allocating damages in admiralty cases during a round of pub trivia.

It’s time to sign off and commence tomorrow’s homework. In other news, I hear there’s a blizzard warning for Tuesday. 12-18 inches–yippee!

time management

I recently watched a video online in which Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gives advice about work-life balance.  She explains that when she was in law school, she studied until 4pm, then completely quit studying to focus on spending time with her daughter, and then resumed studying after her daughter was asleep.  She says, “each part of my life provided respite from the other and gave me a sense of proportion that classmates trained only on the law lacked.”

I learned this same lesson, but in a different way.  When I first started teaching, I often stayed up all night writing lessons and grading papers.  I was completely baffled by my teammates, seasoned teachers with years of experience, who left the building at 3pm to spend the evening with their families and enjoyed the weekend rather than stressing.  In my idealism at the time, I reasoned that because there was always more work to be done (it’s always possible to improve), I couldn’t stop working.  Didn’t those teachers care about their work?  How could they leave when there was more to be done?  Granted, these teachers already had tons of material, lesson plans, and systems created, whereas I had to make everything from scratch (each year after I found to be easier than the previous, for this very reason).  However, these teachers had also learned the value of setting limits and making time for other things that are equally important.  A few years later, I finally understood:  other aspects of life are equally important, and to value those aspects does not mean you value work less.  It is simply a matter of time management, choices, and balance.

I’m glad I learned this lesson before law school, because it has served me well.  This lesson is precisely why I study only until a certain time in the evening, before relaxing and going to sleep.  If I really need to do more work, I just get up early.  I feel refreshed, and I’m able to focus better.  It’s also the reason why I study and write papers without social media or text messages open or the television on (the less time I waste, the more efficiently I finish the task, leaving me more time for other things).  It’s also why I chose to participate only in a clinic (as opposed to both a clinic and a journal).  While some students may truly want to do both (and that’s okay too), it is also okay to choose to focus on just one.  There are many ways to work efficiently and prioritize what’s important.  It is just a matter of figuring out what works best for you.

Too Little Time…

This past weekend, I realized the next couple of weeks were going to be a challenge – events and obligations had aligned. Deadlines, meetings, assignments, and chores had all managed to fall within the same two weeks. My schedule had become overwhelming. However, this kind of thing does tend to happen in law school, where you always have more than enough to keep you busy. Having been through this scenario before, I have a few tricks that I use to make sure that I still manage to meet all of my deadlines and make all of my meetings on time. Though it’s not “easy as 1, 2, 3,” I do have 3 steps that can make things a little bit easier during hectic times.

  1. Keep a monthly calendar so you can see how events are lining up and be aware of any hectic weeks ahead of time.

I really like to be able to visualize my schedule. When you lay out your schedule in a monthly format, it’s so easy to see when you have a lot of obligations colliding. It also helps as you plan more flexible events – you can simply avoid weeks that look too hectic. I find that when I am able to “see” my schedule, I have a much easier time spotting chaotic weeks and preparing accordingly.

  1. Keep a detailed weekly planner so assignments and other small things don’t slip through the cracks.

In law school, there are many assignments and obligations. In 2L, obligations are far more varied. While your 1L responsibilities mainly stem from your classes, 2L responsibilities tend to be more wide-ranging. In these two weeks, I have encountered journal deadlines, office hour meetings, and special events alongside my regular coursework. Since this variety can make the week feel a little bit scattered, I like to make sure that I keep my weekly planner up to date and detailed. If it’s written down, it’s tough to forget. For me, this is the key to keeping my week organized and making sure that I don’t forget any immediate obligations.

  1. When hectic weeks hit, find ways to pace yourself.

I am a to-do list person. In times of stress, my first thought is usually to make a list. When I encounter especially frenzied weeks, I like to set out goals for myself, day by day, so that I stay on track. Again, it’s all about making sure that nothing gets forgotten. Sometimes I like to block off time, like when there are meetings or interviews to get to, and then plan the rest of my day around it. In the end, it is all about finding a method that works for you and the method that best suits your situation.

Although planning can seem like a lot of work, and may sound time consuming, I find that setting a few minutes aside to plan can prevent a lot of stress later. Whether you prefer writing notes on a post-it, keeping a calendar on your wall, or using your phone to schedule your events, I believe that learning how to effectively organize events and manage deadlines is half the battle. Additionally, I feel that it is an important aspect of law school to pay attention to since it will inevitably prepare you for similar situations in your career. Thanks to keeping organized, I was able to easily see how things were aligning and was able to work ahead a little bit in order to make life somewhat more manageable. Keeping your obligations organized can be half the battle in law school, so it’s worth the time and effort to plan ahead.

 

Taking Advantage of the CDO

I think that I touched on this in a previous post about what I learned from my first semester here at BU, but I thought I’d go into a little bit more detail about the resources that I have taken advantage of so far from the Career Development Office (CDO).

My undergraduate institution was incredible in countless ways, but one thing that it did not offer was comprehensive advising services. This was good in one way because it helped to foster a sense of independence and self-reliance in organizing my undergraduate studies, but it left me more in the dark than I would have preferred regarding my education.

Last semester, we were required to have a preliminary CDO appointment with our advisor and advising group, which consisted of a few fellow students. Afterward, however, I made a one-on-one appointment with my advisor, which I would highly recommend. It gives you a chance to be a little bit more candid about your goals, interests, and aspirations. Since then, I have made two more appointments with my advisor both during the Fall and Spring Semesters. I think it’s helpful to check in and to get questions answered as they arise, especially after gaining exposure to different fields within law from alumni events.

The day after finals ended last semester, I made an appointment for a mock interview to get prepared for interviews that I had lined up for winter break. I made an appointment with an alternate advisor who I am not assigned to because it worked best for my schedule, and I would also encourage doing to gain more perspective and to keep building up a support network within the CDO. The mock interview was just what I needed to quell my nerves before my interviews, and I am so grateful for having taken the time and initiative to make this happen.

My last major piece of CDO-related advice does not have to do with making a face-to-face appointment per se, but to checking your CDO weekly emails. Full disclosure: I was in such a daze last semester that I rarely read these emails in their entirety, and now that I’ve been lifted out of the fog of the Fall semester, I regularly (and thoroughly) read these emails! They are filled with upcoming events as well as job opportunities, and I regret not reading them more fully sooner.

So those are just some tips that I have from my experience thus far with the CDO. This team provides support and encouragement in the law school setting, which can be known for just the opposite qualities. Maybe it’s because of my undergrad experience, but I was blown away at the advisors’ willingness to lend a helping hand along this law school journey thus far. I have already learned so much from taking advantage of just some of the CDO’s resources, and I would encourage everyone to do the same.

Commuting to BU

I live in Salem, MA…. aka “the Witch City”… known for the Salem Witch Trials.  I chose to live in Salem because after having worked for several years, I really wanted to buy my home, and when I first moved here, I had a job teaching in the neighboring town of Lynn.  Salem is a cute town with a lot of restaurants, bars, museums, parks, and a waterfront.  Salem seemed like the most logical choice.  However, the one downside is that it’s not connected to the freeway.  So when I got into BU School of Law, I started to wonder, how will I get to school?

The best way to get to BU from Salem (in my opinion) is to just drive.  Buy a parking pass for the garage and an EZ Pass for the toll bridge and you’re set!  My strategy is to put all of my classes on only 2 or 3 days a week so I don’t commute as often.  Traffic can be bad during rush hour, but I also strategically avoid rush hour.  My commute ends up being about 50 minutes.  I have my coffee and music, and in general, I don’t mind the drive (being from Houston, I’m used to commuting).

After I started classes at BU, I realized that there are actually several law students who commute.  Massachusetts has an elaborate public transit system with various options.  Some people take commuter rails from suburban towns.  Other people take the subway from other parts of Boston.  I’ve even met a few people who commute from other states — from Maine by bus and from Rhode Island by train.  So if you’re wondering about commuting:  it can be done.

Commuting can be productive even:  if you’re on the train or commuter rail, you can get some reading done, watch movies, or just sleep.  Otherwise, you can always listen to audio books.  There are even study aids in audio format.

So don’t let the distance discourage you — there’s always a way to make things work!