Showing Up

As you make your way through law school, there are dozens of small decisions you can make that can change your whole academic or professional trajectory. Do you sign up for a journal? If so, which one? Do you give moot court a shot? Do you go to a certain networking event? Which clinic do you take? Which jobs do you apply for?

With all of the options we have available to us, the importance of the decisions we make can sometimes be lost in the mix of it all. Little did I know, for example, that my decision to apply for a 1L summer internship with the Department of the Interior would steer me towards a focus on environmental law. Nor would I have guessed that my decision to walk into the audition room for the Legal Follies one Thursday afternoon during my 1L fall would turn into one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of law school.

At the time, I had some vague notion that there was a comedy group on campus, and they wrote jokes about law school. I thought it could be fun, so I made the decision to spend my lunch break auditioning. Later, when I received a call offering me a spot on the cast, I made another decision to say yes. A week later, I was on the Follies’ retreat with a group of people that would become my closest friends in law school.

Now it is a month after we took our final bows for the 2018 show, and it is difficult to imagine what law school would have been like without the Legal Follies. What I thought would be an extracurricular activity ended up becoming something of a family, and our baby was the show we put on in February. We were proud of it, sick of it, wanted to show it off, and wanted to get away from it all at the same time. Now this year is in the books, and it’s time to pass the torch to the next generation to take the group to new places. After we hold elections, the next big event for us will be auditions in the fall, and another 1L will be sitting where I was not so long ago, trying to decide whether they should walk into the audition room.

I have a folder on my computer where I’ve kept all the sketches and ideas for sketches I’ve written over the past two and a half years— close to 40 in all, in various stages of development. Some ended up making the annual Follies show, like a poetry slam for law students or a lawyer who needed helium to survive. Others failed to make the cut, like a re-imagination of Colbie Caillat’s song “Falling for You” entitled “Obergefallin’ for You” that celebrated the historic Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (song parodies often sounded better in my head). And then there were some that I didn’t even bother submitting like a sketch where the Bluebook editors argue about various abbreviations and it descends into a very personal debate.

Those nearly forty sketches are dwarfed by the memos and papers and outlines I’ve written for classes over the past two and a half years, and yet those forty sketches may carry with them the strongest memories of my time at law school. Each one represents a time I was among friends, collaborating and (usually) laughing. Some of them even represent failure, with gags that never landed or jokes that fell flat. In most cases, they would lead to feedback from other cast members and the sketch would go in a whole new, and better, direction. In other cases, it was better to just scrap them and move on. More than anything, those forty sketches represent the best decision I made in law school.

I could have easily skipped the audition that day, and I would have gone on with my law school career without thinking much of it. But the beauty of law school is that you can try things out and see how they fit without risking much. I tried my hand at moot court, threw my hat in the ring with journal, shook some hands at networking events. Not all of it was for me, but I am glad I at least tried it out. In the end, it turns out, the best small decision you can make is the decision to show up– you never know where it may lead you.

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

Last week (during spring break) the world celebrated International Women’s Day. I took the time to honor some of the most lovely, amazing, inspirational, strong, and supportive women in my life, and relished as others did the same: sharing stories, pictures, and memories on Instagram showcasing women who made an impact. One of my favorite parts was when people shared women who weren’t famous. Yes, Amal Alamuddin Clooney and RBG are fierce, famous women lawyers who deserve all the recognition in the world and then some. Yes, Serena Williams is the definition of a super-mom and the US Women’s Ice Hockey Team gives me so much hope for the future of female sports. But you know who else deserves recognition? Your mom, your sisters, your friends, and- YOU! The normal, everyday women who quietly do everything that is asked of them and more; the women who have made you into the woman you are today; the women who provide daily affirmation, support, guidance, and love. I loved seeing my Instagram feed filled with pictures of strong women, famous and non-famous, who have provided support to other women in one way or another.

I feel grateful to have attended BU under Dean O’Rourke’s helm and to have reaped the benefits of one of the best law school Deans of all time, male or female. I feel appreciative that I have the opportunity to learn from intelligent, successful, and incredibly gifted female professors, and am constantly in awe at the academic work they continue to produce in addition to their remarkable duties inside the classroom. I feel pride when I see the women in BU Law’s mural who paved a very rocky, difficult road and lead the way for me to walk more smoothly after them. I feel inspired by simply looking around the classroom at BU and seeing all the strong women seated next to me. I feel endlessly supported each autumn when I attend the Women’s Law Association’s Faculty Meet and Greet where many of our female faculty members speak to the room about their experiences and offer words of wisdom on how to succeed as a woman in law. And I feel uninhibited around many of the male professors and classmates who support and promote female equality in the field of law.

International Women’s Day was, for me, an exciting but humbling experience. I couldn’t fit into this post all my thoughts and feelings about the day, its message, and its heightened meaning when put into context of the current tense environment. I took time to reflect on my role as a woman in law, both what I liked and what I disliked. I reflected on how far we have come, and how far we have to go: not just for women, but for all minorities of all kinds who are underrepresented in law and other fields. And, I spent the day with my mom, just the two of us. That was the best part of it all.



My mom! Circa… sometime pre-Caroline, and pre-Alex (my older sister).

And, of course, no legal-themed International Women’s Day post would be completed without…


(courtesy of Google).

Spring Break in Washington D.C.

B CapitolMy last spring break of law school is drawing to a close. Many 3Ls took advantage of this brief respite to flee the last vestiges of winter in Boston. Photos of gleeful friends basking in the sunny waters of Cancun and Bermuda adorn social media. Others took this opportunity to delve into BU-sponsored pro bono trips to high-need communities around the country.

After spending 1L spring break writing a term paper for Administrative Law and 2L spring break chugging away at my capstone cert paper, I was eager to spend this week frolicking outdoors and playing tourist in our nation’s capitol. I’ve been here since January, as part of BU Law’s Semester in Practice Program, but I’ve spent little time outside due to the bitter cold and D.C. gales that chill you to your bones.

While Boston was pummeled with snow, spring arrived in D.C.—just in time for a visit from one of my best friends from BU! Nina (who you may remember from my Admiralty Moot Court adventures) took the train down from Boston, and thus began a whirlwind week of fun.

brynn-nina_Eleanor RooseveltWe began our journey with an evening tour of the monuments. Personally, I think after sunset is the best time to monument-hop around the Tidal Basin. Not only are there fewer tourists to compete with for access to Thomas Jefferson and Fala (FDR’s canine companion), but the buildings are magnificently lit, appearing as beacons in the dark.

The next day we managed to secure day-of tickets to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest Smithsonian installation. Because this museum is still relatively new, tickets are not as easy to come by. (Pro tip: If you are a veteran or first responder, you can proceed straight to the front of the line!) The exhibits were deeply moving and chronicled the turbulent history of African Americans from the early years of the American slave trade all the way through President Obama’s ascendance to the Presidency in 2008. My favorite artifact was a delicate lace shawl that Queen Victoria gave to Harriet Tubman.

B&Nina capitol selfieI was also delighted to learn the story of Elizabeth Freeman, the first enslaved African American to successfully sue for her freedom in Massachusetts. The story goes that Elizabeth was inspired to file suit after overhearing the Massachusetts Constitution’s guarantee that “All men are born free and equal.” The Supreme Judicial Court held in her favor and ruled that slavery was inconsistent with the state’s constitution.

One of the perks of being an intern at the Capitol is the heightened level of access that staff and their guests enjoy when meandering through the underground passages beneath the Capitol’s many Senate and House Buildings. The official tour, organized through the Capitol Visitor Center, is definitely worthwhile as well. Our enthusiastic guide narrated the life of the Capitol Building through tales of its statues, chandeliers, and murals.rotunda

After several other museum stops and a hearty Ethiopian feast, (fun fact: D.C. boasts dozens of Ethiopian restaurants!), it was time to bid Nina farewell at Union Station. She’s due to pull into Back Bay shortly, after spending the train ride recalibrating for classes that resume tomorrow. I, too, am looking forward to returning to work tomorrow—refreshed, recharged, and ready to continue this great adventure in D.C.B_Washington Monument

Staycation, All I Ever Wanted

Spring Break in Boston! This year, I ended up going for the staycation—partially by choice, partially by virtue of back-to-back nor’easters hitting the east coast. While the stormy weather hasn’t made it feel exactly like spring break, sticking around town has its benefits in recharging for the final push before graduation. There is, after all, plenty to do and prepare for—outlines for final papers are due, jobs need to be applied to, taxes ought to be filed, movies should be watched. Not worrying about travel plans has been a reprieve for both the wallet and the mind, and I have enjoyed relaxing in Boston for the week off.

There have only been two other towns in my life that I’ve lived in for longer than three years, so I have the tendency to get a little antsy around this time when I feel like I am running out of new places to explore or restaurants to try. Fortunately, Boston has stood the test of time and I’m still finding new ways to enjoy myself around the city. Part of the reason for the for the staying power of a town like Boston is that it has so many little neighborhoods, and most of them are within walking distance. For example, my girlfriend and I decided to have a date night and check out a new candlepin bowling place located in the ever-changing section of Allston that abuts I-90. With only six lanes, the place was booked for the night, so we just decided to mosey around town and find a good slice of pizza somewhere new. The weather was mild, so we were in no rush, and we walked past the bars in Brighton and the college student haunts along Comm Ave. We walked past Fenway Park—its lights out for just a few more weeks before opening day—and came upon Boylston Street, where the streets were bustling with people heading to the nearby bars, restaurants, and theaters. Even in the few years that we’ve been here, we noticed the street was filled with places to shop and eat. The short distance we walked from the college-centric scene on Commonwealth Avenue brought a whole different vibe.

It is like that in many parts of the city, where you will walk a few blocks and emerge in a whole different kind of Boston. In some places, it feels as if there is a chronological aspect to it—the college kids hang out around Brighton and Allston, the young professionals prefer the South End, the old stodgy folks prefer the fancy restaurants in Beacon Hill. What I enjoy about the city is that no matter where you find yourself, you are sure to find something new and interesting and fun. Just pick a direction and walk, and you’ll end up finding a funky new bar in Cambridge, a scenic trail in Jamaica Plain, or a historic site in Charlestown. With so many options, a staycation still feels like a getaway—and all you need is a comfy pair of shoes to get you there.

Where in the World to Take the Bar?

For non-lawyers out there, the bar exam seems like some ethereal exam that all lawyers take that is essentially torture. What the rest of the world doesn’t seem to know is that there is a LOT more to the bar exam than simply taking the test. And all that complication begins with one, seemingly simple, question: where in the world should I take the bar exam?

For 3Ls who have already been hired on for after the bar, have certain geographical ties, or simply have a strong desire to practice in a specific jurisdiction, deciding where to be barred is pretty straightforward. But when you’re a global nomad like me, the question is a lot more complicated. Taking the bar exam in one state does NOT mean you can necessarily be recognized to practice in all other states. For more on understanding that, go to one of the many bar exam info sessions BU hosts- they are seriously lifesavers. For me, I assumed I would take the bar exam in Massachusetts. I’m going to law school in Massachusetts, after all. And I’m also benefiting from a recent change in the MA Bar Exam… Massachusetts has moved over to the UBE (Uniform Bar Exam). The Class of 2018 will be the first to sit for the UBE in Massachusetts. In short, the UBE makes it much easier to waive into the bar in other states that also have the UBE. Notably, both New York and DC are UBE jurisdictions. Great, right? Take the bar in MA, be able to waive into NY or DC quite easily…. well, wrong.

The bar exam has more leverage than just being the exam that makes you a lawyer. Where you take the bar exam can indicate to employers how serious you are about practicing in a specific state or city. If you haven’t found a job yet, demonstrating to employers your dedication to their geographical area can be an essential tool in employment. The problem for me is- I know WHAT I want to do, but because of the international nature of that subject, and the fact that I have lived all over the world, WHERE I practice is much less important to me. And what’s more, most places I’m looking to work don’t have my chosen field located in just one office. For some firms, I’ve applied to the same or similar positions in four or five different cities, and from talking to attorneys there, teams from any combination of those offices could end up working on the same cases at any given time.

I also have the added factor of getting a degree in Europe. As an American, you can work for an international company or employer in Europe, but to do a substantive amount of work or to move beyond a “jurist” title , you should be barred somewhere in the EU. It is easier to be barred in an EU Member State when you are barred in the US, particularly in New York. But there are some routes that are just out of the question for me- like sitting the bar in France this year (I do NOT speak enough French to tackle that. No way, no how). But there are other routes to equivalency, all of which are complicated at face.

Which brings me back to the question I spent a lot of time pondering… where in the world should I take the bar. California was on the table early on because it is where my family is from, and it would be nice to know I could return to sunny CA if and when I wanted. But my desire to work on a more international scale, in a field that is mostly concentrated on the East Coast in the US, made me hesitate on limiting myself with the CA Bar. I decided UBE was the best route, either in Boston, New York, or DC. Boston and NY emerged as frontrunners because of my work experience in Boston and my realization of the international renown for the NY bar. I will be sitting the US bar either in MA or NY for sure. Which of those two I choose for certain depends on some avenues I’m pursing for equivalency in Europe. And figuring out equivalency in Europe means that, yes, I am sifting through the bar rules of 28 Member States to understand fully what, where, and how I can practice for an international employer with or without their bar exam. It is thirsty work my friends. Who knew the world could be so confusing!

But nonetheless, I will be taking the bar this July, and I know wherever I end up taking it and whether I end up practicing in the US, in Europe, or on the moon, I will be well-prepared and ready to kick butt thanks to my awesome education at BU Law.