Life at The Firm

After three full weeks as a Summer Associate, I feel like I’ve finally found my groove. Each morning commences with a cup of strong coffee as I take stock of the day ahead—appointments galore and ambitious productivity slots neatly stacked in 30-minute increments on my electronic calendar.

View from my office on the 39th floor

View from my office on the 39th floor

The number one question my 1L friends ask me is “what exactly do Summer Associates do?” My firm has an empowering system that grants us discretion to pluck intriguing projects from an assignment pool. The pool includes transactional and litigation projects covering every practice group—from labor & employment and real estate to intellectual property and startups. We are strongly encouraged to dabble in unfamiliar areas of the law and work with as many attorneys as possible. I recently wrapped up a research memo on admiralty law; tomorrow I will delve into the worlds of private arbitration and construction; and July will bring administrative law and data security to the fore.

Coming into the firm, I did not expect to engage with such a wide array of legal topics, nor did I expect to produce work product beyond standard research memos. This rapid-fire exposure to new substantive areas of the law is nothing short of thrilling, as is working on law review articles and summary judgment motions with amazing attorneys.

In addition to the interesting tasks that funnel down through the project pool, experiential learning opportunities constantly pop up. Within my first two weeks, several colleagues personally invited me to observe them argue motions in court, depose witnesses, and counsel clients in mediation sessions. If that wasn’t enough, these busy attorneys took the time to solicit my opinions, answer my questions, and include me in strategy discussions about next steps. Generosity is a constant theme at this firm.

Finally, I feel incredibly privileged to work alongside such thoughtful attorneys and staff. Not a day has gone by without someone new welcoming me to the firm or inquiring how my summer is going. They all want to hear that I’ve been given meaningful and challenging work, and every conversation ends with offers of open doors and support.

Welcome bouquet!

Welcome bouquet!

Stay tuned for my next blog, in which I’ll discuss some of the more challenging aspects of my life at The Firm. (Hint: Billing in six minute increments is not my forte.)

 

Summer (school) Events

Leading up to finals week I caught myself daydreaming all the time about the fun summer events I had planned: my close friend’s wedding (and bachelorette party!), my niece joining the world (hi, Savannah!), the Boston Pizza Festival, James Taylor at Tanglewood on the 3rd of July… the list went on, and soon my weekends were all filled up with non-school events. At that point in time the last thing I wanted to do was be at the law school, doing law-school things.

And yet… within a few weeks I found myself back at the tower covering the Law and Economics Guido Calabresi symposium. And just this week I attended a panel about legal advocacy for Tibet. And while these non-school events have been the best mental and emotional reprieve, I found that the law school events were academically engaging, reminding me why I was in law school in the first place and re-energizing my passion and excitement about the upcoming year.

The Law and Economics symposium frankly just blew me away. I was asked to cover the event for the communications department (blogger perks!). I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about the event going into things, beyond what the announcement flyer detailed and a bit of googling. About halfway through the first panel it hit me: I was in a room with some of the most brilliant legal (and, let’s be honest, brilliant in general) minds that I would ever meet. The caliber of academia in that room alone made my head spin. These individuals had started the field of law and economics, they had been leading scholars for over 70 years, they had illustrious and decorated careers in different fields, and were absolutely brilliant. While I felt small and inexperienced, I was also awestruck and inspired; and being inspired was the most overwhelming feeling from that day. I also was filled with a little hope- you see, it was said (by Guido himself if I remember correctly) that Guido Calabresi, the father of Law and Economics, one of the most brilliant legal scholars of our lifetime, got a B in Torts. Grades really aren’t everything folks!

Then I went to the panel about Legal Advocacy for Tibet. This panel was humbling, motivational, and reaffirmed my passion: international human rights. The panel featured Professors Sloane and Akram, a former political prisoner and survivor from Tibet, and one of the leading advocates for the Tibetan movement who did most of his work on universal jurisdiction in Spain. The discussion ranged from the hands-on work Professors Sloane and Akram have been pursuing domestically and abroad, to the way Spain used universal jurisdiction to push the issue farther and saw more success than anyone thought possible, to the humbling and heart-wrenching experiences of a woman who became a political prisoner at age 13 but never stopped fighting. That flame of passion for international human rights had been on the back burner until that night, flickering and struggling to stay alight as my mind was focused on Constitutional Law and Criminal Law and Property and the like. But now it is back, shining bright and propelling me toward 2L, the international law classes, and the opportunities to make a difference.

School’s Out For Summer…Kinda

There is probably no better feeling than the one of pure euphoria that is walking out of your last exam into the sweet, waiting arms of summer. Kissing dry case readings, Socratic-method lecturing, and outlining goodbye—even if only for three months—is the only thing I can focus on one May hits. My conscious neglect of school becomes even more intentional the minute I step off the plane and into the 95 degree heat with 100% humidity of Florida. Although well aware I’ll be starting a job in the coming weeks, my only thought is how school’s out for summer!

However, come that first BU Law email about registering for next semester classes, I am violently shaken from my willful and reminded that no break is ever a real hiatus from law school. Sure, I don’t need to worry about legal academics; but, I should also be worrying and working on my legal career. Despite considering my summer job “working” on my career, I know (and am constantly reminded) it’s much more than just that. So, here’s my reminder to you that summer break does not mean a break from furthering your legal career and connections through networking.

The most obvious and easiest option is connecting with your fellow co-workers and supervisors. As a 1L summer intern, my bosses graciously took me to lunch and offered up invaluable advice and let me ask whatever questions I wanted. It was truly helpful to learn what tips and tricks they had to get them to where they were today. Additionally, the CDO is very helpful in sending out email updates about networking receptions happening throughout various cities. I took advantage on multiple networking receptions in New York last summer and not only learned more about firms and met prestigious BU Alums, but also made friends with fellow law students attending the reception. Side note: if you’re a lot like me and the thought of networking terrifies you to death, aim low and commit to going to at least one just to start. It surely is terrifying networking in a new city, especially when you’re going to an event alone, but there are so many plusses to get out of attending that you won’t be disappointed! Finally, and probably my most fun suggestion, reach out to recent graduates from BU that are in your city and see what they’re up to. At the very least, you’ll get an understanding of what the job hunt will be like when you graduate soon. At the very most, you’ll make a new friend for the summer (with possible some connections for you to reach out to as well!).

As I did for the first two weeks of being back in Florida, there’s nothing wrong with just laying at the beach, soaking up a nice tan, and letting your school stress melt away. You just put in a full year of hard work in law school and deserve some actual rest and relaxation before having to start a full-time job! But, once that job rolls around, don’t forget that some aspects of law school don’t disappear when school lets out for summer—networking definitely being one of them.

Different Ways to Network Over the Summer

I am not the biggest fan of networking. It took me a long time to realize that no one really is, though. I used to think that you were born either possessing or not possessing the traits required to network effectively, but I have come to learn over time that while some people may naturally feel more comfortable working a large room (hello, extroverts!), other methods of networking exist that are more well-suited to the introverts and ambiverts of the world (hello, me!). Here are some tips that I’ve picked up along the way – both through trial and error on my part and also from advice from others. I thought it would be nice to throw together a few things I’ve learned as of late, and how they can be used during the summer months when school is no longer in session.

First of all, networking doesn’t solely take place at traditional “networking” events. You can network at your job, you can network with alumni one-on-one, and you can network with random contacts from friends or family. Networking does not exclusively involve entering large ballrooms with hundreds of people with name tags on. For me personally, meeting one-on-one with someone and just learning more of what they presently do, what their journey was like getting there, and any other tips and tricks. I believe that the time you take to meet with someone new, even if it doesn’t necessarily “lead anywhere” (i.e. to a job prospect), gives you a little bit more insight into what you might want to do – no experience is ever wasted.

Networking can involve something as simple as asking a co-worker more about what they do on a day-to-day basis. It doesn’t have to be premeditated or glossy or with an end goal in mind – it’s just about being curious and not being shy about it. I’m not expert here, but I do know that I’ve had great experiences already in just asking people questions about what they do and how they got there. If people like what they do, they generally enjoy talking about it with others. It really breaks the fourth wall to get a sense of how a lawyer spends their day – especially in the first year where every class is prescribed and not very indicative of the actual work of a lawyer.

LinkedIn can also be a great resource in terms of learning more about who holds a position in settings that you find fall within your interest area(s). Since I’m likely going down a non-traditional route for my legal career, this has been a great resource, as well as the BU Alumni Directory. Now that I’m in New York for the summer, I’m going to cold-email individuals who work in the areas that interest me to try to meet for a quick cup of coffee. It’s not even about trying to solidify a job, but about building a real connections (because you never know who that connection can connect you with) and paving the way for your ultimate path.

My final tip: put yourself out there (even just over email – remember, the worst that can happen is that you get no reply), be yourself, and trust that each new conversation will teach you something that matters, no matter how small.

 

The Conclusion of 1L

So I’m officially back in New York for the summer and today is a week since I submitted for the writing competition. I just finished my first week of work and finally had a moment to sit down and reflect on what this year meant to me, and what it taught me (both inside of and outside of the classroom).

I can say with complete honesty that I have never learned so much in eight months – not just academically, but also personally. Throughout undergrad (and with all of my schooling experiences), I have always taken my work seriously and completed what was asked of me, but nothing could have prepared me for the marathon that is 1L. Someone said it early on – “law school is a marathon, not a sprint” – and this adage could not be more true. For 1L in particular, the workload is relentless and there truly is no period of relief other than winter break and for some, a period before their summer job begins. For me personally, my summer job started the Monday after the writing competition was due, so I only had one day between traveling home and starting work to take a breather. I don’t say this to scare prospective law students, but to be honest. This is an academic experience like no other, and you have to be wise in terms of how you use your time.

That being said, I can also say with complete honesty that I have never grown more as a person in such a short amount of time. I was interviewed for a “Week in the Life” series for the BU Law Website last week and I said something along the lines of “I’m here for the emotional journey, too” because it’s true. I’m passionate about the academic learning that takes place in the classroom, but I also think that there’s life’s work to be done in these 3 years that expands far beyond that. This means learning how to put yourself out there – both in class and when it comes to networking. This also means learning how to deal with the disappointments and setbacks that will inevitably arise. More than that, it’s about discovering where exactly you seek to take your legal degree – which will likely evolve over time.

This year has been deeply challenging, but also deeply rewarding. I came out of it feeling capable of doing much more than I thought possible back in early September. This year was stressful for sure, and I have gratitude for what it taught me not only about the law, but about myself and about life.