World of Difference Under the Same Roof

As my second semester as a 2L comes to a quick close, I’ve been reflecting on some of the major differences between 1L and 2L year. Needless to say, there are drastic differences between the first two years of law school. In my opinion, 2L appears to be a much better reflection of how the working world operates. Time management is critical as you often have to balance classes, journal responsibilities and extracurricular activities all at one time. Some students also choose to participate in clinics and externship opportunities which allows you to get varying amounts of class credit with no letter grade assigned. Much less of the focus of 2L is on the outcome of classes and grades and instead, gives you a much well rounded experience of the practice of law. While grades remain important and law students, as part of their nature, remain motivated and competitive, a lot of attention shifts away from grades during your 2L year and more towards the experiences that you have.

One of the major differences in your 2L year is being able to not only choose the substance of your classes but also the time when you take classes. This allows students to plan their schedules how they see fit and not be assigned class times and days as they are during their 1L years. With this flexibility, students are able to take on part-time jobs or participate in other activities outside of law school – something most students elect not to do during their 1L year. In addition, students are generally more engaged and interested in the subject matter of the courses. Student occasionally will have a background in a certain area of law which is less likely to be the case during 1L year. For instance, most law students don’t often have a background in contract or tort law but may have past experience in a human resources position that they bring to an employment law class.

Class size and dimension is also drastically different from your first year to your second year of law school. For example, just this semester, I have a class where there are only 12 students enrolled as compared to a class last semester where there were over 100 students enrolled. Professors who teach upper class courses often go away from the traditional cold call system and instead use panels or volunteer systems to generate class participation. Many professors remark that they understand how busy 2L and 3L year can be and they are much less demanding in terms of classroom participation. With this said, the reading assignments are typically much heavier than your 1L courses because you are expected to be able to comprehend and understand the material at a quicker level.

All in all, 2L year has been much different than my 1L year. I’ve learned a lot about how to manage time and what it takes to understand a lot of material in a shorter period of time. With finals on the horizon, I look forward to what my third year will bring and look forward to the anticipated differences in that year.

‘Here I am (at court), to speak what I do know’

Today, I argued my first case beyond the immediate suburbs, as well as my first case in criminal court. Though the learning curve was steep, I was well-prepared, thanks to the diligent supervision of my Victim Rights Law Center supervisor and my education at BU Law.

New Bedford District Court, where I argued a few hours ago.

This was my first case before a district court. Previously, I have argued at the Brooke Courthouse in Suffolk County (housing and family courts) and the probate and family courts in Middlesex and Norfolk counties.

Today’s hearing concerned Massachusetts Criminal Procedure Rule 17(a)(2), which governs document production requests in criminal cases. A Rule 17 hearing is a rare opportunity for the victim of a crime to have an attorney advocate directly for their position — in this case, to limit the defense’s access to the victim’s (otherwise) private records.

The New Bedford District Court courtroom was extremely crowded, and very small. Picture a typical courtroom, with opposing parties seated next to each other. Not the case in New Bedford! The room is so narrow that the two tables are set up in single file. Parties arguing before the court had to stand in front of the tables and within two feet of the judge. Family members supporting parties or witnesses were kicked out to make room for people required to be present. Attorneys stood, leaning on the jury box to wait their turn.

In that stress-cultivating environment, I had an excellent final court experience in law school.

From the start, my appearance on behalf of the victim was unexpected. The judge noted, “You guys don’t usually show up!”

The defense attorney presented his argument. Then, I presented mine — or started to, only to be interrupted almost immediately by the judge. I could barely get out two sentences before her next question came. Fortunately, I had an answer every time. My supervisor had prepared me well. The defense attorney had a lot of yelling to do, once it was his turn to respond, which I took as a sign  that I was doing a good job.

I gave an impassioned defense but did not raise my voice to match his. Who wants to see a shouting match (other than on Court TV)? I was proud of my argument, and my supervisor seemed to think it went well, too.

Though the outcome will take weeks, I can use this experience now to reflect on how much progress I have made since starting law school.

I am the same woman who had tears in her eyes from performance anxiety while reciting a passage from Julius Caesar in front of her 10th-grade English class. I am the same woman, but I don’t have the same fears.

I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause.
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me.
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

I have grown far more assertive and poised since then. I hesitate to say I am a “better” person, but I am certainly a better-prepared one (though maybe not quite ready to try Marc Antony’s funeral speech any time soon). The oral advocacy, negotiation, mediation, and black-letter law knowledge gained in law school prepared me for court today, but more importantly, this education has set me up for a more fulfilling, self-confident career and life. I graduate in about a month, and I feel ready to go forth and practice law. What a gift this experience has been!

Hitting the road.

This past week, I had the pleasure of sitting as a panelist for Admitted Student’s Day to discuss the student experience at BU Law. We discussed, among other things, the school, the faculty, the city of Boston, and living arrangements. One prospective student asked if it was worth it to have a car.

I am one of the lucky ones when it comes to having a car in the city. My apartment came with a parking spot, and while the car usually sits idle six days of the week, the ability to get out of town for a few hours on the weekend or pick up groceries is a huge perk.

For me, driving means more than that.

Maybe it’s because I spent the past five years on an island in the Pacific where a road trip meant, at most, a 20-mile trip to the north shore, but when I look out the window and see my car (covered in snow at the moment), I feel connected to the whole country.

On our way out here from Hawaii to start the school year, my girlfriend and I shipped the car to Seattle and spent the next three weeks driving across the continent. We hit the Oregon coast, the Redwoods, and Reno. We saw Shoshone Falls, the so-called “Niagara of the West,” and the actual Niagara Falls as well. We crossed through Wyoming and Yellowstone, poking briefly into Montana for a bite to eat. We saw Mount Rushmore and a Corn Palace, caught a game at Wrigley Field, and hung off the side of the CN Tower in Toronto. We saw moose, deer, elk, buffalo, bears, otters, eagles, and ospreys. We crossed the continental divide as the GPS showed our elevation slowly rise from the Pacific and into the Rockies up to 9,340 feet only to descend back down the other side as we headed toward the Atlantic. And somewhere in Wall, South Dakota, we even saved a turtle crossing the road.

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Crossing the continental divide.

 

When the prospective student asked us about having a car last Friday, I, like everyone else, thought of the question purely in terms of convenience and practicality. I forgot how much of the world there is to go out and see if you have the chance. Of course, having a car in Boston can be a challenge, both logistically and economically—I am dreading the impending repair bill as I get the car ready for its annual inspection.  But maybe it is worth looking at it as more than just a tool for commuting. It’s a lobster roll in Gloucester on a Saturday afternoon.  It’s a taste of Ben and Jerry’s at the factory. It’s Portland, Maine, or Newport, Rhode Island. It’s Mount Washington, or Mohegan Sun. It’s a ride for your friends when they need one.

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Gloucester.

 

It might even be a summer job. My road trip this summer inspired me to submit my resume to the Department of the Interior for a chance to work for the agency that oversees so many of our natural resources and treasures.

Law school, it goes without saying, is a busy time. We spend so much time diving into casebooks that sometimes we forget about the bigger picture of the America we hope to serve through the law.  I can think of no better reminder than hitting the open road from time time, and just seeing where it takes you…

What to Wear When and Where

The 1L summer job search can be difficult (there are plenty of posts explaining this). However, for some 1Ls, the search is over – “summer internship” has successfully been crossed off the list of things to tackle. Once the reality of securing a legal internship had finally sunk in, I realized that my wardrobe needed a few key items. This reminded me of a question I had before even starting law school: what are law students supposed to wear? After a (nearly complete) year of classes, CDO events, networking events, and a job search, I will do my best to cover all the bases. There are many mixed opinions out there of what you should and should not do. This is simply a guide to what I see in the hallways every day.

Every Day: Law students dress pretty normally. No, there is no need to dress up daily. Dress comfortably – there is no formal dress code. On a day-to-day basis in the Redstone building, you will see everything from athletic clothes worn by students trying to squeeze in some time at the gym to suits worn by students on the way to interviews. There is no wrong outfit for heading to class. However, in relation to what people wore to college lectures, law school is a step up. That being said, jeans are absolutely ok.

Business Casual: What is business casual? There may be no other category of attire that carries quite so much grey area or casts so much doubt in the minds of those instructed to prepare such an outfit. At events that require business casual dress, you see a mixture. Most girls typically wear a dress/ dress pants/ skirt with a blouse (and a cardigan if it’s cold). Guys tend towards dress pants and a button down shirt. Tie optional.

Business/ Business Formal: Law school is the first time many people are asked to venture into the business formal world. However, it has much clearer requirements. Wear a suit. Black, navy, or grey are classic options. Keep your outfit a bit more on the conservative side than usual. Guys – make sure you’ve got dress socks in advance. Girls – stock up on nylons and tights.

Interview Attire: Before interviewing for this summer, I looked at a few different sources for things to avoid when choosing an outfit for an interview. The sources ranged from normal common sense (keep in line with business formal) to the extremely detailed (right down to hygiene and how much/which makeup to wear). Do keep in line with business formal. Don’t look to the details to such a degree that you cause yourself stress. Again, I would emphasize to keep your outfit on the conservative side. Avoid things that are flashy or trendy – classics are always safe options that won’t raise any eyebrows. Avoid too much makeup, perfume, or cologne. Keep it simple, keep it classic.

Internship: Since I have yet to begin my internship, this advice is what I have heard from other law students. I am currently in the process of adding a few final items to my work wardrobe. When you arrive at law school, you will of course have packed the essentials for the inevitable business casual/ business formal events. I found, however, that I was still lacking some items. Having a few pairs of office-appropriate shoes is a must (shoes wear out fast in Boston given all the walking you will do). Additionally, consider the scope of the internship – generally they last about 10 weeks, so you will need enough business clothes to rotate through. When you intern, try to get a feel for the office – perhaps notice how employees tend to dress and fit your attire into this standard, whether it be more casual or more formal.

To any rising 1Ls, I would suggest pulling together some of these staples before law school begins. Make sure you have a well-fitted suit in your closet as well as a few business-appropriate tops and a couple different dress shoe options. Get some of these essentials ready ahead of time so that the events with a dress code don’t catch you off guard. I stocked up on the basic business clothes before starting law school, and it has certainly given me a good foundation as I prepare for my summer internship.

The Great Unknown

At this time last year, there was a single unknown event looming that was percolating through the entire class’s mind: the Writing Competition. With one month remaining in the semester, each 1L was relatively comfortable with how to outline and prepare for finals having already gone through this process for their first semester. However, the Writing Competition was the dark cloud hanging at the end of the tunnel. The Writing Competition, which begins directly at the end of finals, is a one-week long competition designed and drafted to evaluate law student’s candidacy to be an editor on one of six journals.  All students who want to participate in the Writing Competition are required to pick up the assignment immediately following their last final and the submission is due the following Friday.

The Writing Competition is optional and only has to be completed by those students who want to be on a journal during 2L year. However, the majority of students do decide to complete the journal assignment because of a combination of external pressure and the opportunity to put it on your resume ahead of the On-Campus Interview period. The competition is made up of two different components: the footnote editing portion and the memo writing portion. Without going into the particulars of each component too much, the competition as a whole takes up nearly the entire week provided to students. Personally, with the caveat that this may not work for everyone, my advice is to take one day off after the last final and then begin the assignment on Sunday.

Some students I spoke to over last summer about the competition labeled it as “their worst week in the semester.” My perspective was slightly different. The competition was certainly difficult, challenging and time consuming. I wouldn’t, however, go as far as calling it the worst week of my semester. This ultimately all depends what you want to get out of the journal process. Performing very well on the journal competition will put you in a good position to make law review which is certainly a goal for a number of law students. There are, however, a number of other great and diverse journals to be a part of at Boston University School of Law. A complete list can be found here. Each journal has their own requirements for what they’re looking for in their 2L editors. With this in mind, the journal experience which starts with the Writing Competition is whatever you want to get out of it.

After submitting the Writing Competition, the journal reads through each member’s submission and makes their choices for who will be on their 2L staff. Midway through last summer, I received a call from the Public Interest Law Journal that I was invited to be a 2L editor. This journal experience has allowed me to hone my writing skills and has further provided a level of comfort with the peer review process. Needless to say, as a 2L, I am very happy that the black cloud of the Writing Competition will not be looming as this year’s finals come to a close.