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.

Crunch Time

We are down to the wire here at BU Law, and as a 1L facing the end of my second semester, I’m finding myself spread pretty thin. Reading for class, outlining, networking, extracurriculars. I’ve been finalizing and submitting my full Appellate Brief and prepping for oral arguments in front of a panel of judges scheduled in a few weeks. Throw in real life on top of that (Grocery shopping? Literally just breathing?) and things can get a little hectic. It’s times like these that it’s important to take a deep breath and a step back, before facing your challenges head on.

This is obviously going to look a little different for everyone. To that point, I think it’s important that you know a thing or two about your own personality and habits so that you can figure out the best way to proceed in stressful times. For me, I know that I am so incredibly type B that I shouldn’t bother with a whole slew of activities people normally suggest for busy students. I could make a to-do list, but I know that in about 15 minutes it’s very likely that I will not know where that list is. Which is assuming that I’m able to finish it in the first place, which would already be doubtful. I also know that setting specific study schedules doesn’t work for me because I don’t usually end up sticking to them. What I do know about my personality is that I work very well when I give myself the freedom to breaks, when I am around other people and am able to talk about the material out loud, and when I am away from home. I find motivation in thinking about the work I’ll be doing over the summer, and the exciting opportunities that await me during 2L year. You’ll notice that none of those things suggest much structure to my thought processes. That’s what works for me, so I know going into a weekend then spending 24 hours a day studying is just unrealistic for me. I find that I am much more productive (and have much less stress and anxiety) when I am able to identify those facets of my personality and let myself take at least half a day off to completely ignore my status as a law student. That being said, if you are a list person, make lists! Make color coded tabbed out handwritten calendars to help you stay on track. I fully advocate doing whatever works for you, and not getting psyched out if that doesn’t line up with what your peers are doing.

Once you have done some soul searching, you should hopefully feel a little more well equipped to handle what’s to come. In case you find yourself identifying with my approach to study and a hectic schedule, I’ve decided to list a few resources, academic and non-academic, that are extremely valuable to me in navigating the 1L chaos.

1. Starbucks
This is a given. I am waiting for the day where we as a society have advanced to the point where I can just walk around with some device that provides a constant flow of coffee, preferably directly into my blood stream. There’s not much I can say here that you probably don’t already know, but I do have one piece of advice. Lexis, one of the major legal research engines, has a pretty fantastic rewards program where you can exchange points for prizes. It has really proven to be a win-win for me, because I’ve learned a lot from the trainings and other opportunities, and they have also nearly single-handedly funded my coffee addiction. No, they did not pay me to say any of this.

2. My mentors
I will keep this brief, since I have recently written a blog post all about how great my mentors have been. I encourage you to check it out if you are more interested in this topic. Having mentors to rely on has been helpful not only academically, but to help put my mind at ease regarding all the background stuff, like planning 2L year and job search/career planning.

3. My Family
This is a big one for me. I live with my partner here in Boston, and its so great to go home and talk to someone about something other than the reasonable person standard or whether legislation is rationally related to a permissible governmental objective. Cuddling on the couch with my cocker spaniel gives me life in a way that property law never will. I cherish those moments. While this might look a little different for each person, find those people in your life that you can decompress with and forget that you’re in law school, if only just for a little while.

4. Beer
I could have titled this section “hobbies,” but you might be losing interest right about now and this is a student blog so I’m allowed to be a little snappy. That being said, I do love beer, craft and otherwise (and I know I’m not alone on this). Having hobbies and exploring them within the city is a really nice escape from academia. Whether you’re like me and enjoy finding and tasting new beers (Go to Boston Beer Works, Yard House, or Harpoon), or if you are an outdoorsy nature lover (Go walk around the common, or go skiing in the surrounding areas), there are plenty of things in and around Boston for you to do. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s okay to take a break! Go, get out, and enjoy what the city has to offer.

5. Extra-Curriculars
Finally, one way I escape from mountains of case reading is by participating in extra-curriculars. This is great because it’s mostly guilt free, since I’m still working on legal activities and building my skills in the meantime. From negotiation, to client counseling, to mock trial and more, there are plenty of ways to gain practical experience in your first year that are also tons of fun.

These are just some of the things that work for me. Try them out, or go find some of your own!

Toward Success, Through Concentration & Practice

Today I’m going to concentrate on “concentrations.” The concept is really neat — you take a certain number of classes (a quarter of your total degree requirements, or fewer) in the area of your concentration, and at graduation, you receive a certificate indicating completion.

BU Law offers concentrations in five areas (Health LawIntellectual Property LawInternational LawLitigation and Dispute Resolution, and Transactional Practice). Each one is an opportunity to delve deeply into an area of particular interest to you, or of practical use in your future career — though I’d certainly hope the two overlap!

By far the area of greatest interest for me was Litigation and Dispute Resolution. Fortunately, I had  practically covered the concentration requirements before even signing up for it in the first semester of my second year!

I wrote my note on a topic related to litigation (strategy in custody cases), so I covered the writing requirement by mere coincidence. I was also enrolled in the Civil Litigation Clinic.

So, if I was going to do it anyway, why is the concentration so great?

First, it helped me pick courses going forward. From the many, many classes that would have satisfied this requirement, I took the Legal Externship Program (independent study), Judicial Externship Program, Mediation Theory & Practice, Sex Crimes, Evidence, Juvenile Delinquency, and Family Law. So, even within the concentration, I could focus on those classes of interest to me. It shaped how I viewed course selection for the final two years of law school. As I occasionally have felt out to sea in this foreign realm of law school, this was a great guide.

Second, it offered me recognition for the hard work I put into learning about something important to me. Concentrations are not noted on our transcripts, but I can put mine on my resume. This helps set me apart from everyone else with the rather nondescript “J.D.,” which is important in the crowded job market. Additionally, if I have the great fortune of having a sufficient GPA in relevant coursework, I can note that I received honors in my concentration, as well. For students who are not in the very top tier academically overall, this can indicate that they have chosen to concentrate hardest on the classes that mean the most to their future work.

Finally, it has been a lot of fun learning about litigation and dispute resolution, as a purely academic exercise, and it has helped me cement my choice of path as a future attorney. I feel like I will be ready for jobs in the field as soon as I finish my clerkship. I have also managed to enjoy the majority of my classes. In other words, I’ve done what I set out to do!

Law school is seen as a rarefied and occasionally abstract environment. I am an almost-lawyer committed to serving real-world clients. These two things could be at odds, but with this concentration, I have been able to bridge the gap!