Make a Note of It: 2L is History, and Summer is Here!

My second year at BU Law has been over for a few days now. Most students have finals for another week or two, and first-year students have journal write-ons after that. I have been told I’m lucky. I have been told to shut up — by a jealous classmate or two.

I made some unusual (and, I daresay, smart) decisions this year and managed not to have any final exams this semester. However, that’s not to say my workload was light. I am still in full swing on my caseload from my yearlong civil litigation clinic, for instance.

I also recently got a few comments on my “final” draft of my big 2L project: my journal note. The note writing process is unlike any other research or writing I’ve done before. I did not write a thesis, but I think it’s pretty different from that, too, because it’s not necessarily about something the writer has been studying for a long time.

In my case, I picked a journal strategically — I wanted to work on a prestigious title, but one that weighted writing and editing ability above grades. The American Journal of Law and Medicine, one of the best health law journals in the country, relies 100% on write-on competition performance for member selection, and fortunately, they picked me.

My strategy fell apart a little when it came to picking a note topic. A note has to be at least 30 pages, with a minimum of 100 footnotes. It needs to relate in some way to the subject of the journal you’re working for. And a faculty member has to agree to supervise your writing, which means it should be of interest to him or her, as well. For my own edification, I wanted to pick a topic that I was interested in, too.

My note was really fun to write, once I found a topic that my faculty note adviser and I could agree was both legally relevant and intriguing. Not everyone can say that about this process, but not everyone is writing “Two Divorced Parents, One Transgender Child, Many Voices: Proposals for Effective Use of Expert Witnesses to Demonstrate That Awarding Custody to a Supportive Parent Is in a Trans Young Person’s Best Interest”!

OK, I know that’s a mouthful. The elevator pitch isn’t quite down to 30 seconds, either. Basically, my paper says that parental figures who support trans kids’ right to live as those young people want to have had a very hard time getting custody of those kids over less supportive parents, and that they wouldn’t have quite as tough of a row to hoe, perhaps, if  expert witnesses were better able to speak to the benefits of this course of action.

I want to practice family law, and this is an area of evolving philosophies and, sometimes, limited judicial understanding, so it was a great fit. Fortunately, since it deals with what’s sometimes understood as a medical issue (“gender dysphoria”) — though I understand that many trans people and experts do not see it as something best addressed by a medical approach — it was also within the purview of my journal.

I do have a few tweaks to make before I start trying to publish my note, but if I do, you’ll read more about it here.

Happy summer!

The Grand Finale

Last week I took the last law school class I will ever take. Next week I will take my final exams. The week after that I will graduate. What once seemed so far away now seems to be approaching more quickly than ever. It’s a strange feeling to be near the end of my time as a law student. I am glad to be done, but at the same time I can’t help wishing there was more time.

I greatly appreciate the legal knowledge I gained at BU Law, but I think what I appreciate the most is the people that I had the chance to meet during my time in law school. I’ve formed relationships with others that I will always cherish. I’ve gained mentors that have helped me to succeed both inside and outside of school. Best of all, I’ve developed friendships that have given me more than I ever expected and will last a lifetime.

Our time is nearly done here. I’m looking forward to celebrating this accomplishment with my family and friends. These three years have been truly memorable, and the future looks bright.

Raising the Bar

I submitted my application for the Massachusetts Bar Exam recently and I must say that it was quite a process. Filling out the initial paperwork was relatively simple, though I found that listing every employer that I’ve had since the age of 18 along with their information was more difficult than I expected. I received two letters of recommendation from my mentors at Boston Children’s Hospital which had to include specific information, addressed correctly, and signed. I also had to go to the bank to get a money order for the filing fee. On top of money, completing my bar application took time and effort.

Now that my bar application is filed, I am focusing on finishing up my exams and preparing myself to study for the bar. I will be taking a bar preparation course from Kaplan, which starts a week or so after graduation and lasts about 2 months. Looking at the schedule for studying, it seems I’ll be spending most of the day reviewing subjects from 1L year. They say bar prep is a full-time job, and they are not kidding!

That being said, I’m looking forward to taking the bar. All this work in law school is basically preparing us to do just that. Obviously we learn things outside of the subjects on the bar and gain practical skills, but the ultimate goal is for us to be able to practice law. Once we pass the bar, we won’t just be law school alumni, we’ll be lawyers. Whatever bar you choose to become part of, being part of that community is something truly special.

Sprinting Down Memory Lane

Perhaps the most tedious task I’ve undertaken in law school was my recent, titanic effort to apply to take the bar exam. While I can’t speak for every other state, my particular application was unlike the application for any other standardized test I’d signed up to take. Usually, it seems as if you’re good to go as long as you enter your credit card information correctly. Oh no. In order to apply to take the bar exam, you must solicit letters attesting to your good character, list the address of every place you’ve lived for more than 30 days, obtain references from every employer you’ve had since you were eighteen, request a criminal record from every state in which you’ve lived, collect a driving record from every state in which you’ve held a license. The list goes on. I’m surprised they didn’t ask for my blood type. Rest assured, America. The Board of Bar Examiners knows a lot about its lawyers. Or at least about their speeding tickets.

As a professional nomad, compiling this information seemed like an impossible task. It didn’t help that I didn’t start the application until about a week and a half before it was due. I spent those overwhelming days on hold, listening to horrifically generic classical music and waiting for state driving agencies to just answer the phone. I wrote letters, printed letters, signed letters, notarized forms, ran through books of stamps and a box of envelopes. Of course, there were fun parts too. I caught up with former employers I hadn’t spoken to in months, had an excuse to talk to all the friends who would serve as references, and scrolled through my purchasing history to remember old summer addresses, alongside my forays into worlds of poetry, pottery, philosophy, and (suprirse!) law.

When I finally finished, I walked down the cold grey street towards the post office, clutching a thick manila envelope. Within that envelope was a brief history of my life. Since I graduated high school, I’ve been a barista, a river guide, a high school teacher. I spent a summer teaching gymnastics, and played piano in a jazz band. I’ve lived in six states, made life-changing friendships, and seen things I’d never dreamed of – both bad and good – and met people who have forever changed the way I look at the world.

And all of those experiences led me to a line in the post office, beads of frazzled, nervous sweat on my forehead, philosophizing about the breadth and depth of life I’ve lived since I first stepped out the door of my parents’ house to go to college. And while I’d rather get a little more sleep, rush a little bit less, and look a little more put-together in the line at the Post Office, it’s a life I wouldn’t change for the world. Bar exam, here I come!

Where should I live while attending BU Law?

(Written with guest help from 3L Deniz Aktas and other volunteers.)

It’s that time of year – students that have decided to come to BU Law have begun looking for housing. I remember feeling totally overwhelmed looking for an apartment in Boston from my home up in New Hampshire. So, I’ve asked some friends and I’m going to endeavor to put together some insights on where you might want to look for apartments to live in while you attend BU Law.

Some notes if you’re coming into Boston for the first time:

  • Rent is expensive. More roommates = less rent, but also more potential mess and conflict. The lowest rent I know of anyone paying while attending BU (absent living with you parents,) is $650-$750 per month and these folks live in shoe boxes with 3+ roommates. For a 2 or 3 bedroom apartment, expect to pay $850 – $1,000/month. Keep an eye on whether heat is included – if it’s not, it can bring a “cheap” apartment up by $150+ per month during the winter. If you’re really rent-averse, join the Boston Co-op Network and consider living in cooperative housing.
  • Broker’s fees are common, and a one month fee is standard. There are some non-fee apartments on Craigslist, but the best way to avoid the fees are by moving in to a room in an apartment where the other roommates are staying. If you use a broker, expect  a 1 month broker fee.
  • Expect to sign a 1 year lease. Sadly, month-to-month housing is likewise very hard to find. Make sure before you sign that your landlord will let you sublet during the summer in case you get a summer job elsewhere.

Some notes about residential life positions and BU housing:

  • Ciara: “My suggestion for prospective students: Get on the waiting list at 580 Commonwealth Ave. (bu grad student housing) as soon as you get accepted. It is a short walk to school, has elevators, a/c and temperature controls, and large laundry room. The building is clean, safe, and quiet. There is a B line and a BU student shuttle stop right in front and it is a block away from Kenmore and Fenway park. On the down side, the apartments and studios are a bit pricey and small, and there are no 2-brs so no roomies to come home to.” 
  • Kate: “I was an RA all three years in South Campus, where I oversaw two brownstones filled with upperclassmen undergrads. I became close friends with other grad students and undergrads who were RAs, and really enjoyed spending time with people who were NOT law students! Being an RA does require you to deal with occasional crises and plan events, etc even when finals are approaching, so it’s not for someone who wants to be able to focus 100% on law school at all times. Living on campus was an amazing experience for me. I loved being a 5 minute walk from the tower and having easy access to the B C and D lines, Fenway, and Coolidge Corner.
  • Jen: “Being an RA was well worth it, if only for the huge financial savings. There were times when there was a lot going on and others where the job was negligible. Getting to know the RA staff was a lot of fun, but the job was admittedly frustrating at times.” 

With further ado, let’s talk neighborhoods:

Boston Area Neighborhoods


Allston –

  • Pros: Often most affordable; close to school and multiple good transportation options; popular with BU students so you will likely have some friends nearby; tons of restaurants, bars, and shops.
  • Cons: Allston is a *party* on the weekends so make sure apartments are on a side street; residential parking is hard to find and most apartments do not come with parking spots.
  • (I’ve lived in Allston on the Brookline town line all three years of law school. It’s worked well but I wouldn’t live here minus the BU connection.)
  • Search for: Allston, Packard’s Corner, green line, BU, BC, Harvard Ave

Back Bay/South End

  • Pros: very nice areas of Boston; very easy commute.
  • Cons: $$$$$$$ – deals are hard to find. (Deniz: “like $1500-for-a-studio-money.”)

Brighton –

  • Alli: “good parking, less student neighbors. I like that I live on a park, and I have the option of taking the B line or the 57. It doesn’t have a ton of neighborhoodiness unless you live near the main drag. TBH, I wouldn’t live in Brighton if I didn’t have a student budget.
  • Jen: “I live in Oak Square Brighton. I love the area- its quiet, has great takeout, easy parking, a great YMCA and cheap rent. The commute is a bit tough (I am on bus routes but not the T) but with a car its very doable.
  • Pros: although rent is similar to Allston, my impression is you get more for your money in Brighton.
  • Cons: students relying on public transportation from Brighton had a *very* long walk to school during the week the T was shut down this past winter; minimum commute from Brighton is probably 30 minutes + wait time.
  • Search for: Brighton, green line

Brookline –

  • Pros: Residential – usually quiet, clean, close to shops, restaurants, etc.; the Green line (C and B lines) are easy ways to commute to school; close to school.
  • Cons: usually more expensive than Allston (though there are some deals); no overnight parking (but the ticket is only $20 if you’re not on a main street).
  • Search for: Coolidge Corner; Washington Square; Packard’s Corner; green line C, D

Central Square –

  • Pros: This is a fun area of Cambridge where a lot of Harvard/MIT students live; 15 minute walk across the bridge or bus access.
  • Cons: Similar prices to Brookline; very saturated housing market; you have to cross the river to get to school.
  • Search for: Central Square, 47 bus.

Cambridgeport –

  • Jordi: “pricier, mostly surrounded by young professionals. I like the amount of parks, the proximity of grocery stores and the red line, and the fact that the law school is on the other side of the river (but still a 20 minute walk). It’s a bit of a pain to walk over the cold bridge in winter, but I love living on the red line and having a bit of a gap between my home life and law school.”
  • Pros: Another fun part of Cambridge.
  • Cons: Crossing the river/tied to a bus schedule; can be costly.

Fenway –

  • Pros – very close to school & transportation. Near some of the newer/cooler bars in the area, and right by Kenmore station which is just two stops from Downtown Boston. Also, about a 10 minute walk from the BU Bus and 57 Bus, so you have options for transportation. Also a 20 minute walk from the South End/Back Bay.
  • Cons – you have to live near Fenway Park (read: crowds during baseball season); affordable options are available if you are diligent but the market is tight.
  • Search for: Fenway; Kenmore.

Somerville/Jamaica Plain –

  • Pros: Different areas of the city, but both are very fun, hip places to live; more common for housing to include parking options; affordable options if you’re willing to live with roommates.
  • Cons: The commute to BU would be obnoxious by public transportation – 1 hour+.
  • Search for: Davis Sq, Porter Sq, Teele Sq.

Deniz: “South Boston/’Southie’ (NOT THE SAME AS THE SOUTH END!!!!)

  • Pros: Young professional crowd that loves to have fun. You also get a lot of bang for your buck, and there are affordable options just minutes from the beach. About a 20 minute bus ride to Downtown Boston which comes in handy at times.
  • Cons: Crazy commute to BUSL. We’re talking about 45mins-1 hour if traffic is average and the buses are running on time. Also, literally nobody from BU Law lives here so you likely will not live near your law school friends (but maybe that’s intentional?)”