Spring break pro bono’s so nice, I did it twice!

Last year I went to Portland, Maine, to work at Pine Tree Legal Assistance for spring break, as part of the BU Law Pro Bono Program’s spring service trips. The work was so educational, so interesting, and so fulfilling that I decided to go for a second round! I was the only student from last year’s crew to go back, and I’m glad I did.

Some people ribbed me a little for choosing to go somewhere colder for spring break than Boston, but they’re forgetting one little thing: Portland actually got less snow than Boston this snowy winter! And another thing: I couldn’t have afforded to spend a week somewhere warm. Besides, I like Portland, and I love legal aid.

Sure, I could have spent the week putting the polish on my journal note, or polishing my nails, but in Portland, I got to polish off some delicious food (all anyone wants to talk to you about in Portland is the food) and put in 40 hours of service on a shiny-new legal issue.

No renting boats on the Old Port waterfront in Portland, ME, this spring break!

We spent most of the week researching revenge porn, an emerging (exploding) phenomenon where people post nude or compromising photos or video without the consent of the subject, usually after a breakup or similar (hence “revenge”). Websites dedicated to encouraging men to post their exes’ contact information and images pop up, but it occurs on more mainstream social media, as well. For the Pine Tree project, we cataloged 2014 revenge porn incidents based on data we collected from protection from abuse order filings and reviewed all 50 states’ applicable statutes and relevant case law, all with a focus on incidents involving minors. What we found wasn’t surprising so much as saddening. Many states don’t have a law targeting this form of harassment, and it’s quite widespread.

Additionally, we helped with research on individualized education plans (IEPs), charter schools, school choice laws, lead paint poisoning’s effect on education access, the differences between the protections afforded by FERPA and HIPAA,  and other emerging educational issues. Students also called legal services organizations nationwide to ask about intake and other procedural questions.

Finally, we observed Pine Tree’s attorney in protection from abuse order court. We had read through over a thousand restraining order complaints earlier in the week, so it was interesting to see the next step in the process. The courtroom, as you might imagine, gets pretty tense. We watched a few cases where only one party showed up, then saw two hearings. As a future lawyer, I paid close attention to technique, attorney-client relationships, and the judge’s reactions. We saw a wide range of styles, some of which I would never dream of imitating, as well as some excellent advocacy. It was a great cap on the legal research portion of our week.

One of my favorite meals in Portland was small plates (including this dish with ras al hanout roasted cauliflower and chickpeas) with two classmates at Central Provisions.

Once again, all the people at Pine Tree were as friendly, helpful, and wise as you’d hope a team of selfless attorneys might be! We had the good fortune to dine with a staff member and attorney on our first night in town, and their warm welcome set the tone for the week. The five other students and I were accompanied by a great chaperone, a BU staff member, who got right into the work with us when she could. Every student pulled their weight, even when the work was a bit emotionally trying (see: speed-reading through more than a thousand complaints, many involving extremely abusive behavior). And everyone had a great time in the evenings, when we visited some of Portland’s coolest restaurants, walked along the waterfront, and even had a happy hour gathering with some generous local BU Law alumni.

My spring break may have been  chilly, but it warmed this pro bono-loving lawyer’s heart nonetheless!

Welcome to New York/A Whole New World

So this past week was BU’s Spring “Break,” a term I use with great caution as a law student. I can’t say it was truly a “break,” as I still did a lot of homework, but it was definitely less stressful than a normal week!  Probably the single most exciting thing I did was take a day trip to New York to see Aladdin The Musical with two of my oldest friends: Sam, who I’ve known since I was 9, and Patrick, who we’ve jointly been friends with since around age 12.

A little backstory is probably necessary to really understand the import of this trip: I LOVE Aladdin. Like, a lot. Most likely more than anyone you’ve ever met. I’ve probably seen that movie several hundred times, and Aladdin shaped my childhood in a very distinct way. Patrick and I have joked since middle school that “A Whole New World” is our song; it’s his ringtone on my phone, and we sing it to each other at every possible opportunity. So, when I heard that they were making it into a musical a few years ago, I was naturally super excited to go with him.  But I had no idea at the time that I would actually be living in Boston, able to take a cheap bus to New York and see the show while it was still in its first season. When he decided to come visit for Spring Break, it was fate.

Yes, we did play this song OUT LOUD on repeat. I'm sure people thought we were native New Yorkers.

Yes, we did play this song OUT LOUD on repeat. I’m sure people thought we were native New Yorkers.

Sam also happens to love Disney. She’s more of a Lion King person and, since we saw that (SPECTACULAR) show in Boston last fall, it was her turn to accompany me on an excursion to see my favorite Disney movie turned into a musical.  So, off went the three of us to the Big Apple.  Our trip involved taking a 9 am bus from South Station, arriving in New York around 2 pm, wandering around the city for a few hours, dinner, seeing Aladdin, and then taking a midnight bus back to Boston (where we arrived at 4:30 am the next day). It was the kind of physically exhausting, mentally exhilarating trip that I already suspect I am too old for, but will definitely be too old for in the very near future.

To put it succinctly, we had a TON of fun. I have only been to New York a few times and always for very limited time periods of time, so my knowledge of NYC is pretty sparse. Luckily, Sam has much better navigational skills than me.  Using her as a guide, we had enough time to take selfies in Central Park (which I had never seen before) and walk around Rockefeller Center. We also ate those notoriously delicious, overpriced burgers at Hard Rock Cafe like the true tourists we were.

Aforementioned selfies in Central Park

Aforementioned selfies in Central Park

Guys, sleep deprivation is REAL.

Guys, the dangers of sleep deprivation are REAL.

I should also mention the weather was GORGEOUS. It was like 60 degrees and sunny, which is by far the warmest temperature I’ve felt since November.  Following a shameless pseudo-tanning session in Central Park and a delicious dinner, it was time… FOR ALADDIN.

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To be completely forthcoming, the actors could have sat motionless on stage for 2 hours while the Aladdin soundtrack played in the background and I probably would have been enthralled. Luckily for everyone else in the theater who was not an Aladdin-obsessed maniac, they did much more than that. The show was FANTASTIC.  In addition to singing every single song from the movie, they added four or five new ones, which I really loved. The guy playing the Genie was super engaging and energetic; Iago was laugh-out-loud funny throughout the show; and, finally, the man playing Jafar actually voiced Jafar in the original movie.  (My heart may have stopped beating for a few minutes when I realized this.)

Yeah, I took a lot of dorky photos.

Yeah, I took a lot of dorky photos.(Note the authentic New York garbage!)

The visual effects in the show were also breath-taking.  Between the magic carpet ride, a few absolutely mystifying trap door appearances and disappearances, and an on-stage, instantaneous wardrobe change that I have yet to figure out, I could not look away from the show. It far exceeded my expectations, and I would see it again in a heartbeat. So, if you’re going to be in NYC this spring or summer, you have my completely unsolicited, rave review for Aladdin. Go see it!  (Though maybe don’t take an overnight bus if you can help it.)

3L is a Time of Change

At the top of my to-do list for spring break was a massive project I’ve been meaning to do for a while: cleaning my room. Now, when I say cleaning my room, I don’t mean picking things up off the floor and shoving them somewhere so I can vacuum – from most people’s perspective my room was reasonably clean to begin with. No, this was a bigger project, based on reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The book advocates for radical weeding-out of things we own, and that was my project this break. I’ve done everything except kitchenware and
I have to date (in garbage bags) – 3 bags recycling, 4 bags trash, 4 bags to consign, and 9 bags to go to charity. This amount amazes and embarrasses me. It feels so incredible to be in a clean, tidy space with only the things I actually use and like in it!

This project points to something larger about what’s happening in my life as a 3L. I’m about to graduate from law school, take the bar, and then in August I’ll start working full time again for the first time in three years. As spring has begun to arrive and my last law school finals season with it, a new feeling has pervaded my life – a feeling somewhere between curiosity, nesting, and apprehension. I’ve wanted to clean my room, re-start my meditation practice, and get involved in some non-law school groups. Now that I know I’m staying in Boston, I’m noticing the city more as I explore neighborhoods I might like to live in next and where I might visit after my work day.

I can remember when I started law school I felt excited and nervous about leaving a life that worked in
New Hampshire. When my boyfriend, Rob, moved me into my new apartment and then drove back to the house we’d lived in and worked on together, I had this heavy feeling like – ‘what have I gotten myself into?’ The feeling of change is arising again now and again I feel that familiar mix of excitement and nervousness, reluctance to say goodbye to the known and eagerness to greet what comes next.

The three years I’ve spent in law school have felt separated somewhat from “real life”. Right now I feel like I’m getting ready for my real life to start again. It’s exciting to be able to enter a new phase with open eyes, to think about what I want my life to look like and work to accomplish that vision. Law school has been an enormous investment of time and energy (and needles to say, money,) and I cannot wait to see what that investment turns into.

What is a “Note?”

A note is a publishable-quality writing you must do for your law journal. Different journals require different criteria. Most individuals who choose to be on a journal (yes, it is a choice) know they must write a note and will generally use their note to be certified by a professor to meet the graduation requirement. One of the graduation requirements is an Upper Writing Requirement. If you do not wish to use your journal note to certify, you can choose to certify through a class paper or an independent process. Not all classes that require a research paper will permit you to use the paper to certify, so you will have to check with the Registrar’s office and the professor.

It is highly recommended you try or at least start the process to certify your second year – whether you choose journal note or the class route. Some of the reasons are you want to create enough buffer before graduation in case there are any issues that may arise during the process, and you really do not want to stress in your third (and final) year of law school over a paper’s certification sufficiency.

If you choose to join a journal and use the journal note to meet you certification requirement, you must finish your note by the end of your second year. Do not confuse the journal’s note requirements with the upper writing requirement. You must separately meet the criteria for your journal’s note and the upper writing requirement. Upperclassmen will generally discuss it as interchangeable, but while they overlap, there are differences. Your journal will usually have a note editor (who gives feedback), require several drafts, and impose deadlines throughout the year.

If you’re using your note to certify, you must pick a professor and talk to that professor about being your faculty advisor for your certification. You will want to pick someone who is either interested in your topic or at least has some experience in your topic. If you have no idea who to ask, your journal and note editor can provide some guidance usually. The professor may or may not require draft submissions. Some professors generally will become involved once you have a substantive draft and others may want to be more involved and require an outline and see each draft. You will also need to submit paperwork to Registrar indicating how you intend to fulfill the writing requirement and who the professor is.

However you choose to fulfill your Upper Writing Requirement, keep in mind the balance you’ll want to maintain in your second year and third year.


You may recall my last post, (http://blogs.bu.edu/lawblogs/2015/01/31/snowed-in-a-tale-of-yetis-snow-forts-and-burning-marshmallows/) where I could not have been more thrilled and excited to see snow. I wanted to jump in it, shovel it, throw it, play in it. All of it.

As the days have passed and the snow has continued to fall, and fall, and fall, as the MBTA shut down, was shoveled out by the National Guard, and has struggled to make a feeble recovery back to normalcy, the temperature has stayed below freezing, and the sun seems to have made a permanent retreat to the clouds, my views have changed. Survival is my only instinct.

National Guard to the rescue!

National Guard to the rescue!

As we reach the point where Boston breaks every snowfall record in history, it seems fitting to memorialize some of the ways I’ve found to beat the winter blues, just in case I find myself in snowmageddon any time in the near future.

The BU campus has assumed a mystically snowy charm, in spite of my complaining.

The BU campus has assumed a mystically snowy charm, in spite of my complaining.

1. The guava jelly – Kona coffee – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole trifecta. This is not as odd a combination as you might think. Flooding your senses with the tastes, scents, and sounds of an island paradise lets you almost escape, even if just for a moment, to somewhere lovely and warm. (It also helps to hug the radiator).

2. Imagining yourself in heroic situations while shoveling snow: you’re tunneling through the tundra to rescue hikers stranded in an avalanche! Fighting abominable snowmen on the craggy peaks of Mt. Kilimanjaro! Digging for buried treasure with a crew of pirates! There’s enough snow that the possibilities are actually endless.

Hunting the elusive Boston Yeti.

Hunting the elusive Boston Yeti.

3. Berating the family members and friends from warmer places who have the nerve to complain about the terrible winters they’re having, until they feel so bad that they send care packages. Yes, please complain to me about the two inches of snow in DC. I will make you feel bad about my frozen eyelashes, and the snow banks I keep falling into, and you will send me brownies. (How do I keep doing this once winter is over?)

Another day, another shovel!

Another day, another shovel!

4. Bob Marley on the erg machine at the gym. It turns out that if you “row” at just right speed, the sound is almost that of waves crashing against a warm, beautiful beach. This is also the only possible way to sweat in Boston in February. Plus, it turns out that the erg machine is not all that challenging, given all the muscles you’ve grown shoveling snow!

5. Resisting the urge to swan dive off my porch into the deep, beautiful snow below. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/02/17/mayor-urges-knucklehead-bostonians-not-to-jump-out-of-windows-and-into-the-snow) For now, I’ll abide by the mayor’s exhortations against it, and vicariously live through the crazed actions of others. But one can only resist temptation for so long!

Tomorrow brings the start of March, and yet another snowstorm. At this point, I’ll certainly be throwing snowballs at the St. Patty’s Day parade. I’m grizzled and grouchy, but feeling triumphant. I’ve shoveled eight feet of snow, literally trudged miles in the snow (uphill!) to school, and ice-skated down my street. I can say with confidence that I have DONE WINTER.