Clinic and Journal and Mock Trial, Oh My

Well, it’s officially February now and that means that winter break is nothing but a memory. Is has been back to school mode for a while now, but I still have found it difficult this semester to brush out the cobwebs in my brain. As this semester picks up, though, it seems that I will have to clear them out sooner rather than later.

As it turns out, 2L is actually a pretty busy year. I definitely noticed that last semester, don’t get me wrong. This semester, though, it seems to be coming at me much more quickly. I can kind of describe it as stepping onto a treadmill that’s already going at a jogging pace. In part, this may be because this semester is markedly different than any semester I’ve had so far. That’s because I am participating in the criminal clinic, which mixes both in class learning and practical experience defending and prosecuting criminal cases in various Boston courts. This experience is turning about to be an amazing opportunity. It’s also incredibly daunting, and demands a high degree of attention and care. Add in that I am a competing member of the mock trial team and a member of the American Journal of Law and Medicine, and maybe the treadmill analogy will start to make sense. In fact, I am only taking one course this semester that follows the traditional law school Socratic method, which means that my attention is being split among various endeavors and my practical skills are being tested like never before. Needless to say, it is proving to be a lot for me to handle. (Ah! I am only human after all. Who would have thought?)

Now, at this point I want to be clear that isn’t to say that I feel like I am going to fail. In all of these endeavors have access to a wide range of fantastic support systems and mentors. I am also confident in my abilities to learn the necessary skills to be successful, like students in this position before me have been. What I will say, is that because this is such a new experience for me, it is truly testing my ability to stay organized, as well as my level of self-awareness. It’s incredibly important for me to be aware of what my limits are, when I need to ask for help or advice from my mentors, and how best to stay on top of my meetings, practices, court dates and class assignments.

Looking forward, I can only see the treadmill picking up speed. That being said, I know that I am loving every minute of my law school experience, even the struggles and difficult moments. Law school is absolutely a learning process. It’s important for me and my peers to recognize that it is okay for us to be still learning and constantly changing. After all, we are preparing for our careers, and the more exposure we get to these types of challenges now, the better attorneys that we will all be for it.

Veggie Options!

I’ve been vegetarian for over five years now, so I always try to figure out the best places with vegetarian options.  Fortunately, there are plenty in and around BU.  The law school café has a great salad bar and build-your-own sandwiches.  But sometimes it’s nice to leave the law school building (especially during exam period, when stress levels are high).  There are lots of casual restaurants within walking distance of the law school building.  My favorite is Noodle St.!  I always get the Drunken Noodles with Tofu and Vegetables, with hot jasmine tea.

Another good place to go is Mei Mei.  Apparently it started as a food truck, but now there’s an actual restaurant near BU.  The dining room is small and fills up fast, but I’ve never really had to wait very long.  I order the Three Sisters Dumplings or the Pierogi Dumplings.  I actually discovered Mei Mei when I went there last year for our end-of-semester lunch for the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.

If you don’t want to buy food every day, the law school has a fridge and a microwave.  On warm sunny days, I like to take my lunch outside to sit on the grass.  If you’ve got the afternoon off or have a big chunk of time between classes, you can take a quick ride on the Green Line to get to all the restaurants in Back Bay (Sweet Green has the best salads!).  I’m sure there are many others, but these are just some of my favorites!

BU Law: A Study in Character

Take a look at any law school admissions website and you’ll see a myriad of metrics by which law schools are compared: student demographics, employment and bar passage rates, distinguished faculty and alumni, unique program offerings—the list goes on. And yet, perhaps the most important feature of a law school is the one factor that cannot be quantified: the people. This vague and extremely personal “fit” standard is why students are encouraged to visit schools before accepting offers of admission.

But even school visits cannot capture the essence of a law school. It’s not until you are in class, sitting among accomplished peers—with whom you are set up to compete from day one—that a community’s character emerges.

After three semesters here at BU Law, I can attest to that special something that admissions data often fails to convey: my fellow students are really nice people. And as a prospective student, I think you should know this.

This week has been more challenging for me than others. I’ve had to skip class and readjust assignment deadlines—a classic case of groovus interruptus. We all experience this at some point or another. Even minor disruptions add stress by undercutting momentum and setting you back to a point where catching up feels nearly impossible. Familiar, no?

In this case, my saving grace is my community. I didn’t have to ask friends to send me notes from the classes I missed this week; they just showed up in my inbox. Another classmate emailed a heads up about a tweak in the syllabus. Knowing I would be absent, one even followed up with a professor to make sure that the lecture would be recorded! Last year, when I was briefly hospitalized, my classmates took it upon themselves to set up shifts to ensure that I would never be alone—including classmates I hardly knew—and made sure I got home okay and had groceries to sustain me. These are folks with busy lives of their own, who are balancing families with the unyielding demands of school, and yet they unhesitatingly offer friendship, resources, and their precious time.

While writing this in the middle of the McCausland Commons, my crim pro syllabus floated off my table and landed at the feet of my neighbor, a 3L whom I’d never seen before. After picking it up and handing it over, we struck up a conversation about his experience in crim pro last year, which evolved into a discussion about his current schedule and future plans. By the end of this 5-minute diversion, I ended up with a solid line up of recommended seminars and the offer of a crim pro outline.

Admissions brochures encapsulate many important dimensions of a school, but a school’s character remains elusive until you experience it first hand. Acts of kindness are the norm, not the exception in this law school. Here at BU we take care of each other.

Five Reasons to Love Boston

I’ve been living in Boston for almost six months now and thought what better time to round up some of the things that I love most about Boston so far. I moved here after living in New York City for five years and although there are obviously things that I still love and miss about New York, Boston is an incredible city to inhabit. Here are the top five things that I love about Beantown:

1. It’s an Academic and Intellectual Hub: There are so many world renown universities and institutions throughout Boston, not to mention the endless opportunities for learning outside of the school setting. The Boston Public Library puts on events with authors fairly regularly, as do independent bookstores like Trident Booksellers and Brookline Booksmith. BU Law itself hosts many conferences and panels throughout the semester, which I can personally vouch for as being enriching and worthwhile. In short, Boston has historically been a place valuing the exchange of thoughts and ideas, and that is no less true today.

2. The Italian food in The North End: Three words: Trattoria di Monica. I went to this restaurant with my parents when I first moved in and I am still thinking about their rice balls – they were that good. They also have hand-made pasta and zucchini blossoms stuffed with goat cheese that I can still taste. The North End is filled with restaurants, pastry shops (that people line up around the block for), and specialty shops selling imported delicacies. I’m Italian so I may be slightly biased here, but there’s nothing like the North End on a Sunday (especially at that restaurant in particular).

3. The Art: I still have yet to be to the Museum of Fine Arts (I know this is terrible, but I truly did not realize the extent to which I would not have free time before starting law school – but if any prospective law students are reading this, don’t let that deter you!). One place that I have been to is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I went with a friend before the Fall Semester started and I was completely enamored with the architecture of this space. It’s simply breathtaking and a must-see in Boston, and they change the botanicals seasonally, so that is enough incentive to go back when I can to see what the garden in the center looks like during each of the seasons. (see photo below)

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4. The Independent Bookstores & Movie Theaters: One concern I had with my move from New York to Boston was that I would no longer have access to independent bookstores like McNally Jackson and The Strand, along with movie theatres like the Landmark Sunshine Cinema and IFC, that had become a second home. Luckily, Boston has options for my favorite activities: strolling through bookstores and watching movies that are not always mainstream. So far, I’ve been to Trident Booksellers (which also has a café) and Brookline Booksmith. In terms of movies, I’ve yet to reach Kendall Square Cinema, but I went to the Coolidge Corner Theater a few weeks ago and loved it. Pro tip: If you’re going to a movie at Coolidge Corner that’s located in one of the smaller theaters, go online and buy your tickets in advance because they do sell out.

5. The Brownstones: I’m a huge sucker for both architecture and interior design, and I used to love strolling through Greenwich Village taking pictures of the incredible brownstones there. Then I moved to Boston and realized that, in the Back Bay at least, there are more brownstones than I had collectively seen between Greenwich Village, the West Village, and Brooklyn. I’m slightly obsessed and I can’t quite explain why. Below is a photo that I took back in September, but if you’re looking for some more beauties, check out one of my favorite Boston Instagrammers @brianmcw.

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So there’s my round up so far. It’s only been six months, so I’m sure that this list will only continue to expand throughout the next few years!

Power of the Law

Over the last 48 hours, since President Trump’s travel ban went into effect across America, I have personally been in a constant state of anger and disbelief. No matter your views on the executive orders effecting hundreds of thousands travelling internationally over this weekend, one undeniable fact remains – lawyers must play a critical role now and in the future.

In the wee hours of Saturday evening, Judge Allison Burroughs of the United States District Court of Massachusetts issued a temporary stay of the controversial executive order. She joined other courts, including the Southern District of New York, granting temporary stays which allowed for immediate release of detainees within these particular jurisdictions. Both of these lawsuits had been filed by local ACLU chapters earlier in the day.  Meanwhile, immigration lawyers set up camps at airports around the country to assist those affected by the executive order. From my perspective, it was truly humbling seeing how many attorneys shown in pictures from Logan Airport who were literally sitting on the ground on laptops attempting to help those in need.

Local ACLU chapters were also tweeting out advice at a near rapid pace throughout the day Saturday advising those travelling abroad of the appropriate steps needed to be taken. Other government organizations supported by lawyers sparked inspiration by opposing the executive orders through social media activity. Attorneys and organizations are not alone – today, thousands of people in cities across the country are protesting the recent executive orders. With the varying ways that attorneys and citizens alike are speaking out about this issue both on the ground and over the internet, it shows how much of an impact that the profession that we are all studying can have. Attorneys and judges were equally working around the clock to seek immediate change of something that was implemented just mere hours prior.

Last night, the Boston Bar Association held their annual Adams Benefit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Someone tweeted a quote from the event that I have been thinking about over the last several hours. “Everyone has needed a lawyer since the founding of our democracy. Everyone.” This country has been built by those lawyers that have evolved and interpreted our laws to protect our basic principles and the constitution. In order to continue to protect our basic principles, it is vitally important to support the organizations that reflect your beliefs. Organizations such as the ACLU have done amazing work this past weekend and continued support of such organizations are the only way for them to continue having such an impact. Volunteer. Donate. Do whatever you can.

This weekend has been a perfect example of how you can use your law degree to have an immediate impact on this country. Personally, it’s given me hope and it’s given me something to strive towards. Despite the anguish I’ve felt, I’ve felt even more hope because of the lawyer profession using their power, knowledge and skills to fight for immediate, impactful change.