Relevant? For sure.

Does anyone else agree that sometimes there’s a connotation of “law” with the idea of irrelevant concepts? I feel that when people think of “law” and “lawyers” they think of old men, dark-paneled rooms, and musty books arguing over things that have been established for years. And, for a little while, especially during 1L, I thought these things too: learning about Property, Criminal Law, Torts, and the like is essentially learning about doctrines that haven’t changed much in the past 100 years.

Something that’s helped this connotation of thoughts disappear for me is the classes I’m taking this semester. Cybersecurity law and international law are two classes in particular that are making me think less “dark paneled rooms” and more “glass and marble towers.” Cybersecurity law is literally being formed right now: today, tomorrow, and in the future. It’s new and it’s applying law to an unsettled and rapidly-changing field- and that makes it really, really exciting and relevant. International law, while having roots in custom that has been developed over hundreds of years, is constantly evolving as the world does, being flexible to address new threat actors and new situations of violations of law. And while it’s annoying to have to always buy the “updated” release of the casebook that’s more expensive, I’ve now seen why that’s important: it shows how the law changes and adapts to situations happening now and incorporates modern issues.

My favorite part about this revelation is being reminded of, and feeling, that law is relevant. It’s shaping our lives now, and we can go on to use law to shape other lives in the future. It’s a field that isn’t just about dark-wood rooms and musty books (though, for the record, I like both of those things in moderation). It’s a field with elements of evolution, immediacy, and forward-thinking, too. And I’m happy to be able to play a role, no matter how small.

Why Did You Decide to Go to Law School?

“Hey Kim, why did you decide to go to law school.”

When one of my classmates posed that question to me last week, I realized how long it had been since I’d thought about it. In between the stress of reading for classes, trying to outline for finals, panicking about job applications, remembering to feed myself, informing my parents I was still alive on occasion, searching for music besides Hamilton to get me through… My mind didn’t have any space for anything else. But when I took a minute to pull back and think about how I would answer the question, something I had moments before felt was unimaginable happened. The stress faded into the background for a while, and I remembered how important all of this was.

18491399_10100126755373446_6802190789103779956_oYou see, for me, the decision to go to law school came out of a very strange series of events. It started over two years ago with my taking a position as a Pilgrim interpreter at a living history museum, Plimoth Plantation. There, my job was to take on the persona of a historic 17th century girl, Fear Brewster, whose family came to America on the Mayflower in between 1620 and 1624. Every day, I would tell stories of her life and the lives of the other settlers of Plymouth colony, cook food over a hearth fire, keep a garden, play games with children, pretend flirt with boys and get scolded by my fake father… and I loved my job. However, working conditions were abysmal and the dedicated, knowledgeable staff who I had come to view as family were shown a complete lack of respect. Thus, my career trajectory changed forever when I learned of and subsequently joined a unionization drive happening at the museum. This underground group of staff members sought to use the framework of the law to better their working conditions, and I was inspired by it. Together, we successfully organized under the United Auto Workers (yes, you read that correctly. Pilgrims and cars.). I became a public face of that movement, and I had never been more proud to have put my whole self into anything in my life. So, the decision to do the same thing day and in and day out – to become a powerful agent within the framework of the law – was born.

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Plimoth Plantation Union Rally

There is no right reason to decide to go to law school. No reason that is “good enough” or “important enough.” For some people, it is the prospect of making a lot of money. For others, it’s the notion of saving the world. For my new friend Rachael, who is 32 years old, it was reading a BuzzFeed list of things you have to give up on after you turn 30 and deciding to prove it wrong. All that matters is that it is important enough to you to sustain you in the times when things get rough.

So if you’re reading this and you’re trying to decide whether you want to apply to law school next year or even the year after, take a moment to think about whatever it is that is inspiring you. Think about if it would be enough to sustain you in the moments when you feel scared and heartbroken with homework piling up, books that need outlining, and food that needs to be cooked before you can eat it. If the answer is yes, then I look forward to seeing you next year! And, for those of you who are already in the same boat as me (aka, 1L staring down our first finals), take a moment to think about whatever it is that brought you here. I promise, as hard as is to imagine, it’s worth two-minute break!

Women’s Law Association 2017 Alumnae Panel

 

One of the student groups that I’ve been involved with since the beginning of my 1L year is the Women’s Law Association. I enjoyed the group’s events and their mission so much that I ran for, and won, a spot on their e-board for this year! What I really like about WLA is that we’re bound by something simple: the expansion and advancement of women in law. By this virtue, our group contains individuals practicing in or interested in all different fields of law.

One of my favorite WLA events happened just a few weeks ago: the WLA Alumnae Panel and Reception. This year’s event featured a panel stacked with powerful alumnae currently serving positions in such big law, public interest, and general counsel. Moderated by Dean Hornblower, the panelists were asked questions and imparted wisdom on topics such as challenges faced working as a woman in law, their career path and lessons learned, and advice they’d give to their younger, law-student selves. I really enjoy this event because it’s honest: panelists are honest when describing that yes, some sexism certainly still exists in the field of law; they’re honest when they say it can be more challenging to be a female in the world of law; they’re honest when they talk about their triumphs and passions, and honest in being hopeful and enthused about the next generation of women moving through BU Law.

The panel is something that WLA as a whole is very proud of because it serves an important link between students, alumnae, and a very important bond bringing everyone together. Special recognition and thank you to the panelists, Dean Hornblower, Mikayla Foster (’19) and Christina Luo (’19) for spearheading this event and ensuring its vast success!

 

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State Courts and Fed Courts and Specialty Courts, Oh My!

Today I had the honor of being a panelist for a Public Interest Scholars clerkship event. I will be clerking with Justice Mary I. Yu on the Washington Supreme Court during the 2019-2020 term. Other panelists included several current and former BU Public Interest Scholars. My friend and fellow 3L Kenneth Meador will clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims following our graduation in 2018. Recent graduate Matt Lawrence is currently clerking at the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, while Blair Komar (class of 2012) clerked at the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, LA.

Several 1Ls attended and asked excellent questions, many of which I remember wondering myself not two years ago. Here are some of our answers:

How did you decide to apply to your respective courts?

Some important considerations include your preferred locations, jurisdictions, and areas of interest. While applying to a wide array of federal judges is probably the most common strategy, it’s important to think about how the clerkship will further your individual career goals. Your unique interests or objectives may take you in a totally different direction from your peers. For example, Kenny’s passion is connecting veterans with services after they return home from war, so his experience with an administrative law court that deals exclusively with veterans’ issues will serve his long-term career goals well.

There are a myriad of other specialty courts in Massachusetts and beyond—Family Court, Land Court, Drug Court, Juvenile Court, Veterans Appeals, etc. The list goes on and on! Being selective about your court gives you the opportunity to focus on issues you are truly excited about. I personally can’t wait to return to Washington State after law school, so I prioritized clerking within Washington’s state court system.

Another consideration is the duration of your clerkship. My clerkship is one year long, whereas many others are two years, particularly federal district court clerkships. Depending on your career goals or family situation, the length of the clerkship may factor into where you want to apply.

What is the application timeline?

This varies a lot! Look up the timeline for your particular court, and don’t trust blanket advice on application timing. While federal courts generally have the most predictable timelines, state courts have a much broader range of dates. There may even be significant variance between two judges on the same bench! I submitted my application during 2L fall, then interviewed and received an offer the following spring. As a rule of thumb, apply early unless other rules or customs apply. If you are applying to a state court, be mindful of any elections or judicial terms that may impact your judge.

What if my grades aren’t stellar?

 Apply anyway. Don’t disqualify yourself! Great 1L grades are certainly a plus, even a requirement for some chambers, but less stellar grades may not eliminate you from the running entirely. It is worth your time to research the type of clerks your judge typically employs. Do they prefer clerks who have practiced law or who arrive straight out of law school? Non-traditional clerks with interesting work experience? Clerks with connections to their jurisdiction? Clerks with connections to a particular school or the judge’s alma mater? Clerks who have specific career goals in mind in the public or private sector?

Is it possible to get a clerkship if I don’t do a journal? 

Yes—although be prepared to discuss why you chose a different path in law school. My decision to not do a journal was very deliberate; I did not even participate in the write-on competition. Because my goals centered on honing my brief writing and oral advocacy skills, I believed participating in BU’s Stone Moot Court and the national Judge John R. Brown Admiralty Moot Court Competition was a wiser use of my time.

As a 1L, what can I do now to set myself up for success?

In addition to studying hard, my foremost piece of advice is to develop strong relationships with your professors. Convey your intellectual curiosity by participating in class and attending office hours. Many professors will happily recommend a thoughtful student who happened to have a bad test day. Similarly, receiving an A grade does not necessarily guarantee a recommendation, particularly if the professor has trouble remembering your name.

Any final thoughts?

Don’t sell yourself short, put your best self forward (even if your best self is hopelessly terrible at law school exams), and apply to the chamber that is right for you! Good luck!

Pumpkin, cinnamon, and Justice Ginsburg

Extra pumpkin; extra cinnamon. That’s the simple secret to my favorite pumpkin bread recipe. Last night I took a study break to heat up my kitchen with this festive recipe.

I grew up baking with my dad, and it has always been a way for me to de-stress (which has been very helpful in law school!)  The link to the recipe is below, for anyone looking for a study break or for a recipe for the holidays. I’ve also included my own special twist on the recipe.

What does baking have to do with SCOTUS? In 2011, the cookbook “Chef Supreme: Martin Ginsburg” was published. It was a posthumous compilation of recipes from Justice Ginsburg’s husband, Martin Ginsburg. Despite having a brilliant legal mind, notorious RBG apparently lacks culinary skill. Her husband, however, was a talented cook. Justice Ginsburg shared that “[m]y husband was a great tax lawyer, but we had more cookbooks than tax books at home. We had an entire section in the living room – three sets of shelves from floor to ceiling – with nothing but cookbooks.”*

Stocked with pumpkin bread, I can get back to the law books – replete with Ginsburg opinions. And now I have a new goal – cook with some of Martin Ginsburg’s recipes!

Pumpkin Bread recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/6820/downeast-maine-pumpkin-bread/

But here are my alterations to the recipe:

  1. Double the amount of pumpkin
  2. Add an extra 1/2 cup sugar
  3. Extra 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (or just add it to taste!)

*http://www.theblaze.com/news/2011/12/20/new-cookbook-tells-you-how-to-eat-like-a-supreme-court-justice