Pirate Lawyering 101


When I was solidifying my plans for law school and becoming serious about applying my junior year of college, I met a friend of a friend who told me about admiralty law. He works in the industry but on the insurance side and described Admiralty law to me as “if a vessel, flagged under the United States, owned by China, insured by a company in the UK, sinks off the coast of Thailand, injures Australian crewmembers, loses Irish cargo, and is salvaged by Sweden, who pays?” And, believe it or not, that’s an accurate explanation of some of the cases that arise under admiralty law. Admiralty law is, you guessed it, the law of the seas, and it’s got a lot of overlap with some very interesting areas of the law: international law, tort law, contract law, corporate law, etc. Admiralty has a long and storied history and as such is a curious amalgam. In the US, it’s also one of the only areas of law that could arguably be “federal common law,” contra to Erie Railroad’s famous denouncement of all federal common law.

I had some far-fetched ideas of focusing on admiralty law as the allure was so strong, but it’s a very specialized practice. BU does offer an admiralty law course, though, and it was at the top of my list for 2L. I was able to take the course in the fall and I LOVED it. I also joined our admiralty moot court team, which will compete at the national competition in Seattle in March. Admiralty law at BU is taught by Mr. Hooper, who is a well-known and very accomplished admiralty attorney who spent most of his career in the admiralty hotbed of NYC. Admiralty is a small field so Mr. Hooper knew just about everyone: the writers of our casebook, the attorneys who argued the cases we read, the judges, you name it. He also helped draft the Rotterdam Rules (the UN Contract of Carriage of Goods by Sea).

Mr. Hooper is a rock star in the admiralty world and he was so fun to learn from. He came to class every day so happy to teach us about admiralty, and our small class was the perfect environment to do so. He told behind-the-scenes stories, had us do a mock oral argument about a landmark case he argued, and even brought in commanders from the Coast Guard to give presentations. It also helped that, among the 8 of us students, we had one Lieutenant in the Coast Guard, one Marine Corp helicopter pilot, and the daughter of a vessel mechanical engineer. None of which were me, by the way. I’m not cool enough for any of those things.

Admiralty is by far one of my most favorite classes I’ve taken at BU Law. It was exciting but intimate, interesting but not overwhelming, and featured a fantastic professor. I truly miss having our little group meet twice a week. I’m excited, though, to be traveling with two of my classmates to Seattle to join the world of Admiralty Moot Court and argue in front of the foremost experts on admiralty law. It’s a little niche that I’m so happy I joined! And, for the Pirate Lawyer title- yes, admiralty law covers pirates, but it’s mostly for any of you Arrested Development fans who have seen the episode where Michael pretends to be a Pirate Lawyer!

PS- fun fact that almost half of my admiralty classmates are also student bloggers! Hi guys!

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