by Cory ’16
Northeastern University School of Law is founded on experiential education and social justice. Those two components intersect in a unique element of the NUSL curriculum: the Legal Skills in Social Context first-year course (LSSC). The LSSC is a required component for graduation and largely influences student experience at Northeastern.
Not only does the LSSC divide an entire class of students into smaller subgroups – called Law Offices – but it also serves as an entry point into the practice of law. Throughout the school year, you work with your law office to address the concern(s) of a real world client. The client can be local, like Boston, or international, like China. In your law office, you work with a number of other first-year students – as well as a 2L or 3L that serves as your lawyering fellow (read: “manager”), an advising attorney that is a faculty member with particular applicable expertise to address the problem on which you are working, and a faculty advisor that points you in the right direction and checks in to measure progress completed toward the end goal. The end goal for each law office is to produce a white paper (don’t worry, I didn’t know what that was before starting law school either) that addresses your client’s concerns by providing legal strategy and other options to fix the problem.
It’s pretty cool.
One of the other things that makes Northeastern unique is that we hardly have enough time off for the holidays. Between the end of first semester exams and the time first-year students must be back on campus, it’s barely two weeks. The reason for the short break? Returning to campus a week before classes start for Intensive Week. It’s about as intimidating as it sounds.
Then it isn’t.
Intensive Week is a four-day period (or more where necessary), during which time law offices meet to work intensively on the white papers for their clients. It amounts to 8 hours per day of heavy research, writing and sometimes arithmetic. By the end, after about 35-40 hours of intense work, your law office has completed a solid portion – estimates I have heard are 50 to 70 percent – of the white paper. Basically, you start Intensive Week intimidated, scared, saddened that break is over, and, personally, cold to the core because of the winter weather in Boston. But there, on Google Drive or Dropbox or wherever, is the mother of all group projects culminated into something that will hopefully and ideally make a difference in a few (… dozen, hundred, thousand?) peoples’ lives. Most certainly, working on the white paper, completing the research, and collaborating with your law office will make a difference in your life and that of the other members of your law office because you proved to yourselves that you could do the work, navigate legal research, and apply some of the material you remember from first semester. And then, suddenly, you realize that you’re sitting on blood, sweat, tears, and 30-plus pages (my law office produced 49 pages) of hard work. Maybe this law school thing doesn’t seem so bad. If you can produce a white paper of this magnitude, who’s to stop you from solving world hunger?