Acadia 2011

My trip to Maine was a great weekend getaway. We made a quick stop in Freeport on Thursday night to break up the long drive, do a bit of shopping and have dinner. Then we drove the final two hours on Friday morning and arrived at Mount Desert Campground for a relaxing couple of days. Even though the trip was short, we packed in a ton of fun, including kayaking, lobster fest and a few campfires. I even managed to get in a few hours of MPRE study time! By the time the weekend was over, I started to think that heading to Maine to study for the bar next year might not be such a bad idea.

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No Time To Sleep!

A heat wave is just starting to settle over Boston. With temperatures over 100 degrees, it is hard to focus on just about anything. My garden, however, is loving the heat. Tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers have finally started to explode and in a week or so I might have to start eating salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner just to use them all up.

Summer classes are going well and are at about their halfway point right now. I have really enjoyed each of my classes this summer and am surprised by how quickly the time has gone by. My finals are on August 15 and 16 so studying will get underway soon.

This summer I am also planning to take the MPRE. I started studying today and will do so for a few hours each day so I will be ready to go on August 5th. I’ve already taken Professional Responsibility so the concepts are familiar. Thankfully I took a small, fun seminar course so I remember almost all of the content. I’m crossing my fingers that everything goes smoothly with the exam.

I also found out recently where my next coop will be. I will be working at a medium sized firm near State Street that practices in the areas of civil litigation, general business matters, corporate and employment law, as well as real estate and trusts and estates. I am really looking forward to the experience and excited to get started there, probably just after Labor Day.

As if all of that isn’t enough going on in one summer, I have also started to think about post-graduate employment and have been watching out for opportunities and have just started applying to various positions. I could not imagine a better end to this year than knowing where I will be working and what is in store for my future. For now, I am planning for every possibility and hoping for the best!

But before the summer ends I have a few fun plans in store. This summer I will be going on two mini vacations and finally taking my honeymoon. My two mini vacations are three day trips to Bar Harbor, Maine and Mystic, Connecticut. The Maine trip will be spent with my partner’s family this coming weekend and the other with my family just after finals. Then, just before starting coop, my partner and I are going to spend a week on Martha’s Vineyard! Since we have never been on vacation before, we are really looking forward to a quiet week spent laying on the beach, swimming and barbequing together.

Finally, I can’t believe that before I start my next coop my brother in law and the whole class of 2014 will start their law school career! I am really excited for him and sad that I will be away from campus for his first few months.

My Second Coop

I am just returning to campus after an amazing coop at the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts working for the Honorable Judge Nancy Gertner. Working in chambers far surpassed every expectation I had. The Judge took a lot of time to discuss cases and court proceedings with all of the interns. I was always in awe of the moments I found myself sitting in her office, one on one, discussing a memorandum I had written or a legal issue I was pondering. One of the characteristics I enjoyed most about her advice was how much she challenged me to think outside the box and explore innovative legal arguments but to also keep my feet on the ground and remember the constraints of the system. She pushed for our legal writing to be accessible and easily understood by everyone who might read it, rather than just understood by a legal audience. Having experienced the “behind the scenes” perspective on litigation was a unique opportunity and the Judge’s insights will definitely shape the way I think about strategy for cases in the future.

Both of the law clerks were also incredible mentors who made really challenging work enjoyable. They spent a lot of time providing in-depth feedback that helped mold me into a better legal writer and thinker. My writing has improved tremendously as a result of their thoughtful instruction.

I spent day after day deeply immersed in research and writing on real cases that I then had the opportunity to watch play out during my 11 weeks in chambers. The pace of chambers is fast and unpredictable, an atmosphere I have realized I thrive on.

One of the highlights of my time in chambers was being assigned “lead associate” on a two week trial. I had the opportunity to observe and participate in everything from summary judgment, to motions in limine, to observing in court as the jury trial was held and a verdict finally reached. One of my best memories was when the Judge, a law clerk and I stayed in court until 8:30PM awaiting the verdict. The anticipation, having never observed a full trial before, was both exciting and nerve wracking.

Another thing I learned that I didn’t think much about before taking on the coop was how much the actual lives of the people who came before us in court would impact me. I do not think I will ever forget the first person I watched during a sentencing or the emotional struggle that often took place in my mind between knowing it was necessary to apply the law and yet grappling with the realities of life that the law cannot account for.

The best part of this quarter will, without a doubt, be my continued work in chambers. Judge Gertner’s chambers are busier than ever, and I was asked to stay on and assist with all of the work that will inevitably need to be wrapped up before September. I cannot wait to continue working with such a great team of people and to continue to improve my legal skills.

The End. Again?!

Two days into finals week and I already have one completed! Last quarter not having a reading week was quite the shock, and now I’ve spaced out my time in a much more effective way. As a wiser 2L I have decided to take the slow and steady approach.

The final paper for one of my courses was due before the semester ended, so now I only have three finals to worry about. For my Professional Responsibility exam, I decided to write it early while everything was perfectly fresh in my mind. After a few hours at the computer, I was satisfied with the result. I have put that final aside for now and will edit it after my exam on Friday.

Currently, I’m working through my Conflicts exam which was also a take home. It has three questions and the professor allowed us to pick which problem to work through. I am confident about the fact pattern I have chosen and plan on writing my answer tonight, Monday and maybe Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday will be spent preparing for my in-class Employment Law final. Thankfully, my professor is incredibly nice and said that what I found to be the most confusing topic in the course won’t be on the exam. I was so relieved and thankful. I have also already outlined for the Employment exam, so I really need to just get all of the content squared away in my head.

Friday at 5pm, I will officially be on vacation. My partner has also taken the time off and it will be our first vacation together in a very long time. We are planning to spend a large portion of it finalizing our wedding details which have been greatly neglected due to busy schedules at work and school. We are finally starting to feel really excited and I am certain that the wedding will be a terrific end to my 2L year! I can’t wait to celebrate (for so many reasons!) with our family and friends in May!

Then! A few months with a judge and before I know it, I’ll be back in school with a new class of 1Ls (ALREADY! –welcome!) and I will officially be a 3L.

Spring Coop

Within days of putting my applications together for the Spring coop collection, I found myself with a few interviews and soon accepted an offer at the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts with the Honorable Nancy Gertner. I am really appreciative of the opportunity to coop with her and know that my skills will not only be challenged, but greatly enhanced by the work I’ll complete during my time there. In preparation for this coop, I’ve already begun to read more about clerking for judges (although clerking is a position for after graduation, it’s the most relevant material) so I can have a better grasp of the kind of writing, research and other duties that will be expected of me. Talking to past judicial interns has also been extremely helpful.

One of the aspects I am looking most forward to is having the chance to observe court room proceedings while simultaneously getting a look behind the scenes. I’m also interested in seeing how lawyers litigate their cases and looking forward to the exposure to so many areas of the law. It should be a great experience. I can’t wait to get started!

My experience getting and working at my last coop and now the ease of getting this one has made me realize how awesome the coop experience at NUSL is. Getting internships in this economy is much more difficult than in years past, but the coop office makes it seem as if the economy is booming with all of the opportunities they provide. I can’t imagine how difficult getting some of the coop experiences would be if I had to approach places on my own. There is nothing better in this economy than the opportunity to have four professional references and a year of legal work experience upon graduation. Coop has already helped me to realize what areas of law I’m interested in, what kind of legal environment I want to work in and what size firm might fit my life best. It has also enabled me to sharpen and hone my skills in a way the classroom could never provide. The coop experience was something I knew made a Northeastern education very valuable, but it was also the aspect I was most nervous about. However, after my first coop, it has quickly become my favorite part of law school.

For now, it’s time to start getting down to the heart of my courses in a very serious way. Things are going to be wrapping up in just a few weeks and I have a lot of material to become conversant with, some papers to write and a few other major assignments to finish up. The end of classes always comes much quicker than I had anticipated and with the holiday break and a snow day thrown into the mix, I feel that my courses are ending before they have even really begun.

For now, I’m going to take advantage of the three day weekend and try to get ahead of some of the chaos that will soon ensue!

Back In Classes!

After finishing up my first coop at Boston Medical Center, I started my last quarter of academic classes as a 2L in November. This semester I am taking Conflicts of Law, Professional Responsibility, Job Security and Rights and am a lawyering fellow for Law Office 5’s first year social justice project with Greater Boston Legal Services. Things haven’t been as busy as I had anticipated but overall I am really enjoying this semester. With the first years back at school, classes picking up speed, and many written assignments due in the upcoming weeks, I have a feeling I will soon be missing some of the down time I’ve had recently. It has also been nice to have some of my friends back in my classes this semester. I missed them greatly during the summer quarter!

Just before leaving for holiday break, I applied for my second coop. I chose a mix of places and am excited to find out what Spring quarter will have in store for me. All of the places will provide a great experience and will equally strengthen my legal skills. I hope my next coop will also give me greater insight into what I want to do after law school. I can’t believe how quickly graduation is approaching. I’m crossing my fingers extra tight for a few places and will write again when I know where I’ll be. For now, I hope I’ll be busy with interviews in the coming weeks.

Right now, I’m preparing for intensive week. The 1Ls don’t have classes from January 3rd through the 7th and will instead be immersed in their social justice project under my guidance. They will be working from 9-6 every day, researching like they’ve never researched before and usually attending a class meeting in the morning and evening. It’s busy and exhausting but the progress should be notable by the week’s end. I think having this week is a great opportunity to really get a good amount of work done so that the students have more time to focus on the difficult second semester classes such as constitutional law. Thinking back on my own first year, I found first semester to be challenging because everything was completely new and the learning curve was steep, but I found second semester classes to be much more difficult content wise.

I can’t wait to see what my law office will accomplish by the end of my time with them. They have already been a highly productive bunch of students and I’m sure their work product and presentation will be impressive!

Admissions Committee also resumes in January. I’m excited to have the opportunity to review applications again this year. The class of 2014 is extra special to me as my brother in law will be one of its finest members. I am looking forward to “meeting” some of the people who may be joining him. He found out he was accepted just before Christmas and I can’t wait for him to join me in the halls of NUSL next August!

Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and has a fantastic New Year!

Grappling with the Constitution.

The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in the Phelps v. Synder case today. The case began in 2006 when US Marine Matthew Snyder was killed while serving a tour of duty in Iraq. At his funeral, Rev. Fred W. Phelps Sr. of the Westboro Baptist Church and other members (mostly family) came from Kansas with signs that read “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “God Hates Fags” and “You’re Going to Hell.” Phelps believes that God is punishing America and especially the military for tolerating homosexuality.

Well, needless to say, Matthew Synder’s father was outraged and sued Westboro Baptist Church. He said their protest invaded his privacy and was an intentional infliction of emotional distress. When the case went to trial, Albert Synder prevailed and was awarded $10.9 million dollars. The judge reduced the award but upheld the verdict. However, the decision was reversed on appeal. In reversing the decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the church’s speech was protected. Their reasoning was that it involved matters of “public concern including the issue of homosexuals in the military” and “the political and moral conduct of the United States and its citizens.”

Some people are arguing that a special exception should be made for funerals since they are especially private. But as Constitutional Law has taught me, once one exception is made to a fundamental right, it begins to get chipped away and makes future exceptions much easier as well. For this reason, it is unlikely the Supreme Court will find in Synder’s favor. More so, the Supreme Court already ruled earlier this year that incredibly disturbing videos of animal cruelty are protected as free speech in a 8-1 decision, so a new category of protected speech is unlikely in this case as well.

Yet it has me thinking. In light of all the recent suicides of young, mostly gay, bullied kids (one as young as 10 who took her life in our own Boston community), our country is coming to realize the power of hateful speech. These kids decided to take their own lives because they were bullied relentlessly and the pain became so unbearable that they felt that living was too much to bear. And when we hear about their deaths, our nation is outraged that something wasn’t done for them. Someone should have reached out and protected them at school, especially. It’s easy to relate to Synder’s case and feel that he should prevail on his claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. It makes me wonder where the balance between that truth and our need to protect our freedom lies?

As a person who was bullied for being out in high school, I know how profoundly painful it is. But as a law student, I’ve also learned how important it is to uphold our fundamental rights and how even the most justified exception, puts those rights in danger. I want Synder to prevail in this case, I really do, but I might not want the next exception to prevail on theirs’ and that’s the difficulty of case law. Making decisions on a case by case basis isn’t really an option when precedent weighs so heavily on our future.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on this case and will be really interested to see the outcome and reasoning behind it. I’ll also be interested to see how the invasion of privacy issue plays out in Rutger’s student, Tyler Clementi’s suicide as those charges move forward.

First Coop!

I wasn’t sure how I would feel on my first coop after spending so much of my life in school, but I love it so far. When I joined Boston Medical Center’s Medical-Legal Partnership I was assigned to the income supports team. The Medical Legal Partnership is a joint effort between lawyers and doctors over at BMC to provide problem solving for both medical issues and life issues (like income, housing, immigration and education) all of which have implications for health outcomes. On the income team, we help clients struggling with any and all concerns related to life’s financial aspects such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Food Stamps, WIC, and Social Security. In the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much about advocating for clients in the Social Security Insurance System. I can’t believe how much quicker you grasp things when they are in a real world context rather than being lectured or read from a casebook.

Another thing my coop is helping me notice is how much different areas of law overlap. When studying in classes, each topic seems so separate from the next. On my coop, however, as I was getting my footing with some housing issues, I started to realize that the reasonable accommodation required and the process of asking for and receiving one, is much the same as the reasonable accommodation I had learned about in employment discrimination. So while this coop is geared toward Health Law and Poverty Law, I’m also finding myself using skills I never thought would be applicable in this setting and learning about areas of law that at first glance didn’t seem to be relevant to this coop.

I’ve also had the opportunity on my coop to research the history of welfare reform for a textbook one of the staff attorneys is working on and will be getting research assistant credit in the book. As I was researching for the project, I couldn’t help but think how much I was learning, and again, how fast I was learning it. In a few hours I had a two inch stack of research and later had written a pretty comprehensive paper. If I had been in a class, I likely would have studied for much shorter stints and yet the semester would have culminated in a similar paper. Instead, I spent a little over a week intensely immersed in the topic and was able to produce much the same result and have gained a lot of similar knowledge. It really is crazy how fast things move on coop.

The other big change is my day to day schedule. Working 9-5 is both less stressful and yet somewhat more exhausting than being in classes though in a very different way. My commute to work is much longer and every day is somewhat similar requiring sustained attention for 8 hours a day whereas in classes, things varied a lot from day to day and classes ran for less than 2 hours. So while I am busy for longer periods of sustained time each day, I’m also never bringing work home and don’t have the burden of worrying about school work that’s hanging over my head all the time.

The best change: Weekends are completely free time! I spent this past one apple picking at Cider Hill Farms. It is about an hour north of Boston and I went with some friends who I don’t get to spend as much time with when classes are in session. We had a great time eating cider donuts, tasting all of the varieties of apples, and enjoying the warm fall weather.

Acadia, Maine.

Sometimes I think the best preparation for finals is to get away from school and relax. Of course, I have tons to do and not enough time to do it, but the truth is, if I’m not mentally ready for the challenge ahead, no amount of studying could adequately prepare me. So, with just two weeks until finals (and no reading week in sight this year), I headed off with my partner to Maine where I camped for the first time. It was a great weekend, I loved the cool weather and spending time with her family. I also got to eat plenty of crab which was probably my favorite part since it’s a rare find in Boston.

It was a very fast trip. We drove the six hours up and got there around 4:30 since we had to drop off our dog and stop a few times for snacks and lunch. That night we had a great dinner, set up our camp and relaxed by the fire before heading to bed pretty early. The next day we woke up around 6 to the sound of crazy birds, went out to an early breakfast and celebrated lobster fest, after visiting Thunder Hole, a great spot along the coast. The final day there we hiked around Jordan Pond and had lunch at the delicious Pond House before making the long drive home. Getting into Boston at 11 was a little bit rough since I had class the next morning, but over all, the trip was really worth it and I’m glad we both made time in our busy schedules to get away. Despite my hesitation about camping, I enjoyed being in the woods, away from the stress of life. No TV, no cell service, no internet access = no worries about anything back at home.

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For now, it’s time to hit the books. I have  two take home finals and two in class finals to study for, one of which is closed book. I also have to finish up with the work for my research assistant position and get some more resumes packets out into the world.