Student Post: Co-oping for the U.S. District Court in Detroit

During the fall quarter we’ll be featuring some posts from students currently on co-op. They’ll discuss the type of work they’re doing, their experiences in a new city, tips and tricks about surviving & thriving on co-op, etc. Today we hear from Alisyn ’13.

Detroit

Where did the time go? As I begin my law school departure, let me introduce myself: my name is L. Alisyn Daniel, and I am a JD/MPH student. I will be sitting for the Michigan Bar Exam this coming February. My final co-op is currently underway, where I am gaining immense legal knowledge co-oping for the Honorable Judge Victoria Roberts (NUSL Alum) at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Co-oping in Detroit, my hometown, has been eye opening and humbling experience.

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Student Post: Welcome Andrew ’16 to the blogosphere!

Our 1L bloggers are all set and ready to blog for NUSL! They’ll be sharing their experiences as new law students – what made them choose NUSL, first impressions of Boston, their LSSC projects, and more!

And So It Begins…

First things first: Who am I? My name is Andrew Collins, and I graduated in May 2013 from Tufts University in Medford, MA with a B.A. in History.  I am originally from a small town in Arkansas with a population of around 360 people.  However, I discovered my love for the urban lifestyle after my first trip to a larger city.  The pace, the people, and the opportunities spoke to me.  As a result, I have lived in several different cities as an adult, including St. Louis, Chicago, and now Boston.  In spite of my Southern/Midwest roots, after 5 years in Boston I now proudly consider myself both a New Englander and a Bostonian.

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Student Post: Saving Roşia Montana from International Trade Law

This blog post was written by Northeastern University School of Law student Adam Cernea Clark for the Blog on the Huffington Post. Adam is currently on co-op in Bucharest, Romania.

After years of struggle and, most recently, historic protests throughout Romania and abroad, over 20,000 people took to the streets in Romania last week to protest a mining project in the western commune of Roşia Montana. Among the charges brought by the protestors were irrevocable harm to a historic location (the Romans mined gold there two thousand years ago), environmental harm through the use of over 13,000 tons of cyanide (for which there are now far cleaner alternatives for “green gold”), political corruption, and a lack of transparency. At issue is the state’s decision to sign a secret contract with Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources while at the very same time attempting to use its sovereign authority to take private property under the guise of serving the “public interest.”

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Torture in Kenya: Ending Impunity by Speaking the Victims’ Truth

By Sari Long ’13

(Reprinted with permission from IntLawGrrls blog. You may find the original post here.)

English: Orthographic projection map of Kenya ...

My heartfelt thanks to IntLawGrrls for the opportunity to contribute this introductory post.

This month, the Committee against Torture will meet in Geneva to conduct a review of Kenya’s progress in meeting its obligations under the Convention against Torture (UNCAT). I worked with Physicians for Human Rights to submit an alternative report in April on Kenya’s efforts to comply with UNCAT. The report highlights Kenya’s inability to address torture stemming from unchecked gang activity, its failure to stop the torture of domestic violence, and its de facto acquiescence to torture in the form of female genital mutilation.

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Faculty Post: The Art of Co-op

by Luke Bierman, Associate Dean for Experiential Education and Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Law

Cooperative Legal Education (“co-op”) is like art. Its beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. For each student, it’s the opportunity to create a canvas of professional development and achievement. For each member of the faculty, it’s the opportunity to make teaching more vibrant. For each employer, it’s the opportunity to identify and benefit from each student’s passion, enthusiasm and knowledge. For legal education, it’s the opportunity to rethink how to prepare lawyers to serve clients now and in the future.

My introduction to Northeastern University School of Law came a couple of years ago when I was exploring options for the next phase of my career. Having graduated from law school in 1982, I didn’t follow the usual path, which centered on progressive advancement in a law office of some kind with a capstone as a managing attorney or judge. Instead, I have gravitated between teaching and practice or policy work, back and forth. This unusual approach to a career, at least for someone of my generation, mirrors the co-op experience. Back and forth, back and forth, in a clerkship, in practice, in a Ph.D. program, in advocacy jobs, in universities, in government, in a law school, all the while integrating these activities and experiences into a fulsome palette of a career.

Little did I know that I was rehearsing for a job at the most innovative and interesting law school in America. Like so many things in life, I wasn’t expecting this opportunity at Northeastern. But I was prepared for it because I had developed skills and knowledge that were useful. The value of not just thinking but also doing has begun to infiltrate a broader spectrum of education but it is not news to Northeastern. And since my career has been built on thinking and doing, over and over, it made perfect sense for me to come work in that environment.

I learned quickly that something special was going on at Northeastern. Steve Subrin, of the founding generation of co-op, quietly explained to me that I’d love it at Northeastern because people are helpful in ways that other schools can’t emulate.  Steve didn’t describe it all to me; this is after all a place of experiential education.

So I’ve learned quickly that students are busy learning through classes and co-op and activities, focusing on coursework and co-op while simultaneously looking forward to co-op and coursework, instead of being overly competitive or overly harsh. Combining thinking and doing, integrating classroom and co-op, Northeastern students immerse themselves in the reality of law and its practice in all possible settings in service to the public interest. Northeastern’s community, rooted in experiential learning and social justice, truly practices what it preaches.

There is no doubt that there are many challenges in the legal profession. But with challenge comes opportunity. As the delivery of legal services changes, today’s students will be able to influence the development of our profession and the system of justice in which it operates. My generation had great ambition but many problems remain to be solved. This generation of law students can avail itself of all the new cultural, technological, economic and social developments to help address the challenges and solve the problems. And they will create art while doing good for themselves and those around them.

Current Student Q&A: Julie Roberts ’13

From time to time we will be posting some great conversations with our students. This first session is with Julie Roberts, who is currently on her final co-op!

J.Roberts Headshot

Name: Julie Roberts
Class year: 3L

A little about Julie…

·         Where are you from?

I am originally from Wheeling, West Virginia. I attended undergrad at Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY where I studied film production and politics (I made political documentaries). After graduating in 2006, I moved to Santa Fe, NM.

 ·         What did you do before NUSL?

For four years prior to attending Northeastern University School of Law, I worked for the national nonprofit organization, Drug Policy Alliance, in Santa Fe. At Drug Policy Alliance, I worked with advocates, community organizations, state government employees, and elected officials to pass over a dozen innovative legislative initiatives.  I lobbied for the successful passage of legislation guaranteeing legal access to medical cannabis and establishing the first state-licensed production and distribution system to ensure patients receive a safe and secure supply of their medicine.  I fought for our nation’s first 911 Good Samaritan law, a law guaranteeing immunity from drug possession charges when people call 911 to save the life of an overdose victim.  I coordinated and worked with over a dozen community organizations to pass a statewide ban on bias-based policing, or racial profiling, in New Mexico. As I entered my fourth year at the organization, however, I felt a visceral need to continue to grow and learn as an advocate in order to improve the lives of the marginalized and underserved.

 ·         What do you do for fun outside of school?

Outside of law school, I prioritize spending time with my fiancé, Michael. We had never been to New England before, so we enjoy exploring Boston and other parts of the region, especially the beaches north of the city. I also hang out with my new law school friends at our favorite dive bar, Punters, which is right down the street from the law school. Additionally, I volunteer on the Board of Directors for an international nonprofit organization, Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Julie’s NUSL experience…

·         Where have you co-oped?

Because I moved to Boston with my fiancé, I decided to complete all of my co-ops in the Boston area. My first coop was at Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR) where I worked on race and national origin discrimination cases with a particular focus on voting rights. The co-op was a perfect balance of public policy advocacy, legal research and writing, and client communication. Next, I worked with Judge MacLeod at the Massachusetts Superior Court. I absolutely loved working in the courthouse. Throughout the co-op, I gained exposure to a range of legal issues (everything from medical malpractice to personal injury to sexually dangerous persons classifications) and observed lawyers in motion sessions and trials. For my third co-op, I worked for the Committee for Public Council Services (CPCS), Youth Advocacy Division (the public defender for juveniles) in Roxbury, MA. I originally came to law school with a predisposition towards criminal justice reform and criminal defense. Working for CPCS provided me with direct in-court experience representing juveniles during bail and arraignment hearings, which was challenging and incredibly fulfilling. Working for the public defender confirmed my excitement, passion and dedication to criminal defense, particularly working with indigent clients. For my last coop, I decided to pursue my interest in criminal defense and also gain new work experience by co-oping in a small law firm, Zalkind, Duncan and Bernstein. The law firm specializes in criminal defense and civil litigation, including employment discrimination, personal injury, academic cases, and family law cases. The co-op has been amazing so far and a great balance between criminal defense and civil litigation.

·      Are you involved in any student organizations? Did you participate in any clinics, moot court, law journal, etc.?

I enrolled in the Prisoners’ Rights Clinic during my Winter 2012 academic quarter. In the clinic, I represented a man serving a second-degree life sentence for murder during his parole release hearing. My client had been incarcerated for over twenty years. During the clinic, I visited my client in prison every week, collected and investigated records related to my client’s underlying offense and his life while incarcerated and prepared the overall legal strategy for his parole hearing. The clinic provided a great opportunity to work closely with a supervisor and get constant feedback on my work. This past winter quarter I was selected as a teaching assistant and supervised two clinic students in preparation for their clients’ hearings in the Spring of 2013.

Throughout law school, I maintained my interest in drug policy reform and advocacy through volunteer work.  In November 2011, I was elected to serve on the Board of Directors for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an international nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C. that mobilizes and empowers young people to get involved in the political process. As a grassroots organization, our work is mainly achieved through hundreds of chapters established at colleges and universities across the world. Our student members are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but also know that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society.

Based on this involvement at the national level, I then decided to co-found the law school’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and currently serve as the co-President of the group. Through this student organization, I have helped to coordinate multiple meetings and events each quarter on topics ranging from medical marijuana in Massachusetts to harm reduction strategies to reduce the spread of HIV through injection drug use to the impact of drug war policies on communities of color. The group is also involved in policy change at the campus and state legislative level. In 2012 our group helped to pass a campus-wide ballot initiative that proposed equalizing the penalties between on-campus violations for underage drinking and marijuana use and possession. At the state level, our members promoted the passage of the Question 3 ballot initiative, which established a medical cannabis program in Massachusetts; our members have stayed involved in monitoring the regulatory process as the state Department of Public Health implements the new law. Our members also advocated for the passage of overdose prevention legislation, which was signed by Governor Deval Patrick last year. The new law includes a 911 Good Samaritan provision (providing immunity from drug possession charges when someone calls 911 during an overdose) and a provision authorizing the distribution and providing protection for the administration of the life-saving medication, naloxone, which immediately reverses an opioid (i.e., heroin, oxycodone) overdose. When lobbying state legislators for this bill, I had the opportunity to testify in front of the Massachusetts Joint Judiciary Committee. The leadership, educational and public policy opportunities I’ve gained through this student group have been an amazing aspect of my law school experience.

Life after NUSL…

·         What are your post-grad plans?

After graduating in May, I will stay in Boston and study for the Massachusetts bar exam. After taking the bar, I will be moving to Martinsburg, West Virginia for a federal clerkship in the Northern District of West Virginia. I am so excited for the opportunity to work at the trial court level and gain additional legal experience working in a federal court. The majority of cases that come before the judge are criminal cases, which is perfect for my interest in criminal defense. The civil cases are mainly prisoners’ rights and civil rights discrimination, which are both areas I am thrilled to explore. Following the one-year clerkship, I plan on looking for employment both in Boston and the Washington, D.C. area.

 ·         Did anything about your NUSL experience surprise you?

Attending NUSL has completely exceeded all of my expectations for a successful law school experience. I have made excellent friendships that will surely last for the rest of my life. I studied with amazing professors and was engaged and challenged by the range of curriculum offered at the school. I gained real world professional experience in four different legal jobs and a school-based clinic. I worked one-on-one with clients and got to make a difference in their lives. I pursued my passion for drug policy and continued to grow as an advocate for change.

Three years ago when I first started law school I knew I was embarking on a life-changing adventure, but I never could have guessed how amazing the experience would actually be. I am so thankful for the skills I gained at Northeastern and will forever be filled with gratitude for the amazing personal, academic and professional growth I experienced over the last three years.

Faculty Post: Dean Paul on Co-op

by Jeremy Paul, Dean and Professor of Law

After 30 years in the legal academy, including teaching stints at four different law schools and five years as dean at the University of Connecticut, I am thrilled to find myself occupying the dean’s office here at Northeastern. Of course, Boston was a draw. From our campus, I can walk easily to the Boston Symphony, the Prudential Center, the Museum of Fine Arts and the particular house of worship known as Fenway Park.

But what ultimately lnews_02ured me to my new professional home on the Avenue of the Arts is a passion for the virtues of experiential learning. People often say that the value of law school is that it teaches each student to “think like a lawyer.” But when I get into a taxi downtown, I don’t want someone behind the wheel who “thinks like a driver.” I want someone who “drives like a driver.” Similarly, I want an attorney who “acts like a lawyer.”

I can’t think of a better way to train such an attorney than to have him or her experience the joys and challenges of working in a professional setting while still in school. That’s the philosophy behind our signature Co-op Program, in which each student completes four, full-time work placements, acting as a lawyer within law firms, government agencies, legal services organizations, corporate legal offices and countless other workplace environments in which legal skills are needed.

Those unfamiliar with our model may misunderstand the Northeastern experience as one that grapples only with the practicalities of going to court or advising a client. We do teach these invaluable skills, but our aspirations are far higher than conveying directions to the courthouse. Co-op isn’t like taking typing lessons while your classmates elsewhere read Shakespeare. Co-op is more like playing a piano recital of Bach or Beethoven while students at other law schools work on perfecting scales.

But we need not search for the ideal metaphor to convey the advantages of Northeastern’s co-op model. Consider:

  • Our students graduate with roughly a year of practice experience giving them confidence and the ability to hit the ground running.
  • Our students launch at least four professional networks while still in school, creating a lifelong cadre of attorneys with whom they network.
  • Our students complete multiple interview processes, creating opportunities to be far more reflective about whom they are and what they have to offer, not to mention providing considerable experience interviewing and perfecting their resumes.
  • Our students sample different forms of law practice so they make far more intelligent decisions about how to manage their careers. They select the geographic locations that best fit their objectives.
  • Our students experience numerous transitions from one setting to another just as they will do in the professional world.
  • Our students bring their practice lessons back to the classroom thus making class much more interesting because EVERYONE in the classroom has legal and life experiences to share.

We augment the virtues of co-op by providing each student a career coach who stays with each student from the moment they arrive on campus. We are here to guide students at every step as they grow into confident professionals. But the ultimate strength of the Northeastern model grows from our faith in our students.   We have built a program based on the idea that students arrive on campus as adults ready to steer their own educational development. I urge readers considering a legal career to join us in this exciting approach to professional education.

Faculty Post: Consumer Bankruptcy As A Social Safety Net

by Daniel A. Austin
Associate Professor of Law

Our society provides a variety of benefits for people in difficult financial circumstances—food stamps, subsidized housing, low-cost or no-cost health care, disability and unemployment compensation, to mention just a few.  These are in addition to Social Security and Medicare for older citizens, which are available even for those who are not in financial distress.  Most of us do not consider consumer bankruptcy to be part of the social safety net, but, in fact, bankruptcy is one of the first things that people consider when facing serious financial problems such as loss of income, excessive debt, or debilitating medical circumstance.  And, unlike government assistance that is available only to people with lower incomes, consumer bankruptcy (with some conditions) is accessible for people in middle-income brackets.  Thus, bankruptcy is part of the social safety net that allows people to continue their lives with a degree of normalcy even when faced with severe economic circumstances.

I teach bankruptcy and commercial law.  Prior to joining the faculty at Northeastern University School of Law, I practiced for sixteen years as a bankruptcy and commercial law attorney.  While much of my legal practice was on behalf of corporate and business creditors, my research at Northeastern is focused mainly on consumer bankruptcy, in particular, issues related to family and individual debt.  Recently, I examined the treatment and growth of student loan debt in consumer bankruptcy, including what policy changes should be made so that student loan debt can be more readily discharged in bankruptcy.  This work would not have been possible without the excellent research assistance of six law students.  My current work deals with medical expenses as a component of consumer bankruptcy.  Again, a number of law students are working with me to create a database of medical debt information from some 5,000 consumer bankruptcy cases filed between 2004 and 2011.  After the project is complete, the database will be publicly available for researchers and others interested in this issue.  This type of research collaboration between professors and students is typical of NUSL.

Northeastern University School of Law is not a place where you can quietly hide in class and just look to the final exam for your grade.  NUSL classes require you to analyze real-client facts and prepare written work product in a format and quality that is expected in legal practice.  This type of class experience combined with NUSL’s four co-ops provides unparalleled preparation for a career in law.