1L Guide: How Do I Get Started on Outlining?

When I was a 1L, my Civ Pro TA told us that Halloween was the absolute latest day to get started on outlining. What she must not have understood at the time was that I didn’t really feel like it.

I instead started outlining a few days into November instead, rebel that I am, and it worked out fine. Still, everyone runs this race at their own pace, and it’s getting to be that time – December isn’t as far away as we might like to think. For 1Ls especially, outlining can be a lengthy process when you’ve never done it before. I didn’t even know what “outlining” meant when I showed up as a 1L, let alone how to get started.

It turns out that outlining is just *checks notes* checking your notes. Essentially, it refers to the process of reviewing and reorganizing class material into a convenient document to study and use as a reference during the exam. It’s writing yourself a comprehensive study guide/cheat-sheet, synthesizing all your course content into a handy one-stop shop. At this point, that content is probably scattered across assigned readings, class recordings, presentation slides, course handouts, and your own notes. Outlining is about bringing all that stuff together, and putting it into a format that is useful for answering exam questions.

Now that I’m a 3L, endowed with the awesome wisdom a passing grade in Torts bestows, my solemn duty is to impose unsolicited and marginally-helpful-at-best advice upon you, 1L reader. Here are some outlining tips and tricks:

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2L: Does It Get Easier?

Into the fourth week of 2L, I’m still waiting for it to be “easier than 1L,” as I’ve been told more than once. At BC Law, students are back on campus full time since the Covid-19 outbreak. For many of us, balancing in-person classes, work, student leadership, and free time is a new challenge. My recommendation for anyone who hasn’t started their 2L year yet is to avoid unnecessarily overloading your schedule. I’ve outlined a few tips that apply to classes and extracurriculars that are helping to ease the stress:

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1L Guide: What is a “Gunner”, and How Can I Stop Being One?

As we creep ever further into the month of September, new students are coming up on the one-month mark of their first semesters at BC Law. Remember back in August when no one was pestering you about what the district court ruled, or whether there really was a breach of duty? Alas, syllabus week is over, add/drop has expired, and now there is nothing but the next deadline, the next reading. 1Ls have gotten a sense of law school’s rhythm and flow – what the workload is like, where the classrooms are, how cold calling works, and so on.

They’ve also got a sense of who the gunners are.

Let’s define terms (this is law school, after all): a “gunner” is someone who takes up too many class resources for themselves – in particular, too much class time. A gunner goes beyond the scope of ordinary academic or competitive behavior in order to succeed in law school (or simply appear to be succeeding in law school), all while violating the most important rule in the unwritten student code: probably don’t behave in a way that makes all of your peers think you’re a bit annoying.

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Three Ways to Think About Note-Taking

One of my professors doesn’t allow laptops in class. Two others strongly suggested that we not use laptops, citing the potential for distraction and the multiple studies finding that note-taking by hand is more effective than type-written notes. Beyond that, however, my professors haven’t weighed in with any additional guidance on note-taking.

But behind every page of notes there’s a unique mind and learning style, so I thought it would be interesting to ask a few classmates to share their notes from a class we took together in order to see how their distinct personalities and preferences come through. They also said a few words about what they hope to capture or accomplish when they take notes.

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Making an Impact: Working in the International Human Rights Practicum

Today I am hosting a guest post by BC Law student Marija Tesla about her experience in BC Law’s new International Human Rights Practicum.


I have taken many international law and human rights courses at BC Law, and have loved them all: International Law with Professor David Wirth; International Human Rights: The Law of War, War Crimes, and Genocide (or what is more commonly known as humanitarian law) with Professor Allen Ryan; Immigration Law and the Human Rights Interdisciplinary Seminar with Professor Daniel Kanstroom; International Legal Research with Professor Sherry Chen. I came to law school because this is my calling in life, and every experience I got here (after the slog of the very provincial 1L experience), further proved to me that this is what I was meant to do. 

All those courses were amazing, but what I have loved most of all is my experience in the International Human Rights Practicum with Professor Daniela Urosa. 

I loved working on the amicus brief that we submitted to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) with Professor Urosa and my amicus partner, Nadia Bouquet, because I got to think about and analyze a technical area of international human rights law while having an opportunity to be creative and to think outside the box (I wrote an earlier post about our visit to the IACtHR; read it here). My aim in everything I do is to challenge the status quo and to focus on how the law can challenge systems of oppression and create societies in which every person can and does live a life of dignity. Human rights law is aspirational and sometimes it creates standards that are not at all lived on the ground by the people who are most marginalized in our societies. Yet, if those of us who dare to remain idealists in a world often run by realists stop aspiring and working towards creating a more just and equitable world, then where will we end up as a collective? What I love about human rights law is that it cares deeply about individual life while caring about the collective. In a world of great economic inequality, environmental and racial injustice, human rights law is not just necessary, it is a difference of not just life and death, but a difference of what it means to live and to be alive.

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Prepared for Success

This past January, I remember thinking to myself that I couldn’t wait to submit my last final exam at the end of May. It was an exhilarating feeling that lasted for a day or so until I received the Writing Competition email with hundreds of pages of materials. I was eager to complete the assignment over the next two weeks, so that I could finally take a breather. I submitted my competition materials, but it was on the same day that my summer internship started. Oh yes, and then grades were released. Then, the window for OCI (on-campus interview) applications were opened. Did I mention the anxiety of class registration for next year in the middle of this?

If this all seems like a lot… it is! Yet, every first-year law student persisted through this process and thrived. Although the past year felt overwhelming for a variety of reasons, we were all able to persevere because Boston College Law School prepared us.

On my first day of my summer internship at the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, I was handed three assignments. One task was writing a memorandum that needed to be submitted five days later. Another task was assisting a supervising attorney by acting as a judge in a moot court as she prepared to argue before the Massachusetts Appeals Court. The other assignment was drafting a motion for an upcoming proceeding. All of this was in the first week.

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Dean Rougeau and the Ideal of Truth

Dean Rougeau was among the first people to speak to my class during orientation. He welcomed us to BC and to the legal profession. Then he talked about truth. This was the summer of 2019 and then, as now, there were concerns that the very notion of truth was being degraded beyond redemption. At the time, an iconoclastic media personality-turned-politician had unsettled what many thought were enduring, if only partial, methods of verifying truth.

We don’t need to dwell on the politics of it. Dean Rougeau didn’t. He just took the opportunity to center truth in legal education and practice. He talked about how our profession’s procedures, norms, and expertise offered one important solution to the challenge our society faced. I was skeptical. But less than two years later, completely unsubstantiated claims of election fraud ran rampant through the public square until they crashed into the brick wall of the courts’ evidentiary standards. He may have been onto something.

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Faith and Democracy

What is the role of faith in our democracy? For starters, freedom of religion is the first right enshrined in the First Amendment. While amendments are not listed in order of importance, it’s hard not to read something into that drafting choice. Yet constitutional meanings frequently play hide-and-go-seek with text. This is especially the case for religion, which is never defined in the Constitution.[1]

Maybe the Founders’ generation assumed the meaning was self-evident. I would hope, however, that they knew there is little that is obvious or uncontested in religion. The etymology of the word itself suggests how difficult it is to define.[2] Religion comes from the Latin term religio.[3] The Latin phrase itself likely came from the root ligare, to bind. Joined with the prefix re-, religion is the process of “binding together again.”

The question is: what does religion bind together? Some believe it bound an individual to the discipline of moral discernment. It referred to epistemic responsibility, the responsibility to properly know what you know. A related but distinct interpretation was that it referred to the oaths taken by members of cults or religious orders. It emphasized the practical, ritual, and ecclesial dimensions of religious life. Over time, as religion started to assume more individualistic and mystical associations, the root was understood as referring to the re-connection between the human and the divine.

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On Being a Parent in Law School, Part III: Exercising Imagination

I first wrote about being a parent in law school shortly before my daughter’s second birthday. I was planning her second annual feat of strength. When she was one, she shuffled the last 100 meters up a paved path to the summit of Peter’s Hill. At two, she did a longer stretch of the road that winds around the hill. A few weeks ago, for her third birthday, she climbed straight up the hill, bottom to top, in the snow.

I started explaining the challenge to her the day before and then continued to prep her the morning of. When we started, she was ready, quiet, and about as focused as she gets. We started working our way up. In the middle, she struggled. She asked me to carry her. I told her she had to do this herself. She paused, rallied, and made it to the top. Breathing hard, but with a smile.

I took her for her three-year check-up at the pediatrician a couple of weeks later. The doctor told me, “Imagination is big at three.” She asked, “She imagine a lot?” That would be an understatement. She is constantly narrating her adventure: a highly consequential choice between the blue path and the red path, a search for a purple cow in a yellow valley, an escape from a thieving fox.

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Staying Motivated in Law School

The first month of law school felt daunting, yet inspiring. The incentive to perform well and desire to keep pace with my classmates helped sustain my initiative.  As that motivation began to diminish slowly, once finals were over I entered a complete hibernation from my legal studies. While it’s necessary to step back and recharge over break, it’s not so easy to make the return to a new semester.

As we all know, in law school there is no “syllabus week.” Instead we jolt into full length classes and hundreds of pages of readings. If you’re also struggling with the stark transition from over-indulging in the latest HBO series (I recommend His Dark Materials) to your respective Wolters Kluwer, I’ve researched a number of techniques to reinvigorate motivation.

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