Your first graded assignment in law school will be drafting an Office Memorandum. Mine was horrible, and I’ve been drawing paychecks as a writer for nine years.
An “Office Memo” is a lengthy analysis of a specific legal question and its most probable answer. You are given a bundle of facts and an overarching question. It’s your job to identify the legally significant information, find the applicable legal rules and explain to your reader how those rules apply to your facts.
Below are three tips, and memorable advice from my legal writing professor, to help you avoid making the same mistakes that I made.
I have written about my law school journey a number of times on this blog – how I was diagnosed with endometriosis, a chronic reproductive health condition in my 1L year, and the havoc it has wreaked on my law school journey ever since. I had plans to return to campus this fall – I even wrote about my excitement here on Impact. But less than a week into commuting to campus I came home one day and my back and pelvis muscles and gone into a full spasm from driving. I was diagnosed with pelvic floor dysfunction – a condition that affects your pelvic nerves and muscles which is common among endometriosis patients. Basically, when your body has been in pain for so long, your muscles are constantly bracing for more pain, even when the disease is gone, as mine is. As a result, they clench, or spasm, resulting in pain that can radiate up into your ribcage and down to your knees.
Needless to say, I was not as ready to be back on campus as I had hoped. I reluctantly made the decision to take one more semester off.
There’s no way around it: law school is arduous and stressful, even without law review. An average law student can expect to spend around 40 hours a week preparing for and attending class, and the average law review member can expect to add another 20 hours a week on top of that. If you’re one of the bold who would serve in a leadership capacity (editor in chief, senior editor, etc.), expect to add another 10-20 hours a week.
So why did I do it? It is not necessarily intuitive why someone would want to voluntarily subject themselves to such conditions, but serving as a member of law review comes with a lot of practical benefits.
Above photo is the BC Veteran’s Memorial “dedicated to the memory of Boston College alumni who died in service to their country.”
Two days into a trip from Boston to the Panama Canal, my Coast Guard cutter tucked into a harbor off Long Island to anchor while we waited out a winter storm. Like most of the crew, I took advantage of what might be my last hours of American cell phone service for three months to text family members and obsessively refresh my email. I stood on the flight deck and felt a momentary reprieve from the wind and snow whipping my face as I read the subject line, “Congratulations from BC Law.”
My first reaction was an embarrassing combination of shock and fist pumps directed in no particular direction. My second reaction was a sobering, “Now what?” After ten years in the military I’d grown accustomed to having a checklist and pre-planned response card for everything I did, now I was temporarily severing my connection to the outside world without any idea how I’d prepare or pay for law school. I didn’t know what kind of help to ask for, much less who to ask for it.
I’m pleased to host a guest post from 2L Maggie Leccese, who shares some advice for preparing for finals.
By now, you’ve probably got all the outlines you can fit inside a one-inch binder. But for those of us who aren’t naturally gifted networkers, it’s still not too late to ace those exams. Fortunately, LSA didn’t assign me a mentee this year, which means I’ve saved up all of my sage advice for this well-timed blog post.
Here’s a list of the eight things you need to do to get through your first semester of finals. Why only eight? Well, I started with a lot more, but my editor alerted me to the blog’s limited server space. Here’s what’s left:
No, that noise you hear as the calendar flips to November isn’t the sound of leaves blowing in the fall wind. Rather, it it a collective sigh of relief coming from BC Law 2Ls that the OCI process has finally come to a close. OCI, short for “on campus interviewing,” serves as the major recruitment tool for most large, national firms looking to hire summer associates. Over the summer, 2L students may submit resumes, cover letters, and transcripts to all of the firms that they are interested in interviewing with. The firms then select students they wish to meet with for screener interviews on the law school campus. These initial interviews are about twenty minutes long and are generally a way for firms to get a feel for whether or not the candidate is a good “fit.”
I have been grappling with the sometimes-tenuous relationship between my expectations and reality since I was a six-year-old girl, kissing my perfectly healthy mother goodbye before school. When I got off the school bus that afternoon, I expected my mother to be waiting for me at the bus stop, a snack to be on the table, and my father to be at work. Instead, it was my father waiting for me, no snack, and the news that my mother had taken a nap that morning and had never woken up.
Several years after my mother’s death, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, but I think emptiness is a much more complete way to describe what was happening inside my head. When people think of depression they think of sadness and tears, but depression is more like a parasite that sucks away all human emotions; happiness, anger, even sadness cannot exist as long as depression is present. Being depressed is like being locked behind a one-way mirror; isolated, invisible to your loved ones, and forced to watch them live their happy lives without you.
Sometimes, life has a funny way of telling you where you’re supposed to be.
In February, I had decided on a law school. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t BC Law. The school I chose was a highly-ranked choice close to home. I was beyond excited to send in my seat deposit, but for some reason I felt obligated to justify my decision to my friends and family. I remember pining over the ABA 509 Reports for some kind—any kind—of justification to back my decision. Now, of course, I know that the only person I needed to convince was myself.
If you’ve been following my law school journey here on the BC Law Impact Blog, you know that it hasn’t been an easy one. I was diagnosed with endometriosis – a chronic reproductive health condition that can cause back pain, pelvic pain, fatigue, and infertility among other debilitating symptoms – in my first year of law school. After a failed surgery between my first and second years of law school, and a successful, more intensive one in the winter of 2L, followed by a semester long leave, I am happy to be back on campus.
I spent the spring and the summer doing research for If/When/How on abortion access for teens, watching way too much of the X-Files, and working on my recovery. Getting your life back after a chronic illness sidelines you is a longer, and harder process than I expected, and I’m still working on getting my body and my mind back to where it was before I got sick. In the meantime, I’m taking it slow at school, and reflecting on what I’ve learned in the last few months. Here are some things I’ve learned about myself and law school along the way, and how you can apply them to (hopefully) make your time at BC Law a little easier:
In law school, the primary method of teaching, at least in larger classes and especially during the first year, is referred to as the Socratic method. A professor will call on and question a student (usually at random) about the day’s assigned reading, typically a judge’s written decision or case. You’re asked what happened to cause the dispute, what position the opposing sides took and argued, and how the court reasoned through the issue. This happens in front of the eighty or so other students in class. Public speaking consistently ranks among our greatest fears. The cold call in law school has you speaking in public without much preparation because you cannot know exactly what question will be put to you.
I didn’t know cold calling was a thing in law school until family and friends started asking me if I was nervous about it. I did some research and became terrified – and while it’s normal to feel that way, let me tell you why it might not be justified.