Students Push Scholarship Beyond Law School

Jaime Margolis and Meghan O’Malley (both ’16) publish papers that tackle challenging subjects in the legal community.

Students Jaime Margolis and Meghan O’Malley (both ’16) have reached beyond the walls of BU Law to publish their articles on current legal issues.

Throughout her second year, Margolis worked on a note to fulfill her upper-class writing requirement. During that same year, O’Malley wrote a seminar paper in her Feminist Jurisprudence course to satisfy the same requirement. Paul M. Siskind Research Scholar and Professor of Law Linda McClain advised Margolis and O’Malley to submit their articles for publication.

Margolis and O’Malley were positioned to write about some of the thorny issues facing the legal community today. With experience working in and studying family law, Margolis wrote about custody disputes where parents disagree on their transgender child’s needs. Inspired by the documentary Invisible War and the issue and prevalence of rape in the military that it highlighted, O’Malley focused her piece on hyper-masculinity and the issue of sexual violence in the armed forces.

Although each piece focused on a different legal issue, they both have something in common: their suitability for publication.

Tackling Custody of Transgender Children 

Margolis-JaimeMargolis is a third year student interested in family law. She will clerk for the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court after graduation. She brought this interest to her work with Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and it drove her toward courses like Family Law, Education Law, and Juvenile Delinquency. One formative experience was the Civil Litigation Clinic in her second year.

“That actually got me in the courtroom, and I realized that litigation was something I wanted to do,” Margolis says of her experience.

During her first summer, she worked with in the Children and Family Law Division at the Committee for Public Counsel Services. In her second summer, Margolis represented domestic violence survivors in the Greater Boston Legal Services Family Law Unit.

Throughout her second year, Margolis worked on her note with Professor McClain, who teaches Children and the Law, Family Law, Feminist Jurisprudence, and Gender Law and Policy courses. Margolis joined the professor as a research assistant during the summer following her second year. She helped McClain work on the latest edition of the casebook Contemporary Family Law.

Margolis was interested in exploring transgender child custody disputes in her paper because the issue aligns closely with her values as a law student. “Feminist ideas and principles underlie my whole approach toward being a lawyer,” she says. “Which is to say, equality, fairness, and helping people who wouldn’t otherwise have fair or sufficient access to the legal system be heard in a way that does service to their interests.”

Since transgender rights are an evolving legal issue, Margolis worked closely with BU Law librarians to retrieve cases and encourage the purchase of new books that provided vital support for her article.

“Professor McClain was instrumental in getting my note published, as well,” Margolis said.

With Professor McClain’s assistance, Margolis submitted “Two Divorced Parents, One Transgender Child, Many Voices” to the Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy, which will publish it this summer.

Margolis’ article offers the story of parents in a custody case, who dispute whether their child is transgender, and how to best care for that child. Through three hypotheticals, she posits that certain witnesses’ testimony could be advantageous in each. Margolis hopes that the publication of her article will be useful for lawyers in similar circumstances.

Overcoming Sexual Violence in the Military

O'Malley-MeghanMeghan O’Malley is a third year student focusing on criminal law. A current student in the Criminal Law Clinic Prosecutor Program, O’Malley will be working as an assistant district attorney in the Bronx District Attorney’s office following her graduation in May. O’Malley cites BU Law’s criminal law and criminal clinic program for providing her with the necessary foundation to interview for such a position. “It really challenges you to consider where you stand in the criminal justice system—what your values are, and what justice means to you,” O’Malley says. “I constantly found that my own views were being challenged, and I think that’s really important.”

She chose to further explore sexual violence in the military, an issue that has been of interest to her since her undergraduate career, in the context of Professor McClain’s Feminist Jurisprudence seminar. McClain’s classroom provided O’Malley with the accepting environment that she needed to discuss such sensitive issues. “She’s very accepting of her students’ ideas,” O’Malley says. “She brings in everyone’s ideas and tells everybody to get involved, especially in a class that can get so polarizing. She really created a safe environment.”

In “All is Not Fair in Love and War: An Exploration of the Military Masculinity Myth,” O’Malley traces the history of sexual assault among the ranks of all branches of the US Military and explores why past efforts have failed to decrease rates of sexual violence. O’Malley argues that the military isn’t anti-feminist, but rather that past efforts to reduce such violence have fallen flat because they haven’t successfully eradicated the hyper-masculinity that imposes inhibition on females in the military. After reading her article, McClain encouraged O’Malley to submit it for publication.

To O’Malley’s delight, the article was picked up for publication by the DePaul Journal of Women, Gender & the Law. “I think I lucked out having Professor McClain. I don’t think a lot of other professors would have said, ‘Go ahead and publish this.’” O’Malley says. “I didn’t even know that was an opportunity I could have. It was definitely one of my favorite accomplishments.”

“Jaime and Meghan both tackled challenging topics in their papers,” observes Professor McClain. “It was a pleasure to supervise their work because they were passionate about their topics and tenacious in revising their work to make it the best it could be. I am delighted that their work is being published and will reach an audience outside the law school.”

Reported by Gianna Fischer (COM’16).