Young Alumni Council Newsletter - March 2008
Vol 1, Issue 2
In this issue:
- Letter from the President
- Happy Hour with DC Alumni
- Vote Don Calloway!
- It's Never Too Early to Hang a Shingle
- BU YAC partners with the Mass Housing and Shelter Alliance
- Upcoming Events - Public Interest Auction March 20
Many of us find ourselves dealing with the unpleasant task of filling out tax forms at this time of year. Perhaps you regret not having more write-offs, or are unsure what to do with your (hopefully) nice return. I'd like to offer the perfect solution for both problems.
As students at BU Law we were all beneficiaries of alumni support. We argued in moot court rooms, relaxed in lounges, and studied in libraries that were provided, at least in part, by alumni donations. Many of us received scholarships and summer work grants and perhaps even now are aided by loan repayment assistance, available because of the generosity of our alumni.
Now, as young alumni, we have a responsibility to continue the tradition of support to the school that opened so many doors for us. Additionally, as attorneys we have a moral obligation to provide for programs and opportunities that serve the public interest. Give the disparity in salaries between private practice and public interest law, the choice to enter the realm of public service is almost a masochistic one. The sheer cost of a legal education coupled with the prospect of relatively meager earnings for most public service attorneys undeniably reduces the number of qualified lawyers that are able to make such a sacrifice.
We can and should work to fix the problem, and there are at least two ways to do so: First, reduce the cost of obtaining a law degree. Second, ease the financial burden after law school. We can help do both through our contributions to the BU Law Annual Fund. Donations to the Annual Fund provide for the day-to-day expenses of running the law school, thus reducing the amount that must be recovered through increases in student tuition. Furthermore, the Annual Fund provides scholarships for students based on both ability and need. In addition to tuition-based scholarships, thousands of dollars are provided for summer work grants in the Public Interest Program.
The Annual Fund also benefits the Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which provides funds for qualified applicants working in public interest fields after law school to assist in the repayment of burdensome student loans. This program is vital to keeping lawyers working in public interest areas, as their costs go up every year while their salaries often remain stagnant.
Your generosity will benefit you, too. Strong alumni support is a critical factor in enhancing a school’s rank and reputation. The diploma on your wall will actually gain value with every dollar you choose to invest in the school from which you obtained it. Continue to make it a source of pride for yourself and of admiration from others.
Give today. Make a commitment to do so every year. You can simply donate to the Annual Fund generally, or indicate a specific preference for one of the many particular line items which you feel has the most compelling need. Information is available on our website at www.bu.edu/law/alumni/giving. You can also call the alumni office at 617-353-3118.
I sincerely thank you for your past and anticipated future support.
Chris Strang, YAC National President (JD '05)
by Alon Cohen, (JD '05)
The Washington D.C. chapter of the Young Alumni Council held a happy hour on January 10, 2008 at Lima, located on the K street corridor in the heart of downtown. Lima sports the dark reflective walls, dim colored lights, and subdued, slick-haired barkeeps one might expect from a trendy three-floored D.C. nightspot with a lounge, a restaurant, and a euro-trance-heavy dance club. Small sofas and ottomans made for close, comfortable quarters as nearly thirty BUSL alums streamed in out of the cold rain looking for drink specials. Judging by the number of goblets that soon popped up, the house red was particularly good. Tapas hit the tables to fuel conversation. Within fifteen minutes, the lounge was abuzz. Folks swapped stories of recent trips, caught up with old friends, and learned about what other alumni were up to. Politics, not surprisingly, peppered nearly every conversation.
The Washington D.C. chapter of the YAC includes alumni from the entire D.C. metro area, including the district proper, southern Maryland, and the technology and government contractor heavy areas of northern Virginia. Conventional wisdom is that approximately one in three beltway insiders totes a law degree. This comes as no surprise when one hears about the variety of work BU Law alumni are doing. YAC members act as presidential management fellows, agency counsel and staff, legislative staff for members of Congress and Committees, in-house counsel at major corporations, law clerks, civil litigators, prosecutors, and the list goes on. Attendance at Lima ran the gamut, with members representing nearly every class from the past ten years. D.C. YAC chairs Nicole Cerquitella (JD '03), Carolina Mirabal (JD '02), Suzanne Smith (JD '03), and Alon Cohen (JD '05) were particularly happy to see that recent alumni, those from 2006 and 2007, were well-represented and hope that they'll get involved to help grow the chapter. This writer is glad to report that the happy hour was still roaring two hours later when he had to duck back out into the cold rain.
Alon Cohen, Esq. (JD '05), is an associate at Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP. His practice focuses on securities regulation and litigation, as well as FCPA matters.
by Nancy Browning (JD '06)
Don Calloway (JD '05) officially kicked off his campaign for State Representative of the 71st District of Missouri this January, less than three years after his law school graduation, and he’s already making an indelible impression on his community. He is “in it to win it,” and has garnered the support of several prominent elected officials and other public figures in his community.
Although Don intended to enter the realm of public service when he returned “home,” as he tenderly refers to Missouri, he did not anticipate that he would do so through politics (and certainly not through politics so soon). In 2006, he volunteered to work on the re-election campaign of Ester Haywood, the current rep of the 71st District, but did not entertain political aspirations of his own. Instead, he got involved in public service by snapping up every opportunity for pro bono work and community outreach offered by his law firm (first at Thompson Coburn, and later at Lathrop & Gage). Although he was grateful for these opportunities, Don soon found himself frustrated by the existence of unjust or otherwise problematic statutes.
About a year ago, when no satisfactory candidate emerged to replace Ms. Haywood (who had fulfilled her term limits), Don decided to throw his own hat in the proverbial ring. “[By being involved in the process of] making statutes, you can address wrongs on a macro level rather than simply on a micro level,” Don explained.
As it turned out, Don’s January 3, 2008 debut into the race came about six months after that of his strongest rival, Vernon Harlan. Though Harlan has a two month head start on fundraising, Don isn’t worried; in a move characteristic of his overall campaign style, he did extensive research on what kind of fundraising has historically been required of the winning candidate. “If, God forbid, we should lose,” Don said, “it won’t be because we were outworked!”
In Don’s heavily Democratic district, the primary will essentially determine the race. Don and Harlan do not differ fundamentally on issues important to the constituency, namely accessibility to health care, improving education, and encouraging economic growth. Therefore, according to Don, the race will “come down to who is most qualified, and I believe that I offer a fresh perspective, access to a national network of legal contacts and corporate relationships in-state that I can bring to bear for the benefit of my district.”
Don attracted significant attention for a letter he wrote in response to a controversy surrounding St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay, who was widely condemned for ousting St. Louis’ first and only African-American fire chief, Sherman George, and for placing white firefighters in 80% of the 34 upper-level positions of battalion chief and captain. Activists began organizing a recall movement to oust Slay, which would have required 43,456 signatures and, more significantly, a lot of money—giving Slay’s supporters an excuse to raise funds that could ultimately be used in Slay’s re-election campaign. In a letter to the St. Louis American, Don wrote that while Slay “deserves and has invited the lion’s share of the criticism coming his way,” the recall movement would do more harm than good in mobilizing Slay’s fundraisers; instead, Don reasoned, the party should focus their efforts on finding and actively supporting an electable opponent to quash Slay’s re-election hopes. Though his opinion drew some fire from the blogosphere, Don said that overall, he received an overwhelmingly positive response to his attention-grabbing letter. As for the blogs, “the voters aren’t the ones writing and probably aren’t the ones reading that stuff,” he said, with a shrug you could almost hear.
During his interview, which Don gave while standing outside his home, he could be heard calling out a friendly, “What’s up?” more than once to neighbors visiting his parents’ house—which, by the way, is next door and is always unlocked, as is the custom. Laughing, Don casually acknowledged that though some may find it strange to live next door to his or her parents, “it’s one vote, and you know you can put a sign in the yard!” His easy charm, fierce determination, and voracious work ethic will likely be what successfully wins Don the race—and it’s truly a family matter, with his brother, BU Law alum David Calloway (JD '07), currently serving as Don’s campaign chair.
As impressive as Don's dedication, ideas, and passion are, his superhuman time-management skills are what make it all possible. In addition to holding an associate position at Lathrop & Gage and running his campaign, Don teaches civil procedure review sessions at exam time for 1Ls at St. Louis University School of Law, is an assistant scout master for Troop 44 of the Boy Scouts of America, tutors and mentors for the Matthews Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club, and is an active member and youth ministry volunteer for the Greater Mt. Carmel M.B. Church.
His humility certainly won't hurt him, either. Don earnestly credited his experience at BU Law for motivating him to become so involved so quickly. “My professors at BU [Law], namely Fred Lawrence, Tracey Maclin, and David Rossman, instilled [in] us a commitment toward public service. They made it clear that we were receiving an elite education, and that we had a duty to do more than sit in an office and bill hours.” Don’s phenomenal example of what a BU Law graduate can do should inspire others among us to become involved in our communities and become responsible for using our tools and opportunities to make a difference.
For more information about Don's campaign, visit his website: http://doncalloway.com/.
Nancy Browning (JD '06) currently works in Boston, MA, for Kaplan Test Prep & Admissions.
By Peter A. Hahn (JD '05)
Thinking of starting your own practice but worried about taking that first step? About a year-and-a-half ago, I was past the halfway mark of my court clerkship and had to decide between associating myself with a firm or striking out on my own. The thought of hanging a shingle was terrifying. Where would my clients come from? Would I have a steady stream of income? Who would I turn to with questions? The reasons not to open a practice seemed innumerable.
But there were so many advantages. Being my own boss. Determining my schedule. Working in a practice area I love. I spoke with a few judges, many of who used to be in their own practices. They all encouraged me to open up shop, stressing the need for preparation, determination, and organization. And so I began networking and researching law management practices. Now I’m in a successful practice with two other attorneys and enjoying every bit of it.
Let me share a few pointers in case you’ve got the urge:
1) Ensure a steady income flow from Day One. I did this in two ways. My passion is juvenile and education law and working with children and families. The Committee for Public Counsel Services hires bar advocates on an hourly basis in both juvenile delinquency and Child In Need of Services (CHINS) cases. I had clinical experience from law school and my Juvenile Court clerkship, so I was mentally prepared. I then went through the months-long certification process to become a bar advocate. I was ready for my first court appointment on Day One.
Payments for court appointments lag a few months., so I also set up independent contracts with other attorneys to work for them on an hourly basis. I concentrated on attorneys in areas of the law I had an interest. You’d be surprised how many opportunities there are out there for this type of arrangement!
Now my private client base is growing and supplementing the court appointment work.
Of course, if you have a built-in client base, you’re already set for Day One. For everyone else, you need to be creative and disciplined to make sure there’s an income flow from the beginning.
2) Organize your time. As a businessman in the practice of law, I am attorney, secretary, accountant, marketer, and everything else. Time organization is essential. There’s no way I could do all the collateral work and still earn money without calendars, to-do lists, sticky notes, and a strict schedule. At the end of the day you have to bill. I recommend reading up on practice management techniques and asking other solo and small firm practitioners for advice. If you can’t organize your time, being a solo or in a small firm is not for you.
3) Minimize your two greatest expenses: rent and health insurance. Rent will likely be your largest regular expense. Be realistic about the type of office space you need. Consider location, size, price, amenities, and parking. There are more variations that you can count. What is best for you depends on your practice area and accessibility to clients, but the bottom line is affordability. My first office was the perfect size and price – cozy and inexpensive. Band together with a few other attorneys to share overhead costs. (Make sure you complement each other professionally and personally.) I’ve come to find that value for office space is measured in more ways than cost per square foot. Ultimately, my diligence in looking for the right office paid off, as it will for you.
Health insurance is a hefty expense that you may not think about too much. Consider yourself lucky if you have someone else, like a spouse, to provide you with low cost insurance. Otherwise prepare yourself for significant monthly premiums that cut into your budget. Make sure to shop around.
4) Grow a healthy support network. I can’t count how many times I’ve called on a colleague with a question or a referral. One big lesson for me has been that all attorneys, no matter how experienced, get stumped now and again and reach out to a friend for advice. Reconnect with people you know in diverse areas of the law. Find experts in your central practice area who will field both basic and challenging questions. Get involved in bar and community organizations. Lawyers invariably love to help out, and you will quickly find those who are most eager.
5) Watch yourself: money and ethics. Solo and small firm attorneys are businessmen. You have to please the BBO and your clients. Create an IOLTA. Don’t commingle funds. Bill regularly. Keep organized, descriptive records of billings and receivables. You were not taught any of this in law school or as an associate. Yet you must quickly learn how to do it. Hire an accountant to help. The expense is worth it. Get fee agreements in writing and up front. Establish payments on account (retainers). A client who doesn’t pay is wasting your time – literally.
A list like this could be endless. Every day you will encounter new issues. I certainly still am.
Be flexible and persevere. The first step is the scariest. But if you’ve done appropriate planning and research you will be fine. Make sure there’s a financial safety net until your income steadies. Set your goals high. Have confidence in yourself.
Soon you will be the head of your own practice.
That first step is waiting.
Peter A. Hahn, Esq. (JD '05) is a member of Hilton, Sindelar & Hahn in Cambridge. He specializes in juvenile law (delinquency and CHINS), DSS investigations, special education and student discipline cases, and criminal matters.
by Matthew McCloskey (JD '06)
On December 8, 2007, the BU Law YAC partnered with the Mass Housing and Shelter Alliance to bring holiday cheer to formerly homeless individuals housed through Home & Healthy for Good.
Home and Healthy for Good is a “housing first” program that seeks to place chronically homeless individuals into permanent stable housing rather than providing intensive services in a shelter or on the streets. Through December of 2007, 229 previously homeless individuals had been housed across Massachusetts. The amazing thing is that while doing the right thing, getting people into homes, the state actually SAVED $781 per person during that time as compared with leaving them on the street. (Click here for the report.)
We were able to help ease the transition, and bring holiday cheer to a few of these recently placed individuals. Boston-area young alumni raised $1100 to purchase household items, ranging from linens and cookware to slippers and blankets. About twenty BU Law alums got together to assemble holiday gift baskets and deliver them to residents. Additionally, thanks to Higgins Tree Farm in Ashland, MA, all the residents who wanted them were given beautiful evergreen holiday wreaths. The residents ranged in age, race, and situation, but all were taking steps toward putting their lives on track. We were fortunate enough to be able to be part of that, and hopefully to make things a slight bit easier. I’d like to thank the individuals who contributed generously, and the people who came to help wrap. I’d particularly like to single out Ed Zacharias (JD '06), without who we would never have gotten the shopping done and delivered and Courtney Baigrie (JD '06), who raised nearly three quarters of the money that came in.
Matthew McCloskey, Esq. (JD '06) current works at Target Litigation Consulting in Boston, MA.
The Public Interest Project at the Boston University School of Law raises money to support students' summer work in nonprofit and government legal jobs. Thanks to generous donations and bids on the part of alumni, we raised over $200,000 through last year's auction. This money provided more than 75 grants to law students. Our grant recipients served underrepresented communities through unpaid internships at organizations such as Greater Boston Legal Services, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The main source of funding for these grants is our annual auction gala. Last year, more than 700 law students, professors, alumni, and local attorneys attended the auction. Proceeds from the auction allowed law students to accept positions with underfunded organizations that provide valuable services to local, national and international communities. This year, we hope to provide more than 80 grants to students who want to use their legal skills for a good cause.
Please join us in making this year's auction our most successful yet! This year's auction will be held from 6:00 - 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 20, 2008, in Boston University's George Sherman Union. We will have food and drink as well as live entertainment, as well as plenty of items up for auction. This year's auction will feature three separate silent auctions as well as a live auction that includes items such as:
- Multiple Sets of Red Sox Tickets
- Weekend at a Destination Resort in Nantucket
- Week at a Condo in Cape Cod
- New England Patriots Football signed by Linebacker Teddy Bruschi
- Numerous Dinners, Drinks or Wine-Tastings with BU Law Professors
We greatly appreciate all support of the Public Interest Project. If you are interested in attending the auction, please contact Jamie Charles at email@example.com or via phone at (239) 738-6148. We would be happy to mail you some complimentary tickets or hold them at the door. We thank you in advance for your generosity and hope to see you on March 20th.
Jamie Charles, PIP Auction Co-Chair
Excited yet? If you would like to get involved and meet new people, make new contacts and help the YAC grow, please e-mail Erin Elwood at firstname.lastname@example.org. New chapters are in the process of forming and we'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!
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