Boston University School of Law

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In This Issue

Faculty Updates

BU Law appoints Peggy Maisel as new associate dean for experiential education

peggy maiselInternational scholar and clinical education expert to join law school on July 1

Boston University School of Law has appointed Peggy Maisel, an international scholar in experiential legal education, as its associate dean for experiential education.

“I am both honored and excited to have been chosen for this new position at Boston University School of Law where I will be able to work with a faculty that has already distinguished itself in the fields of public interest and practical training. Together I believe we can achieve even greater excellence as we pursue increasing the level of social justice in society and improving the way we educate law students.”

Maisel, who will join the faculty on July 1 as a clinical professor, will oversee more than 20 clinical and externship programs, in which more than 250 students participate annually. She will also advance curriculum initiatives, pedagogical practices and academic research that strengthens linkages between the School’s experiential education program and its traditional academic curriculum.

“Experiential education has become a fundamentally important part of our law students’ education,” says BU Law Dean Maureen A. O’Rourke. “Peggy brings to BU Law an extraordinary background in clinical legal education as both a scholar and practitioner.”

Maisel’s career has included leadership positions in both public interest law and the legal academy, having served as dean of the New College of California School of Law and as executive director of The Massachusetts Fair Housing Center. She has co-chaired the International Clinical Committee of the Association of American Law Schools, served on the Board of Governors of the Society of American Law Teachers, and been a steering committee member of the Global Alliance for Justice Education.

From 1997 to 2001, she was an associate professor of law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, where she co-authored two textbooks, Introduction to Law and Legal Skills and Foundations of South African Law: Critical Issues for Law Students, that drew from her experiences transforming the law school’s in-house law clinic and first-year curriculum. During this time, she also helped found Global Alliance for Justice Education, which advocates for international clinical legal education.

Maisel is currently a professor of law at Florida International University, where she has been the director of the law school’s Clinical Legal Education Program since its inception in 2003. She also teaches an interdisciplinary health law and policy clinic in partnership with FIU’s College of Medicine.

 

Lois Knight, BU Law professor of 36 years, announces retirement

lois knightA distinguished member of the BU Law faculty for more than 36 years, Lois Knight has announced her retirement at the end of this year.

Throughout her career at BU Law, Professor Knight has worked tirelessly to bring to students the most effective and innovative clinical programs. Since 1995, she has been director of the Clinical and Advocacy Programs, holding administrative responsibility for the programs’ clinical, externship and skills curriculum. Among her achievements is the law school’s externship program which she started in 1993, when there were no externship courses for academic credit. She has been instrumental in expanding the externship offerings to eight programs including a full-time Semester in Practice. She has identified hundreds of challenging field placements for students and has also worked to expand our live client clinics as well as simulation classes.

Professor Knight has been a teacher, a supervisor, a mentor and a colleague to her students. A highly regarded teacher, she has taught classes in trial advocacy, legal ethics, negotiation, legal interviewing and counseling and judicial process. Professor Knight and her students have successfully represented hundreds of indigent clients through the Civil Litigation Program.

Professor Knight has loved being a clinical teacher. “Every year there have been new students and new challenges. I have taken great pride in helping students to learn and in seeing them mature into thoughtful and skilled practitioners,” she says. Professor Knight keeps in touch with countless former students and takes great joy in watching their successes.

Professor Knight earned a B.S. from Tufts University and a J.D. from Georgetown University. She received the Silver Shingle Alumni Award in April 2003 for Distinguished Service to the School of Law. Upon her retirement at the end of the academic year, she will be awarded the status of clinical professor of law emerita, a much-deserved distinction.

A reception honoring Professor Knight will be held on May 1, 2014 from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. in Barristers Hall. You can sign Professor Knight’s guestbook and leave a message by clicking here.

 

 

BU Law welcomes Clinical Associate Professor of Law Laila Hlass

laila hlassIn fall 2014, BU Law will welcome Laila Hlass, who will head up the Immigrant Rights' Clinic (IRC).

"I'm thrilled to join BU Law because of the extraordinary students, nationally renowned faculty, and expansive experiential learning programs," says Hlass. "I look forward to building upon the ground-breaking work of the Immigrants' Rights Clinic, and furthering the mission of teaching students core lawyering and advocacy skills as they represent vulnerable clients facing deportation."

Hlaas joins the clinical faculty from Georgetown Law Center, where she is a fellow with the Center for Applied Legal Studies. In this role, she participates in all aspects of managing the clinic—through case selection, curriculum design, and budgeting—and specifically teaches and supervises students in a semester-long asylum clinic. Additionally, as a clinical teaching fellow, she has been trained in clinical pedagogy through a Georgetown course which spans topics such as teaching ethics, cultural competency, as well as how to provide oral and written feedback, conducting rounds, and more.

Prior to Georgetown, Hlass was a staff attorney in the Immigration Clinic at Loyola University New Orleans, College of Law, where she advocated for particularly vulnerable immigrants in the deep south, including survivors of violence, detainees, and children. While at Loyola, she also served as the interim director of the Office of Law Skills and Experiential Learning and as an adjunct professor, teaching a seminar in refugee and asylum law.

Previously, Hlass provided holistic, legal services to immigrant youth in the New York City metropolitan area at the Door Legal Services. During 2009-10, she was selected as an Effective Leadership Fellow with Duke University's Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, and she currently serves on the board of the ACLU of Louisiana.

Hlass graduated from Columbia Law School, and received her Bachelor of Arts from Rice University. While in law school, she co-founded the Student Hurricane Network, a national network of law students that recruited and placed more than 5,500 law students with pro bono placements in the hurricane-affected region.

Hlass joins an outstanding team of clinical faculty in BU Law's Immigrants' Rights Clinic: Judi Diamond will continue teaching part-time in the IRC, and Sarah Sherman-Stokes will extend her fellowship another year with the program.

 

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Feature Stories

Clinic spotlight: Employment Rights Clinic

edward tsuiThough Edward Tsui (’14) knew he wanted to pursue a career in the medical device/pharmaceutical field, he decided to participate in the Employment Rights Clinic (ERC) because it was the ideal single-semester opportunity to develop his litigation skills in real-world situations. “I joined the clinic for the litigation experience and because it was a one-semester commitment,” says Tsui.

The ERC is one example of BU Law’s growing portfolio of experiential opportunities responding to student interest and need. It was introduced five years ago—a spin-off of the Housing, Employment, Family and Disability Clinic—to accommodate the increasing popularity of employment rights cases and to provide a clinical option for students whose schedules did not allow a two-semester commitment.

“A one-semester clinic seemed to lend itself to employments rights, partially because the cases vary in size,” says Clinical Associate Professor Mary Connaughton. Students can get a full range of experiences—completing hearings, taking depositions, interviewing clients, gathering evidence and completing discovery—in an abbreviated time frame. They also gain extensive practice experience in terms of courts: students often try their cases in Superior or federal district court or participate in administrative hearings, going before the Department of Unemployment Assistance and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

“I also have some cases in small claims court,” notes Visiting Assistant Professor Sherley Rodriguez (’03), “which is nice because you can start and finish the whole process in one semester—start a complaint, have a mediation, present a case before a small claims judge, and maybe get a decision and collect, and possibly put the employer in jail if they don’t pay.”

The subject matter of these cases is also very appealing to students—ranging from various Family Medical Leave Act infractions to a multi-client complaint against a large restaurant chain with significant wage and hour violations. “The impact students can have on someone’s life by the way they present a case, by whether or not they think to follow up on a tiny detail, is very real,” says Connaughton.

In a single semester, Tsui managed 10 clients in five cases involving wage and hour, unemployment benefits, and discrimination issues. One of the most rewarding aspects, he notes, was having Rodriguez as his supervisor. “She really lets you develop your own style and figure it out for yourself,” he says, “but at the same time, if you ever need guidance, she will steer you in the right direction.”

Rodriguez returned to teach at her alma mater two years ago, bringing seven years of employment law experience at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) and the Fair Labor Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. Fully dedicated to the ERC, she joins Connaughton, Bob Burdick and Connie Brown, who also teach in BU Law’s other civil clinics.

sherley rodriguez
Sherley Rodriguez ('03) counsels a clinic student.

Under the faculty’s close supervision, students take on real employment cases out of Greater Boston Legal Services. Each meets one-on-one with his or her supervisor every week to discuss case work in depth. Secondly, the students take a corresponding simulation-based course, taught by the clinical faculty, that “orients you to what you are doing at GBLS,” says Tsui. “The framework of the class is structured so that you won’t get lost along the way. The classroom is a safe environment to make mistakes and ask questions.”

Whether empowering him to stand up to a bullying opposing counsel or helping him formulate a trial strategy that won his client nearly a year’s worth of delayed unemployment benefits just before Christmas, Rodriguez was an excellent mentor for Tsui. In fact, he stayed on with the clinic an additional semester as her research assistant.

Tsui also credits the bi-weekly student meetings, in which they talked through their cases and various challenges, for bolstering the support system. “It was a really good team-building exercise that helped us in our cases individually,” says Tsui.

“The ERC team meetings simulate the law firm environment,” explains Rodriguez. “It really builds a sense of teamwork, and by the end of the semester, they really have an idea of how to reach out to and collaborate with a colleague.”

Rodriguez has added some more “non-traditional lawyering elements” to the clinic as well to round out the students’ experience. They meet Boston-area leaders working on low-wage worker issues, like members of the Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Department of Labor, through participation in the Fair Wage Campaign. Students work on legislative campaigns with contacts from GBLS. And they collaborate with worker centers, “which is a new movement among mostly immigrant workers to advocate for themselves,” explains Rodriguez. “And students are always welcome to participate in workshops to educate people about their rights, which helps develop their public speaking and presentation skills.”

There are also many opportunities for networking. Rodriguez, who is very active in the employment bar, notes that she encourages students to attend professional and social events where they can meet and connect with attorneys practicing employment law.

Upon completion, ERC participants have developed a number of critical lawyering skills that will help them in whatever field they pursue, wherever they choose to practice. Connaughton notes that while many students plan to practice employment-related law after graduation, those who enter a different practice area find the experience transferable.

“What’s interesting about employment law is that it qualifies you to do many different kinds of law because you have those civil litigation skills.” As examples, she points to two recent alumni, practicing in different fields on opposite coasts, who have been able to make significant contributions to their organizations as a result of their employment law experience: Sherry Xia (‘12) is a litigation associate at Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey in Connecticut, and Megan Rangel (‘13) is a BU Law Public Service Fellow at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County.

“And because every employer has employment issues, you can really be creative about the different possibilities for employment after graduation,” says Rodriguez. “It’s a great field to go into.”

Tsui, who plans to take the California bar, knows how valuable his clinical experience is in terms of both skills acquired and marketability. “If you can say, ‘I have argued in court; I have managed my own clients; I have done depositions,’ that really boosts your resume.”

Connaughton and Rodriguez consistently are impressed with the effort that BU Law students put into the clinic and are very pleased with what they get out of it. “In a course of three to four months, you get to try so many different areas of the law,” notes Rodriguez. “To be litigating a case, doing a hearing, maybe working on legislation—it’s such great experience.”

“It’s a really steep learning curve, and our students always rise to it,” says Connaughton. “In just 13 weeks, they learn what it is to be a litigator. And more importantly, they leave knowing it. It is exciting to watch.”

 

 

Legislative Clinic authors amicus brief in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning

supreme courtFive members of Professor Sean Kealy’s Legislative Clinic played an active role in national legislation: they filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) v. Noel Canning.

NLRB v. Canning examined Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which gives the president the power to make appointments during periods of Senate recess, with the provision that they will expire at the end of the Senate’s next session. This power has come into question because of the highly political nature of appointments and confirmations, and has grown to be regarded as an abuse of power by the many presidents who have used it.

President Obama made three such “recess appointments” to the NLRB after Senate Republicans blocked his nominations in session. The DC Circuit court ruled that these appointments were invalid because the Senate was technically not “in recess” at the time. The opinion, in fact, significantly narrowed the scope for when such appointments might occur, stating that senators always could create “pro-forma” sessions to eliminate the necessity for the president to fill vacancies.

The Legislative Clinic’s amicus curiae brief urges the Supreme Court to uphold the DC Circuit court’s ruling because, for one, the senate does not go into recess for very long anymore. Additionally, recess appointments undermine the senate’s role to advise in presidential nominations.

Lauria Chin (’15), one of the students working on the brief, says, “The facts of the Canning case do give occasion for challenge because of the changing congressional practices that give reason to question President Obama’s most recent exercise of the recess appoint power, and reason for the Supreme Court to review and make a determination on the parameters of the president’s powers.”

Siding against the administration placed several of the students in an interesting situation, according to Kealy, as they wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the senate despite their political leanings. However, “this shouldn’t be an ideological battle,” Kealy explains. “It should be one to settle this procedural question. It raises some interesting questions about what the original intent was, and how the founders intended the recess appointments to work.”

Allison Gruber (’15), for example, spent time working for President Obama’s campaign. “At first it seemed strange to be opposing the Obama administration, but this really isn’t a political issue. It’s a question of the balance of executive and legislative power.”

Kealy believes that students in the Legislative Clinic, an unbiased party outside of the political fray, are in a unique position that can look at issues from a purely academic standpoint. “We don’t have a political axe to grind, unlike the other writers of amicus briefs, and this is an issue that cries out for that kind of impartiality,” he notes. “ I pitched it to my students as the brief that Ted Kennedy would have written if he were still around.”

In addition to the tremendous amount of research and work involved in drafting and filing the brief, the Legislative Clinic faced another challenge. “Because the Court has not heard a recess appointment case in some time, the case law on the area is thin,” says Chin. “Our goal was to be as balanced as possible in supporting the DC Circuit’s holding, so we were digging into just about all we could to be as grounded as possible in our brief.”

“It’s particularly interesting to me to see the way in which power has evolved,” says Gruber. “We’ve done a great deal of research on the history of these appointments, from the founding until today, and it’s fascinating how technological advances, like the travel time from the capitol to the states of the various representatives, interact with political power structure.”

A ruling in Noel Canning’s favor would be far-reaching: if the court determines that the recess appointments were improper, hundreds of decisions by the NLRB could be invalidated. While such a finding could cause disruption, the Legislative Clinic argues that the issue of advice and consent of the senate is too important to be ignored.

“There is a very real role for the senate to play in the appointment process,” says Kealy. “Just because it takes a long time and it’s difficult and contentious, I’m not sure if that’s a good reason to upset the power-sharing that the founders put into place.”

For the students involved, the experience of writing filing a brief with the Supreme Court is rare and invaluable.

Says Shirley Pan (’14), “I never expected to get the chance to write an amicus brief in any of my classes. It entails a lot of continuous research and editing, but Professor Kealy kept us on track and anchored our progress.”

In writing an amicus brief, strategy is important, says Chin. “An amicus brief isn’t necessarily just an opportunity to have a say, but to fill in the gaps where information might be lacking from the party briefs. It takes a lot of care to present the information in a way that isn’t wholly one-sided.”

Chin says that the experience of writing the brief has helped to clarify her career goals. “The clinic as a whole has been a revealing experience for me. I know I want to pursue a career in government, and I found myself very engaged in the research we were doing. I enjoyed seeing how strategy can play out in governmental procedure, and the intertwining of politics and the law.”

Gruber also plans to put her law degree to use in politics. “It’s fascinating to write a brief, especially knowing that you’re writing it more for some justices than for others,” she says.

 

 

Achieving empowerment: BU Law students find more than just new lives for their clients

Students in the Immigrants' Rights Clinic help a transgender teen, Algerian family seeking asylum

Two people ride together on the MBTA subway in downtown Boston. One has long brown hair and glasses and balances a purse and manilla folder on her lap. The other has short black hair, sports a leather jacket and fidgets nervously, tapping her feet and clasping hands wearing fingerless gloves. She laughs as the two chat in Spanish. Things are going well for her. She has recently been granted asylum in the U.S., and the two are traveling to an office downtown to finish up with some of the formalities.

Alejandra came to the U.S. from El Salvador in 2012 by way of a “coyote,” or smuggler, as many asylum-seekers do. She came to escape the sexual and physical abuse she faced at home, not only from the gangs in El Salvador, but also from members of her own family. Sexual minorities are not well tolerated in the machismo culture of many Central American countries, and Alejandra, a male-to-female transgender person, hoped to find a better life in the U.S. She was fortunate enough to wind up in Boston, where she began working with Elena Noureddine ('14), the law student assigned to her case through BU Law’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.

Seeing the two of them together on the train, you can tell they have become close. Alejandra was frequently depressed when they first began working on her case and says that Noureddine really helped her to get through that period.

“She was more than an attorney to me,” she says. “She was always there, attentive to how I felt, encouraging me and saying that everything would turn out well.”

“It was an incredible experience,” says Noureddine, who felt lucky to have been able to work on Alejandra’s case from her very first intake all the way through to the end.

Originally from Cuba, Noureddine immigrated to the U.S. herself as a child. “The immigration process as I remember it has always been very complicated,” she says. “I know my mom had to do it on her own, so I definitely feel like that influenced me. I realized from a very young age that people were really lost and receiving really bad help from overworked agencies.”

Noureddine says she thinks her Spanish language skills have been incredibly helpful to her in this kind of work. “When clients have very sensitive issues, it's nice not to have to have someone else in the room to interpret,” she says. “With Alejandra it was really helpful to me because she texted me all the time in Spanish, and I was able to text back to her instantly. It just made our relationship easier than it would have otherwise been.”

Being able to work with actual clients and learn how to build relationships with them is very helpful for many who take part in the clinic. But student attorneys working with transgender asylum-seekers in particular encounter a whole host of additional issues and unique, real-world circumstances that challenge their attorney-client relationship skills.

“Sometimes people aren’t as aware of [the issues transgenders face] as they should be, so stereotypes play into it,” says Noureddine. “For example, Alejandra was undergoing feminization therapy, but she didn't start until toward the end of our proceedings, so sometimes we were concerned that people weren't going to perceive her feminine enough to be classified as a transgender individual.”

“Asylum cases are very good learning opportunities for students because they're hard,” says Elizabeth Badger, adjunct faculty member in the Immigrants' Rights Clinic. “There are cultural barriers; there are language barriers; there are health barriers. And learning to overcome that allows someone to be a better advocate. The asylum cases in particular require so many different individuals working on the case—generally, a country expert, a mental health expert, a physician—and the student can learn to work with all of those collaborators, with all those witnesses to gather the support that they need for their client's case.”

Mohammed is another asylum-seeker whose case has provided ample learning opportunities for clinic students. Originally from Algeria, he fled with his family to the United States and has been working with students in BU Law’s Immigrants' Rights Clinic for several years. Mohammed was an engineer in his home country but was “falsely accused of being connected to organizations that were government opponents,” according to Badger. He was tortured multiple times and eventually forced to flee. One of his sons was just about to age into Algeria’s mandatory military service when they left, forcing the family to leave the son behind. They spent several years apart before Mohammed was finally able to bring his son to the United States.

“The process that the government put him through in seeking asylum really changed him,” says Badger. “And he is now out of work, struggling to survive with his family, looking for public housing. His son that he was reunited with recently, I think it was difficult for him to see his father now in this different role than he had when they were back in Algeria.”

Badger says that the most difficult part of doing this type of work is that working with people who are indigent means dealing with challenges that can often be impediments to legal representation.

“We assist in any way that we can,” says Badger. “But to me it's not worth it to put in so much work into someone's legal case and then have it undone because their social circumstances and indigency wont allow them to either take advantage of the status they've obtained or become stable in their lives. So, we advocate with our students to take on a greater role than just litigating the court case itself.” Badger explains that this can mean anything from getting a client into a shelter, to taking them to the doctor, to enrolling their child in a new school.

On the flip side, Badger says that once the students are able to overcome these issues they “realize how much they really are able to do for this individual, for the family. And the clients, by working with them, are put in better situations than they probably ever imagined being in. The empowerment for both the student and the client is really amazing to watch.”

 

 

BU Law clinic helps publish first-ever Massachusetts human trafficking guide for attorneys

bu law human trafficking clinic carmen ortizHuman trafficking is a significant problem nationwide and in Massachusetts. Attorneys representing victims of human trafficking face considerable challenges navigating the multitude of legal issues faced by victims of this crime. The law firm WilmerHale, Lutheran Social Services of New England, and the Boston University School of Law Human Trafficking Clinic have joined forces to help ease that burden, and, in December, they announced the availability of the first legal guide on the subject, entitled Representing Victims of Human Trafficking in Massachusetts, A Guide for Attorneys.

The guide came in response to the passage of An Act Relative to the Commercial Exploitation of People, which became effective in Massachusetts in 2012, and the release of recommendations to the legislature in August by the Interagency Human Trafficking Policy Task Force, led by Attorney General Martha Coakley ('79).

Representing Victims of Human Trafficking in Massachusetts is a comprehensive resource that provides an overview of human trafficking law in the Commonwealth to help attorneys identify victims and determine how to meet their legal and non-legal needs. It provides attorneys with helpful guidance in a variety of areas of law, including employment, immigration, and criminal law.

WilmerHale Associates Dara Goodman, Stephanie Neely, and Michaela Sewall authored the manual, which was edited by WilmerHale Senior Associate Seth Orkand, Lutheran Social Services of New England Managing Attorney and Boston University Lecturer in Law Julie Dahlstrom, who heads the Human Trafficking Clinic, and with the assistance of Assistant Attorney General Deborah Bercovich of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. The authors received input from a variety of organizations, including but not limited to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, Suffolk County District Attorney Office, Middlesex District Attorney Office, Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance, Committee for Public Counsel Services, My Life My Choice, Children’s Advocacy Center, and Brazilian Immigrant Center.

BU Law's Human Trafficking Clinic has been closely involved in Massachusetts' fight against human trafficking since its inception in fall 2012. Through a unique partnership with Lutheran Social Services of New England, clinic students provide a variety of legal services, including direct representation of non-citizens trafficked into the United States, advocacy for trafficking survivors, and community education and training.

Representing Victims of Human Trafficking in Massachusetts, A Guide for Attorneys is available to the public for free download.

 

 

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Student & Alumni Spotlights

Tapping into Boston’s IP ecosystem: Han C. Choi (’14) interns at Jumptap and Charles River Ventures

han choiTechnology intrigued Han C. Choi (’14) from an early age, since he grew up helping his parents run a small machining and plastic injection molding shop in the suburbs of Los Angeles.  “I loved watching them prototype new products and help entrepreneurs turn ideas into reality,” he says.

Choi chose to attend Stanford University, where he majored in electrical engineering, because of its emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship. Upon graduation, he worked as a technology consultant and then at a business incubator.

“During these four years, I noticed the vital role law plays in helping entrepreneurs turn business ideas into full-fledged companies,” he explains. Recalling his family business’s difficulties with the legal aspects of running a company, he became interested in learning more. “I really wanted to help entrepreneurs like my parents,” he says.

Choi came to BU Law because of Boston’s reputation as a technology hub. And in addition to significant transactional and IP coursework with leading scholars in the field, he has been able to gain hands-on experience through two externships.

“Since I came to Boston to experience its entrepreneurial ecosystem, I figured the best way to do that was to get out of the classroom and work for either a prominent start-up or venture capital firm in the area,” says Choi. “Fortunately, I was able to experience the entrepreneurial scene from both perspectives.”

During the spring semester of his 2L year, Choi interned at Jumptap (since acquired by Millennial Media), a high-growth Boston tech start-up that has played a prominent role in the mobile advertising space. His supervisor, General Counsel Neal Winneg (’86), had taught Choi’s contracting drafting class and seemed the ideal mentor from whom he could continue to learn.

Choi worked on a variety of assignments at Jumptap, including helping with patent applications and editing agreements for corporate transactions. Most memorable, however, was writing the first draft of the company’s social media policy.

“We had to strike a delicate balance of protecting Jumptap’s confidential information while still encouraging employees to engage in online dialogue,” explains Choi. “It was a great way to understand the types of concerns employers and employees have regarding their data privacy.”

Around the same time, an older BU Law student introduced Choi to Sarah Reed, general counsel of Charles River Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on early-stage investments in technology and new media based in Cambridge. Through that connection, he was able to set up an externship for the fall semester of his 3L year working under Reed, who is part of a group that helps the National Venture Capital Association maintain model venture capital agreements.

In this externship, Choi learned how a GC at a venture capital firm operates, and he helped Reed update term sheets, prepare for presentations, and program an internal web application. “But the best part of the internship was learning how VC deals get done from an expert,” Choi says of Reed. “Reading through the model agreements helped me understand how a typical VC deal works, and I really appreciated having such a wonderful resource help me understand any confusing provisions or mechanisms.”

Now in his final semester of law school, Choi is taking an IP seminar and several transactional courses—including Private Equity and Venture Capital Transactions, Negotiated Mergers and Acquisitions, and a simulated transactions course—to prepare for his full-time job at international firm Proskauer Rose. In the fall, he will join the Boston Office’s intellectual property group.

“After my internships at Jumptap and Charles River Ventures, I realized that I also enjoyed corporate work and wanted to make it a part of my practice as well,” says Choi. “I think I would like to focus on IP issues in business transactions, but I am excited to explore both practices and see what opportunities arise during my career.”

When asked what advice he would give to prospective law school students, he says, “I would strongly encourage all students to take an IP survey course sometime in their law school career. We live in an economy where all of our potential clients use technology in one form or another.  IP is becoming increasingly important for companies, and understanding IP will make us that much more valuable to our future clients and employers.”

 

 

Semester-In-Practice with Reprieve in London: International human rights law opportunities at BU

By Genevie Gold ('14)

genevie goldMy name is Genevie Gold, and I am a 3L at Boston University School of Law. I wanted to tell you a little bit about my past semester in London working at a non-profit called Reprieve. In particular, I want to share with you how my time across the pond brought me full circle back to my past two and a half years at 765 Commonwealth Ave. (And I also talk about tea.)

First a bit about me. After working with the Quakers in Cambridge, MA and government reformers in Washington D.C., I started at Boston University School of Law in 2011, keen on integrating my interest in in international law and social justice with a future career in law. Throughout my time at BU I have been able to do just this. Highlights include, working in Kansas City with a BU alum at the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic during 1L year, and spending my 2L year working with what was then called the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic (I am happy to report that since then the program has expanded and is now two clinics, the Immigrants' Rights Clinic and the International Human Rights Clinic).

In fact, I first learned about Reprieve during my time at the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic. Reprieve regularly sends UK interns to work on cases of EU nationals on death row in the United States, and is known in the death row community in the States. I saw Reprieve as a good intersection of my growing interest in the US criminal justice system with my long-time passion for international issues. After getting guidance from Boston University Professor Susan Akram, who has worked extensively in the human rights field, I decided to go as part of Boston University’s Semester-In-Practice Program.

Let me tell you a little bit about Reprieve. A London-based organization started in 1999 by Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve was formed in connection with Smith’s work representing British nationals on death row in US courts. Today, it assists EU nationals on death row worldwide, and represents clients who have experienced abuses in counter-terrorism (including Guantanamo Bay detainees who languish in the center despite being cleared years ago, and victims of extraordinary rendition and torture). The red thread that ties its work together is its mission to protect the rights of the most vulnerable prisoners. This summary is admittedly missing a lot (including, how Reprieve has become one of the leading organizations in working at the frontier of human rights work related to the “global war on terror”). However, I hope this short description gives you an idea of where I found myself when I started working there in September.

During my semester, I gained insight into the unique legal world of representing Guantanamo Bay detainees, and how courts of justice are used to sway the “courts of public opinion” (i.e. strategic litigation). To give you a sense of what I did (within the bounds of confidentiality) my work ranged from crafting persuasive pieces to state officials on issues of international law to investigative work testing potential theories on cases which involved events and people across the world. And I learned how to make tea for an office of solicitors.

I don’t have the space (and do not want to be greedy with your attention) to walk through all of my experiences. In fact, given Reprieve’s mission it's not hard to expect that my months were full of many and new insights and learning moments (including how to properly make tea). However, I will share one thing that was unexpected. In many of these experiences, I recognized the previous work of my past two years at BU Law. For example, in crafting case theories I used my experience at the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic and my work in the Asylum Clinic where I created chronologies and witness affidavits to clarify what happened and what was relevant to the court. In spite of the novelty of my tasks, I continuously had a background to pull from, which allowed me to be a valuable addition to the team and mission.

I will leave you with a fun example of this. During my time in London, I met with a former visiting professor at BU, Oxford Professor Hugh Collins. Professor Collins shared with me how he had witnessed his scholarship become accepted, albeit slowly, by judges. And I understood what he meant. During my time with the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic I had contributed to a project associated with the work of Prof. Akram who has, along with other legal scholars, argued for a harmonized approach to interpreting Article 1D of the Refugee Convention of 1951. From this experience, I had seen how the work of Professor Akram, which spanned over a decade, was beginning to gestate in the legal field. I knew exactly what Prof. Collins meant, and was delighted to relate to the world of someone who was in an academic post first held by Sir Blackstone himself!

My time in London was an invaluable opportunity. Looking back makes me appreciate how this experience was built squarely upon my previous years at BU. And as I march happily towards graduation this semester, I am grateful to be able to use these experiences as part of the foundation of my legal career.

Plus, did I mention that I can now make a serious cup of tea?

After graduating in May, Gold plans to join Goodwin Procter as an associate in fall 2014. Read her original blog post.

 

 

Byron Conway ('13) lands a dream career in public defense

byron conwayGrowing up in his beloved and, as he describes it, “battle-tested” city of Detroit, Byron Conway (’13) always knew that he wanted to pursue a career in which he could make a direct impact on people’s lives, advocating for those with marginalized voices. “I experienced, first-hand, the over-incarceration of black men and the less-than-adequate defense they received in the criminal justice system," he says.

"It hit extremely close to home when I watched my own father sentenced to multiple years in prison, in large part because of inadequate defense appointed by the court. I made a decision at that point that I wanted to be as effective an advocate as I could for those who couldn't afford to go out and retain private counsel. I wanted them to not be able to make a distinction between the representation they would receive from me and that of an attorney in private practice—unless it was a positive distinction, of course.”

Conway majored in political science and African American Studies at the University of Michigan before applying to law school. Ultimately, he found the perfect fit in BU Law, particularly because of the practicum opportunities available to students. “I knew a few people in the Criminal Clinic, and they were very enthusiastic about it,” he remembers. “I’ve always been committed to advocating for those who aren’t able to advocate for themselves, and BU Law gave me the opportunities and the tools to do that most effectively.”

Living up to its reputation, the Criminal Clinic proved one of his favorite experiences during his three years in the tower. That is in large part, he notes, because “students get to experience every aspect of the criminal justice system.” Conway saw real value in how the clinic exposes students to both prosecution and defense in their first semester before they must decide which to pursue for the heavy court work in the second semester. As he had anticipated, Conway chose adult defense.

In addition to participating on both sides of the courtroom, students have full responsibility for each of their cases, meaning they are exposed to a number of different experiences, such as interviewing clients, formulating trial strategy, conducting investigations, and making sentencing arguments.

“I got to experience every aspect of a case, from beginning to end,” says Conway. “The clinic really forces you to do everything.” Of course, that makes for many long nights of preparation and a significant amount of stress, but, says Conway, “the pressure needs to be pretty high for it to be realistic!”

During his last semester in law school, Conway decided to continue gaining real-world experience, this time in a community close to home. He chose to pursue a Semester in Practice in his hometown, working full-time at the Federal Defenders for the Eastern District of Michigan. In this role, Conway was able to pursue the work he loves but at the federal level. Combined with his time in the clinic, he was able to “see the full range of criminal defense, which prepared me very well for what I do now.”

Conway currently works as a staff attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Because it is the only municipal defender service that argues against U.S. attorneys, it is a unique hybrid of the federal and municipal practice. “I really couldn’t say what my favorite part of this job is,” he says. “I love the interaction with people, the thrill of battle—prepping to walk into the courtroom and advocate for someone who doesn’t have a voice.”

Thankful to be doing what he always wanted to do, Conway credits his time in the clinic and during his SIP for setting him on track.

“Essentially, because of these two programs, the last half of my BU Law career was spent in practicum,” he says. “It confirmed that I wanted to make this my career path, and it gave me a major advantage in terms of marketability and readiness for a post-graduation job. Plus, I loved every minute of it!”

 

 

Yoana Kuzmova (J.D./M.A. '14) on immigrants' rights, microfinance, and her visit to Turkey

yoana kuzmovaYoana Kuzmova (J.D./M.A. ’14) has cut her teeth in U.S. Immigration Court, worked full-time at a microfinance nonprofit, and talked refugee policy in the offices of Turkish governmental officials. What’s more—she’s done all three while a student at BU Law.

It began when Bulgarian-native Kuzmova moved to the U.S. to attend Vassar College. Its interdisciplinary nature appealed to her many, divergent academic passions—meaning she could major in neuroscience but also minor in Spanish and spend time “soaking up the goodness of the liberal arts experience.”

After graduation, she moved to Boston to work in a psychology lab at Harvard Medical School with plans to apply for a Ph.D. But it all changed in March 2009, when her personal interest in migrants’ rights led her to an event at BU on immigration reform, organized by Professor Susan Akram. “That was a call to action for me,” she recalls. “I knew I wanted to work with this woman.” She took the LSAT later that year and was accepted to BU’s J.D./M.A. in International Relations dual degree program.

While her master’s focused on the theoretical study of asylum and borders within Europe, Kuzmova was “hungry for a hands-on experience” as a law student. So during her 1L year, she participated in the BU Law pro bono spring trip as a volunteer at the Newark Catholic Charities office, which offers low-fee and pro bono immigration representation. The experience aligned with Kuzmova’s interest in immigration law so much that when the supervising attorney offered her a job over the summer, she gladly accepted.

Fighting for immigrants’ rights

As a summer legal intern, Kuzmova helped clients obtain relief from deportation, held consultation hours, and gave Know Your Rights presentations to detained immigrants. “It was great interacting with people, working with interpreters, and developing my ‘college’ Spanish into good legal Spanish,” she says. “The experience had me very excited to return to the clinic in the fall.”

Kuzmova began work in the Asylum & Human Rights Clinic (now the Immigrant Rights’ and the International Human Rights Clinics), supervised by Akram. Not only did she get to work closely with her mentor, she found that she benefited greatly from interaction with her peers. “You actually get to work together in the clinics,” she says. “After 1L year, it's a great way to learn how to collaborate with your peers to achieve a tangible product outside the bounds of your course outlines.”

Her first case had been with the clinic for 17 years—the client had been through numerous trials and appeals in the U.S. immigration system and was still fighting for status. “It was like an archeological project, going through all the files that existed,” Kuzmova says. “I loved learning the entire context around the case in order to get to the legal questions we had to present to the court.”

Additionally, Kuzmova worked with a teenage girl in the foster care system that had recently arrived in the United States. The girl had a traumatic past that was difficult to discuss—Kuzmova recalls that it took four meetings to learn the full extent of her story without exhausting her. “There is no way to hear the facts of this kind of situation and not feel moved to help,” Kuzmova says. “It can make such a difference in life of someone who is 17 years old and just needs to go to school.”

The two easily built rapport as they prepared her to apply for special immigrant juvenile status in probate court, then with the USCIS. Kuzmova stayed on with the clinic through the following summer until the girl received her green card.

Making a difference on an international scale

bu law in turkey(L to R) Prof. Susan Akram, Sarah Bidinger ('15) and Yoana Kuzmova ('14) take a break in a confectionery in Turkey

While she found one-on-one client advocacy to be very fulfilling, Kuzmova also was able to pursue her interest in international human rights advocacy through the clinic’s collaboration with the Oxford Refugee Studies Centre on the Syrian Refugees Project.

“Our clinic’s part of the work was mapping the international legal obligations of states that are neighbors to Syria—Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt—which have been major recipients of refugees,” says Kuzmova. “Then we took a step back and looked at the policies that actually operate on the ground, if the resettlement laws are enforced and respected.”

Kuzmova and three other clinic students focused on Turkey, which has received a significant portion of the nearly 2 million Syrian refugees that have migrated since April 2011. Through the spring and fall of 2013, the students grew their network among various human rights and legal services sources in Turkey to inform their research. These connections also helped put them in contact with many Turkish government officials and NGOs, whom the clinic students hoped to meet with during a weeklong trip planned for November.

“You really had to do your homework on whether these were the people that we needed to talk to,” she explains. “We wanted to hone our efforts on where we perceived our impact would be the greatest—working with officials, learning what the NGOs are facing, and meeting with UNHCR to find out how Turkish policy toward refugees is evolving and what windows there are for advocacy.”

Of the week in Istanbul and Ankara and the intensive work and analysis surrounding it, Kuzmova counts it as “the most rewarding experience I have had in law school. You actually see how policy-makers reason and the challenges that providers of legal services have to deal with in a very different immigration and asylum system in which the state seeks to fully cater to the needs and status of refugees.”

Switching gears and planning for the future

After three semesters pursuing her passion for immigration law and international human rights, Kuzmova wanted to expand her transactional experience, humbly fearing her focus thus far had been “somewhat narrow.” Associate Dean Maura Kelly thus put her in touch with the deputy general counsel of ACCION International, Kevin Saunders (’07), to help flesh out her expressed curiosity in microfinance. They later agreed that Saunders would supervise Kuzmova through a Semester in Practice.

Kuzmova describes her work ACCION as “eclectic,” doing everything from reviewing contracts to providing opinions on the legal consequences of the activities of internal clients. She has helped with “bread-and-butter” general counsel duties, such as drafting policies, but also has accumulated a big-picture view about microfinance and both the domestic and international regulatory environments. “They very much recognize that this is a learning experience for me as well as a vocational opportunity,” Kuzmova says.

The semester, her last in law school, has been a busy one. In addition to her full-time internship at ACCION, Kuzmova had her note published in the International Law Journal and organized a conference on the Euro Crisis held at the law school in January.

After completing her master’s thesis in the fall, she will graduate with significant, well-rounded practical experience in multiple facets of international law. But Kuzmova is torn about which of her many passions to follow. “I would love to work in an organization like ACCION, but I need to reconcile that with my desire to work with immigrants,” she explains.

Whatever she decides, it is certain her career will be characterized by the same love of learning and inherent curiosity that has driven her thus far.

 

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Upcoming Events

Clinical Programs Open House

April 3, 2014

Clinical faculty and former participants will be in attendance to answer students' questions about BU Law's clinical, externship, and Semester-in-Practice opportunities. Interested students can also pick up brochures, information, and application details while enjoying refreshments. See more

 

Visit from law professors from the University of Jordan

April 9, 2014

A group of law professors from Jordan have chosen to spend the day at BU Law during their tour of a handful of New England institutions as part of a USAID-funded project on legal education in order to study curriculum development, interactive teaching, and clinical education in U.S. law schools. They will meet with professors and students to discuss their experiences and watch experiential learning and interactive teaching methods in action.

 

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