AdVICE: A Trainwreck’s Declassified Law School Survival Guide

Evan Michael Gilbert
Managing Editor

One year ago, I sat in 1L orientation still covered in glitter from the night before. I listened to presenters announce the accolades of those around me. Among my classmates were PhD students, Fulbright scholars, a gold miner, a trapeze artist, an Emmy winner…and me, who earlier that morning had put the coffee grounds where the water goes and the water where the coffee goes.

Law school attracts overachievers and people with resumes longer than my attention span, and it is normal to feel out of place whether you are entering your first year or preparing for the bar (or pre-gaming for bar review, as you do). So here are tips for those of us transitioning from the patron saints of train-wrecks to law students.

I. No one has their life together. That is simply a lie that we tell our employers, our employers tell their clients, and our therapists tell us.

II. Yell “I object.” Cry at a party in a bunny costume. Save Jennifer Coolidge’s dog. Learn about proper perm maintenance. Do whatever it takes to help you feel like you belong.

III. Know that “Just Deserts” is not actually spelled “Just Desserts.” Justice is not some cosmic chocolate karma best served cold. Also know that “primadonna” is actually not “pre-madonna;” Madonna did not usher in a new historic period – it does not go “Modern, Post-Modern, Pre-Madonna, Madonna.” These are things I should have learned before my twenties. But if you are like me, we will just keep this between ourselves.

IV. The concept of “superior” professionalism cultivated in law school is a myth. Supreme Court justices will quote Doctor Seuss and Humpty Dumpty. Professor Arthur Miller will let a student dress in drag and sing law school versions of Judy Garland while Professor Hershkoff dons a fairy costume. A law firm partner will spend an entire interview with you talking about Dorinda from Real Housewives of New York. You can be authentic.

V. If you find yourself in the library late at night and feel the need to dramatically lip-sing along to Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” by all means do so. Law School Musical is still casting.

VI. Remember to double check that your headphones are plugged in before playing music in the library. Your tablemates will stare when they hear that you study Civil Procedure while listening to Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.”

VII. There are no right ways to do law school. But there are, I guess, wrong ways. Maybe sitting in the library is wrong for you. Maybe reading every single case about Kesha’s contract disputes as a method of preparing for your contracts exam is wrong, too. But then again, if that is wrong, who even wants to be right?

Above all, remember that law school is not a fishbowl exercise. It may feel as if your peers, your professors, and your future employers are watching you and judging you. Maybe your mother is the guarantor of your overpriced West Village apartment, and it feels like she is watching you, too. Maybe the career center will approach you with specific recommendations about your appearance – to dress more conservatively, or to style more traditionally. It may feel as if everyone expects you to perform the law student role. But remember you do not have to.

You do not have to set foot in the library. You do not have to outline for every class. You do not need to pull all-nighters. Of course, at times you may feel pressure to do so. Sometimes that pressure may even be good. But check in with yourself to see if the pressure derives from personal conviction or from the influence of those who perform the law student role more traditionally than you do.

Confronting the Charlottesville Within Us

Yolanda Borquaye
Opinion Editor

After Charlottesville, friends from across the country called me to check in. Typically, their first remarks were of horror or shock. But for me, horror and shock fell much lower on my list. Instead, I first felt a sense of familiarity.

I remembered my mother’s face as she listened to the news while getting us ready for school. One morning, reporters droned on about how a white man had burned a cross on his black neighbor’s lawn in a town less than two miles away. My mother mumbled that she couldn’t believe “the Klan was resurfacing.”

I remembered the first day of sixth grade when my classmate passed me a note while our English teacher was reading a passage from “Night” by Elie Wiesel. In the note, he had drawn a picture of the Confederate flag with “the South will rise again” written in bubble letters.

I remembered years earlier when our third-grade persuasive writing assignment was to join in on the statewide debate for the new flag that would replace the Confederate bars and stripes flag that was plastered across Georgia’s state buildings. Though in these instances physical violence was absent, the hateful sentiments that enable the kind of physical violence we saw in Charlottesville, colored my childhood memories in Georgia.

And then, I felt confused as people continued describing the events in Charlottesville. As I listened to these well-meaning white friends discuss race in America, I could hear the binary they were creating. They took great care to say that these events were done by “them [over there],” and “we [over here]” would never do that.  It was as if they were trying to create a moral dichotomy that would absolve them their responsibility to dismantle the racism sown into the fabric of American society, as if they were distancing themselves from Charlottesville and failing to wrestle with how they are complicit in American systemic racism.

For them, the issue of race was neatly packaged in morality. It was not the ever-present reality that racism impacts even our smallest interactions. The labels of morality that have been attached to issues of racism fail to illuminate the entire picture of events like Charlottesville. These labels of “good” versus “bad” blind potential allies and all of us subjugated to racism to the reality that though some may not be intentionally racist, the system we all operate in is still racist.

The events in Charlottesville were unmistakably horrific and tragic. But so were the deaths of Philando Castile and the controversial acquittal this past summer that mirrored an age-old pattern. So was the assumption that a 12 year-old child playing with a toy gun was an immediate threat that warranted execution. And so is being followed by a white store clerk who continually encouraged me to buy t-shirts that were on sale at the back of the store in the back after repeatedly insisting that I needed the professional blouses I was touching.

Because of the degrees of violence found within racism, a binary centered on morality makes it easy to move people from one side or the other; to identify a racist or a non-racist.  The physical violence makes it easy to point at and attack the extremists like those seen in Charlottesville, while failing to do the same to the more subtle daily macroaggressions or to the larger system of racism that engulfs us.

Racism is part of the makeup of America regardless of whether you are old or young, or whether you are in the South or the North. Racism infects every facet of our culture like a virus that attacks a kindergarten classroom. Though some students may have to stay home with fevers and chills, while others are simply congested or have a chest cough, they all still have the virus. Racism in America functions the same way.  It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, during times of peace and prosperity and times of chaos. Racism is here under the Trump administration and racism was here under Obama’s as well.

It is time we stop looking at it as just a moral issue from which we can exonerate ourselves depending on how close we are on the spectrum to its most ugly parts and instead treat it like the all encompassing, never ending, harsh environment that it is.

 

 

A Summer Intro to the Law with the Unemployment Action Center

UAC Photo (2)
Students in the Ladders for Leaders program.

Unemployment Action Center

We are five undergraduate women of color interning at the Unemployment Action Center (UAC) this summer. We’re just like the Keating Five on “How to Get Away with Murder”—a group of students who work outside of class to help clients—except we are not law students yet. We also do not murder people.

In New York City, there is a staggering number of unemployed individuals fighting for their rights, yet only a small number of advocates ready to represent them. The Unemployment Action Center is a nonprofit, student-run organization that provides pro-bono representation for individuals in adversarial hearings to obtain unemployment benefits. With training and guidance from NYU law students, we argue in front of administrative law judges. UAC hires law students and, through the Ladders for Leaders program, college students to run all aspects of the group’s operations over the summer. Sometimes, we even take on practicing attorneys head-to-head to fill the void in advocacy for the unemployed.

As exciting as our work has been, we cannot ignore how few professionals and law students look like us. The sad reality of low numbers of women of color in the law is just another challenge we are all excited to take on.


I always knew I wanted a career that used the law to protect people. That’s exactly what we do at the Unemployment Action Center.  The task is not always easy. A client can be an untimely chatter box or a very timid person who can be intimidated and manipulated under the pressure of tough questioning. At the UAC, I’ve learned to think on my feet (because you can never be fully prepared) and that five heads are better than one.

– A Young Black Hispanic Female Student


My daycare teachers used to complain to my parents that whenever other children were in trouble, I always argued relentlessly in their defense. That instinct has served me well at the UAC. Here, I get to defend individuals who cannot properly represent themselves. Learning to defend those in need is the start of my goal to work in International Criminal Law.

– Damyre K.B.


As a girl from the South Bronx, I was often told to think realistically about my future. Pursuing a career in law was deemed unreasonable by those voices. They were wrong. Not even yet in law school, I am representing claimants in a real court room, and feel like I already have began a legal career.  I intend to utilize the skills that I’ve gained this summer to lower the recidivism rate by advocating for individuals facing the challenges of re-entry after incarceration.

– Lyncee Stroman


As a first-generation college student, my family wanted me to pursue a career in law for financial reasons. Law would break me from the cycle of poverty. While I was genuinely interested in the field and have always had a passion for creating positive change, I was worried that the work would be too challenging or cold. My experience this summer has reassured me that I can handle the challenges of law school, and that law can generate change when we empathize with others.

– Shaina Coronel


When I was applying to college, my uncles and brothers told me that pursuing law was foolish. “Law is a dying field. Focus on something that can be useful and substantial anywhere in the world, like medicine or engineering,” they said.  After winning my first case, I was in high spirits. Through law, I made a positive impact on someone’s life. If that is not substantial, then I am not sure what is.

– Judy Fordjuoh

Legal Eats: At Raffetto’s on Houston Street, Pasta Comes With a Dollop of History

Kevin Siegel
Columnist

20170901_172244In 1906, the year Italian immigrant Marcello Raffetto opened a pasta shop at the corner of Houston and Macdougal streets, an artists’ colony occupied the site of the future Vanderbilt Hall and the trial of the nascent century was taking place inside what is today the Jefferson Market library.

Although Village real estate has pushed out both the artists and the courthouse, Raffetto’s is still there. And it is still selling an encyclopedic variety of fresh and dried pasta, piled high in glass bins that are removed from their wooden casings whenever a customer places an order.

But, while much of Raffetto’s allure may be its lack of trendiness, that does not mean it offers little for the modern gourmand, or for the penny-pinching law student. Rafffetto’s also carries a healthy stock of cheeses, Italian specialty goods, and well-priced prepared foods.

20170901_172335.jpgIn one refrigerated case, row upon row of neatly-arranged plastic trays welcome those hard-pressed to put a pot up to boil (although it will be noted that fresh pasta, which Raffetto’s keeps in reams behind the storefront, cooks to al dente in just three minutes). Selections are rooted in old-style ‘red sauce’ classics, such as cheese lasagna ($7.50 for a two-serving tray) and baked ziti amatriciana ($6.95), but also reflect an appreciation for the chic in dishes like cavatelli with broccoli rabe ($6.95) and chicken and rosemary pappardelle ($6.95).

Many customers, the author included, prefer to stock up Raffetto’s frozen ravioli. Forty-eight cheese-filled squares, simple and delicious when boiled and tossed in olive oil, come in at $5.95, while specialty varieties range from arugula and ricotta ($6.50) to white and black truffle ($12.95).

20170901_172600.jpgFor the many of us accustomed to evenings spent prowling the storefronts between NYU and Houston Street in search of an affordable meal, dishes like these ought to be obvious choices. It is hard, then, to say what keeps Raffetto’s off students’ radar. It cannot be a diminished love for a nice plate of pasta. Yet, in a place with such a palpable sense of history owned for over a century by the same family, you wonder if the hint of obscurity is not by design.

Still, the food at Raffetto’s is reliably good, and its offerings versatile enough to cater both to the home chef and the takeout aficionado. There is no premium for tradition.

Editor’s Note: In Legal Eats, Commentator columnist @KevinSiegel takes you inside the most interesting and tastiest restaurants and watering holes around NYU Law.

Uncommentable: President Trump Appoints Himself Attorney General, Finds Own Executive Order “Most Constitutional” Ever Written

Editor’s note: Uncommentable is The Commentator’s satirical news imprint. All articles and quotes published under the Uncommentable banner are false and intended for entertainment purposes only.

Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief

In a startling turn of events, President Donald Trump took the unprecedented step of appointing himself acting Attorney General of the United States. During a hastily arranged Rose Garden ceremony in front of throngs of cheering actors supporters and stunned reporters, Mr. Trump swore himself in saying, “King Kong ain’t got nothing on me. In fact, he’s very weak on borders, low stamina, low energy. I’ll be a much better attorney general. The best, that’s what all the real Americans are saying.”

Wasting no time at all, President Attorney General Trump, as he now wishes to be called, immediately reversed the ruling of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. She had refused to enforce President Trump’s executive order barring citizens of Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, before she was fired on a special episode of NBC’s The Apprentice: White House Edition. Instead, President Attorney General Trump found his own executive order the “most constitutional” ever written.

“Everyone said we couldn’t do it. That we needed an attorney general. But you know what folks? You know what? We don’t. We do not need them. We do not need them in a house. We do not need with a mouse. We do not need them here or there. We do not need them anywhere!”

After pausing for suspense, the actors resumed their cheers.

Said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, “President Attorney General Trump is merely doing exactly what he promised he would do when he ran his record-setting campaign and received more votes for president than anyone in the history of the Galactic Republic since Chancellor Palpatine…”

“… who was very good for America by the way,” interrupted President Attorney General Trump. “Don’t let anyone tell you he wasn’t good for America. He was great for America. Loved by the generals. Protected religious minorities like the Sith, whom he always welcomed,” said Mr. Trump.

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway noted, “The liberal media is just so focused on Crooked Hillary’s shocking loss that they can’t even understand why the American people support this nation’s first-ever president attorney general. When you look at it, the alternative facts presented during the President Attorney General’s news conference earlier, it becomes clear that this action is both precedented and constitutional, and certainly one or the other.”

In other news, the Statute of Liberty has announced she is moving back to France following the revocation of her visa.

Uncommentable: Campus Safe Spaces Suffer Severe Overcrowding Post Trump Inauguration

Editor’s note: Uncommentable is The Commentator’s satirical news imprint. All articles and quotes published under the Uncommentable banner are false and intended for entertainment purposes only.

Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief

Following the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, campus officials have described a “mad rush” on safe spaces across New York University. While safe spaces are nothing new at the Law School, the fact that they are now perennially over capacity has students demanding change.

“$60,000 in tuition and I can’t even get a seat at a table,” said one disgruntled second-year law student. “Seriously, what’s the point of going to the sixth-best, top-three law school in America if, when bad things happen, there’s no free food and coffee?”

Calling an emergency meeting of the Student Bar Association, SBA President Evan Shepherd vowed swift action to remedy the quickly-deteriorating situation. “YOU get a safe space! And YOU get a safe space! And YOU get a safe space! SAFE SPACES FOR EVERYONE!” vowed Mr. Shepherd to thunderous applause from the fifteen students assembled, some of whom were simply early for their next class.

In an email to the campus community, New York University President Andrew Hamilton promised that all new construction would include “state-of-the-art” safe spaces replete with free food, including locally-sourced, gluten-free, organic, vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, Kosher, and Halal options.

“Schools like Harvard and Yale may sit higher than us in things like ‘rankings’ and ‘resources,’ but when it comes to safe spaces, NYU is the world leader,” said President Hamilton triumphantly.

When reached for comment at the White House, NYU Law alumnus and presidential Senior Advisor Jared Kushner said, “Come on… Do you know how tough it is to get him to sign on the dotted line? The man uses ‘bigly’ in sentences ON PURPOSE. I can’t be held responsible for what happens next. How’d you get this number anyway?”

While it is unclear how much these new safe spaces will cost, New York University recently announced that tuition will increase to $250,000 per semester starting this fall.

 

Bronfman Center Welcomes Voting Rights Activist Rabbi Saul Berman ’63

Written by Gabriel N. Slamovits

This weekend, The Bronfman Center: Hillel at NYU will be hosting an extraordinary NYU Law alum (1963), Saul J. Berman. He is an activist, widely published scholar, and Orthodox Rabbinic leader, and is currently a professor at Columbia Law School and Yeshiva University’s Stern College. He was active in voter registration drives in Selma in 1965, where he was twice arrested.

On Friday evening, Prof. Berman will be speaking during NYU’s Orthodox Jewish Shabbat services on the topic of “Prison in Selma 1965: Implications for Today.” The talk itself will be approximately 25 minutes and the total service time will last a little over an hour.

Services will begin at 4:55 PM and the talk will be at approximately 5:30 on the 5th floor of NYU’s Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life (GCASL), 238 Thompson St, 5th floor – between Washington Square S and W 3rd St.