Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Learning by Doing

By Yungmoon, 2E

I feel pretty confident in asserting that law school fosters the scientific phenomena otherwise known as time warp. I swear that I was just in my first week of lectures, blinked twice, and am now in my last week of class. While the fact that the weather in August is remarkably similar to the weather in November, these past three months cannot have gone by eventless. So, what really happened during Fall semester?
Just another sunny 70-degree November afternoon on-campus.
 First, I survived my first semester as Evening Student Bar Association ("ESBA") President. Among other things, ESBA hosted a networking panel and mixer with evening division alumni, implemented a student mentor/mentee program, and organized separate events for each class year. One of the things that really struck me about ESBA is how many funding requests we received from clubs. If you check out our Student Events Calendar, the sheer magnitude of on-campus extra-curriculars that happen every single day is staggering.

Next, I was able to start mediating at The Center for Conflict Resolution ("CCR"). In total, I participated in four mediations with a co-mediator. Besides gaining practical legal experience such as learning about eviction and divorce, I gained invaluable experiential practice by calling parties, communicating with very emotional people, and thinking on my feet during mediations. Above all else, the staff at CCR was wonderful - they truly mentored the student volunteers by providing guidance and encouragement. It has been a wonderful two semesters for me at CCR, topped off by impromptu ice cream on my last day from my amazing supervisor, Matias. Yum!!

I also had the opportunity to observe a practice oral argument for an ongoing Ninth Circuit case. Loyola's own professors volunteered as a panel of judges for the argument. What was interesting was that after the oral argument was finished, the judges provided their own personal feedback on what the strengths and weaknesses for the argument were, and what they judges found persuasive and not so persuasive. It was truly a unique experience to be able to be on campus, sitting in on a practice run for a case that is currently ongoing in the federal circuit, in the same classroom where I had Torts class all of last year. This event speaks to the strength of Loyola's reputation in the litigation field, and also to its vast number of connections to practicing legal professionals.  

Next, I survived my final oral arguments for Appellate Advocacy, or App Ad. App Ad is a prerequisite for the Moot Court competition. There are several sections offered each fall, with a max of 16 students in each class. Because the sections are so small, the professors are able to provide individualized attention and feedback. Professor Richlin taught my section, and he was wonderful. With five years of judicial clerking experience, and as a current practicing Associate at Foley & Lardner LLP, he has so much practical knowledge about what is actually persuasive and current in the legal field. This experiential knowledge is invaluable to students for transforming ourselves into marketable products as graduation (and the search for employment) draws near. I don't just know the theory behind appellate advocacy, I can actually assemble a brief from scratch that could be submitted to the Supreme Court. 

There are so many other highlights from the fall semester that I could mention. But the one I would like to close with is my Criminal Law class. Because App Ad conflicted with the standard evening section for Criminal Law, I took the class with a day section. Having gotten acclimated to a cozy evening section of 43 students, it was quite a shock to be in a lecture with almost 90 students, most of whom were younger than me by more fingers than there are on one hand. However, Professor Levenson was adept at keeping the whole class involved and on their toes. Something tells me her eight years as a federal criminal prosecutor had something to do with it. 

Besides being thoroughly clear about the black letter law, Professor Levenson inspired us to think about Criminal Law, why we punish people, and whether the justice system is as it ought to be. She hosted a brunch at her house for us (yes, all of us), and spoke to students individually to get to know them better. She arranged a visit to Men's Central Jail for us to better understand what it means to be incarcerated. And while many of us previously thought jail might not be so bad (hey, no bills to pay, three meals a day), after visiting the jail, I can assure you that the total lack of privacy and constant threat of inmate violence ensure that criminals who to go jail do not enjoy a cushy lifestyle. 

Following our exposure to harsh jail conditions, Professor Levenson then invited us to attend a trial for a client in her Project for the Innocent. In 1979, Mr. Register was wrongly convicted of a crime he did not commit at the age of 18. This November, a judge vacated the sentence due to faulty witness testimony and other errors that occurred during the original trial. After 34 years, at the age of 53, Mr. Register was released on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. He had been eligible for parole for over a decade, but despite being a model inmate, he was not granted parole because he refused to say he committed the crime. After his release, Mr. Register was kind enough to come to our Criminal Law class, and he became very emotional when we gave him a standing ovation. I can only imagine how much anger, suffering, and hopelessness he and his mother endured, but somehow they survived this horrible tragedy with their grace and spirit intact.
Mr. Register and I during his class visit.

And so Fall semester draws to a close. With another semester under my belt, I feel more learned in the law, and more prepared to undergo the ever looming bar exam. But more than that, I feel awed. I feel inspired. I feel humbled. This semester at Loyola, I felt less like a student, and more like a part of the legal profession. Between being able to witness oral arguments for an ongoing federal case, actually mediating a divorce, and preparing a brief for the Supreme Court, I felt that more of my learning was less academic, and more experiential. And with this exposure to the legal field came a realization of what a legal education represents - the ability to change someone's life. 

With that goal firmly in mind, the next step is surviving finals. At least it's still 70 degrees out.

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