As of this getting posted I will (hopefully) be on my way to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Well, I’ll be on my way to Dallas/Fort Worth, and from there (hopefully) on to Santa Fe. My DFW connection is a lot tighter than I realized, so let’s hope that the aviation gods bestow their favor upon me, otherwise I am going to be stuck in DFW for god knows how long. But that is bad juju, let’s think positive thoughts. As I write this I am almost all packed up and ready to go (thanks to SB), I also got all those little “last minute” things taken care of, at least the ones I’m not forgetting. So all should be smooth sailing to New Mexico on that front.
Anyways, so why am I going to Santa Fe? It all goes back to Harvard’s “J-Term.” Essentially, J-Term (or January Term, or more officially, Winter Term) is a three week long mini-semester scrunched between the Fall and Spring semesters. So technically Harvard is on a trimester system, but no one really considers it as such. Anyways, during 1L you are forced to take the Problem Solving Workshop (discussed in detail here). After the PSW is over, your 2L and 3L J-Terms are essentially open for you to do what you please, well, so long as you’re actually doing something related to law school.
Generally for 2L and 3Ls J-Term consists of one of the following things:
- A traditional class with an exam at the law school, just condensed to 3 weeks and generally with 2-3 hour meetings 5 days a week.
- A structured clinical placement, this is basically a short internship where you work at a job 8-5, but still get a standard grade at the end. These take place really anywhere you can find and secure work, however the “structured” clinical placements are almost always with an organization the school either directly works with (e.g. local nonprofits) or recognizes by default (state and federal governments, etc.). These clinics use the standard grading system just like a class, and have a required class component in the Spring semester (so they are a fairly large time commitment overall). These have the benefit of funding your travel and rent expenses, within reason. [This is what I’m doing.]
- An unstructured (independent) clinical placement. This is similar to the structured clinical, just less rigid (its not necessarily 40 hours a week, for instance). Rather than going with an organization the school “works with” (a fancy term for them sending like one email for you) you go with a more loosely defined internship with an organization who may have no preexisting relationship with the school. These are also anywhere, but are generally a Pass/Fail clinic given the inconsistencies between placements. These generally have no required course component in the Spring. Funding is generally limited with these.
- A local research paper. With this option you chill in Cambridge (or wherever you live nearby) and work with a professor to write a research paper over the course of three weeks.
- A “travel” research paper. This one is pretty popular. Basically you write a research paper, but instead of doing it locally you travel someplace in the world and just have a “sponsoring” professor who basically just signs their name at the end of three weeks. From what I can this is essentially a way for those with money to travel during J-Term and write a
half-assedpaper in the process. For those who aren’t independently wealthy this is much more difficult because funding is really low and difficult to obtain, so you end up paying a crapload out of pocket.
From what I can tell, options 1 and 5 seem to be the most popular. Option 1 is just more of the same, and some of the Winter Term classes are unique compared to regular semester classes. So a lot of people just “default” into a class. Option 5 is popular for all the obvious reasons, you get to travel, but again it requires a lot of money as funding is limited to something incredibly stupid like 400$. Option 2 is limited simply because the Winter Term clinics only take small numbers of students and can be difficult to get into (Yay me!). Option 3 seems to be decently popular, but mainly seems limited to people who already have connections with the organization they want to work with and has funding limitations. Option 4 is probably the “easiest” of all 5, because you literally sit in your apartment and play video games for 2.5 weeks and then turn in a paper you wrote in the last 4 days (if you want a P, anyways).
So the point of all that is that I’m doing Option 2, the Structured Clinical. My clinic is the “State Attorney General Clinic” which is one of two AG clinics (the other being Federal, which has no J-Term placements, only semester long Fall/Spring placements).
My placement is the New Mexico Attorney General, Environmental Protection Division, which is located in Santa Fe. So that’s where I will be for three weeks. As mentioned, while this is a “class” it’s more practically a 40 hour a week unpaid internship. The good news is that since this is a structured clinical HLS will pay my airfare and rent (but no other costs, such as food, public transportation, etc. – but I’m not complaining). The bad news is that I had all of two days between getting home from the holidays and leaving again for three weeks.
Anyways, I am not sure exactly what I will be doing there, other than that I apparently will have my own office (score). I also have a friend (from Denver) who lives there who will be there the first day I arrive, but then leaves for Denver the very next day. So I won’t be totally alone, at least not for the first 18 hours or so. Of course Pig will be with me, so he’ll be there to make sure I don’t get too lost or starve to death. SB will also be visiting me 2/3 of the way through my tenure. The funny thing is that Santa Fe is actually 1919ft higher than Denver (5280ft vs 7199ft), so hopefully I have no altitude issues, but at least it never bothered me too much in Denver.
As for this blog, given the three week time frame I’m not sure if I want to mess with “Checking-In” (a la Denver style) or if I will just wait until I get back towards the end of January and write a big ole’ J-Term post. As of right now I am leaning towards waiting until the end, but we’ll see what happens. The point being if the blog is silent for a bit, don’t be surprised. Pig and I will update eventually, one way or the other.
Until next time,