Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Magical Land of NUSL

So, Bree has been rather confused by the way my school works. It's probably somewhat confusing for the rest of you too, since most of you probably expect classes to go from late summer or early fall to late spring or early summer with just a few breaks in between terms. My school is very different from any other law school. It's actually very different from any other university.

Because it's so unique, I may as well just say that I go to Northeastern University School of Law ("NUSL") in Boston, since it would be pretty easy to figure it out after learning how the program works. Just don't stalk me. ;)

Anyway, so, here's a general overview of how NUSL's program works. For your first year of law school, you're just like any other 1L. You start at the end of August, and your first semester is over in mid-December. Spring semester starts in early January and is over in mid-May. The only unique thing you get as a 1L is the LSSC program, which I've talked about before since I just spent my last term as a Lawyering Fellow in the program.

But then your second year starts. And it actually starts the summer right after your first year is done. The reason we're technically in school all year is because of the co-op program. What is co-op, you ask? Well, it's short for cooperative education, meaning that Northeastern University recognized a long time ago that people don't just learn from sitting in a classroom. The undergraduate school has had a co-op program for almost 100 years, and the students actually go to school for 5 years in order to give themselves time to get up to 18 months of full-time experience as an intern in an area of their choosing.

So, when the university added a law school 40 years ago, of course they couldn't abandon the importance of co-op. But how to implement it into a law school and still be ABA-accredited? The ABA has a lot of crazy rules, it's possible a 4-year program wouldn't fly with them, and then the school wouldn't get many students, and the ones that did attend could only sit for the bar in certain states, and the whole great idea of sending the students on co-op so they could get "experiential education" along with their classroom education wouldn't really do much. So, somehow the founders of the law school figured out that they could probably condense the classes for 2Ls and 3Ls (known as Upper Levels or ULs) into 11 weeks, rather than 15, and put the school on a quarter system for those students, rather than semesters like all the other law schools. And then, if they included summer in the school year, they could arrange the year so that every law student does four 11-week full-time internships before they graduate.

So, in order to make sure that every student gets an internship, they needed to balance out some of the competition, both among the students at NUSL and among NUSL students and the rest of the law schools. Fall, winter, and spring quarters are easy because all the other law students in the country are in school so there's only in-school competition. Summer is highly competitive because that's when all the other law students are really trying to get internships. Luckily, at most other law schools, many students don't get an internship the summer right after their first year. Also, there are more available internships in the summer. Plus, NUSL specifically prepares us for working at an internship during our first year which makes us slightly more desirable than 1Ls from other schools. So those various things balance out the competition in the summer. But then you still have to balance out the competition within the school. So, early in your first year you pick a co-op rotation. You either pick fall/spring, meaning you go on co-op during the fall and spring quarters, or you pick summer/winter, and go on co-op during those quarters. Then you are in class during the quarters when you're not on co-op.

Confused? Here's a visual of the UL calendar, with the two rotations side-by-side.




Summer Quarter
Fall Quarter
Winter Quarter
Spring Quarter

Summer/winter
Co-op
Classes
Co-op
Classes

Fall/spring
Classes
Co-op
Classes
Co-op



As you can see, this reduces the in-school competition so that you're only competing with half of your fellow students for your next co-op. And certain co-op employers prefer 2Ls, some prefer 3Ls. Some types of co-op, regardless of the employer preference, are better for first or second co-ops, and some are better for third or fourth co-ops when you've had more experience. So it's really pretty easy to get the internship you want in all terms besides summer.

Now that you know all that, you know what it means when I say I'm on the summer/winter rotation. And you all understand why my classes ended shortly before Thanksgiving and now I'm working for about 3 months. Anyway, the whole co-op program is why I wanted to come to NUSL in the first place. Not only having the opportunity to get not one, not two, but four full-time internships, but actually having those four internships be a requirement for graduation sounded great to me. That requirement means I actually have to look for internships, but it also means that the school is really helpful and makes sure you find an internship. They remind you of application deadlines, they have big mailing days when everyone turns in a set of application packets and they mail all your stuff where it needs to go, then they tell you if you got an interview, they filter all the interview offers once you have an internship all lined up so you're not the one that has to answer the phone and say, "oh, sorry, I already accepted a job."

So, there you go. That is why my school is fantastic.

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7 comments:

Ginger said...

that's a lot of stuff i kind of understand...i always wondered which school you went to.

Bridgete said...

Yeah, the whole system is a little crazy, I didn't even get it until I came to the school. Anyway, now you know where I go! But, like I said, no stalking! =P

Bree said...

That's awesome! My law school recently incorporated a pro bono graduation requirement to address the need for practical experience, obviously not as comprehensive as 3 months, but it's a start. I have to say, I can really see the benefits of having a rotating schedule...you don't get 300 people vying for positions at the same time! I know there are firms that would need to hire in October but there are few students who can take anything beyond a part-time position. Thanks for taking my hand and walking me through how the program works! :D

Ginger said...

just a little stalking? pleeeeaaaase?

hahaha! my word verification is asmovess...it's just funny.

kate said...

That's really cool. So far, we've had good luck with our interns from Johnson & Wales - they have to pay to work for free, which is twistedly funny. My school has no internship program locally, but they can arrange them in France, at the student's expense in most cases.....

Jenn said...

I looked into Northeastern because it sounded like such a great program to be able to work / school year round but in the end they just did not have the program that fit what I was looking for. to hear how the law dept works is amazing though! It must be perfect to not have to worry about getting that practical real world experience while studying 60+ hours a week huh?

No worries on the stalking...I already knew where you lived and vice versa and we still can't manage to get our crazy busy schedules together lol!

Interesting news though on that front...it is possible come late spring/early summer we'll be living in your neck of the woods, Matt just landed a job in Braintree & taking the T from here would be about 1 hr 40 min so once our lease is up...maybe we can even get a cup of coffee or something :)

Bridgete said...

Alright Ginger. Maybe a little stalking. ;)

Jenn - I know, it has been pretty impossible to get together. That's cool you might end up in this area. Coffee would be a definite possibility in that case. =)

Bree - Glad I helped you understand now! =)