Peter Borenstein Blogs About Life at Loyola
Some know Peter Borenstein ’14 as the comedic author of the Student Bar Association’s Digests, email blasts that he sent to the student body informing them of the campus events. Enclosed in every email was an original Haiku about life as a law student. His poetry had the entire campus eagerly awaiting his digests. Prospective students know him as a student blogger on Jury of Peers who opines about his participation in clinics, externships and centers on campus. Borenstein appears to do it all, and he speaks volumes on all of his experiences in the legal world on and off campus.
Before entering law school, Borenstein worked as a restorative justice practitioner in New York City and was drawn to this alternative way of looking at the criminal justice system. Restorative justice is founded on the belief that human harm caused by crime must be resolved through mediation and compassion, not harsh punitive sentences.
Loyola’s program attracted him from the start. “I chose Loyola because I was trying to get back to Los Angeles after a long stint in New York City, and it was the only school in the area that was taking restorative justice seriously,” he said. He met with Clinical Professor Scott Wood, director of Loyola’s, during his application process, and Loyola’s advanced curriculum in the topic sealed his decision.
Upon entering law school, Borenstein immersed himself in a variety of learning opportunities, namely the Capital Habeas Litigation Clinic. Students in the clinic work with the Office of the Federal Public Defender on real habeas petitions on behalf of defendants on California’s death row. The students research and draft claims, participate in juror interviews, craft strategy and even interview clients at California’s San Quentin State Prison.
“I tagged along with investigators as they went to interview people who would form a more complete social history of our client to present as mitigation against the death penalty in his habeas petition,” said Borenstein, whose experienced culminated with a trip to visit clients on death row.
For Borenstein, this kind of practical experience is critical to preparing students to be practice-ready when entering the job market after graduation. “I think everyone is nervous about what happens after graduation, and I think the opportunities that Loyola offers to actually work with lawyers in the field during law school is invaluable,” he said. “Not only do you build a network of contacts that will prove useful in the future, but you actually learn what it takes to be a lawyer in a chosen field.”
Last semester, Borenstein was a full-time extern for a federal appellate judge. The extensive writing and research the position required helped Borenstein acclimate to the strict deadlines native to trial courts. And working for a judge forced Borenstein to test another skill: the ability to think objectively. “Particularly with close questions, you may be asked to write from both perspectives, plaintiff and defense, just to practice seeing the case from both sides. This has been the hardest aspect of externing for me because I tend to take a side relatively quickly. However, a practitioner must be able to assess a case objectively,” he said.
Borenstein found that another way to glean valuable information was by simply evaluating the oral argument and writing styles of attorneys appearing before the court. He noticed a correlation between a brief rife with spelling and grammar issues and an unfavorable trial outcome. Possibly the greatest benefit of his externship was learning under the tutelage of experienced attorneys, the judge and other clerks. “It's important to learn the basics during the 1L year but also get out there and see how those basics are put into practice,” he said.