I wasn’t actually planning on doing a celebration post. Like many of you, I’ve been trying so hard to forget 2020. But, here we are. After yet another one of my famous fork-in-the-road existential crisis calls with my law school advisor tonight, I was reminded that though 2020 has felt like an absolute dumpster fire, I’ve actually had a pretty great year overall. The lows have been incredibly low. But the highs have also been incredibly high. In the spirit of extending a giant middle finger to 2020, here is my list of all the things that went right this year:
- SCU WIPIP 2020: Right before everything went to hell, I had the opportunity to volunteer at SCU Law’s WIPIP conference this year. Being able to attend these conferences as a student is incredible, which is why I’m always first in line to get a volunteer spot. During this year’s WIPIP, I got to make friends with more law professors from around the world (literally), gain some more social media connections, expand my network, listen to industry thoughtleaders and field experts present their work, and casually socialize over an epic game of Dungeons & Dragons (WHERE I TAMED MY FIRST EVER DRAGON!!!!). Not to mention, I also got to work with Prof. Brian Frye who presented our (now published) paper on Section 230, Publicity Rights, and the famous Ken Zeran case. These conferences bring me so much joy. I can’t wait to attend when things are normal again.
2. Community Building and Advocacy Efforts at SCU Law: Anyone that knows me, knows that I’m a huge supporter of my law school. Santa Clara Law, in many ways, became my family and my new home very quickly when I moved to California from the East Coast. SCU opened so many doors for my career and completely changed my life. With that, it has always been important to me that I give back to my community any way I possibly can. This year, I was particularly proud of a few efforts I led to support my school and peers:
For starters, I was one of the loudest advocates for switching to pass/no pass grading when we had to make the sudden transition to online school. As I explained here in this op-ed I published to ABA For Law Students, a pass/no pass grading system was key to leveling the playing field for students that were forced into extreme adversity when we lost all of the resources our school normally provides. I drafted this letter for our school’s administration, gathered hundreds of signatures from my peers, created an anonymous survey for students to provide feedback to the administration about their situations, and sent many personal emails to our Deans. SCU Law successfully transitioned to P/NP grading for the spring semester. I’m not sure how much of my advocacy actually went into that decision, but I was proud that I used my voice to advocate for my colleagues.
Additionally, knowing that 1L year was about to be significantly more difficult for the incoming students who would have to wade through their first year completely online, I did everything I could to make their semester just a little easier. I held a weekly Friday night “office hours” where 1Ls could hang out, get advice from 2Ls and 3Ls, and connect with each other. These office hours were, in my opinion, quite successful. In addition to the office hours, I also dedicated my time to bi-monthly 1:1 mentorship with several 1L students. Together, we built career plans, discussed networking strategies, and created a safe space for any questions or concerns regarding law school or life in general. On top of that, I’m tremendously proud of all the work the Internet Law Student Organization did to create events that were dedicated to helping 1Ls find the resources they need to be successful. I’m proud of the organization that I built with my amazing colleagues and I can’t wait to see what it does next.
Lastly, to boost the community’s morale, I created an SCU Law Compliments Facebook page where students and faculty could submit anonymous compliments about their fellow colleagues. My goal was to spread as much positivity as possible amidst the doom-and-gloom that COVID-19 brought us.
I love SCU Law, I’m proud of the work I’ve done to build my community, and I plan to continue to support and engage with that community beyond graduation.
3. Expanded My Tech Policy Network: Though COVID-19 took away our ability to network at various conferences, it also created an opportunity for online communities to spawn and thrive. Thanks to a few awesome people in the tech policy world, I joined a massive discord server full of professionals that I would have probably never otherwise engaged with before COVID-19. Thanks to that server, I’ve become close with so many brilliant people in my field and made some great Section 230 friends. One of those new friends also ended up being an awesome co-author for a Section 230 piece we published this year in the Washington Examiner!
And thanks to those new friends, I also gained a significant number of Twitter followers this year (currently 4k!!!). I’m definitely eyeing verification next year. 😉
4. Published to the Technology & Marketing Law Blog: Some law students want to make law review, some want to make top 10% of their class, and some want to land “big law” jobs. The number one thing I wanted to accomplish before graduating law school was publish to Prof. Eric Goldman’s blog. The Technology & Marketing Law Blog was a huge reason why I ended up shifting careers from software engineering to Internet law. Almost everything I know about Internet law comes from reading countless posts from this blog. It’s the number one source I recommend to anyone trying to get into this field and it absolutely blows my mind that it’s a FREE resource. Additionally, anyone that knows me knows that Prof. Goldman has always been one of my biggest role models in this field. So, publishing not one but TWO articles to his blog this year (about Section 230!!!) is hands down my biggest accomplishment this year (and in law school). I’m so grateful for the opportunity and I’m looking forward to being a regular guest blogger in the future!
5. Published and Cited on Techdirt: On a similar note, I’ve also dreamed of publishing to Techdirt: the number one source for technology law journalism. This year, I had the amazing opportunity to publish a piece about content moderation to Techdirt’s Tech Policy Greenhouse. I also published one of my most cited 230 pieces: Your Problem Is Not With Section 230, But The 1st Amendment. Lastly, thanks to Cathy Gellis, Prof. Goldman and I were cited in her Techdirt article about the impact we recently made in Congress to pave the way for significant patent bar regulation reform. (An additional accomplishment!).
6. Section 230 Advocacy: One good thing that came out of the virtual “new normal” was virtual conferences and the ability to host speakers from anywhere without having to pay for their travel fees and lodging. With that, I entertained several opportunities to speak on panels, podcasts, and present at different law schools throughout the country about Section 230 and my advocacy efforts. I’ve also spoken with a few Senate offices and journalists about why Section 230 must be preserved. I’ve kept a complete list of my media engagements and publications here on my CV. I highlighted some of my favorite ones below:
- AI, Big Data, and Cloud Conference (Presentation on Section 230), Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, November 17, 2020 (Co-Presented with Prof. Eric Goldman)
- Navigating the Right of Publicity and Section 230, lecture at UK College of Law, October 14, 2020
- Section 230 and the Freedom to Remove Objectionable Content, Community Signal, October 12, 2020
- Introduction to Section 230 and Content Moderation, lecture at UCLA, October 12, 2020
- The FCBA Presents: Section 230 Ask the Experts, Federal Communications Bar Association, September 24, 2020 (Paper TBD) (Santa Clara Law’s Announcement)
- The War on Porn (a discussion about Section 230), XBIZ Miami Virtual Conference, (August 26, 2020)
FWIW, my advocacy efforts also led to a budding friendship w/Devin Nunes’ Cow (@DevinCow). Not to mention, with all the 230 craziness, my TEDx Talk hit over 13k views, and Justin Amash (@justinamash) now officially follows me on Twitter! (hey, it’s 2020. I’m taking ALL the wins I can get).
7. Landed My Full-Time Career at Google: In true “Tech Edge JD” style, I broke several law school stereotypes and barriers just this year. Though I never had the grades, I managed to land my full-time career as a legal policy specialist with Google Trust and Safety before even graduating. I recapped that journey here. Working full-time for Google and trying to manage full-time law school has been one of the most exhausting challenges of my entire career. But it has also been worth every single moment. I love my job. I love my team (even though I haven’t met any of them in person yet!). I love the work I’m doing and I can only go up from here. I’ll be honest, it’s hard to stand out at Google, especially among many brilliant minds. But in the first month of being at Google, I was invited to present about Section 230 to the entire Trust and Safety organization. Since then, I’ve quickly become known as one of Google’s “resident Section 230 experts.”
I still have a lot of ramping up to do. But I can’t wait to fully invest myself into this career once I finally graduate and pass the bar.
8. Became an Internet Law TA: This past semester, I also had the incredible opportunity to work side by side with Prof. Goldman as his teaching assistant for his Fall 2020 Internet law class. I’m currently writing a blog post that will recap that experience. But for now, I’ll note that this was one of my highlights of 2020. I loved Internet law so much last year that I found an excuse to take it again (I even took the final again). I gained so much perspective and so much respect for professors that have had to navigate teaching online this year. Not to mention, I got to shadow one of the best Internet law professors in the world.
That’s pretty freaking cool.
9. Got Healthier and Started Peak Bagging: Last but not least, I’ve recently embarked on a new personal health and fitness journey. As I mentioned, managing full time Google and full time law school was immensely challenging this past semester. Unfortunately, the total shift to online caused me to create some super unhealthy working habits. People often ask me how I “do it.” Well, here’s how:
I started working 7am-2am work days (7 days/week). I would do all of my school work and classes during the day and then I would start my 8 hour Google work day in the afternoon. I pretty much never left my office and walked as far as my kitchen for the occasional meal. COVID was great for cutting out all of the social and unnecessary distractions from my day. To stay awake, especially during exam week, I drank a lot of coffee and took a dangerous amount of caffeine pills. Because I was so hyped up on caffeine pills, I had to use heavy duty sleeping pills to fall asleep. My routine literally became: wake up, caffeine pills, work, sleeping pills, sleep.
I didn’t realize how bad my health had gotten until (1) I started rewatching lecture videos for finals and noticed how awful/ghostly I looked on camera; and (2) I had what I thought were heart attack symptoms one night during exams. I knew I needed to make a change real quick.
So I did. My husband and I decided to move to the desert for a month immediately after I turned in my last final exam. We rented an apartment and we dedicated ourselves to healthy desert living. I went completely sober. No pills, no alcohol, no unnecessary substances. We’ve been eating clean (mostly vegan) and we found a new fitness hobby: peak bagging.
The way I understand it, peak bagging is a hobby where avid hikers attempt to “bag” or summit a collection of mountain peaks. The first peak we accomplished out here was Mt. Asbestos. The weird part was that I completely hated the Mt. Asbestos journey. It was hot, buggy, rocky, dangerous, and confusing (no trail). But something flipped in my mind as soon as we summitted. Like the type A law student that I am, I’ve always been addicted to setting outrageous goals, accomplishing them, and keeping lists of said accomplishments. So, it turns out peak bagging is the perfect fitness hobby for someone like me. Nothing beats that feeling of accomplishment reaching the peak and taking in the beautiful views it has to offer. Since Mt. Asbestos, we’ve conquered a few other unofficial peaks. And today, we accomplished Chaparrosa Peak. [Of course, I must note that this hobby was inspired by my advisor who (1) always has the BEST hiking recommendations and (2) has hiked 56 peaks from the Sierra Club Hundred Peaks Section Peak List].
I learned very quickly from this trip that I never want to fall back into the unhealthy work routine I created for myself this past semester. I’m leaving Indian Wells a much healthier, substance-free, stronger, and happier person than when I arrived. I’m planning to set aside time for more peak bagging on the weekends (there’s tons of Bay Area peaks to be conquered! I’ll be keeping a list here on my blog) and drag myself away from the office every chance I get.
Goodbye 2020. It was hell. But I’m now physically and mentally tougher than ever. Here’s to a happier and healthier new year.