A Grateful Listener: Family Court Judge Reflects on Lessons Learned

Today I’m very pleased to be able to host a guest blog from the Hon. James V. Menno ‘86, who recently retired after more than two decades of service as an associate justice of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court.

Despite the number of people sitting on the hard benches in this sunlit courtroom, there is a respectful silence.  An ordinary person is sitting in the witness box.  She has taken an oath to tell the truth.  Her descriptive answers to her attorney’s questions begin to weave together a story.  It is a deeply personal story that provides unique insight into her and the children of her fractured family.  She tells this story to another ordinary person, me, who also happens to be the judge. We are separated by a bench, a black robe and the roles we play.  But we are joined together as co-participants in the daily unfolding of the actual Rule of Law.

Her role is to honestly tell the difficult story that has led to this moment. Tomorrow, her husband will sit in the same chair and do the same.  My role is to listen to them as unique individuals, determine which facts are true, and (utilizing the applicable law) make a decision that will allow them and their children to transition from one family to two single-parent families.  Whew! What a daunting task this is for both of us, the storyteller and the listener.

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Preparing for Law School: The Personal Statement

Ah, the personal statement. You’re told to write a 1-3 page essay that explains to an admissions committee what sets you apart from others. Well, where do you begin?

We thought we’d tackle this for our next entry in the series Preparing for Law School. Whether you have questions about choosing your topic, finding your voice, or anything in between, we hope you find the below insights helpful.

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If It Takes Three Years To Get There: Preparing For The Bar

This is part of an ongoing series on preparing for the bar. Read others here and here.

The bar exam is coming. Us 3Ls will soon be propelled out of the lethargy that has come to characterize our final year at school by a terrifying variant of the Sunday-scaries. To help assuage any looming anxiety, we’ve gathered some details about the Massachusetts bar exam. To be clear, the following only applies to the Mass bar. After all, this is the only state where it’s acceptable to drink iced coffee when it’s below freezing outside; why would you want to be barred anywhere else.

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The Silence Before The Storm

The library was quiet last night, after a flurry of activity over the past few days as 1Ls finished their first major graded assignment of law school. The “office memo” tasks first year law students at BC with synthesizing several cases and statutes into a pithy analytical framework to present to a “supervisor” (the professor). This task mirrors what is often asked of starting lawyers. Congratulations to all of our 1Ls, and a Happy Thanksgiving to our BC Law community.

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1L: Bringing It All Back Home

On a whim, I opened my personal statement for the first time since hitting ‘submit’ nearly a year ago. Preparing to face my tendency to over-write, a habit which lends itself to often-cringeworthy grand pronouncements, I queued up the Aspiring Public Interest Lawyers Greatest Hits: “Is It Still Worth It? (After Signing that Promissory Note),” “Oh, Really? You’re Going to Save the World?” and the classic, “Naiveté.”

Instead, I came face-to-face with the prospect that the young, impressionable, wannabe lawyer nursing the cheapest drink on the coffee shop menu in exchange for five hours of Wi-Fi knew everything he needed to know.

See? Grand pronouncements.

Sure, one year ago, I would have failed every single first year course. I couldn’t brief, or outline, or read, or write, or even speak effectively. My Lexis points stood at zero and I had nary a dollar of Westlaw Starbucks gift cards. Every one of my classmates would have prayed to the almighty curve I was in their section. One year ago, I was a terrible law student.

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Preparing for Law School Series: Choosing the “Right” Classes

Course registration just began at BC, and we thought it would be helpful to dive into our next topic of the Preparing for Law School series—choosing the “right” classes. When your college doesn’t have a pre-law major or track, you might be feeling a little lost. And even if your school does offer guidance, you might be torn between taking classes that interest you and those that you think will look best on your transcript to an admissions committee.

Whether you’re planning for next semester or the years ahead, we hope you find our below insights helpful.

Brett

As a political science major, I spent four years saying I wasn’t going to law school. As a 1L, I’m probably more confused now than I was in August. (But at least I’m confused about the right things!) Keeping my less-than-stellar credentials in mind, my advice is to take the classes you want to take.  

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The Path to the Bar: Step 1, MPRE

Last Spring, we published the first of a series of posts about the bar. That post talked about course selection with the bar in mind; you can read it here. Today we are looking at the MPRE, which is a first step on the path to passing the bar.

In most states, before you can sit for the bar, you must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). It’s two hours long, and contains sixty multiple choice questions testing knowledge of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which most states have adopted in some version. The MPRE does not test your personal ethics; it tests how well you know the Model Rules and how you apply them to factual hypotheticals. Continue reading

Sometimes We Have To Miss Class

BC Law professor Mike Cassidy shared the note below that he received from a student. “I ask students in Evidence to inform me in advance if they need to miss a class,” Professor Cassidy wrote. “I do this so that I can keep an eye on students who may be experiencing problems or simply falling behind. I received this email on Wednesday evening October 30, 2018. It was one of the most compelling and engaging excuses for missing class that I have received in 22 years of teaching.

“I sincerely hope that Ben becomes a litigator after graduation. He clearly has the skills of an advocate.”

We at Impact thought it was a shame that such an eloquently written plea wasn’t shared with the world–and so, with Professor Cassidy’s and Ben’s permission, we are posting it here:

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Lest We Forget: A Trip to Ellis Island

This year Boston College gifted its students and faculty an extra day of reprieve on Columbus Day weekend, creating a new, four-day “fall break.” I took advantage of the extra time by heading down to visit my father in New York City, where we decided to spend a morning visiting Ellis Island and the immigration museum there. We set out with high hopes that were, unfortunately, chastened by missed opportunities.

Stepping off the boat at Ellis Island, you walk up to the main building that houses the exhibits and the only one that the standard ticket gets you into. The museum opens with a walk through the nation’s immigration history, beginning before Jamestown and stretching to the 1890s, when Ellis Island opened. The Trail of Tears, the Slave Trade, the mix of cultures that produced the likes of Jazz are all addressed. The history is deep and serves as a proper warm up to the story of the island itself, but, as my father pointed out, they might as well just hand you a book when you step off the boat. Displaying few artifacts, the exhibit doesn’t engage its visitors. You mostly step precariously around others, trying to stay out of their line of sight. I found myself gazing at the floor, which is a beautiful white tile, and wondering if it is original (it is).

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