As Co-Presidents of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), we understand the importance of balance. While Black people make up 13.4% of the American population, Black lawyers make up less than 5% of the legal industry. To mitigate this stark disparity, BLSA seeks to build community, provide academic support, and bridge generational gaps through consistent professional development.
This year, we made a targeted effort to reconnect our community after the COVID-19 pandemic strained our social relations. When we began planning, we realized that our current members’ hardships mirrored those of BLSA alums from years past. Many of us still feel isolated, struggle with imposter syndrome, and ultimately feel unprepared. We decided with this presidency that we want to change the narrative. We recognize that an active and reliable community is paramount to combating these feelings of isolation and imposter syndrome. Our presidency is dedicated to making BLSA that space for our members.
I’m in East Wing 115, the very first room I sat in as a brand-new BC Law student. It’s the room that looks so much like a Greek amphitheater and feels like one, too, when the questioning begins. The lights aren’t even on because it’s 8am, a full half-hour before Contracts, and dammit. I’m not even the first one here. Walking to my seat, I shake my head. Who gets up early for Contracts at 8:30 in the morning?! It’s a ridiculous question, of course, because the answer is Me. I get up early for Contracts. It’s just that…I didn’t think anyone else would. And it’s not just one else, either. There are a good half-dozen elses, chatting softly together in the gently lit dark. I shake my head again. Madness.
By eight-fifteen, the classroom is full. Section 2 is present and accounted for. Hillinger could walk in and start her
interrogation critical questioning, and no one would bat an eye. Everyone is ready, anyway. Somebody tapped the lights on the way in, and now the classroom blazes with life and energy and conversation.
Since I started my law school application process over two years ago, my dad has been telling me to watch The Paper Chase. I’m now a 2L with (slightly) more free time, so I thought I would finally give this classic a try. This 1973 movie details James Hart’s first year at Harvard Law School, and while nothing depicts the 1L experience as accurately as the documentary film Legally Blonde, this one does get a lot right.
The First Day
The movie opens with James’ first class on the first day of law school, as every 1L gets to their seats and settles in moments before the professor arrives. I’m generally a bundle of anxious energy on the first day of anything, so I arrived to my first class about 15 minutes early last year. What I didn’t realize was that my first-day anxieties were nothing compared to the motivations of my classmates, many of whom arrived far before I did. Needless to say, if anyone actually showed up as close to the start of the first class as every extra in this movie did, they’d definitely be occupying the dreaded front row.
We, the Student Directors of LAHANAS, would like to extend a warm welcome to all class years, old and new to start the academic year! For those who are unfamiliar with who we are, LAHANAS is the student-led umbrella organization that supports BC Law’s affinity student groups, including the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), Black Law Students Association (BLSA), Disability Law Students Association (DLSA), Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA), Lambda Law Students Association, Middle Eastern Law Students Association (MELSA), Native American Law Students Association (NALSA), and South Asian Law Students Association (SALSA).
We recognize that being a law school student is hard enough as it is, and to have an intersectional and supportive network that you can rely on is key to your success. We work not only with the above mentioned affinity groups, but other student organizations, the Career Services Office, Academic & Student Services, and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programs to create an inclusive and supportive community where you feel comfortable and safe being your truest self, even in the chaos that is law school. We believe in the importance of pulling each other up when the going gets tough and celebrating each other’s successes.
In short, LAHANAS is here to provide you with the support needed to transition into and thrive in law school. We are committed to making sure that diversity, equity, inclusion issues always have a place on campus and we invite you to be in touch with us directly via email should you have any questions, including those pertaining to transitioning to law school and the BC Law community. Welcome back again, and we look forward to being a resource for you in the ways that you need.
Elena Kang (3L), Ali Shafi (2L), and Jasmine Lee (2L)
LAHANAS Student Directors
The TV sitcom Frasier debuted on NBC in 1993. The premier episode introduced the series’ principal characters and the plot of the show: a Seattle psychiatrist turned radio host, Frasier Crane, returning to the city after working in Boston following the events of Cheers, alongside his brother Niles, also a psychiatrist, and his father, Martin, a widower and former police officer who retired after being shot and permanently impaired by a suspect following a long career on the force.
Martin and his dog Eddie move into his son’s upscale, downtown apartment, followed by his housekeeper and English physical therapist, Daphne Moon. Frasier becomes upset by the dated furniture his dad brings, as well as having the dog indoors, setting up a clash of independence, age, lifestyle, culture, perspective, and family. The two get on each other’s nerves and have a fiery argument.
The next day on his radio show, Frasier goes to the phones to talk to his callers, only to find an apologetic Martin on the line. Frasier then apologizes for his own arrogance and reconciles with his father.
It’s a clash of two different worlds, to be sure. I am reminded of this scene as I am faced with my first day of 3L, and, in all likelihood, my last ever first day of school. In my own mind, I feel like both Frasier and his dad at times—in the middle of a transition to a new life, but with a foot still firmly planted in the past.
I grew up in Techwood, a housing project of inner-city Atlanta. Until it was razed in preparation for the ’96 Summer Olympics, Techwood was widely regarded as one of the most dangerous projects of any city in the country. Bodies in gutters and on gurneys, overdoses, gang violence, drive-bys. I saw it all. I still do, from time to time. So I escaped. Left it all behind. And I didn’t need a Wardrobe or a Tardis or a tricked-out DeLorean. All I had to do was press the ‘walk’ button, wait for the light to change, and walk across the street. It was just that easy. And when I stepped on the far sidewalk, as if by magic, the world changed from the pitted, blood-stained sidewalks of Techwood to the manicured lawns of Georgia Tech. That was my Narnia, my middle-Earth, my galaxy far far away. Use whatever metaphors and similes you can find. But the campus of Georgia Tech was as magical and mystical as any of those fantasy lands, except that this one was real. And it was mine.
In support of the well-being of lawyers across the professional spectrum—from students in the classroom to attorneys in all walks of legal life—we have launched a Mental Health Impact Blog Series, in partnership with alumnus Jim Warner ’92. Comprising deeply personal essays by community members who have struggled with mental health issues, the series provides restorative insights and resources to fellow lawyers in need.
The Mental Health Impact Blog Series coincides with a Law School-wide initiative, which will include lectures and workshops to support and promote mental well-being. To get involved in the activities or to write a guest post, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Elizabeth Martin ’92
Back then, in that lecture hall, sitting for my third-year Administrative Law exam, I could not imagine the work I would be doing today: leading strategy and innovation for a multi-billion dollar business and the largest health care company in the world. In fact, at that moment, I could not imagine much of anything other than the wreckage of my future playing out in live action in my imagination. My heart was racing. My ears were ringing, drowning out every cogent thought I had ever had. That’s the power of panic—in seconds it is able to reduce your otherwise bright future into a movie of the worst imaginable things: “you will fail this exam, you will not graduate, you will crater on the bar exam, and then, you will embarrass yourself, shame your family, and never be able to make a living! Oh, and still owe thousands of dollars to the federal government for the privilege.”
So it was written. A promising career, tanked before it even started, felled (or so I thought) by a panic attack in my third year of law school.
Returning to Newton Campus for my final year of law school has been full of excitement. While there are numerous things I am excited about this fall semester, one of them is my clinic, Project Entrepreneur.
Project Entrepreneur is designed to help returning citizens with criminal records successfully reenter society and supply them with a general knowledge of business law necessary for them to grow their business ventures. Having an undergraduate degree in business, I am excited to exercise what I’ve learned from both business school and law school, and I am looking forward to helping see someone’s ambitions come to fruition.
While I have only had one class meeting so far, I am already eager for the rest of the semester. Like many other clinics BC Law has to offer, the class is set up to run like a law firm, with Professor Lawrence Gennari as managing partner. Students meet twice a week: once with our clients to discuss their entrepreneurial efforts and to conduct classes for them, giving them the fundamentals they need to be successful entrepreneurs in a “boot camp” format; and another class to debrief with Professor Gennari and to refine our skillset to successfully counsel our clients.
The class culminates in a pitch session where the returning citizens pitch their businesses to potential investors. To learn more about Project Entrepreneur, check out this article from BC Law Magazine’s Winter 2021 issue.
Melissa Gaglia is a third-year student at BC Law. Contact her at email@example.com.
BC Law Impact Editor’s Note: We pride ourselves at Boston College Law School on our unique community that cultivates an incredible student body with a brilliant faculty. This post featuring Founders Professor Mary Bilder is part of an ongoing faculty spotlight Q&A series to help students get to know the members of our faculty on a more personal level.
What do you love about BC?
I love the community, I love the students, I love my colleagues, and I love teaching. I love being in a place where the university mission is focused on formation and on thinking about how learning is a part of the experience of growing into the people we’re going to be. I love that this place is one where teaching is not just “I am telling you this stuff.” It’s a process of people becoming professionals. It’s so exciting to see people come in, often worried about what law school is going to be like, having imposter syndrome…and watching the same people over 3 years find out who they are, and watching peoples’ confidence grow.
From early on in my academic career, I was always the kind of student who fared better in subjects like English and History than in Math and Science. I suppose words just made more sense to me than numbers; to this day, I’d still prefer to write an essay than do long division.
I was also the type of kid who was occasionally reprimanded for “talking back.” It was never my intention to be disrespectful, but more to do with the fact that when something struck me as unfair, I felt compelled to speak up. My childish inquiries were usually met with “because I said so” or some other phrase that did little to satisfy my curiosity. I wanted the logic laid out for me so I could better understand and decide for myself whether it held up.
My preference for classes that centered around reading and writing — coupled with my tendency to question rules and instigate arguments — caused many people in my life to predict that I’d grow up to be a lawyer. On paper, law seemed like a path I could be well suited for, but I wasn’t sure it was the one I wanted to take.