Imposter Syndrome: Who, ME?

Today was the first day of my last semester of school, ever.* (*Unless I decide I want another degree down the line, but for now, after seven straight years of undergrad and grad school, I’m definitely done for the near future.) As I saw all of the “happy last first day of school” messages this morning, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of restlessness. I’m externing this semester and was working full-time for the day. I realized my anxiety was building up over being in this new externship placement. Here, I’m working in an area of law that I have no experience in, so before I began this morning, I felt incredibly nervous about this new position: What if I’m in a meeting and get asked a question I have no idea how to answer? What if I’m supposed to know about some substantive area of the law that I actually am clueless about? Until I eventually calmed down, I even started wondering how and why I landed the position in the first place. Who, me? How? Why?

This feeling of doubt and lack of confidence isn’t foreign to me. I felt similarly on my very first day of law school, my first case during my clinic experience, and throughout my 2L summer as a summer associate at a law firm. These feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty are a form of imposter syndrome, which is something I continue to struggle with as a final semester 3L. Imposter syndrome can come in various forms for various people. One HBR article defines it as “doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.”

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Reminding Ourselves Why We “Do” Law School

Writing an Impact post at the beginning of the semester is never easy. How to recapture the excitement for school after a month’s vacation and a return to campus in the middle of a Boston winter? 1L’s gearing up for round 2, 2L’s grinding away, and 3L’s wondering why we are still on campus. In addition, with the latest Covid surge, another round of “when will this all be over” doesn’t exactly help the cause. 

But in this case the answer of what to write about seemed clear to me: my experiences in the Innocence Clinic working for my client. While I am not able to disclose many of the details about his case, I can say that my client had a clean record both before and after the arson he was wrongfully convicted of, and that our clinic recently filed a motion for new trial looking to overturn his conviction using newly discovered evidence that demonstrates his innocence nearly twenty years later. 

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Enter Spring Semester with a Plan

As we enter a spring semester that is all too familiar with Spring 2021, I encourage everyone to step back and strategize on how to make the most of our short time at BC Law. Around this time last year, I wrote a blog post outlining three strategies for excelling academically and professionally. Additionally, I (unsuccessfully) called on everyone to share their keys to success. I’m reposting that blog, along with other similar blogs, to help first year students navigate the waters after experiencing their first semester. It’s critical for 1Ls, and really all students, to approach the spring semester with a game plan. As always, please fill the comments with your ideas and advice…

A Reflection on My First Semester: Staying Focused on the Big Picture

School is always a bit of a bubble: something that quickly becomes your entire world and focus. This dynamic is especially true at law school, where balancing the intense schedule of classes, assignments, and reading is frequently compared to attempting to “drink from a fire hose.” Even having been out of school for six years, … Continue reading A Reflection on My First Semester: Staying Focused on the Big Picture

A Reflection on My First Semester: Staying Focused on the Big Picture

School is always a bit of a bubble: something that quickly becomes your entire world and focus. This dynamic is especially true at law school, where balancing the intense schedule of classes, assignments, and reading is frequently compared to attempting to “drink from a fire hose.” Even having been out of school for six years, it was still amazing how quickly I found myself being sucked back into the bubble of campus and studying.

Staying focused on the bigger picture is something I struggled with during my first semester of 1L. While I enjoy the study of law as an academic exercise, I’m not really someone who luxuriates in the minutiae of case law. My decision to come to law school was not driven by the joy of wrestling with esoteric doctrine, reading 150-year-old cases, or basking in Latin maxims; rather, it was the realization that law was often the only route to change. For me, the intellectual challenge of studying law has always been secondary to learning how to use the law as a functional tool to support the causes and communities I care about.

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A Reflection on My First Semester: One Down, Five to Go

It’s hard to believe that just four months ago, we were nervously waiting in line to pick up our name cards in the Law Library. In a way, that first day of school in August was a lot like the first day of kindergarten, in that we were completely alone in a room full of strangers with nothing but a homemade sandwich in our lunchboxes and a nametag on our chests.

I was told by many upperclassmen that the first semester of 1L year would probably be the most difficult in terms of the steep learning curve–and they were right. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post; what makes 1L such a difficult time for many students is not only the new way of learning material, but also the uncertainty of a new city, new environment, with new people you have never met before. September was the worst period of adjustment for many people, including me. I had nights where I doubted whether or not law school was truly for me. Could I really see myself reading convoluted legal jargon for the rest of my life? Was this really what I wanted to do?

Thankfully, because it was such a prevalent sentiment, I was able to bond with like-minded people who ended up becoming some of my closest friends, and we constantly pushed and supported each other whenever things became difficult.

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The 2021 ‘Best of BC Law Impact’ List

Goodbye, 2021! With the fall semester done and gone and as we say our farewells to the remainder of the year I can’t help but look back on 2021. To the 1Ls completing their first semester, the 2Ls facing their first in-person classes and finals, and the 3Ls just trying to make it through these final few months, it has certainly been a year to remember.

Here are a few highlights our favorite 2021 Impact blog posts:

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“Don’t Make Law School Your Personality”

Before starting my first semester of law school, some of the most repeated advice I heard from those who had taken this journey before me was “don’t make law school your personality.” This sentiment was echoed in personal conversations with current students and in sessions hosted by student reps during orientation, and each time I heard it, I laughed it off.

It felt like such a strange thing to be saying over and over! It was too specific to be coincidentally repeated, but I didn’t really get what it meant. I understood the more general advice to take time off from school every once in a while, but what did that have to do with law school becoming your personality? I started to think this was some weird joke I wasn’t in on.

But then, classes started. It turns out what I wasn’t “in on” was law school, because once I was in on that, I saw what all those 2Ls and 3Ls were talking about.

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Holiday Activities for Law Students 

Here is a list of elevated activities to fill your free time this winter break. 

  1. Decorate gingerbread courthouses and gingerbread judges. Gingerbread houses are for children and laymen. Get a bakery treat that matches your professional degree. 
  2. Debate whether Santa Claus is a trespasser or an invitee when he comes down your chimney. Is Santa acting like a reasonable person when he enters through your chimney? Why can’t he just walk through the door? 
  3. You can watch the snow fall and think about how many personal injury claims are going to be filed the next day. Shovel those sidewalks! 
  4. Explain to your family how Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer had a discrimination claim against Santa. Rudolph was outcasted for his red nose, which ended up being an advantage . . . There’s some employment discrimination going on at the North Pole. . . 
  5. Analyze the lyrics “Jack Frost nipping at your toes,” and ponder whether the “one bite rule” would apply. For purposes of this debate, I am assuming that Jack Frost is the songwriter’s dog. 
  6. Try to network with Santa’s lawyer, who got him acquitted for vehicular manslaughter when Grandma got run over by a reindeer. I don’t know how they pulled that one off. 
Me with my gingerbread judge, Ruth Bader Gingerburg.

Melissa Gaglia is a second-year student at BC Law. Contact her at gagliam@bc.edu.

Visiting a Concentration Camp Site 77 Years After Korematsu

All that remains of the Heart Mountain concentration camp, where the United States imprisoned over 14,000 Americans of Japanese descent between 1942 and 1945, is the camp’s hospital building. Over the course of a few months in 1942, the federal government transformed hundreds of acres in remote northwest Wyoming—near Yellowstone National Park—into the state’s third most populous city. The valley plain beneath Heart Mountain became one of ten “Relocation Centers,” the Orwellian name given to the World War II era camps in which over 100,000 people were imprisoned on the basis of their Japanese heritage. Back then, Heart Mountain was a bustling camp consisting of barracks, mess halls, toilet and laundry facilities, recreation spaces, workshops, schools, the hospital, a courthouse, administration buildings, nine guard towers, and a barbed-wire perimeter fence. This October, when I scanned the horizon for some sense of place or history, all I could make out was the original hospital building and snow-covered fields.

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Why Were Final Exams In Person?

In 1941, a Swiss electrical engineer named George de Mestral was walking with his dog in the Alps. As both he and his dog brushed up against the surrounding vegetation, George began to wonder why burdock seeds were sticking to his wool socks and his coat, as well as to his dog. Out of curiosity, he decided to look at the burrs under a microscope, where he discovered tiny “hooks” in their surface that stuck them to fabrics and furs. Mestral, after experimenting with a variety of textiles, found he could manufacture a material with the same tiny hooks—out of nylon, that had the ability to stick to other fibers in a similar way. This invention, known as Velcro, proved to be a new, efficient, and reliable way of fastening things together, and is one of history’s greatest serendipitous discoveries.

Since what may as well be the beginning of time, students have gone to school and had their performance and knowledge of material assessed by some form of examination. In law school, the “final exam” brings to mind timeless and harrowing images of students shut away in large wooden rooms straining over pen and paper, toggling between some existential worry over the exam itself, and a broader heartache over the neurosis of law firms’ sordid infatuation with first year grades.

Other than the advent of the Scantron, and students over time writing their exam answers on computers instead of by hand, the setting, schedule, and convocation of final exams has hardly ever changed.

(What does this have to do with Velcro, you ask? Read on.)

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