Introducing Just Law: A Podcast

I am pleased to announce the launch of Boston College Law School’s podcast Just Law

I am 1L Tom Blakely and will be hosting the show alongside 3Ls Lea Silverman and Kevin O’Sullivan, and fellow 1L and Section 3er (the best section) Joanna Plaisir. 

We are very much appreciative of our tremendously talented editor and producer 3L Mark Grayson, and the institutional support from Boston College, specifically Director of Marketing and Communications Nate Kenyon.

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A Night on 10 NW: Why I’m a Volunteer and How It Changed My Outlook on the Law

Note: Identifying information has been changed to protect the privacy of those mentioned.

There come few more humbling experiences in life than getting destroyed at a video game by an 8 year old. In my heyday, I knew my way around a PlayStation controller. But times have changed.

I was sitting in a room on 10 NW, the ward of Boston Children’s Hospital reserved for surgery and orthopedic patients. 

It was my first night as a volunteer at the hospital.

There are many reasons one gets involved in community service. For many, school and work requirements, as well as retreats and other social events will often prescribe the rolling up of one’s sleeves and getting out there. Many people also enjoy the intrinsic reward and benefit of making a positive difference in the world around them. 

But my reason was different. 

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I Can’t Wait Until This Is All Over: Three Ways To Respond To 2020

I proudly spend some of my time between Zoom classes, case briefs, and outlines, scrolling through Tik Tok while attempting to escape the pressures of 1L. I may browse Facebook and Instagram every now and then, too. I’m often left laughing at unbelievably clever people from around the world as they try to inject some joy into our current existence called 2020.

One of the recent video trends shows people preparing to “turn up” on New Year’s to mark the end of this infamous year. Most people would agree that 2020 has been unusually chaotic. We’ve experienced a global shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, heard Black Lives Matter chanted from every corner of the country, and we’re currently living through one of the most polarizing elections in modern history. Not to mention, our society lost some impactful people: Rest in Power John Lewis, Justice Ginsburg, Chadwick Boseman, Kobe, and Mr. Trebek, just to name a few.

It’s safe to say that we are living in transformational times.

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Mending the Political Divide

I think we can all agree that last week was unbearable. As Election Day turned into Election Week, we earnestly refreshed our news feeds while struggling through case readings. As of Saturday, it was finally over (kind of). I know many of us are tired of the political discourse, but there’s still work ahead. As members of a law school situated in an area that voted overwhelmingly in favor of Biden, it might be easy to settle into our bubbles and set aside the nation’s immense division. Unfortunately, that mindset won’t help to find a solution. In this post, I share a few proposed remedies to mend our polarized society. I’d like to include the caveat that I haven’t necessarily implemented all of these myself. 

First up is the work of René H. Levy. Levy is a neuroscientist and author of the book Mending America’s Political Divide, where he utilizes his scientific expertise to propose practical solutions. Levy attributes the increasing political divide to our primitive psychology. He breaks this down into two innate instincts: political tribalism and political hatred, both of which result in a profound loss of empathy. Levy’s action plan highlights impulse control and empathy skills as two main methods to rebuild and coexist:

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Innocence Program: Inspiring the Fight for Justice

Over the decade and a half since its start, The Boston College Innocence Program has amassed an astonishing reputation for its work in innocence advocacy and wrongful convictions. Bolstering an impressive record, BCIP both represents innocent individuals and works with policymakers regarding legislative reform, quite literally changing lives every step of the way.

This year in particular, BCIP has secured an impressive amount of exonerations and releases, using new evidence and instances of misconduct, with three major victories in 2020 alone:

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Court Reform: Now is the Time

We are witnessing a critical moment in our nation’s history. Over the past few months, we have found ourselves looking inward at the traditional pillars of society, re-evaluating their fairness and justness.

A new organization, the BC Law Chapter of the People’s Parity Project, aims to evaluate and disable injustices within the legal community from the inside out. Writing a guest post today are organization leaders Daniel McLaughlin and Will Petrone, discussing court reform and the organization in general. If you are interested in getting involved with the BC chapter of the People’s Parity Project, contact bcparity@gmail.com.


Before we came to law school, many of us probably thought that the law and the legal system were inherently fair, and judges and justices were non-political. But as law students, we have some insight into the system, and as we’ve progressed through our law school careers, many of us have been surprised to see that judges are human. And importantly, the judiciary is not as insulated from politics and biases as we had once thought. These days, the Court is clearly politicized, and right now in particular, it is dominating the news cycle. Although most Americans think that the ​next president​ should fill the seat, Senate Republicans, representing less than half of the U.S. population, have confirmed Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Conservative justices now have a 6-3 majority, and are posed to threaten a woman’s right to choose, the Affordable Care Act, and so much more. 

Fortunately, law school’s peek behind the curtain allows us a sliver of hope. Court reform is possible, and it would make sure that the death of one justice does not pose such a drastic threat to civil rights, our environment, and health care for all. It would also help to make sure that courts are not able to block the ​progress​ the majority of this country believes is necessary and wants to see. With the election so close at hand, it’s all the more important to advocate for these reforms to the candidates who seek to secure our votes, and channel our frustrations with the current system into momentum for change. 

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Professors: Try Wearing Costumes Year-Round

By the time this blog is posted, Halloween will have just passed and Election Day will be right around the corner. As I don’t want my hair to be completely grey or completely gone by the time I turn 26, in this post I am going to focus on the less frightening of the two.

This past Thursday, tax law extraordinaire Professor Oei kept the mood light by wearing a full-body Appa costume to remote-class in both the spirit of Halloween and also in light of the shared experience many of us had watching (or re-watching) Avatar: The Last Airbender when it was released on Netflix right at the start of the Covid-19 quarantine.  “Appa” is a flying sky bison from the television show, pictured below, and if you needed that explained to you then (1) shame on you, but (2) go watch the show because you’re in for a real treat.

How could the Appa costume have possibly been tied into our discussion of statutory deductions for business and trade expenses in the Internal Revenue Code, you ask? With a little bit of creative lawyering, Professor Oei found a way.

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Building Up After Burning Out

A few weeks ago, I shared my story of realizing how burnt out I really was. Since then, I’ve made a few changes in my life. I’d be lying if I said I was 100% better 100% of the time; I still have some great days and other not-so-great moments. However, I can truthfully say that I have tried to be more intentional in my thoughts and actions over the past several weeks, and I do feel a difference overall.

In my last post, I admitted that I didn’t really know how to take a break. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I had taken a day off. After much reflection, I’ve realized that this inability to wind down is not something I want to wear as a badge of honor. I have friends who are cardiac surgeons, Medieval Literature PhD students, and budding entrepreneurs- they all are in rigorous professions having to balance numerous responsibilities. If they can consistently take days off, then I can surely manage the same. My life is not going to fall apart if I unplug for a bit. I’ve made Sundays my day off, where I try to spend most of the day doing things I enjoy without feeling guilty about the pile of work on my desk. In doing so, I’ve realized that not only do I feel good on Sundays, but the days when I am working are more productive, too. Before, I used to measure my productivity by the number of hours my laptop screen was on, disregarding that during much of that time, I wasn’t actually getting work done. Now, I give myself permission to take days off and take breaks throughout the day. That way, when my screen is on, I’m doing a better job of being productive during that timeframe. Sometimes when my phone is freaking out, all I need to do is turn it off for a bit and then back on. I guess the same goes for me.

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What Do Conservatives Believe?

In the early days of the pandemic, I read a tweet suggesting that public health authorities seeking to overcome conservative skepticism about the virus should heed the lessons of Cultural Cognition. Cultural cognition is a theory, coming out of Yale Law School, that perception of factual issues is shaped by normative commitments. In other words, our moral beliefs shape how we understand facts.

Around the same time I read that tweet, a conservative friend warned me about various Governors’ lock down orders and local officials’ enforcement of social distancing measures. He said that once government assumes a new power, it is unlikely to give it up. It seemed absurd to me to imagine governors and state health officials as crypto-fascists eager to control citizen’s lives. I have, however, ranted at and to my friends and family about federal government surveillance powers using the exact same argument.

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