A Time for Reflection

Note: I’m pleased to host a guest blog today from Ed Hanley, Class of 1986. Ed is tax director of a regional accounting firm in San Francisco. He started being involved as an alumnus in 1989 when he joined the Alumni Board as the young alumni representative. When he moved to Washington DC, he joined with Carroll Dubuq (Class of 1962) to co-found the BC Law Club of Washington, DC. He is active in alumni events on the West Coast and recently rejoined the board of the Alumni Association, taking partial responsibility for reunions.

Ed and his partner Bill split their time between San Francisco and Popponesset Beach, Cape Cod.

Reunion Weekend is an excellent opportunity to catch up with old friends, take in the sights and sounds of a campus so similar and yet so very different from years ago, and to remember why BC Law is such a special place. This year’s Reunion brought up so many memories for me—and a few surprises, too.

I flew in on the red-eye from San Francisco on Friday morning and checked into the hotel. Having moved from Boston 25 years ago, it was fun to be downtown again. The Ritz-Carlton, where the reunion was located, is one block from Boston Common. As the Uber turned off Tremont Street, I saw the building on the corner where I had looked at an apartment in 1986. I couldn’t believe how that neighborhood had changed; back then, it was the cheapest place around, and now it was all high-end condos.

November 5, 2016 -- The 2016 Boston College Law School reunion at the Ritz Carlton. Photographed for Boston College by Caitlin Cunningham (www.caitlincunningham.com).

November 5, 2016 — Ed Hanley at the 2016 Boston College Law School reunion at the Ritz-Carlton. Photographed for Boston College by Caitlin Cunningham (www.caitlincunningham.com).

I took a cab out to the Law School campus around 3 pm. Students in the halls are now the age of some of my nieces and nephews. Walking around, I was surprised by the growth of the campus; the new library and the East Wing with its lecture halls and open spaces didn’t even exist when I was in law school. Back in the mid-80s and during our first year, we just kept going up and down stairs each day to get a change of scenery. Now, there seems to be so much room.

The afternoon was filled with an Alumni Association board meeting. I had been on the board in the 1980s when I was the “young alumni” representative. Now, I am in the middle of the pack from an age standpoint. We spent most of the meeting focused on how alumni can increase their assistance with clinical programs. The alumni offered up teleconferencing facilities and online assistance so that more remote alumni can pitch in on providing practicum. All good ideas, and it reminded me of why it’s so important to give back: We are now in a position to help new students, just as we were helped by others years ago. It’s something BC Law is very good at, and it says something about the community here that so many are willing to give their time and expertise for other “Legal Eagles.”

After that, it was time for the presentation by a member of the class of 1968, Walt Kelly, who worked on a famous case that I had not heard about—I learned it was made into a Netflix show called “Making a Murderer.” Sounds interesting, and I made a mental note to watch it when I get home. Who knew? The presentation ended with a Bar Review in the place where we used to study next to the cafeteria, a place they now call the Yellow Room. Unlike the days when I used to “close the place,” I left after just a few minutes—dead on my feet from having been on the red-eye.

Saturday afternoon there was a panel on the election, which offered interesting takes on immigration, the environment, business, and politics. The evening party seemed to fly by, with lots of catching up and reminiscing. It seemed that about 50% of the class had remained in traditional law firm or in-house counsel roles, while the rest had gone into positions in financial services, government, even yoga. A legal degree is a useful tool, indeed. Perhaps the best impression was that everyone seemed to be in a good place on the career side of their lives. For many, the “struggles” are not over, but the career battles seem to be; that was nice to hear. There was more discussion of our kids’ careers than our own, which led to talk about how to manage retirement while juggling children’s tuition.

What would have led to great discussion, but was not asked, was: “Would you recommend that a young relative (or your own child) go to law school?” Most of us had a career filled with challenges and opportunities, and our experiences ultimately led to fulfilling lives, regardless of how different our paths might have been. A legal degree allowed us to follow those paths and to succeed in them. In spite of our differences—or perhaps because of them—I believe that most of my classmates would recommend a law degree or career in the law. I know I would.

But the party was not meant for heady discussions of legal education. It was a time to remember three years of being thrown together with 240 other twenty-somethings on a wild and exciting journey toward our futures. Looking back from 30 years out at the older cars we all commuted in, the cheap apartments we lived in, the grades we crammed for, and the job offers we got (or did not get) was humorous, not dire. The Bar Reviews in the courtyard were discussed more than the moot court competitions; professors’ peccadillos were more remembered than any statute.

As it stands now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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