On December 7, 1941, Japanese forces attacked U.S. naval base Pearl Harbor, resulting in the United States’ declaration of war on Japan. President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously referred to the bombing of Pearl Harbor as “a date which will live in infamy.”
In February 1942, ten weeks after the United States entered World War II, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066—the authorization of the armed forces to mass transport and relocate all people of Japanese ancestry into “internment camps” in the name of national security. The order affected the lives of over 100,000 people, the majority of whom were American citizens. It also opened the door to an ugly chapter of American history—one of fear, xenophobia, and unbridled racism.
On the home front, Anti-Japanese war propaganda fueled America’s hatred and paranoia. Such propaganda portrayed the Japanese as monkeys, rats, and snakes—often depicted preying on white American women to further incite anger and fear.
Coming into law school, I had many choices to make. Several of them were financial: where I would live, how much I would take out in loans, and whether I could hold a part time job during 1L (that final one was a no, which made things very tight during those many months of learning how to Bluebook and outline). I had to decide who I would befriend on the first day of orientation, who I would trust as study partners, and who I would go to when I was having a horrible time with my lot in life.
One thing I was determined NOT to do was to allow the confines and constraints of law school to turn me in to someone I would be ashamed of, or someone I just didn’t like.
And then I met “the curve:” the infamous, fixed grading system that pits section mate against section mate and keeps many law students up at night.
Winter break is a blur in law school. Finals followed immediately by the holidays, and before you know it, you’re back at the bookstore buying books for the spring semester.
Especially during that first year – when your life virtually revolves around school – there is so little “me time” left to recharge and reflect on personal/professional goals for the New Year.
My resolution for 2020 is passing the bar exam on my first try. I am going to pretend that spotting a family of black swans brings good luck (because I need lots of it).
“Getting better grades” may be an obvious goal for 1L spring, but you only have so much control over that curve!
What would be some other solid “law school resolutions” for 2020? Here are a few personal goals my peers are focusing on this semester:
One of the things I was most looking forward to as a 2L was being able to select my own classes. Unlike my undergraduate experience where it felt like the list of required courses was never-ending and took up most of my schedule, BC Law gives students a ton of flexibility when it comes to deciding their courses of study.
My strategy to picking classes falls into three categories: classes that will prepare me for the bar, classes that I think will be helpful in practice, and classes that I simply find interesting. Last semester I tended to focus on bar classes (including Evidence and Corporations), but my spring course load is filled with classes that I thought sounded interesting.
Below I provide a brief overview of my spring semester, including why I chose to take the classes I did:
A couple of days before the semester started I went to meet some classmates for brunch. Having spent the last few weeks in our respective hometowns, the meal was filled with stories from break and conversation about the new semester.
About halfway into the reunion, an awkward pause interrupted the discussion as a notification popped up on all of our phone screens—a message from one of our classmates that the first of our final grades were out.
A wave of nervousness fell over me, made of equal parts anticipation and dread. I had been waiting all break on these grades. But as I looked to the other people at the table, I did not sense the quite the same reaction. They almost looked…relaxed? I mentioned the notification, and they shrugged it off. One person even said that they were not checking their grades until the upcoming weekend, not wanting to focus on school too early before the start of the new semester. I struggled to comprehend the concept of waiting days for the grade while my peers carried on, seemingly unbothered by the anxiety I felt looming over me.
I checked my grade on the way home from brunch, but it was the reaction of my friends that I could not get out of my head, not the test score I had waited weeks to see. Why was I so astonished at their reaction?
Lawyers have their own language. It might be a little frustrating at times, but that is the reason we spend three painful years in law school learning how to think, speak, and write like lawyers. By the time we pass the bar, we have been equipped with a roadmap that allows us to navigate the complex legal arena. Of course, we are not the only profession with its own language. In fact, almost all professions have terminology that is commonly understood by those within the profession, but confusing to those outside of it.
This year I am participating in Boston College’s Juvenile Rights Advocacy program, and I am busy learning yet another language. Do you know what the acronym IEP stands for? Have you ever heard the terms FAPE? What is the difference between the BSEA and OCR? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, don’t worry, many people don’t know them. IEP stands for Individual Education Plan, and as the name suggests, it’s an educational term. The BSEA is a court that is used to resolve education disputes; it stands for Bureau of Special Education Appeals. The OCR stands for Office of Civil Rights, which is another court that can be used for certain types of education related claims. FAPE is a legal term that stands Free Appropriate Public Education, which is a federal right and typically the basis for the claims that would be brought in front of the BSEA or OCR. As for CRA, it is not strictly an education term, however, many children who require specialized education services also require the help that a CRA grants. CRA stands for Child Requiring Assistance, and parents file them with the courts when they need the courts help to supervise their children.
The travels are over, the holiday decorations are packed up, and Valentine’s Day candy is already on the grocery store shelves. So, is it weird that I feel ready to be back on campus?
If you are anything like me, winter break tends to fly by at some points but at other times feels never-ending. At the beginning of break, I knew I needed to take a few days to do nothing. These “few days” quickly turned into “a lot of days.” I found myself waking up unnecessarily late, last-minute scheduling doctor appointments before heading up to Boston, and realizing I had many more people on my list that I wanted to see while home in DC.
So, it’s safe to say I am ready to get back into some sort of routine. Although I’d be lying if I said I was excited about class readings, I have found that the structure of law school drastically helps me with time-management. Not only am I able to stay on top of my classwork and readings, but I am able to schedule time to do a lot more outside of school, including visiting friends in far-away places.
If you don’t believe me, try writing a paper over a break. It’s amazing how many more times you’ll refresh Instragram, offer to help your parents with grocery shopping, or rewatch a Netflix series you thought you hated. But, as I quickly realized, the paper is not going anywhere.
With that being said, (almost) welcome back to campus BC Law! I’m excited to catch up with classmates, meet new professors, and jump right into the second half of this year, and hope you are, too.
Courtney Ruggeri is a second-year BC Law student who loves to hear from readers. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First days of school: daycare and law school.
In February, my daughter will turn two, so I’m thinking about her annual test of strength. This is a tradition we began on her first birthday, when she walked the last fifty meters up Peter’s Hill. A mentor of mine once told me he never understood why parents would give their child a car on their 16th birthday. He said it made more sense to give them a mountain to climb. The little one had only been walking for two months last February, so we went with the top of a hill instead of a mountain. But now that she runs and skips and climbs and emphatically stomps in puddles, the mountain doesn’t feel far off.
People often ask me what it’s like to have a kid while in law school. One obvious answer is that it places limits on my time. I am often a bit more sleep-deprived than my classmates and because of daycare drop-offs and pick-ups it’s difficult to participate in extra-curriculars. The time crunch can distract from both home life and school work. When I am in dad mode, I sometimes think about the fact that my classmates are likely reading case law while I’m reading Moo, Baa, La La La! for the 100th time.