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.

Bridging the gap between academic study and real-world application is often difficult, particularly during 1L year where almost all of your time is spent on doctrinal classes, with their inherent rigidities and what can feel like an almost willful lack of nuance and consideration of the complexities of individual circumstance. At the same time, the pace and intensity of the workload naturally incentivizes an over-simplification and focus on the concrete at the expense of the amorphous. As a result, at times I found myself being pulled further away from my real-world grounding and sometimes even forgetting that there was a larger purpose to being at law school: becoming a lawyer.

At the start of December, having studiously avoided many warnings not to leave my summer internship applications to the last minute, I got up at four in the morning to finish my applications for the Massachusetts Law School Consortium (MLSC) Government & Public Interest Interview Program. Having spent the semester feeling perennially behind, my initial reaction to learning of this looming deadline was: “What, I’m expected to try to find a job as well?” However, I actually really enjoyed putting together my applications, researching different employers and exploring different options for summer internships. It gave me a chance to reflect on the skills I have learned in just one semester, and the steps I am taking to work towards my future career. 

Job searches, networking, and extra-curricular events can easily become just one more thing to do and can feel like a distraction from the main job of studying, but I have rapidly learned they are arguably the most important part of law school. Some of my most meaningful experiences during my first semester came from moments that directly connected my studies and time at BC to my role as a future practitioner, whether this was completing my first Law Practice memo, attending the Public Interest Retreat, putting together internship applications, or attending the many on-campus events and discussions laid on by student organizations. These were events where I got to meet other students outside classes and learn from practicing lawyers, and – even if just through osmosis – begin to feel more like a future attorney. This is a feeling I’m going to hold on to as I enter into my second semester of 1L.

Jonathan Bertulis-Fernandes is a first-year student at BC Law. Contact him at bertulij@bc.edu.

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