My name is John Ferraro, and I’m a current 3L and LSA Co-President. In what is admittedly an attempt to put out of my mind the looming fear of imminent Barbri bar prep, I hope I can ask all of you to indulge me in a short adventure in the past.
Before law school, I was a digital programmatic media buyer (for those of you wondering what that means, we are the people that push on you, for the rest of your life, the online ads for that toaster you looked at once on Amazon).
Going from advertising to law school was a bit of a drastic change. But the idea to go to law school had been nagging at the back of my mind since my senior year of undergrad. Even during my time in advertising, law was front and center. IP concerns over trademarks, fonts, and brand colors. As someone mainly supporting the marketing efforts of a large financial institution, crash courses on Fair Lending and FDIC disclosures. And most of all, the one four-letter word for which digital advertisers and lawyers share horror: GDPR. So while I made a significant jump, it was a jump motivated by signs I couldn’t ignore any longer.
I will concede that, for me (as I suspect it is for many), the law school application process felt like shots in the dark. I had some ideas of possible interests, cities I thought might be fun to live in, how I might approach the LSAT and a personal statement. But when working to fit a good picture of yourself into a neat sheath of 8.5×11 papers, uncertainty is an inherent part of the process. In terms of picking a school to attend, I admit that I similarly felt I was on shaky ground. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the choice of picking a law school was one of–if not the–most important choices of my life.
So I turned to my main tool for hard decisions: data. My work before law school was informed by clicks and digital checkout rates, and my training in undergrad was heavy on statistics and econometrics. It was natural habit for me to fall back on numbers: rankings, bar passage rates, employment rates, aid packages, you name it. And indeed, when it came time to choose, I did choose BC mostly based on numbers—and especially because of a generous aid package. My scholarship package helped ease some of the financial uncertainty that comes with leaving a career and returning to school full-time.
But data doesn’t always provide the full picture. Data is rigid, and inherently limited. It doesn’t capture a school’s “softer” qualities—its community, its camaraderie, its supportiveness. These things didn’t lend themselves easily to quantification in Excel sheets or point systems. For someone like me, who was accustomed to the certainty of simple mathematical answers, rogue variables engendered lingering uncertainty of whether I had made the right choice. And indeed – how could anyone be certain? No amount of brochures and blog posts and pre-orientations could ever let someone know for sure what the next three years had in store.
Ask me now, and I’ll tell you how certain I am that BC was—that BC is—the right choice. So, how did I come to know that for sure? Well, the first moment was when Jason Triplett, Class of ’14, upon finding out I had put down my seat deposit, picked me up off the floor, swung me in a circle no less than three times, and then proceeded to buy us both a celebratory shot.
And I began my time at BC, those moments of confirmation, moments that escaped quantification, kept coming, and coming, and coming. Some came from my peers, in the form of a deluge of Instagram requests, invitations to dinner, and a quasi-mandatory karaoke night. Some came from people like Kayla Snyder and Morgan Lam, Class of ’21, who encouraged me to become involved with the Law Student Association, taught me the importance of not losing my genuine self during 1L, and the importance of actively maintaining joy during law school. Some of those moments came from professors who take a real interest in building relationships with students – and for me specifically, the perennial question: “Any relation to Geraldine?”
But nevertheless, in spite of these moments, all of my classmates and I were thrown quite a curveball halfway through my 1L spring: March 2020, when COVID closed our campus, isolated us in our homes, and turned kitchen tables and bedroom desks into classrooms for two weeks, and then two months, and then a semester, and then another year. And, in all honestly, it was a time when that old uncertainty crept back for me, and for many of my classmates. How would we manage classes? Would we find jobs? Would we see each other again?
But despite the loss of physical proximity to campus, and my professors, and my classmates – something wonderful happened. In the Con Law classroom, for example, Professor Greenfield took advantage of the new standard of digital connectivity, inviting Paul Smith, who argued on behalf of John Lawrence Lawrence v. Texas, Julie Rikelman, who argued in June Medical Services v. Russo, and former Solicitor General Don Verrilli, who argued for equality in Obergefell v. Hodges. Virtual trivia and happy hours with my classmates became the new Bar Reviews. As OCI drew near, alumni mentors like Jasmin Ali, Class of ’14, and Adam Harmon, Class of ’15, kept their phones open for last-minute, frantic requests for resume or interviewing tips. In my post-1L summer internship, Jonny Carlone, Class of ’14, helped shepherd me through my first experience of real lawyering – both of us admittedly Zooming each other from respective pool sides.
Even without physical proximity, those moments of confirmation—those moments of certainty that BC was the right place to be—kept coming, and coming, and coming. And from this constancy, I drew my inspiration to be as active in the BC community as I possibly could. I continued my involvement with Lambda and the Law Student Association, taking on leadership roles in each to build community with things like alumni brunches, Oktoberfests, and a revived Talent Show. I took a position TAing for the first-year research and writing course, hoping to help 1Ls with the sudden adjustment to law school. I wrote for the Boston College Law Review, and later joined its editorial board, to help my classmates create the most polished student scholarship possible (and gently remind them that the Bluebook is full of rules, not suggestions). Through these experiences, in addition to my time in the classroom, I learned, I grew, and I like to think I became a bit better each day.
Indeed, I reflect on my time at BC with overwhelming pride. I’ve hit my share of roadblocks. Disappointing exams, a stack of job application rejections, and still not really knowing what a perpetuity is and why there’s a rule against them. But no matter the adversity, I had people behind me who were insistent upon my success – even in moments where I was unsure about it myself. Their support never wavered, and was instrumental to every lesson learned, every skill gained, and every success met. And thanks to these people and to BC, I have the privilege to look forward to joining Quinn Emanuel’s Boston office this fall – and even more so to join a group of amazing supporters and mentors like Aliki Sofis, Class of ’09, Matt Mazzotta, Class of ’10, and Christina Lam, Class of ‘18.
The past three years have been work. And sometimes, hard work. I’m only human. There are weeks when my meticulously color-coded calendar looks more like a Jackson Pollock reject, and still occasional days of self-doubt, and hesitation. But even at their hardest, the past three years have been worthwhile work, because putting aside my own successes, and breakthroughs, the greatest fulfillment comes from knowing that maybe, somewhere down the line, I might be to someone else what Jason, Kayla, Morgan, Jonny, Jasmin, Adam, Aliki, Matt, and Christina were for me: people to whom I owe so much gratitude, and who made believe I was becoming the best version of myself, and made me certain that BC was the right choice. And last, but certainly not least, I owe thanks to Chris Dillon, Class of ’88, the funder of my scholarship, whose generosity was crucial in enabling me to make that choice, spend three years thriving at BC, and have one less uncertainty on my plate.
It would be disingenuous of me not to acknowledge that, as I leave BC, I enter into a world that is rapidly changing – one that is unrecognizable from three years ago. In some ways, it’s back, again, to a sense of uncertainty about what the future may hold. The late Professor Catharine Wells, on the last day of my 1L spring torts class, shared with my classmates and me her thoughts about the uncertain world of today: that it is a great gift. That without question my classmates and I had a place in this world, that we have an opportunity to engage life on terms we define for ourselves, and that we have a great deal to give in the future.
I think Professor Wells was exactly right. I cannot know the future; nobody can. But I can be certain, that in my three years at BC, I have grown, I have become resilient, and I have become capable. And I can be certain that I move into the world with the one thing I’ve gained at BC of which I’m the most proud: a group of peers, mentors, professors, supporters, and friends who will be unfailingly reliable. And I can always be certain, BC was the right choice.
John Ferraro is a third-year student at BC Law, and co-president of the Law Student Association. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.