Making an Impact: Working in the International Human Rights Practicum

Today I am hosting a guest post by BC Law student Marija Tesla about her experience in BC Law’s new International Human Rights Practicum.


I have taken many international law and human rights courses at BC Law, and have loved them all: International Law with Professor David Wirth; International Human Rights: The Law of War, War Crimes, and Genocide (or what is more commonly known as humanitarian law) with Professor Allen Ryan; Immigration Law and the Human Rights Interdisciplinary Seminar with Professor Daniel Kanstroom; International Legal Research with Professor Sherry Chen. I came to law school because this is my calling in life, and every experience I got here (after the slog of the very provincial 1L experience), further proved to me that this is what I was meant to do. 

All those courses were amazing, but what I have loved most of all is my experience in the International Human Rights Practicum with Professor Daniela Urosa. 

I loved working on the amicus brief that we submitted to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) with Professor Urosa and my amicus partner, Nadia Bouquet, because I got to think about and analyze a technical area of international human rights law while having an opportunity to be creative and to think outside the box (I wrote an earlier post about our visit to the IACtHR; read it here). My aim in everything I do is to challenge the status quo and to focus on how the law can challenge systems of oppression and create societies in which every person can and does live a life of dignity. Human rights law is aspirational and sometimes it creates standards that are not at all lived on the ground by the people who are most marginalized in our societies. Yet, if those of us who dare to remain idealists in a world often run by realists stop aspiring and working towards creating a more just and equitable world, then where will we end up as a collective? What I love about human rights law is that it cares deeply about individual life while caring about the collective. In a world of great economic inequality, environmental and racial injustice, human rights law is not just necessary, it is a difference of not just life and death, but a difference of what it means to live and to be alive.

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Lawyering and Breathing: Three Lessons from My Summer Experience

Today I am hosting a guest blog from my friend Melody Mathewson, a member of the Class of 2022. -DS


What am I doing this summer? Well, the law, of course. I am drafting agreements and policies, researching admissibility, and reading trial transcripts and state statutes. It’s all very glamorous and novel to you as aspiring or fellow law students, I know. 

More importantly, I am learning how to run a marathon. Not literally. Literally, I walk for an hour every day, but I do not run. What I mean is, I am learning how to endure and thrive through the marathon of being a human attorney. I am learning what I wish I had learned two years ago, both before and during the first year of law school. 

Here are three lessons from my 2L summer experience. 

Summer Experience Lesson No.1: It is perfectly acceptable to demonstrate your strong work ethic and hustling attitude from Monday through Friday, and “breaks” can coexist with “weekdays.”

I have been listening to some really thoughtful and insightful podcasts while going for my long, near-daily walks outside, and on the weekends I lie by the pool and read similar kinds of books (or completely lose myself in a perfectly curated playlist of summer bops). On a daily level, this hour-long walk is my mid-day break. It is my exercise, my fresh air, my break from a computer screen, my break from legal jargon, and most importantly it is time I am not working, not thinking about work, not worrying about work, and not pressuring myself to get back to work. 

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Musings on a Still Virtual Summer

I am sitting at my desk in my childhood bedroom, in the home where I grew up, starting my summer internship virtually and feeling admittedly silly as I pour a cup of coffee and don professional clothing while I am surrounded by mementos of my youth. Though the coloring books and childhood photographs on my desk have now been replaced by my laptop and a Bluebook, things still feel eerily similar to what I remember growing up.

It makes me think back to this time last year. Coming home last March as the pandemic shutdown hit was almost incomprehensible: sitting in the home that felt so familiar to me, I was also painfully aware of how foreign just about everything else around me really was. I watched my professors (and later my summer employer) scramble to get a handle of how best to continue on in a world that was suddenly unfamiliar. I adapted to virtual meetings, technical difficulties, and Zoom hangouts. I took on the unfamiliarity with an open mind, trying to adjust to the temporary surroundings I believed I was in.

But now it has been a year, and the unfamiliarity has transformed into the ordinary. What was once a few weeks at most is now over a year of remote school and work. Summer internships, clinics, classes, and virtual events have come and gone. Countless in-person events and programs have been transformed to account for the virtual world we remain in. I and most other rising 3Ls (ouch), are entering into another remote summer internship.

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A Reminder on Feelings Post-Finals

It is that time of year again. 

While finals week always seems to creep up on me, I still find myself making the same unpleasant preparations at this time every year. I have deleted social media apps on my phone that I typically spend way too much time on, stocked up on coffee and snacks, and have told my friends and loved ones not to bother me for the next few weeks. 

As I have begun to delve into yet another round of days studying followed by a sequence of hours-long tests, I find myself clinging on to the idea that this will all be over soon–that I just have to get through the next couple of weeks and then I can enjoy that post-finals joy.  

So, as a reminder to myself that this is all temporary, or maybe just some needed motivation to continue on, I have collected a few students’ thoughts on their feelings post-finals. Enjoy and good luck everyone!

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BC Law’s Newest Working Group Speaks on Lending a Hand in the Community

As cliché as it sounds, it is hard to imagine life beyond or before Covid-19. As the world begins to tip-toe back to normal, many find it hard to imagine what this new “normal” will even look like. Some, myself included, find it difficult to even begin to picture what a post-pandemic world will be, as social distancing and isolation have completely taken over in the past year.

Although the pandemic that has forced us apart from one another in so many ways, in other ways it has brought our community closer than ever before. Take BC Law’s Food Pantry Effort, for example, a working group that has helped organize the donations of hundreds of pounds of food to local organizations.

We spoke with student leader Andrew Fishman about the work of the group and how he hopes to impact the surrounding community.

Tell me a little bit about how this working group got its start.

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BC Law Moves Up in Rankings

Lots of discussion lately about rankings. How important are they, really? For better or worse, most students (and alumni, for that matter) pay attention to where their school falls in the US News & World Report annual list.

The latest US News Best Law Schools ranking was released this week, and BC Law moved up two spots to #29, improving its overall score from 63 to 67. Yay! BC also moved up in a few specialty categories: Tax (#14), Clinical Training (#24) and Environmental Law (#24).

There was more controversy than usual this year, with US News initially releasing a new diversity ranking and then recalculating it and then pulling it off their site entirely. Further, they had to recalculate their overall ranking just a day before it was released, removing a metric on librarian’s “ratio of credit hours of instruction.” Apparently there was more than the usual tinkering with the methodology this year, adding some new measurements of average debt, and reworking how library resources are measured.

Maybe it’s just me, but they don’t seem to have hit a home run with all these changes. So does this mark the beginning of the end for US News rankings dominance? Probably not, but stay tuned.

Read more about the ranking in the BC Law Magazine story.


Devon Sanders is a second-year student, and vice president of the Impact blog. Reach her at sanderdd@bc.edu.

The Covid Relief Housing Clinic

The one year-mark of the Covid-19 shutdown that forced BC Law to fundamentally change its operations came and went last week. This pandemic-focused world has created realities that none of us could have ever predicted, simultaneously shutting doors and forcing new opportunities to emerge in their wake. The only thing that has remained constant over the past year is the uncertainty of what the near-future will bring.

BC Law has done its best to adapt. A unique example of this is the emergence of the Covid Relief Housing Clinic earlier this semester. What began as a Summer 2020 effort to help people in the greater Boston area receive unemployment benefits has transformed to a semester-long clinic opportunity, addressing urgent legal issues regarding housing and upholding the original goal to meet the timely legal needs of those within our community. 

I spoke with Professor Ana Rivera, who runs the clinic, to discuss the creation and utilization of this new addition to BC Law’s Experiential Learning Center.

1. When and how did the idea emerge for this clinic?

The idea for a clinic focused exclusively on housing came to me in the fall 2020, when the federal and local moratoria on evictions were scheduled to expire.  There was a great concern that the number of eviction matters would spike exponentially, as workers in the retail, hotel, and restaurant industries continued to struggle either to find new work or to receive unemployment insurance benefits. It seemed right from a social justice perspective to divert resources to this particular problem.  I contacted WATCH CDC, a family, housing, and adult education advocacy organization in Waltham, MA, with which our Civil Litigation Clinic has collaborated in the past, and proposed a partnership with BC Law to identify and provide legal assistance to Waltham tenants facing housing insecurity as a result of Covid-19.  Having such an intimate relationship with tenants in Waltham, WATCH, through its executive director Daria Gere, was acutely aware of the need and embraced the opportunity.  With the support of Professors Judy McMorrow and Renee Jones, the idea was realized.

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BC Law Magazine Features First-Year Student Essays

As we began the second full semester under the hybrid in-person and online model this week, I found myself thinking back to the beginning of my first semester as a 1L. As a chatty person, I filled much of the first few weeks of law school trying to meet and talk to my fellow classmates, learning about their general backgrounds. Everyone was so overwhelmingly interesting that I felt I would be learning new things about the people in my section well into the rest of the year.

Looking back, I felt a pang of longing for those first few weeks. I had taken these passing conversations and small talks for granted, thinking there would always be time to chat with the people who filled the seats in my classes and the halls of the school. I would have never guessed that I would be taking remote classes in my apartment, only seeing my classmates through a computer screen.

But at the same time, in the midst of the strained communication and connection that we all have faced over the past year, I found myself longing to understand people better: to connect and learn about others in ways a simple conversation likely would not yield.

The newest issue of BC Law Magazine features five students’ personal admission essays. These narratives not only reflect students’ passions, tribulations, and motivations, but masterfully display how events in the lives of these students have both defined who they are and propelled them to become who they want to be. These essays, and the students who wrote them, present a sense of connection to the BC Law community, as we learn about some of our fellow students and what motivates them to pursue a career in law. 

You can read the personal admission essays here. You can also check out the entire Winter 2021 edition of the BC Law Magazine on their website.

In Memoriam: Kevin Curtin ’88

On December 10, the BC Law community lost a cherished member. Triple Eagle Kevin Curtin (Law ’88) passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack.

I didn’t know him personally, but I do know that his contributions to BC Law and beyond were tremendous. Mr. Curtin had served as Alumni Board President and an adjunct faculty member, but that just scratches the surface. BC Law Magazine just posted a story filled with faculty, staff and alumni reflecting on his influence. He was also active internationally, helping on rule of law issues in Uzbekistan, for example.  Here’s another Magazine story on his work around protecting the rights of Turkish detainees after a coup.

Mr Curtin also wrote a guest blog a few years ago here on Impact, when he was Alumni Board President, called “Remember the Why,” which speaks to his love for the School and for the profession:

My dad, Jack, was a ’57 Boston College Law School graduate. He passed away a year and a half ago. I thought of him a lot at Commencement—how proud he would have been of these young graduates, poised at the threshold. Jack Curtin’s own father graduated from Boston College in 1923, the first in his family to achieve a college degree. My mother’s uncle, Msgr. William J. Daly, graduated Boston College in 1916. My brother Joe graduated BC Law in 1990. Both my sisters are Boston College graduates. My wife and brother-in-law are BC law graduates. I have three degrees from Boston College and teach at the Law School myself. It’s a humbling pedigree.

But the Boston College bond extends far beyond blood. Watching this year’s commencement and seeing so many splendid young men and women celebrating as a community reminded me that we really and truly are one big family. As Professor James Repetti ’80 remarked, being a member of the BC Law community means you will never be alone. The entire community of students, faculty and alumni, stand behind you and with you always.

The entire post is well worth the read. Rest in peace, Mr Curtin.


Devon Sanders is a second-year student and VP of the Impact blog. Contact her at sanderdd@bc.edu.

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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