“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” – Saint Francis de Sales
In the law, and especially in litigation, it can seem like being gentle has no place. The adversarial system is set up like a zero-sum game, and it can feel like softness is in direct contrast with winning in the courtroom. However, in a profession where we lawyers are painted as aggressive and combative, perhaps gentleness is a silent strength, particularly in our relationships with our clients.
I’m in the COVID-19 Housing Relief Clinic this semester, and we spent this first week in trainings. During these training sessions, we conducted role-play situations, both interviewing and counseling “clients.” In our training, the “clients” were just our supervising professors and the situations were merely hypothetical. Yet, these simulations reflected the very types of cases and clients that, as student attorneys at the BC Legal Services Lab, we might see this semester. For example, some of these scenarios included a wife trying to keep custody of her son in a divorce case with her potentially abusive husband or a landlord using unjust practices to force evictions.
At first, I wondered how useful this training would be. After all, how much is there to learn about just talking to clients? Turns out the answer, is a lot.
Yesterday was nothing short of horrifying, but unfortunately, I can’t say that I’m surprised. This act of domestic terrorism was not unexpected. It was the result of one of the most divisive American presidencies of all time; it was but a likely consequence after months of repeated baseless allegations of election fraud.
That is why I am sick of the “this is not our America” rhetoric. Because this is exactly our America right now, and we best believe it. The “this isn’t our America” rhetoric lets us think that what happened yesterday was unpredictable. It allows us to neglect that the riots stemmed from a system historically built upon and contemporarily sustained by white supremacy. If we begin to believe what happened yesterday was an anomaly, it lets us shirk away from accepting that the root of the problem is deeper than the current presidency: it is an entire system that is in dire need of reform.
I like to think I’m a generally positive person: I take time each day to note what I’m grateful for, I laugh a lot (maybe too much), and I try to maintain an upbeat demeanor. When the pandemic hit, I wanted to make sure I kept my positivity, so I took the free Yale University Science of Wellbeing course. I also started listening to podcasts like Ten Percent Happier and The Science of Happiness. Yet, as the year comes to a close and I reflect on 2020, I can’t help but think that, frankly, a lot about this year simply sucked.
Throughout the pandemic, there seemed to be a message of “good vibes only” created on social media and online, with many people touting the pandemic as ‘a blessing in disguise.’ Now, I will be the first to point out the benefits of gratitude and positivity; I know they work wonders for both emotional and physical health because they personally have for me. At the same time, I do yearn for my life to go back to “normal.” While I was able to discover silver linings throughout the year, the reality is that I didn’t want this pandemic in the first place, and I don’t want to feel guilty about feeling this way.
A few weeks ago, I shared my story of realizing how burnt out I really was. Since then, I’ve made a few changes in my life. I’d be lying if I said I was 100% better 100% of the time; I still have some great days and other not-so-great moments. However, I can truthfully say that I have tried to be more intentional in my thoughts and actions over the past several weeks, and I do feel a difference overall.
In my last post, I admitted that I didn’t really know how to take a break. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I had taken a day off. After much reflection, I’ve realized that this inability to wind down is not something I want to wear as a badge of honor. I have friends who are cardiac surgeons, Medieval Literature PhD students, and budding entrepreneurs- they all are in rigorous professions having to balance numerous responsibilities. If they can consistently take days off, then I can surely manage the same. My life is not going to fall apart if I unplug for a bit. I’ve made Sundays my day off, where I try to spend most of the day doing things I enjoy without feeling guilty about the pile of work on my desk. In doing so, I’ve realized that not only do I feel good on Sundays, but the days when I am working are more productive, too. Before, I used to measure my productivity by the number of hours my laptop screen was on, disregarding that during much of that time, I wasn’t actually getting work done. Now, I give myself permission to take days off and take breaks throughout the day. That way, when my screen is on, I’m doing a better job of being productive during that timeframe. Sometimes when my phone is freaking out, all I need to do is turn it off for a bit and then back on. I guess the same goes for me.
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
― Anne Lamott
We live in a world where we glorify the hustle. You worked for 10 hours? Well, I worked for 12. You slept 5 hours? Oh, but I only got 4. Business school and law school are feeding grounds for this kind of toxic environment, and I fed into it. I’ve always prided myself in being able to handle chaos and a busy schedule. I’m a yes-person; I pile things on my plate with complete disregard for whether I actually have the bandwidth to take them on. For as long as I can remember, I’ve subconsciously led myself to believe that this trait of mine is heroic. “Other people can’t handle this level of stress, but I can. Chug along and don’t look back. Taking breaks is for the weak, and that, I am not.” And for years, this lifestyle felt great. That is, of course, until suddenly, it did not.
I grew up in a pretty traditional South Asian household. I’ve tried talking about the Black Lives Matter movement numerous times before, but my family just didn’t seem too invested in it. Most of the time, I would just give up. Because it was just too frustrating.
But that’s the problem, right? These are just events that we hear about or see in the news, just optional conversations that we can opt in or out of. But for black people in America, this is reality. It’s not just another life lost; it is yet another manifestation of the unhinged, systemic racism that we allallow to continue and continue to allow.
Black people in America don’t get to choose to live in constant fear. They don’t get to choose that law enforcement dehumanizes them. So it feels inherently wrong that my community gets to choose whether or not we care.
BC Law Dean Vincent Rougeau sent the letter below earlier this week to the BC Law community, and I thought it was important enough to share here on BC Law Impact. I have also written about this issue in my recent post Black Lives Matter.
Dear members of BC Law community:
I know the pain that you are feeling because I am feeling it too. And I am tired. So very, very tired. I am tired of writing these letters over and over again. As a Black man with three sons, I am tired of the fear I must carry when they are out moving through their lives in a country where the lives of people of color are so easily extinguished. I am tired of the sickening legacy of racism in this county and of being told not to talk about it because it makes people uncomfortable. Our nation is in crisis and we cannot continue to ignore the fact that the fabric of our society is being shredded by many among us who refuse to recognize our shared humanity.
Today I am hosting the second in a series of guest blogs by Irit Tamir, an adjunct professor at BC Law who teaches Business and Human Rights. The first post is here. Professor Tamir is also the Director of Oxfam America’s Private Sector Department. In her role, she is focused on working with companies to ensure that their business practices result in positive social and environmental impacts for vulnerable communities throughout the world. She leads Oxfam America’s work on business and development including shareholder engagement, value chain assessments, and collaborative advocacy initiatives, such as the successful “Behind the Brands” campaign.
Seven years since the Rana Plaza disaster, the COVID-19 crisis is a stark reminder how businesses have a responsibility to their supply chain workers.
The COVID19 pandemic highlights, more than any recent crisis, the duty of Governments to provide social protection. For workers, social protection ensures strong labor policies, living wages, safe and healthy working conditions, and the ability to have a voice in the workplace — in particular, to raise issues when they arise without fear of retribution. It also means there is a safety net in place when disaster strikes and workers and producers are no longer able to make a living by providing unemployment compensation, sick leave, and insurance.
But, many governments have not lived up to this duty, because they lack the resources to be able to do so, they espouse a race to the bottom approach in attracting foreign investment, and/or because they have been corrupted by business sector influence.
Impact is running a series of posts that were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we think the messages are too important to go unshared. Stay safe everyone, and please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if we can do anything to help, or if you would like us to consider publishing a guest post on your own experiences during the outbreak.
Before our first class for Constitutional Law, our assignment was to read the Constitution in its entirety. As a recent business school graduate, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel and think of the United States as a business entity. Then, I started wondering, would the Constitution be its mission or vision statement?
In my operations and strategy courses at my undergraduate institution, we learned that a mission statement identifies an organization’s primary purpose for existing. For example, Google’s mission statement is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” On the other hand, a vision statement is a high-level statement of what the organization wants to achieve in the future. Following the previous example, Google’s vision statement is “to provide an important service to the world-instantly delivering relevant information on virtually any topic.”
Of course, I know it’s an immense oversimplification to analogize the nation to a business entity. Yet, I do find it an interesting exercise to explore whether the Constitution more establishes an identity for the country based on the framers’ perception – a more “mission statement” purpose – or whether it sets forth a foresight of what the country should aspire towards – a “vision statement” type of objective.
Today, I am hosting a guest blog post by Robert Lydon, a first-year student at BC Law.
I cannot describe the relief I felt when I received the Dean’s email about the grading policy change. Relief because I would not have to choose between my family, my health, and my academic career. Relief because I now have the flexibility to be there for those who need me.
I am just one of the students the administration probably had in mind when they rendered this decision. As of last week, I’ve learned that my brother, father, and brother-in-law are now unemployed after construction was shut down in Boston. They are all concerned about how they are going to pay their bills. My mother is a disabled two-time cancer survivor, and I cannot express how dangerous this illness could be for her. Despite this, she continues to help care for my grandmother, who is recovering from a recent hip fracture and is also extremely vulnerable. I live at home with my parents and am worried about their health, economic well-being, and housing security. I am far from the only one in our community affected, nor am I the most adversely affected by this global upheaval.