Being at BC Law as a Jewish woman pursuing public interest law can sometimes create a sense of cognitive dissonance and difficulty feeling like I belong. My background and upbringing is very Jewish and very rooted in social justice. I’ve been actively involved in Jewish communities for my entire life and that has informed my values. I attended Smith College, a progressive women’s college out in Northampton, MA. Attending a Jesuit Catholic law school initially gave me some pause, especially knowing that most future lawyers are looking to pursue careers in “Big Law.” But attending the Public Interest Law Retreat (PILR) last weekend reminded me that I don’t need to check my public interest goals and passions at the door to the law school–rather, that there are people and systems in place to support them.
The PILR is a program for 1Ls, coordinated by the Law School and the incredible 1L, 2L, and 3L Public Service Scholars. The bunch of us drove out to Dover, MA to the Boston College Connors Retreat Center. We stayed overnight in the old stone building located in a more rural part of the state with lots of green space and trees. We entered a refreshing atmosphere the instant we arrived.
Four hours north of Phoenix, situated almost exactly on the Arizona/New Mexico border, Window Rock is the capital of the Navajo Nation. On March 2, I made the journey west with seven of my classmates to spend a week with the Navajo, learning about their government, law and culture, and doing our best at placements with the Presidents Office, the Department of Justice, and the Supreme Court.
I was fortunate to spend a week at the Supreme Court. The Court itself handles about a dozen cases each year, as well as countless orders and motions relating to those cases. The two of us assigned to the Court spent most of our time researching and writing orders, putting our Law Practice skills to the test. While I personally have a long way to go before I’m comfortable tackling research and writing problems on my own, honing my skills under the direction of the Supreme Court staff was immensely helpful.
I’m pleased to host a guest post from 3L Jared Friedberg, who spent some time last year working in BC’s Immigration Clinic.
With the semester winding down and people thinking about next year, I wanted to provide a recommendation: enroll in the immigration clinic. I spent my 2L year in the immigration clinic, and as I look back on my time at BC, it was the most impactful experience that I have had in law school.
The purpose of a clinic is to give students the opportunity to work directly with clients. In the immigration clinic, that means visits to immigration court, detention facilities, the clients’ homes, and anywhere else that the case requires you to go. Over the course of two semesters, I had five clients. While representing our clients, my classmates and I met their families, friends, and coworkers. Some of them lived a few streets from where I grew up and some lived across the world.
On a whim, I opened my personal statement for the first time since hitting ‘submit’ nearly a year ago. Preparing to face my tendency to over-write, a habit which lends itself to often-cringeworthy grand pronouncements, I queued up the Aspiring Public Interest Lawyers Greatest Hits: “Is It Still Worth It? (After Signing that Promissory Note),” “Oh, Really? You’re Going to Save the World?” and the classic, “Naiveté.”
Instead, I came face-to-face with the prospect that the young, impressionable, wannabe lawyer nursing the cheapest drink on the coffee shop menu in exchange for five hours of Wi-Fi knew everything he needed to know.
See? Grand pronouncements.
Sure, one year ago, I would have failed every single first year course. I couldn’t brief, or outline, or read, or write, or even speak effectively. My Lexis points stood at zero and I had nary a dollar of Westlaw Starbucks gift cards. Every one of my classmates would have prayed to the almighty curve I was in their section. One year ago, I was a terrible law student.
“I don’t have a voice. But when you speak on my behalf, I get heard.”
As a law student, I don’t usually consider myself to be in a position of power or influence. In fact, I usually feel quite intimidated, whether I’m with a professor during office hours, trying to sound intelligent (when I’m actually utterly confused about the subject), or at a job interview, doing my best to persuade the interviewers that I’m a worthy candidate (while trying not to shake and stutter from anxiety).
So when my client Joseph* said those words to me, I practically burst into tears. Me? A mere law student? Give him a voice?
I am pleased to host a Q&A with Andrew Trombly, ’14, who gives his insights on his clerkships with Judge Paul Barbadoro, USDC, District of NH and Judge Robert Bacharach, US Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit.
Why did you decide to apply for a clerkship?
I thought that clerking would offer a good opportunity – particularly for somebody just out of law school – to write a lot and to learn about a wide variety of areas of law. Also, I wanted to observe the judicial process from a judge’s perspective. Short of actually becoming a judge, clerking is probably the only chance a litigator will ever have to do so.
“I think you’re going to see more young people running for office for the first time in these next elections than ran for the first time inspired by President Obama’s success. … In my experience on the presidential stage — a tour that was shorter than I would have hoped — it seemed that anger and fear were the animating emotions of the entire election.
It has been and continues to be a privilege to witness some of the most vulnerable moments of a person’s life, to stand with them, and try to help. The young people with whom I’ve worked have radically different stories than my own, and I imagine different from most law students. My years spent working with them have shown me that while ongoing assistance and intervention in domestic, educational and religious environments is crucial, it can only do so much in the face of a legal system which, for example, occasionally punishes children for problems for which they are not directly responsible. These young people deserve someone fighting on their side who has walked alongside them and experienced a piece of their story. Here are three that have stayed with me. I’ve changed names, but otherwise told them as they happened.
When Jackson’s foster mom dropped him off at the ER, she gave the nurses a piece of advice: don’t let him play dinosaur inside. This was passed along to the director of the behavioral and mental health unit at a different hospital where he ended up, and was repeated to every staff member who worked with him: no dinosaur inside.
What’s it like to be a judge?
It’s my sixth week of working for Judge Dineen Riviezzo of the Kings County (Brooklyn) Supreme Court. Judge Riviezzo hears felony cases and Article 10 civil confinement cases. Also, every Friday, she’s in charge of the juvenile offender part, where she hears cases involving 14, 15, and 16-year-olds who would normally be heard in Family Court, but because they commit certain serious crimes, are heard in Supreme Court (but are often afforded youthful offender treatment).
View of Brooklyn from the Judge’s chambers
So far, I can say that being a judge requires three major qualities.
First, it requires patience. Whether it’s dealing with an attorney’s mistake, sorting out a disagreement between the parties, or waiting for a defendant to be produced or parties to show up, I’ve learned that for judges, every day is a test of patience. Continue reading
Editor’s Note: Alex Porter will serve as the President of the Boston College Law Students Association for the 2016-17 academic year. Much like his predecessor, Alex embodies the very best qualities that BC Law students have to offer. As a member of the Boston College Law Review alongside him, I know for a fact that as incoming students you will be in very capable hands. Without further ado, I am very pleased to present his welcome letter to the Class of 2019.
President-Elect Alex Porter (second from right) along with three of his classmates.
Congratulations on your admission to Boston College Law School!
This August, you will become the newest (and most celebrated!) members of our truly extraordinary community. It is a community that eschews one-size-fits-all happiness because we choose instead to value the whole person. Here, it matters that you were the captain of your track team in college, or served as an aide to the Secretary of Transportation, or had first-hand knowledge of tort law due to an unfortunate car accident. Here, whether your family came on the Mayflower or whether you just stepped off the plane from Bangalore, your classmates will want to know – and will value – your story. Please understand that this doesn’t mean an easy ride; you will work harder than you ever have in your life, and you will be challenged to achieve more than you thought possible in the classroom and beyond. But you will do it in a supportive, caring environment that lifts you up so we all get there together, rather than tearing you down.
Friendly competition can be a great thing, but cutthroat competition is not, and we won’t stand for that here.