Visiting the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Impact is running a series of posts on student reflections from their Spring Break Service Trips and experiential work last month. Find the first post here, and the second post here. These posts were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we think the messages are too important to go unshared. Today’s post is from Marija Tesla, who writes about her experience as part of BC Law’s International Human Rights Practicum visit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Stay safe everyone, and please reach out to us at bclawimpact@bc.edu 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.


When Professor Daniela Urosa chose me to be a part of the inaugural International Human Rights Practicum, to say that I was elated would be an understatement. It was a dream come true for me! She told me that it was a dream come true for her as well. Having guided instruction from her in our weekly meetings and in her seminar is the best part of my law school experience thus far. I am truly grateful to her and to Boston College Law School for making this clinic a reality. I know that it involved many years of hard work on the part of many, including Professor Judith McMorrow and Professor Daniel Kanstroom. 

My partner in the clinic is Nadia Bouquet, who is an LL.M. student from Paris, France, studying at Université Paris Nanterre. We are working on writing an amicus brief to submit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) which relates to a case that is going to be heard by the Court in San José, Costa Rica later this year. There are six of us in the clinic, and we work in pairs of two on one amicus brief, each amicus relating to a different case and a different set of issues. Four of us are J.D. candidates and two are LL.M. candidates, which makes the conversations and the work that much richer. Most of us are also transnational thinkers, speaking multiple languages and having lived in different parts of the globe. We recognize the importance of IACtHR, which is an amalgamation of both the civil and common law, while also being its own unique regional system. It is why it is great to have students with such diverse backgrounds and different lived experiences who also come from both of the legal systems in the clinic, and who appreciate both the importance and complexity of international law and regional systems. 

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Miami Service Trip: Catholic Legal Services

Impact is running a series of posts on student experiences during their Spring Break Service Trips last month. Find the first post here. These posts were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we think the messages are too important to go unshared. We will share our third post tomorrow.

Stay safe everyone, and please reach out to us at bclawimpact@bc.edu 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.


Spring break is often seen as a way to relax from the rigors of law school and recharge for the sprint to the end of the school year. But for 65 first-year students, Spring Break was a way to get a taste for what working in the public interest field entails. The trips ranged from helping Native American legal offices to aiding asylum-seeking immigrants living in Miami.

In addition to raising their own money to go on these service trips, students were broken up into teams assigned to these different cities, working for different pro-bono organizations.

Four students traveled to Miami to volunteer at Catholic Legal Services in Miami. Below they reflect on their favorite parts of the trip.

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Student Service Trips: Spring Break Update

Each spring, over 60 BC Law students spend their spring break providing pro bono legal services to underrepresented communities and individuals locally and across the country. As a 1L, this was my first experience with a spring break service trip, and I have to say it’s pretty inspiring. BC Law really does have a committed culture of giving back and delivering justice around the world.

This year, 65 students are volunteering at pro bono placements serving:

  • communities in the District of Columbia, Navajo Nation and 10 states, including AL, TX, MD, NY, GA, LA, TN & OK
  • communities in 12 cities from Harlingen, TX to Baltimore, MD
  • 23 organizations, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Navajo Nation, ProBAR, Disability Rights Louisiana, Oxfam America, Volunteer Lawyers Project and Legal Aid of East Tennessee

Here in Montgomery, Alabama, we are spending our spring break working at governmental and nonprofit organizations across the state, and we’re planning on writing more about our experiences when we return. For now, here are some photos from Montgomery of me and my fellow students!

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A Unique Opportunity: The Rappaport Fellows Program

Today I’m hosting a guest blog from Kadie Martin, a second-year student and Rappaport Fellow, about her experience with the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy at BC Law.


My first love wasn’t the law. It was public service.

A lot of people assumed I would go to law school because I studied (and loved) political science in college. But I didn’t always see that as my path. After college, I worked in state government, first in the State Senate, and then for the Attorney General’s Office, and saw how state law shaped Massachusetts residents’ lives. It always seemed that if I wanted to pursue a life of public service, particularly in government, I would have to make a choice. I could go to law school or study public policy.

But then I heard about the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy at BC Law, and all that changed.

The Rappaport Center, led by Executive Director Lissy Medvedow and Faculty Director Dan Kanstroom, convenes Massachusetts leaders within government, nonprofits, business, and academia to think through the most pressing, complex, and challenging societal issues of our time. This spring, for example, Senator Markey will be on a Rappaport panel about criminal justice reform. Rappaport hosts visiting professors, including former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift this semester, and Senior Fellows in Residence.

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BC Law’s Lauren Koster ’19 Awarded Skadden Fellowship

Congratulations to Lauren Koster ’19 who was recently selected to receive a 2020 Skadden Fellowship to pursue her career in public interest work! Lauren will begin her fellowship with the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, where she will advocate for children in foster care to ensure their educational stability and academic achievement.

Lauren came to BC Law as a Public Service Scholar with a deep passion for advancing education policy. Building on her experience as a public school teacher and political organizer, she expanded her focus to include issues of child welfare, mental health, delinquency, and the rights of incarcerated juveniles. She led our Public Interest Law Foundation and was also one of BC Law’s first Leaders Entering and Advancing Public Service (LEAPS) scholars and completed her LEAPS capstone project last year.

Launched in 1988, the Skadden Fellowship Foundation program provides young lawyers with the opportunity to pursue the practice of public interest law on a full-time basis. Lauren is one of only 28 students to receive the award this year, and is the fourth graduate from BC Law to receive this prestigious honor.

You can read more about Lauren and her selection on BC Law Magazine’s website. If you want to learn more about BC Law’s LEAPS program, you can find that on the School’s website.

 

The PILR and Reinvigorating Purpose

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.

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Why I Was in Navajo Nation for Spring Break

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.

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My Most Valuable BC Law Experience

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.

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1L: Bringing It All Back Home

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.

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Becoming a “Stonecatcher”

“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?

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