A Guide to Surviving OCI (and Any Job Search) Without Losing Your Humanity

What follows is a virtual conversation between me and my friend Meg Green ’21 about our experience with OCI. We actually met during OCI callbacks at a Boston firm last year.

That was a dramatic title. What do you mean about humanity?

T: What I mean is that despite this On-Campus Interviewing (OCI) process seeming (for many) like the defining moment of your career, in which you either succeed heroically or fall tragically like an ancient empire, it’s just a job placement process, likely the first (or second or twentieth) over the course of your long and exciting career. Approach it with the correct perspective. Is it scary? Yes. Is it awkward? 100%. If you strike out will you fail at anything and everything else you attempt for the rest of your life? Of course not. That’s absurd. That’s all I am getting at. Stress can bring out the worst in people.  So just go through this process humanely and humbly and know that keeping your cool and being nice to people is never the wrong approach.

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Introducing Just Law: A Podcast

I am pleased to announce the launch of Boston College Law School’s podcast Just Law

I am 1L Tom Blakely and will be hosting the show alongside 3Ls Lea Silverman and Kevin O’Sullivan, and fellow 1L and Section 3er (the best section) Joanna Plaisir. 

We are very much appreciative of our tremendously talented editor and producer 3L Mark Grayson, and the institutional support from Boston College, specifically Director of Marketing and Communications Nate Kenyon.

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Professors: Try Wearing Costumes Year-Round

By the time this blog is posted, Halloween will have just passed and Election Day will be right around the corner. As I don’t want my hair to be completely grey or completely gone by the time I turn 26, in this post I am going to focus on the less frightening of the two.

This past Thursday, tax law extraordinaire Professor Oei kept the mood light by wearing a full-body Appa costume to remote-class in both the spirit of Halloween and also in light of the shared experience many of us had watching (or re-watching) Avatar: The Last Airbender when it was released on Netflix right at the start of the Covid-19 quarantine.  “Appa” is a flying sky bison from the television show, pictured below, and if you needed that explained to you then (1) shame on you, but (2) go watch the show because you’re in for a real treat.

How could the Appa costume have possibly been tied into our discussion of statutory deductions for business and trade expenses in the Internal Revenue Code, you ask? With a little bit of creative lawyering, Professor Oei found a way.

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Building Up After Burning Out

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.

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Act Like You Belong. Because You Do.

I’ve always been surrounded by a host of resilient people who modeled confidence. My grandmother ensured that my identity was a core value of my life. She often shared memories of her grandmother, born into slavery, or her father, a sharecropper, or her own challenges climbing out of southern poverty to self-determination. That deep, rich personal history propels me forward every day. My mother is the hardest-working woman I know, who overcame immense obstacles growing from a struggling young mother to a businesswoman with multiple degrees.

I have no shortage of personal examples of perseverance.  In spite of those examples, like many people, I struggle with a lingering self-doubt that questions my abilities. The feelings aren’t debilitating, nor do they outweigh my confidence. But, they are there.

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Our Favorite Parts of BC Law

If you talk to most people at BC Law, they’ll agree that it’s a special place. It’s a place where you’ll make lifelong friends, where you’ll be challenged to think by your professors, and a place that allows you to join one of the strongest alumni networks. Looking back on my time at BC over the past few years, I can confidently say that I chose the best law school for me.

But instead of just hearing all of the reasons why I love BC, I thought you’d like to hear from a few 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls who shared their favorite parts of BC Law:

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Flying Blind: How I Decided on Law School at the Height of COVID-19

October of 2019, just one year ago, feels like a different world.

I had just received my LSAT score as I was sitting at a car service shop with my laptop, waiting for an oil change and completing my first law school applications. I remember the poorly formatted sinkhole that is the LSAC website, and obsessing over every comma and margin—imagining some doomsday scenario in which a tweedy and officious admissions officer made a decision based on some typo I had neglected or word I had misused.

I figured that after a few months of apprehensively refreshing my Outlook junk folder (where all my law school emails automatically went for reasons I’ve never been able to determine) I would start receiving admissions decisions. I imagined flying from place to place, attending admitted students’ weekends and trying to figure out what the next chapter looked like for me. I also imagined where I would be a year later, attending class and getting to know new people.

Waiting for those decisions proved difficult. I spent my downtime watching movies. This helped me take my mind off of the admissions message boards that I scrolled through each day, examining the auguries’ of my peers’ decision results to try and predict how I might fare. 

In an old World War II movie I watched, there was a scene in which a pilot regaled his buddies about the travails of “flying blind” through dense cloud cover and fog across the English Channel. The phrase stuck with me. It perfectly described where I was at, and what little I knew about what was on the horizon. 

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Want to Thank Your Mentor? Become One.

I once said thank you to one of my mentors. He replied “You’re welcome, but there’s no need to thank me. All I ask is that you do the same for others.” And while I had certainly tried before that moment to help out the newest new kids whenever they called and asked, it hadn’t occurred to me in quite that way. So this blog post is an attempt to do as he asked and to urge you to do the same!

Mentors are critical to success in law school and the legal field (and most likely just life in general). They provide insight, validation, constructive criticism, emotional support, wisdom, and in the best moments real friendship. I’ve befriended many of my mentors over the years and keeping in touch with them, even casually, has given me a lot of warmth and happiness. I’ve seen them succeed and grow in their own career paths and as they do, they continue to inspire me to be the best version of myself. I can say without question that every accomplishment worth noting in my life is due in no insignificant part to wonderful mentors.

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When Burnout Burns You Down

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

― Anne Lamott

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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.

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