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.
One thing that I’ve really loved about BC Law is the opportunity to develop lawyering skills outside of the classroom. Right now, 2Ls are in the midst of competing in the prestigious Wendell F. Grimes Moot Court competition. In honor of this notable law school experience, I sat down with Sarah Nyaeme, President of the Board of Student Advisors (and my roommate), to learn more about the competitions offered at BC Law.
Tell us a little bit about the Board of Student Advisors and what role the BSA plays in law school academic competitions.
The Board of Student Advisors is the student-led organization that helps facilitate and run the various advocacy programs at BC. These programs include the ABA Negotiation and Client Counseling competitions, Moot Court, and Mock Trial. The BSA includes both 2L and 3L co-chairs who are assigned to specific competitions. In addition, we have 1L representatives who shadow the co-chairs and assist with the behind-the-scenes work.
Can you provide us with an overview of the various competitions?
525,600 minutes. Daylights and sunsets and midnights and cups of coffee. I’ve always found that Rent offers a beautiful melodic sampling of ways to conceptualize this fickle thing we call time. But the question, however harmonized, remains: how do you measure a year?
Thinking too long on this subject brings a heavy lump to my throat. It’s been one year. We’ve lost so much and so fast. Tearing apart businesses, families, and entire communities, the pandemic has stripped us of so much of that closeness our society once had: a handshake over a new business agreement, a scorched smile over too hot coffee on the morning commute crammed in a subway car, a visit to see a loved one, a high five with a stranger over a touchdown at the sports bar. We were told to be, for an undetermined amount of time and with no warning, alone. And yet, the very science and expertise unto which we cling to guide us through this madness is debated like the merits of contemporary art by politicians. Some people believe this is a globally orchestrated hoax. Our democracy is still in the ICU. This year has, as a great mentor of mine says, given our entire society a CAT scan. It’s shown our inequities and injustices. It’s shown the unyielding power of the few and the overwhelming lack of access for the many.
I first wrote about being a parent in law school shortly before my daughter’s second birthday. I was planning her second annual feat of strength. When she was one, she shuffled the last 100 meters up a paved path to the summit of Peter’s Hill. At two, she did a longer stretch of the road that winds around the hill. A few weeks ago, for her third birthday, she climbed straight up the hill, bottom to top, in the snow.
I started explaining the challenge to her the day before and then continued to prep her the morning of. When we started, she was ready, quiet, and about as focused as she gets. We started working our way up. In the middle, she struggled. She asked me to carry her. I told her she had to do this herself. She paused, rallied, and made it to the top. Breathing hard, but with a smile.
I took her for her three-year check-up at the pediatrician a couple of weeks later. The doctor told me, “Imagination is big at three.” She asked, “She imagine a lot?” That would be an understatement. She is constantly narrating her adventure: a highly consequential choice between the blue path and the red path, a search for a purple cow in a yellow valley, an escape from a thieving fox.
In September 1995, 30,000 activists and 17,000 participants streamed into Beijing for the opening of the Fourth World Conference on Women. For the next two weeks, representatives of 189 countries discussed and developed historic commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment around the globe. The final product of the conference was the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It was a blueprint for advancing women’s rights and it set forth thorough commitments under twelve key areas of concern, including women’s health, education, violence against women, and women in the economy.
Unfortunately, over 25 years later, no nation has achieved gender equality in all dimensions of life, as originally envisioned by the Beijing Declaration. Nearly one third of all women suffer from physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. Without adequate healthcare, nearly 800 women die giving childbirth every day. Over 80 million women globally have no legal protection against discrimination in the workplace. Not a single country is on track to achieve gender equality by the year 2030. But it seems we hear statistics like these all the time. Why, then, does gender equality remain an unattainable target?
Deciding where to go to law school is no easy task. If you are anything like I was, you may still be deciding if a city or traditional campus is right for you. You also may even be wondering if you are more of an East Coast or West Coast person (or something in between). Well, lucky for you, BC Law is hosting Admitted Student Month, which kicked off on March 1! Throughout the month of March, BC will be hosting a ton of live and recorded content, which you can find out about here.
Although this virtual world is not what any of us hoped for, both the administration and students have tried to find ways to connect with prospective students and share why we love BC Law, while answering any questions future students may have. One unique way that I have particularly enjoyed meeting prospective students is through the virtual coffee chats.
Just last week, my roommate and I hosted one over Zoom and we received a number of good questions. It immediately made me realize that many of the questions we were receiving were largely due to the fact that students can’t visit campus (if this is true for you, be sure to check out the brand new virtual tour.) Although coffee chats are still taking place throughout March (and you can sign up here), I thought it would be helpful to provide a roundup of some of the questions we’ve received, as well as our responses.
At its most basic level, a community is simply defined as a unified body of individuals. Anyone can be part of a community and, in fact, everyone is part of some community. But the power of community doesn’t arise from its mere existence: it’s created through shared values and consistent acts.
Recently, BC Law’s Black Alumni Network (BAN) provided amazing sweaters to students in the BAN mentor program. The creative sweaters happily surprised many students, but the impact didn’t come from the sweater’s creative afro-centric stitching. Rather, the impact arose from the thoughtful, intentional consideration of BAN members.
What is cancel culture? Is it a side effect of the era of social media and the 24-hour news cycle? Is it the gap-filling mechanism for the space where the American justice system has failed and yet society demands a reckoning? Is it a manifestation of the United States punitive justice methodology? Is it merely the newest iteration of an otherwise ancient human custom?
These questions and more were posed and pondered in a recent conversation held by the Criminal Law Society and BC Law Professor Steven Koh. Students shared their views on how to define cancel culture, who is subject or not subject to it, its efficacy, and its justness. The discussion stirred many of my own thoughts on this phenomenon.
As this year’s 1Ls have surely discovered, and as future attendees of BC Law will come to realize, going to law school is a strange and special experience best tackled alongside friends and peers. Whether it’s cramming rules of civil procedure into your head, navigating the do’s and don’t’s of law firm networking events, or just figuring out where to find a good cup of coffee, one’s time at BC Law is easier and more fulfilling when you leverage the buddy system. As students, it is important to find and leverage a support system at the school. Friendly classmates are one; the BC Law administration and its prioritization of the health and wellness of the student body is another. In this blog, I’m considering a third support system: the people with whom we choose to live.
BC Law places a heavy emphasis on experiential learning, beginning your 1L year. But as a 2L and 3L, you have the opportunity to dive even deeper into practice through externships or clinic experiences. You can learn more about the clinic offerings at BC here, but because I decided to take the externship route, I’ll reflect on that experience.
Through BC’s Semester-in-Practice program, students are given the opportunity to secure job placements in Boston or beyond for course credit. The number of hours per week depends on the placement and the student, and all students must participate in a weekly seminar as well. I decided to spend last semester at Tripadvisor, where I worked (virtually due to COVID) 4 days a week.