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.
If you’re anything like me, you probably had a vague idea of what law review was prior to law school. As former Impact bloggers have discussed, there are ups and downs and benefits and drawbacks. Those bloggers have covered a lot of ground, so I won’t go into all that again here. Simply put, you should definitely do some research to determine if joining law review is right for you (reading those earlier posts is a good place to start!).
That being said, I knew I wanted to join BC’s Law Review for a number of reasons. I wanted to improve my writing skills, wished to keep the door open for potential clerkship opportunities, and hoped to go into the on-campus interview process with a strong resume. Plus, BC’s Law Review does not limit you to writing within a specific subject area and I am excited to delve into an area of the law that truly excites me next semester. To me, these benefits outweighed any potential drawbacks.
Although I still know that joining Law Review was the right decision for me and I have appreciated the opportunity to work alongside great editors and staff writers, there was one factor I never fully appreciated: the pressure that accompanies getting published. Don’t get me wrong: I knew it would be an invaluable opportunity to join the legal conversation this early on in my career. But what if I had an embarrassing typo or misunderstood the law?
I didn’t necessarily think law school would be boring. I swear I didn’t. But then, I didn’t necessarily think it would be funny either.
One of the natural barriers surely standing in the way of a law professor’s mission is what I have experienced as ‘the 1L jitters.’ Personally, I was very nervous about the start of law school, a new and defining chapter in my life. I was so nervous that I didn’t get much sleep for the first couple of days. Speaking with my fellow students, it’s pretty clear that I wasn’t the only one.
Now, you don’t have to be a neuroscientist to know that getting at least a couple hours of sleep per night might be important for the learning process, so there was going to be a problem if we didn’t all release some of that 1L jitter-tension quickly. And that’s what laughter is, right? Releasing tension. I’ve found the class content lends itself to humor surprisingly well, and it’s where the professors can excel.
I’m sure a lot of you are starting to think about your personal statements. I know it can be pretty overwhelming to decide on the right approach. My advice? Don’t forget that you decide your own story.
I was not a perfect applicant. I had strong grades and a strong LSAT, but my background was…complicated. When it came time to write my personal statement, I was stuck. Do I talk about my past? I had overcome a lot. But it wasn’t something I wanted to share. And it wasn’t how I wanted to define myself to an admissions committee.
My torts professor often reminded us that lawyers are some of the last generalists. As a greater number of professions turn toward specialization, attorneys must retain their ability to move from client to client, constantly learning, always becoming well-versed in new subject areas.
This aligns with the small amount of real-world experience I have. Indigent defense carries with it no small number of clients, each fighting a battle which extends beyond any single criminal charge. Mental health, addiction, familial troubles, employment issues, educational difficulties, and systemic failures at every level are just a smattering of the struggles public interest attorneys must grapple with on a near-daily basis.
Seeing the work of public defenders up close, and knowing I planned to become one myself, I began to see a gaping hole in my legal education. If the role of a public-interest-minded law student is to become a fierce and able advocate, the traditional legal curriculum wasn’t getting me there. No matter how comfortable I became with legal writing, negotiations, client counseling, and trial practice, in three years’ time I knew I wouldn’t be ready to meet my clients where they are at.
As I have come to learn in my first few weeks at BC Law, you hit the ground running from day one, and you rarely pause to look back. I’m from Florida and never had the chance to visit the Law School as an admitted student, so everything in Newton, from navigating school zone traffic to finding parking (it’s even hard for the professors) was new to me, on top of beginning graduate level work.
It was all a bit overwhelming at first. Luckily, I had support. Lots of it.
If I had to pick three adjectives to describe 1L year, they would be busy, fairly stressful, and extremely exciting. I quickly learned that law school is a full-time job filled with a demanding workload and many commitments outside of the classroom. I also soon realized why my professors emphasized the importance of removing yourself from law school mode every so often to keep your stress levels down. But most importantly, I saw how exciting this new chapter of life was. Law school was my time to open new doors, build new friendships, and take the first step of a new career.
Now that I am a few weeks into 2L, it seems like I may be using the same three adjectives to describe this year, but with a whole new perspective. I no longer am transitioning from a 9 to 5 job or spending far too long on a three-page case. I know what a final exam looks like, and can estimate about how long an outline will take me to make. More importantly, I can tell you what I hope to pursue career-wise and have made great friends along the way.
Although some things may stay the same, here are a few ways in which my perspectives have changed:
Just days into my law school experience, I was beginning to crack under the pressure of my classmates’ impressive achievements. I had met lots of amazing people I would be spending the next three years with, and I already felt as if I was behind schedule.
Their lives seemed filled with work experiences in fabulous cities, fancy internships with important people and exquisite accomplishments at the country’s top schools. These experiences were just part of their lives, or at least so it seemed. I could not help but wonder—what was I doing here?
It feels like just yesterday when I was getting ready to pack my car and head to Boston for my first year of law school. Now, the last week of my internship is quickly approaching and it’s hard to believe that on-campus interviews (or “OCI”) are right around the corner.
I spent this past summer interning for a judge at the D.C. Superior Court who presided over domestic relations matters. Coming from a divorced family myself, I was intrigued to learn about how these issues were handled in court. But part of me also worried that I would not truly be able to immerse myself in the subject area when I had no exposure to it from my first year’s classes and no intention of pursuing a career in family law.
However, I am happy to report back that interning for a judge exposed me to a lot, taught me important skills for my future career, and made me excited for next year’s classes. Here’s a breakdown of lessons I learned:
In my first post after my own graduation, I am pleased to host a blog by BC Law student and editorial assistant Marija Tesla, who writes about her family’s refugee story in honor of World Refugee Day.
I was six years old when politics became an integral part of who I am; it was then that I knew I wanted to work toward forging peace in the world. Growing up, my imaginary friends weren’t imaginary at all, they were the politicians whose names I heard every night, those who could not craft a compromise to achieve peace and stop a war I desperately wanted to end. It was there on my grandparents’ farm in a small village on the outskirts of Karlovac, Croatia in 1995 that I became a negotiator, addressing Franjo Tuđman, Slobodan Milošević, Alija Izetbegović—my own imaginary Dayton Accords. I escaped as a refugee in 1995, leaving Croatia and the farm that was my home.
Twenty-four years later, I am pursuing a career in law with a focus on global governance, human rights, refugee and immigration law, and negotiation—the very thing that was necessary in the Balkans in the early 1990s and is desperately needed today in Syria, Myanmar, Venezuela, and many other parts of the globe, including the United States of America. As a former refugee, I am aware of the interplay between local and global agents, and I understand the power and interconnectedness of both. I will always believe that government is about community, and I will continuously fight to protect the essence of what it means to belong to that community. After all, such communities, local and global, uprooted and rectified my life equally.