My semester ended over a week ago, so of course I already miss BC Law desperately. Final exams really just leave you wanting more. Hindered by my inability to time travel forward to the fall semester, I’ve decided to instead live vicariously through Elle Woods so that I can get back to the law school experience.
Thusly, while viewing the lauded documentary film “Legally Blonde” for the first time, I engaged in a critical analysis to see just how well it actually captures the genuine law school experience. In its totality, I would say the film is 99% accurate to what incoming students can expect from their 1L year at BC Law. However, there are a few minor inaccuracies worth mentioning. Just ten, as a matter of fact. Here they are:
As elections approach for student organizations, I want to make a pitch to 1Ls who are on the fence about whether they can make a commitment to a student organization on top of the normal commitments of law school.
1Ls, this year has no doubt been challenging and strange. While 2Ls were able to spend half of our first year just popping into events to take food and spend time with friends, 1Ls need to make a much more concerted effort to join Zoom events to network, listen to speakers, or even socialize. That’s taxing. I understand and it makes sense why your affinity for student groups might be less than ours was.
When I started law school, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I had worked for a few years, and it was strange to think about being in a classroom and having homework again. Plus, I knew that law school was going to be a completely different beast than college, with things like the curve, outlining, and cold calls. Luckily, BC Law fosters an extremely supportive environment, including by assigning upperclassman mentors to 1Ls, and tries to give you all the tools you need for success early on. But most of what I figured out about law school was through trial and error. Therefore, I reached out to a few 1Ls with the following question to see what they learned from their first semester at BC Law.
You’ve survived your first semester of law school. Looking back, what advice do you have for your first semester 1L self?
The first month of law school felt daunting, yet inspiring. The incentive to perform well and desire to keep pace with my classmates helped sustain my initiative. As that motivation began to diminish slowly, once finals were over I entered a complete hibernation from my legal studies. While it’s necessary to step back and recharge over break, it’s not so easy to make the return to a new semester.
As we all know, in law school there is no “syllabus week.” Instead we jolt into full length classes and hundreds of pages of readings. If you’re also struggling with the stark transition from over-indulging in the latest HBO series (I recommend His Dark Materials) to your respective Wolters Kluwer, I’ve researched a number of techniques to reinvigorate motivation.
As we began the second full semester under the hybrid in-person and online model this week, I found myself thinking back to the beginning of my first semester as a 1L. As a chatty person, I filled much of the first few weeks of law school trying to meet and talk to my fellow classmates, learning about their general backgrounds. Everyone was so overwhelmingly interesting that I felt I would be learning new things about the people in my section well into the rest of the year.
Looking back, I felt a pang of longing for those first few weeks. I had taken these passing conversations and small talks for granted, thinking there would always be time to chat with the people who filled the seats in my classes and the halls of the school. I would have never guessed that I would be taking remote classes in my apartment, only seeing my classmates through a computer screen.
But at the same time, in the midst of the strained communication and connection that we all have faced over the past year, I found myself longing to understand people better: to connect and learn about others in ways a simple conversation likely would not yield.
The newest issue of BC Law Magazine features five students’ personal admission essays. These narratives not only reflect students’ passions, tribulations, and motivations, but masterfully display how events in the lives of these students have both defined who they are and propelled them to become who they want to be. These essays, and the students who wrote them, present a sense of connection to the BC Law community, as we learn about some of our fellow students and what motivates them to pursue a career in law.
You can read the personal admission essays here. You can also check out the entire Winter 2021 edition of the BC Law Magazine on their website.
I’m not sure it’s possible to actually prepare for the first year of law school. After I submitted my applications in the Fall of 2019, I concocted all sorts of ideas to prepare and “get an edge”. I started by reading several books including The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and some excerpts from Law School Confidential. I considered enrolling in prep courses to regain study skills. I’m pretty sure none of these tactics actually helped my GPA or experience (although both books are phenomenal reads).
As I wrote about in a previous blog post Act Like You Belong. Because You Do., the best strategy is to remain confident in your abilities that have propelled you this far. There is a lot of weight put on the competition in law school, which is not helpful. Plus, I’ve found within the BC community, my classmates want everyone to do well, not just themselves. My greatest mindset shift after surviving the first semester is that the only thing I can control is the amount of effort I put towards my studies. I like to think of my job as a law student described by three functions: academic success, professional exposure, and social network. After a semester under my belt, I intend to adjust course in three specific ways that correspond to each of those functions to boost my experience and performance at Boston College.
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.
When this year’s 1Ls sit down for their first Property Law class they are likely to discuss Pierson v. Post. The case concerns a dispute over who owned a wild fox killed during a hunt. Lodowick Post and his pack of hunting dogs were in pursuit of the fox, having chased it through a stretch of the town commons when Jesse Pierson suddenly intervened to kill and claim it. Post insisted that the fox was rightly his, as he and his pack of hounds had been in pursuit and were on the verge of capturing it. Pierson countered that a wild animal is no one’s property until it is definitively captured or killed.
Pierson is a 1L classic because it dramatizes the legal construction of ownership. The dividing line between the fox’s state of nature and its state as property is whatever the majority opinion says it is. More subtly, the case also dramatizes a key assumption driving much of Anglo-American property law: settling the question of ownership clarifies many of the rights and responsibilities that shape our relations as political subjects. Pierson can feel anachronistic, with the majority discussing obscure legal treatises and the minority perseverating on the noxiousness of foxes. But the case was not really about a fox.
The coronavirus has changed every facet of our lives, and being a law student is no different. For incoming students, the School’s typical in-person Orientation program is just not going to work (with about 250 new students on the way, think social distancing requirements and crowd size limits). So BC Law has announced that it will be running virtual programs all summer and launching new webinars, get-to-know virtual sessions for Career Services, Alumni and Academic and Student Services, and new programs like “The Nest,” where current students help match up and guide small cohorts of incoming students in meet-and-greet sessions online.
Last year’s “Zero-L” online introduction to law school program is back too and better than ever, and so is the “Lawyering Fundamentals” course (held online this year and led by Academic Success Program Director Nina Farber). LF helps incoming students practice key skills and get feedback on writing and legal analysis before they actually start their classes.
All this content, as well as checklists and FAQs, can be found on the new Incoming Student Experience Website.
In the first days of social distancing, my daughter kept asking about school. She had a vague understanding of how weekends typically broke up her daycare routine but eventually it became clear that this one had stretched on to an absurd degree. Every morning for the first couple of weeks of lockdown she asked, “Baby go to school?” Then she rattled off the names of her teachers and classmates. Those early days were tough. She’s very social. School is thrilling for her. I was not an adequate replacement for ten friends and two loving teachers.
All work spaces and readings are shared.