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?
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.
I like to think I’m a generally positive person: I take time each day to note what I’m grateful for, I laugh a lot (maybe too much), and I try to maintain an upbeat demeanor. When the pandemic hit, I wanted to make sure I kept my positivity, so I took the free Yale University Science of Wellbeing course. I also started listening to podcasts like Ten Percent Happier and The Science of Happiness. Yet, as the year comes to a close and I reflect on 2020, I can’t help but think that, frankly, a lot about this year simply sucked.
Throughout the pandemic, there seemed to be a message of “good vibes only” created on social media and online, with many people touting the pandemic as ‘a blessing in disguise.’ Now, I will be the first to point out the benefits of gratitude and positivity; I know they work wonders for both emotional and physical health because they personally have for me. At the same time, I do yearn for my life to go back to “normal.” While I was able to discover silver linings throughout the year, the reality is that I didn’t want this pandemic in the first place, and I don’t want to feel guilty about feeling this way.
I proudly spend some of my time between Zoom classes, case briefs, and outlines, scrolling through Tik Tok while attempting to escape the pressures of 1L. I may browse Facebook and Instagram every now and then, too. I’m often left laughing at unbelievably clever people from around the world as they try to inject some joy into our current existence called 2020.
One of the recent video trends shows people preparing to “turn up” on New Year’s to mark the end of this infamous year. Most people would agree that 2020 has been unusually chaotic. We’ve experienced a global shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, heard Black Lives Matter chanted from every corner of the country, and we’re currently living through one of the most polarizing elections in modern history. Not to mention, our society lost some impactful people: Rest in Power John Lewis, Justice Ginsburg, Chadwick Boseman, Kobe, and Mr. Trebek, just to name a few.
It’s safe to say that we are living in transformational times.
I think we can all agree that last week was unbearable. As Election Day turned into Election Week, we earnestly refreshed our news feeds while struggling through case readings. As of Saturday, it was finally over (kind of). I know many of us are tired of the political discourse, but there’s still work ahead. As members of a law school situated in an area that voted overwhelmingly in favor of Biden, it might be easy to settle into our bubbles and set aside the nation’s immense division. Unfortunately, that mindset won’t help to find a solution. In this post, I share a few proposed remedies to mend our polarized society. I’d like to include the caveat that I haven’t necessarily implemented all of these myself.
First up is the work of René H. Levy. Levy is a neuroscientist and author of the book Mending America’s Political Divide, where he utilizes his scientific expertise to propose practical solutions. Levy attributes the increasing political divide to our primitive psychology. He breaks this down into two innate instincts: political tribalism and political hatred, both of which result in a profound loss of empathy. Levy’s action plan highlights impulse control and empathy skills as two main methods to rebuild and coexist:
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.
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.
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.
As a 1L, you often hear advice to “Do your own thing,” and “Study whatever way works for you,” or “Stick to your learning style from undergrad.” However, if you’re still figuring that out or if you’re willing to try something new, I’ve compiled a list of study tips. Despite the increase in open-book exams afforded by the pandemic, let’s not be lulled into a false sense of security. Below are five scientifically based tips that may accelerate committing your material to long-term memory.
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.