Hello From DC: Lessons from My Judicial Internship

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:

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Why BC Law was the Right Choice for Me

I am happy to host a guest blog today from Vincent Lau, ’97, on why BC Law’s community continues to make it the right choice. 


I still remember the very first week when I was a 1L years ago when Dean Avi Soifer both informed and assured us that the Boston College Law School was an extended community. While I haven’t thought too much more about the actual speech until now, his characterization of BC Law was definitely accurate. Looking back at the different stages of my relationship with the school, I couldn’t agree more.

BEFORE

When I was accepted to BC Law I was very excited but also torn. At the time, I was living in California and was offered admission into one of the reputable state schools in California, with an in-state resident tuition price tag. And, having grown up on the East Coast, I wanted to stay longer in California. What convinced me was that all of the BC Law alumni with whom I spoke were very pleased with their education and the experience they received. In fact, they freely shared with me how much they enjoyed their time there. How could I say no?

DURING

While attending BC Law has been over 20 years ago, what sticks out in my mind about my experience is the access that I had to my professors. While BC Law attracts some of the brightest legal minds, these are also professors who are dedicated to the learning process and ensuring that they set aside time for their students. I was floored by the attention that I received. This you don’t find in many other places and again emphasizes the sense of community there.

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Wanted: Termites

Anthony Ray Hinton spent thirty years on death row for a crime he did not commit.

Commanding a spellbound crowd on the Boston College Chestnut Hill Campus (where undergraduate classes are), Mr. Hinton took students, faculty, and members of the public through three decades of despair, faith, fury, friendship, and humor. He was often emotional, always passionate, and amazingly graceful. For nearly an hour and a half, it was impossible to think of anything but spending thirty years in a five by seven cell.

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My Most Valuable BC Law Experience

I’m pleased to host a guest post from 3L Jared Friedberg, who spent some time last year working in BC’s Immigration Clinic.

With the semester winding down and people thinking about next year, I wanted to provide a recommendation: enroll in the immigration clinic. I spent my 2L year in the immigration clinic, and as I look back on my time at BC, it was the most impactful experience that I have had in law school.

The purpose of a clinic is to give students the opportunity to work directly with clients. In the immigration clinic, that means visits to immigration court, detention facilities, the clients’ homes, and anywhere else that the case requires you to go. Over the course of two semesters, I had five clients. While representing our clients, my classmates and I met their families, friends, and coworkers. Some of them lived a few streets from where I grew up and some lived across the world.

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A Grateful Listener: Family Court Judge Reflects on Lessons Learned

Today I’m very pleased to be able to host a guest blog from the Hon. James V. Menno ‘86, who recently retired after more than two decades of service as an associate justice of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court.

Despite the number of people sitting on the hard benches in this sunlit courtroom, there is a respectful silence.  An ordinary person is sitting in the witness box.  She has taken an oath to tell the truth.  Her descriptive answers to her attorney’s questions begin to weave together a story.  It is a deeply personal story that provides unique insight into her and the children of her fractured family.  She tells this story to another ordinary person, me, who also happens to be the judge. We are separated by a bench, a black robe and the roles we play.  But we are joined together as co-participants in the daily unfolding of the actual Rule of Law.

Her role is to honestly tell the difficult story that has led to this moment. Tomorrow, her husband will sit in the same chair and do the same.  My role is to listen to them as unique individuals, determine which facts are true, and (utilizing the applicable law) make a decision that will allow them and their children to transition from one family to two single-parent families.  Whew! What a daunting task this is for both of us, the storyteller and the listener.

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1L: Bringing It All Back Home

On a whim, I opened my personal statement for the first time since hitting ‘submit’ nearly a year ago. Preparing to face my tendency to over-write, a habit which lends itself to often-cringeworthy grand pronouncements, I queued up the Aspiring Public Interest Lawyers Greatest Hits: “Is It Still Worth It? (After Signing that Promissory Note),” “Oh, Really? You’re Going to Save the World?” and the classic, “Naiveté.”

Instead, I came face-to-face with the prospect that the young, impressionable, wannabe lawyer nursing the cheapest drink on the coffee shop menu in exchange for five hours of Wi-Fi knew everything he needed to know.

See? Grand pronouncements.

Sure, one year ago, I would have failed every single first year course. I couldn’t brief, or outline, or read, or write, or even speak effectively. My Lexis points stood at zero and I had nary a dollar of Westlaw Starbucks gift cards. Every one of my classmates would have prayed to the almighty curve I was in their section. One year ago, I was a terrible law student.

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The Path to the Bar: Step 1, MPRE

Last Spring, we published the first of a series of posts about the bar. That post talked about course selection with the bar in mind; you can read it here. Today we are looking at the MPRE, which is a first step on the path to passing the bar.

In most states, before you can sit for the bar, you must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). It’s two hours long, and contains sixty multiple choice questions testing knowledge of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which most states have adopted in some version. The MPRE does not test your personal ethics; it tests how well you know the Model Rules and how you apply them to factual hypotheticals. Continue reading

1L: Six Weeks In, Still Here

I left the Jesuit Volunteer Corps with an Orleans Public Defenders shirt, heavy emotional scarring, and a strong idea of justice. I was prepared to ride into law school on a wave of virtue and morality, certain I knew what needed to be done and how I was going to do it. That wave crashed me right into Civil Procedure and Pennoyer and Rule 12(b)(3) and Contracts and estoppel and intent, and it wasn’t long before I realized it was going to be a while before I was certain of anything again.

Pretty dramatic, but the spirit is true. Law school is a change. There is a transition from being a normal person to a person who thinks legal jokes are funny. Still, overall, most of my preconceived notions have been proved wrong. Cold calls are not that bad, my classmates are also not that bad (fine, they’re pretty great), and six weeks in I have yet to muster any dazzling legal wisdom for family or friends.

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A Necessary Look at Mental Health in Law School

This is the second in a series of posts drawing attention to Law Student Mental Health Day. You can read our first post here. If you want to share your story with us about feeling out of place, send a few lines to bclawimpact@bc.edu, or use the social media hashtag #fittingin.

It can be unbelievably daunting to ask for help. An environment where competition is paramount and the drive for success is all-encompassing makes help-seeking seem risky and shameful. Fear often paralyzes and dissuades so that many individuals don’t pursue help they need.

I was fearful my 1L year. I was fearful of imperfection and failure. I was fearful that admission of my difficulties would make them more real, would show that I was weak, and would indicate that I could not succeed in school or in my chosen career.

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It’s a Good Time to be a Lawyer

I am pleased to host a guest blog today from Jason Giannetti, a 2003 graduate of Boston College Law School.


I have been an immigration attorney in Massachusetts for fifteen years and I’ve never been as proud to be one as I am now.

Let’s face it, in American popular opinion, lawyers are not exactly considered super heroes.  In fact, in films such as The Incredibles, lawyers are the anti-superhero.  It is due to them and their litigation and lobbying that the “supers” have to renounce their superpowers to be like all the rest of us.  In the 1993 film Philadelphia, though attorney Joe Miller (played by Denzel Washington) turns out to be the hero of the film, Andy, his client (played by Tom Hanks), asks, “Joe, what do you call a thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean?”  The answer: “A good start.”

Be that as it may, America is one of the most litigious nations on the planet.  Perhaps Americans have low regard for lawyers because they are such “a necessary evil” in the eyes of most.  The only profession with lower regard is politician and, as we all know, many of those politicians are themselves lawyers.

However, I think that besides hemming in people’s exercise of strength (Incredibles) and creating bureaucratic and structural obstacles to swift justice (Philadelphia), the real source of America’s collective ire with attorneys is that they seem to disregard the truth: they are mercenary warriors, defending whatever position (right or wrong, truthful or not) that pays the bills.  The most egregious example of this to date is Rudy Giuliani’s statement, “Truth is not truth.”

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