Visiting the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Impact is running a series of posts on student reflections from their Spring Break Service Trips and experiential work last month. Find the first post here, and the second post here. These posts were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we think the messages are too important to go unshared. Today’s post is from Marija Tesla, who writes about her experience as part of BC Law’s International Human Rights Practicum visit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Stay safe everyone, and please reach out to us at bclawimpact@bc.edu if we can do anything to help, or if you would like us to consider publishing a guest post on your own experiences during the outbreak.


When Professor Daniela Urosa chose me to be a part of the inaugural International Human Rights Practicum, to say that I was elated would be an understatement. It was a dream come true for me! She told me that it was a dream come true for her as well. Having guided instruction from her in our weekly meetings and in her seminar is the best part of my law school experience thus far. I am truly grateful to her and to Boston College Law School for making this clinic a reality. I know that it involved many years of hard work on the part of many, including Professor Judith McMorrow and Professor Daniel Kanstroom. 

My partner in the clinic is Nadia Bouquet, who is an LL.M. student from Paris, France, studying at Université Paris Nanterre. We are working on writing an amicus brief to submit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) which relates to a case that is going to be heard by the Court in San José, Costa Rica later this year. There are six of us in the clinic, and we work in pairs of two on one amicus brief, each amicus relating to a different case and a different set of issues. Four of us are J.D. candidates and two are LL.M. candidates, which makes the conversations and the work that much richer. Most of us are also transnational thinkers, speaking multiple languages and having lived in different parts of the globe. We recognize the importance of IACtHR, which is an amalgamation of both the civil and common law, while also being its own unique regional system. It is why it is great to have students with such diverse backgrounds and different lived experiences who also come from both of the legal systems in the clinic, and who appreciate both the importance and complexity of international law and regional systems. 

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Miami Service Trip: Catholic Legal Services

Impact is running a series of posts on student experiences during their Spring Break Service Trips last month. Find the first post here. These posts were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we think the messages are too important to go unshared. We will share our third post tomorrow.

Stay safe everyone, and please reach out to us at bclawimpact@bc.edu if we can do anything to help, or if you would like us to consider publishing a guest post on your own experiences during the outbreak.


Spring break is often seen as a way to relax from the rigors of law school and recharge for the sprint to the end of the school year. But for 65 first-year students, Spring Break was a way to get a taste for what working in the public interest field entails. The trips ranged from helping Native American legal offices to aiding asylum-seeking immigrants living in Miami.

In addition to raising their own money to go on these service trips, students were broken up into teams assigned to these different cities, working for different pro-bono organizations.

Four students traveled to Miami to volunteer at Catholic Legal Services in Miami. Below they reflect on their favorite parts of the trip.

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Opportunity Knocks: The Attorney General Civil Litigation Program

The view from the twentieth floor of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office building is incredible. From the executive conference room you can see clear to the Heights; BC’s Gasson bell tower rises above the surrounding suburbs. From my desk, I could peek out onto Boston Harbor or the Charles River, depending on which way I turned. One day I caught glimpses of the tall ships taking their annual jaunt through the harbor. Viewed through a metaphorical lens the height of the AG’s office, which towers above the statehouse next door, hints at the independence, responsibility, and power bestowed on the office. In Massachusetts, the AG (who is elected, not appointed, and is currently Maura Healey) both protects and enforces the state’s laws, and stands up for its citizens when the federal government’s actions threaten them. Every year, a select few third-year BC Law students get to peek into and experience the extensive and demanding work behind fulfilling those duties. Last year, I had the fortune of being one of those students.

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What I’ve Learned About Networking and Giving Back

“Who should we talk to?” I whispered to my fellow networking newbie, scanning the reception room.  

“I don’t know,” she whispered back. “I feel awkward.”

Thinking back to that night last September at the 1L Boot Camp Kickoff hosted by WilmerHale, I realize that I’ve come a long way in just a few months. I, like many of my peers, didn’t think I was the “networking type of person.” What did I—straight out of college with no legal experience or background—possibly have to talk about with big-deal attorneys who’ve been in the legal profession for longer than I’ve been alive?

Recognizing that I’m still far from an expert at this game, here are some things I’ve learned. Lesson one: with practice, networking does get easier.

Lesson two: the payoff can be enormous.

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Fighting for Juvenile Rights: Why You Should Consider JRAP

Lawyers have their own language. It might be a little frustrating at times, but that is the reason we spend three painful years in law school learning how to think, speak, and write like lawyers. By the time we pass the bar, we have been equipped with a roadmap that allows us to navigate the complex legal arena. Of course, we are not the only profession with its own language. In fact, almost all professions have terminology that is commonly understood by those within the profession, but confusing to those outside of it.

This year I am participating in Boston College’s Juvenile Rights Advocacy program, and I am busy learning yet another language. Do you know what the acronym IEP stands for? Have you ever heard the terms FAPE? What is the difference between the BSEA and OCR? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, don’t worry, many people don’t know them.  IEP stands for Individual Education Plan, and as the name suggests, it’s an educational term. The BSEA is a court that is used to resolve education disputes; it stands for Bureau of Special Education Appeals. The OCR stands for Office of Civil Rights, which is another court that can be used for certain types of education related claims. FAPE is a legal term that stands Free Appropriate Public Education, which is a federal right and typically the basis for the claims that would be brought in front of the BSEA or OCR. As for CRA, it is not strictly an education term, however, many children who require specialized education services also require the help that a CRA grants. CRA stands for Child Requiring Assistance, and parents file them with the courts when they need the courts help to supervise their children. 

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Beyond BC: Faculty Leaders Testify Before Congress

Our professors are shaping legislative conversation around the world. Just last month, Renee Jones, Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at BC Law, testified before the House Financial Services Committee regarding the risks of large private companies on investors, employees, consumers and society. Jones joins four (4!) other BC Law professors who have testified before the world’s highest committees in the past year.

While I remain impressed by the daily commitment our faculty shows to its students, I cannot help but add that these professors go above and beyond in showing their dedication to scholarship. Serving as leaders in their fields, the entire BC Law faculty are diligently working to educate actors and tackle pressing issues (like billion-dollar “unicorns,” donor advised funds and philanthropy, intellectual property and drug patents, broadband access, and banking regulation) well beyond the confines of the BC Law buildings–in fact, around the globe.

Pretty cool, right? You can read more about the recent testimony of Jones and BC Law Professors Olson, Lyons, McCoy and Madoff here at BC Law Magazine.

Advocacy Comes in Many Forms: Combining Journalism, Law School, and Passion to Produce Change

There are many things you can do with your law degree. Just ask Caroline Reilly, a recent BC Law grad and former Impact blogger who has combined her passion for journalism with her legal education and training to advocate for change in reproductive health practices.

While at BC Law, Caroline took part in the school’s LEAPS program. The goal of LEAPS, or Leaders Entering and Advancing Public Service, is to provide opportunities for students to discover and develop their talents for advancing the public good through their chosen legal path. For Caroline, this path began with her desire to advocate for reproductive rights.

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Inadvertently Becoming a 1.5L

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.

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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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