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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.