Take a handful of BC Law students and ask them who their favorite professor is—odds are at least one of them will say Professor Cassidy. Don’t get me wrong, we have so many great professors at BC Law, but between teaching criminal law, professional responsibility, and evidence, most students have had the pleasure of taking a class with Professor Cassidy at least once.
That said, it isn’t just a matter of variety. Beyond the wide breadth of classes he teaches, Professor Cassidy also keeps students enthusiastically engaged with his breakdown of complex legal topics and lighthearted anecdotes.
I sat down with Professor Cassidy to ask him about his own law school experience, career, and favorite things about BC Law.
1) Have you always wanted to be an attorney? Growing up did you think this is where you would end up?
I decided I wanted to be an attorney in the 9th grade when I read “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I was inspired by how lawyers could give voice to the voiceless in our society and be an instrument of change. I didn’t know any lawyers, except those I caddied for at the golf club. My parents were blue collar workers.
2) What was your favorite thing about law school? Least favorite?
I pretty much hated law school. Harvard Law School in the early to mid 1980’s was not a happy place to be. Several faculty who focused on Critical Legal Studies had left for other schools or had been denied tenure. Back then HLS was nicknamed the “Beirut on the Charles” because all the faculty were at war with each other. Very few of them had a student-focused perspective on their responsibilities.
BC Law Impact Editor’s Note: We pride ourselves at Boston College Law School on our unique community that cultivates an incredible student body with a brilliant faculty. This post is part of an ongoing faculty spotlight Q&A series to help students get to know the members of our faculty on a more personal level.
What do you like most about BC and why?
As hokey as it is to say, the answer is the students. I have found it to be universally true that the students are super happy to be here, kind to each other, but also really open minded in the very best sense — the sense of being able to come into class and just engage with wherever we go. So, if we’re talking about something difficult, the students are open to it and respectful with each other, but also really curious. It’s easy to create really rich academic environments because there’s sort of a low barrier of entry for the students. Compared to other teaching I’ve done at other places, I’ve just found it incredibly gratifying to be able to come into a classroom and know that, whatever you bring to the classroom, students are going to be up for it. Even if they’re sometimes surprised or off-balance, they’re not hostile, and so that means you can really do stuff in class that otherwise might be harder to do.
BC Law lost one of its giants a few weeks ago as Professor Catharine Wells passed away over spring break. She was a graceful, thoughtful, and yet commanding presence at the Law School. While there was a lovely tribute piece to her from BC Law Magazine, which included many quotes and stories from her former colleagues, there has not been a tribute from those she impacted most over her decades-long career: her students. I wanted to include some quotes and stories from students, present and past, who could properly convey what type of a person, leader, educator–and most of all human being–Professor Wells was, and what she meant to them.
The idea came to me as I walked by her old office in the East Wing the other day. I noticed a small bouquet sitting outside of her door. It wasn’t an over-the-top assortment of flowers, but it still caught my attention because of how much it reminded me of Professor Wells. It stood there in a kind of dignified, not in-your-face type of way. Its grace reminded me of a particular scene from my 1L year that I still remember fondly, and now with some sadness, of course.
When I was a 1L, my Civ Pro TA told us that Halloween was the absolute latest day to get started on outlining. What she must not have understood at the time was that I didn’t really feel like it.
I instead started outlining a few days into November instead, rebel that I am, and it worked out fine. Still, everyone runs this race at their own pace, and it’s getting to be that time – December isn’t as far away as we might like to think. For 1Ls especially, outlining can be a lengthy process when you’ve never done it before. I didn’t even know what “outlining” meant when I showed up as a 1L, let alone how to get started.
It turns out that outlining is just *checks notes* checking your notes. Essentially, it refers to the process of reviewing and reorganizing class material into a convenient document to study and use as a reference during the exam. It’s writing yourself a comprehensive study guide/cheat-sheet, synthesizing all your course content into a handy one-stop shop. At this point, that content is probably scattered across assigned readings, class recordings, presentation slides, course handouts, and your own notes. Outlining is about bringing all that stuff together, and putting it into a format that is useful for answering exam questions.
Now that I’m a 3L, endowed with the awesome wisdom a passing grade in Torts bestows, my solemn duty is to impose unsolicited and marginally-helpful-at-best advice upon you, 1L reader. Here are some outlining tips and tricks:
One of my professors doesn’t allow laptops in class. Two others strongly suggested that we not use laptops, citing the potential for distraction and the multiple studies finding that note-taking by hand is more effective than type-written notes. Beyond that, however, my professors haven’t weighed in with any additional guidance on note-taking.
But behind every page of notes there’s a unique mind and learning style, so I thought it would be interesting to ask a few classmates to share their notes from a class we took together in order to see how their distinct personalities and preferences come through. They also said a few words about what they hope to capture or accomplish when they take notes.
525,600 minutes. Daylights and sunsets and midnights and cups of coffee. I’ve always found that Rent offers a beautiful melodic sampling of ways to conceptualize this fickle thing we call time. But the question, however harmonized, remains: how do you measure a year?
Thinking too long on this subject brings a heavy lump to my throat. It’s been one year. We’ve lost so much and so fast. Tearing apart businesses, families, and entire communities, the pandemic has stripped us of so much of that closeness our society once had: a handshake over a new business agreement, a scorched smile over too hot coffee on the morning commute crammed in a subway car, a visit to see a loved one, a high five with a stranger over a touchdown at the sports bar. We were told to be, for an undetermined amount of time and with no warning, alone. And yet, the very science and expertise unto which we cling to guide us through this madness is debated like the merits of contemporary art by politicians. Some people believe this is a globally orchestrated hoax. Our democracy is still in the ICU. This year has, as a great mentor of mine says, given our entire society a CAT scan. It’s shown our inequities and injustices. It’s shown the unyielding power of the few and the overwhelming lack of access for the many.
During the past spring semester, I authored a blog post about how I missed the free coffee served by the BC Law cafeteria during the final exam period. During my 1L fall semester, I relied on that free coffee like a car relies on gas or a legislative body relies on annoying words like “heretofore.” I may have broken even on my tuition costs with the way I consumed that free coffee during 1L finals.
Of course, I was missing the free on-campus coffee last spring because I was not, in fact, on campus. No one was, due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
During those early months, things were strange and unfamiliar. You could feel the tension in the air. No one quite knew how the virus would spread, how disruptive it would be, and how long it would rage. Here at BC Law, classes (rightfully, in my opinion) were shifted to pass/fail grading while students and professors acclimated to the remote learning format.
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.
If you talk to most people at BC Law, they’ll agree that it’s a special place. It’s a place where you’ll make lifelong friends, where you’ll be challenged to think by your professors, and a place that allows you to join one of the strongest alumni networks. Looking back on my time at BC over the past few years, I can confidently say that I chose the best law school for me.
But instead of just hearing all of the reasons why I love BC, I thought you’d like to hear from a few 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls who shared their favorite parts of BC Law: