“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” – Saint Francis de Sales
In the law, and especially in litigation, it can seem like being gentle has no place. The adversarial system is set up like a zero-sum game, and it can feel like softness is in direct contrast with winning in the courtroom. However, in a profession where we lawyers are painted as aggressive and combative, perhaps gentleness is a silent strength, particularly in our relationships with our clients.
I’m in the COVID-19 Housing Relief Clinic this semester, and we spent this first week in trainings. During these training sessions, we conducted role-play situations, both interviewing and counseling “clients.” In our training, the “clients” were just our supervising professors and the situations were merely hypothetical. Yet, these simulations reflected the very types of cases and clients that, as student attorneys at the BC Legal Services Lab, we might see this semester. For example, some of these scenarios included a wife trying to keep custody of her son in a divorce case with her potentially abusive husband or a landlord using unjust practices to force evictions.
At first, I wondered how useful this training would be. After all, how much is there to learn about just talking to clients? Turns out the answer, is a lot.
Over the decade and a half since its start, The Boston College Innocence Program has amassed an astonishing reputation for its work in innocence advocacy and wrongful convictions. Bolstering an impressive record, BCIP both represents innocent individuals and works with policymakers regarding legislative reform, quite literally changing lives every step of the way.
This year in particular, BCIP has secured an impressive amount of exonerations and releases, using new evidence and instances of misconduct, with three major victories in 2020 alone:
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.
Last week, BC Law students Shannon Johnson ’15, Alejandra Salinas ’15, Jeremy Sanders ’15, and Kelly Schwartz ’15 did something many many many lawyers never get a chance to do: they argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California. See videos below…
Kelly Schwartz & Jeremy Sanders:
As future law students, I’m sure you’ve all heard the rumors and stereotypes about law schools. They run the gamut — from the terrifying and incorrect (“EVERYONE IS SO COMPETITIVE AND NO ONE IS FRIENDLY AND IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO GET AN A YOUR FIRST YEAR”), to the hilariously accurate (“Law school is high school for adults”), to the tongue-in-cheek (see, for example, Thought Catalog’s take on the 19 People You Meet in Law School). But the stereotype that most stuck out to and worried me as a prospective student was what I’d like to call the Myth of the Library Lockdown. That is, by heading off to law school, you are essentially signing yourself up for three years of good ol’ book learning, tied to a library carrel, buried under 200 pounds of Supreme Court opinions and study aids.
Don’t get me wrong. As a former English major, I can get down with the heavy reading. Chaucer, Shakespeare, and I used to be great pals; I can handle my fair share of tiny print. But that’s not why I wanted to come to law school. I taught for three years after college, came to law school with a really specific focus, and knew I wanted to get right to making an impact in real people’s lives. I was really nervous that law school was going to feel like a fruitless and frustrating gesture, a means to an end I had to just get through in order to do the work I am passionate about. But that’s because I didn’t know about clinics.