I Can’t Wait Until This Is All Over: Three Ways To Respond To 2020

I proudly spend some of my time between Zoom classes, case briefs, and outlines, scrolling through Tik Tok while attempting to escape the pressures of 1L. I may browse Facebook and Instagram every now and then, too. I’m often left laughing at unbelievably clever people from around the world as they try to inject some joy into our current existence called 2020.

One of the recent video trends shows people preparing to “turn up” on New Year’s to mark the end of this infamous year. Most people would agree that 2020 has been unusually chaotic. We’ve experienced a global shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, heard Black Lives Matter chanted from every corner of the country, and we’re currently living through one of the most polarizing elections in modern history. Not to mention, our society lost some impactful people: Rest in Power John Lewis, Justice Ginsburg, Chadwick Boseman, Kobe, and Mr. Trebek, just to name a few.

It’s safe to say that we are living in transformational times.

Continue reading

What Do Conservatives Believe?

In the early days of the pandemic, I read a tweet suggesting that public health authorities seeking to overcome conservative skepticism about the virus should heed the lessons of Cultural Cognition. Cultural cognition is a theory, coming out of Yale Law School, that perception of factual issues is shaped by normative commitments. In other words, our moral beliefs shape how we understand facts.

Around the same time I read that tweet, a conservative friend warned me about various Governors’ lock down orders and local officials’ enforcement of social distancing measures. He said that once government assumes a new power, it is unlikely to give it up. It seemed absurd to me to imagine governors and state health officials as crypto-fascists eager to control citizen’s lives. I have, however, ranted at and to my friends and family about federal government surveillance powers using the exact same argument.

Continue reading

Flying Blind: How I Decided on Law School at the Height of COVID-19

October of 2019, just one year ago, feels like a different world.

I had just received my LSAT score as I was sitting at a car service shop with my laptop, waiting for an oil change and completing my first law school applications. I remember the poorly formatted sinkhole that is the LSAC website, and obsessing over every comma and margin—imagining some doomsday scenario in which a tweedy and officious admissions officer made a decision based on some typo I had neglected or word I had misused.

I figured that after a few months of apprehensively refreshing my Outlook junk folder (where all my law school emails automatically went for reasons I’ve never been able to determine) I would start receiving admissions decisions. I imagined flying from place to place, attending admitted students’ weekends and trying to figure out what the next chapter looked like for me. I also imagined where I would be a year later, attending class and getting to know new people.

Waiting for those decisions proved difficult. I spent my downtime watching movies. This helped me take my mind off of the admissions message boards that I scrolled through each day, examining the auguries’ of my peers’ decision results to try and predict how I might fare. 

In an old World War II movie I watched, there was a scene in which a pilot regaled his buddies about the travails of “flying blind” through dense cloud cover and fog across the English Channel. The phrase stuck with me. It perfectly described where I was at, and what little I knew about what was on the horizon. 

Continue reading

Five Silver Linings of Online Classes

I know I’m only four weeks into my legal education, and less than one sentence into this blog post, but I already feel compelled to start with a disclaimer.

This post is intentionally optimistic. The world has been feeling like a grim place lately. Although I’m presenting some bright sides to having class online, I don’t want to ignore the fact that the shift to online education has widened already existing educational  disparities.

With no further ado, let’s talk about some good things for a change:

Continue reading

Return to BC, Online Classes, and the Strange Dog in My Backyard

We’re over a month into the fall semester here at BC Law, and things are falling into a new but familiar rhythm. Hopefully the 1Ls are feeling a little bit more on top of what law school entails now that they’re at the back-end of September. For us returning students, hopefully it feels like a return to some kind of normalcy and productivity.

But of course, this semester isn’t business as usual. We are all in a hybrid-learning model, with some classes online and some classes in-person. We track our health and take precautions like social distancing and wearing masks, all while spending most of our time bound in our homes for the sake of public health and safety. I am in a safe and secure place, so I can’t complain; especially considering all the uncertainty 1Ls must be experiencing as they start law school, and the challenges that students are facing from this economic decline, its impacts on the job market and recruiting, its implications for competitive grading among students, and the drudgery of social isolation. These days, I spend what feels like every hour of every day in my all-in-one bedroom/office/home gym/living room, just staring out a window waiting for a dog.  

Continue reading

My Unexpected Summer Experience

To put it simply, I did not have the summer I expected. Like many of my peers, my summer associate program was cancelled, I had to put vacation plans on hold, and I was forced to think about the post-grad job market way more than I wanted. But this unexpected turn of events (thank you, COVID-19) led to an incredible opportunity at Citrix.

During the fall of my 2L year, I took a Privacy Law course with Peter Lefkowitz, Chief Privacy & Digital Risk Officer at Citrix. I had gotten to know Peter pretty well over the course of the semester, and had gone to him for career advice before. So, when I discovered I suddenly had no summer plans, I took a chance, reached out to Peter, and asked if he had any suggestions for how to gain privacy-related experience while I had this downtime. Lucky for me, Citrix was in the middle of launching its first legal internship program, and Peter had the perfect opportunity.

Continue reading

Your Good News This Week: BC Law Comes Together to Meet Needs

To help address the impact of COVID-19 on students’ summer work plans, the legal needs of individuals and public interest organizations, and to support ongoing research projects, BC Law faculty and staff have come together to offer two new opportunities.

The BC Law COVID-19 Legal Services Project (CVLSP) provides legal assistance and advice to individuals and organizations affected by COVID-19 disruptions or who provide public interest services. In this virtual law firm, law student volunteers, under the supervision of experienced practitioners, will advocate for and assist those in need. The anticipated work includes habeas corpus petitions and bond hearings in the Federal District Court on behalf of ICE detainees; interviewing and counseling individuals to facilitate receipt of unemployment benefits under the CARES Act; consumer debt assistance; compassionate release legal assistance; and legal research to organizations and entities.

Continue reading

The Four Best “Good News” Stories You Need Right Now

1. In twist of fate, Dallas Community Serves 1L Connie Lee’s Family Restaurant

First-year student Connie Lee’s parents run a restaurant where she grew up in Dallas, Texas. “When our state began requiring restaurants to only do take-out or delivery, and issuing stay-at-home orders, my family feared what would happen these next few weeks,” Lee said.

In addition to physically endangering essential workers and their families, COVID-19 financially strains restaurants like the Lee’s and other small businesses with each passing day.

“My family has had the restaurant for 21 years now, and most of our customers have been there since day one,” Lee said. In recent weeks, instead of serving the surrounding community as it normally would, the restaurant and the Lee family has found the community serving them.

“Multiple people called my dad and gave him a pep talk for the first few days to not give up and let him know that he would get through this. A few people had sent us a greeting card with some donations gathered by neighbors,” Lee said.

Acts of kindness and selflessness like this sharply contrast the day-to-day drone of dark news and whirlwind of public health and financial variability. Lee says that expressing gratitude and looking forward to the return to relative normalcy is her focus for now: “I really don’t know what to say but thank you to them, and eventually to give everyone a hug once we are able to meet again. It’s really amazing to see how connected we can feel even in a time of distance and uncertainty.”

2. Alum Paul Trifiletti ’10 Negotiates 5-Day Jeopardy! Run

Athens, Georgia-based attorney becomes five-day champion, wins over $100,000

According to the Athens Banner-Herald, Paul Trifiletti’s success playing alongside syndicated Jeopardy! broadcasts encouraged him to try out for the real thing.

Trifiletti passed online qualifying rounds, an in-person audition, and an additional test before Sony Pictures Studios in California called, offering him a shot.

An Assistant District Attorney with the Piedmont Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, Trifiletti fought hard from start to finish. Down $1,400 heading into Final Jeopardy in his first game, Trifiletti correctly answered the ’20th Century Artists’ category to pass the leader and collect $21,000 as the new champion.

Perhaps the most notable moment came when a question drew on Trifiletti’s recollections of 1776 Philadelphia, this time beyond the world of Constitutional law. To a question asking for the nickname of Philadelphia 76’er Joel Embiid that “describes the 76’ers strategy of improving the team,” Trifiletti answered “Do a 180.’” In response, Embiid, known as “The Process,” changed his Twitter handle from “Joel ‘The Process’ Embiid” to “Joel ‘Do a 180’ Embiid???.” He has not changed it back.

Trifiletti finished his five-day run with $106,801. According to Jeopardy’s Tournament of Champions Tracker, he is poised to return for the program’s 15-player tournament of the season’s top champions.

Back in Athens, a young boy approached Trifiletti upon recognizing him from the show. The Athens Banner-Herald reports that Trifiletti told him to keep studying hard in school and that one day he, too, could be on the show.

“I encourage people who want to try to take the test,” Trifiletti said. “You could end up like me, end up getting on the show, end up winning five games. You never know.”

3. Professor Chirba Invokes Krazinski, Hamilton in Pedagogical Pep Talk

Newton hometown hero John Krazinski and the cast of Hamilton brought Professor Mary Ann Chirba’s Law Practice II class “full circle.”

At the beginning of the year, nearly every student in Professor Mary Ann Chirba’s Law Practice class was completely unfamiliar with legal research, analysis, and writing. BC Law’s flagship first-year Law Practice program introduces students to the work of a lawyer through legal problem solving in a simulated law practice setting. To set the stage, Professor Chirba showed students the clip of Lin-Manuel Miranda singing the opening song from Hamilton for the first time in public. She emphasized Miranda’s masterful display of linguistic precision, cogent argument, and word economy.

Off-broadway workshops were years away for Hamilton at that point, not to mention the popular adoration and critical acclaim it continues to enjoy. Similarly distant yet attainable, Professor Chirba explained to her students, was the endgame of the Law Practice journey: becoming efficient and effective legal practitioners.

“That was then, this is now,” Professor Chirba wrote in an email to her Law Practice class earlier this month, linking to the Hamilton cast’s surprise appearance on John Krazinski’s mini-series, Some Good News. “You are working on your final memos and need to focus on precision, concision, and TONS of large and small choices” regarding the content, phrasing, sequence, emphasis, and cohesion of the final product. Parting with words of encouragement relevant not only to her class but to anyone grasping for a ray of inspiration, Professor Chriba wrote of the clip:

“It will remind you that people are good, your future is bright, and you cannot throw away your…”

4. Multigenerational Teaching, Learning Offer Lessons in Law and Levity

To give his first-year Constitutional Law students a needed boost on April Fool’s Day, Professor Daniel Farbman turned to uncommon teaching assistants.

Professor Farbman posted two “administrative” videos on the course website, titled “Class Mechanics Update Video” and “Grading Policy Update Video.” He then instructed the class to watch them in preparation for a discussion to follow.

It turns out that they were videos of his two adorable children — one giving a lecture on her bouncy ball and another reading The Pigeon Needs a Bath.

“I was having a tough week, but these videos cheered me up!” said 1L Yeram Choi.

Earlier this month, Professor Ingrid Hillinger’s Bankruptcy class unexpectedly became a continuing legal education session.

A student revealed that her father, a bankruptcy attorney at a major national firm, tuned into the virtual class to brush up on his doctrinal footing, and he said he loved the experience.

Boston College Law faculty and staff’s extra efforts to keep student learning on track with some levity along the way have made the past few weeks brighter.


Ryan Kenney is a first-year student and loves to hear from readers. Email him at ryan.kenney@bc.edu.

The Pandemic, Prisoners, and the Commonwealth: Cruel and Unusual?

Today I am hosting a guest blog from third-year student Eric Jepeal.


This past August I was fortunate to be appointed to serve on the Massachusetts State Advisory Committee (SAC) to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR). USCCR is a federal agency established by Congress to advance “civil rights through objective and comprehensive investigation, research, and analysis on issues of fundamental concern to the federal government and the public.” USCCR is Congressionally mandated to have SACs in each state and the District of Columbia. The members of these SACs advise and facilitate the work of the USCCR, and are colloquially referred to as the “eyes and ears” of the USCCR. 

Prior to my time at Boston College, I interned for the USCCR and worked on various projects related to solitary confinement, bail reform, and fair housing. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our SAC released a statement of concern regarding incarcerated persons. As you may be aware, the Supreme Judicial Court recently issued an opinion regarding litigation in Massachusetts brought by prisoners’ rights advocates and organizations to provide relief to incarcerated persons in the Commonwealth (CPCS v. Chief). Unfortunately, the SJC found it lacked authority to provide relief to prisoners who are more than sixty days into serving their sentences. 

Continue reading

Businesses Want Governments on Stand-by for Coronavirus Relief

Today I am hosting the second in a series of guest blogs by Irit Tamir, an adjunct professor at BC Law who teaches Business and Human Rights. The first post is here. Professor Tamir is also the Director of Oxfam America’s Private Sector Department. In her role, she is focused on working with companies to ensure that their business practices result in positive social and environmental impacts for vulnerable communities throughout the world. She leads Oxfam America’s work on business and development including shareholder engagement, value chain assessments, and collaborative advocacy initiatives, such as the successful “Behind the Brands” campaign.


Seven years since the Rana Plaza disaster, the COVID-19 crisis is a stark reminder how businesses have a responsibility to their supply chain workers.

The COVID19 pandemic highlights, more than any recent crisis, the duty of Governments to provide social protection. For workers, social protection ensures strong labor policies, living wages, safe and healthy working conditions, and the ability to have a voice in the workplace — in particular, to raise issues when they arise without fear of retribution. It also means there is a safety net in place when disaster strikes and workers and producers are no longer able to make a living by providing unemployment compensation, sick leave, and insurance.

But, many governments have not lived up to this duty, because they lack the resources to be able to do so, they espouse a race to the bottom approach in attracting foreign investment, and/or because they have been corrupted by business sector influence.

Continue reading