I didn’t necessarily think law school would be boring. I swear I didn’t. But then, I didn’t necessarily think it would be funny either.
One of the natural barriers surely standing in the way of a law professor’s mission is what I have experienced as ‘the 1L jitters.’ Personally, I was very nervous about the start of law school, a new and defining chapter in my life. I was so nervous that I didn’t get much sleep for the first couple of days. Speaking with my fellow students, it’s pretty clear that I wasn’t the only one.
Now, you don’t have to be a neuroscientist to know that getting at least a couple hours of sleep per night might be important for the learning process, so there was going to be a problem if we didn’t all release some of that 1L jitter-tension quickly. And that’s what laughter is, right? Releasing tension. I’ve found the class content lends itself to humor surprisingly well, and it’s where the professors can excel.
I’m sure a lot of you are starting to think about your personal statements. I know it can be pretty overwhelming to decide on the right approach. My advice? Don’t forget that you decide your own story.
I was not a perfect applicant. I had strong grades and a strong LSAT, but my background was…complicated. When it came time to write my personal statement, I was stuck. Do I talk about my past? I had overcome a lot. But it wasn’t something I wanted to share. And it wasn’t how I wanted to define myself to an admissions committee.
As I have come to learn in my first few weeks at BC Law, you hit the ground running from day one, and you rarely pause to look back. I’m from Florida and never had the chance to visit the Law School as an admitted student, so everything in Newton, from navigating school zone traffic to finding parking (it’s even hard for the professors) was new to me, on top of beginning graduate level work.
It was all a bit overwhelming at first. Luckily, I had support. Lots of it.
If I had to pick three adjectives to describe 1L year, they would be busy, fairly stressful, and extremely exciting. I quickly learned that law school is a full-time job filled with a demanding workload and many commitments outside of the classroom. I also soon realized why my professors emphasized the importance of removing yourself from law school mode every so often to keep your stress levels down. But most importantly, I saw how exciting this new chapter of life was. Law school was my time to open new doors, build new friendships, and take the first step of a new career.
Now that I am a few weeks into 2L, it seems like I may be using the same three adjectives to describe this year, but with a whole new perspective. I no longer am transitioning from a 9 to 5 job or spending far too long on a three-page case. I know what a final exam looks like, and can estimate about how long an outline will take me to make. More importantly, I can tell you what I hope to pursue career-wise and have made great friends along the way.
Although some things may stay the same, here are a few ways in which my perspectives have changed:
As a freshman at Boston College High School, Boston’s all-boys Jesuit school nestled in Dorchester along the outer reaches of Boston harbor, I heard about vaunted “triple eagles,” guys who went to BC High, BC, and BC Law. It sounded like too much school, and I never understood the appeal. I certainly never thought I’d be one of them.
Although my father and his father had gone to a Jesuit high school in Barcelona, following suit was never on my horizon, and I wasn’t even aware of that legacy until I applied to BC High. I had never heard of the Jesuits, could count on my fingers the number of times I’d been to church, and was ambivalent about single-sex education. But my mother suggested applying, I did well enough on the entrance exam, and one day I found myself riding the commuter rail on my way into the city and my new school. Despite this somewhat thoughtless initiation (at least on my part; my mom knew what she was doing), entering the Jesuit tradition of education changed my life, giving me a sense of purpose that I didn’t know I needed and that is driving me through law school and into a career dedicated to public service.
You’ve already decided that law school is your next move. But how do you decide which law school? For me, choosing BC was one of the easiest decisions I ever made. And if you’re wondering why, I’ve summed it up for you in five points:
I left the Jesuit Volunteer Corps with an Orleans Public Defenders shirt, heavy emotional scarring, and a strong idea of justice. I was prepared to ride into law school on a wave of virtue and morality, certain I knew what needed to be done and how I was going to do it. That wave crashed me right into Civil Procedure and Pennoyer and Rule 12(b)(3) and Contracts and estoppel and intent, and it wasn’t long before I realized it was going to be a while before I was certain of anything again.
Pretty dramatic, but the spirit is true. Law school is a change. There is a transition from being a normal person to a person who thinks legal jokes are funny. Still, overall, most of my preconceived notions have been proved wrong. Cold calls are not that bad, my classmates are also not that bad (fine, they’re pretty great), and six weeks in I have yet to muster any dazzling legal wisdom for family or friends.
This is the second in a series of posts drawing attention to Law Student Mental Health Day. You can read our first post here. If you want to share your story with us about feeling out of place, send a few lines to email@example.com, or use the social media hashtag #fittingin.
It can be unbelievably daunting to ask for help. An environment where competition is paramount and the drive for success is all-encompassing makes help-seeking seem risky and shameful. Fear often paralyzes and dissuades so that many individuals don’t pursue help they need.
I was fearful my 1L year. I was fearful of imperfection and failure. I was fearful that admission of my difficulties would make them more real, would show that I was weak, and would indicate that I could not succeed in school or in my chosen career.
Today is the annual Law Student Mental Health Day. The Law Students Association (BC Law’s student government) is hosting several events throughout the day through their Student Wellness Committee. Also, in recognition of the tough times that most of us will experience over the course of our three years here, we asked some of our bloggers to share times when they felt out of place, and how they reacted. If you want to share your story about feeling out of place with us, send a few lines to firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the social media hashtag #fittingin.
Where to begin? Parties where the music is so loud that conversation is impossible and I end up standing awkwardly against a wall. Repping purple at the recent Holy Cross – BC football game as my alma mater lost to my new law school 62-14. The first four months of undergrad, going from a small public high school in a blue-collar town to a college where the Vineyard Vines whale was practically the mascot and the parking lot looked like an Audi dealership. My lack of a social life in those early days meant I had time to read USA Today and the New York Times cover-to-cover every day. I was quite well-informed.
I am pleased to host a guest blog today from Jason Giannetti, a 2003 graduate of Boston College Law School.
I have been an immigration attorney in Massachusetts for fifteen years and I’ve never been as proud to be one as I am now.
Let’s face it, in American popular opinion, lawyers are not exactly considered super heroes. In fact, in films such as The Incredibles, lawyers are the anti-superhero. It is due to them and their litigation and lobbying that the “supers” have to renounce their superpowers to be like all the rest of us. In the 1993 film Philadelphia, though attorney Joe Miller (played by Denzel Washington) turns out to be the hero of the film, Andy, his client (played by Tom Hanks), asks, “Joe, what do you call a thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean?” The answer: “A good start.”
Be that as it may, America is one of the most litigious nations on the planet. Perhaps Americans have low regard for lawyers because they are such “a necessary evil” in the eyes of most. The only profession with lower regard is politician and, as we all know, many of those politicians are themselves lawyers.
However, I think that besides hemming in people’s exercise of strength (Incredibles) and creating bureaucratic and structural obstacles to swift justice (Philadelphia), the real source of America’s collective ire with attorneys is that they seem to disregard the truth: they are mercenary warriors, defending whatever position (right or wrong, truthful or not) that pays the bills. The most egregious example of this to date is Rudy Giuliani’s statement, “Truth is not truth.”