I’m in East Wing 115, the very first room I sat in as a brand-new BC Law student. It’s the room that looks so much like a Greek amphitheater and feels like one, too, when the questioning begins. The lights aren’t even on because it’s 8am, a full half-hour before Contracts, and dammit. I’m not even the first one here. Walking to my seat, I shake my head. Who gets up early for Contracts at 8:30 in the morning?! It’s a ridiculous question, of course, because the answer is Me. I get up early for Contracts. It’s just that…I didn’t think anyone else would. And it’s not just one else, either. There are a good half-dozen elses, chatting softly together in the gently lit dark. I shake my head again. Madness.
By eight-fifteen, the classroom is full. Section 2 is present and accounted for. Hillinger could walk in and start her
interrogation critical questioning, and no one would bat an eye. Everyone is ready, anyway. Somebody tapped the lights on the way in, and now the classroom blazes with life and energy and conversation.
School is always a bit of a bubble: something that quickly becomes your entire world and focus. This dynamic is especially true at law school, where balancing the intense schedule of classes, assignments, and reading is frequently compared to attempting to “drink from a fire hose.” Even having been out of school for six years, it was still amazing how quickly I found myself being sucked back into the bubble of campus and studying.
Staying focused on the bigger picture is something I struggled with during my first semester of 1L. While I enjoy the study of law as an academic exercise, I’m not really someone who luxuriates in the minutiae of case law. My decision to come to law school was not driven by the joy of wrestling with esoteric doctrine, reading 150-year-old cases, or basking in Latin maxims; rather, it was the realization that law was often the only route to change. For me, the intellectual challenge of studying law has always been secondary to learning how to use the law as a functional tool to support the causes and communities I care about.
We’re pleased today to host this guest post by first-year student Haley Rowlands.
I bike to campus every day. It’s seven miles each way, and you can probably guess I moved into my apartment in Boston before I knew where I was going to law school. It’s also worth noting that I’ve never commuted anywhere on a bike before this, except to hop around the city walking dogs.
Why the sudden commitment to biking? I’m interested in environmental law, and after I made the slightest peep that I was considering going to BC Law, it seemed everyone popped out of every orifice of the earth to expound on the Jesuit tradition and BC’s commitment to excellence, responsibility, and service to others. My own devotion to the environment is steeped in feelings of belonging – I am at home in the boughs of a tree or the field below it, and not really anywhere else. To me, it felt like there was no more worthy cause than standing up to protect these things. And what self-respecting environmental lawyer drives their carbon-emitting metal box to school when they could be out in the world on just two wheels? Not this BC-bound one, anyway. (It’s ok if you do though, I’m not judging. Honest.)
So, here I am. I took a hard look at my own morals and got on the bike. Suddenly, I am a bicycle commuter!
I want to make it clear that this article is not reflective of every single immigrant student’s story here at BC Law. Every experience is different, but I hope that my fellow immigrant first-gen students who read this article might relate to the internal conflict I feel as a student in law school. I also fully believe that one does not have to be an immigrant to relate to the sentiments here. I hope this can help other students feel heard and not alone.
Whether it’s the sentiment of feeling like I don’t quite belong, or the constant internal turmoil concerning my career path, a big portion of my experience as a law student has been shaped by my immigrant identity–and perhaps not in the healthiest way.
My mother works from 9AM to 7PM, 7 days a week in her small beauty supply store in Brooklyn. She moved here over 20 years ago when the “American Dream” was still a prevalent sentiment that encouraged immigrants to move and seek out better lives for their children, notwithstanding the fact that the “American Dream” is mostly a myth for people who are not on equal footing with those who were already born with qualities that are favored in this country. While she worries about affording the next rent payment on the store or ordering enough products to stock her shelves, my worries mostly lie with struggling to understand the Rule of Perpetuities.
As we creep ever further into the month of September, new students are coming up on the one-month mark of their first semesters at BC Law. Remember back in August when no one was pestering you about what the district court ruled, or whether there really was a breach of duty? Alas, syllabus week is over, add/drop has expired, and now there is nothing but the next deadline, the next reading. 1Ls have gotten a sense of law school’s rhythm and flow – what the workload is like, where the classrooms are, how cold calling works, and so on.
They’ve also got a sense of who the gunners are.
Let’s define terms (this is law school, after all): a “gunner” is someone who takes up too many class resources for themselves – in particular, too much class time. A gunner goes beyond the scope of ordinary academic or competitive behavior in order to succeed in law school (or simply appear to be succeeding in law school), all while violating the most important rule in the unwritten student code: probably don’t behave in a way that makes all of your peers think you’re a bit annoying.