Re-reading my admissions essay this week was a strange experience.
My aim was to communicate what had ultimately brought me to the point of applying to law school. For me, law school was not something that I’d set my heart on from a young age. I grew up in London, far removed from matters of American jurisprudence, and a severe stutter had frequently left me wanting to avoid any public speaking situations rather than enter a profession where it is so central. My decision to apply was ultimately the culmination of a realization – built gradually over an extended period of time – that law school offered perhaps the only real avenue to pursue my goals in public service and social justice.
Re-reading my essay now, I realize the extent to which the way I ultimately decided to tell my story was impacted by the unique post-March 2020 context: a period indelibly marked by the outbreak of COVID and police murder of George Floyd. Having spent most of the last seven or so weeks getting to know my new classmates, I recognize similarities in many other students’ stories. For the incoming 1L class, all of our applications were forged in this period of tumult and grief where the world seemed to be undergoing a process of deconstruction and re-making in front of our eyes. This cannot help but impact the ways in which we conceive of ourselves as lawyers in training, and ultimately, the way we decide to practice law. I see this reflected in a collective determination to question the status quo and re-examine structural inertias, and ultimately, a commitment to equity among many of my fellow students.
For those interested, I’ve shared my essay below.
It was 2011 when I first fully comprehended the power of the law. My local council had threatened to close our neighborhood library—a vital community resource in what is simultaneously the most diverse and most impoverished borough in the UK. In response, I co-founded a charity with other community members and, when our efforts to pressure local elected officials failed, we took the council to the high court to seek a judicial review of their decision. As I sat in court, enthralled, for two days as our attorney argued that the council had failed to comply with equality legislation, I had a moment of revelation. Decisions from higher up were not something to be simply accepted with resignation; rather, they were something to be interrogated and scrutinized, even overtly challenged. As our attorney deftly navigated webs of associated law and litigation, I had a deeper realization. The law was a guarantor of rights and protections, but it was also a living thing: an inherently participatory project reliant on there being individuals on both sides to make their cases. It requires people to “show up” on behalf of the less powerful, the under-resourced, and marginalized. In order to function, it demands individuals continue to make the case that all groups factor equally into public policy.
This guest post is from an incoming first-year student who would like to remain anonymous.
The quintessential question for any law student is always, “what made you want to go to law school?” And more often than not, my answer is, “Because I’m bad at math.” But when it came to the question, “Why BC Law?” my answer was vastly different. To explain why I chose BC, I must first go into why I chose law in the first place. And a big part of it was my complicated relationship with my late father.
To the public, my father presented himself as a kind and loving family man. But my mother, sister, and I never felt safe, always fearing a sudden outburst. More often than not I’d cower in the small room that I shared with my mother and sister, deliberately facing the wall and wishing he would stop telling me he regretted my existence; praying to a God I didn’t believe in to beg against an escalation into a beating. The incessant physical and emotional abuse at a young age, pushed me into a dark corner. I was scared of everyone and everything and had no dreams or aspirations. I struggled to wake up in the mornings. More often than not, I could not find a reason to live on.
My semester ended over a week ago, so of course I already miss BC Law desperately. Final exams really just leave you wanting more. Hindered by my inability to time travel forward to the fall semester, I’ve decided to instead live vicariously through Elle Woods so that I can get back to the law school experience.
Thusly, while viewing the lauded documentary film “Legally Blonde” for the first time, I engaged in a critical analysis to see just how well it actually captures the genuine law school experience. In its totality, I would say the film is 99% accurate to what incoming students can expect from their 1L year at BC Law. However, there are a few minor inaccuracies worth mentioning. Just ten, as a matter of fact. Here they are:
When I started law school, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I had worked for a few years, and it was strange to think about being in a classroom and having homework again. Plus, I knew that law school was going to be a completely different beast than college, with things like the curve, outlining, and cold calls. Luckily, BC Law fosters an extremely supportive environment, including by assigning upperclassman mentors to 1Ls, and tries to give you all the tools you need for success early on. But most of what I figured out about law school was through trial and error. Therefore, I reached out to a few 1Ls with the following question to see what they learned from their first semester at BC Law.
You’ve survived your first semester of law school. Looking back, what advice do you have for your first semester 1L self?
Deciding where to go to law school is no easy task. If you are anything like I was, you may still be deciding if a city or traditional campus is right for you. You also may even be wondering if you are more of an East Coast or West Coast person (or something in between). Well, lucky for you, BC Law is hosting Admitted Student Month, which kicked off on March 1! Throughout the month of March, BC will be hosting a ton of live and recorded content, which you can find out about here.
Although this virtual world is not what any of us hoped for, both the administration and students have tried to find ways to connect with prospective students and share why we love BC Law, while answering any questions future students may have. One unique way that I have particularly enjoyed meeting prospective students is through the virtual coffee chats.
Just last week, my roommate and I hosted one over Zoom and we received a number of good questions. It immediately made me realize that many of the questions we were receiving were largely due to the fact that students can’t visit campus (if this is true for you, be sure to check out the brand new virtual tour.) Although coffee chats are still taking place throughout March (and you can sign up here), I thought it would be helpful to provide a roundup of some of the questions we’ve received, as well as our responses.
The first month of law school felt daunting, yet inspiring. The incentive to perform well and desire to keep pace with my classmates helped sustain my initiative. As that motivation began to diminish slowly, once finals were over I entered a complete hibernation from my legal studies. While it’s necessary to step back and recharge over break, it’s not so easy to make the return to a new semester.
As we all know, in law school there is no “syllabus week.” Instead we jolt into full length classes and hundreds of pages of readings. If you’re also struggling with the stark transition from over-indulging in the latest HBO series (I recommend His Dark Materials) to your respective Wolters Kluwer, I’ve researched a number of techniques to reinvigorate motivation.
As we began the second full semester under the hybrid in-person and online model this week, I found myself thinking back to the beginning of my first semester as a 1L. As a chatty person, I filled much of the first few weeks of law school trying to meet and talk to my fellow classmates, learning about their general backgrounds. Everyone was so overwhelmingly interesting that I felt I would be learning new things about the people in my section well into the rest of the year.
Looking back, I felt a pang of longing for those first few weeks. I had taken these passing conversations and small talks for granted, thinking there would always be time to chat with the people who filled the seats in my classes and the halls of the school. I would have never guessed that I would be taking remote classes in my apartment, only seeing my classmates through a computer screen.
But at the same time, in the midst of the strained communication and connection that we all have faced over the past year, I found myself longing to understand people better: to connect and learn about others in ways a simple conversation likely would not yield.
The newest issue of BC Law Magazine features five students’ personal admission essays. These narratives not only reflect students’ passions, tribulations, and motivations, but masterfully display how events in the lives of these students have both defined who they are and propelled them to become who they want to be. These essays, and the students who wrote them, present a sense of connection to the BC Law community, as we learn about some of our fellow students and what motivates them to pursue a career in law.
You can read the personal admission essays here. You can also check out the entire Winter 2021 edition of the BC Law Magazine on their website.
I’m not sure it’s possible to actually prepare for the first year of law school. After I submitted my applications in the Fall of 2019, I concocted all sorts of ideas to prepare and “get an edge”. I started by reading several books including The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and some excerpts from Law School Confidential. I considered enrolling in prep courses to regain study skills. I’m pretty sure none of these tactics actually helped my GPA or experience (although both books are phenomenal reads).
As I wrote about in a previous blog post Act Like You Belong. Because You Do., the best strategy is to remain confident in your abilities that have propelled you this far. There is a lot of weight put on the competition in law school, which is not helpful. Plus, I’ve found within the BC community, my classmates want everyone to do well, not just themselves. My greatest mindset shift after surviving the first semester is that the only thing I can control is the amount of effort I put towards my studies. I like to think of my job as a law student described by three functions: academic success, professional exposure, and social network. After a semester under my belt, I intend to adjust course in three specific ways that correspond to each of those functions to boost my experience and performance at Boston College.