I never liked elevator speeches. I struggled with reducing my purpose in life or work to a rush of words that I could get out before reaching the figurative lobby. Now that I’m in law school, the task is a little easier. People generally have some sense of what it is to be a lawyer. But prior to this I was studying philosophy of religion at a divinity school. Fewer people have a clear sense of what that’s about. And these days, if I happen to divulge both of those pieces of my biography—law school and divinity school—I can often see the confusion work its way through their faces.
Often they’re wondering why a pastor, minister, or priest would become a lawyer. I explain that I, like most students at my school, went for a degree in religious studies, not ordination. Another reason for the dissonance seems to come from that old dichotomy between the sacred and the profane. Even as fewer people in our country identify with organized religion, there still seems to be some notion that those who take religion seriously at least have the courage of their convictions. Lawyers, on the other hand, are known for their moral promiscuity. Both generalizations need to be questioned. Still, when quickly explaining how I ended up at BC Law, I often try and fail to reconcile that perceived tension.
So I’m using this blog to break free from the limitations of an elevator speech and offer one explanation of how divinity school and law school go hand in hand. A warning up front: as an occupational hazard of divinity school education, I sometimes reason allegorically, and this will be one of those times.
World Mental Health Day, celebrated annually on October 10th, is a day to bring awareness to mental health issues and for individuals to band together to promote mental wellness, improve public dialogue and care for those struggling with mental health issues. Today the BC Law community is rallying together to share other ways individuals cultivate joy, cope with stressors, and find perspective while in law school.
Unfortunately, a high-pressure environment along with a number of other stressors puts individuals in law school and in the legal field at risk for developing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse disorders. In fact, law students disproportionally struggle with mental health issues in comparison to the general population, as previously discussed in A Necessary Look at Mental Health in Law School and Out of Place? You’re Not Alone. Fortunately, Boston College offers professional help to those struggling with a mental health issue – no matter how small. (Links provided below this post).
Along with providing professional mental health services, it is especially important for law schools to promote mental wellness. According to the World Health Organization, mental wellness is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Thus, mental wellness is not necessarily the absence of mental health issues, but rather is the presence of positive strategies and characteristics for handling life’s ups and downs.
It is possible to boost your mental wellness by finding ways to elevate your mood and increase your resilience. Four wellness-building techniques are described in Beat Your 2L Lull: Four Strategies for Success.
Below, members of the BC Law community share what they do to boost mental wellness in their daily lives. As you read, feel free to share what brings you joy or helps you manage stress by commenting below or adding #LawStudentWellness, #WorldMentalHealthDay and/or #IamBCLaw to your post on social media. And please share this post with friends.
Welcome (back) to Boston College Law! Today, I’m pleased to host a guest post from 2L Rachel Weiss, a Weinstein Scholar, on her experience joining the BC Law community.
Like most students coming into law school, I was extremely anxious. The source of my anxiety, however, did not just stem from the typical types of stressors that so many students face, such as embarking on a brand new and highly complex discipline, moving to a new city, switching careers, or making new friends. While I did share those concerns with my classmates, one of the biggest changes for me in coming to law school would be attending a Jesuit school as a Jewish student.
Growing up, I was always surrounded by others who shared my culture and religion. From an early age, I went to Hebrew School, spent summers at a Jewish overnight camp, then attended a predominantly Jewish high school, and even managed to end up at an undergraduate university with a sizable Jewish population. Knowing people who had also been raised in the Jewish tradition and having the support of my religious community were constants throughout my life.
Coming to Boston College Law School, I soon realized that things would be different. I was no longer surrounded by people with similar backgrounds and experiences to my own. As I started to navigate this adjustment, I was introduced to someone who would later become a major part of my transition to the BC Law community.
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.
In my first post after my own graduation, I am pleased to host a blog by BC Law student and editorial assistant Marija Tesla, who writes about her family’s refugee story in honor of World Refugee Day.
I was six years old when politics became an integral part of who I am; it was then that I knew I wanted to work toward forging peace in the world. Growing up, my imaginary friends weren’t imaginary at all, they were the politicians whose names I heard every night, those who could not craft a compromise to achieve peace and stop a war I desperately wanted to end. It was there on my grandparents’ farm in a small village on the outskirts of Karlovac, Croatia in 1995 that I became a negotiator, addressing Franjo Tuđman, Slobodan Milošević, Alija Izetbegović—my own imaginary Dayton Accords. I escaped as a refugee in 1995, leaving Croatia and the farm that was my home.
Twenty-four years later, I am pursuing a career in law with a focus on global governance, human rights, refugee and immigration law, and negotiation—the very thing that was necessary in the Balkans in the early 1990s and is desperately needed today in Syria, Myanmar, Venezuela, and many other parts of the globe, including the United States of America. As a former refugee, I am aware of the interplay between local and global agents, and I understand the power and interconnectedness of both. I will always believe that government is about community, and I will continuously fight to protect the essence of what it means to belong to that community. After all, such communities, local and global, uprooted and rectified my life equally.
Congratulations! You are over halfway finished with law school. You’ve made friends, are now fluent in legalese, and have thankfully avoided being crushed under your huge stack of textbooks. Still, you may also be feeling the 2L slump. The luster of 1L has worn off. Your classes are tough and substantive and post-grad life seems but a glimmer on the horizon. So, how can you push through the lull?
As a law student you are already familiar with hard work and discipline, but some of these tips might help you avoid getting stuck in a rut.
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:
After four years of undergrad, two new cities, and a semester of law school, all I know for sure is how to handle every question my extended family will throw at me over winter break. There’s a strict science to it, a standard formula: Keep it positive, stay away from controversy, and pivot to the weather as soon as possible.
Turns out, even revered Christmas traditions are vulnerable to the all-consuming legal education. After a mere four months and one round of exams, all I could muster when faced with the entirely-expected “how’s law school?!” was:
When I got to law school, the only thing I knew about law review was that Obama was editor in chief of the Harvard law review, and that sounded like a cool title. But I wanted to know more. So, a year and a half ago I decided to go undercover on BC’s Law Review. After toiling through the application process, getting accepted, and later sneaking my way onto the executive board, I’m finally able to publish my discoveries. Many of those I met and spoke with along the journey would only speak on background, but their accounts have been diligently verified by Impact‘s fact-checking team.
Law reviews (or journals; the terms can be used interchangeably) are the legal profession’s academic journals. They are the equivalent of medical or psychological journals for those respective fields, with a ranking system that is similar. Being published in Harvard Law Review is like having your study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Authors, usually law professors, submit articles to the editorial boards of journals, who select which articles they will publish. The difference for law reviews is that the editorial staff is composed almost exclusively of students, although some law reviews are run by practicing attorneys, or “adults.” According to the rankings, there were at least 1,529 (1529 in “Bluebook,” the language spoken by law review editors) law reviews in publication in 2017. Many of these are housed at law schools, and some schools have multiple journals. BC had four journals until two years ago, when they were consolidated into BC Law Review (BCLR). BC also has an independent journal, the UCC Digest, but I leave it to someone else to go undercover and pierce the corporate veil of that journal.
On a whim, I opened my personal statement for the first time since hitting ‘submit’ nearly a year ago. Preparing to face my tendency to over-write, a habit which lends itself to often-cringeworthy grand pronouncements, I queued up the Aspiring Public Interest Lawyers Greatest Hits: “Is It Still Worth It? (After Signing that Promissory Note),” “Oh, Really? You’re Going to Save the World?” and the classic, “Naiveté.”
Instead, I came face-to-face with the prospect that the young, impressionable, wannabe lawyer nursing the cheapest drink on the coffee shop menu in exchange for five hours of Wi-Fi knew everything he needed to know.
See? Grand pronouncements.
Sure, one year ago, I would have failed every single first year course. I couldn’t brief, or outline, or read, or write, or even speak effectively. My Lexis points stood at zero and I had nary a dollar of Westlaw Starbucks gift cards. Every one of my classmates would have prayed to the almighty curve I was in their section. One year ago, I was a terrible law student.