1-Take Advice with a Grain of Salt
First-year law students love looking for advice and seasoned law students love giving it. It reminds us that we are no longer the new kids on the block and it makes us feel better about our overzealous course loads, far too many extracurriculars, and that interview we did two weeks ago that we’re still obsessing over. You want some advice, we’ve got it! The catch; that advice may not always be right for you.
Now, before you decide to purchase a garlic necklace to repel your friendly 2L and 3L mentors, hear me out. I am not saying the advice you get will be bad. We’ve all gone through 1L, most of us have passed all of our subjects, a few select unicorns have gotten A’s on those subjects, and most of us really do know what we’re doing. You should hear us out and try some of the study tips we give you–just make sure not to double down on them if they aren’t working. When a 2L approaches you and says, “this is the best way to study,” what they are really saying is “this is how I studied, and I did well, so it must be the best way.” Insert biggest eye roll here!
The application process is quickly coming to a close—you’ve already taken the LSAT, visited some schools, and put your first seat deposit down (woooo!). You’ve made a huge decision in choosing the right school for you, but now you face another challenge of navigating this new arena.
Questions popped up for me like, “What do I need to do before classes start?” and “Where is the best place to live?” and “Do I need a car to get around?” It is undeniably an overwhelming process, but BC Law is here to help!
A couple of years ago, the Law Student Association partnered with BC Law’s Admissions Office to produce the Admitted Students Guidebook, which is meant to help answer all the questions you may have about BC Law.
We’ve just updated the guidebook for the Class of 2021! So without further ado, here it is: Volume 3 of the Admitted Students Guidebook
When my family moved from Boston to Seoul, South Korea (my parents’ home country), I was 10 and knew only three Korean phrases: “How are you,” “Thank you” and “I’m sorry.”
My 1L year in law school was a lot like my first year in Korea. Like Korean, law was a language that I knew existed, but never thought I would have to speak. That is, until I had to speak it, immediately – as if my life (i.e., grades) depended on it.
Boston College Law School is sometimes referred to as the “Disneyland of law schools,” a kind nod to its supportive staff, upperclassmen and alumni. In reality, the 1L experience is closer to a journey through Wonderland – where you are chasing around an illusory white rabbit, not really knowing why, in a world filled with fascinating (and occasionally frightening) beings.
“There is a place, like no place on earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger. Some say, to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter.”
–Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll
I love to plan ahead. Predictable structure gives me a sense of peace unachievable even through the best vinyasa practice. But during my first couple years of law school, an important part of why I’m here has been mostly absent from my obsessive planning. For those of us hoping to practice at some point after graduation, we have to pass the bar.
It’s been easy to push thoughts of the notoriously difficult test aside with classes, exams, papers, law review, externships and clinics taking up so much time and mental space. But whether we are consciously aware of it or not, the bar is there, hanging over everything else that we do in law school. Are there things I should have been doing to prepare, even during my 1L year?
Your first graded assignment in law school will be drafting an Office Memorandum. Mine was horrible, and I’ve been drawing paychecks as a writer for nine years.
An “Office Memo” is a lengthy analysis of a specific legal question and its most probable answer. You are given a bundle of facts and an overarching question. It’s your job to identify the legally significant information, find the applicable legal rules and explain to your reader how those rules apply to your facts.
Below are three tips, and memorable advice from my legal writing professor, to help you avoid making the same mistakes that I made.
Above photo is the BC Veteran’s Memorial “dedicated to the memory of Boston College alumni who died in service to their country.”
Two days into a trip from Boston to the Panama Canal, my Coast Guard cutter tucked into a harbor off Long Island to anchor while we waited out a winter storm. Like most of the crew, I took advantage of what might be my last hours of American cell phone service for three months to text family members and obsessively refresh my email. I stood on the flight deck and felt a momentary reprieve from the wind and snow whipping my face as I read the subject line, “Congratulations from BC Law.”
My first reaction was an embarrassing combination of shock and fist pumps directed in no particular direction. My second reaction was a sobering, “Now what?” After ten years in the military I’d grown accustomed to having a checklist and pre-planned response card for everything I did, now I was temporarily severing my connection to the outside world without any idea how I’d prepare or pay for law school. I didn’t know what kind of help to ask for, much less who to ask for it.
When I first heard BC Law called “the Disneyland of law schools” during my 1L orientation, I was surprised. How can a law school – something that is grueling and competitive by nature—be likened to the widely proclaimed “happiest place on earth?” My only experience with law school was limited to the crazed mumblings of relatives in legal professions and of friends struggling through their own intensely cutthroat law school experiences. Before classes began I had been preparing myself to be swallowed by a writing-intensive version of the Hunger Games. “Keep your head on a swivel” was the sage warning from my dad as I set off on my new venture.
But I also found the Disney analogy comforting and personally appropriate. I recently retired from three years touring as a professional figure skater for Disney on Ice, where I had been actually living in this Disney dreamland. Disney was something familiar. I wanted to know more.
I have been grappling with the sometimes-tenuous relationship between my expectations and reality since I was a six-year-old girl, kissing my perfectly healthy mother goodbye before school. When I got off the school bus that afternoon, I expected my mother to be waiting for me at the bus stop, a snack to be on the table, and my father to be at work. Instead, it was my father waiting for me, no snack, and the news that my mother had taken a nap that morning and had never woken up.
Several years after my mother’s death, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, but I think emptiness is a much more complete way to describe what was happening inside my head. When people think of depression they think of sadness and tears, but depression is more like a parasite that sucks away all human emotions; happiness, anger, even sadness cannot exist as long as depression is present. Being depressed is like being locked behind a one-way mirror; isolated, invisible to your loved ones, and forced to watch them live their happy lives without you.
The personal statement section of the law school application can sometimes seem like an artificial reconstruction of particular stories in a person’s life that is carefully molded solely to convince administrators that they should choose one individual over the thousands of other people they evaluate. And, for some, the statement turns out to be exactly that. Yet, the process of writing my personal statement forced me to re-evaluate my pedagogical journey in attempting to justify to myself why I was going to law school and what I could possibly do afterwards. Thus, I can think of no better introduction to who I am for the readers of BC Law: Impact than the personal statement that put me on this path.
I see each person as an accumulation of his or her experiences. More specifically, they are a representation of the events, cultures, opinions, ideas and ideologies that shaped who they are and inform their perspective. This perspective, in turn, shapes how they see the world, and how they understand their responsibility to other people.
Now, what is my perspective? I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico to parents of Spanish and Cuban ancestry. My maternal grandmother was raised in San Juan by her grandfather, Jose de Diego, an active voice of the Puerto Rican independence movement in the late nineteenth century. As an independentista, he fought for sovereignty and the equal rights of Puerto Ricans under colonial rule. My grandmother was a firsthand witness of his struggle for equality, as the status of our island was debated and its future decided. Although neither of my parents were able to attend college, they worked long hours to start a cargo business from the ground up. Consequently, my grandmother took care of me during much of my early years and I have vivid memories of coming home to sit on her lap and listen to stories of de Diego’s battle for the people of Puerto Rico.
Sometimes, life has a funny way of telling you where you’re supposed to be.
In February, I had decided on a law school. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t BC Law. The school I chose was a highly-ranked choice close to home. I was beyond excited to send in my seat deposit, but for some reason I felt obligated to justify my decision to my friends and family. I remember pining over the ABA 509 Reports for some kind—any kind—of justification to back my decision. Now, of course, I know that the only person I needed to convince was myself.