Fighting for Juvenile Rights: Why You Should Consider JRAP

Lawyers have their own language. It might be a little frustrating at times, but that is the reason we spend three painful years in law school learning how to think, speak, and write like lawyers. By the time we pass the bar, we have been equipped with a roadmap that allows us to navigate the complex legal arena. Of course, we are not the only profession with its own language. In fact, almost all professions have terminology that is commonly understood by those within the profession, but confusing to those outside of it.

This year I am participating in Boston College’s Juvenile Rights Advocacy program, and I am busy learning yet another language. Do you know what the acronym IEP stands for? Have you ever heard the terms FAPE? What is the difference between the BSEA and OCR? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, don’t worry, many people don’t know them.  IEP stands for Individual Education Plan, and as the name suggests, it’s an educational term. The BSEA is a court that is used to resolve education disputes; it stands for Bureau of Special Education Appeals. The OCR stands for Office of Civil Rights, which is another court that can be used for certain types of education related claims. FAPE is a legal term that stands Free Appropriate Public Education, which is a federal right and typically the basis for the claims that would be brought in front of the BSEA or OCR. As for CRA, it is not strictly an education term, however, many children who require specialized education services also require the help that a CRA grants. CRA stands for Child Requiring Assistance, and parents file them with the courts when they need the courts help to supervise their children. 

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How To Be A Lawyer While You’re Still in Law School

As future law students, I’m sure you’ve all heard the rumors and stereotypes about law schools. They run the gamut — from the terrifying and incorrect (“EVERYONE IS SO COMPETITIVE AND NO ONE IS FRIENDLY AND IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO GET AN A YOUR FIRST YEAR”), to the hilariously accurate (“Law school is high school for adults”), to the tongue-in-cheek (see, for example, Thought Catalog’s take on the 19 People You Meet in Law School). But the stereotype that most stuck out to and worried me as a prospective student was what I’d like to call the Myth of the Library Lockdown. That is, by heading off to law school, you are essentially signing yourself up for three years of good ol’ book learning, tied to a library carrel, buried under 200 pounds of Supreme Court opinions and study aids.

Don’t get me wrong. As a former English major, I can get down with the heavy reading. Chaucer, Shakespeare, and I used to be great pals; I can handle my fair share of tiny print. But that’s not why I wanted to come to law school. I taught for three years after college, came to law school with a really specific focus, and knew I wanted to get right to making an impact in real people’s lives. I was really nervous that law school was going to feel like a fruitless and frustrating gesture, a means to an end I had to just get through in order to do the work I am passionate about. But that’s because I didn’t know about clinics.

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