Today I’m very pleased to be able to host a guest blog from the Hon. James V. Menno ‘86, who recently retired after more than two decades of service as an associate justice of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court.
Despite the number of people sitting on the hard benches in this sunlit courtroom, there is a respectful silence. An ordinary person is sitting in the witness box. She has taken an oath to tell the truth. Her descriptive answers to her attorney’s questions begin to weave together a story. It is a deeply personal story that provides unique insight into her and the children of her fractured family. She tells this story to another ordinary person, me, who also happens to be the judge. We are separated by a bench, a black robe and the roles we play. But we are joined together as co-participants in the daily unfolding of the actual Rule of Law.
Her role is to honestly tell the difficult story that has led to this moment. Tomorrow, her husband will sit in the same chair and do the same. My role is to listen to them as unique individuals, determine which facts are true, and (utilizing the applicable law) make a decision that will allow them and their children to transition from one family to two single-parent families. Whew! What a daunting task this is for both of us, the storyteller and the listener.
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.
This year Boston College gifted its students and faculty an extra day of reprieve on Columbus Day weekend, creating a new, four-day “fall break.” I took advantage of the extra time by heading down to visit my father in New York City, where we decided to spend a morning visiting Ellis Island and the immigration museum there. We set out with high hopes that were, unfortunately, chastened by missed opportunities.
Stepping off the boat at Ellis Island, you walk up to the main building that houses the exhibits and the only one that the standard ticket gets you into. The museum opens with a walk through the nation’s immigration history, beginning before Jamestown and stretching to the 1890s, when Ellis Island opened. The Trail of Tears, the Slave Trade, the mix of cultures that produced the likes of Jazz are all addressed. The history is deep and serves as a proper warm up to the story of the island itself, but, as my father pointed out, they might as well just hand you a book when you step off the boat. Displaying few artifacts, the exhibit doesn’t engage its visitors. You mostly step precariously around others, trying to stay out of their line of sight. I found myself gazing at the floor, which is a beautiful white tile, and wondering if it is original (it is).
Today I am thrilled to host an open letter from the Board of BC Law’s If/When/How Chapter on the Kavanaugh confirmation, our continued support for sexual assault survivors, and what comes next in this fight.
As the board of BC Law’s If/When/How chapter, we think it is important to say publicly, and unequivocally, that we believe Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramierez, and Julie Swetnik. We believe Brett Kavanaugh lacks the moral character and the temperament to be not only a Supreme Court Justice, but a judge. We are sickened by his appointment to the Supreme Court, and strongly condemn it.
Brett Kavanaugh represents the worst of everything the legal profession has to offer; he is a living manifestation of white privilege, male privilege, class privilege, and rape culture. He also represents an opportunity for lawyers and law students to do better; to improve our profession so that the next generation of law students, lawyers, and clients – anyone who interacts with our justice system – enjoys a fairer legal process that recognizes the many modes of marginalization in our society and outright rejects sexual violence of any kind as acceptable behavior. Kavanaugh’s rise to prominence and the current climate surrounding the allegations against him illustrate the desperate need for lawyers to recognize their crucial role as advocates for sexual assault survivors. Lawyers are the advocates on the frontlines of justice — taking and trying survivors’ cases, working with them to ensure they’re protected, be it through securing restraining orders or helping to file charges against assailants.
This is the second in a series of posts drawing attention to Law Student Mental Health Day. You can read our first post here. If you want to share your story with us about feeling out of place, send a few lines to email@example.com, or use the social media hashtag #fittingin.
It can be unbelievably daunting to ask for help. An environment where competition is paramount and the drive for success is all-encompassing makes help-seeking seem risky and shameful. Fear often paralyzes and dissuades so that many individuals don’t pursue help they need.
I was fearful my 1L year. I was fearful of imperfection and failure. I was fearful that admission of my difficulties would make them more real, would show that I was weak, and would indicate that I could not succeed in school or in my chosen career.
Today is the annual Law Student Mental Health Day. The Law Students Association (BC Law’s student government) is hosting several events throughout the day through their Student Wellness Committee. Also, in recognition of the tough times that most of us will experience over the course of our three years here, we asked some of our bloggers to share times when they felt out of place, and how they reacted. If you want to share your story about feeling out of place with us, send a few lines to firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the social media hashtag #fittingin.
Where to begin? Parties where the music is so loud that conversation is impossible and I end up standing awkwardly against a wall. Repping purple at the recent Holy Cross – BC football game as my alma mater lost to my new law school 62-14. The first four months of undergrad, going from a small public high school in a blue-collar town to a college where the Vineyard Vines whale was practically the mascot and the parking lot looked like an Audi dealership. My lack of a social life in those early days meant I had time to read USA Today and the New York Times cover-to-cover every day. I was quite well-informed.
I am pleased to host a guest blog today from Meg Ziegler, a 2L at Boston College Law School.
The outrage over the separation of migrant children from their families at our border is necessary and should be unrelenting. But family separations are happening in Massachusetts, too, and one root cause is that schools unnecessarily (or inappropriately) involve the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the courts in the lives of children and their families for school-based issues.
This occurs in a number of ways. If a student is deemed a “Habitual School Offender” or a “Habitual Truant,” schools can file a Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) with the juvenile court. Once a CRA is filed, the school and family attend a preliminary hearing and may potentially have to attend a bench trial, a conference, and/or a disposition hearing. At a disposition hearing, the court may ultimately remove the child from his/her/their family and place the child in DCF custody.
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