Our Woman of the Year

I am pleased to host a guest post from co-presidents of the Boston College Law School Women’s Law Center, Liz Dwyer and Stacey Kourtis.

The Women’s Law Center aims to impact both its student members and the entire BC Law community by providing networking opportunities with women in the legal community, maintaining strong ties with women alumni for mentorship, and by providing a forum for discussion about women’s issues at BC Law and beyond. For us, the WLC has served as a supportive and engaging group here at BC Law. We’re proud to be members of the Women’s Law Center where we have both had the opportunity to meet wonderful women at BC Law, alumnae, and faculty.

Every year, the Women’s Law Center at BC Law  chooses one alumna who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to advancing an area of the legal profession and recognizes her as the WLC’s Woman of the Year. This year, the Women’s Law Center nomination committee chose to present the 10th Annual Woman of the Year Award to Josephine McNeil ’87.

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A Thin Yellow Line

This spring, BC Law Impact is excited to present guest posts from current students about the factors that drove them to BC Law and the impact the community has had on their lives. Today’s post comes from 2L Hannah Jellinek.


Cheshire Correctional Institution sits atop an uncharacteristically tall hill given the generally flat land surrounding the prison. Perhaps because of this elevation, the long thin driveway, and the large red brick façade, the prison has a haunting and overwhelming presence. The front doors lead to a separate world. One where razor sharp barbed wire sits on top of chainlink fences and seemingly cuts into the bright blue skies and puffy white clouds. One where you see kids running around freely, smiling and laughing, but then realize their obstacle course and hide and seek spots are the long wooden benches of the visitation room. The Cheshire world is separate from the small houses of the town, separate from the run-down basketball courts across the street, separate from what I have previously known outside of the gates.

Once I go through the weekly routine of submitting my license, clearing the metal detector, and gathering the light pink VISITOR pass, I walk out of the waiting room and through the lobby. A bright yellow line on the dark brown floors divides the hallways of Cheshire. It is what separates us from them. The free individuals who can decide their next step, their next meal, their next shower, from those on the other side of the line who decide nothing.

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Guess Who is Teaching My Class?

A couple weeks into my 1L year, on my drive into school, I heard a report on public radio about a recent Supreme Judicial Court (the Massachusetts state supreme court) decision. The court had found that black men might have a reason, even if they were not guilty of a crime, to run from the police. Even as a greenhorn law student, I could tell that this sort of decision was radical. When I got to school, I printed the opinion, pushed Torts, Contracts, and CivPro to the side, and raced through it.

Citing to a study conducted by the Boston Police Department, which found that black men are more likely to be stopped and questioned by police officers, and repeatedly so, the court noted that a black male, “when approached by the police, might just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity.” This was the outcome I hoped to (but did not often) see in judicial decisions. I looked at the opinion’s author, Justice Geraldine Hines. The first black woman to serve on the Massachusetts Appeals Court and Supreme Judicial Court, she had worked in civil rights and defense before joining the bench. It seemed like the coolest career possible, and controverted the typical image of a judge as a stuffy old white man. Maybe if I was lucky, I thought, one day I would get to meet her.

That day would come sooner than I thought.

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My Sister Sarah: A #BCLawImpact Story

Not long after graduating from college my sister, Sarah, who recently entered her 30s, found herself at a convent in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, helping the nuns run an orphanage. She wasn’t taking vows, but she was beginning, unbeknownst to her, a life path focused on service to others. She has spent the bulk of the past five years working for the Human Resources department for Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontiers, MSF).

When I think of HR, I think of Toby from the show The Office. That was not my sister’s HR. She spent months working in Kurdistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Haiti again, to name a few. These are not vacation destinations, and that’s in part what drew her to the work: the ability to go into Afghanistan to work with and learn from a culture that most folks will never get to experience. Her HR department is likely unlike those that you have worked with. One of her first assignments was to maintain a list of every employee’s location for MSF’s entire 120-person mission in South Sudan, in case they needed to evacuate the country. Every day, she would email or call to each field hospital to see who was moving where, so that if disaster struck and the entire team needed to leave the country quickly, they could. She was barely twenty-four.

This week, the Impact blog is showcasing those people in our lives who have made an impact on us, who have helped us arrive at where we are today, and who keep us motivated towards our goals in the future. If you want to share a story about that person in your life, join us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and post your story using the hashtag #BCLawImpact. Students from the Law Students Association (LSA) and the blog will be in the Yellow Room on Thursday at lunch with a BC Law backdrop and a dry-erase board so you can take a picture with a message thanking someone who has made an impact on you and post it. We will post some of our favorite pictures and messages on the blog, and they will be collected in a Tagboard.

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Arming Underrepresented Communities with Legal Power

I’m pleased to host a guest post from 2L Yetunde Buraimoh, discussing the Black Law Student Association’s recent “Know Your Rights” training.

When I sat down with the Black Law Students Association’s  (BLSA) E-board last spring to plan programming for the 2017-18 academic year, we unanimously agreed that it was necessary to increase BLSA’s presence in the greater Boston community. Given our nation’s current social climate, particularly the increased exposure of police brutality, we felt that it was crucial to facilitate programming that would equip individuals in over-policed communities with the knowledge necessary to make the best decisions for their safety.

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Behind Closed Doors

When people asked me about my summer (How was work? Did you like what you did?), I found it difficult to provide an adequate account of what I was doing. I spent my summer with the Child Protection Unit at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. The Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) there form part of the team that investigates and, if appropriate, prosecutes instances of child physical and sexual abuse in Suffolk County, which includes Boston, Revere, Chelsea, and Winthrop. At the Superior Court level almost all of the cases they handle deal with allegations of sexual abuse involving children. To be clear, the following will include a discussion of those cases, and some of it may be difficult to read. Continue reading

Project Dignity: A Happy Experiential Learning Accident

I’m so excited to be hosting a guest blog from 2L Lauren Koster on her public interest experiential learning experience.

For the spring semester of our 1L year, Boston College Law introduced an exciting element of choice: selecting an experiential learning elective to start building the skills it takes to be a lawyer. Some of our classmates opted for a course to practice negotiation or civil litigation. In the course of my choosing, “Leadership, Communication, and Social Justice for the Public Interest Practitioner,” our experiential element was driven entirely by a team project of our own design.

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Unlock the Vote: Restoring Felons’ Rights

In April, I had the privilege of presenting a talk to the Boston College community as part of BC’s Graduate Student’s Association’s program GradTalks. It’s an annual event that provides a forum for a diverse selection of graduate students to present ideas that interest them. I spoke about felon disenfranchisement, and what we have to do in Massachusetts to overcome barriers to voting rights.

Watch the video after the jump.

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Criminal Justice Reform Tackled at BC Law

At BC Law, your education does not only consist of the material you learn in your courses. BC hosts many conferences, functions, presentations, and discussions on just about every subject you can think of, from panels put on by professors addressing recent political actions to all-day events sponsored by BC’s journals and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy. Recently, the Rappaport Center sponsored an all-day conference on criminal justice reform in Massachusetts that was open to both students and practitioners. There were three panels as well as a keynote address by Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

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Through the Eyes of a Child

If you are ever looking for a brutally honest opinion of yourself, swallow your pride and ask a five year old.

In the years I spent working with kids at a community non-profit, I had the pleasure of hearing such gems as, “Miss Morgan, your tummy looks like my mommy’s when there’s a baby inside!” and “Did you know you look a lot less pretty when you wear your glasses?” Though some took these remarks seriously, one look at the sweet little faces from which the comments sprang forth never failed to make me laugh out loud. The children who attended these programs, often with the help of scholarships and sliding-scale payment plans, were typically filled with a joy and sense of innocence that made me absolutely love my job. All too often, however, these amusing little observations were juxtaposed with unfettered comments about living situations that revealed just how much these kids had been through in their short lives. I cannot forget the five-year-old who told me she wanted to kill herself because she missed her father so much, or the look of shame in an eleven-year-old’s eyes when his mother arrived to pick him up while high on drugs. I often felt frustrated by my inability to help these kids beyond passing the information along to DCF. I wanted so desperately to be able to advocate for these children in a way that went beyond simply telling someone higher up than me.

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