Dear BC Law Community,
The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), has created a widespread public health crisis, larger than what most of us have seen before in our lifetimes. This is not, however, the first-time members of our community have faced an unprecedented life circumstance. Your classmates deal with issues such as food insecurity, homelessness, chronic physical and mental illness, family tragedies, and much more, on a daily basis. When members of our community face these issues, absent a pandemic, we tell them to suck it up. We tell them the curve is what it is and they just need to find a way to solider through, or we contritely tell them “hey, B’s are still passing,” when we all know full well that in a tight job market, the arbitrary difference between a B and a B+ can be the difference between employment and unemployment. An overly competitive curve is all well and good when it only effects the have-nots, but when it starts to affect the “haves” as well, then we start paying attention.
Editor’s note: due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Boston College has moved all classes online and sent students home for the semester. The BC Law Impact blog has suspended its normal posting schedule, and bloggers are now focused on writing about the impact of the shutdown and the current state of the world on their academic and social experiences as law students. We are all in this together; let’s find our way through together.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about a night I spent in Panama trapping bats. More precisely, I was taking pictures of a team of German scientists who were trapping bats. I had been traveling in Latin America when a journalist friend asked me to meet him in Panama and tag along on a story he was doing for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, which studies tropical ecosystems and their impact on human well-being. As the virulence of the coronavirus has shown, bats are especially potent and prolific reservoirs of disease due to their strong immune systems. So every night, this team of scientists would head out into the tropical forest, put nets up between trees, and catalog and take samples from all the captured bats.
The goal was to understand the dilution effect, which refers to the way that biodiversity in the natural world helps prevent the spread of disease from animals to humans. The theory is that when an ecosystem has high levels of biodiversity, it is more difficult for a disease to take hold in any one species. Without any species becoming a potent reservoir for that disease, it is more difficult for it to spill over into human populations. When biodiversity is low, however, a single species can serve as host to a critical mass of disease, facilitating its transmission to humans.
I think we can all relate to the feeling you get when you walk out of a final thinking you nailed it, only to find out a few weeks later that your grade was not nearly what you expected. When this happens as a 1L, however, I think the stress is even worse. All you have heard about for the months leading up to finals is that only your first-year grades matter and if you fall outside of a firm’s cutoff, you have a very big uphill battle ahead of you.
Well, even if this happened to you, your fellow 2Ls and 3Ls are here to tell you that you don’t need to beat yourself up, it will all work out, and it’s now time to move on with your second semester. Below are their words of wisdom:
“Wow, this is it,” I thought to myself as I stepped into the Law School for the first time since winter break. “My last semester as a student.” It’s true: I’m nearing the end of peaceful early morning library sessions, cold call induced anxiety, nights out with ambitious peers, and possibly the end of my time in Boston.
I’m looking forward to a new chapter of personal growth as a “real” adult, but before I move on I want to make the most of my remaining moments at BC Law. With this in mind, I put together a bucket list for my race to the finish line.
Coming into law school, I had many choices to make. Several of them were financial: where I would live, how much I would take out in loans, and whether I could hold a part time job during 1L (that final one was a no, which made things very tight during those many months of learning how to Bluebook and outline). I had to decide who I would befriend on the first day of orientation, who I would trust as study partners, and who I would go to when I was having a horrible time with my lot in life.
One thing I was determined NOT to do was to allow the confines and constraints of law school to turn me in to someone I would be ashamed of, or someone I just didn’t like.
And then I met “the curve:” the infamous, fixed grading system that pits section mate against section mate and keeps many law students up at night.
Nearly every time I’ve ever slept in my 22 years on this Earth, it has not been in a law school library. Enter: an email from the BC Law Library staff titled “The Sleep Pods have arrived!”
There are now sleep pods installed on the third floor of the library, a response to requests for a place to nap or zone out in order to refresh from our standard day-to-day cycle of reading cases, going to class, studying, outlining, and grubbing for the next opportunity to get free food.
We stay busy here at BC, and sure, sometimes we treat sleep as a luxury rather than a necessity. But then, sleeping doesn’t earn you any Lexis Points.
In honor of Thanksgiving, we offer our readers a few recommendations for that “home-cooked meal” feeling…
Everyone has a dish that reminds them of home.
Whether it’s that main course from your favorite local restaurant, the dessert that only your mom can make, or even the dish your state is known for, these dishes have a special place in our hearts—and in our stomachs. They serve as a bridge from our families and friends and our childhoods, to who we are now.
As we enter the chaos that is finals season, that connection has proven to be even more important to me. I found myself yearning for a moment of simplicity, a reminder of the “good ole days” back in Texas where my concerns had nothing to do with outlines or bluebooks. So I did some research and happened upon Blue Ribbon Barbeque in West Newton.
As any Texan will tell you, we take barbeque very seriously. I was originally skeptical of the glowing reviews—one promised Blue Ribbon’s barbeque was the best they had ever eaten, even compared to what you get in the South. However, as I approached the restaurant, a familiar scent began to permeate around me, one of smoky barbeque and sweet cornbread. Yum. I ordered some classic barbeque and sides and took the next hour to savor every bite. I was immediately transported back to my childhood, feeling thousands of miles away from West Newton.
Thanksgiving break is quickly approaching, which means exam season is just around the corner. For our prospective students who are interested and for all of those 1Ls getting ready for your first round of exams, we thought it would be helpful for you to hear some words of wisdom from 2Ls who were in your shoes just one year ago.
The common theme: take some time to relax and come back to school ready to grind. Here’s what these 2Ls had to say:
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.
I am happy to host a guest blog today from third-year student Imran Hossain on a very important subject for law students and lawyers.
I am a 3L. I have a job that I am excited about, working for a firm that I love. I have the most amazing family and friends. Yet I am anxious–and it’s taken me a while to understand that this is totally okay.
Being a huge sports fan throughout my life, I have constantly admired and tried to emulate athletes and have a great deal of respect for Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan (among others) who are pushing the conversation on mental health forward. While awareness of mental health issues in the legal profession is important, I believe sharing effective coping strategies is even more important. In that vein, I’d like to open up about how I cope with anxious times.