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Father Knows Best

a daughter finds her calling in law school

Okay, maybe Dad was right about this one. With many interests, but no one outstanding passion, I had always questioned my vocation. When my father first suggested that I should become a lawyer, I was too devoted to journalism to listen. After two years as a television reporter, however, and after much exhaustive soul-searching (the details of which, I promise, would bore you), I finally relented to his fatherly wisdom, took the LSAT, and enrolled at Boston College Law School. I was twenty-seven and, frankly, still uncertain whether I was in the right place.

The first set of grades hardly helped matters. Like most BC Law students, I had performed well in college, but when first-year grades arrived I felt foolish to think I could succeed here as well. I told Dean John Garvey I doubted whether I could become a lawyer, or even wanted to. He was, to my surprise, neither shocked nor offended. He simply shared how he, too, had felt doubt and inadequacy at certain points throughout his career. Instead of thinking less of me as a law student, he related to me as a human being, and showed how such questions are a necessary part of the human journey.

At BC Law I have learned that my grades do not define me, that my performance is not my worth. While certain legal employers primarily measure their applicants by a threshold of grades, the faculty and staff have genuinely cared for me as a whole person.

They have also taught me much about vocation. It is not merely that I must “maintain” my spiritual life in the midst of my professional life, but that my spiritual values and convictions pervade my everyday work, guiding and giving purpose to my professional pursuits. I found I could not devote myself to my studies without knowing that the goal I pursued was worthy of such devotion. The values of the Jesuit mission here, of being “men and women for others” and cultivating a “faith that does justice,” showed me the worthiness of the right practice of law.

My work with the BC Immigration and Asylum Project was deeply rewarding, as we helped a Somali client win asylum after his family was murdered by a rival tribe. My faith in God’s love of all people, no matter how great their suffering, gave me the emotional capacity to attend to his story without despair, and my faith in God’s love of justice gave me the strength and determination to be an effective advocate. At BC I learned that I could not and should not divorce my deepest beliefs from the work to which I am called.

The third and perhaps the most important lesson of my three years at BC Law, however, is the joyful necessity of drawing strength, courage, and life from community and friendship. In the midst of eating lunch in the Commons, laboring through meticulous journal duties in the library basement, and hanging out in the Christian Legal Society office between classes, I have forged deep and nourishing relationships.

I am grateful for my friends outside law school, but without friends like Molly McDougal and Margo Anderson, who were true companions through every step of these last three years, I could not have persevered and thrived. We have supported each other through the difficult times—of completing the law review write-on competition after first-year exams, dealing with ongoing family issues, and, simply enduring the daily grind of course work. We have also shared countless good times, mostly centered on food, laughter, and our shared enthusiasm for Professor Dean Hashimoto. BC is a place where people stop to take time for others and where friendships flourish. 

Four years have passed since I stopped fighting my father’s advice and decided to apply to BC Law School. Now, I can say with conviction and heartfelt gratitude that I made the right decision, not only to seek a legal education, but also to seek it here.

Joyce Koo Dalrymple begins her legal career clerking for Justice Mark Green at the Massachusetts Appeals Court.