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One ‘Badass Lawyer’

How Alex Bou-Rhodes ’19 plans to change lives.


Student Snapshot

Provenance: South Boston. Rarity: A Quadruple Eagle: BC High, BC, and BC Law’s joint-JD/MSW. Latest Bucket List Addition: Walk across the English countryside. Most Admired Historic Figure: RFK. Favorite Album: Coming Home by Leon Bridges; best music to cook to. First Website Read in the Morning: The New York Times Daily Briefing. Favorite Book: Catch-22. Best Piece of Advice: David Foster Wallace’s commencement address, “This is Water.” Dream Companion on a Long Flight: Wallace or Karl Ove Knausgaard. With One Extra Hour in the Day: I’d spend it talking with a friend that I don’t make time for.

Bou-Rhodes completed a joint JD/MSW this past spring.

As a preschooler, I wanted to be a firefighter. I dressed in a raincoat and plastic helmet, then walked into the local coffee shop with a garden hose and asked if they had any fires I could put out. They didn’t, but they let me check the smoke detectors. I took the exam during my senior year at BC, but when I saw I was 1,200th on the list, I knew it wasn’t meant to be.

When I was a sophomore at BC High, working at the Boys & Girls Club in South Boston, a kid got angry and tore my boss’s office apart. I’d never seen a child so upset and destructive. Other people saw him as a “bad kid,” but I had seen him be incredibly empathetic and kind. It was a pivotal moment because I realized the anger didn’t define him, and we could change how he saw himself if we built off those moments of kindness. That’s a driving social work philosophy now, where you build off what works in someone’s life, because we are all more than the worst things we do.

Law school was not in my plans; I was only going to pursue my MSW. But as I considered the dual degree program, I realized the incredible value a social-work-minded lawyer could have. In social work school, you spend a lot of time learning about how systems like schools and law enforcement impact someone’s development and opportunity. Learning the law through that lens has definitely pushed me towards legal realism.

I want to reshape our criminal justice system. It needs to be centered on forgiveness, compassion, and understanding.

I think back on my time working with kids, and I remember their stories and the experiences, both good and bad, that we had together, and it reminds me why I started down the path I’m on. I saw the Chris Evans movie, Puncture, in college, where he plays a lawyer helping nurses, and thought, “Wow, I want to be a badass lawyer who goes around in a suit and changes people’s lives.” I bought my LSAT books the next morning.