Welcome to your first year of law school! By now you've settled into new surroundings, attended orientation programs, gathered your reading materials and amassed a truly impressive collection of multicolored highlighters. You have cracked open that syllabus and perused the reading list. Your first semester stretches ahead of you, filled with promise. However, perhaps you have one thing weighing on your mind: whether or not you have time for anything else!
In this post, we will examine some of the reasons—both personal and professional—that you should consider getting involved with law school student organizations that interest you, along with the benefits of membership.
You Deserve a Break
Getting involved and becoming an active participant in a student group is an easy way to take a step away from the books and remain connected to your personal interests. Let's face it, law school is demanding, and, in many ways, your first year is likely to be the most difficult of the three. Of course, you will want to dedicate time to ensuring your academic success—your first year is an important one! However, tending to your personal wellness should never be a secondary goal. You'll need a break from class, the library and the hours you spend working through your reading list. Being a member of a student organization is a good way to do this.
Student groups can also help you make connections with peers who share common backgrounds or similar interests. The first year of law school can feel isolating, particularly if you are in a new city, so joining a student group is just another way to surround yourself with those who share your passions.
Gaining Clarity on Your Legal Career
Student groups can be fun, of course, but there are also career-related reasons to consider joining the organizations that most excite you. You may be thinking to yourself, "But I just started school! I haven't even started outlining for exams yet!" It's understandable. With graduation a full three years away, it may be difficult to understand how a student group might influence the direction of your career. However, it can, and it does. An organization may help you understand what you ultimately might like to do in the world of law, as well as the professional environment in which you will best succeed.
Student organizations can help you better understand what you want to do with your law degree. For example, some groups are focused on a particular legal practice area (environmental, business and finance, start-up/venture capital), while others might be focused on what it is like to practice in specific geographies (East Coast, West Coast, Midwest). These organizations often provide invaluable programming—sometimes with the help of practitioners from local law firms and other employers who can shed light on specific practice areas, the latest developments in the law or regional trends.
Additionally, your involvement in a student group can help you better understand the type of environment in which you will thrive. Many groups provide informal networking opportunities for their members: whether meeting program panelists, participating in resume workshops or engaging in mock interviews. As you look toward the recruiting season, these opportunities to interact with potential employers will not only help you differentiate between and among organizations, but they can also help you determine whether you can envision yourself working alongside them.
Showcasing Your Skills
In addition to your academic performance, potential employers will be looking for involvement in law school organizations. They will want to see your engagement with something beyond the books and will recognize the value of the skills you may be able to bring to the organization as a result of your participation in those student organizations. Like any employer, law firms seek well-rounded individuals who are not only academically gifted, but are involved in their school community and are giving back. Joining a student group gives you the opportunity to develop and hone skills, such as leadership, teamwork, relationship management, business development and project management, as well as the ability to overcome adversity. These are all things employers will be seeking in candidates for their organizations.
So get involved. Although your studies should be a top priority for your first year, being involved in organizations is also a benefit to your law school experience. Your involvement will have a positive impact on not only your current experience in school, but also your long-term professional career.