My classmates and I were greeted by a large number of student groups, events, and receptions during our first year of law school. There was no shortage of choices to fill the lunch hour or the evening, and there were endless topics to learn about and attorneys to network with. It is normal to feel overwhelmed, especially if you do not know your practice areas of interest. However, with a little bit of self-reflection and planning, choosing extracurriculars out of your many options can be less of a challenge, and your commitments will be wonderful additions to your law school experience. Here are some of my suggestions to help with your decision.
Select a few core extracurriculars based on your goals for law school
Take a moment to reflect upon what you want to spend your time doing in law school. Then, take a look at your options.
For me, it was important to explore potential areas of interest, engage in pro bono work, and promote diversity in the legal profession. After sampling a variety of groups by attending welcome events and information sessions. I decided to become active in two affinity organizations: the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and Women of Color Collective. Through professional panels, social events, alumni receptions, networking dinners, and mentorship relationships, I got to meet fellow 1Ls, upperclassmen, and practitioners, as well as gain helpful advice about law school and the legal profession.
I also applied to go on service trips with Alternative Breaks, a group that organizes week-long trips for students to assist with public interest organizations over school breaks.
Moreover, I was interested in learning about academia, and had the opportunity to help a professor with her research.
Finally, I wanted to have some fun and go back to performing (I had often reminisced about the musical I was part of in high school). This led me to join my school’s Law Revue, which puts on an annual production parodying law school life and the legal profession.
My chosen extracurriculars gave me a well-rounded first year, allowing me to relax, grow personally and professionally, and learn more about practice areas and the legal landscape.
Continue old hobbies or explore new interests through student groups
Some groups are not law-focused, but gather like-minded individuals based on a shared hobby or fun activity. My school, for example, has a board game club and an acapella group. For me, it has been wonderful to meet new people and learn to play new (sometimes student-invented) games every Friday night. This also means that if you have a specific interest and want to bring a community of people with the same proclivities together, you can start a group!
Consider leading an organization
Toward the end of your 1L year, organizations will start searching for their leadership team and encourage you to apply. I enjoyed the people and the work of my organizations so much that I applied and was selected to join the leadership team of two groups.
As a leader, you shape decisions and help enrich the experiences of other students, especially the new class of 1Ls. For example, my co-chairs and I recognize that our law school’s curriculum does not give a lot of attention to the law as it relates to indigenous communities. We also knew that many students would be interested in learning “Indian law” and how to advocate for indigenous rights. We decided to brainstorm ways to partner with Native American legal funds and allow students to assist with their work. Furthermore, I have often seen student leaders work together to advocate for changes in our school and the larger community through circulating petitions and holding coalition discussions.
Different leadership roles involve specific responsibilities that may speak to your specific interests or skills. If you like to fundraise and manage budgets, consider applying for Treasurer. If you want to support first-year students, consider bidding for an outreach or a social role. The possibilities are quite endless!
Lastly, there are many positions available, especially if your school boasts many organizations. If you feel connected to a group’s mission and work, I highly recommend that you apply.
Take advantage of low-commitment activities to explore new areas
Most clubs do not require a set commitment as well as open their events to the entire law school student body. You can attend events, symposia, trainings, galas, and volunteer opportunities such as phone-banking sessions as you please. Participating in these activities are a great way to take some time to learn about new areas that are interesting to you, often from legal practitioners and experts, and contribute to important causes.
Consider “prestigious” extracurriculars and whether you would enjoy them
If you have ambitious goals, such as working at a top firm or securing a federal judicial clerkship, you might want to join certain extracurriculars that are considered “prestigious.” The paradigmatic example is Law Review, which is every law school’s flagship journal that publishes academic articles on cutting edge legal issues. Competing in moot court is also a great way to signal that your ample practice in brief-writing and oral advocacy. Each school also has clinics and externships that are competitive and highly coveted.
Your decision to join these activities usually comes toward the end of your 1L year, when clinic applications, the writing competition, and other selection processes occur. At this point, you will have spent time writing briefs, conducting legal research, and practicing advocacy. Think about what you enjoyed or not and make an educated guess on what activities will be most stimulating and rewarding.
You should not commit to these activities only to boost your resume–think long and hard about whether the actual work sounds appealing to you. These fancy extracurriculars might have been wonderful experiences for others but unsuited to your personality or preferences. Law students tend to chase good stars, and it merits reminder that there is no right way to do law school.
Deciding on extracurriculars is an incredibly personal process, but I hope these tips will be helpful.
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