Making friends in law school is similar to making friends in real life.
The distinction, then, lies in the pool of potential friends: it is slightly homogenized in comparison.
Is everyone in law school an archtype?
The moment you enroll in law school you already share a number of commonalities with your first-year class. This is because law school appeals to only a handful of personalities: the hard worker, the go-getter, the do-gooder, et al. Of course, law school is only a means to a professional end, but neither is for the faint-of-heart.
I was tempted to write on the typical archetypes you are likely to encounter in law school (and how to navigate among them). Most books on surviving/succeeding in law school do this (e.g. “the gunner”). You can read these books.
I am hesitant to regurgitate this process for a few reasons:
- I didn’t perceive these characterizations in my first-year class (or else I’m less creative than other reflectors on the topic).**
- The more noticeably important distinction is a student’s ability to handle stress.
- You know how to make friends.
- No one person is defined by a single trait. (I’ll leave that discussion to the social sciences.)
** My first-year class was largely one group of nearly 100 students that defied stark characterizations. Cliques formed from day one, but they became fluid over time, and united on many occasions.
Nonetheless, I think it is important to contemplate the friendships you’ll form in law school because they will impact your life tremendously.
Law school is far more reminiscent of high school than of college — it churns gossip, judgment, and (academic) insecurities.
You can minimize your exposure to this, and instead gain a great deal of support, by being smart about who you choose to spend your time with.
Have more in common than law school
I made fast friends with several classmates I met at orientation week. Whenever we are all together and are feeling sentimental, we rehash how it all started:
“We sat at the same table at the Dean’s luncheon,” “No, I started talking to you first,” and “That one guy introduced us — what happened to that guy?”
I will have these friends for life. And it is primarily because we share more than the law school experience.
The time we spend together (the time for fun) is not consumed by our studies. You will spend an obscene amount of time on all things school-related already — and while these friendships are born out of law school — they don’t have to epitomize it. Socializing with students outside of this special close-knit group was invariably one-note. My role was often to derail the conversation from law school — “Can we please talk about something else?” — we couldn’t.
The more important outcome of sharing more than law school is the supportive effect. Having a deeper understanding of who you are means they can tailor their support. Sure, you are “all in it together,” but I’m not going to turn to anyone when the going gets tough.
Which brings me to my second point.
Find friends, not stressors
Find friends who are good (at least relatively speaking) at handling stress.
A perceptible difference among students of my first-year class was the ability to cope with stress.
No one escapes it — and if it is not the highest level of stress you have experienced, it will almost certainly be the most prolonged. But the way we externalize it is hugely important, as stress is contagious.
After my Criminal Procedure exam last semester, one of my girlfriends said this of a fraught student coming our way: “Wherever you are is where I don’t want to be.” She meant in the moment, of course, but it is a smart remark on the control you have over shielding yourself from stressful situations, often exacerbated by others.
I have already mentioned the importance of being able to talk about something other than law school. Also, take stock of how others hold up.
Stress is inescapable — but you want to find those individuals who understand that you cannot constantly and outwardly stress about those things over which you have no control. Embodying this characteristic yourself will help them, in turn.
No matter your approach, law school will certainly be challenging. But you have every control over who helps you, and who you help, through the process!
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Did you miss any of the other posts in this series? Catch up now!
- Lessons from My 1L Year: Introduction
- Lessons from My 1L Year: You Don’t Have to Live in the Law Library
- Lessons from My 1L Year: Be Careful with Study Groups
- Lessons from My 1L Year: Have Fun
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