Life as a graduate student is quite different from being an undergraduate college student. Undergraduates traverse multiple buildings on campus and get to meet students studying other majors through classes and student organizations. On the other hand, graduate students are immersed in a specific school or academic department. They usually only interact with students in their cohort. Law students are no exception. They get to know their fellow classmates very well, especially those in the same class year. With the law school campus being relatively small, or housed in just one or two buildings, it is easy to make connections and build familiarity, just from seeing the same faces over and over again.
The law school bubble is great in many ways – students help each other out, celebrate holidays and victories together, commiserate about difficult assignments and exams, and learn from their peers. At the same time, it is important to step outside of the bubble and stay in touch with friends, family, and other loved ones who are not in law school. People who know you well, from before you became a law student, can help you stay grounded.
It is also a good idea to make friends outside of the law school bubble. To that end, why not get to know graduate students in other professional schools or academic departments? At my school, there are events specifically aimed at fostering interaction between graduate students. I’ve really enjoyed meeting other people and sharing interesting conversations.
Here are some reasons why you should make an effort to meet your fellow graduate students:
It’s important not only to network with your law school classmates, professors, and legal professionals, but also with people outside of the legal field. Anyone can hire a lawyer: individuals may encounter issues in their personal lives concerning family law, immigration applications, personal injury, small claims suits or other legal areas; professionals often deal with malpractice or contractual claims; companies often have law firms on retainer to deal with corporate governance, IP prosecution and lawsuits, labor compliance, and other matters. Sometime in the future, one of your connections may be looking for an outside counsel or in-house attorney. They might remember meeting you at school and think you’re a good fit. Even if you had just a short conversation and passing interaction many years ago, you’d be surprised by how much first impressions or fleeting moments can impact a person’s thinking. There’s no need to be strategic in interacting with other graduate students. Being nice, open-minded, and authentic will allow you to build genuine connections, which can turn into career or business opportunities one day.
2. Making non-law school friends
There’s no need to exclusively interact with law students while you’re in law school. It is helpful to have perspectives and communities outside of the law school environment. Just as some people don’t want their romantic partner to share their same occupation, you might want to “diversify” your sphere of friends and contacts, by meeting people who have different backgrounds and day to day experiences. Graduate students in masters or PhD programs or in other professional schools certainly do not read statutes, regulations, and cases regularly. Instead, they are writing code, conducting experiments, doing field studies, creating business plans, writing research papers, or serving patients. From them, you will learn about stories and encounters that would never happen to a law student.
3. Learn about other disciplines and understand how they interact with the law
Law students are curious people who enjoy learning. Legal theories and problem appear in many different contexts. Some law students may find it fun to spot legal issues in other aspects of life, while others just want to take a break from legal doctrine and arguments by talking about something completely different. Conversing with other graduate students allows the opportunity to do both these things. You can ask about what they’re working on or what they are interested in. Sometimes the conversation turns to the law and how legal issues could come up in a specific context, and other times the topic is emphatically not law related. Either way, I’ve always learned something new from these conversations.
As a law student, have you gotten the chance to meet other graduate students on your campus? If not, consider attending events to which graduate students from multiple departments and schools are invited. If you live in graduate housing, there may be mixers, trivia nights, field trips, or cultural events where you can meet fellow students in the community. In other words, get out there and mingle! I promise that you’ll feel really good about your decision.
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