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7 things I’ve learned as a law student leader

Morgan Nelson
Morgan Nelson addresses the Assembly during the ABA Law Student Division annual meeting in San Francisco in August 2016.

As a law student with a Public Administration Master’s Degree, I have learned so much from my time on the Law Student Division Board of Governors about real-life professional networks and how they are mobilized through my time on the LSD Board. From a legal perspective, a developing professional’s perspective, and even a personal perspective, I have truly learned (and continue to learn) while working with my Law Student Division colleagues.

Although it is impossible to capture all of the things I have learned into a comprehensive – and articulate – list, I list the outcomes below that any law student interested in getting involved in the various levels of the LSD should know.

1. Procedure is everything

It is with all of the love in my heart for my fellow law students and the legal profession as a whole that I say, procedure is everything. Imagine sitting in a room with 20 incredibly capable law students – with the obvious accompanying articulate debate skills, logical prowess, and personal charm – tasked with creating a framework for work together as a team, and operating within a vision that will impact the advocacy done on behalf of all law students within the US. While I make it sound daunting, I found it refreshing, inspiring, and above all … dependent on procedure. Who expects any different from law students?!

2. Procedure is meant to facilitate

Working with a board of law students has taught me that when working with a group of individuals that meet in person the same day that major decisions will be made, procedure can be a friendly tool. My public administration background may be making a big deal out of a detail that only I find fascinating, but none of the management or organizational courses I have taken could prepare me to actively apply everything I have learned about organizational health, culture, and the vast network the LSD works within. There is no better way to learn than by doing – and by doing, I learned that it’s best to abandon all assumptions and work as a team within the procedural framework to create consensus and solve problems.

3. Perspective is important

During our discussions about values and even when sending out emails circuit wide (which for me includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri), I found it helpful to realize that perspectives are influenced by a variety of factors. It’s easy to talk about “perspective” but difficult to truly convey the depth I found in meeting new people. Our perspectives mold the world we would like to help build and convey a lot to those who may never visit the state or city that we come from. It really is pretty inspiring to meet people of such varied backgrounds and groups, and already know you have a common goal and interest.. The advancement of liberty and justice through the legal profession.

4. People are inherently good

In a time when negative news and inability to create consensus dominates the social and political media outlets, I have learned from my peers on the LSD Board during times of adversity and through disagreements. It was obvious that I would never understand what it is like going to a school on either coast, but I also knew that my colleagues on the board may never understand the things that I have learned during my life in the heartland. When we operate as one group (humanity) and mobilize our various perspectives and reasons for those perspectives, the potential for debate and disagreement is less daunting.

5. Work doesn’t have to be ‘work’

The Law Student Division Board of Governors work agendas include online meetings, travel, and a significant number of emails connecting with people in different geographic locations. At first, when I was trying to understand all of the commitments I had just made, the work load seemed daunting. However, when I began connecting with students from across the country, the work gained an unexpected dimension. Seeing students just like me from different states and backgrounds really working to make a difference in the lives of law students helped me realize the passion I had all along. All I had to do was adapt to the online platforms and expectations – the rest came easily!

6. Opportunities exist

My time working towards a position on the board and eventually as a member of the LSD board has taught me that the possibilities within the ABA and LSD are endless. Within the leadership teams of the Circuit, as an ABA rep or SBA president, or even on the national level, there truly is something for everybody’s interest or involvement level. Just to name a few, you can focus on your school, delve into regional issues, work in the magazine or media aspect, engage in policy advocacy on behalf of students nationwide, assume leadership roles and mobilize your vision, or even learning more about the ABA in the ABA rep position. If you want to get involved, you just have to pick what you’re interested in and learn about the opportunities!

7. Believe in yourself

Having previously worked towards my master’s degree in public administration in Texas, I viewed my entrance to the legal field as a change in profession. Policy advocacy has always been my passion and calling in life, and entering a new profession made me insistent on finding a niche. Although it was scary at first to go through the process and obtain a position on the Law Student Division Board of Governors, I have found nothing but support since joining the LSD team.

Nobody gets to their highest level of competency in their profession without stepping out of their comfort zone and into an arena of the unknown. It is okay to make the first step without seeing the destination, get involved!

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Morgan Nelson Morgan is currently a 2L at the University of South Dakota. She serves as the 8th Circuit Governor on the Law Student Division Board of Governors, which includes work with all law schools within South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, and Missouri. She enjoys long walks on the beach.