Law school is back in session—and for some of you, in session for the first time—and it’s a different kind of academic experience than most of us recall from undergrad. It can be difficult to wrap your head around the idea that there are steep curves, rankings, and only one massive exam per class to ascertain what concepts you’ve gained.
Not only are the grading systems and class structures different, but the extracurricular activities you choose to join can also shape your career path and mentorship opportunities.
Studying in law school is its own hurdle since studying for one overarching exam requires study habits vastly different from those you developed in years prior. Obtaining outlines from students who took the course before you becomes a rite of passage. Determining which type of study group works for your individual needs (or, rather, whether you should even join one) is a large part of your first semester in school. And, of course, figuring out where technology factors into your note taking, organization, and studying is key.
Be extra—but not too extra
I’m a student ambassador at my law school, and during on luncheon for future admitted students, Professor Paolo Annino spoke to the group about extracurricular activities. Something he said resonated with me: They’re a misnomer. Instead of viewing them as extra, students should view them as an integral part of their education.
“This is where students develop their analytical and interpersonal skills,” Annino said. “This is where students develop life-long friendships and legal buddies. Yes, that person sitting next to you sharing pizza may become a federal court judge or lawmaker. Extracurricular activities open doors to the diverse practices of law and introduce you to mentors and alums.”
Sitting there among distinguished alumni and other friends of the law school, I nodded in agreement. It was apparent to me how important these decisions are to my holistic law school experience. But it was Annino’s memorable analogy that I knew I had to share with Student Lawyer readers:
“Approach activities outside courses as if each is an elite artisanal chocolate versus a potato chip. We all know the regret of dipping into the chip bag—there’s no end after just one. If you aren’t a disciplined person, extracurricular obligations can easily become a salty bag of chips. Consider looking at each important activity as an elegant chocolate—one or two choice ones are enough to create a rich experience that will be more memorable than the bag of chips.”
During my first year, I threw myself into way too many clubs—I was neck deep in my salty bag of chips.
I signed up for nearly everything out there and wasn’t able to take advantage of a lot of the perks of each organization, nor was I able to really give back meaningfully.
Since then, I’ve scaled back and am now able to focus on the select groups that matter to me the most.
It makes participation enjoyable, and any networking or event planning done within the group is on the same trajectory as my future legal career.
I also became an outline connoisseur of sorts, collecting them from anyone and everyone who offered.
I joined the various databases of outlines from all the organizations I’m in and gleaned all the appropriate materials from each of them.
I had piles of other people’s outlines and notes; combined with my own notes and outlines from class, it was overwhelming. I once again had a salty bag of chips. Once I settled into a dynamic study group and felt comfortable in my own intelligence and abilities, I was able to scale back and use the materials that complemented my learning style while keeping my own understanding and interpretation of the class materials.
You’ve got this
Whether you’re a visual or a kinesthetic learner; whether you value handwritten notes or the use of the latest apps; whether you study best in group settings or alone, you’ll find your niche and flourish as the semesters pass.
Grades are important, networking is important, self-care is important, and, most of all, your future career is important. As you flip through the pages of this issue, focus on the tips and advice that will work best for you and implement them this semester. You’ve got this!