One of the ways to sustain yourself though the marathon that is law school is to get involved in activities that interest you. Some of those interests could double as academic credit or legal experience, but some can just be for you. It might seem like there’s no time left over after all the reading, outlining and study-grouping. While that may be true in the first few months of school while you gain your bearings, there is plenty of time for extracurricular activities in law school, especially in later semesters.
Here are 8 activities to consider participating in as a law student!
If you are someone who identifies with a group that is underrepresented in the legal profession, you may be able to find friends and even mentors in an affinity group. Most law schools have student run organizations for students who are Black, Latinx, Asian, Muslim, LGBTQ, or members of other social identities. These organizations provide unique professional networking opportunities and events for their membership (often connected to affinity professional bar associations), and they also create a much-needed sense of community when we feel apart from other legal practitioners. And the best part about these orgs, is that being a member doesn’t necessarily require a major time commitment on your part. You can still focus primarily on your academics and spare an hour or so a week (if even that) just to attend events for your benefit when you choose.
There are also student run organizations that cater to specific kinds of law. For example, law schools typically have organizations for corporate law, public interest law, international law, entertainment law, and other specialized areas of the law. Joining these organizations are a great idea if you already know what kind of law you’re interested in and want to start building your network in law school. Alternately, if you think you might have an interest in that area of the law or are still looking to find your passion, these organizations can give you a taste of the practice. These organizations also put on events that provide an opportunity to stay up to date with big issues and trends in the area of law. Being a member of these organizations, like affinity organizations, requires little to no effort at all. But both types of student organizations allow opportunities to take get leadership experience once you’re ready to devote time in your second and third years of law school.
If what you’re really interested in is getting leadership experience right away and contributing to the improvement of the student experience at your law school, then getting involved with your law school’s student government may be right for you. There are usually available positions for students at every level – but in order to get those positions you need to win an election. You can also often find specialized positions or committees to join like diversity or curriculum planning, if there’s a particular aspect of your law school life that you’re especially interested in working on. This is a great away to get to know your classmates and build your public speaking and representation skills. If you win, you’ll get a taste of politics and the inner workings of your school. You’ll get the opportunity to plan events, provide services and act as a liaison between your peers and the administration at your law school. And it looks great on a resume, which is always a plus.
Regional Bar Associations
Every state and many localities have bar associations that law students are welcome to join. These associations are a great way to start building your network outside of your law school. You’ll get to meet lawyers from various fields who practice in your home or law school community. Local bar associations also provide a way to stay up to date with current events in general and legal news. Many offer free or discounted memberships for students which include other services like access to job and internship opportunities. You can be as involved as you want in these associations, or you can join for the benefits that don’t require much work on your part.
Moot Court/Mock Trial
For students looking for healthy competition and a way to build core legal skills, moot court and mock trial teams offer a beautiful opportunity. Mock trial teams allow students to compete based on fact patterns that require them to build important trial skills like opening statements, cross examination, and using demonstrative evidence. Moot court teams, on the other hand, allow students to compete based on fact patters that require them to build important appellate advocacy skills like brief writing and oral argument. Even though mock trial and moot court focus on different kinds of advocacy, both provide an opportunity to become a better public speaker, teammate and lawyer. These teams typically require a try out to be invited to join, and in many law schools teams are not open to first-year students. A lot of employers place a premium on these organizations, so it can really be a big resume boost. Plus, if you’re interested in pursuing a career in litigation after graduating, these can be incredible experiences to build your skillset. Check out the teams at your school and their rules if you’re interested in these challenging and fun opportunities!
Before coming to law school, many first-generation law students have never even heard about law journals. Like many other fields, the legal profession has a system of scholarly publications that academics participate in. Most, if not all, law schools have at least one student-run journal that provides the opportunity for students to write, edit, and publish their own scholarly works. The students that run the journal also solicit articles from professors, legal practitioners, and other law students outside of the law school. Once outside articles are accepted, the members of the journal edit them and prepare them for publications.
Journals typically have a writing competition or other form of academic screening to earn an invitation. Admittedly, this is one of the more academic extracurricular activities, but it is also one of the most prestigious opportunities available to you. Some employers not only look for journal membership, but exclusively hire students who have this experience. Big Law firms often have an unwritten requirement for journal membership, as do judicial clerkships. Students who take advantage of this opportunity gain invaluable legal writing and editing experience as well as future career opportunities.
Becoming a research assistant for a professor allows students to foster a meaningful relationship with a faculty member while gaining valuable legal research experience. Many professors are writing articles for publication while they manage their teaching schedules. They welcome the help of students at all levels to supplement their research and help perfect their work for publication.
Not only do students get to know a professor outside of the classroom, but students gain a legal professional who can vouch for them in the job and internship search. Down the road, these relationships can really pay off if you’re interested in working for a judge. Judges trust professors to suggest students who can work collaboratively on legal research and writing with a more experienced author. You might even be able to get paid for working with a professor in this capacity! If you have a professor you enjoyed learning from or one that works on a subject you’re interested in, chat with them to see if they’re looking for assistance!
Maybe you just want to get out of the ivory tower and into the real legal world. Perhaps you’re motivated by social justice or you have a love for volunteer work. If any of that sounds like you, you might be interested in pro-bono or externship programs. Pro bono work includes donating your free time to assist lawyers who represent people who cannot afford a lawyer on their own. These opportunities range from criminal defense, to landlord tenant, to family law and even to immigration. Law students have the opportunity to use their extra time to do meaningful work and gain legal skills along the way. Similarly, externship programs provide a more formal way to connect with entities that provide pro bono or public interest services. Externships require more of a formal commitment and can often be done for credit. Whether it’s informal pro-bono through the school or formal externship work, you will get the chance to give back in a real way as a law student. And on top of that, you will gain real skills that will make you a better candidate for the summer and/or post-graduate jobs.
No matter how you choose to get involved, you should GET INVOLVED! If not for the reason of finding something to motivate you, try something that will help you later when applying for jobs and internships. If you’re worried about time, pick activates that only require you to show up. Then as you get more comfortable in law school, branch out into leadership or activities that require more of you. There are so many opportunities for further enrichment in law school, and while you’re a student you have an invaluable chance to try as many of them as you can.