Wednesday, September 3, 2014

5 Tips for Navigating the Law School Student Organization Fair

Starting out in law school can be quite overwhelming.  Not only are you trying to figure out a new learning style, taking on a heftier workload, and finding your place in this new ecosystem, you’ve also been told there is an upcoming student organization fair that’s a MUST to check out. School-sanctioned extracurricular activities are a good way to show interest in a particular area of the law, build skills, establish networks, and bolster your résumé.  Meaningful participation in the right student organization is a way to illustrate to prospective employers your dedication by focusing your time and activities during law school.  On the other hand, how are you supposed to take on anything extra with hundreds of pages to read and cases to brief every night?  What will be the most worthwhile of your time?  Here are a few points to consider.

  1. Benefit.  The first thing you should look at is how a certain organization is going to benefit you.  Selfish?  Yes.  This is your time you are offering, and when this means taking away from studying and focusing on GPA and rank (the 2 most important criteria for employers), it is no small sacrifice.  Will the group offer experience, course credit, networking, free study materials, employment?  If so, it may be something to look into further. 
  2. Time v. Quality.  Two extracurricular activities you should be gunning for are Law Review and Moot Court.  These activities will eat up A LOT of your time.  However, both are highly recruited by employers.  Here, the prestige and experience you’ll receive is worth the time you’ll put into it.  Whereas, some organizations will take a lot of time (or a bunch of small amounts of time that add up) and don’t carry the same weight (if any) in the employer’s eyes. 
  3. Cost.  Is there a membership fee or random costs throughout the year that could hurt your budget?  Is the cost justifiable (go back to #1)?  There are activities that are free (Law Review and Moot Court) or some even provide income as well as supplement your educational experience such as becoming a research assistant, legal search engine representative, bar review course representative, or working part-time. 
  4. Improves Understanding/Interest.  There are many special interest-type student groups available.  These can be good for support group reasons, a group to help unwind every once in a while, or just to help you flesh out a particular area of the law.  Just remember, these organizations may take time and money, and you need to decide if participating in them is feasible for your educational and financial goals. 
  5.  Instincts.  If after considering these criteria and you’re still unsure whether to take something additional on, then follow your instincts.  Don’t feel pressured to spread yourself too thin.  In no case should you allow any extracurricular activity to distract you from your work, and you should absolutely not allow this during your crucial first year of law school.

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