What to do with all that free time in law school?
June 24, 2008 6:07 AM   Subscribe

I'm just about to head off to law school, where there are dozens of student-groups and extracurricular organizations. Which are most impressive to perspective (big-law) employers?

I know good grades is number one by far, and in years 2 and 3, Law Review is number two by far. Any thoughts on what other options mean the most? Especially options for 1Lers?

Not that I'll have time for them, and not that I'll avoid groups that I have specific affinity to, but I'd like to understand the context of those decisions.
posted by ericc to Education (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Most employers don't really care. Some judges will want FedSoc credentials, but honestly, any big firm will not care. These things are important for you to have something to talk about during an interview (but remember that these interviews can be hard to get at many schools). Small firms may like that you're involved in various activities, but that matters on the whim of the individual and will not likely be something you can predict. In short, only do things that you care about and only do them to the extent that it makes your life more enjoyable. Don't do them for the job options.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:12 AM on June 24, 2008

Best answer: I am in BigLaw and interview law students for our summer associate positions.

For me (and most of the people I talk to), the answer is None of the Above. If you become the president of the "IP Law Society", it might validate your interest in IP law, and if you're in the a capella singing group, that might weigh one way or another on the "airport test" (i.e., the 'if stuck in the airport with this guy for 6 hours, would I become (more) suicidal?' test).

I personally put particularly little weight on student bar association elected positions, since in my experience that just shows that a candidate befriended the people who go drinking on the SBA's dime every week.

I suggest you participate in groups and activities that will keep you sane throughout law school. In particular, I'd encourage you to hang out with people outside of law school.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 6:18 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Agree with the above. Just check out a few groups that interest you, and get active in one or two — between academics and staying sane, you'll have plenty to do without a full plate of extracurriculars.
posted by electric_counterpoint at 6:23 AM on June 24, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks so much! What a relief.

Am I correct in believing that Law Review is an exception to "none of the above?"
posted by ericc at 6:23 AM on June 24, 2008

Best answer: Law review is absolutely an exception. It's not so much an "extracurricular activity" as "very nearly necessary in order to get a job at a large firm." Also, most (if not all) law schools give at least some academic credit for working on a law review, so it's not really extracurricular in the normal sense.

Also, if you find yourself in enviable position of being able to do both law review and moot court, some people may suggest that you have to choose one or the other, as doing both is too difficult. Your choice is actually between doing both or doing law review. Doing only moot court is not very impressive on a resume, especially if you do not win the competition outright. Generally speaking it is much easier to get on a moot court team than the law review, and law firms know that.
posted by jedicus at 6:36 AM on June 24, 2008

Best answer: Nobody mentioned law review (or moot court/mock trial or clinic work) because these aren't student extracurriculars in the conventional sense. You don't sign up for them during the club fair, you earn your way onto them later in your law school career. They matter, but they're not something to worry about now. At the beginning you should concentrate on classes and just enough fun stuff to keep you sane.

Unlikely exeptions...

At some schools the SBA president gets a big check. If you're really confident you can glad-hand enough and will be desperate for the money come your third-year, I guess it could conceivably be worthwhile to put in the time at SBA.

Some professors get really involved in the student clubs they advise (many are completely absent from them). If you think the professor could really help you out somehow because she's influential in a particular way, then maybe getting involved to get facetime could be worth it.

Not a club per se, but BarBri (and I assume other) reps get deals on their bar prep if they promise to shill to their classmates for the next three years. If you have the time, it might be worth your while. At the same time, if you land the BigLaw job, they might pay for your bar prep.

These are all pretty out there, though.
posted by aswego at 6:44 AM on June 24, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks! You folks are awesome!
posted by ericc at 6:48 AM on June 24, 2008

I'm currently a summer associate in a large firm. What's said above is generally true, but this depends in part on what kind of school you're attending.

If you're going to one of the 15-20 schools where everybody but the bottom 5% of the class gets 25 on-campus interviews, then your resume primarily exists as something to talk about during those interviews. Those interviews tend be almost exclusively the "airport test" described by QuantumMeruit above. Also at those schools, Law Review might help you get jobs or interviews you might otherwise not get, but it's hardly a prerequisite. So in those schools, the best things on your resume are the interesting things that people might want to talk about, like the musical-comedy show, or your non-law-related undergraduate thesis, or the summer in college you worked for your uncle cleaning septic tanks.

If you're going to one of the schools where only the top XX% of the class even gets interviews...well then you'd better be in the top XX% of the class. Law Review, journals, moot court, and clinics are more important here if you really want to end up at a big firm. Once again, the other stuff is only helpful if it's interesting to talk about.

I guess, now that I think about it, that the resume's not really important in either case except as something to talk about. So my advice (echoing those above) is to have fun, because having fun will give you something to talk about.
posted by Partial Law at 7:19 AM on June 24, 2008

Interest-based student groups can provide networking access to practicing attorneys - though, not always BigLaw attorneys. These groups will often invite attorneys or other professionals to present informal lectures on topics targeted to the group's particular interest. This access can be important if, among other things:

- you don't have a good idea about the day-to-day of practicing law;
- you decide BigLaw isn't for you; or
- your law school doesn't have strong academic support in a given area.

These groups typically require relatively little involvement unless you play an organizing role or they publish some type of journal. Hence, the lack of weight as resumé fodder mentioned above.

You're right to focus on grades and law review if you're goal is BigLaw, as mentioned above. But, to go beyond your question a bit, remember that law practice comes in many flavors that you might not have considered. Everyone expects to be in the top 10% of your class, but studies confirm that 90% won't make it. Many fantastic attorneys have skills that didn't get encapsulated by their GPA.

Study hard, make some friends, and don't freak out if law school doesn't go exactly like you expect.
posted by GPF at 8:56 AM on June 24, 2008

If you have extra time on your hands (which you shouldn't as a 1L), you could try to work for a law firm. That would be about the only "extracurricular" thing that might help a resume -- other than law review or moot court.

fyi ... BigLaw firms are also impressed by those who know the difference between "prospective" and "perspective" ; )
posted by pardonyou? at 9:00 AM on June 24, 2008

I'd wait until your second year to really get involved in any activities, other than moot court or law review, which don't actually start until your 2L year, even though try outs are during your 1L year. Dedicate yourself to your grades and your bluebooking skills so you can get on law review (you can learn to write later, I made this mistake, just learn to bluebook like no one has bluebooked before). By and large firms, just like most law schools, don't care about anything more than the numbers and whether you have law review and/or moot court.

Also, most law school don't allow you to work your 1L year as a full time student, even if yours does allow you too for god sakes don't. Also, don't panic about getting a job your 1L summer. Now I said "don't panic" not don't get one. But you should put all your effort into your grades, not mass mailings for jobs they'd rather be giving to 2Ls anyway. Obviously apply, but a lot of 1Ls get jobs right at the end of the spring semester (because whoever it is failed at getting a 2L) and that's fine. Or go abroad/work for a professor, etc. You'll get something and that's really the only point for your 1L summer.
posted by whoaali at 11:10 AM on June 24, 2008

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