Aspen Publishing
0

Back to Blog List

Topics/Previous Posts

Involvement in Campus Clubs/Organizations Bolsters Your Resume

3L, Washington and Lee Law

So much emphasis is placed upon your law school class rank and GPA. From the moment that you begin orientation, everyone is striving to be the top of their class because they have been indoctrinated into believing that your GPA and class rank can make or break you and your future career prospects. Unfortunately, your GPA and class rank do matter - a lot. If you plan to go down the traditional path of working for a medium or big law firm, or even the government, these employers easily can disregard deserving candidates because of their average or low GPA, or low class rank. You might ask, then, what’s the point of devoting your precious time to campus clubs and organizations? It’s this mentality that has so many law students focusing completely on classes and grades during their 1L year. But the benefit of involving yourself in campus clubs and organizations, when well-planned, can easily produce positive outcomes for your mental well-being as well as your professional career.

Law Review, Law Journals and Moot Court

First, there are the obvious law school organizations, including law review, law journals, and moot court. These are traditionally seen as the most beneficial organizations to be members of. Many medium and large law firms require candidates to be members of a law journal or moot court to even be considered. The difficulty for many law students is completing the write-on competition to get on a law journal. It is usually immediately after your Spring final exams. After studying continuously for the past month, law students become exhausted from the sleepless nights, cramming, practicing hypos, and finally completing multiple four-hour long exams. Completing a lengthy application involving more blue book edits and writing is the last thing a 1L wants to do. But, it’s important for every 1L to complete the write-on competition. Firms want to see law journal participation, and it will always be an asset to your legal resume. Similarly, 2Ls, despite their heavy course load, should participate in the various moot court competitions. Employers will value the experience gained from your participation, and you will become a better lawyer through this experience.

Subject-Matter Organizations

Second, there are the interest-targeted campus organizations. These can include: women’s law student society; an ethnic or religious society; public interest, environmental, political-oriented, and other targeted topics. These types of organizations can be beneficial to law students for three main reasons.

1) First, they serve as an important reminder of why we decided to pursue a J.D. in the first place. Few of us decided upon the law school path with the end goal being a big law firm, where we would be conducting discovery in a back room for the first few years, slowly moving up the tall career ladder. Many of us wanted to pursue justice, whatever that word means for each of us. There are law students who devote themselves to the environmental law society, interacting with environmental organizations throughout the country. Many conservative and libertarian-minded students similarly devote themselves to the Federalist Society. And those devoted to underrepresented groups can join the black law student organization, the Asian American law student organization, Thomas More Society, and many more. These types of organizations will give us the necessary push to keep us on our legal path with a fulfilled and meaningful feeling.

2) Second, these organizations serve as proof to future employers of our commitment to their specific field and goals. Participation in these organizations can be vital to law students who plan to enter those fields post-graduation. Specific interest organizations, such as EarthJustice or the NAACP, do care about your GPA and class rank. But they are also very interested in your alignment with their causes. EarthJustice will seek candidates that have committed themselves to environmental law; they seek those candidates who are familiar with the environmental legal and policy word. The same can be said for other public interest organizations and even state and federal government entities.

3) Third, these interest-targeted organizations connect law students with outside organizations in the same field. This means they also connect law students with lawyers and employees in their desired field before even entering the legal job market. The women’s law society often pairs with the local chapter of the state’s women’s attorney association. These organizations host monthly events, allowing law students to meet possible mentors, possible future colleagues, and possible future employees. Throughout your law school career, you will hear about the importance of networking. Getting involved with student organizations affiliated with community-based organizations is a big step towards succeeding at networking with various legal communities.

Staying Connected with Your Law School

When I graduate, I won’t remember any specific case I had to brief for a class. I doubt I will remember over time any unique experience with a traditional class; they all will likely become one big blur. What I will remember is my involvement with certain organizations and classmates. I’ll remember the large forum event sponsored by a student organization that I organized. It will make me feel connected with my law school and its past and future law students. Your law school is your first foundation of your legal career. It not only provided you with your legal education, but it enabled you to meet your first legal colleagues and mentors. Paying it forward by giving back to your law school and maybe even the organizations you were involved with while a student is a way to keep your legacy and tradition ongoing for years and decades to come.

Don’t undervalue the worth of becoming involved in student organizations. They will provide you with a healthy life style while navigating law school, and they can open unexpected doors. It will make you happy, and that’s what so many law students need.

Comments

I think people have hit a lot of important points in the comments on this article; but ultimately I do believe it is extremely important to get involved with extracurriculars on campus. Yes, these activities sometimes take time away from classes, but that teaches an important professional skill: balancing a lot of projects and deadlines at once. Like Peter, my 2L year was extremely stressful due to my various involvement, but as a result I was able to handle the stress of my summer associate position when the assignments piled up. I was ultimately glad that I experienced the stress in academia before experience a similar stress in an environment where a lot more was at stake. Also, my extracurriculars made me a more marketable candidate in the legal field overall -- employers can find plenty of top tier students; in my experience, they are looking for individuals who bring more to the table than grades.

Reply

I think people have hit a lot of important points in the comments on this article; but ultimately I do believe it is extremely important to get involved with extracurriculars on campus. Yes, these activities sometimes take time away from classes, but that teaches an important professional skill: balancing a lot of projects and deadlines at once. Like Peter, my 2L year was extremely stressful due to my various involvement, but as a result I was able to handle the stress of my summer associate position when the assignments piled up. I was ultimately glad that I experienced the stress in academia before experience a similar stress in an environment where a lot more was at stake. Also, my extracurriculars made me a more marketable candidate in the legal field overall -- employers can find plenty of top tier students; in my experience, they are looking for individuals who bring more to the table than grades.

Reply

I fundamentally agree that student organizations help us as students know our fellow student-colleagues, make us more involved, and help the school's overall image. However, I do not think this conversation would be completed without a discussion, much like Peter has already started, that student organizations can also distract a student from the real reasons they are in law school. I personally witnessed several friends 1L and 2L years become overly burdened with the duties that they had taken on with groups, which ultimately caused their grades to suffer. Luckily there is a remedy for this: focus on what you truly care about. Also, after speaking with several friends from undergraduate that also went to law school, we came to the conclusion that most firms that conducted OCI's at our respective schools were overly concerned with GPA/class ranks and not as much with student involvement. Me, personally, I have chosen to only join one or two groups and have been determined to not become a leader in any. While there are undeniable networking benefits to being a leader of a student organization, my personal cost/benefit analysis steered me to only doing it because I was passionate about it. Of course, this is just my sole opinion of what worked best for my life.

Reply

Bo, solid thoughts. I do not think you can overstate the importance of setting personal goals and structuring your activities around them. Our OCI interviewers were also entirely GPA and experience focused, and I cannot think of one that asked me about my vast involvement in student organizations. Journals and Moot Court are a different story, as these were mentioned frequently. Nevertheless, it seems that if your goal is private practice, as opposed to public interest, one’s energies should be grade-centric. But I think it ultimately comes down to figuring out your short and long-term plan, then deciding what will help get you there, while hopefully maintaining some semblance of sanity.

Reply

Participating in school groups/organizations has been the best part of my law school experience. I have been a board member for three subject-matter organizations, which I wouldn't recommend to everyone. It is great for networking, but it can be quite time-consuming; so, if it isn't a subject-matter that is important to you and what you want to do in the future, I would suggest not serving on the board and instead limiting yourself to being a general member. By far, my best law school experience has been being a member of my school's national mock trial team for the past two years. I consider moot courts and mock trials as the most beneficial organizations a law student can join because you gain valuable practical experience and these organizations truly prepare you for work after law school. I think this post is a great reminder to students, especially 1Ls, to explore their school organizations and start thinking about which areas of law they enjoy so they can sufficiently develop their resumes throughout law school and put themselves in an advantageous position when entering the job market. Thank you for your thoughts on this!

Reply

Great post, I definitely agree. Involvement in student groups and organizations gives you a chance to be a leader in a really competitive atmosphere and lets you focus and make a different in the field of law of your choice. Creating your own new student organization is a great addition to a resume.

Reply

I definitely agree that employers want to see a well rounded individual and extracurricular clubs and activities are a great way to portray that on a resume. I think they also show that you're willing to go above and beyond the minimum effort actually required in law school. Being a lawyer will undoubtedly involve long hours and late nights, and as much as we might not be looking forward to those, extracurricular activities are a great way to show employers you're up to the task. Great blog post, Astrika.

Reply

Great post. Clubs have an important place in law school. As a part of our school's BLSA chapter, I have had the opportunity to mentor 1Ls and 2Ls, and seeing how well my mentees have done has given me a great sense of pride. I found that branching out to clubs beyond your direct area of practice has been beneficial as well, as it is great for networking (especially when you have a large student body, like my law school), and allows you to broaden your own horizons. I would advise all entering law students to get involved with organizations - like another poster mentioned, I have been asked about my involvement in our organizations at every interview I've ever had.

Reply

Involvement in student groups has improved my law school experience greatly. It is the best way to meet your peers and practicing professionals.

Reply

This is a great post. During interviews I have been asked more than once about my involvement in a law journal. As far as involvement in other organizations goes, I would just say that I think having a lot of involvement in an organization that pertains to the type of law you are interested in may be more attractive to employers than involvement in everything. If you are selective in the organizations you become a member of it may tell an employer that you are interested in this type of law even before you get an interview. Also, although the post didn't speak to this, I would also say that involvement in pro bono opportunities (volunteer work) is a great experience and I am always asked about the volunteer legal experience I have. It is definitely wise to consider the opportunities made available to you on your campus.

Reply

This post is spot on! I could not agree more, and I will only emphasize a few things Astrika already mentioned. Law journals and moot court are by far the most valuable organizations a law student can join to improve their resumes. That said, I whole-heartedly agree that student organizations are likewise important for numerous other reasons. Nevertheless, I would caution a 1L or future law student to carefully consider how each extra-curricular makes you a better law student/future lawyer/more attractive potential employee. Like many students, I wanted to get involved in everything I found interesting, which was unfortunately a lot. As a result, when I started my 2L year I quickly found myself overburdened with work and tasks beyond homework or class reading. Many of these organizations demand a significant portion of your time and I did not consider which ones would be most valuable to me as a person and as a future lawyer. If you are fortunate enough to join a journal or moot court, definitely do it. It can be grunt work in the beginning, but many employers require your participation in one or both. In terms of student organizations, if you are already on a journal and/or moot court, be careful how much else you are taking on. Like Astrika said, it is important to be involved, but I would pick one you are truly passionate about and try to gain a leadership position. Beyond one or two student organizations, I would not become any more involved than a regular member. That’s my two cents. Law school requires more strategic planning than undergrad or high school, and your time is more valuable than you think. But, you can make it work if you don’t get swept up in opportunities, and you evaluate what is best for your particular situation.

Reply

Leave a Comment

(Input is case sensitive)

 Only comments approved by post author will be displayed

Back to Blog List

Close