The Briefcase Diaries

Engaging with Your Community as a Law Student

Many people attend law school because of their interest in civic engagement. Whether it be through political campaigning, administrative law, or legal services, a fair portion of law students expect their professional education to accelerate their careers in public service. I, personally, fall into this group of students. A big motivator of my applying to law school was the ability to serve the public as a member of the Bar. And in my first several weeks of law school, I’ve been grappling with how I can keep my motivation in sight, by staying active in the community, while also being a successful law student.

Trying to balance everything is difficult. There are always competing priorities and it often feels like everything is equally important. It’s essential to be realistic about your commitments and time. If you’ve figured out your semester schedule and decided you have a few extra hours a week to give back, take a look below for some ways you can stay engaged and serve your community.

1.  Academics

There is no way around this being the top priority. Law school is temporary and the effort you put in now will make you a better attorney later. Remind yourself of this when you lose motivation and feel fatigued. Figure out ways to manage your time and self-assess how you’re doing both personally and professionally. This isn’t to say you should be working all the time—everyone needs balance—but make sure that your commitment to school remains the top priority. This will pay off in the long-term more than anything else!

2.  Direct service

If you feel confident in your academic routine, a great way to stay motivated and remind yourself of your goals is to volunteer. Anyone planning to join the Bar in New York has to satisfy a pro bono requirement before being admitted. Do some research to see if there’s an opportunity you would like to pursue that qualifies, but do something you love, nonetheless! If you volunteer, you’ll likely be reminded of why you started law school in the first place. And you’ll be serving your community at the same time.

3.  Indirect service

At my law school, opportunities to donate money and useful goods are always present! Already this year, there’s been a diaper drive and there are tampon drives every month for survivors of domestic violence. If you find yourself short on time but still want to feel like you’re making a positive social impact in law school, donating to one of these causes is a great option!

4.  Mentorship

Mentoring pre-law or law students in the years behind you is a great way to contribute to the legal profession in specific. If your law school doesn’t have a formal mentorship program, start by connecting with students who have the same interests as you, attended the same undergraduate institution as you, or even just have the same professors you’ve had. Not only does this give you the opportunity to stay connected to your law school community, but it offers you a chance to reflect on your own experiences. Law school is hard for everyone, but having a trustworthy and level-headed mentor can make a big difference!

If all else fails, do some investigating at your school! Many law schools have a designated organization for pro bono work and, beyond that, many student groups engage in service-oriented and philanthropic efforts throughout the year. If you’ve taken the time to recognize what’s truly important to you, it’s only a matter of time before an opportunity presents itself!