Law School Affinity Groups – What They Do And Why You Should Join

Law School Affinity Groups - What They Do And Why You Should JoinThis week we welcome back guest writer and 3L Tiffany Lo to talk about what affinity groups are and why you may want to participate!

Law school affinity groups are created around a common identity and allow their members to connect and learn from each other. Some of these groups are Outlaw, Black Law Students Association, Asian Pacific Islander Law Students Association, Latinx Law Students Association, Native American Law Students Association, Jewish Law Students Association, Women of Color Collective, First Generation Law Students, Middle Eastern Law Students Association, and many more.

So why should you join one or multiple? Here are some things to think about:

1. Support and Community

Law school is hard, and having a community of friends who understand the challenges is critical to staying positive and motivated. Affinity groups make it easy to meet and build relationships with like-minded students. Many deep and lifelong friendships develop from just getting food or drinks together, complaining about midterms and outlining, sharing intel about professors and classes, and supporting each other through both good times and bad.

You are likely more familiar with the students in your class year, and joining an affinity group allows you to bond with students that you may not otherwise get a chance to meet. Through conversations, you can learn about their perspectives and life experiences: what brought them to law school and what direction they want to go in the future. In addition, everyone’s experience in law school is different. Just by meeting new people and chatting, you can learn about the cool endeavors that your classmates are involved in, as well as the associated challenges.

Many affinity groups celebrate holidays and observances, such as Lunar New Year and Black History Month. For students who are far away from home, it is so wonderful to have a community that recognizes specific cultural traditions and practices, reminding them of their families or home countries.

2. Networking

Networking is important for law students in order to learn more about the profession, the local legal market, and how they want to navigate their legal careers. Aside from connecting with your law school classmates, you can also take advantage of your affinity groups’ existing connections to alumni members and close attorney contacts. Groups are often in touch with local affinity bar associations and invite experienced practitioners and judges to share their experiences with law students. You can chat with these professionals afterwards or suggest a coffee chat. While networking can feel awkward, affinity groups can make the experience more seamless.

3. Mentorship

In affinity groups, you can both find mentors as well as mentor others. There are many opportunities for mentorship from upperclassmen students, alumni, and other leaders in the legal profession. These individuals can help you navigate your academic choices in law school as well as offer career advice. When you become a more experienced law student, you can give back by passing on the wisdom you’ve gained from classes, extracurriculars, summer jobs, and any other aspect of being in law school.

4. Leadership Opportunities

If you are so inclined, you can volunteer to lead affinity groups as the president, vice president, treasurer, class representatives, or other positions. In these roles, you can organize events, liaise with legal professionals, and solicit and implement feedback from your classmates. Many student leaders also engage in advocacy, speaking with law school administrators, responding to current events, and condemning actions that marginalize communities. There’s a lot of freedom to shape your role, start new initiatives, and come up with ideas that would benefit your group and the student body at large. I’ve seen my fellow classmates do amazing things, ranging from starting formal mentorship programs, preserving institutional knowledge through spreadsheets and other compilations, collecting signatures for petitions, to standing up for important issues that affect the legal professional and our society.

5. Professional Affinity Networks

Affinity connections do not stop once you graduate from law school. Firms and bar associations have set up affinity groups that offer critical resources for networking, continuing legal education, and community. They host trainings, social mixers, volunteer events, and encourage attorneys of all levels to develop meaningful connections, both professional and personal.

For minority attorneys, it is incredibly valuable to have advocates in their corner, especially when they are senior attorneys with similar backgrounds and life experiences, to whom they can better relate. This can lead into new professional opportunities like being staffed on a matter you’re interested in, speaking on a panel, or joining the board of a nonprofit. These in turn amplify minority perspectives and facilitate the representation of much needed voices.

Affinity groups can help you grow as a law student, legal professional, and a person. I hope that you will explore some of the groups at your school and get involved!


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About Tiffany Gee Ching Lo

Tiffany Gee Ching Lo is a student at Stanford Law School. She spent her 1L year at the New York University School of Law, where she was involved with Alternative Breaks, Women of Color Collective, and Law Revue, and worked as research assistant. Tiffany received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley, graduating magna cum laude with double majors in Political Science and Rhetoric. Tiffany developed an interest in the law from a young age, and have worked in law firms and courthouses in Hong Kong–where she grew up, around the San Francisco Bay Area, and in New York. In her spare time, Tiffany enjoys painting, playing the piano and cello, trying out new recipes, and watching late night talk shows.

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