Losing Friends in Law School

Losing Friends in Law SchoolThis week we welcome back guest writer Hannah Myers to talk about navigating friendships in law school.

Perhaps one of the best, yet worst, aspects of law school is the social component. Suddenly, you feel like you’re back in high school at times, with all of the friend politics and occasional drama that rivals that of Homecoming, Sadie Hawkins, and the prom. In fact, there actually is a prom.

During orientation and that first grueling semester of 1L, everyone seems to be in the same boat. Finding their footing academically, bonding over how little everyone knows, making small talk between classes and in the library. But once those first few weeks (or months) pass, it’s natural for everyone to settle into something of a groove. You start to develop real friendships outside of class, seeing people on the weekends and during school breaks. But as friendships form, it is inevitable that some may drift apart as well.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you are not obligated to stay friends with anybody. If you started off in the same assigned study group and everyone else hangs out and gets along and studies well together but you don’t, there is no unspoken rule that says you are required to remain friends. Cordial and professional, yes. They’re still your classmates and future colleagues. However, one of the worst mistakes you can make in law school is spending time with people who ultimately hold you back. That could be due to personal issues that you always feel come up, or the fact that they use you for your outlines, or that every time you hang out, that person cannot stop stressing out about a midterm, and it starts to unnecessarily stress you out too. In fact, contrary to what some people make it seem like, it is possible to have a social life that doesn’t interfere with your studies.

Losing friends as an adult is often easier than losing friends in an academic setting. As an adult, you barely ever have to interact with someone if you do not want to (except for coworkers). However, in law school, things can get awkward. You will likely still see whatever friends you lost around campus. You may have to interact with them in group projects or conversations. People will almost certainly gossip about you, particularly if the friend break up occurred over a specific incident.

If you and a law school friend have a falling out, here are some tips to make the transition as smooth as possible:

  1. Be careful what you say. Law students are frequently looking for something – anything – to talk about that isn’t the law. They like distractions. Unfortunately, this often involves gossiping about fellow students. Do not get the reputation of being someone who talks about others behind their back, even if it is justified – that reputation can follow you far after law school, particularly if you plan to practice in the same general area as your law school.
  2. Be careful what you post on social media. Social media can be an excellent outlet, but people watch and judge everything you post. I know from experience – if I was studying late at night and took a quick scroll break, it wasn’t uncommon to send a classmate’s story to my group chat to get everyone’s opinions on it. I’m not always proud of it, but it happens. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing in front of your entire class, since odds are, that’s exactly what you’re doing. For a more thorough discussion about social media’s impact in the legal profession, read this post.
  3. If necessary, confront the situation. If something specific happened and you owe someone an apology, give it. Even if you think it won’t change anything, and you’ll never speak to that person again, apologize. Inversely, if you think they owe you an apology, ask for one. If nothing else, that conversation could give you a sense of closure on the friendship and neither of you will be left in the murky undercurrent of a faded used-to-be relationship.

Another important thing to remember is that just like in high school or undergrad, the opportunity to make new friends will constantly arise. Every semester, social dynamics shift. You will be in new classes; you can join new clubs and organizations; you can go to the library at different times. All of these shifts present the chance to meet someone new. I made some of my best law school friends in 2L and even 3L because I had just never had a class with those people before, or my friends made new friends. If you want some advice on how to approach getting involved, check out this post. Further, if you feel like you are completely at rock bottom with all things law school, I encourage you not to lose hope or drop out just because you are in a low moment. Instead, try to get some perspective and look for opportunities for a fresh start.

At the end of the day, community and friendships are critical to your success in law school, but it is absolutely normal for them to ebb and flow over the course of three or four (or more!) years. Keep trusting the process, and know that no matter what, you are capable.


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About Hannah Myers

Hannah is a recently-barred attorney who practices mostly family law, estate planning, and bankruptcy. She works for a small law firm in Northern California. Throughout her time in law school, she participated in the inaugural Accelerated Honors Cohort at University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law, was a judicial extern for the Honorable Chief Judge Sargis of the United States Bankruptcy Court, and studied abroad at the University of Salzburg under retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. When not in the office, Hannah enjoys road trips, hiking and running with her rescue dog Captain, and reading historical fiction novels.

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