3 Tips for Socializing During Remote Law School

3 Tips for Socializing During Remote Law SchoolThis week we welcome back guest writer Tiffany Lo to talk about how to still socialize during a global pandemic.

Many law schools have announced that the upcoming term will be fully remote or partially remote—or what is called “hybrid instruction.” In light of this, students are understandably grappling with many decisions: whether to take a hybrid course, whether to move to the area of their school, how to ensure a stable internet connection during live classes, and whether they can fully focus on their studies in their family home.

Another important question is how to socialize and network with others–fellow classmates, professors, legal professionals, law school administration and staff members – through a computer screen. Law school is not only about studying for classes and searching for jobs. It is also about building relationships. Creating connections and finding community are important for your mental health and well-being, and also help you develop a network of people who can help you succeed academically and introduce you to career and business opportunities.

For new students, both incoming 1Ls or transfers, the challenges of adapting to a new environment and style of learning will undoubtedly be exacerbated by the reduction or elimination of in-person interaction. For returning students, they will have to devise new ways to manage their groups and publications, organize events, and work on clinical and pro bono matters. In other words, all law students will have to navigate a new reality.

I am by no means an expert on the topic, but this year, I have experienced many introductions and meetings over the internet. This started even before the pandemic hit the U.S. In January, I was interviewed via video for a summer job. Even though all the other candidates had made it to the office for the interviews in person, to my surprise, I was offered the position. In the following months, I settled into a new routine of attending zoom classes, joining zoom office hours, and setting up zoom student leadership meetings. Recently, I completed my summer program – working on assignments and attending social events – all from the comfort from my home, barring the daily eye strain, of course.

Through these experiences, I had gathered some tips that I think are helpful for socializing in the law school context. I also share some of the silver linings about communicating through screens.

1. Use Helpful Technology for Remote Events

These tips are most helpful for the students planning remote social or networking events. However, even students who cannot give direct input into these decisions can suggest ideas. I have found that in this new mode of life, people are more receptive to input and feedback, as they want to keep their audience engaged, so don’t be afraid to speak up!

Nowadays, video conferencing platforms allow users to create polls and share the results, separate a larger group into breakout rooms, and change backgrounds and screen names. These tools make an event more fun and interactive. They make it easier to organize trivia night or other games or facilitate a small group discussion or speed dating. With a bit of creativity, the possibilities multiply!

2. Take the Initiative to Reach Out to Individuals

Now that we stay at home more and incur less travel time, people are generally more available, as they have fewer excuses about lacking the time to talk. I definitely took advantage of this as a summer associate, writing to multiple attorneys to set up 30-minutes coffee chats.

I have found that when you slot in a fixed time period and speak to someone one-on-one, the conversation becomes much more personalized and helpful to me as a law student. I remember networking events in which each attorney would chat with a semicircle of many students at one time. The structure made it difficult to ask all my questions, follow up, or divulge personal details that I didn’t want shared with strangers. In the one-on-one format over zoom, I feel more at ease. I am able to introduce my background, experiences, and interests, and my conversation counterpart would share insight that was directly relevant to my concerns and curiosities. I am able to ask my burning questions and interject more freely. This doesn’t only apply to chatting with legal professionals – I have learned a lot from talking to fellow law students in this way and have benefitted from all the above.

3. Focus on Building a Relationship Before Going into Business

Networking and other professional meetings are ultimately about business. You want to make a connection. You want to learn about a new area that you could succeed in. You want a job interview. However, long-lasting professional relationships are built on a solid foundation of personal trust and admiration. When you meet in person, it is easier to read someone by observing their demeanor, how they interact with others, etc. Still, you do not judge “a book by its cover”, and you spend time to learn about them (“Did you do anything fun last weekend? Why did you go to law school? What do you like about your work?”), before moving into the purpose of the meeting (“How do I improve my resume or interviewing skills? What can I read to learn more about X?”).

Meeting new people is scary. Meeting a stranger over a computer screen compounds the challenge. It is awkward; you cannot always pick up on non-verbal cues; you might have missed something due to a lag and felt uncomfortable pointing it out, so you let it slide…Established friends and coworkers are more comfortable with the medium and making light of technical difficulties or misunderstandings, but they still have to be mindful of these challenges. So, I suggest taking time to chitchat first – not making small talk but discussing topics that facilitate better understanding of each other. You might want to ask what they are working on, what they care about, what they want to improve. I would argue that this is necessary even in non-global-pandemic times, but it is especially important now.

It is intimidating to think of discussion topics on the spot, so I encourage jotting down some notes beforehand. Consider what you want to know about the other person and what you want them to know about you. I promise that once you do a couple of these meetings, it will come a lot more naturally.

Finally, relax! We all understand the challenges of making connections while social distancing. Be authentic, proactive, and curious, and things will fall into place.


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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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