Survive Law School: Find Your People

FriendsTo make it through law school, you’re going to need some help. You have to find your people.

My People? What Are You Talking About?

In law school, you need more than friends – you need allies. A friend is someone you enjoy hanging out with, maybe taking in a movie or grabbing a glass of wine. Friends are valuable, but having an ally is different. An ally is someone who supports you, and makes you feel more confident and grounded every time you see them. When the proverbial shit hits the fan, and things are falling apart, you don’t necessarily call your friends – you call your allies.

If you’re very lucky, you’ll find classmates who are both friends and allies. These are your people. They’re the ones you’ll turn to when things are really looking bleak.

How Do I Find My People?

Excellent question. How in the world do you find these mythical creatures? It’s not easy, but it starts with paying attention to how you feel when you’re interacting with someone. Maybe you’re attracted to this person for some reason, and you think they seem fun, or smart, or impressive, or whatever. But you notice a nagging feeling when they’re around, where you feel a bit small, and not entirely comfortable, and like you’re not quite good enough somehow. This is a sign that this is not one of your people! You can still hang out with this person and have fun, but they’re not a trustworthy ally.

When you’re around one of your people, you’ll know it because you’ll feel better about yourself, and about life, and about law school. If someone makes you feel “less than” you know they’re not an ally. (Query whether you want such people as friends, but we’ve all had our frenemies, who serve some purpose despite being dreadful human beings.)

Because you’re looking for someone supportive, start by noticing classmates who are kind. It’s possible that someone who spends most of their time gossiping and complaining is your ally, but I tend to doubt it. If you play the odds, you’re more likely to find a supportive friend among the ranks of people who are generally warm, accepting, and decent than you are among those who are critical, cold, and self-centered.

Granted law school attracts a disproportionate share of jerks, but those aren’t your people. Look for the exceptions.

Don’t Assume That the People You Think Are Your People, Are Actually Your People

You can’t necessarily pick out your people in advance. When I started law school, I was convinced one particular person was going to be my new best friend. We had similar backgrounds, and I was super excited to get to know her. I emailed her before classes started, talking about our shared interest (which was, frankly, a pretty weird thing for law students to be interested in, so it’s not as if there were tons of other people around to talk to about it). I noticed we were in one of the same classes, so I signed up for a seat next to her. I showed up the first day and introduced myself, expecting her to be totally awesome. What happened? I couldn’t stand her. She turned out to be one of my least favorite people in my entire law school class.

In contrast, people who looked terrible on paper turned out to be great friends and allies. Classmates whose political views make my blood curdle ended up being my people. You never know, so it pays to keep an open mind!

The Bottom Line

If someone makes you feel bad, they’re not your people. Keep looking.

P.S. A few days after I wrote this, I came across a similar sentiment with a very practical, very powerful test that can help you identify your people.

Return to Surviving Law School 101.

Think this is the craziest piece of advice you’ve ever heard? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Image by lusi via stock.xchng.


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