The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Involved Around Campus

The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Involved Around CampusThis week we’re welcoming back guest writer Aleena Ijaz to talk about why you may want to get involved around campus and what are some best practices.

You’ve probably found out by now that “law school” is more than just school. It’s a lifestyle. To ensure that your lifestyle is as balanced as humanly possible, you may choose to get involved around your law school campus. You may want to fill your days with something more than reading and briefing cases. But while getting involved is a great way to make the most of your law school experience, extracurricular involvements (or the lack thereof) can quickly snowball into your biggest regrets. Before you pay another membership fee or sign up for another journal, keep the following in mind:

Attend your law school’s activity fair

You need to know as much as possible about what’s out there to make an informed decision. The menu of options in law school is different from that in your undergraduate school—you’ll want to learn more about things like moot courts and student practice organizations. Don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on signing up for list servs of organizations that pique even mild interest. These emails often contain important information about events happening around campus (yes, free food!) and are a low-cost way to get engaged. Attend events whenever possible, especially general body meetings. These meetings generally give an overview of an organization’s events for the semester.

Be deliberate about your involvement

It’s tempting to get trigger-happy with law school student organizations. But before you make a membership commitment, consider why you want to join. Do not commit unless your reason is sufficiently compelling and be aware of the implications of making a commitment. Is this organization a way to explore your interest in a particular area of law? Will it help you meet and befriend like-minded law students? Does it allow you to give back to the community through advocacy or other means? Allow you to take on client work? Is it a necessary steppingstone to future career opportunities such as clerkships?

Periodically reevaluate your involvements

Law school is anything but static— things can change rapidly from one semester to the next. What may have worked last semester can become untenable the next because of a heavier course load or leadership positions. Instead of overwhelming yourself with heavy time commitments, or worse, making a commitment you later fail to keep, bow out gracefully or reduce your involvement at the right time. Make a weekly schedule at the beginning of every semester to track of your time and see if and where your various extracurricular involvements fit in. Consider allocating less time to extracurricular involvements your 1L year and increasing extracurricular engagements leading up to your 3L year when coursework tends to be less demanding.

Get overinvolved

You’ve probably heard the phrase “quality over quantity” before, and that applies with full force to law school extracurriculars. It’s tempting to add line after line to your resume by joining countless organizations in a superficial capacity. But ultimately you will gain little from only tangential involvement. A good litmus test of whether your involvement is truly meaningful is to ask yourself whether you could speak intelligently about your experiences with an organization in an interview setting. Time is a limited commodity, and it is technically impossible to have deep involvement with a range of organizations. So be selective!

Resume pad

Many law school opportunities are competitive, framed as prizes reserved for the upper echelons of law students. Many fall into the trap of chasing these opportunities for the sole reason that they will boost their resumes. There is a high risk associated with pursuing opportunities such as Law Review or Moot Court with the sole intent of amassing gold stars. These activities involve a large time commitment that will quickly become unpleasant if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. Moreover, they may not even add much value to your resume depending on your desired career path. For example, participating in moot court will be of little signaling value for a law student looking for policy or business-oriented job opportunities. Besides, odds are that this student isn’t enthralled by the idea of appellate oral argument and briefing. Such a student shouldn’t do moot court just because they think it’s “prestigious!”

Silo yourself

There’s a whole world of opportunities out there in law schools, and it’s to your advantage to explore as many of them as possible. Very few people know exactly what they want to do when they first start law school and benefit from the insight gained from diverse extracurricular involvement. Even if you think criminal law is your calling, attend a few meetings of the space law or environmental law societies. As far as politically affiliated law student organizations are concerned, primarily the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society, understand that heavy involvement in either may limit certain opportunities across the aisle. Even if you have strong political leanings in one direction or another, push yourself to explore opposing viewpoints. That’s what law school (should) be all about!


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About Aleena Ijaz

Aleena is a rising 3L at Harvard Law School interested in criminal appellate work. She spent her 1L year at George Washington University Law School before transferring to Harvard to complete her legal education. As a law student, she has been active in criminal law societies and the Women's Law Association, serves as an editor on a Harvard law journal, and has assisted on legal research ranging from jailhouse informant testimony to the complexities of federal courts. She hails from northern Virginia and attended the University of Virginia for her undergraduate studies, where she finished with a double major in economics and public policy along with a minor in biology. In her free time, Aleena enjoys mentorship, dancing, and listening to Supreme Court podcasts.

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