Common Law School Extracurriculars and Clubs
Getting into law school can be incredibly difficult. For many students, it can take years of preparation! If you’ve received an acceptance letter or two, it’s probably because you had an impressive resume stretching far beyond grades. You likely participated in some clubs, completed community service, and possibly held some leadership positions while in undergrad. Yet your motivation to join these groups was not merely about developing a resume. You probably joined these clubs to build a skill, network with like-minded individuals, or just have some fun. The same can be said about participating in a student organization while in law school. To help get you started, here’s a list of the most common law school extracurriculars and clubs.
Common Law School Extracurriculars and Clubs
Law Review and Law Journals
Participants in law review and other law journals are essentially in charge of managing an academic journal. Depending on your class year and position, you may be in charge of deciding which articles to feature, editing submissions for proper legal citations, or overseeing those who do. It’s a big job that often involves dozens or even hundreds of students. There are generally multiple journal organizations on a law school campus covering a wide variety of subjects and interest areas.
Excited to jump into a journal on day one of law school? Unfortunately, you’ll have to pump the brakes a bit. Law review and journals select their members from a pool of applications at the end of your 1L year. Regardless of which journal selects you, the experience can be highly rewarding. The skills you develop through journal participation will be of great use in your practice, particularly if you plan to spend a lot of time writing. Many future employers also view journal participation (rightly or wrongly) as a sign that a student is detail-oriented and motivated. For more on Law Review in particular, see Law Review: Advantages and Disadvantages.
You’ve seen Law & Order, right? It’s what many people think of when they think of the work attorneys do. That chance to command a courtroom with your flawless arguments and expert knowledge of legal procedure is undoubtedly alluring. Luckily, your law school’s mock trial competition and campus organization provide the first opportunities on your journey toward the courtroom.
During the competition, you and a partner will be given a set of facts and tasked with putting on a trial in front of a judge (generally a 2L/3L, faculty member, or practitioner). You will call witnesses, solicit testimony, and introduce exhibits while cross-examining the other side’s witnesses and raising objections. To perform well, you’ll need to acquire a working knowledge of the code of evidence. Because nothing ever goes as planned, this competition will also help you develop the ability to think on your feet.
If there is even a remote chance you’ll be in a courtroom in your career, take advantage of this opportunity! Even if you’re not sure what you want to do, the competition can help you decide. Some students who think they have zero interest in litigation wind up changing their minds after a mock trial competition or two. Most law schools allow students to participate in school-wide competitions. If you enjoy the experience, your school’s mock trial organization may select you to represent it in interscholastic competitions. Not convinced the whole “public speaking” thing is for you? Take a look through Public Speaking During Law School to see some of the merits of putting yourself out there.
Moot court is similar to mock trial in that participants have the opportunity to polish their public speaking skills. While mock trial replicates something found in a trial court, moot court hones in on appeals. In moot court, you must convince judges to apply a particular view of the law to a set of facts through both brief writing as well as oral arguments. You’re assigned one side of a legal issue and must advocate your position using facts and holdings of existing cases. As you work through your presentation, a three-judge panel will ask questions and pose hypotheticals to determine whether your argument is supported by sufficient logic.
It sounds intense (and it is!), but the skills you develop through competition will serve you long after you’ve graduated. While most lawyers will not handle appellate work in their careers, one’s ability to utilize existing law to craft an argument and persuasively write is central to any legal practice. Similar to mock trial, law schools hold annual intramural competitions and campus organizations provide interscholastic competition opportunities later on. Check out Pros and Cons of Moot Court and Law Review for some more insight on moto court.
This organization goes by several different names (e.g. student government, student board of governors, student senate, student bar association, etc.), but it essentially constitutes the student government at any law school. Students can run in elections held each year to serve as a class representative or board member. Those elected have the power to influence a wide variety of decisions, including providing input on budgets, staff hiring, and student events and amenities. Representatives also serve as advocates on behalf of the student body in interactions with school administration. Whether you have experience with undergraduate government or are new to the concept, you’ll find involvement as a campus representative provides a great way to meet others at your school and feel a sense of fulfillment as you advocate on behalf of your fellow classmates.
The legal profession has the unfortunate distinction of being notoriously slow to diversify its ranks. As a result, law school campuses and curricula are sometimes accused of catering to the “old boys” club. Affinity groups exist to create space on campus for those with lived experiences that might not always be reflected in the classroom. Affinity chapters also provide opportunities for students to network with classmates of similar backgrounds and receive mentoring from practitioners.
If you come from an underrepresented background, an affinity group can provide a safe home on campus. Even if you don’t, you will still undoubtedly benefit from supporting your law school’s affinity organizations. By exposing yourself to some of the key issues affecting people of all identities, you will grow as a legal mind and demonstrate your commitment to making the legal profession a welcoming place for attorneys of all backgrounds.
So, what kind of affinity groups might you see on campus? Many law schools have a Black Law Students Association, Women’s Law Caucus, Latin American Law Student Association, Asian Pacific American Law Student Association, Native American Law Student Association, OUTLaw, and many more! Check to see what your law school might offer (and if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you might be able to start one on your own)!
Practice Area Clubs
As you may already know by now, the law touches basically every profession imaginable. Every field–including medicine, business, sports, entertainment, and politics–is regulated by a variety of laws that are constantly changing. Each law school has at least a few organizations that focus on a particular practice area. These groups host lectures from practitioners covering new developments and provide networking opportunities for students looking to enter the field.
If you dream of practicing in a particular area, regular attendance at these events will help you get ahead. Even if your connection to a particular area of law is purely hobby-based, there are far worse ways to spend a few lunch or dinner hours each semester than hearing from interesting people discussing topics that you find stimulating.
Constitutional Law Organizations
You may feel like you know essentially nothing about law, but we’re sure you probably know at least a thing or two about constitutional law. Anyone who follows current events is familiar with some significant Supreme Court decisions or the judicial philosophy of various Supreme Court Justices. You may even have formed an opinion as to which philosophy best suits your own preferences.
The two major organizations found on any law school campus are the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society. Each group espouses a particular constitutional philosophy and hosts discussions or lectures covering various issues surrounding the Supreme Court. If you are interested in the Supreme Court and its impact on society, consider joining one of these groups and help plan events that will be the talk of the campus for years to come.
Your law school will likely have chapters of Campus Democrats and Republicans as well as a few non-partisan issue-based political groups. These organizations regularly hold discussions on political issues and help voting registration efforts during campaign season. Your chapter may also help canvass for local candidates–a few of whom may be alums of the school. If you’re passionate about politics or think you may want to hold office one day, these might be the groups for you!
Public Interest Organizations
Many individuals apply to law school with the specific intent of helping indigent clients access the legal system. Others may want to practice in other areas but still want to build a skill set for occasional pro bono work. Regardless of where you fit, there are infinite opportunities to give back at every stage of your legal journey. There will be at least one organization on campus that will help you put your newfound skills to use by providing various pro bono opportunities throughout the school year. Even a rudimentary understanding of the legal profession gives you the power to affect someone’s life for the better. In doing so, you’ll not only burnish your resume but also help make the world just a bit more equitable.
If someone hasn’t told you this already, allow me: you need to find a way to de-stress during law school! It is vital to your health (and therefore your success in law school) that you try to do something once in a while that doesn’t involve highlighting a textbook. Luckily, there’s often a handful of groups on a law school campus that helps students do something that isn’t so…academic. For example, your law school might have a club basketball or club hockey team. Some law schools have book clubs or groups that play trivia or boardgames. Students gathered together to have fun, get to know each other, and recoup after some stressful weeks in the classroom. It’s a great way to blow off steam, practice a hobby, and get to know people outside the classroom context.
How to Start an Organization
So what happens if you arrive at law school ready to join an organization and discover that it doesn’t exist? Create it! The list of organizations at a particular law school changes each year as students graduate and new folks matriculate. Many groups go dormant over time if nobody is available to help manage affairs. There may be a perfectly suitable club just waiting for the right person to jump in and get things started. That right person could be you!