Ok, so you started law school and now you are hearing about all of these student organizations, Environmental Law Association, Latino Law Student Association, Military Law Student Association, Criminal Law Society, and SO many others. You have tons of reading to do and you have already met some people and connected with them in your section, so should you join a group too?
Here is what your options are.
First, there are different ways to join a group. You can be a Member and receive email updates with the events these groups are organizing. You can choose to be a Representative for your section and so, actually be a part of the executive board. Or you can choose to have an even more substantial presence and run to be a Secretary, Treasurer, Vice-president or President.
My advice is that if you are not sure of how much time you can spend dedicating yourself to one of these groups, then be a Member or a Rep.
Being a Member just means you are interested in the group but puts no pressure in actually participating of the events.
Being a Rep requires you to advertise events to your friends and the section you represent (lots of social media posts too). A Rep is the most low-key position in the group, but gives you the benefit to show future employers you were involved (resume booster alert!).
Those positions sound pretty good, right? Then why give yourself even more work by running for one of the other positions in the executive board?
For one, it’s a huge resume booster. Yes, being a Rep already gives you the chance to add that activity on your resume, but employers love seeing that you were dedicated to a cause, specially if the group is related to their field.
Another reason is the experience. I am from a different country and law school was the first time I actually studied in the United States, so I had no prior experience of how schools worked here (it was quite a learning experience–but back to the point). I chose to be a Rep for two different groups on my first year. Then, on my second year I became the President of one of these groups and I have learned so much! Organizing events, delegating tasks, reaching out to lawyers I never met before, using school resources to give back to students… this has been an amazing experience and one I will never forget.
Third, connections! By being in the executive board you will get in touch with many different people, new students, alumni, lawyers, judges, professors, employers! I got a really good internship because I was representing my group on my first year and got a card during dinner. That was really lucky, but it would never have happened if I hadn’t put myself out there to meet different people and connect with professionals in my area.
That is all amazing, but what’s the downside?
Work! A lot of work. The higher the position you choose to run for, the more work you will have. The success of your group depends on you and how much time you dedicate to it.
As the president of a group during Covid times, I had quite a few challenges. Previously, organizing events meant getting speakers to come to school and ordering different foods to serve on these events. Starving law students are always up for events such as these, there is really nothing to lose for them to participate. But since Covid, all events are online and students are Zoom fatigued. So, that meant we had to be creative and organize events students actually made time for. I can write a whole different post on this, so for now, I’ll just say that, yes, it can be a lot of work.
So is it worth it? My honest opinion is: yes!
I suggest starting as a Rep for one group you identify yourself with on your first year. Observe the executive board, see what they are doing right and what you would do differently.
Run for an executive board position such as Secretary, Treasurer, Vice or President on your second year. You have a better understanding of how law school works now, and you know how much time you can dedicate yourself to other activities on your second year.
Third year, feel free to go back to being a Rep or a member. I intend to pass the presidency torch and focus on the Bar on my last year, but who knows? Maybe I’ll continue on the executive board in a different position next year.