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by Mary Kate Sheridan | September 23, 2019

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As a law student, it is difficult to ignore the pressure of the curve—and the need to be on top of it. While grades should be your No. 1 priority—especially during your first year—they aren’t the only important aspect of law school. Building connections, exploring legal practice, and gaining experience are also crucial on your path toward the bar. Below are some ways you can build a more well-rounded experience during law school.

Networking

Networking is all the rage these days, and for good reason—having connections can open countless doors in your career. And it is never too soon to start. Your classmates may be in the trenches with you now, slogging through Contracts and Property, but in a few decades, they’ll be law firm partners, CEOs, and general counsel of Fortune 500 companies. So while you shouldn’t be out partying every night, making time to grab lunch or planning a night out with your section will benefit you in the long run.

You should also take advantage of opportunities to meet practicing lawyers and potential future employers through law firm/employer events, alumni gatherings hosted by your school, and local bar association happenings. If there is a particular employer or type of opportunity in which you are interested, don’t hesitate to ask the Career Services office to put you in touch with an alumnus who practices at that employer/in that area—reach out for an informational interview. Open as many doors as you can.

Journals, Moot Court, and Other Clubs

Getting involved in your law school community will not only help you build your network, but also can expose you to different types of career and pro bono opportunities. And certain activities can provide you with experience that will be useful in practice. For example, if you are interested in litigation, joining law review or a journal can help you hone your research, writing, and Bluebooking skills. Moot court will provide simulated stand-up experience. And mock negotiations can provide a foundation for transactional work.

If you have time in your schedule, consider joining a club (or two) that piques your professional or social interests. For some, clubs serve as much-needed stress relief and social outlets. Others find opportunities to focus on their professional passions through clubs by organizing events, networking with related professionals, etc.

Explore the options available.

Practical Experience

While lectures and seminars can help you learn to think like a lawyer and hone your analytical skills, they don't provide the hands-on experience that many law students crave. Luckily, those opportunities are out there—they just take some legwork on your part.

Many law students seek out summer opportunities—whether they be summer associate positions, in-house internships, judicial internships, or positions within a nonprofit for governmental agency. These positions offer a glimpse into what it is like to be a lawyer and the kinds of work lawyers in that organization perform. Don't limit yourself to the summer, however. Internships are available at many legal organizations year round, and sometimes you can gain class credit for completing one. If you are on the fence about what career path to pursue—or even if you just have multiple interests—taking on one or more internships can provide valuable perspective.

Another great way to gain practical experience is through your school's clinic program. A clinic combines classroom instruction with legal work under the supervision of attorneys. Take time to review your school's offerings and prepare your application, as the most coveted clinics can be competitive.

There is no denying that grades are paramount when it comes to law school. But it's also important to think about your future career and how you can build connections, insights, and experiences that will help you achieve your goals.

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