Welcome to Harvard Law School! The two of us are still finding our ways through the journey that is law school, but we’d each like to offer you a couple personal pieces of advice to help you along the way:
Liz: Find a community
Law school can be an alienating place, from the big focus on firm recruitment to the mere fact that Cambridge is not, well, home (wherever that may be for you). Having gone to undergrad at a place where professors and students were on a first-name basis, suddenly being called “Ms. Gyori” was weird for me, to say the least. Finding that my school and social life were inextricably linked with 80 strangers brought up horrible kindergarten flashbacks (you know, the ones in which you are asking why someone didn’t want to share their toy with you during free play).
I finally started feeling at home when I got involved in the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, the Tenant Advocacy Project, and other extracurricular activities. My section started to feel smaller when I found friends who didn’t mind my Facebook messages about the week’s reading or latest class discussion.
Finding a community — whether through an affinity group, a student practice organization, a club, a journal or your section — can transform your law school experience. Seek out the people who will join you for an impromptu game of Frisbee, discussion of intersectionality over drinks, or a trek into Boston for some new foodie craze. Find the group or organization that challenges you to both remember why you came to law school and discover new things.
Liz: Find your own way; don’t always follow the herd
They’ll tell you over and over during orientation that being at HLS means you’ve made it, that you can finally do what you want. However, 1L can seem like it’s about doing the “right” things. I felt tremendous pressure to spend all my time in the library, not do any (or too many) extracurricular activities, apply for Law Review/HLAB/BSA, get top grades, do EIP, and try to land the most prestigious clerkship possible, even though some of those things sounded unappetizing to me. But there is truly no right path in law school, since everyone’s dream job and future goals are different. What might be perfect for one person may not be a good fit for another. So do what makes you happy and fulfilled, and don’t worry about mimicking others.
Peter: Take time for yourself
Before you became one of those people who tell people at parties that you’re going to law school “in the Boston area,” you had other things that you did for fun and other things you were passionate about. Take time to keep doing those things. No matter how many late nights you spend trying to figure out why the holding of International Shoe has nothing to do with anything international (or with shoes), remember this: you still are that person who rock climbs. Or knits. Or plays in a rock band. Or spends at least an hour every Monday morning debating the finer points of the previous night’s Game of Thrones episode. Don’t let go of that person.
Law school is filled with activities that will take up lots of your time: journals, student practice organizations, affinity groups — the list goes on and on. By all means, throw yourself into the ones that interest you, and don’t be afraid to try out new things that you think might interest you. But through it all, don’t forget to take time for yourself, for your family, for your friends, and for whatever else is important to you.
Peter: Relish it
The next three years are a time for incredible intellectual and personal growth. For me, it’s really been a privilege to have a few years set aside for reading, engaging with new ideas, and gaining skills for my legal career. I’ve also been really fortunate to have made incredible friends who have made law school interesting, engaging and fun.
You’re surrounded by literally hundreds of bright people to engage with and grow with. On top of that, you don’t have real grades, and you’re living in an exciting city. So have fun!