Welcome to HLS! My name is Lauren Stanley and I am the president of the Harvard Law School chapter of the American Constitution Society, more commonly known as ACS. We are an organization of progressive lawyers and law students who seek to promote individual rights and liberty, genuine equality, and access to justice.
The first year of law school is challenging and I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of advice about reading, outlining, study groups, etc. But in my experience, there is more than one way to be a good law student and certainly more than one way to be successful here. A lot of law school happens outside the classroom, and my advice is to 1) find your people, 2) be generous with your time, and 3) remember why you came to law school in the first place.
Find your people.
HLS is a huge place. You have hundreds of classmates, dozens of professors, and countless organizations to join. It can be intimidating. I moved to Cambridge without knowing anyone, and my opinion of HLS was based more on Legally Blonde than any facts. For me, finding my people meant finding people who shared my values and who wanted to be involved in a community outside the classroom.
At the student organizations fair, I joined the mailing list for ACS. Little did I know that ACS would give me friends outside of my section, peers to go to lunch talks with, and opportunities for leadership. ACS is where I found people who were committed to engaging the law for social justice and who encouraged me to think more critically about the effect of my words and actions as a law student. People don’t succeed alone. ACS is where I found the people that have helped me succeed at HLS.
Be generous with your time.
Speaking of success: not all success is measured in the classroom. You’re going to spend an obscene number of hours reading Property and Contracts this year. It’s a privilege to get to study and learn at HLS and it takes up a lot of your time. But classes are only part of the equation. I encourage you to give your time to organizations, whether that be policy groups like ACS, student practice organizations (SPOs), or clinics. Some of my best experiences at HLS have been when I’ve taken an extra client through my SPO or attended a union rally with ACS. If you made it to HLS, you have enormous talent and privilege to share — share it generously.
Remember why you came to law school.
1L is stressful. You’re going to be faced with a lot of competing interests on your time and a lot of opportunities. You have three years to learn how to be a lawyer but you also have three years to work toward justice alongside 1,800 intelligent and dedicated peers. Don’t lose sight of the values and interests that made you passionate about law in the first place.
Best of luck for a great 1L year!