Remember Who You Are… and Where You Are

One of the most frequent (and important) pieces of advice you’ll get as a 1L is to remember who you are. Law school will inevitably change you – even after one year, you’ll learn a new vernacular (thanks Civ Pro), write differently (thanks CRUPAC), and even view everyday situations differently (thanks, Torts). So, this advice is key – as you immerse yourself in legal doctrine and general hecticness that is 1L, you shouldn’t forget the values and aspirations that brought you to this place. But one thing I would add to this refrain is that the communities you’re a part of are equally important to maintaining your sense of self.

On an immediate level, don’t forget about the community you surround yourself with. Reach out to your section – or to the other friends you’ll make outside of it – to take a break from your casebooks every once in while and do something social! While the sheer number of students at HLS can be intimidating, it also makes it more likely that you’ll find other students you can connect with. Join an affinity group or groups with people who share your interests and hobbies. When memos and cold calls get you down, these are the folks who will have your back and remind you that you’re more than any of the stressors that may get in your way.

On the next level, remember that you’re joining a larger legal community of individuals at this school who have been given the opportunity to access immense power. Take note of all the resources you have at this law school – reach out to 2Ls, 3Ls, and alumni practicing in the areas that inspired you to come here in the first place. Join one (or more!) of the many SPOs on campus that will give you the opportunity to actually use the law you’ve yearned to practice. Embrace the folks around you who mirror your passion to bend the law to serve your clients and who echo your frustrations with the unfairness of the legal system.

Finally, on an even broader level, remember that the communities in which you live have been excluded from the legal tools you’re learning and using. Listen to needs of the communities around you and learn ways to respond in ways that are both needed and wanted. Study when you should apply the skills you’re learning and when you need to sit back and listen to the folks you’re trying to work with. Attend a canvass! Pay attention to opportunities to engage and learn outside of the Harvard bubble. Lean into the abstractions and applications of your knowledge at school, but remember to pull your head up and notice how the communities around you contextualize these concepts in practice.

Resist Harvard’s desire to push you to more distant and grand stages – embrace the power and strength in more localized communities. So much of law school pushes you to seek the next opportunity for yourself – what classes you’ll take next semester, what your next summer job will be, or what your next steps will be when you leave this place. Through all of that, you should never forget your values and why you’re here, but also be sure not to forget the places and communities you touch while you’re here. In short, always remember who you are… and where you are too.

Zach Sosa

Zach Sosa is a 3L. He is the Communications Director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.

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