As elections approach for student organizations, I want to make a pitch to 1Ls who are on the fence about whether they can make a commitment to a student organization on top of the normal commitments of law school.
1Ls, this year has no doubt been challenging and strange. While 2Ls were able to spend half of our first year just popping into events to take food and spend time with friends, 1Ls need to make a much more concerted effort to join Zoom events to network, listen to speakers, or even socialize. That’s taxing. I understand and it makes sense why your affinity for student groups might be less than ours was.
Becoming a student organization leader definitely takes up part of your time, which is a precious commodity during law school. There are still so many reasons to become a student leader despite the time commitment, and there are ways to find balance.
Firstly, taking on a leadership role does not mean that you are the only leader. Being part of an Executive Board is a team effort. You gain experience with logistics, working with others, sharing ideas, and following through with ideas from start to finish. A lot of law school is competitive or done in isolation; there aren’t many opportunities to work with other people. Being on an E-Board gives you an excuse to be social, helps you connect with people outside your immediate circle, and helps build leadership and teamwork.
Secondly, you get to help shape the conversations on campus. When you walk into your Criminal Procedure class in the afternoon next semester as a 2L, wouldn’t you love to hear other students kvelling over how your organization’s event was outstanding? Leading an organization affords opportunities to bring thought leaders to BC Law’s campus. You get to connect with those speakers—people are very receptive to coming to speak and share their ideas—and you get to bring the ideas you care about to the forefront of student conversations. There is a lot of power in shaping conversations.
There are other countless reasons to become a student leader—networking, resume building, etc., but the most important might be working in coalition. Student organizations have a responsibility to uplift the voices and needs of LAHANAS organizations, and other student organizational causes. In a time of so much hate and bigotry, showing up and demonstrating public and powerful support for affinity groups and students is critical. Working in coalitions has always mattered to me, but for those who haven’t done it before, this is a great way to start and communicate across differences and interests. Solidarity is essential, as are the relationships you will make as a student leader.
So there’s my pitch. Being a student organization leader is probably one of the highlights of my law school experience. I cannot overstate how valuable an experience it can be. So consult your schedule, and figure out how much time you feel you can allot to student organization involvement. If you’re even considering it, know that time management is possible through teamwork. If you’re worried about running for something because maybe you do not feel connected after a year of semi-virtual and COVID learning, being an organizational leader is a great way to find community, and build out more communities in coalition. Run for something. You won’t regret it.
P.S. You also don’t have to be like me and serve on three E-boards. One is plenty.
Elizabeth Gooen serves as President of the American Constitution Society, Co-Chapter Leader of If/When/How: Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and as Secretary for the Jewish Law Students Association.