Monday, January 8, 2018

When To Lean On Your Friends And When To Venture Out On Your Own

Making friends in law school is as crucial as you might think. On the most sort of utilitarian level, it really is necessary to have at least one other person to study with – someone you like, someone you feel comfortable with, someone you know is going to push themselves and, by proxy, you. It’s true that you can’t really understand complicated legal concepts until you can explain them to someone else. So having a study buddy is crucial in simply helping you get to the point where you really know how the law works.

Another advantage – besides, of course, the natural human benefit of making a companion out of a stranger – is that your law school friends can keep you inspired. You’ll find other students who have the same drive as you, working toward a similar goal. You can glean inspiration from them, and talk about what gave you the drive to go to law school in the first place. Recently, a Loyola friend let me borrow James Baldwin’s small book of essays, The Fire Next Time. It was just short enough to read between cases, and perfect for resetting my perspective. It’s easy to get lost in the morass of cases and doctrine when you’re in law school; your friends can help remind you what it’s all about.

But I also think, based on my experience so far, that it’s crucial to have the confidence to go out and do things on your own when the occasion arises. For the past couple of months, I’ve volunteered in Watts at a legal clinic that helps clients get old criminal charges expunged from their records. When I started going, I didn’t really tell anyone about it – I wanted to make sure it was worth the time before I dragged someone else along. But that also meant it was a solo endeavor, and showing up to volunteer with a bunch of attorneys you’ve never met before – not to mention a long queue of clients with a real need – is definitely nerve racking.

I find, though, that there’s a lot of value in going it alone every once in a while. I think it can make some experiences more concrete – it elevates the challenge a little bit, and demands that you fully engage instead of relying on your friends to help you maintain your bubble of comfort.

Of course, it’s always nice to talk to someone about the things you see and think about when you’re engaging with our very troubled legal system in a direct way. It’s good to get someone else’s perspective on the vast and intimidating challenges we face in making the American system fairer for everyone. But it’s also nice to sit in the car alone, afterwards, and think of all the things you can do to make a better impact – and ways you can help your friends get involved, too.

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