Starting law school is tough for anyone. The work is challenging, you have likely been placed in a new environment, and you don’t know anybody. Besides worrying about law school, many new law students are anxious about making new friends.
Making friends in law school is a lot like making friends in the real world, with a few caveats. The best way to make friends in law school is to participate in student organizations, attend law school events, and make connections with students in class.
There is no secret sauce to meeting new people and making friends in law school, it is really not much different than what you would do in any real-world situation. The biggest difference is that with law students you are looking at an extremely homogenized pool of people. In this article, I will explain what is different about making friends in law school, and the best strategies for making friends.
What is different about making friends in law school
I mentioned above that law students are an extremely homogenized group compared to the wider population. What I mean is that there are a lot of personality and behavioral traits that are far more common amongst law students. You might have heard that Type A personalities are overrepresented in the legal industry. That is an understatement, many law students carry very strong Type A personalities. Whether or not you agree with the psychology behind Type A/B personalities, it is hard to argue that law students don’t tend to favor Type A. A disproportionate number of your peers will be extremely competitive, ambitious, workaholics, and time-sensitive.
These traits are not necessarily bad things, they are what makes law school a more competitive (and in my opinion enjoyable) experience. The fact that many of your peers share some of your personality traits will likely make it easier for you to make friends.
Something else unique about making friends in law school is that law students disproportionately tend to come from well-to-do families. I am certainly not saying that every law student is the son/daughter of a Rothschild or a Rockefeller. It also varies tremendously depending on the law school you attend. For example, I attended a private law school in Washington D.C that charged more than $60,000 a year for tuition. I grew up in a North Carolina middle-class family, we were not poor but we certainly could not afford to vacation in Europe every year.
I had never been around lots of people with real wealth until I attended law school, and I did not realize that many of my peers were very wealthy until Fall Break during my first semester of 1L. Quite a few of my friends and acquaintances from the law school took advantage of our week-long break to fly to the U.K for shopping.
I feel it is worth mentioning the different socio-economic realities in many law schools because I have noticed that students from wealthy families tend to have very different perspectives and personality traits.
Now that I have gotten through some of the aspects that make making friends in law school unique, let’s talk about some strategies for making friends.
Law school is known for social isolation but that does not have to be your experience
They told me before I started law school that it was going to be cutthroat, and the opportunities to make friends would be sparse. They told me that it would be a non-stop study session and I would not have time to make friends.
That advice was a load of bullsh##. Sure, law school can be competitive, but I have never seen it get to the point where people will not make friends with one another. Yes, there are some very egotistical/cutthroat students in law school and they won’t have any friends, but the vast majority of law students will have a very social experience.
I think law school gets that reputation because it is very difficult, at times frustrating, and sometimes you will be pulling very late nights to finish your readings. On the other hand, law school is also chock-full of social events, bar reviews, thirty Thursdays, and other social activities. Sure, law school might be difficult, but you certainly don’t have to deal with the stress of law school alone. It is also true that many of the friends you make in law school will be life-long, and it is one of the best parts of law school.
How do you make friends in law school?
Attend law school events
My law school had event after event after event the week preceding the first day of class. Some of them were sponsored by the bar association, and some of them were sponsored by the school themselves. Your law school will probably host a number of social events before the first day of class. If it does you should strongly consider attending.
I met two of my best friends during law school orientation and another one during a hosted event prior to the start of the semester. You will have plenty of opportunities to meet people and make connections, just don’t be that guy/girl who shuns school events. If you need some additional encouragement, these events almost always offer free alcohol :).
Participate in Student Organizations
Any law school you attend will offer a plethora of interesting student-run legal organizations to attend. My law school has more than thirty different clubs ranging from animal rights to Federalist Society to Environmental Law. There is a student organization for everyone, you just have to sign up.
Of course, student organizations are not just for making friends. They are also useful for establishing connections within a practice that you are interested in. Every school has some sort of student organization day early on in the fall semester to introduce all of the first-year students to the school’s clubs and organizations. Save the date and sign up for some clubs!
Stay away from toxic people
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are some toxic people in law school. Some people can’t handle stress making them emotionally toxic. There are a few people that are just straight-up crazy. This should not come as a surprise, there are crazy people everywhere in the world. The difference is, a lack of emotional intelligence is significantly more prevalent among law students than what I have seen before.
Everyone has their issues and no one is perfect, but I strongly suggest that you stay away from emotionally toxic people in law school, especially your first year. Law school is challenging enough without your best friend complaining to you day in and day out that she is going to fail all of her classes and that she has not slept in three days.
Trust me, it’s a lot easier to just never have to create these stressors than to try and get rid of them after the fact.
Online dating Bumble/Tinder
Funny story, I met one of my best friends in law school through Bumble. I got dropped off in D.C two weeks before the start of class and I was bored with no connections in the city. I jumped on Bumble and coincidentally found someone in my 1L class living right by.
Obviously, if you are in a relationship, using a mobile dating service might not be the best way to meet new people. If you are single though, it’s a great opportunity. You will also find that a few months into law school you are going to be tired of talking about law school. One of the best ways to get outside of that bubble is to meet some new people that are not associated with your law school.
Check your ego at the door
Big egos are a popular personality trait among law students, and it seems to get worse among higher-ranked ones. Personally, I don’t think there is a worse personality trait that someone can have than an over-inflated ego. I reminded myself when I started law school that everybody here is starting off at the same point, so why have a big ego? Not everyone listens, however, and you’ll notice that this personality trait is quite prevalent even at the cost of friendships and connections.
Everyone has different faults, but having a big ego is something that you can fix and trust me, it is one of the most unappealing pieces of baggage you can carry when you are trying to make new friends.
Overall, making friends in law school is a lot like making friends in the outside world. Sure, you have a lot more Type A personalities, but you also have a lot of opportunities to meet people and every 1L law student is looking to make new friends. Follow these tips and hopefully, it will help you have a more pleasant law school experience!