All law schools have a set of courses that are required for graduation. These classes, by design, vary little from student-to-student or school-to-school. Your choice of law school electives and extracurriculars can provide opportunities to develop critical skills, explore new interests in the law, or show potential employers your commitment to an area of practice or issue. The following article provides an overview of the considerations and options when choosing law school electives and extracurriculars.
Develop Critical Skills
Law school extracurriculars and electives offer a chance to hone the skills you'll need to succeed as an attorney. Studying to develop skills is most effective if you have already identified an intended area of legal practice.
Law school clinics can provide practical experience for those entering areas of law that involve representing individuals. Elective courses can help you hone and refine your legal writing and research skills or advance your understanding of a niche area of law. Extracurricular activities such as moot court and mock trials provide additional opportunities to receive mentorship and practice fundamental litigation skills.
Explore New Interests
A law school elective or extracurricular can also be an opportunity to test-drive a new interest. Many students start school intending on pursuing a particular focus, only to find that they are drawn to some very different area of practice.
You have the best chance of success and happiness as a lawyer practicing in an area of law that you find interesting. While a sense of direction going into law school can be useful you should also be willing to try new things. Experimentation will also help supply alternatives if obstacles to your initial goals arise. Litigation may seem interesting; but if you have trouble with public speaking, a new interest in tax law could result in a change of focus.
Even if a law school elective or extracurricular activity doesn't result in a change of career paths you may still be enriched by the experience. You may discover the value of the intersection between different areas of law or seek pro bono representation opportunities that provide a break from your daily legal work.
Show Your Commitment
Potential employers would often like to be able to see some commitment from a new attorney. In your first years of practice you'll require assistance and mentorship. Most organizations would like to feel reasonably certain that you'll want to continue working with them once your training is complete.
Your choice of law school electives and extracurriculars can demonstrate the depth of your interest in a particular area of law, or a passion for a particular legal issue. Membership in student organizations and participation in extracurriculars also provide valuable networking opportunities that can help ensure that you are a familiar face in your area of law before entering into practice.
The choice of law school electives and extracurriculars is one of many decisions a law student makes on their path to becoming a lawyer. You'll need to seek internships, prepare for the bar exam, and find your first job as a lawyer. Check back with FindLaw for Law Students, which provides articles and links to information on these and many other topics.