All law degree programs have prerequisites required for graduation. These classes, by design, vary little from one school to another. But, 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.
Common extracurriculars for someone pursuing a law degree include:
- Law review or law journal
- Mock trial or moot court
- Law clinics
- Student government
- Law fraternities and other student organizations
This article describes the ways extracurriculars enrich your law school experience and can help you determine which elective courses and activities might be best for you.
Develop Critical Skills
Law school extracurriculars and electives offer a chance to hone the skills you'll need to succeed as an attorney. If you have already identified an intended area of legal practice, coursework in an elective can help you learn more about that area of law and develop your skills. You can also use electives to explore and find the right focus for you.
Law school clinics can provide real-world experience for those entering areas of law that involve advocacy. Law review can help you hone and refine your legal research and legal writing skills or advance your understanding of a niche legal field. Extracurricular activities such as moot court and mock trials provide opportunities to practice fundamental litigation skills, teamwork, and time management. You'll also build relationships with faculty members who can be great mentors as you move toward your legal career.
Explore New Interests
The legal profession is a vast and varied industry. A law school elective or extracurricular can also be an opportunity to test-drive a new interest.
Many students start school intending to pursue a particular focus, only to find that they are drawn to some very different area of practice. And that's ok! Just because you studied criminal justice as an undergrad doesn't mean you have to practice criminal law. Maybe you'll find your passion in environmental law or constitutional law. Taking other law school classes outside your required coursework or what is on the bar exam can be extremely beneficial.
You have the best chance of success and happiness as a lawyer in a practice area that interests you. While a sense of direction going into law school can be helpful, you should also be willing to try new things. Experimentation will also help supply alternatives if obstacles to your initial goals arise. Many pre-law students are drawn to the fast pace and prestige of litigation, but it might turn out that public speaking is not your strong suit. Joining mock trial can help you develop those skills to where they need to be, or confirm that a different path would better fit your skills.
Even if a law school elective or extracurricular activity doesn't result in a change of career paths, your legal education will 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 see commitment from a new attorney. In your first years of practice, you'll require assistance and mentorship. Most organizations want to feel reasonably confident 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 your passion for a particular legal issue. Membership in student organizations and extracurriculars also provides valuable networking opportunities that can help ensure that you are a familiar face in your area of law before entering into practice.
Make the Most of Law School
Which will benefit you more, moot court or law review? 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.