Law school doctrinal classes are focused on foundational material, covering multiple practice areas and lessons such as how to think like a lawyer and hone in on analytical skills. This curriculum is critical to a student’s long-term success, and academics need to remain a priority. However, students can also benefit from experiences outside the classroom. From gaining work experience to joining organizations, students can put the skills learned in the classroom into action, setting them up for success post-graduation.
Let’s take a look at four key benefits students realize when pursuing an experience outside the classroom:
- Identify passions: Joining an organization or participating in an internship/externship enables students to dive deeper into certain practice areas. This provides experience and exposure to the industry outside of a textbook, helping students understand what the day-to-day realities of the job entail and if it is an area they want to pursue long-term.
- Gain hands-on experience: Internships and externships provide students the chance to apply the skills learned in the classroom in a real-world setting with real clients. This work lets them showcase the skills they learn in the classroom in an actual practice setting and helps them build their resume for the future.
- Foster relationships: Building a network is important throughout the Law school journey and after. Participating in student organizations provides students with built-in mentors – including peers and instructors – that can provide support during school and while applying for jobs. In addition, internships/externships help students make connections in the community with those in their field of interest.
- Open the door to new prospects: Participating in outside opportunities can help students land their dream job. Whether through a connection or by building their resume, individuals gain a lot of valuable experience that can serve them well post-graduation.
There are many ways students can get involved outside the classroom, but here are two to consider right away:
Western State has an extensive roster of organizations in which students can participate. All students are part of the Student Bar Association (SBA), and individuals can choose how involved they want to be – whether serving on the board or helping plan and host events throughout the year. Students can also join organizations that reflect their interests and concerns. Some organizations are passion-based such as Tort Law or Family Law Society; whereas others are affinity-based, including the Asian Pacific Islander Association or Latino Student Bar Association. Each association has a designated board and its own bylaws and mission statement. Joining an association provides students the chance to not only network with other students that are interested in the same area but also with community members as most organizations invite guest speakers to campus and host panel discussions involving a variety of topics where students can learn. If Western State does not currently have an organization in a specific area, students can develop their own. In fact, Western State was one of the early adopters of an Artificial Intelligence Law Student Association (AI) where students could explore that growing field.
Internships and Externships
Internships and externships provide students valuable real-world experience. Whether pursuing these as summer work or concurrently during the school year, students can apply what they have learned and get a taste for what it is like to work in a practice. When evaluating the various internships and externships, it is important to consider if the student needs a paid opportunity or if they are looking to earn credit for their work. If they are looking to gain credit, the law school must evaluate the position to ensure that the student is set up with a mentor and that they will be provided appropriate work that will enhance the learning experience, as well as requiring them to take a companion class. Both externships or internships allow students to build their resumes and network with those in their practice, which can open the door for future employment.
Classroom experience and academics are a primary focus in law school, but it’s also important for students to think about their future. Opportunities outside the classroom are great ways for students to explore their passions and build connections that can ultimately support their career goals.
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