As a law student, following the unwritten rules of a first year associate, don’t:
- Be the class jerk. Know your audience and don’t be a smart ass at all times: starting with orientation, continuing through social gatherings, and ending with graduation day. This isn’t a matter of political correctness as much as it is one of not coming across as verbose, obstreperous, oily, or kitschy. Think before you speak and be sure you can trust those within hearing if you say that hilarious something that you hope to keep private.
- Be invisible: Law school is a time to start building connections and establishing your place in the legal arena. You may have family obligations or have to study longer than your fellow students but make time for social gatherings. To be sure, picking and choosing is important as there are only so many hours in a day. But hitting a few parties, attending a few after class sessions at “the other bar”, and being present at alumni cocktail hours may do more for your future (and your grades) than you could ever anticipate. Once you get there, don’t be a wallflower. Put yourself out there and make sure you meet people and get to know them.
- Be pushy. You will indeed meet gunners and talkers during your law school career. Don’t be one. Sucking up to every professor, posting each and every step of your law school experience on Facebook, and simply trying too hard can alienate you from your classmates and make your life harder. If you want to get to know a professor better (i.e., hoping for a mentor) email her with a topic in which she already has an interest and see how she responds. If she isn’t interested, you’ll definitely know and be able to move on without a public display.
- Be timid about your accomplishments. This will become more important as you move into your career but it’s important to practice this now. For your whole life people have pushed the concept of losing with grace. It’s honestly more important to learn to win with grace. When you receive a compliment, acknowledge it and thank the giver. When you win Mock Trial, go over and shake the hands of your opponents and sincerely compliment them on what they did well. This isn’t about swagger and it isn’t about humility. Shine proud over your wins!
- Be pretentious. Remember you’re a law student. And when you have a job, you’re a first year associate. This is not the time to yell at a secretary or belittle a paralegal during your summer internship (or even at your school). Assistants are the ones who know the loopholes in any system and might be willing to help you out if you treat them with dignity and respect.
Learn these lessons early and your law school years will fly smoothly by and prepare you for success in the real world.