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Law students have the chance while still in school to network with potential employers, develop their skills, and get an in-depth look at the practice of law by becoming leaders in bar association, school, and student organizations. Law students have a variety of opportunities to become leaders at their schools, on a regional level, or even a national level. The most well known path to involvement students have is via their law school student government. This body is most commonly referred to as the Student Bar Association (SBA), and in size, composition, and authority, it varies widely between law schools. Typically, members of the SBA are elected by their classmates to represent their interests to the law school administration and faculty. They may also be responsible for allocating student activity fees to events and student organizations. Getting involved in a student organization is another avenue to leadership. Most schools have a number of student organizations, such as the chapters of the Federalist Society, American Civil Liberties Union, Phi Alpha Delta, Phi Delta Phi, Black Law Student Association, and American Bar Association (ABA) Law Student Division. The ABA is by far the largest and most intricate law student organization. Approximately one third of all law students are members. At the law school level, the ABA Representative runs the ABA Chapter. This student is either elected by the student ABA members or appointed by the school’s SBA. This is a great opportunity for a student to gain valuable leadership skills through organizing events, learning to budget funds, and coordinate an executive board. In organizing campus events, this student will work with not only the dean and faculty, but very often also judges and prominent attorneys who will participate in lectures or debates. This can be an opportunity for the ABA Representative to demonstrate leadership and motivational skills to a potential employer. At the regional level, the ABA Law Student Division is run by circuit governors. The SBA presidents and ABA representatives in fifteen geographic regions elect these students annually. The circuit governor oversees the ABA affairs at all of the ABA accredited law schools in the region. In addition to working with the school ABA representatives, they also appoint lieutenant governors from each of the schools to help coordinate specific activities on the circuit level. Circuit Governors gain practical experience through overseeing several schools, approving school funding requests, organizing regional conferences, and coordinating a team of volunteers. During my term as Circuit Governor, I have been invited to participate in or attend a number of activities with practicing attorneys, legal organizations, and law schools. At many of these events, I have been the only law student in attendance. As such, I have had a unique opportunity to network with attorneys and get an in-depth look at the practice of law that cannot be learned in the classroom. At a recent local bar association event, my table for dinner included three judges and the general counsel of a large local corporation. Another avenue for national leadership is to become an ABA Law Student Division Liaison to one of the other legal practice area sections of the ABA. There are over thirty sections such as litigation, business, or torts and insurance practice. A student liaison is typically the only law student helping to develop ABA policy in that particular area of law. As such, the liaison has a unique opportunity to develop contacts with some of the nation’s leading experts and is exposed to the current hot topics in the practice area. Student liaison attendance at these national meetings is often funded by the ABA. At a recent meeting of the ABA Torts and Insurance Practice Section, I was able to sit in on a committee meeting and give a student perspective into the decision-making process. I found the attorneys very interested in my input and progressive in their willingness to include law students in their activities. ABA student liaisons also have the opportunity to network at receptions during their conferences. At these receptions, I have been able to meet attorneys in a relaxed atmosphere and to talk with them informally about the practice of law. It is not unusual for attorneys to give you their business card at these events to allow you to follow up with them about potential opportunities. I have found my student leadership opportunities rewarding both personally and professionally. The benefits have included making valuable contacts with future colleagues and potential employers. My in-depth view of the legal community, including both the formation of law and the social life in the profession, could not have been obtained in the classroom, by serving on law review, nor through any internship. My candid discussions with attorneys have also allowed me to better choose an area of law on which to focus. Many of the relationships I have developed with fellow students while working in the SBA will survive well beyond law school. While the work can be challenging, there are plenty of good times and memorable experiences. To get involved in your school’s SBA or a student organization, contact your SBA president or president of the particular student organization. These people often have offices, mailboxes, and voice-mail on campus. To get involved in the ABA, contact your school ABA Representative or Circuit Governor. More information can be obtained from the ABA Law Student Division Web site at http://www.abanet.org/lsd/home.html. John Okray, a third-year evening student at Suffolk University Law School, serves as the ABA Law Student Division First Circuit Governor and Treasurer of the Suffolk Law SBA. He can be reached at [email protected]

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