How (and Why) to Make Friends in Law School, Even if They’re Your Competition

First-year law students can be intimidating. It’s true that, unlike undergrad, you will likely find that your law school classmates probably possess a naturally higher intelligence and a laser-focused work ethic.

Now, take that group and place them in an environment where 1L grades are distributed on a strict grading curve that will determine their ability to interview for the best jobs and, ultimately, repay their student loans. The result: a breeding ground for fierce competition. An environment where upperclassman’s outlines are hoarded, practice exams go missing and even pages of popular library books mysteriously vanish.

Why Making Friends in Law School Matters

I’m going to advise against falling into the trap of becoming a hyper-competitive 1L. Apart from obvious honor code violations, there’s actually a business case for acting ethically and being well-liked by your classmates.

The truth is that your tuition dollars not only pay for access to lectures from prominent law professors, but also fund your access to a network of future professionals (your classmates!). You are building your professional reputation from the very first day of law school orientation and your classmates will be people who you will practice with, against, and, in many cases, be in a position to refer clients.

The first year of law school requires students to excel academically while also making a good impression on their competition. With such fierce competition for top 1L grades, this can be a fine line to navigate.

Just remember, your future practice requires that people like and respect you – and you only gain respect by giving it first. Years after graduation, when a client pitch or lateral job offer depends on a former classmate’s endorsement (which it will, I promise!), you want them to remember you fondly as someone they can trust recommending to their network.

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