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GPSolo Magazine

GPSolo May/June 2023: Public Service: How Lawyers Can Help the Community

Service to Legal Education

Tamara Patricia Nash


  • Lawyers are called to make contributions for future generations. One way to do this is by getting involved at your local law school and with current law students.
  • Experiential learning is widely popular. Consider your background and strengths, your schedule and availability, and whether you have time to teach and mentor.
  • While you may not be able to offer students internships or externships, you may still be able to get involved and help students with real-world experience in the law.
  • Consider attending law school networking events and scheduling a day/time to drop off student care packages or meals.
Service to Legal Education
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I have been blessed by a life and career reflective of the many investments poured into me by my mentors and those I have encountered during my legal education. The kindness and investments of others forever enriched my life. I bore witness to a rich legacy of pouring the best into the next generation of the profession. This was done in big ways, small ways, and all the ways that matter, for example, encouragement to challenge myself and take risks (and succeed), comfort in times of profound grief, and celebrating passing the bar. I often remind myself of the words of Warren Buffett, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Today, I am fortunate that so many who came before me planted trees, knowing I (and others) would need the shade they would provide.

Each of us is called to make this contribution. Our collective purpose is to continue to build and improve for the generations to come—to continue to plant trees for those who may need the shade.

One way to pay this forward is to get involved at your local law school and with current law students. Doing so provides the opportunity to meet and guide young professionals who are passionate about the new career path they have chosen. The opportunity to help them chart their course and model the values of service and love for the law is fulfilling and rewarding.

Moreover, serving in an institution of legal education enriches the legal pathway and provides representation where it may not otherwise be possible. Students should see all types of attorneys within the walls of their institutions, but especially attorneys who look like them. Yes, the status quo in America is shifting, but it is not shifting in our institutions fast enough. So, the opportunity for students to see themselves reflected among those who serve as adjuncts, panelists, volunteers, and mentors is a benefit.

Lastly, while lawyers play a vital role in the preservation of society, young lawyers have the opportunity to fulfill this role uniquely. Law students are the future of the legal profession and the communities we serve. As such, directly investing in them is uniquely rewarding. They can build a bridge between historical institutions and meaningful reform.

So, how might you begin getting involved at your local law school? The easy answer is there are as many options or ways as there are readers for this article. There is no single way to start.

In this article, I will share some common ways you can serve, as well as a couple of my favorite ways I love to serve my law school. I will also share a few tips concerning whom you might reach out to as a first point of contact.

Academic and Student Support

One of the larger, and probably more common, paths to service is academic and student support. There are so many options to explore here. I encourage you to think of your background and strengths, your schedule and availability, and whether you would like to be plugged into an existing program or if you have an idea to create something new. Some ways you might explore getting involved are to serve as an advisor for a student group (for example, Women in the Law or the Federalist Society), serve as a coach for a student board (for example, trial team, moot court, or other student competitions), serve as a judge for student competitions, serve as a guest lecturer, serve as a program panelist or moderator, or apply to be an adjunct faculty member. Most schools list their extracurricular groups and boards on their website; you can start by reviewing that list.

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is widely popular. Again, I encourage you to think about your background and strengths, your schedule and availability, and whether you have room in your schedule to teach and mentor. Also, consider what this may look like on a day-to-day basis. Some ways you might explore getting involved in this way could include supporting the law school’s clinics or practicums as a volunteer attorney, supporting its externship program by hiring an extern for a semester, or allowing a student to receive pro bono hours by helping you with an eligible case. Most schools will list their experiential offerings on their website for review and provide associated resources. Check those out to see if they align with your schedule and interests.


This is probably the more obvious category. However, I would encourage you to think outside the box. While you may not be able to offer students internships or externships (for whatever reason), you may still be able to get involved and help students. Consider permitting students to shadow you or observe you in court. You might also consider volunteering your time to participate in mock interviews with the career services offices so students are prepared for on-campus interviews.

Student Enrichment

This category cannot be emphasized enough. The time spent interacting with and empowering students is transformative. I encourage you to think about your availability, your ideal level of involvement, and what resources you are able to provide (remember—resources of time, money, and energy are all valuable). You might consider attending networking events, signing up to serve as a mentor/sponsor, attending law school events generally (this is often where the best mentorship relationships develop), or scheduling a day/time to drop off student care packages or meals. Student care packages are especially popular during midterms, finals, MPRE test weeks, prior to the bar exam test days, or any other big academic events for the school. This could be as simple as paying for coffee and doughnuts for 50 students at the library.

How I Have Served

My two favorite ways to stay involved with my law school have been through our First Generation Law Society and our Public Interest Network. I have previously served as a speaker for the First Generation Society. Since transitioning to law school, I am now the advisor for the First Generation Society, a task I am incredibly proud to do as a first-generation college and law student. Annually, the Public Interest Network Group hosts an auction to raise scholarship funds for students who are taking unpaid internships over the summer. Each year, I look forward to helping support the auction, whether it be through purchasing auction items, donating items, or helping organize. In 2018, I proudly defeated an auction rival and won a hotly contested item (which I proudly still own!). This event holds a special place in my heart as I received one of these scholarships in 2012.

How to Get Started

With all these ideas in mind, how might you start? I encourage you to reach out first to any contact you have. After graduation, if you stayed in your law school’s area, reach out to any contact you have there. Let your contact know you want to get involved and ask him or her to direct you to the right person. If you don’t have a contact or you moved away—no problem. Reach out to the school closest to you. I would encourage you to explore the law school website and try to identify the appropriate person. If all else fails, contact the reception or information desk and ask who would be the best person to contact. Also, keep in mind that great places to start are the law school affinity groups, the first-generation student group, and the student bar association president.

Ultimately, no matter how you get involved and what you decide to do, remember to be accessible, follow through, be authentic, and be the person you needed in law school. Our law schools need the time and energy of the profession as they embark on the heavy responsibility of building the next generation of lawyers. It is an amazing honor to walk beside students as they chart their courses in this amazing profession.

I invite you to be thankful for the shade and join the commitment to our collective legacy, helping plant strong trees.