Live with Fellow Law Students or Not?
Starting out, I was determined to live with law students. Before starting law school, the best living situation I’d ever had was with law students. I had graduated college and was working in Boston, and we shared an apartment. I was busy with work, they were busy with schoolwork, and at the end of the day, we could enjoy watching an episode of Love Island together.
It was fantastic.
But despite this great experience, I struggled to decide whether to live with law students during school. On the one hand, I was concerned that I'd somehow become socially stunted if I didn’t live with other law students. Everyone would have amazing friends by orientation, and I’d be left an outsider.
Alternatively, I worried that living with law students could make me feel trapped in my academic world.
A Living Arrangement Fell into My Lap
The decision was seemingly made for me when I saw an email from my employer announcing a new apartment opening up that was for roommates with and without disabilities to live together in Washington, DC. My previous jobs had all involved working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or IDD, so I loved the idea of living in an inclusive environment.
The program—where I’m still living three years later—is called Best Buddies Living. It aims to provide inclusive living for people with and without IDD to live together as housemates. I’m not a caregiver or any other type of employee, as people often assume. It’s a typical living environment—we all pay rent, do chores, and hang out.
As part of the program, we usually have a weekly dinner and a few monthly outings. I’m not going to lie: sometimes, these outings and dinners can feel difficult to fit in when I know I’ll be up late working on assignments afterward. But I’ve never once gone to a dinner or an outing and regretted it.
Spending time with people outside of law school—people who have their own jobs, stresses, and victories—always puts my worries into perspective. I’ve got friends from my living experience that I expect to keep my whole life.
The Downsides Are Also Upsides
After almost three years of living with non-law students, I haven’t yet felt like I’m missing out on any social aspects of school. There are, of course, drawbacks.
If I want to see friends from school, it requires a tiny bit more effort on my part. Instead of just walking to the next room, I have to send a text and schedule a time. This can be challenging, especially when everyone becomes consumed by classes, extracurriculars, and jobs.
But this also means that my interactions with school friends are fun and deliberate—they consist of movie nights, drinks at bars, or cute little coffee shop study sessions. When I see friends from school, it’s because I know I have the time and energy to talk to them. I feel excited to see them, knowing I have the freedom to end discussions about school when the outing is over.
At the same time, it can be hard for people who aren’t in law school to understand why school can feel so all-consuming. Why am I stressing over job applications a year in advance? Why do I care so much about a “cold call” if it isn’t even graded? Why do I need an entire book devoted solely to citations (I’m still trying to figure this out)?
But my roommates’ confusion over the idiosyncrasies of law school is precisely why I value these relationships. I want people to remind me that a bad grade in admin law is actually not the end of the world and that no one actually cares what journal I am on (or even knows what a journal is).
Law School Competition Is Less in My Face
In times of intense stress or fatigue, it feels so good to remember that, at the end of the day, law school is a bubble—an overpriced, highly manicured, finely tuned bubble designed to break you. And as students, we often feed off of and escalate the stress of one another.
A joy I’ve found living with nonstudents is that I get to treat my school friends purely as friends. I don’t have to negotiate utility bills, home decor, or chore charts with the same people I later see in class.
Similarly, and maybe most importantly to me, I don’t feel any competition in my own home. I know myself—if I were to live with other law students, I’d feel an unwilling competition regarding study habits. Are they studying more than me? Are they spending more time on this assignment than me?
It’s toxic, and I wish it weren’t true. But I think living with other students can be a recipe for comparison, whether we want it to be or not.
What Living Situation Suits You?
The decision of who to live with during law school is incredibly personal. I chose not based on whom I didn’t want to live with but on whom I did want to live with. The Best Buddies Living apartment has been an amazing part of my law school experience, and I never regret it. I made the right choice for me.
But while I’ve found living outside the law school community to be grounding, it’s not for everyone. I have friends from school who live together, and they also love their experience. You know yourself best, and you know what you need in your own home.
And the good news is that just because you live with law students one year, that doesn’t mean you can’t live with someone else the next year. Maybe you want to try something like Best Buddies Living to find somewhere that will provide you with a sense of community. Maybe you want to try living alone.
Whatever you choose, be sure to realize what works for you and to make that place home.