January 04, 2017

Leadership Skills as a 1L

Leadership Skills as a 1L

Haley Maple

As a first-year law student, your life likely feels consumed with adjusting to law school, potentially adjusting to a new city, and focusing on your studies. Discovering ways to develop key skills to your future career can be difficult, but not impossible. Developing “soft skills,” such as leadership, are key to your future, and should not get left behind while working on those grades.  In fact, keys to developing leadership skills are likely ripe, low-hanging fruit that you may not have even realized exist.

  • Start a study group. Of course, a study group can help you master those tort concepts. But if your group mixes in elements of leadership to the study sessions, you’ll see your confidence and leadership skills grow. For example, each study group member should take turns leading the discussion for each session. Develop a brief agenda—key to leading any meeting—and gain skills in keeping people on target and on track. Additionally, because leadership involves anticipating questions from the “team,” each group’s leaders gain skill in anticipating and responding to questions.
  • Read a book on leadership. Either borrow an audio book to listen to while working out or grab a book for a flight or break. Numerous books on leadership exist and simply absorbing the information in these books is a great way for anyone, including law students, to further refine and develop leadership skills. Then, put those skills to action.
  • Join a student organization within the school. Find a student organization that appeals to you, keeping in mind that you’re more likely to commit to something if it matters to you. Then, volunteer to serve on a committee. This will develop your network while simultaneously developing leadership skills.
  • Volunteer. A great way to develop leadership skills as a first year law student, while getting involved in your (possibly new) community and connect with new people (again, growing that network) is to seek out volunteer opportunities. Volunteering can be a fun, refreshing study break or something you do during your breaks from school. When you volunteer, even if it is for just one day or on a committee, seek out opportunities to lead. Offer to be in charge of a particular task or meeting. A friend of mine felt she needed to develop leadership skills, so she volunteered to serve as chair of a young professional committee of a local non-profit. She learned leadership by leading and enjoyed it, while raising money for a good cause.
  • Get involved in the ABA Section of Litigation. Section of Litigation membership is free for law students. Seize the opportunity to join a substantive committee within the Section of Litigation. Various committees offer mentorship, writing, and planning opportunities, as well as numerous methods to develop leadership skills through participation. Often, participating can happen via telephone or video conference and at times flexible to your schedule, making it a good match for your busy schedule. Joining as a first year will allow you to develop those connections and increase your leadership skills over time as you participate in committee activities throughout your law school experience.

Each item listed above presents opportunities for first year law students to develop leadership skills to refine throughout law school in a manner that is conducive to study demands.  Reflecting leadership skills on your résumé will be important to future employers, and luckily, strategies to develop these skills abound from the very start of law school.