Communications And Relationships In Law School
The relationships you make in law school help set a crucial foundation to a successful law career. Whether it’s with fellow law students, law professors, or administrators, communication can go a long way in forming solid relationships.
Paula Boggs is founder of Boggs Media, LLC, a business that manages her music, speaking, and other creative business activities. Boggs served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel at Starbucks Corporation from 2002-2012. She says the relationships are a crucial element of the legal world.
“I don’t think I’d have become Starbucks general counsel but for years of relationship building and bar service before I got that headhunter call,” Boggs says in an ABA for Law Students blog post. “I know bar service may seem only “nice to have” when student loans loom large and just landing a job is daunting. Here’s the deal, though, and I understand it better today than ever: The legal profession is about relationships.”
Common communications in law school
Kerriann Stout, a millennial law school professor and founder of Vinco (a bar exam coaching company), recently wrote an Above The Law article discussing how to make the best of common communication situations for law students.
Most commonly, law students will interact with their fellow peers. According to Stout, the most frequent complaint she receives from law students is that law school feels a lot like high school. “The gossip mill is always hungry for information and demanding to be fed,” she says. “Sometimes, it can be hard to not get swept up in the drama.”
Often, this type of atmosphere can lead to miscommunication and Stout says the best way around miscommunication is to “think before you speak.”
“Additionally, avoid making ‘you’ statements,” Stout says. “Your law school friends and colleagues will be much more likely to be receptive to what you have to say if it doesn’t sound like you are blaming them for something.”
Relationships with staff members and faculty
Law students will find themselves communicating with staff members, who (according to Stout) are often overworked and underpaid running the operations at a law school. As a result, they should be treated with respect and kindness. It can go a long way, Stout says. “In the end, you will need them and they will remember if you have treated them poorly.”
The relationship between student and professor is a crucial one to make in law school. Stout says law students generally take two approaches to interacting with law professors, either out of intimidation or entitlement — both of which are wrong.
“When a student is intimidated by his or her professor, he or she tends to try and interact with the professor as little as possible,” Stout says. “This is a shame because you pay a lot of money to attend law school and should be able to approach your professor with questions.”
If you find yourself intimidated by your professor, Stout recommends these three tactics:
1.) Remember, professors are people. Try to humanize them by thinking about the fact that they have parents, siblings, spouses, and maybe even kids.
2.) It is literally their job to teach you. Let this reassure you that it is perfectly reasonable for you to ask them questions.
3.) Often times, they enjoy interacting with students outside of class! I have frequently heard from professors that they sit by themselves during office hours. You could really set yourself apart by showing up when no one else does.
Acting out of entitlement is something Stout says law students should never do with law professors. “Beyond teaching the class and making ADA required accommodations, your professors don’t owe you anything,” she says. “And, I can promise you that if you roll up to office hours acting like you own the place, you are not going to get very far.”
Building blocks for success
Communication is a key element in building important relationships in law school. For Boggs, the relationships are what made her successful.
“In my career, whom I know has been as important as what I know,” she says. “Never burning a bridge and keeping friends close has been my secret sauce.”
Sources: Above The Law and ABA For Law Students