Student Orgs Seek 1Ls

USC Gould School of Law • September 10, 2010
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Involvement Fair Invites Students to Connect Outside the Classroom

-By Steffi Lau

USC Law’s involvement fair kicked off on Sept. 8, the third week of school, with law students already eager for a respite from class. With tables stocked with free cookies, ice cream and candy during lunch break, student organizations prepared to sell their strong points and sweet-talk hungry students into jotting their names down on sign-up sheets.

Involvement Fair 2010Ranging from Legal Aid Alternative Breaks, which takes students to the Gulf to provide legal and community service, to Phi Alpha Delta, a fraternity that annually hosts a beer-pong-for-charity tournament, the 37 organizations offer a plethora of choices.

Joining an organization can bring students many benefits.

“It’s important to be involved,” said Alberto Muñoz ’10, Student Bar Association president. “It adds another dimension to being a law student. And it’s a stress reliever. In addition, a lot of organizations partner with big law firms so there are a lot of networking opportunities. By getting involved, you’re not only doing good for the community, you’re doing good for yourself.”

The organizations can be especially advantageous to first-year students unacquainted with the demands of law school.

“For first year students, these organizations are great resources because they’re unfamiliar with the social aspects and academic aspects of law school,” said Jimmy Chen ’12, Asian Pacific American Law Student Association academic co-chair.

Involvement Fair 2010The clubs’ panels and networking events can help 1Ls become familiar with their fields of interest. Clubs’ focuses range from entertainment law to sports law to even art law. And the clubs aren’t all business—the Environmental Law Society organizes a camping trip while the Art Law Society will take its new members to the L.A. Art Walk this week.

“It’s great to be able to check out all the organizations at once,” said Brittany Shugart ’13. “I’m interested in finding about environmental law, sports law and entertainment law. Since I don’t have any experience with these types of law, joining these organizations will help me get a taste.”

The professional clubs offer many students a real-world glimpse at classroom theories. The International Law and Relations Organization (ILRO) enables students to get an international perspective on law by pairing students with LL.M.s and lawyers who deal with international law.

“It’s a good way to see how it happens in practice because you can learn as much as you want in law school, but it’s different to see how it is in the real world,” said ILRO treasurer Paul Moura ’12.

Involvement FairIn addition to learning opportunities, many organizations offer mentorship programs pairing first-year students with upper-division students.

The Women’s Law Association is one such organization, pairing female 1Ls with older peers.

“Law school is a totally new endeavor for everyone,” said Amanda Farfel ’12, WLA president. “A mentor can help you navigate whatever you need help with. They become your friends. It’s great to have that interaction with someone isn’t a first-year, who’s been through it before.”

Farfel is a supporter of the WLA mentorship program, having benefited from it. Her mentor helped her pick classes, handle classmates and even pick her summer job.

Ethnic organizations also abounded. The Middle Eastern and South Asian Law Association discusses issues such as religious freedom and racial profiling in the wake of Sept. 11, said Brandon Kennedy ’12, the group’s president.  Last year, they also paired up with the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association to host a Harold and Kumar-themed event.

These organizations not only can instill practical skills, but also they foster a sense of belonging.

Christine Capuyan said joining OUTLaw, a LGBTQ organization, helped her immensely. OUTLaw serves to bridge the gap between the straight and non-straight communities and offers volunteer opportunities at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, which offers pro-bono clinics.

“I'm a lesbian, so I was seeking out an organization like this. Fortunately, the people were extremely warm and made me feel comfortable and welcomed,” said Capuyan ’11. “I gained lifelong friends, comfort with being a member of the LGBT community, connections within the L.A. gay and lesbian community and a better understanding of legal issues.”

Involvement Fair 2010Similarly, the Black Law Students Association serves to guide black USC law students. Co-president Amanda Smith ’12 said the biggest thing she gained from BLSA was comfort.

“When you come in as a 1L, you’re very fragile, so meeting people who want you to succeed, who offer you support and care how you feel really helps you through that first year. It’s what made me want to be co-president and give back.”

And aside from promises of free sweets, mentorship programs and learning opportunities, there’s always the obvious reason to join.

“We’re completely awesome,” said Andrew Quinio ’12, Federalist Society president.

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