As an undergraduate student at another university, I had not participated directly in student government because the political party system that existed seemed to be more aimed at obtaining and maintaining political power than in bettering the lives of students. We even voted in a different political party twice for the purpose of eliminating the political party system, which did not happen. However, when I arrived at Florida State I experienced a different reality.
The Student Government Association (SGA) at Florida State is not only responsible for creating and updating student statutes, but also for allocating a budget of millions of dollars in student activity fees. As a result, I decided to participate not only to be involved in my new school, but also as a way to meet new people.
For College of Law students there are a few very unique options for getting involved in student government. One option is to join the legislative branch as a member of either the Congress of Graduate Students or the Law School Council. Another is to join the judicial branch as either a member of the Elections Commission or the Student Supreme Court.
During my first and second year of law school I served on the Elections Commission, which has the responsibility of holding hearings and ruling on violations of the election code by student candidates, campaigns, and political parties. One might assume there would not be much to do in this area, but that is not the case. Each year, the Commission holds about 7-10 hearings, which last anywhere from 1 to 4 hours depending on the violations.
While at times holding hearings and deliberating is an onerous task, these cases provided me with some of my favorite memories from law school, all the while serving an integral function of the SGA. It was also great practice for future lawyers because not only did we write judicial opinions, we sat on the bench and got to experience first-hand what judges do. I also served with some of my best friends and we had a lot of fun, especially during my second year when I had the opportunity to chair the Commission.
For my final year of law school I decided to move on to the Student Supreme Court. Due in part to my experience on the Elections Commission I was able to get an appointment from the Student Body President and after a lively senate confirmation hearing I was confirmed as an Associate Justice. The best part about serving on Student Supreme Court is that we got to wear judicial robes to our hearings, which I thought was pretty cool.
The Student Supreme Court is much more involved with the rest of SGA and we were even required to appear at Student Senate meetings to offer advisory opinions. Other duties included swearing in new senators at their inaugural banquet following student senate elections, holding hearings on violations of the Student Body Constitution, and making decisions on cases by appeal from lower judicial bodies, like the Elections Commissions. When interpreting the Student Body Constitution, Student Statutes, or in hearing cases on appeal, it was very important for us to do a thorough job because beyond a decision of the Student Supreme Court there is no appeal.
While you will certainly be busy in law school, it is important that you take part in activities that you find both fun and rewarding. If you have not considered participating in the SGA at Florida State University, I would highly recommend it. Whether you choose the legislative or judicial path, the opportunity will provide you with valuable experience and will definitely bring you in contact with some new and interesting people.
PJ Hebb, Class of 2015
Law school is an overwhelming time for many students and it is easy to hide away in the library, studying for hours, without seeing a single person. However, the need to get out, network and meet people is critical for one to succeed in their legal career. One of the most understated, but most important things you can do as a law student for your professional career is to get to know the students around you.
Getting to know your fellow law students, their interests and passions, and creating strong relationships with them will take you beyond your time here, well past graduation, and into your career. After all, we are all going to be attorneys someday! From the bonds and relationships that you build during your time at the College of Law, will come a group of young legal professionals, all connected to each other through a common law school experience.
While law schools are generally competitive by nature, Florida State fosters an atmosphere of cooperation. The College of Law community is a very positive and welcoming environment, and this is a direct reflection of its students, faculty and staff. So, while competing academically and professionally, we do so within a support system of friends. This not only makes our time here much more enjoyable, but also provides us with a great opportunity for meeting and getting to know other.
The College of Law campus is also unique in the way that it encourages students to participate in various activities together, whether it is getting involved in a student organization, playing intramural sports, or attending the weekly Student Bar Association socials. These activities give you so many opportunities to make friends and foster relationships that may have otherwise not developed on their own.
It is also important to remember that already having the built-in support from friends and colleagues through law school will help you succeed as you begin and develop through your career. For me, joining an alumni network and knowing that there are hundreds of other attorneys out there that I can call on for help and support is a comforting feeling.
One thing that I was not aware of when deciding to attend Florida State University College of Law was the upper-level writing requirement for graduation. To fulfill this requirement, students must take a class that is graded based on a final paper that is about 25 pages in length.
Upper-level writing courses should be something to look forward to, not something to be dreaded. While “normal” law school courses have many of the same qualities as upper-level writing classes, it is a challenging, but rewarding, experience to write a well-thought-out paper on an interesting legal issue of your own choosing rather than just taking an exam.
Understandably, some students can get anxious about the thought of writing a 25-page paper. I personally enjoy writing, but even if I did not, writing a paper is a nice change of pace from taking a final exam. I fulfilled my upper-level writing requirement by taking Race and Law with Professor Franita Tolson and it was certainly one of the best academic experiences in law school for me.
To be clear, writing a lengthy legal academic paper is no small feat. It takes a lot of time to come up with a topic, doing the research, coming up with ideas, organizing those ideas, writing multiple drafts, editing, and finally preparing a presentation of your paper for your class. Luckily, you have assistance every step along the way. Your professor will be available to sit down with you to come up with a topic, the librarians will go out of their way to make sure you are aware of the most up-to-date information relating to your topic, and many upper-level writing classes require peer review of your drafts by your classmates.
Class time is spent covering various topics that often relate directly to what you are writing about. You will have various deadlines set throughout the semester so your professor can monitor your progress and help you if he or she notices anything that could be improved upon. The resources are there and if you utilize all of them you will be able to write a great paper.
There are two unique things about upper-level writing classes that make them something worth looking forward to: the small class size and the interesting topics. Having small, discussion-oriented classes centered on cutting-edge and often contentious legal issues makes for a worthwhile educational experience as well as an interesting and thorough paper. Additionally, there is a wide variety of upper-level writing courses offered at the College of Law. I took Race and the Law, but while I was a law student other offerings included:
- 20th Century American Legal History
- Clean Air Act
- Climate Change
- Coastal and Ocean Law
- Comparative Constitutional Law
- Cyber Law
- Environmental Crimes
- Environmental Law and Policy
- Game Theory for Business Lawyers
- Health Reform
- Human Trafficking
- Intellectual Property
- Law and Economics
- Sex, Reproduction and the Law
- Supreme Court Role-Play
These are just a few of the many and constantly changing upper-level writing courses offered. As you can see, there is quite a wide variety offered so you are always able to find a topic that is interesting to you.
The Public Interest Law Center at Florida State University College of Law houses the Family Law Clinic and the Children’s Advocacy Clinic. Students who participate in these clinics receive academic credit for representing low-income clients and each clinic is limited to 8 students per semester. A portion of the clinic is taught like a normal law course, with slides and lecture. The rest of the time is spent working on the cases that have been assigned to you. The case portion involves communicating with your client, drafting pleadings, e-filing, attending mediations and hearings, and more. Additionally, students are required to attend and observe a number of court proceedings.
The requirements for participation in one of these clinics is that you first have to be cleared for character and fitness by the Florida Bar, have completed 45 credit hours, and be approved as a Certified Legal Intern (CLI). CLI’s can represent clients, even in court proceedings, but practice law under the supervision of a licensed attorney. I participated in the Family Law Clinic during the summer semester after my 2L year. This clinic handles various family law issues which could include dissolution of marriage, custody, visitation, and paternity cases.
For my first trial, I represented a father who wanted to spend more time with his son. We had previously attempted mediations with the child’s mother, but were unable to reach an agreement. During the court proceedings, I called nine character witnesses, presented several exhibits, handled a very emotional client, and even drafted the final judgment at the conclusion of the case. At the end of the proceedings, the judge ordered 50/50 timesharing, left the room, and left it up to the parties to agree on visitation for holidays. We struggled to come to an agreement, but in the end, our client was ecstatic.
It was extremely gratifying to provide legal assistance to individuals who otherwise would not have been able afford these services. The experience I received was invaluable and has helped me to feel more secure inside and outside of the classroom. During my 3L year, my Florida Civil Practice professor asked the class if anyone had ever sat in on a deposition. I was able to raise my hand because I had actually taken a deposition. Conversely, courses that I had already taken prior my participation in the clinic had helped prepare me to better serve my clients.
Participation in the Family Law Clinic also gave me the opportunity to observe and work with attorneys in the area. More importantly, this experience enabled me to start recognizing myself as a future lawyer, and not just as a law student.
One of the most important parts of the job search for new legal professionals is networking. Making connections with established legal professionals who are willing to reach out to current law students is an invaluable part of making progress toward getting your career started. Students at the Florida State University College of Law have many opportunities to do this including participation in Networking Noshes organized by our Placement Office, checking out local events hosted by the Tallahassee Bar Association, and by attending mixers organized by College of Law student organizations. To get the most out of these events you should be prepared to network efficiently and effectively and the following are some simple tips for those of us for whom networking may not come naturally:
Get Organized: Once you begin networking you should set up a contact record to keep track of the individuals you have met. I recommend setting up an Excel spreadsheet that includes their names, contact information, the networking event where you met, their job/position, and the topics you discussed. Whenever I get a business card from someone, I always write down tidbits of information related to what we spoke about for my spreadsheet. The more information you include in your spreadsheet, the more you will be able to remember about the person, how your conversation went, and what details you may need to relate when you reconnect.
Work the Room: Networking events are sometimes very short and you will want to maximize your time and meet with as many professionals as possible while also making a lasting impression. Spend about five to ten minutes with each person, depending on how your conversation goes, and always be prepared with your “30-second sell”. Your pitch should include your competencies, areas of interest and any other educational or career-oriented information that you would want people to remember. Do not be afraid to ask for tips on entering the area of practice you are interested in pursuing and about the types of things these professionals deal with in their practice. You can even get their perspective on the legal job market both in the city where they practice and in their area of practice if that is important to you. After you have had an opportunity to effectively present yourself and learn something about an individual, politely excuse yourself before moving on to another person. Also, do not forget to get a business card from each person you meet so that you can contact them after the event.
Establish Relationships: The most important reason for making each of these contacts is that you are establishing business relationships. During networking events do not just go through the motions of a conversation and then move on. You should make an effort to get to know and learn a little about each person you speak with. A kind, warm approach is normally well-received and will help you stand out. You should also actively show an interest in the other person and what they have to say. Asking questions, being excited, smiling, and asking for details are good ways to show that you are engaged. Even if you are nervous, be upbeat and friendly and people will respond!
Follow-up: After these events, it is extremely important that you always follow up! If you never follow up with a person you meet, you are effectively cutting off the professional relationship that you established during an event. You should always write, call, or e-mail a thank you to people who give you information, advice, and referrals. If you spoke about something specific, bring it up, or send a copy of an article you may have run across on the topic – it will be very well received and will show your dedication to the relationship.
Networking is extremely fun once you get into it and have the opportunity to put some of these tips into practice. You never know who you may meet or what you may have in common. It is extremely important to make these networking connections because they are an investment in your future. It is not uncommon for College of Law alumni to attend these events and sometimes they are looking for people they may want to hire in the future. Letting yourself shine through, staying organized, and following up on these relationships will give you a leg up on the job search and help you solidify your future.
Law school brings people from various places and backgrounds and sometimes we forget just how different we all are. As students we are continually asked about what area of the law we are interested, however, we are rarely asked why we are interested in law in the first place. I thought it would be interesting to know why some of my classmates decided to attend law school, why they chose Florida State, and what they considered to be their ideal job after law school. I was surprised by their responses and how many different responses were provided. During my inquiry, I presented the following questions:
- What made you want to attend law school?
- Why did you choose Florida State University College of Law?
- What would your ideal job be after graduation?
The following are the responses that I received:
Tia Huntley, 2L
- Since I was a young girl I had always wanted to be a lawyer. In fact, my mom has video proof of this. I was in a little miss pageant and was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and I answered that I wanted to be lawyer and a judge.
- I chose Florida State because it seemed like they truly wanted me to attend their school. Although I was accepted into other law schools, I felt a better connection here.
- My ideal job after graduation would be to work at a smaller firm dealing with family, criminal, and personal injury law and one that sees their clients as people and not just a windfall or “just another case.”
Trevor Ruff, 3L
- I chose law school because of my experiences and interests with international relations, Model United Nations activities and I wanted to find a way to change the world.
- I chose Florida State because it provided a great value combined with a great education.
- My ideal job would be a corporate transactional lawyer working on mergers and acquisitions.
Allie Akre, 2L
- I really always knew I would come to law school. It was just part of the plan.
- I chose Florida State because I wanted to practice law in Florida and to take advantage of the College of Law’s location in the Florida’s capital city.
- My ideal job after graduation would be a federal clerkship.
Jaycee Peralta, 3L
- I wanted to be more prepared before entering the “real world” and I determined that a legal education would help me.
- I felt that I needed a different atmosphere from my undergraduate experience. I visited Florida State during the spring semester of my senior year and fell in love with the College of Law!
- My ideal job would be working on research and writing at a public policy interest center.
April Zinober, 2L
- My father and I have very similar personalities. We are both very outgoing, like to learn new things, and work hard. My whole life, I watched him enjoy his job and the work he did. In family car rides, we always played U.S. President Trivia, so I grew up interested in the political process and the way all branches of our government worked. Going to law school just seemed like a natural fit for me.
- When I walked onto the Florida State University College of Law campus, I felt that same “click” that I did when I first walked onto my undergraduate campus. I also value the close personal relationships I have with other students and with my professors. Our professors actually care about us and go out of their way to make our law school experience interesting. Being in Tallahassee also provides incredible opportunities for us as students. Coming here for law school is was truly the best decision I could have made.
- I was fortunate enough to receive a summer clerkship with a national firm and I will be placed in their litigation department. Ideally, I would love to be asked back for a full-time career position as part of their commercial litigation team when I graduate. I have also considered eventually working in the U.S. Attorney’s office, and I believe that starting out with a national firm will help me make the connections I will need to make that career move if I so choose.
Samantha Parchment, 3L
- I initially applied to Florida State because of its overall ranking and because it is a “top value” law school.
- After attending several open houses and admitted students day events at different law schools, I felt most at home at Florida State. When I visited I also met Professor Linford, who not only followed up with me after my visit, but was also very helpful in providing me with information about housing and school options for my son.
- My ideal job would be to work in a small law firm with no more than three partners, so that I can learn the ropes and make partner myself!
Zachary Pechter, 2L
- I always thought law school sounded interesting, but I actually decided to attend while clerking at a major law firm during my summers as an undergraduate.
- Florida State was one of my top two choices and the culture at the College of Law was the determining factor. I can still vividly remember my initial tour of the campus with a Student Ambassador and also enjoyed meeting and talking with professors and hearing about clinics, externships, journals, and other co-curricular opportunities. Everyone here is so nice and helpful and the environment is so much more healthy and fun than what I had experienced at other law schools.
- I would like to work in the public companies and securities practice group at the law firm I worked for during my undergraduate summers. I really loved it and even had a better time last summer when I had the opportunity to work as a Summer Associate. I will be doing that again this summer and will hopefully get a long-term offer when I graduate!
Lauren Vagnoni, 3L
- I chose to attend law school to pursue my dream of working in criminal prosecution. My father was an attorney and though he practiced civil law, he encouraged me to pursue law school after I argued with him about a criminal law issue at the age of 12.
- I chose to attend Florida State for several reasons: First, class sizes are smaller than other top state law schools. Second, I was impressed with the number of student organizations at the College of Law and about how welcoming the students are. Third, I was very excited to hear about the criminal law clinic that was available for certified legal interns interested in criminal prosecution.
- My ideal job right after graduation would be to become an Assistant State Attorney or an Assistant United States Attorney.
Aline Bryant, 2L
- I decided to attend law school because I saw a law degree as something that could help provide me with a stable, interesting career even if I decide not to practice law.
- I chose Florida State because of its welcoming atmosphere. When I came to Admitted Students Day everyone made me feel welcome and seemed to really enjoy what they were doing here.
- My ideal job after graduation would be as a political analyst or as an in-house counsel for a company.
Felisha Grizzle, 3L
- After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I found myself interested in public policy and human rights. Before I left for a trip to Egypt, I applied to a few masters-degree programs, but once I was abroad, I determined that I really wanted to be more deeply involved and actually practice law.
- I chose Florida State after attending an Admitted Students Day event, walking around the campus, and meeting deans, faculty, and students with my parents. It was a wonderful experience. Everyone seemed so enthused to be at the College of Law and everyone was so welcoming and helpful in getting me over my pre-law school anxieties.
- My ideal job would be part-time creative director for a haute couture fashion house and a stay-at-home wife/mom with my husband when he is in the off-season of his professional athletic career. If that does not happen, I would love to work with the United Nations Environment Programme, Charity Water, or UNICEF and do volunteer work abroad with Islamic Relief.
Ashley Parker, 2L
- I chose to attend law school because it is something I always wanted to do and because I always wanted to help people.
- I chose Florida State because they made me feel welcome. Unlike other law schools I visited, it seemed like they wanted me here as much I wanted to be here. I was not made to feel like I was coming just to pay my tuition. They really seemed to care.
- My ideal job would be to work for a company as in-house counsel, but I would also like to work for the State Attorney’s Office.
Kevin Alford, 3L
- I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was a child. My aspirations were to get a business degree, attend law school, and go into corporate law.
- I attended Florida State because of its location in Tallahassee. As a Florida State undergraduate I had come to recognized many advantages of remaining in the state capital for law school, not to mention not having to relocate!
- The perfect job for me would allow me to specialize in law related to churches while also educating people on their constitutional rights.
Rachel Pringle, 3L
- I applied to law school because I did not know what I wanted to do and I knew I wanted to obtain some sort of graduate-level education. Law was the program that most fit my interests.
- Why Florida State? Because of it’s location in the state capital and because I love the campus. During a visit and tour I was able to meet some of the professors and students and they were so nice. This was reassuring because I had heard negative things about the environments at other schools and knew that I did not want to end up at a school that I would not enjoy for the next 3 years of my life. I can definitely say that I am very happy with my experience at Florida State.
- I would love to work in a government agency and have had the opportunity to intern at a general councils’ office. I would also like the opportunity to work with the State Attorney’s office to utilize my mock trial experience and then possibly enter private practice.
Joey Coleman, 3L
- I took several introductory legal studies courses as an undergraduate and wanted to better understand how the legal system works. I also wanted to use my writing skills as an educated man of law.
- I chose Florida State because of the affordable cost of attendance, the high bar passage rate, the College of Law’s reputation, and because I had been a Florida State undergraduate.
- I would like to be an entertainment lawyer because this combines my interest and undergraduate major in music and law.
Monica Carusello, 2L
- I had always been passionate about education, loved working with children and thought that I belonged in the classroom. However, after working as a substitute teacher in Miami and serving a year with City Year in a fourth grade class in Washington, D.C., I realized that my passion and skills could be better applied outside of the classroom. I decided to pursue a law degree to help me better represent and champion the needs of children in under-served communities and to learn what I can do to make a difference in public education.
- I chose Florida State because of its prime location in Florida’s state capital, excellent national ranking, small student body, and joint-degree offerings. I definitely made the right decision!
- I think my ideal job after graduation would be clerking for a circuit court judge in the family or juvenile law division.
Joseph Salzverg, 3L
- I had always thought about attending law school but became motivated while running political campaigns and dealing with individuals in the legislative process. I found that the individuals who were armed with a law degree proved to be the most successful and dynamic, so instead of becoming a lobbyist I decided to pursue a law degree.
- I chose Florida State because of its location in Florida’s capital city. For the type of law I want to practice, Tallahassee’s location provides endless possibilities.
- I would like to work at a law firm with a strong governmental affairs practice as an associate and lobbyist. Ideally, this firm would have offices in South Florida and Tallahassee.
Anika Boyce, 2L
- I wanted to attend law school because my mother is a judge and I have experienced the legal field my whole life. In my senior year of high school I also determined that being a lawyer would bring personal fulfillment as well as allow me to use my talents to help the most people.
- I chose Florida State because of its reputation as a top law school in Florida.
- My ideal job would be to be the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS).
Chancey Smith, 2L
- I chose law school because I wanted to have more career options and many people told me that I would be able to do anything with a law degree.
- I came to Florida State because the staff in the Office of Admissions was so friendly and helpful. I applied from overseas during a long backpacking trip and they were very comforting and understanding of my situation. I also felt that the College of Law had a very interesting international law program.
- I have no idea what kind of job I want. I just want to find a job that allows me to be happy, that is challenging and dynamic, and where there is an opportunity for advancement and growth.
I was accepted into the Honors Legal Scholars program in the spring of 2012, during my junior year at Florida State. I was overjoyed to know that I had been accepted because of the many perks of being a member. Now, a 2L, at Florida State University College of Law, I cannot stress how beneficial my experience as an Honors Legal Scholar was.
First, members of Honors Legal Scholars who achieve a Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score of 162 or higher and who have an undergraduate grade point average of 3.6 or higher are automatically admitted to the College of Law when they apply. This benefit definitely excited me, because I knew I wanted to remain at Florida State and attend the College of Law. Second, as an Honors Legal Scholar, students are able to attend events hosted at the College of Law that help prepare and introduce them to the admissions process, the law school curriculum, and much more. Third, being a part of Honors Legal Scholars allows members to network with each other and to share their experiences with the law school admissions process or preparation for the LSAT. I was fortunate to be able to take advantage of all three of these benefits, and also a much more!
Because I became an Honors Legal Scholar so late in my undergraduate academic career, I knew I wanted to do as much as I could. During my senior year, I attended every Honors Legal Scholars event offered. Each event was roughly an hour long and featured a law professor, visiting judge or attorney, or a law student who addressed a different topic. These events were my favorite part of an Honors Legal Scholar because after matriculating as a student, I already felt an instant connection with some of the professors and students I had met and all of the events helped me prepare for law school.
Networking is such a crucial part of being an attorney and Honors Legal Scholars provided me with the opportunity to begin speaking with people interested in or practicing in the field of law. I still remember meeting other students and talking with them about their experiences at my orientation luncheon. Some were freshmen and sophomores who were just starting to think about their careers, while others were upperclassmen, like me, navigating through the LSAT and admissions process. This networking turned out to be invaluable, because after speaking with three other students about an LSAT preparation course, I was convinced to attend, and was ultimately pleased with my results.
The program is designed to address the questions you will have about law school, gives you the tools you will need to be more knowledgeable about your responsibilities as an applicant, and makes you aware about what the College of Law expects of you as an admitted law student. I would encourage anyone who is eligible to apply to do so and anyone who is participating to take advantage of the opportunities the program provides. I only wish I would have applied sooner, because I know it would have benefited me even more!
It is your senior year in college and I remember how that felt. You are anxious, you are scared and you just took an LSAT prep course. Although you did not feel like you learned as much as you could have, your test scores have vastly improved. You have also met two amazing people who will also be attending law school next fall. Because all three of you will be attending different law schools, enjoy their company now and know that this common experience will only strengthen your relationship in the future.
It is hard not to be anxious, but know that you have sent in the applications and it will seem like an eternity before you get your first letter. Just remember that good things come to those who wait. Try not to be too sad when you receive your first denial letter. Remember that although you liked the idea of attending that law school, things do happen for a reason. You will still frantically check your phone for missed calls from Mom and Dad with voicemail messages saying, “A letter came in the mail for you!”, but there will not be any missed calls. You will refresh your e-mail inbox up to 20 times a day just to make sure the Internet is still working. You will run to your mailbox with butterflies in your stomach only to find flyers for the local Chinese restaurants inside. Do not lose hope. This too, shall pass.
A couple months will go by and you will celebrate your birthday with family and friends, just like you do every year. This year, however, will be unforgettable. You will receive a call from a familiar area code. It will be the call for which you have been waiting and you will cry. You will be so grateful that all the hard work you put in over the last four years, the time you spent working part time at a law firm, and all of those hours spent in a LSAT prep course have paid off! You will be so relieved that all that worrying is finally over! On that Friday night, you will celebrate “22 and FSU” with family and friends because you WILL be attending Florida State University College of Law! Enjoy this time…you deserve it!
Staying connected to your undergraduate institution can be an incredibly useful networking tool as a law student and there are a number of ways to do it.
Student organizations are a great way to meet other law students and to find those who may have also attended your undergraduate institution. The College of Law even has two great student organizations created just for this purpose. For those of who attended the University of Florida (UF) we have the LitiGators, and for those who attended the University of Central Florida (UCF) we have UKnight. These organizations hold a number of events to help students stay connected and coordinate activities with the local chapters of their respective alumni associations (Capital Area Gator Club and UCF Alumni Club). Both are great organizations to follow because many local attorneys are active in the local alumni chapters. Whether you attended one of these institutions or not, meeting alumni and other law students from your undergraduate institution can be very valuable because when you are looking for an internship, clerkship or job, they may be in a position to help you.
Another great way to stay connected and to network in the area of law that interests you is to attend conferences or symposiums at your undergraduate institution. Some even offer scholarships or waive their registration fees for students. I am an alumnus of the University of Florida and last year I attended the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference held by University of Florida College of Law. I had a great time and also had the opportunity to reconnect with some of my undergraduate professors. When they found out that I was attending Florida State University College of Law and the area of law I was interested, they offered to connect me with old friends at government agencies where they had previously worked.
Even without an opportunity to attend an event at your undergraduate institution, it can also be helpful to stay in contact with your undergraduate professors because they can still be valuable references and for internships, externships, or future jobs. Recommendations from those professors who can talk about your academic performance, work in your area of interest, and can detail your depth of understanding in that area can really help your application stand out from those of other applicants.
There may be a number of other opportunities that your undergraduate institution provides that you might not even be aware. Your specific undergraduate college, school, or department may have access to scholarship information or have publications or blogs that highlight their alumni. Staying in contact and getting your name out there could result in someone contacting you for an opportunity. Your alma mater may have study abroad programs that you might be able to participate in as a visiting law student that matches your area of interests.
Because networking while in law school is important to your future success, staying connected with your undergraduate institution is one of many ways to accomplish this. So keep your eyes open for those opportunities because you never know when that connection may come in handy.
During the fall semester of my 1L year I saw a posting in one of the bi-weekly Florida State Law Student Announcements requesting applications from College of Law students interested in serving on the Florida State University Student Government Association (SGA) Elections Commission. After serving as a member of the Florida State University Residence Life Conduct Board as an undergraduate, this type of activity appealed to me. After sending in my resume, taking a test on the SGA Election Code and Bylaws, and being briefed on the process, I was ready to go.
The Elections Commission is composed of a Florida State University student serving as the Supervisor of Elections and six College of Law Students who serve as the Elections Commission panel. The responsibility of the Commission panel is to meet weekly for 1 to 2 hours to hear complaints brought by the Supervisor of Elections against specific student political parties, individual party members, or independent candidates. After hearing arguments from each side, the Elections Commission publicly deliberates and makes a ruling in each case. After a ruling is handed down, the Commission then proceeds to the sentencing phase which consists of tabulating the consequences of the violation(s) and determining if an action is warranted. Typically, there is a fine, but some cases can result in candidate disqualification. The Elections Commission is then required to file their opinion within 24 hours of the decision. If the party involved is dissatisfied with the outcome, they may appeal the decision to the Student Supreme Court (also composed of College of Law students).
When I arrived at my first hearing, I did not know what to expect. Complaints are e-mailed to Commissions panel members prior to a hearing, and I had so many questions even before the hearing started. Both parties stated their case and then Commission deliberations began. It was intriguing to hear all of the different opinions of the Commission members and to share mine as well. While it appeared to be an open and shut case, each member still wanted to make sure we were making the right decision and that the decision was supported by the facts. After coming to a decision, tabulating the sanctions for the violation, and handing down our decision, the losing party informed us that they would be appealing the decision. After the hearing was over I knew that I found an activity that was right for me.
Serving on the Elections Commission seems very much like serving as a judge in a court and much of our work involves the same type of experiences we are having as law students—reading opinions, analyzing and dissecting them, and making a ruling. We also have the responsibility to help guide the Student Senate and Supreme Court in amending SGA laws to clarify the law and close apparent loopholes. Our decisions are unbiased and thoughtful and we are well aware of the underlying reality that they have consequences. If Commission actions are incorrect or if we fail in some way to articulate the reasons for our decisions fully, they can be overturned by the Student Supreme Court.
I feel that the Commission’s decisions help ensure the neutrality and fairness in student government elections for all students. Participating will hone critical thinking, analysis, and legal writing skills. It provides an opportunity to be a part of the judicial branch of the Florida State University Student Government Association and is a unique opportunity only afforded to College of Law students. It is also one of the only activities of its type that law students can participate in during the fall semester of their 1L year. I am now in my second year on the Commission and encourage any College of Law student interested in serving to give it a try.