Establishing Relationships with Your Law School Professors Virtually
During law school, there will be at least one professor who sticks out to you. It may be your favorite professor, or it might be the professor you wish to get to know better because of their work history. Among the most important relationships you will have in law school will be those with your professors. Professors are there to educate you but also to mentor you. They can help you work through challenging legal issues from class and also advise you on your future career plans, especially if they have connections in your desired field.
In the past, it probably seemed easier to connect with professors—from talking after class to stopping to chat in the hallway to dropping by office hours. If your classes are remote or partially remote, you may struggle to establish and develop relationships like you had in the past. But it is easier than you may think! Try these tips below to network with your professors, even if from a distance.
Do the Work.
First things first, it is crucial for you to do your work and show that you are interested in law school. Your professors will be impressed with you if you put your best foot forward. Resist the urge to blend in with your Zoom background during virtual class. If you participate in class discussions, your face and name will be more recognizable, which is a great way to make a lasting impression on your professor.
Visit Virtual Office Hours.
Professors have office hours for a reason—so use them! Office hours are the perfect opportunity to ask a question about an assignment, discuss a difficult issue from class, learn more about the professor’s research, or delve into their field of law. You may feel awkward approaching your professor, especially in a one-on-one video, but attending regular office hours gives you a chance outside of the formal class setting to learn more about the professor and for the professor to get to know you.
Asking your professor to clarify areas of confusion is useful both because it can help you develop a deeper understanding of the subject and also because your professor will see that you care about your work. Request a video conference so that you can speak with your professor the same way you would if you were meeting in their office. Make sure to prepare with actual questions and discussion points to help guide the conversation. Put in effort, and use the time with your professor wisely. Being proactive during these remote times can help you stand out to your professor.
It is easy to be intimidated by your professor and forget that they are human just like you are. A great conversation starter is asking how they are handling virtual classes (professors are also struggling to with this new normal). Another suggestion is to send the professor an interesting article related to the class they teach, which can both spark conversation and show that you’ve taken an interest in the professor’s specific field. However you decide to approach the professor, make sure you are genuine. Don’t send an article you haven’t read or start a conversation in which you aren’t actually interested. Do the legwork to build this relationship.
Working as a research assistant is a great way to get to know your professors better, especially in these virtual times. These positions can be competitive, but if you are sincerely interested in a certain professor’s work, throw your hat in the ring. Being able to work alongside a professor you admire can be a wonderful for your own professional development and can help you build a strong relationship that will be valuable for years to come.
Take an interest.
If you are hoping to network with your professor beyond the classroom, take an interest in their work. Read their newest article or book, attend their latest panel, or pick up resources they recommend to you. One act of showing interest in your professor or their work will help you establish a relationship—and you’ll learn more in the process.
While it is normal to feel nervous when approaching your professor, remember that professors are humans too. And most of them are eager to connect with students. Be prepared, show an interest, and be open to learning new things in your discussions with them—and remember to keep in touch once you graduate!