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Current 1L: are all schools so cliquey?


dogsarecool

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dogsarecool
  • Law School Admit

I am a current 1L at an Ontario school. I'm loving the academics so far, but I can't help but notice how cliquey the class is. It feels like high school. Are all schools like this and any 1Ls going through this, or perhaps do any 2Ls/3Ls have some advice?

I've met some great people so far, but even in the past few weeks I've had my fair share of encounters with mean girls. I hate feeling like I have to pretend to be someone I'm not, or how evidently other classmates look down on others that aren't wearing a particular brand/fashion style.

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pastmidnight
  • Law Student

Unfortunately, I think this is pretty common.

I’d make an effort to talk to anyone who seems nice. This can be really difficult to do if you’re shy, but in cliquey environments you have to push yourself to make more of an effort to get to know people. There are plenty of people who feel the same way you do, and who would like to get to know more people, but who have defaulted to hanging out with whoever they met during orientation because that’s what feels safe.

Join extracurriculars if you haven’t already.

People who have never grown out of being high school mean girls are unfortunately common in law school. Try to limit the amount of time you have to spend interacting with them as much as possible, and be civil with them when you do have to interact with them. Do not compromise who you are to gain their acceptance. You do not want to be “friends” or even acquaintances with these people. Take comfort in the fact that the terrible reputations they’ve cultivated for themselves in law school will follow them once they graduate, and try to ignore them. If things escalate, go to student services.

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Patient0L
  • Law Student
13 hours ago, dogsarecool said:

I am a current 1L at an Ontario school. I'm loving the academics so far, but I can't help but notice how cliquey the class is. It feels like high school. Are all schools like this and any 1Ls going through this, or perhaps do any 2Ls/3Ls have some advice?

I've met some great people so far, but even in the past few weeks I've had my fair share of encounters with mean girls. I hate feeling like I have to pretend to be someone I'm not, or how evidently other classmates look down on others that aren't wearing a particular brand/fashion style.

It’s still very early. You’ll find your people.

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GoBigOrGoHome
  • Law Student

It’s bad and I’m not sure it gets better. 
 

This past week I watched someone in class roll their eyes at something that they shouldn’t have and chuckled, looked at the person beside them expecting them to go along with it, and that person looked visibly uncomfortable not wanting to but also being part of the group. It was like a scene out of means girls - because Regina George doesn’t like something, you can’t like it either.

The legal profession is very small. Remember that. People will remember you. How you talk about others, how you talk about them (when they find out about it). 

There is one person in my cohort that I will never refer business to. extremely competitive to the point that they won’t share information with you, puts down everybody (including profs). It’s a weird situation because so many different people have come to me about this person’s negative personality traits, but they all still talk to them. I thought I could influence positive behaviour by showing kindness (won’t be specific to avoid outing), but nope. Still a jerk. 

 

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Whist
  • Articling Student

It's not always toxic cliquey, but yes it's cliquey. I've never personally experienced any drama but through the grapevine have heard of some extremely petty behaviour. It tends to get better after 1L, as early as after 1L exams even because getting grades tends to bring people back down to earth. In 2L/3L you aren't in discrete cohorts anymore and you meet more people through work, ECs, new classes, etc. You still get try-hards, but that's more annoying than mean. 

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Whisk3yjack
  • Lawyer

Every school is going to have cliques. Cliques has a negative connotation, but the formation of smaller, close friend groups is going to be a natural occurrence in any group of 200ish people. You just can't maintain super close friendships with 200 people all at once!

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On 9/17/2023 at 1:10 PM, Whist said:

It's not always toxic cliquey, but yes it's cliquey. I've never personally experienced any drama but through the grapevine have heard of some extremely petty behaviour. It tends to get better after 1L, as early as after 1L exams even because getting grades tends to bring people back down to earth. In 2L/3L you aren't in discrete cohorts anymore and you meet more people through work, ECs, new classes, etc. You still get try-hards, but that's more annoying than mean. 

Yeah, I agree with all of this.

Also, sometimes friendships don't form right away. I met a bunch of my best friends in law school, although we didn't really become close until second and third year.

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duck
  • Articling Student
On 9/16/2023 at 9:36 PM, dogsarecool said:

I am a current 1L at an Ontario school. I'm loving the academics so far, but I can't help but notice how cliquey the class is. It feels like high school. Are all schools like this and any 1Ls going through this, or perhaps do any 2Ls/3Ls have some advice?

I've met some great people so far, but even in the past few weeks I've had my fair share of encounters with mean girls. I hate feeling like I have to pretend to be someone I'm not, or how evidently other classmates look down on others that aren't wearing a particular brand/fashion style.

I'm sorry you feel this way; I relate. I took a different route than some of the commenters in this thread; I literally stopped caring about snarky comments. In doing so, I also stopped being friendly to people I felt were not being nice to me. It was exhausting having to people-please and put on a goofy, nonchalant persona (especially as a neurodivergent person lol). 

It may not be great advice but it worked for me. Instead of worrying about people or what they thought about me, I focused on the OCIs and secured a job back home. I made close friends at my job. There are so many ways to find community in the legal field beyond law school. 

Ultimately, my peace came from that no matter what they think of me, I'll do fine for myself. So don't worry about upsetting people who are not nice to you, their influence really isn't as big as you think it is. 

 

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Scrantonicity2
  • Law Student

This is intended as encouragement: I haven't experienced law school as cliquey. I'm sure there are cliques at my school, but I am fully oblivious. I'm sure being a mature (ish) student has something to do with it, but there are a couple of other things that I think have been helpful that you could try. 1) I have community outside my law school (this is harder if you've moved to a new place, but I still really encourage trying to connect with folks outside the law school bubble) and 2) I have leaned towards less prestigious and more justicey/nerdy extra curriculars. Nerds and SJWS can be cliquey too, but I've had good luck so far. I've also heard sporty folks have had good luck with intramurals.

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Naj
  • Law Student
On 9/16/2023 at 9:36 PM, dogsarecool said:

mean girls

There's a chick in my program who will make it a point to taunt you whenever she greets you, usually by means of some sarcastic and subtly belittling one-liner. Was not fucking with her at all until she brought some salad that she had personally made to a social bbq someone else arranged. No one else brought anything. 

I ate her salad and had a conversation with her, turns out she's pretty nice. Although I did mention, in more subtle words, that she'd be a lot more approachable if she chilled the fuck out every now and then.

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CndnViking
  • Applicant

I do wish you'd be more specific than "an Ontario law school", so those of us who are still in the application process could benefit from your experience by including it in our decision-making.

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Naj
  • Law Student
1 hour ago, CndnViking said:

I do wish you'd be more specific than "an Ontario law school", so those of us who are still in the application process could benefit from your experience by including it in our decision-making.

You may have missed the general consensus here on cliques being present in all schools and not just one specific law school in Ontario. I wouldn't worry about factoring this post, or subject, into your decision-making. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
willow
  • Law Student
On 9/21/2023 at 10:56 PM, duck said:

I'm sorry you feel this way; I relate. I took a different route than some of the commenters in this thread; I literally stopped caring about snarky comments. In doing so, I also stopped being friendly to people I felt were not being nice to me. It was exhausting having to people-please and put on a goofy, nonchalant persona (especially as a neurodivergent person lol). 

It may not be great advice but it worked for me. Instead of worrying about people or what they thought about me, I focused on the OCIs and secured a job back home. I made close friends at my job. There are so many ways to find community in the legal field beyond law school. 

Ultimately, my peace came from that no matter what they think of me, I'll do fine for myself. So don't worry about upsetting people who are not nice to you, their influence really isn't as big as you think it is. 

 

I just want to say I really appreciate this post.

I also hope the OP is feeling better or has met better people by now! I relate a bit as I felt really isolated in the first few weeks. I feel like there are a lot of people in my small section who I really don't gel with and a couple that seem to go out of their way to exclude and belittle people. I have a certain disability that makes me a bit.... let's say seasoned (lol) at picking up on when people are like that. Now that I've settled more, I happened to meet a ton of incredibly cool and down-to-earth people outside my section and got closer to cool people in my section. Definitely second whats been said about showing up for extra curriculars and doing what you can to meet more people.

I also am getting better at just not letting certain things "in". Just deciding not to care about certain things goes a long way. I think some people have a temperament that leans towards being more easily rattled and a lot of people who just don't or get over it a lot more easily and maybe disregard how much of a challenge it can be. You are in control of how you react to your environment, it just takes an active intention.

My heart goes out to OP and I hope they're feeling better about their first semester by now!

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  • 2 weeks later...
SNAILS
  • Articling Student

If your question is "How do I made friends?" then I suggest posting on your law school year/section's Facebook that you want to to find someone who wants to study a certain topic with you (contracts, torts, whatever). 

I don't actually have any friends myself, but this is what I would do in theory.

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  • 2 months later...
ltmaverick25
  • Law Student
On 9/16/2023 at 9:36 PM, dogsarecool said:

I hate feeling like I have to pretend to be someone I'm not, or how evidently other classmates look down on others that aren't wearing a particular brand/fashion style.

Anyone that behaves like this is simply not worthy of any further consideration or thought on your part. Brands and fashion might make for a hobby for those who fancy themselves as enthusiasts in that area, but it has no bearing on how well one will perform as a law student, or a lawyer.

Having said that, cliques are normal human behaviour. Most 1L cohorts are around 180 people ish? There is no way all 180 people become the best of friends. I was at a recent social event where I introduced myself to some people and they laughed because they already knew me. I had no idea who they were. Not because I'm a snob, far from it. It's just impossible to form close relationships with that many people. Every event I go to, I meet someone new from my own cohort. I don't think that's a problem though.

But when you run into people that clearly exhibit negative behaviour towards other students or profs, take the high rode. Don't compete for points with these people. Avoid them. A ton of law students are 21-22 years old. You are going to run into some poor behaviour. Rise above it, and keep clear of it.

And remember, law school isn't a popularity context. In my humble opinion, it's more important to be well respected than well liked or admired because of your sense of fashion. 

Contribute in class, speak with confidence, and have intelligent, insightful comments to make where appropriate. If you do this consistently, people will just end up approaching you. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you participate in class the way I just said, it will be virtually impossible for you not to be approached by people. And for the most part, it will be likeminded people that tend to approach you. And thats good place to start from.

Hope that helps. Keep your chin up.

 

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  • 1 month later...
Dinsdale
  • Lawyer

It is a much-commented on phenomenon.  So many law students leave undergrad and feel like they've gone back to high school or even middle school.  You are far from alone.  I think there are a few structural reasons that contribute to this, the main one being the "small groups" format of 1L.  At most schools, you take all your classes with the same small-ish group of people.  Naturally, cliques ("study groups") start to form, and you see the same few faces (some friendly, some annoying) over and over again.  There is no organic way to meet the other 100-150 1L's in your class, apart from extra-curriculars.  Then there are the lockers!  If anything reminded me of high school, it was having a locker again.  Anyway, it definitely gets better in 2L and 3L.  No more small groups.  You will have a random mix of any of the 2L's and 3L's in your classes, depending on what you choose to take. You'll be exposed to a lot more of your colleagues.

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