Good Faith Advice

UCI Law brings quite a few interesting guest speakers to campus. However, it seems like the turnout for these events is often very low, and the majority of those who do attend are 1Ls. In a similar vein, the general turnout for student org. film showings is at best tepid. Why is that? Is it a sign of apathy on the part of our student body, or just a reflection of the necessary compromises of a busy schedule? And why the drop-off after 1L year? Are these events an important part of the law school curriculum, and should we care that more people aren’t showing up? If so, how can we get more people interested and involved?

The Apathy Alert Squad

Gertrude’s Response:

Dear Apathy Alert Squad,

During my 1L year (HINT: I’m NOT a 1L!), I felt the exact same way as you do now.  Only the 1Ls seemed to attend the majority of the school events and I began to wonder why.  Honestly, I just thought the upperclassmen were dumb for not attending guest speakers because my classmates and I loved the speakers and we were really glad we went.  Now, I’m sure it’s not because they’re dumb, but rather it’s the result of a multitude of issues.  For one, upperclassmen are busy.  They’re not necessarily busier than 1Ls, it’s just that their schedules are not as conducive to going to guest speakers.  Many upperclassmen have full or part-time externships and therefore are not on campus as often as 1Ls.  1Ls, particularly in their first semester, are often excluded from pro bono activities that upperclassmen are able to participate in, which also take the upper-classmen away from campus.  Additionally, I find that going to guest speakers is like going to the gym; you may be tired one day or you have a doctor’s appointment to go to instead and you miss going to the gym that day.  Once this happens a couple of times, not going to the gym the next day becomes even easier and eventually you never go to the gym.  The same principles apply to guest speakers and other school events.  You just commit yourself to so many other things that seem to take precedent over school events.  You can call it apathy, laziness, or a necessary compromise; it’s probably a combination of all those things.

Now student organizations are a whole separate issue!  Though everything I said previously applies to student organizations as well, there’s more to why people don’t go to student org events.  Bottom line: we have too many student organizations!  At a new and small school, it’s simply too easy to be a leader.  And when you put a bunch of overachievers in one place, everyone’s going to want to be a leader.  But we NEED followers!  Leaders are nothing without followers.  This is why our student organizations are not very strong or successful as a whole.  With less student orgs and therefore less people in charge, we can strengthen the organizations we do have by increasing membership and involvement.  Of course, we compromise diversity of organizations and ideas as a consequence, but everything in life is a trade-off and it’s up to the student body to decide which they find to be more important: more involvement in existing organizations or many different types of student organizations to choose from.

Should we care?  This is a pretty good question.  On the one hand, we at UCI have an all for one and one for all type attitude.  On the other hand, a few people have taken that saying a little too far, meddling in the business of others when it’s really not their place to do so.  The latter has caused much animosity within the student body (and the administrators) and can really deter people from getting involved in anything.  My point is just to be careful with the way you try to involve people.  Alerting others of their apathy may not be the best approach.  It’s great to encourage people to get involved, but remember to always be nice and positive even if at the end of the day no one is interested.  As patronizing as that may sound (and please it’s not meant to be taken that way at all!), I want to simply remind everyone that above all else we should respect each other’s autonomy while supporting our peers.  Everyone’s experience in the next three years will be different.  Personalize your law school experience by taking advantage of the things you find important and know that others will do same.

Yours Truly,

Socrates’s Response:

Hello Apathy Alert Squad,

I’m afraid there’s no sexy answer to this question and I wish there was because I prefer the sexy in my everyday existence. I think there are a lot of reasons why turnout is low for speaker events. 1Ls show up to more speakers because their schedules are geared toward allowing them the time to show up. Typically, I think 1Ls are also more interested in attending every speaker in order to discover the different areas of law available to them. I know when I was a 1L, I wanted to know ALL THE LAW and ALL THE LAWYERS. Once you’re a 2L or a 3L, you probably have an idea of what kinds of lawyering you’re interested in, so you may not make as much effort to attend a speaker series that you know you’re not interested in knowing about. When you’re a 1L, you don’t know what you’re interested in knowing about. That’s the incredibly convoluted problem – now what’s the solution?

I think the first solution is one that is already happening organically – allow the students, through their student organizations, to call the shots. If a student group invites a speaker, the speaker already has a built-in audience. Students are also going to be proactive about inviting their friends and colleagues through word-of-mouth. I am always more inclined to attend a speaker event if someone I know and like has told me about it and asked for my support. It’s part of the culture at UCI to support fellow students and to help them succeed.

The second solution is sex appeal. Okay, I was wrong. There is a sexy answer to this question, and that answer is SEX. We all know it sells. So, sell me a speaker that litigated some really interesting case (or several), or who works with famous clients, has crazy adventures on a daily basis while representing their clients, or someone who has an unconventional clientele. Maybe the solution is to have fewer speakers, but the ones we have are incredibly just out-of-this-world, awe-inspiring, crazy beautiful sexy awesome.

So, let’s recap.
How do we get more students to attend speaker events?

1. Student organizations with built-in audiences should take initiative over speaker series events.
2. Let’s bring sexy back.