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Navigating the Law School Cocktail Party


It’s no secret that I’m not really a lady. I mean, I try. I’m a vigilant Facebook photo detagger. When I realize people are staring at me because I’m talking at my natural volume, aka SHOUTING, I lower my voice. At the library I’ll even whisper. Frat parties are officially a thing of my past. But I consistently seem to fall short, especially when attending one of the many social and networking events that schools throw for their 1Ls.

Consider a recent event, where your typical crowd-pleasing chicken dish was served. I was clearly more pleased than most as I maneuvered every piece of that succulent poultry into my belly. Noticing a classmate sitting near me staring, I realized that I may have let my table etiquette slide. I tried to weakly make light of the situation, with a remark about how my mother always told me to clean my plate.

In reality, my mother has always told me to sneak food into my purse—we could always reheat it later. Don’t worry, I didn’t go that far.

Either way, even before starting school I was a little worried that I wouldn’t measure up to my classmates when it came to engaging in polite company. After all, I grew up attending BBQ’s at the firehouse, not cocktail parties, and I think it’s safe to assume the standard of behavior is a little different. In short, my mental picture of professional Dixie always looked less like Richard Gere, more like Tom Cruise. In Tropic Thunder.

Luckily, by keeping a few key ideas in mind, I think I’ve been doing pretty well so far at the school-sponsored events (well except the chicken incident, but hey, a girl’s gotta eat).

Number one: don’t get drunk. I would think that this would seem evident to pretty much anyone with a fifth grade D.A.R.E. education, but I will simply say that apparently not everyone got the memo.

Number two: remember that all 150 other students at the events are not your friends. Even if some of them are, tailor conversation to those that aren’t. Afterwards I can go out with those actual friends and vent, tell dirty jokes, sing karaoke, whatever strikes my fancy. But I save it for an appreciative audience, not a group of relative strangers.

Finally, number three: don’t disrespect people who are far more accomplished in the field that you are aiming to be a part of for the foreseeable future. If nothing else, they’ve graduated from law school, and I think that deserves something (and to be honest they’ve usually done much more). I try to give them my attention when they speak, and make sure any conversation is respectful and reflects what they’ve done and can teach me in my legal quest.

A rudimentary list, and possibly more conservative than one made by someone who has grown up knowing professionals, but it’s been seeing me through so far. Let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time until my school has an event hosted by Kathy Griffin. We’ll see who reigns supreme then.