Op-Ed: The Road Ahead

By Chantelle Ankerman

When I mentioned to a professor that I was attending a 1L Spring Orientation this semester, he was confused. I begrudgingly forsook the comfort of some extra sleep under my down comforter for the mandatory five-hour session. Despite breakfast being an underwhelming selection of pastries and Lilliputian cups of coffee, the day began on an otherwise exciting note with Dean Timothy Fisher’s opening remarks. I was again struck by his distinctive speaking style as he walked among the tables in Starr Hall, not a scrap of paper in hand, and delivered a speech of equal parts conviction and sage wisdom.

The theme of the day was relationships, specifically the need to foster them due to their crucial role in career development. I couldn’t have been happier, for this dovetailed quite nicely with my own frame of mind. Dean Fisher and several others throughout the day urged us not to leave unused the many resources available to us. I was gratified to hear that my efforts to reach out to last semester’s professors in order to obtain feedback and promote my academic growth were on the right track. But there is more to relationships than what we can get out of them.

Before matriculating at UConn Law, I attended a networking panel at the Law School. One concept that has stuck with me ever since was that one does not simply don the cloak of reputation, one must embody it. Interactions with others should not be a means to an end ¾ something we do merely to further our own interests. To transform into truly meaningful connections, our relationships must be a lifestyle choice. And forget instant gratification. It takes time and effort, and might even require some self-sacrifice. But it’s totally worth it.

Take-home lessons aside, we listened to various panels on journal membership, finding a summer job, and “wellness.” I found most helpful the perspective of upperclassmen who had recently experienced rights of passage such as journal write-on and securing employment experience in a tough market. Their conflicting advice: Relax, but not too much. Lunch was a standard selection of sandwiches, pasta and salad. As we finished munching, James Ray, the Law School’s newly appointed Director of the Career Planning Center, delivered his keynote address. He seemed laid-back and echoed much of what Dean Fisher had said concerning the importance of networking. Unfortunately, about a third of the students in attendance ate and ran, leaving a conspicuously empty room for the last couple hours of the presentation.

Although I thought the information imparted was valid, my general feeling was that the program could have been condensed considerably. Also, the format would have benefited from some variety. Small group discussions, or even a competitive game, might have helped improve the flow. I appreciate the intent behind this additional orientation, but propose that our capacity as veterans of the first (and arguably most difficult) semester of law school renders us at least somewhat capable of navigating the next steps in our journey independently.