Since time immemorial, law school has entailed marathon study sessions, intimidating professors, and social-life shut-downs. Not anymore—at UT’s School of Law, water balloons, tug-of-war, team apparel, and karaoke nights are now part of the plan.
For several years now, the Society Program has separated UT’s law students into eight different societies—each with a designated T-shirt color— and then further into smaller mentor groups. The goal: to enhance the notoriously tough, competitive law school experience with social and academic support.
“The societies are a way for students to be less stressed-out in law school,” says third-year student Jeff Soffer. “Everyone puts in the same amount of work to do well, but the society program reminds us of the bigger picture and how important it is to make friends and personal connections.”
Each society carries the name of a prominent alum, such as Gloria Bradford, LLB ’54, the first African-American woman to graduate from UT Law. They are led by a faculty advisor, society coordinator, and two mentors who organize social, academic, and community service events.
A highlight: the Society Games, an Olympic-style competition in which societies go head-to-head in events like water-balloon launching,three-legged races, and rock-paper-scissor battles.
“It’s the field day that you looked forward to in fifth grade,” Soffer says. “Just a fun way to unwind—after all, we’ll have to spend the next 40 years of our lives in offices.”
Not all play and no work, the program also brings in Community Fellows, or well-known lawyers, educators, or jurists who can speak to their own experiences in the field. One such Fellow is Judge Edward Prado, BA ’69, JD ’72, Life Member.
“A society program like this would have helped me be prepared better for the practice of law,” says Prado, now a federal judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. “I was left at the end of law school with no job and no connections. I didn’t even know what kind of law I was interested in.”
Through small, informal meetings with law professionals, UT law students get a taste of what it really means to be a lawyer, judge, or senator, helping them pinpoint a path that feels right. And through social events—karaoke nights, intramural football games, and potluck dinners—students see each other as support and camaraderie rather than simply as the competition.
Prado’s best advice: “Join organizations, make friends—that’s what’s going to get you the job,” he says. “You have to make your own opportunities.”
And that’s what the Society Program is doing— connecting students to one another to create bonds that will survive long after their time at UT, one water balloon at a time.
Photo by Brian Birzer.
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