The Value of Learning Outside the Law School Classroom

Guest blogger Evan Saffren ’20 studied finance as an undergraduate at the University of Florida.

When I graduate from NYU School of Law this coming May, it will conclude nineteen consecutive years as a student. In this nearly two-decade-long adventure, I have accumulated crucial insights into getting the most out of your educational experience. For example, your future self is going to hate your present self if you continue to procrastinate on that assignment. Another insight is the immense value in supplementing a classroom-based education with outside-the-classroom learning experiences.

Some of your most important learning occurs outside the classroom.

The importance of outside-the-classroom experiences became apparent to me in college. I realized that if I was going to develop the professional and interpersonal skills that are necessary in “the real world,” I needed to search beyond the classroom curriculum. Subsequently, I got involved in the Florida Leadership Academy, philanthropic efforts, and summer internships during my college years at the University of Florida. The skills I developed in these endeavors were as significant as those I learned within the four walls of a classroom. I vowed to carry this mindset into law school.

Law schools offer a broad range of substantive outside-the-classroom experiences. In fact, NYU Law compels students to supplement their education in this way through an “experiential learning” degree requirement. While similar to my experiences in college, experiential learning in law school has provided me with the added benefit of gaining real-world experience working with causes that I have become passionate about.

For example, I came into law school interested in the law’s interaction with emerging companies. Through my coursework, I learned about the hurdles entrepreneurs and start-up companies face when dealing with legal issues. Instead of merely learning about this issue, I was able to act on it and help the cause by becoming the head of the Rising Tide Program for the Social Enterprise & Startup Law Group. This program, in tandem with Rising Tide Capital and attorneys from Lowenstein Sandler, provides pro bono legal services to local entrepreneurs who otherwise would not be able to afford them. This experience had the dual effect of providing a hands-on, skills-developing learning opportunity while simultaneously allowing students to contribute to a real legal issue.

Another legal issue that caught my interest arose in my Alternative Dispute Resolution course, in which we discussed the vast benefits of alternatives to litigation such as mediation, arbitration, and negotiation. However, these mechanisms are also used to exploit power imbalances between individual consumers and major corporations. This occurs largely due to mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer purchase agreements that are unfairly favorable to the corporation.

After researching this issue, I came across an emerging company, Radvocate, which was trying to solve this legal problem by making it easier for consumers to take action against and claim compensation from big companies that mistreat them. Radvocate has transformed the act of bringing a consumer arbitration claim into a simple, expert-supported, online experience. They are attempting to solve the very problem I learned about in the classroom, and I was excited to see if I could get involved. Luckily, Radvocate was looking for law students to assist in their mission and brought me on board. Once again, I found an opportunity to gain crucial, outside-the-classroom experience related to a legal issue that I became passionate about in the classroom.

After so many years as a student, I am extremely excited to start my journey working in the “real world.” I am confident I can succeed in any environment, primarily thanks to the skills I have developed outside of the classroom. Law school provides the perfect opportunity to achieve this experiential learning while also contributing to a meaningful legal cause. I encourage every law student to take advantage of experiences that connect you to the issues you care about.