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Working with Other Law Student Groups


Finding a Law Group to Co-Sponsor

Group Types
Law student groups fall into two basic categories. They are often based on either advocacy or identity. Some common advocacy groups include: democrats, republicans, the Federalist society, American Constitution Society, ACLU, feminist law forums, animal rights’, and environmental law groups. Some common identity groups will often be based on religion, ethnicity, LGBTQ identity, or gender. The group you ask to co-sponsor will likely alter the tone, topic, and audience of your event, so consider those factors as you plan. For example, issue advocacy groups will tend to be more willing to debate than a religious identity group. However, a fundraiser or community service activity may fit the interests of identity groups more.

Overcoming Barriers
As a secular group, you may find some groups wary to work with you. The disinterest could be due to a mere misconception of the goals of your group or the secular community as a whole. Further, a political group may not want to be seen as working with the “atheists,” depending on the climate of your area. A barrier like that may be brought down by building a good reputation for your group at the school, through communication, or by just setting up ground rules. Also, remember a group’s leadership is likely to change every year. You can always try again when a group has a new leader. Some groups may be more willing if an event involves multiple groups. For example, you invite all of the religious groups to participate in a panel discussion. Another great way to work with other groups is through the Student Bar Association’s established events, such as a diversity week or by participating in a fundraiser.

Finding Undergrad Groups to Co-Sponsor
Depending on your school's location and size, there may be undergrad groups to pair up with for events. An undergrad Secular Student Alliance affiliate is a great option. Browse the undergrad group listing for pre-law groups, political groups, and progressive identity groups. Any group on the list that sticks out is worth approaching! 

Planning the Event
Debates: This type of event will likely be the most competitive. Group leaders should have their guard up in planning these events to ensure their side is represented well. Each group should be involved in the planning and framing of a debate and should be involved from the beginning. Even a title can create an advantage for one side. Common debate titles like “Is America a Christian Nation?” or “Is There a War on Religion” are not neutral, but can be used to more effectively advertise or for some other purpose. Your debate can be intellectual, inflammatory, or collegial. Your planning decisions should at least take into account the effects on your audience.

Debates are likely to be one of the more time intensive events you could plan. Be considerate of your debater; ask whether it will take them a substantial amount of time to prepare on your specific topic or if they can adapt previous materials. Ensure open communication between debaters and sponsoring groups. Too often debates involve two separate speakers just talking past each other. Be clear on how much time each person has and strictly enforce the time limits, or have the moderator do so. For any advertising, each sponsoring group should approve the posters, calendar postings, etc. SSA has a bureau of speakers willing to debate. Plus check out the general Speakers & Debates Resource Guide resource for information. 

Speakers: If there is only one speaker at your event, likely the group you have co-sponsor will be ideologically aligned to your position. Thus, you need not be as skeptical of their intentions. It is still important to leave that group with a good impression in working with you. Quick follow up to emails, speedy filing of paperwork, and fair contribution of effort are all basic considerations not to be overlooked.

Outreach: The goal of your event may be to improve your secular, law school, or local community. If you work with a religious group, your first task may be to find a common goal. SSA affiliates have had success with blood drives, fundraisers, and community service. Though those events may be less popular with law student chapters, due to students’ time constraints and because their purpose is very general.

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