Three Ways the Albany Law Literary Circle Keeps the Community Connected

The Albany Law School Literary Circle (ALLC) was born out of the peak of the pandemic. It started as a summer book club in 2020. But it’s survived and grown into an incredible resource for students—current and incoming—faculty, staff, and alumni to gather and discuss stories and literature of their choosing.

They’ve expanded programming to winter break sessions, poetry readings, and hopefully some new things in the spring, like a book swap. They average between 50 and 70 participants each session.
“We're a literature circle, not just a book club.  Last year we had done it all on Zoom. Our club has been entirely on Zoom. We've never had an in-person meeting or event. So that's something we hope to change in the near future,” said 2L Marissa Hochberg, Social Chair and Events Coordinator of the ALLC.

“I had an alum in my race and cultural relations circle last summer. They were a great resource not only to students as future lawyers, but their perspective on the book was really valuable,” said 3L Andrea Gagliardi, president of the ALLC.



Connect Before You Start Classes

The group hosts sessions over the summer where members break off into groups based on their preferred genre. Since summer is often a more manageable time for most to fit in reading, faculty, deans, alumni, and 2L and 3L students are often in on the fun. Incoming 1Ls are encouraged to participate and it’s a unique way to get to know some Albany Law community members before classes start.

Hochberg and Gagliardi each led two books this summer, in addition to three more books led by Shabena Amzad, Claire Stratton, and Allison Magnarelli. “A lot of the people in my groups were 1Ls. It's a good informational club but it was also a place for them to get to know some people before they even got to school. Because it was the summer before their 1L year, they had a lot of questions about starting law school too and it’s a great setting to ask those questions,” Hochberg said.

The summer before law school can feel overwhelming and some may think getting ahead on the material will help them, but it can cause more stress. 

“Law school is a lot of reading case books, and a lot of people are tempted to start reading the case books early or start reading the supplements early. Don't do that. You'll just confuse yourself. One of the best ways that you can prepare yourself for law school though is to read anything, just to get yourself in the habit of it,” Gagliardi said.

Anything can fit the bill from romance novels to the daily paper, as long as you’re in the act of reading.

“Before law school, I was recommended The Atlantic as something to read because it’s informative but also thought-provoking. It was helpful for sure,” Gagliardi said.

More Than Books

Having interests outside of school is also a big piece of overall health and wellness—something Albany Law School takes very seriously—and there are plenty of campus groups to help you find your place.

“People have families, people have lives, they have other things going on. I know a few law students who own businesses, and there are other things that they're working on at the same time,” Hochberg said. “I think it's a good way to have something to help break up your day and give yourself something else in your schedule to focus on. I think it's good to train your mind into focusing on something else other than what's stressing you out during the day or what your main focus is.”

The law school’s Wellness Initiative offers many resources for students to take care of themselves, including free access to two licensed mental health professionals.

“There are many things in place that remind us that you do need to take time for yourself, and there are people to talk to who are going through a tough time, and there are different things you can do,” Hochberg said. “I think our club ties hand-in-hand with the school’s wellness initiative. Because it is about just keeping yourself going and trying to maintain a positive mindset.”

Finding Your Speed

While the goal of ALLC isn’t related to course work, adding more reading into your life can make things go a bit smoother when you do hit the books during the semester.

“You can make an argument that it actually is beneficial to law school to read non-legal materials. One of the things Professor Armstrong had had me do as a 1L was set a timer and see how far I got into a regular book. This exercise helps you find your reading speed and then you can work to improve it, which helps with exams, reading for class, and more,” Gagliardi said.  “If somebody has the mindset of "I'm only going to do activities related to law school because I'm 120% focused on law school, they can read a novel and still help themselves in law school.”

The group also pays close attention to the types of books members are interested in through a survey and assign each member to a “circle” before the sessions begin. Members can choose from fiction, nonfiction, legal fiction, legal nonfiction, culture and race relations, poetry and so much more. And yes, you can participate in more than one circle!

Moving forward, the ALLC e-board is planning some other types of events like poetry slams, book club brunches, and more open mic events—they hosted one in January.

“Everyone who was there enjoyed it. We read a poem, a couple of short stories and listened to some songs and then discussed them,” Gagliardi said. “The nice thing about this club is, I think, it's the only one where you can join before you're actually enrolled as a student, and then you can stay a member after you graduate.”

To connect with the ALLC, find them on Facebook, Instagram and email them at AlbanyLawLiteraryCircle@gmail.com