‘Tell Me a Story’

Community Storytelling Event at Stanford Law School Promotes Classmate Connections

There’s something about a good story, told well. From a childhood bedtime tale to a scripted TED Talk, the spoken word has the primordial power to entertain, elevate, and connect. 

‘Tell Me a Story’
Alana Olson Murphy at the recent SLS Community Storytelling event.

Lawyers have to be excellent storytellers, whether they’re striving to engage a jury or negotiating a deal. So, what better way for law students to hone their yarn-spinning skills-–and bond with their classmates—than simply telling stories? On a recent April evening, approximately 50 Stanford Law School (SLS) students gathered in a Munger dorm lounge to participate in Spring For Storytelling, presented by First Person, an SLS student organization launched in 2011 to build community at SLS through the power of storytelling.

A handful of students signed up to share a personal story, loosely around the theme of “new beginnings.” In the style of National Public Radio’s Moth Radio Hour, the storytellers took turns going to the front of the room to share brief tales that ranged from hilarious to heartbreaking. An LLM student had her classmates roaring with laughter with a recounting of why she and her husband always hold hands while getting on and off trains. Another student shared a difficult story about a splintered family. One explained how she found transcendence in taking out the trash. Another recounted his pre-law school adventures as a “van lifer.” 

Later in the evening, inspired by their classmates’ tales, a handful of audience members mustered the courage to take their own turn in the storytelling spotlight. Snaps and claps filled the room as the students cheered on their classmates.

“Sometimes law school can feel like a lonely place, with students engaging on a somewhat superficial level about classes, stress, professors,” says Chicago native Alana Olson Murphy, JD ’25, a First Person leader who has participated in spoken word events, including poetry slams, since high school. “Storytelling helps people push beyond small talk to connect on a deeper level. Words can be extremely powerful and telling even a short story can create connections, expose vulnerabilities, and build community.” 

‘Tell Me a Story’ 1

At the event, Murphy told a story about her family’s unrenovated kitchen in her Chicago home, and how the small, dated room inspired deeper family connections.

LLM student and India native Kavya Reddy Muduganti decided she wanted to share a light-hearted, romantic story about the multiple comedies of errors she experienced with her husband while boarding and disembarking from trains in Paris and Tokyo. With one spouse repeatedly ending up on a moving train while the other was left behind, the couple eventually decided to make a rule that they must be holding hands when boarding or leaving a train.

It was my first time at an event like this, and I loved it,” she says.” “The room was incredibly supportive, which dusted away any apprehension I might have had about sharing a personal story with my peers. Not only did I get to share my own story, but I also listened to amazing tales from other students I usually just pass by in the halls. It opened my eyes to who they are beyond the classroom and what drives them. It was such a fantastic experience, and I’m looking forward to the next one.”

First Person founder Jon Margolick, JD ’13, says he is delighted the group has endured since he graduated. SLS has a student body bursting with stories, says Margolick, a software company VP and Chief Learning Officer of the Marine Corps’ Innovation Unit (Reserves). 

“SLS selects students who’ve lived life to the hilt,” he says. “It’s part of what makes us great leaders and friends as well as trusted and capable lawyers. Some, myself included, would say these personal connections are the lion’s share of our education. First Person was meant to make it easy for students to make the most of that gift. All it takes is asking, assisting with the crafting of a story, and a little logistics. The rest—the magic—was baked in at admissions time.”

Read a 2013 Essay about First Person by Dean of Admissions Faye Deal

Read the 2011 Feature About the Founding of First Person