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Take Stock Before the New Year


Vol. 42 No. 4
By James C. Manning


James C. Manning is a 3L at the University of Virginia School of Law. He is a representative to the ABA Board of Governors.

It is hard to believe that exams and the holidays are upon us once again! The year’s end promises fun, family, and festivity. After exams come rest and relaxation. But before that, we endure the stress of law school exams.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately one-quarter of the US adult population suffers from at least one mental disorder each year. Law students often have higher rates of depression and substance abuse than the general population. So as you start to feel the pressure of exams, remember to take time for yourself. In order to make sure that you stay healthy and happy enough to perform your best, do not neglect the aspects of your life that have gotten you this far. We all have, in some form or another, spiritual, physical, social, mental, and personal needs that cannot be ignored.

As law students, we feel the pressure to get involved, stay involved, and excel at everything we do. Yet our drive to succeed, make good grades, find an externship or internship, meet pro bono requirements, and carve out time for our loved ones inevitably creates stress. To stay grounded, it is important that we remember who we are and why we came to law school.

At my circuit’s Fall Leadership Summit in Charlotte, we were challenged to list things we enjoyed doing before law school and see how many of those things we have continued doing. It was sobering to look at the things that I have given up. In life, making tradeoffs is part of reaching new professional levels. But we must be aware of that and balance competing demands in a healthy way while fighting to preserve a sphere of normalcy.

If you need help this semester, do not be afraid to seek help. If you know someone who does, reach out to them. Make use of the Division’s Mental Health Day Planning Toolkit (more information available at and participate in our Mental Health Day next semester on March 27, 2014. For now, though, good luck on exams, congratulations on completing another semester, and best wishes for safe and happy holidays. I hope that you will have an opportunity to enjoy time with friends and family during the break from school.

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.