I think the poster of a kitten swinging from a tree branch with the caption “Hang in there!” just doesn’t cut it these days. There’s no doubt that mental health is a serious issue for many people around the world. Unfortunately, mental health problems tend to get worse when mixed with the every-day pressures of law school.
After a quick google search of “mental health and law school,” I found an endless list of articles discussing how intensely the problems of mental health affect law students. This is crucial to raising mental-health awareness; the problems faced by law students are important to talk about. But being in law school myself, I was wondering if some people might need reassurance about how law school can sometimes make us… happy! I have really enjoyed my time in law school overall. I definitely had a couple of panic attacks (which is totally normal), but here are some things that helped me keep calm and law school on:
Staying friendly. Talking to other law students was one of the best stress relievers for me because I quickly realized I am not alone in the struggle. Some of my favorite memories in law school have been getting together with friends and cracking jokes about school. We would laugh at ourselves about not understanding material, how we were constantly making mistakes, or just how awkward law school can be sometimes. This was always a refreshing realization: that everyone is trying their best, but no one is perfect. No one is coasting through law school and flawlessly accomplishing all of their goals without any conflict whatsoever. That would probably be boring. And super weird. Staying in touch with law school friends always helped me minimize my faults by just acknowledging their existence. Life and law school are full of conflict, but knowing you’re not alone definitely helps.
Define your success. Law students tend to put a lot of pressure on grades and class rank. You can live in constant anxiety if you fall prey to law school’s version of “keeping up with the Joneses.” But why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we put so much pressure on grades and class rank when most practicing lawyers probably never think about their law school GPA? It doesn’t seem to matter that much in the long run. So, to take my mind off of the competition, I try to remind myself why I went to law school in the first place. Most of us just want to find a job that we feel passionate about and enjoy life. The good news is, you do not have to be number one in the class to find a fun job and be satisfied. There is no rule that you have to get straight A’s or be the perfect student to secure a happy life. Sometimes, the people that overload themselves can end up missing out on crucial life experiences. It seems obvious, but remember that your grades or your class rank don’t have to take away your personal version of success. If you keep powering through, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Keep law school weird. There is an assumption in law school that the best students are those who can robotically dissect arguments in formulaic fashion. This is a helpful skill, but I have started to notice that some of the best lawyers in the work force are those who still maintain their unique personalities. It’s important to keep your personality strong in law school and maybe even develop it further. I know law students that spend their weekends rock climbing, rapping, doing stand-up comedy, and I personally play bass and sing in a band and have throughout my entire time in law school. Playing music is something that really helped me stay mentally balanced. It helped take me outside of the world of law school and give my brain a break. Keeping your life fun outside of school can help take your mind off the grind, but it can also make law school more fun. My hobby allowed me to perform in front of crowds every weekend and it made me a much better public speaker overall. It also helped me find passion in things like mock trial, because I now know that the “performance” aspect of law school is something I really enjoy. So, I highly recommend keeping whatever interesting hobby you have and even bringing that outside experience into your law school life so you can have some fun.
Watch dumb TV. For real. This helped me so much. There were also times when I would burn through some Disney and Harry Potter movies. That also helped a whole lot. If this isn’t your thing, that’s fine – the idea here is to treat yourself. Turn your brain off once in a while. It’s amazing.
Finally, be proud. If you are reading this and you are in law school, you are probably already feeling all of the feelings. You probably already know that it’s stressful, combative, competitive, and it’s tough, but you should remember that you made it here for a reason. It’s an amazing accomplishment, and as far as I’m concerned, you’ve already crossed some finish lines of life. You should be proud of yourself! Even though law school is hard, there are still a lot of things to be happy about.