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Wellness: Be Proactive!

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Despite the stress that the legal profession can cause, starting healthy habits early can make all the difference.

Stress is something that every lawyer knows about, and it can negatively affect wellness. In the first semester of law school, lawyers-in-training are figuring out how to survive reciting cases, midterms, and final examinations. As they proceed through law school, the basic academic skills become more familiar, but the workload remains high. On top of classes, other responsibilities increase, including internships, extracurricular organizations, and networking events. This culminates in the stress of the bar exam and ultimately entering the profession. So, law students begin to carry the weight of the profession on the very first day and will continue carrying it throughout their careers. Thus, being proactive with wellness is vital to personal and professional success.

Wellness Fact Check

The stress of law school can lead to various wellness issues. The Davenee Foundation reports that 8–9 percent of law students experienced depression before entering law school; that number jumps to 40 percent after graduation. Further, 96 percent of law students experienced stress compared with only 70 percent of medical students and 43 percent of graduate students.

With the added stressors brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Law School Survey of Student Engagement reports that 91 percent of law students experienced some increase in mental or emotional exhaustion due to the pandemic, and 69 percent reported some increase in loneliness due to the pandemic. While these numbers might be intimidating, there are proven ways to improve mental health and wellness.

Be Proactive

Here are some tips to consider regardless of whether you are in your first or final semester.

Use Resources: Do not isolate yourself and never be afraid to ask for help and assistance from your colleagues, professors, and staff members. There are many good resources out there, some that you can access through your institution. State bar associations and related agencies also offer free resources. Too often, we forget that the practice of law is one of guidance and help from mentors and colleagues. So too, should you consider the mental wellness aspects and take assistance and guidance from others in the profession who can offer insight and help.

Build Connections: Reach out to colleagues, especially if they seem distant. One small email or text message could make someone’s day. Form connections with a faculty member or find an upper-term student mentor. These connections will form your support network.

Professional Help: Seek professional help, if need be, even if it feels uncomfortable. You will be a better lawyer and advocate if you take care of yourself. Networking and other resources are useful, but they are no substitute for seeing a mental health professional if the situation warrants it.

Conclusion

Despite the stress that the legal profession can cause, starting healthy habits early can make all the difference. Lawyers who are well are lawyers who are effective. Strive to prioritize your wellness needs in addition to your studies.

Amanda M. Fisher and Matthew Marin Amanda M. Fisher is an assistant professor at WMU-Cooley Law School in Tampa, Florida. She teaches Introduction to Law, Drafting, and Criminal Law. Professor Matthew Marin works at WMU-Cooley Law School and teaches Contracts, Bar Skills, and other academic support courses and workshops. He is also WMU-Cooley’s Director of Academic & Student Services.