Mental Health and Law School

Being a lawyer is an intense job. Millions of dollars can be at stake. People’s lives can be at stake. Our legal system is adversarial, which means conflict is part of the process. Dealing with clients can be grueling, since you may be helping them deal with divorce, child custody issues, or criminal behavior. You may have to deal with violent or disturbing images and stories. And you will start getting experience with all these things while you are in law school.

A recent study on Law Student Well-Being by American University showed that rates of depression, nervousness, and anxiety all increase during law school.

Law school is hard — and lonely:  you will be spending a lot of by yourself studying.  Everything you are doing is new.  We have to learn how to manage our perfectionism.

Explore these things when you are considering and visiting the law schools you applied to. Talk to admissions staff about resources.  Are there conversations on campus about this?

More importantly, talk to law students:

Are they in a supportive study group?

Do they have mentors?

Do they feel safe?

Are there mental health discussions and resources on campus?

Do they have affinity groups or fun athletic teams?

How do they feel?

How have they made connections with other people?

When you are visiting, look around. Are their posters on billboards or in the bathrooms? What’s the “vibe” on campus?  Is it super cut-throat or more relaxed?  You can learn a lot just by observing people. You want to figure out how law students have created connections with other people.

Take care of yourself and figure out how you can promote your own wellness. One the easiest and most effective ways to do this is by creating a community.  Find your people.  Create a study group.  Get peer mentors.  Join an affinity group or informal athletic team.  Figure out how to connect with people.  Take advantage of stress-management seminars, wellness programming, and on-site counseling. Practice gratitude.  Meditate for 5 minutes a day.  Breathe.  Decide to be confident. Laugh, especially at yourself.

Do not be afraid to ask questions.

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