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How Law School Destroyed Me


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#1 SoCal

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 08:06 PM

I feel it is my duty to share with the community and any prospective law students the experience I have had in law school. I am probably not the only one.

 

Law school had always been my dream, and I did everything I could in my life to be able to one day attend. Ever since I was young, I wanted to be a lawyer. Note that I have no lawyers in my family and identify as a minority.

 

I suffered from anxiety problems a few years before law school, but before I left to attend, it had been quite a while before I had experienced any anxiety (i.e.: a few years). My life was good before I left to law school. I was happy, excited about life, close with my family, I had a decent job, I was healthy, travelled and enjoyed good relationships. Once I left for law school, I had begun to lose myself in 1L. I let myself be subsumed by the extremely and overly competitive culture at my law school. The pressure piled and piled on. I eventually fell into the drinking culture which I'm sure you're all aware of, but still, I did not drink much at all compared to my classmates... just more than I would have wanted myself to. The quality of my relationships were horrible. I didn't find it particularly easy to build strong friendships in 1L, though I got along with everybody. I was well known around the law school and people liked me, whatever that counts for. Of course, they liked the 'me' that I put forward that was not making me happy. Law school in 1L is incredibly difficult, and I think this is understated. It is incredibly stressful and isolating at times. Your 'friends' are competing against you, and this can breed an extremely unhealthy and toxic environment. In 1L, I got caught up in it and barely realized what was happening to me.

 

By the end of 1L, I was burnt out. I had no energy to do anything during the summer. I should mention that during 1L, I had no support system whatsoever around me. Having a support system will likely help. I should also mention that being a minority made me feel isolated, and that not having lawyers as parents or within my family also isolated me amongst those who already knew much about law culture going into law school. In 2L, I tried to change things up for myself. I started to do what I wanted to do and shed the fake friends. I'm proud to say I've built some sincere relationships with some classmates since then. These friends have helped me through the tough times (indirectly, I have not told them about my anxiety but have discussed other issues)... they are my 'support system'.

 

Anyways, long story short, I developed a serious anxiety disorder in 2L. This anxiety order was so bad that it started to literally 'disable' me. I always felt like I was being judged, I felt like I was being watched, like I was being talked about, and like I did not fit in. Walking into class became a struggle. As soon as I realized this, I had to go get help... I felt I was under tremendous pressure even in 2L. It does not really get 'easier', as they say it does. Law school is forever stressful and generally has a toxic environment (of course some people still enjoy law school, I am merely providing my experience). I am now better but I would say that my anxiety still comes pretty strongly every now and then. Law school worsened my anxiety. Some suggested that this was going to happen before I attended, but I never had any idea what law school would be like so I ignored that type of advice. I am writing this to share with those who have had anxiety and depression issues. Law school worsened and brought back my condition. I am not saying it will do this for you, but it has happened to me. I should also share that an alarming rate of I believe 1/4 law students struggle with mental health issues... This makes me ask, what is up with law school? Why do so many students struggle with mental health in law school? Why has law school been such a horrible experience for me? Maybe it's not just me and there is something fundamentally wrong here...

 

I have decided to complete my degree, mostly because I am stuck... I have to. It would be irresponsible for me not to. I do not have my parents paying for my costs. If I could do this all over again, I am not so sure I would attend law school... My anxiety is sometimes unbearable, I have grown grey hairs (and I am young!), I certainly do not feel as young as I did coming into law school, I am stressed way too often, I worry too much, I have grown more cynical and for what? I don't know... The feeling that I am experiencing right now is not a good feeling to have. For now, I just have to be strong and push through.

 

Anyways, take this all with a grain of salt of course. Your experience may be different than mine. I am simply sharing mine in case anybody else is going through the same thing, or in case anyone considering going to law school is looking for another experience to reflect on, especially minorities, those without strong support systems, and those who've suffered from anxiety or depression. 

 

I should also mention that people in my school have no idea that this is how I feel. I still get along with everyone just fine and chat with my classmates regularly. This is something that I suffer on my own...

 

EDIT: Also, I had good grades in 1L in case that has any relevance.


Edited by SoCal, 10 January 2017 - 08:44 PM.

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#2 Hegdis

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 08:14 PM

(Hey SoCal - just a quick note that after the one hour edit window this post is up forever. No delete button.)
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#3 daw33d

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 08:56 PM

Have you ever sought treatment for your anxiety? I know many people who have. There are some good counselors in certain schools who were lawyers too, so they know the struggles. If you want confirmation that mental health is seriously at issue in the legal profession/law school, you will not have a hard time finding it. Perhaps you do want to be a lawyer. These hyper competitive environments can exist elsewhere too -- I do not think we're special snowflakes -- but I would argue that it is one of the most amplified hyper-competitive/mental-health destroying environments. You haven't even finished law school yet. It's not like these tensions disappear as an articling student or young associate or sole practitioner or on partner-track. Some would say the anxiety and stress after law school is even worse, as you are dealing with your professional reputation, liability, etc. All of this is merely to say: I highly recommend talking to a counselor to address the underlying issues. You do not want this to spiral and manifest itself into the end of your career, when it doesn't have to, at all. You expressed that you're capable of performing well academically in law school; that is more than what most can do. Anyways, know that without a solitary doubt, you are not alone. There are ways to deal with this anxiety.


Edited by daw33d, 10 January 2017 - 08:57 PM.

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#4 Douglas31

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 09:01 PM

^^^ Why would you think that he wants to delete it or should delete it? Very inconsiderate.

 

I would say to the OP that I would bet money that you are in the same position as a large "minority" or law students. The best thing you can do is just focus on you and trying not to worry about any outside influences or pressures. Don't feel obligated to form relationships in law school. Do what makes you happy in law school and don't worry about appearances. All that stuff doesn't matter following school anyways and you may find the firm you practice at has a much less toxic environment and actually fosters you.



#5 Hegdis

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 09:13 PM

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^^^ Why would you think that he wants to delete it or should delete it? Very inconsiderate.


It's the opposite actually.

How is warning a poster - who shares a lot of personal information - that they won't be able to delete it later should they wish to retain their anonymity inconsiderate?

The mods get requests to delete personal information every single week. We get dissertations from people who think we should go back and personally edit each and every post they have ever made lest some one realize they are Carl from Osgoode and judge them.

I prefer to give a friendly heads up before any of that becomes an issue, especially when a poster, like the OP, takes the time and effort to really bare their soul and share some difficult experiences. Some people aren't comfortable with this kind of thing remaining up for all time.

Inconsiderate. *huffs*

/slight derail
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#6 theycancallyouhoju

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 09:32 PM

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I expect this will sound insensitive, but here we go.

I didn't find law school stressful or difficult, though 1L had some challenge. Or maybe that's not the right way to say it - 1L had stress, but I think of the feeling of stress as a natural function of any task that has some difficulty and for which there are consequences. There is no way to avoid law school having this sort of stress because - at least for most of us - it's not a literal walk in the park to get good grades, and there are consequences to your actions. When I say law school wasn't stressful, what I mean is that there was a completely reasonable amount of stress - the workload (at least at U T) was smaller than a challenging undergrad program, the curve meant a far larger percentage of students would do "fine", and (at least at U T) most of us were going to end up with jobs - a perfectly acceptable outcome.

For the record, my parents have not provided financial help for school or anything else since I was a teenager, and no one in my family had an undergraduate degree, let alone practiced law, before me. I worked and paid off undergrad debt before law school. Still, it confounds me every time someone says that because they had no related lawyers, they couldn't have known what the life was like before they came to school. For one, there are almost countless stories online accessible to someone with a modest Googling ability. Secondly, you can always just reach out to a lawyer cold call and ask them about their life - I did with numerous lawyers. I was actually shocked to arrive at school and find most classmates hadn't learned much about the career they had just chosen before committing to pay ~$60 - $130k for the right to enter it. For any students considering law reading this - please reach out and talk to lawyers before you take out a mortgage to become one. You wouldn't buy a house without walking through it, right?

The point that really matters, though, is this: Be aware that the practice of law is more difficult, more stressful, more consequential than the worst day of law school.

You may be a criminal lawyer responsible for someone's liberty. You may be a family lawyer hoping to facilitate someone's divorce or a child's security and upbringing. You may be a commercial lawyer with someone's $1 billion deal depending on your careful execution of diligence (really, it matters). You may be a litigator trying to resolve a problem so horrible a regular person ponied up the money to sue over it. In short, at law school you only ever need to worry about whether you - caring for your own benefit - will be okay. In practice, you have to worry about other people most of the time you're awake. That's a much more daunting and consequential feeling, and it is daily.

The workload is also so much heavier that the whole idea law school prepares you for it is openly silly. Depending on your practice, you could have a month of 300 billed hours. I sincerely doubt I worked 300 real hours in a semester in law school. Not everyone bills 300 and not all the time, but I've yet to speak with a lawyer who worked harder in school than they do in practice.

The language of "competition" is also employed regularly when people complain about their school experience, either implicitly or explicitly framing this as unfair or, at least, unnecessary. There is a competition between two people when they want the same thing and only one of them can have it. Competition is, in that sense, literally unavoidable at law school, unless we were to take the position that jobs should be assigned randomly without relation to grades, resume, aptitude or anything else. That's not realistically going to happen.

Good news! Once you arrive at an employer (if you don't go solo), this structure continues. You will work with people, and if you would like to continue working at the firm the next year, some of them may want to as well. There may only be one spot. You will be in competition with a colleague, and very possibly someone you consider a friend. In my experience, the way adults deal with this is to understand that the competition does not arise from any malice, but simply overlapping interests, and that you can only focus on yourself because that's all you can control.

Confusing structural competition with malice is, I think, one of the least healthy ways to go through law school and your career. Structural competition is here to stay. Learning to orient yourself toward colleagues and peers without any sense of malice is necessary, and learning to not be invested in the people who do act like jerks is important.

If this is still helpful to you - I did not attend a single drinking event with classmates in law school. It was never an interest of mine and I did not choose to change that just because I was going to become a lawyer. I work for the firm I wanted from the get-go, so it doesn't seem to have had any impact on my career. (If a partner wants a drink or a client needs company, I'm obviously there. But I don't feel any real cost to not being one of the drinking boys around the office and I work with a number of religiously observant folk who do not drink.)

And finally, be yourself from day one - unless your self is a jerk, in which case, work on that. Otherwise, just be yourself. In professional contexts, develop a professional "self" - you wouldn't talk to a judge the way you talk to your best friend, and you wouldn't talk to your boss that way either (at least not from the start). This is in no way particular to law - it is true of most or all jobs.

Tl;dr - There will always be some stress inherent to a process where some people don't get what they most want, it's your task to learn to work within that; be yourself and don't drink if you don't want to, no one cares, I speak from personal experience; law school is neither as difficult nor as consequential as practice, so use this time to slowly ramp up your ability to handle both; competition doesn't mean malice; just be yourself, and be your professional "self" (i.e. You but without saying "um" as much) in front of potential colleagues.

If law school feels too stressful, consequential and difficult, you should speak with a counselor or anyone else who may be helpful to you. Practice will be more of those things, and it's better to adjust now.
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#7 Eeee

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 09:35 PM

Important caveat: the above poster works in NYC biglaw.


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#8 theycancallyouhoju

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 09:38 PM

Important caveat: the above poster works in NYC biglaw.


That's a caveat to which part? Work being more stressful than school?

I volunteered with an advocacy group throughout law school and the principle there certainly worked harder than she did in school. My closest friend is a criminal lawyer, ditto. Another good friend is a small boutique tax attorney, ditto. There may be some lawyer jobs that are easier than school, but I have not heard of them. (Would be interested to know, though.)

And the part about how you - as a lawyer - work for other people's interests, is true always. I suppose some people could find it easier to bear the burden of someone else's problem than to bear their own, but I absolutely do not. If I mess something up for myself, that's on me and it's fine, I'll get over it. If I mess something up for someone who is relying on me, that's a real punch to the gut.
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#9 Eeee

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 09:49 PM

Yeah if you are expected to bill 2400+ hours for the most anal retentive bosses who have ever lived then that is going to be a lot more stressful than the gigs occupied by 95% of Canadian lawyers.

 

Your post read like Vince Foster's commencement address.


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#10 theycancallyouhoju

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 09:54 PM

I'm sad to say I don't get the reference - will have to look up Foster's addresses, I guess.

Okay, well, the only friends I have who are lawyers - which is most of my friends at this point - say it is more work than law school. The lawyers I have worked with in Canada work way harder than I did in law school. That's all the evidence I have. If someone out there has a "don't worry, practice is totally easier than law school" career to point out to the OP and the readers, by all means.

But seriously, law school was like 200 pages of reading a week and about 6 weeks per calendar year of exam prep that actually required time. Are there lawyers who work less than that?
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#11 Hegdis

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 09:58 PM

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To respond to OP directly: you are not alone. I won't tell you the profession is easy on any of us, but there are many, many of your peers and future peers who deal with anxiety and depression. If it means anything at all you are not by yourself in this.

I am very glad to see you referencing getting help. If anxiety looked like a broken leg people would hold open doors for you. When your disability isn't visible it is just as difficult to function but the recognition and sympathy just isn't there. You have to seek out the supports others suffering other kinds of injuries can take for granted.

So I just wanted to recognize that you are doing that. Good on you. That is a critical skill for any counsel. You are learning it early. This is actually a strength should you choose to stick with law long term. Many lawyers never ask for help. You are getting ahead of that particular game.
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#12 SoCal

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 10:15 PM

Thank you all for the supportive and helpful feedback. Writing that post was especially difficult for me, and I wasn't sure how it would be received. Thanks again for your much appreciated time. 


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#13 theycancallyouhoju

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 10:31 PM

Thank you all for the supportive and helpful feedback. Writing that post was especially difficult for me, and I wasn't sure how it would be received. Thanks again for your much appreciated time.

If it helps, I sincerely believe that almost all of the people I went to law school with can do this job just fine, pressure and all. Some will decide they don't want to, of course, but that's an empowered decision, and I don't believe more than a handful of classmates move to other careers for lack of capacity rather than lack of desire.

I of course meant what I said about practice being harder and the stresses more real - contrary to the above exchange, I don't think this is particular to NY at all, I think having other people rely on you is inherently more stressful than simply pursuing schooling for yourself. But people seem to rise to the occasion.

It can be tough, but the only choice any of us have is to believe we can do it. Seek help or counsel if it would aid in a healthier life, by all means, but aside from that, know that you have the intellectual and constitutional strength to pursue this career if you continue to decide that's what you would like to do.
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#14 Diplock

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 10:37 PM

I read this thread with a critical eye, at first, because I'm always leery of these "public service" announcements. I don't think SoCal has fallen into this trap nearly as much as some, but there's a natural tendency to take one's own struggles and to turn them into a generalized problem - maybe a problem everyone else tries to "ignore" - because it saves you from any sense that your problems are somehow "your fault." Let me be clear. I'm not saying mental health problems are anyone's fault. But it often feels like they are. You ask the obvious question "why me" and by far the most comforting answer is "not only me - I'm just the only one talking about it!" And that may or may not be true. But let's just admit for a moment there's a natural incentive to believe it's true.

 

Law school is stressful for any number of reasons, but I have truly never found that the social atmosphere is particularly toxic. And by "not particularly toxic" I mean that the workplace politics at your local MacDonald's could easily be worse. So here is where I believe the OP has either a distorted or perhaps a very individual impression of law school. Sometimes there is the odd student who believes all the worst things about law school before showing up and becomes a caricature of everything they think the legal profession is about. If you had exactly the wrong classmate in your life, whispering their ridiculous ideas in your ear all the time ... yeah, that could be bad. And maybe because they don't have other issues to make it worse, they get through their fun house mirror version of law school relatively unscathed and learn, at some point in the future, how stupid they are being. But you don't. I swear to God. My classmates in law school were far more collegial, mature, and helpful than anyone I encountered in undergrad. In law school you could ask almost anyone for notes from a class that you missed and they'd help you out. In undergrad, I remember announcements that went unanswered, all term, asking for someone to share their notes with Accessability for a student with accommodation needs. How can you compare the two?

 

What is true, in law school, is that competition is stiff. It's not mean, underhanded, or unethical. It's just that you're surrounded by very capable people and you are being graded relative to one another. That's unavoidable. The odd student takes that personally. Most are fine with it. I honestly believe it's your anxiety feeding into your sense that there is somehow something wrong here. I mean, competing with people for what you want can suck, sometimes. I know you'd rather be sure of getting what you want, and in an ideal world see everyone get what they want also, without any need for one of you to succeed and the other fail. But when there are simply a limited number of whatever, and a surplus of people who want the whatever, then competition is going to happen. That's life. And when what you want is valuable, commonly sought after, etc. it's going to attract strong competition.

 

So here's where I am coming around to saying something meaningful. You may have started from a stance where you feel it's your duty to warn everyone, but I honestly don't think most candidates for law school are unaware of the above. Some of them (many of them) may underestimate the level of competition in law school, may over-estimate their own abilities relative to that standard, and may not adequately consider how well they can deal with being suddenly "average" in a cohort of much more talented people than they've ever belonged to before. But that lack of personal insight can't be corrected with a public service announcement. There's a reason there's no silver bullet for this. And that brings me back around to you.

 

The legal profession will never stop being exactly what I've described, above. You may find a position (if you're lucky) with reasonable and accommodating people who will try to help you with your anxiety disorder or with other life issues that may come up. But it's always going to be a demanding, competitive profession in which being "good" at your job involves more than just being naturally talented (which I'm sure you are) and showing up at work every day. In order to be "good" at this job you need to be better than the next guy or gal, who is also naturally talented and may be working their ass off 70 hours each week. They aren't working their ass off to make you look bad. They are just working their ass off. But you're going to be compared to them, no matter what you do, and if the comparison isn't favorable you will end up on the losing end of whatever decisions relate to who gets the job, the raise, the whatever. Again, that's life.

 

It's fine if you've decided to "stick with" law school. But you need to figure out what your end game looks like. What kind of career in the legal profession do you even want? Answer that question and the genuinely helpful people here will do our best to tell you what's what. If it sounds realistic, we'll help steer you in that direction. If it's only going to recreate the stress and the crisis that landed you in this mindset in the first place, maybe you really need to reconsider this plan from the ground up. Because the profession isn't changing. You can only control your own decisions.

 

Two further notes.

 

One, I know I've glossed over your view that mental illness is prevalent in law school. You haven't referenced a source so I haven't engaged, but I do believe that depending on how you ask the question, fair-minded and well-educated people are probably more likely to identify as having some mental health issues than most of the general population. Heck, I might endorse that myself. I also believe that the high-functioning marginal personality types in law are often successful due to features of their personality which manifest both positively and negatively. That's also true across highly successful people. So I'm not trying to dismiss your point. I'm just saying (a) it's complicated, and (b) it's uninteresting to what I care about most, which is saying something useful to you. Again, it might make you feel better if the problem goes beyond you, but it won't make the problem go away. Control what you can control.

 

Two, whatever you may think of your peers in law school, we are also your peers right here. And we really aren't so bad, are we? We're typing away on the Internet, trying to help a total stranger, just because you asked for help. Something to think about. I'm not saying we're saints. But we're obviously not competing with you or expecting anything from you. Maybe you really do have a skewed impression of your classmates in law school.

 

Hope that helps.


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#15 theycancallyouhoju

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 10:47 PM

Diplock, I'm sort of disappointed you didn't respond to the suggestion that only NY corporate lawyers put in the hard hours. I'm half worried they're going to take away my bar membership if I admit other lawyers also work hard at difficult jobs.
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#16 Diplock

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 10:55 PM

Diplock, I'm sort of disappointed you didn't respond to the suggestion that only NY corporate lawyers put in the hard hours. I'm half worried they're going to take away my bar membership if I admit other lawyers also work hard at difficult jobs.

 

Yeah, I wanted to write a reply that got to the original post before getting into the back and forth. But in direct reply to you, I'd say you've fudged the concept of stress a bit, which is very relative to the individual. I mean, what causes each of us stress is obviously not the same across the board.

 

There are jobs in law that don't demand crazy hours or 24/7 availability. There also jobs in law that are less competitive than others, and while none of them are ever quite "easy" to hold down there are certainly jobs you can settle into and not worry that some gunner for law school wants what you have. The sense I got from the OP is that he or she was primarily stressed about the level of competition and commitment required, and if it really does come down to those two things then they can, at least, be minimized if not eliminated. Of course that depends entirely on making compromises in other areas.

 

Where I agree with you, 100%, is that the responsibility in any legal position will always be very deep. In fact I've taken to using that in some of my standard lines about the profession. No matter what you do in law, there's a heavy burden to be sure you do it properly because if you don't you could really fuck someone's life up. And if that is a source of stress for someone, I'd say they are going to have trouble finding any job in the profession. It's just that I didn't hear that from the OP. I got the sense their stress was located elsewhere.

 

P.S. Now that I have actually read your reply, I see that I wrote a lot of things that basically just repeat what you said already. Sorry about that. And, you know, way to be right before I was right.


Edited by Diplock, 10 January 2017 - 10:56 PM.

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#17 theycancallyouhoju

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 11:11 PM

Yeah, I wanted to write a reply that got to the original post before getting into the back and forth. But in direct reply to you, I'd say you've fudged the concept of stress a bit, which is very relative to the individual. I mean, what causes each of us stress is obviously not the same across the board.
 
There are jobs in law that don't demand crazy hours or 24/7 availability. There also jobs in law that are less competitive than others, and while none of them are ever quite "easy" to hold down there are certainly jobs you can settle into and not worry that some gunner for law school wants what you have. The sense I got from the OP is that he or she was primarily stressed about the level of competition and commitment required, and if it really does come down to those two things then they can, at least, be minimized if not eliminated. Of course that depends entirely on making compromises in other areas.
 
Where I agree with you, 100%, is that the responsibility in any legal position will always be very deep. In fact I've taken to using that in some of my standard lines about the profession. No matter what you do in law, there's a heavy burden to be sure you do it properly because if you don't you could really fuck someone's life up. And if that is a source of stress for someone, I'd say they are going to have trouble finding any job in the profession. It's just that I didn't hear that from the OP. I got the sense their stress was located elsewhere.
 
P.S. Now that I have actually read your reply, I see that I wrote a lot of things that basically just repeat what you said already. Sorry about that. And, you know, way to be right before I was right.

There may be lawyer gigs that are less stressful than school, I just still haven't heard of any. Almost everyone I knew in school/actual friends who became lawyers went into one of corporate, commercial litigation, criminal, crown, family or boutique. They all seem to work more hours than any of us did in non-exam law school weeks, and they all work with someone else's rights/obligations on their shoulders. They also all have to turn in work product regularly. I just can't imagine how that could be less stressful than law school, but I remain open to someone actually giving an account of it.

Not to mention, in 2/3 of law school you get to pick what you learn about. No lawyer has that kind of control over what they have to read. Some of us may enjoy practice more than school (I do, by quite an enormous amount), I simply haven't spoken with a lawyer who says it is easier.

Anyway, I particularly and wholeheartedly affirm your pointing to the end game as the real consideration. If law school is unpleasant, you have to consider what will make the practice of law better, and then pursue that.
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#18 DSman

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 11:20 PM

OP, you have problems with anxiety and depression. There are competent lawyers who deal with this stuff. Please get medical help. A lot of people in and outside of law go through this. Luckily, there are actual professional who deal with these issues.

 

Posts about the realities of the legal profession are fine, sure. Yes it doesn't really get easier because articling is also tough and stressful. And then you become a lawyer which is also stressful. But just knowing that will not suddenly make you feel better or snap you out of it. I also didn't find law school all that hard. But i also know many people smarter than me who did because they were going through mental health issues that I wasn't. You should get help so you can first, improve your health and second, get the help you need to be a good student and then a good lawyer one day.


Edited by DSman, 10 January 2017 - 11:21 PM.

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#19 SoCal

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 11:29 PM

 

So here's where I am coming around to saying something meaningful. You may have started from a stance where you feel it's your duty to warn everyone, but I honestly don't think most candidates for law school are unaware of the above. Some of them (many of them) may underestimate the level of competition in law school, may over-estimate their own abilities relative to that standard, and may not adequately consider how well they can deal with being suddenly "average" in a cohort of much more talented people than they've ever belonged to before. But that lack of personal insight can't be corrected with a public service announcement. There's a reason there's no silver bullet for this. And that brings me back around to you.

 

The legal profession will never stop being exactly what I've described, above. You may find a position (if you're lucky) with reasonable and accommodating people who will try to help you with your anxiety disorder or with other life issues that may come up. But it's always going to be a demanding, competitive profession in which being "good" at your job involves more than just being naturally talented (which I'm sure you are) and showing up at work every day. In order to be "good" at this job you need to be better than the next guy or gal, who is also naturally talented and may be working their ass off 70 hours each week. They aren't working their ass off to make you look bad. They are just working their ass off. But you're going to be compared to them, no matter what you do, and if the comparison isn't favorable you will end up on the losing end of whatever decisions relate to who gets the job, the raise, the whatever. Again, that's life.

 

It's fine if you've decided to "stick with" law school. But you need to figure out what your end game looks like. What kind of career in the legal profession do you even want? Answer that question and the genuinely helpful people here will do our best to tell you what's what. If it sounds realistic, we'll help steer you in that direction. If it's only going to recreate the stress and the crisis that landed you in this mindset in the first place, maybe you really need to reconsider this plan from the ground up. Because the profession isn't changing. You can only control your own decisions.

 

Two further notes.

 

One, I know I've glossed over your view that mental illness is prevalent in law school. You haven't referenced a source so I haven't engaged, but I do believe that depending on how you ask the question, fair-minded and well-educated people are probably more likely to identify as having some mental health issues than most of the general population. Heck, I might endorse that myself. I also believe that the high-functioning marginal personality types in law are often successful due to features of their personality which manifest both positively and negatively. That's also true across highly successful people. So I'm not trying to dismiss your point. I'm just saying (a) it's complicated, and (b) it's uninteresting to what I care about most, which is saying something useful to you. Again, it might make you feel better if the problem goes beyond you, but it won't make the problem go away. Control what you can control.

 

Two, whatever you may think of your peers in law school, we are also your peers right here. And we really aren't so bad, are we? We're typing away on the Internet, trying to help a total stranger, just because you asked for help. Something to think about. I'm not saying we're saints. But we're obviously not competing with you or expecting anything from you. Maybe you really do have a skewed impression of your classmates in law school.

 

Hope that helps.

 

 

That was tremendously helpful. Thank you. 

 

I agree with your post. I know of many colleagues who are probably a bit 'off' in their own way, but they are brilliant, talented, driven and admirable people all the same. These are examples of 'successful' people with rare positive traits, which can also manifest negatively at times.

 

At this point, I am considering pursuing an alternative career, just because even though my mental state may be faulty, it is what it is. It happened while I was in law school. The point that theycancallyouhoju made about a career in law being more stressful is something I actually often think about, particularly because I will be responsible for the lives of others. I am particularly hard on myself and can be a perfectionist at times, and so I put myself under unnecessary pressure regularly. I don't really need the added pressure. More pressure to perform at an as-perfect-as-possible standard. Don't get me wrong, I am an extremely ambitious personality. Doing hard work is not the issue, but rather it is the environment (whether or not I view it accurately) and the added stresses that come with having to be almost perfect (the nature of the work) that make me uncomfortable. The possibility to totally mess up someone's life is something that makes me uncomfortable. This is something I think about a lot (particularly in Civil Procedure, all those rules!). Also, I should note, I would have never have known that I feel this way if it wasn't for me actually trying out law school.

 

Anyways, I really wanted to thank you for highlighting that this 'competitive' environment is found in many fields, and not just law. With that said, viewing ultra-competiveness in a positive light rather than as something threatening is something I need to work on. If I were to pursue the alternative career I have in mind (I am not sharing this for anonymity reasons), I would also be involved in a very competitive environment. Therefore, I will seek help and try to work on amending my mentality regarding how to view competition. 

 

Also, thanks for highlighting that perhaps my view of my colleagues is skewed in some ways. Many of my colleagues whom I feel threatened by at times are continuously very nice to me. It is my head really that messes things up, but if it is law that has created this mindset for me, for whatever reason, then I guess it is good that I am considering alternative career paths. 

 

I also wanted to add I am extremely thankful for the support that I have found here. It shows that the field can be very supportive and collegial. It's just difficult to open up about certain things in person and I guess that's what makes the relationships seem a little less genuine at times. 

 

I really appreciate the more positive view your post has taken on my issues raised above. Thanks for that. 


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#20 theycancallyouhoju

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:10 AM

At this point, I am considering pursuing an alternative career, just because even though my mental state may be faulty, it is what it is. It happened while I was in law school. The point that theycancallyouhoju made about a career in law being more stressful is something I actually often think about, particularly because I will be responsible for the lives of others. I am particularly hard on myself and can be a perfectionist at times, and so I put myself under unnecessary pressure regularly. I don't really need the added pressure. More pressure to perform at an as-perfect-as-possible standard. Don't get me wrong, I am an extremely ambitious personality. Doing hard work is not the issue, but rather it is the environment (whether or not I view it accurately) and the added stresses that come with having to be almost perfect (the nature of the work) that make me uncomfortable. The possibility to totally mess up someone's life is something that makes me uncomfortable. This is something I think about a lot (particularly in Civil Procedure, all those rules!). Also, I should note, I would have never have known that I feel this way if it wasn't for me actually trying out law school.

For what it's worth, I would advise you to keep in mind that no human's capacities and limits are inherent or static. Through practice, through more healthy living, through careful and slow ramping up of expectations, any of us can grow. We all have different starting blocks, and different environments that make it easier or harder to grow, but we are all capable.

I believe you can learn ways to manage the expectations and environment that work for you. Whether the above posters are correct and this is best addressed through mental health treatment, I honestly don't know. It may best be understood as a mental health issue, but it also may just be a fairly common and ordinary way that a fair number of people respond to rising expectations and heightened competition. I felt something of the same the first time I took a bigger step than I was prepared for, it just wasn't in law. Understanding the limits of my predictions, developing healthy ways to process the expectations of others, and learning to focus on what was within my control were all instrumental in facing the second big step in a much healthier, more content way.

You sound committed and sincere. I doubt there's any stronger footing for finding what works for you, whatever that may be.
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#21 conge

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 05:58 AM

I don't mean to be insensitive, but I think this thread should be re-named to "How My Health Issues Destroyed Law School for Me". Law school is a stressful endeavour. If you have underlying depression and anxiety issues (I do too), it can be a rough go. Also, working as a lawyer is much more stressful than school. If you intend on continuing, it would be a very good idea to seek coping mechanisms (I'm happy to talk to you about mine, some of mine are healthier than others...)


Edited by conge, 11 January 2017 - 06:00 AM.

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#22 SoCal

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 07:32 AM

For what it's worth, I would advise you to keep in mind that no human's capacities and limits are inherent or static. Through practice, through more healthy living, through careful and slow ramping up of expectations, any of us can grow. We all have different starting blocks, and different environments that make it easier or harder to grow, but we are all capable.

I believe you can learn ways to manage the expectations and environment that work for you. Whether the above posters are correct and this is best addressed through mental health treatment, I honestly don't know. It may best be understood as a mental health issue, but it also may just be a fairly common and ordinary way that a fair number of people respond to rising expectations and heightened competition. I felt something of the same the first time I took a bigger step than I was prepared for, it just wasn't in law. Understanding the limits of my predictions, developing healthy ways to process the expectations of others, and learning to focus on what was within my control were all instrumental in facing the second big step in a much healthier, more content way.

You sound committed and sincere. I doubt there's any stronger footing for finding what works for you, whatever that may be.

 

As a note, I know that I am not the only one in my class who feels this way. The majority of my friends do as well. Perhaps we are friends partly because we feel this way, and it helps us out to provide support to each other, but I just wanted to share that other classmates have openly shared their struggles with the atmosphere in law school.

 

At the same time, you are right when you say this is all about adjusting expectations. It is about adjusting our own expectations and not necessarily letting the expectations of others affect ours. Developing that kind of mental strength is important. You are right when you say healthy living helps and practicing focusing on what is within my control rather than what is not. Expectations should be adjusted to: "I need to try my best", rather than "I need to get As", as an example. I notice that I imagine myself getting As when I think of myself doing well. This needs to change.

 

I remember feeling this way during the beginning of last semester too, and I worked really hard on adjusting (even dropping) my expectations, which helped me in the end. Perhaps I need to do the same right now too. It will at least help make this semester a more positive experience for me. 



#23 law4sho

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 09:56 AM

The point that really matters, though, is this: Be aware that the practice of law is more difficult, more stressful, more consequential than the worst day of law school


You may be a criminal lawyer responsible for someone's liberty. You may be a family lawyer hoping to facilitate someone's divorce or a child's security and upbringing. You may be a commercial lawyer with someone's $1 billion deal depending on your careful execution of diligence (really, it matters). You may be a litigator trying to resolve a problem so horrible a regular person ponied up the money to sue over it. In short, at law school you only ever need to worry about whether you - caring for your own benefit - will be okay. In practice, you have to worry about other people most of the time you're awake. That's a much more daunting and consequential feeling, and it is daily.

 

I heard being a sociopath helps with the mental aspects. LOL


Edited by law4sho, 11 January 2017 - 09:56 AM.

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#24 SoCal

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 05:48 PM

I just wanted to note that I've had quite a few people messaging me sharing that they also experienced or are experiencing something similar in law school. 

 

EDIT: I would also like to share that I got some help today. To those going through something like I am, it helps to reach out. Many law schools have psychologists with whom you can easily be confidentially set up with. It may seem like an off-putting idea at first... but it's really not that bad. In fact, I'm glad I finally got some help today. It's pretty sweet that the services were fully covered too... 


Edited by SoCal, 11 January 2017 - 05:57 PM.

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#25 grishamlaw

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 11:25 AM

Some of these posts are really long so if this is tone deaf then let me know. OP is at least somewhat right: it's tough. But, I think it's especially tough if you have not been vaccinated per se against these law school illnesses. By that I mean you should at least somewhat get used to competition and prolonged stress. I don't think the humanities sets you up well for this and I think going into law school without working a somewhat stressful job may also be a mistake. You have to at least somewhat imagine what it's like to be in tens of thousand of dollars of debt, grtting mediocre grades and having people ask about those grades almost every day.
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