Law school is an emotional boot camp

Ontario Lawyer, Class of 2010

Law school for me felt like a mental and emotional boot camp. During the first year, law school served to break down everything I had previously believed about myself: who I was, what I was good at, my self-esteem and place in the world. Overnight  I went from being at the top of my class and being generally successful at whatever I tried, to being completely average and struggling to maintain a place at the middle-to-bottom end of my class. I went from loving school and enjoying my colleagues, to having almost nothing in common with my classmates and hating the subject matter of my classes. In my first week of law school I felt that everyone I met was better than me at everything: everyone appeared to he fit, happy, healthy, they owned business, sat on multiple boards, ran charities, had kids at home, had 5 years more experience than me, had PHDs… and not to mention pretty much everybody seemed to be related to a lawyer in some way. They all seemed to know the system and had some idea of what to expect from law school. I did not come from an upper class background. I had never even met a lawyer.  I had no idea what to expect. And frankly, I hated it. I felt so out of my league.

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Mental illness is not a sign of weakness

Rebecca Lockwood,
Osgoode Hall Law School, Class of 2014

In October of my first year of law school, a counsellor explained to me I was suffering from anxiety and depression. I knew something was very wrong, but I didn’t know what was going on or where to turn.

My doctor referred me to this counsellor after I broke down during a routine check-up. She inquired about my general health and asked, “How are you doing these days?” With that question alone, I began to sob. She sensed something was up.

Although my counsellor wasn’t a psychiatrist and thus her diagnosis wasn’t official, it had the same effect as one. Coming to understand what I was experiencing brought both relief and shame. I was relieved to know that spending entire days in bed crying wasn’t my new “normal” state of being. I had been afraid this was going to last indefinitely. I was ashamed because I felt weak, like I had failed to live up to people’s expectations, including and especially my own.

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