“During my time in law school, I have developed increased stress and anxiety around my grades, my career, my finances, etc”

Ontario Law Student, Class of 2014

 

In many ways law school has been beneficial for me; in terms of the education I’ve received, the career opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of, and some very wonderful and like-minded people I’ve met. However, in other significant ways law school has changed me from a person who was relatively healthy to a person who is unwell.

During my time in law school, I have developed increased stress and anxiety around my grades, my career, my finances, etc. The structure of law school is one that fosters competition, exclusivity, and contentious behaviours among students and sometimes even professors. It takes students who are all accomplished in their own right and accustomed to over-achieving, and puts them in classes where only a handful of them will get A’s. It subjects students to the pressures of OCIs with few alternatives (and the alternatives that are presented are made to feel second-rate). It advertises the names of prominent downtown law firms on its walls, classrooms, and even on the back of t-shirts that first-years are told to put on the minute they arrive, all of which serve as a daily reminder that those careers are our goals and anything less is a failure.

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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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