“My first year of law school was, without a doubt, the worst year of my life”

Ontario Law Student, Class of 2014

My first year of law school was, without a doubt, the worst year of my life. I don’t really think I could even begin to explain how tough I found the course materials, in combination with the social pressures to participate in an emotionally exhausting Orientation Week, in combination with being away from home or any support systems. Although my school provides support for individuals who are going through a rough time, it is at times difficult to see that so many other students are going through exactly the same thing. Furthermore, it is difficult to open up and connect with other students who are also scared of being vulnerable. I wish that there was some way in which we could ‘check in’ with each other during the first months of first year, formally or informally, but everyone seemed too busy for that to happen.

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Isolation, Fear, and Safety

Ontario Law Student, Class of 2014


All my life I have known loneliness, difference, fringes. But, law school carves new wounds in my worn skin. As a half-black, half-white woman, I know too well how to survive as an outsider. Quick. Hide my sexual attraction to women. Hide my hatred of fact patterns. Hide the violence and poverty in my youth. Quicker. Hide my mounting $100 000 debt-load. Hide my inept hold of SCC decisions. No one can know. If they find out, they’ll throw me out of Osgoode. If they find out, I’ll go back to high heels & push-up bras, 14 hour days, and tips tips tips. If they find out, they’ll balk at my stupidness and the stitches coming open on my scars. No can know.

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Getting my life back into balance

Ontario Law Student, Class of 2015

My experience at law school has been quite an interesting journey. I think I spent the better part of first year wondering if someone in the admissions office had made a mistake. I really didn’t know what to expect as I am the first member of my immediate family to obtain a professional degree, actually a post-secondary degree at all for that matter. And even though I had some very successful years within my previous career before law school, I was a little more than overwhelmed at first.

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Managing depression in Law School

University of Toronto Law Student, Class of 2015

This is a simple story about the most important lesson I learned during law school. It details my journey from “normal” to clinically depressed to happiness and authenticity.

I came into 1L with few expectations. Gaining admission to U of T Law had been my goal for at least three years, and arriving was something of a letdown. It was another “accomplishment” on the list, but the only thing that felt real was the crushing isolation of being surrounded by people I didn’t feel I measured up to, in an alien culture I didn’t grow up in, buried by piles and piles of work. I didn’t know, concretely, what I wanted to do. I didn’t know what I liked or was interested in. All of my choices to date had been utilitarian: what will bring me the greatest amount of socially-validated “success” for the least amount of effort?

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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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