My Concern

I don’t feel cut out for this

Choosing to attend law school is a huge investment, to say the least. It’s actually quite common for law students to wonder if it was the right choice, especially if you’re in first year and finding it difficult to manage expectations around courses, grades, extra-curriculars and classmates. These feelings are sometimes heightened when you’re also concerned about the future and securing a job to pay off your debt.

I feel like an imposter

An extremely common law school experience has been dubbed the “imposter syndrome”. You may feel that your classmates are all more qualified, more intelligent and more likely to succeed than you are or that you’ve been mistakenly been offered a spot in your school. Comparatively, you might believe you are less competitive than your peers and that they all seem to understand the material better than you. You might not be able to shake the fear that maybe you’re just not good enough. These feelings can be exacerbated with disappointments you may experience along your journey through law school.

Here are some things to consider:

Try to be aware when the feelings of self-doubt creep up. Even if you can’t quiet these feelings, just noticing them may help to reduce their intensity. Similarly, be aware when you are comparing yourself to your classmates — this usually comes in the form of thinking and feeling that those around you are more together, more on top of things and on a faster track to success in law.

Ask for help. Lean on friends and don’t be afraid to share your fears. Many of your peers are likely feeling the same way as you are. If you’re feeling up to it, let them know they are not alone.

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. Ontario Lawyer, Class of 2010
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I have a mental health concern

If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, bipolar, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia or any other mental health concern, your feelings of self-doubt may be overwhelming. Regardless of when or how your emotional, mental or psychological concerns took shape, you may see this as further proof that you don’t belong in a school where everyone else seems completely “together”. The symptoms you’re experiencing may make you feel that you do not have as much control over your academic performance and general well-being as you’d like. You may also see these feelings as an indicator of future success, that an inability to cope in law school means you won’t be able to handle things as a lawyer, when the pressures may be heightened even further. Try to remember that your feelings are not a sign of weakness, nor are they your fault. Plenty of students go on to have rewarding careers while managing mental health issues. With the proper support, you will be able to access the tools you need to pursue your goals.

Here are some things to consider:

Sadly, mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression are particular concerns in legal education. Law schools are paying increasing attention to the issue of law student wellness. If you have a mental health diagnosis or are worried about your mental health, seek support from a counsellor, peer mentor/supporter or loved one. The Member Assistance Program or a university counsellor may be able to offer short-term and bridging support, but also consider if longer-term support might be of value.

You might also choose to find out about academic accommodations at your university. Current policies at universities require students to get a formal diagnosis to be eligible for accommodations. Details on the process are available on your school’s resource page. You might also be eligible to receive the Ontario Bursary for Students with Disabilities. This bursary provides coverage for more consistent counselling support and is renewable each academic year. More information is available through your law school or university financial services or disability office.

For a long time I tried to convince myself that what I was feeling was under my control and that attending classes and keeping up with schoolwork could be achieved with willpower alone. However, when I was unable to force myself to “get over it” and “pull myself together”, I knew it was time to get help. Ontario Law Student, Class of 2015
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I can’t face another rejection

From law journals and executive committee positions, to volunteer and pro bono opportunities, you’ve probably completed more than your share of applications since starting law school. There are so many things to apply for, in fact, that it may start to feel like the competition never ends and that your involvement is a prerequisite for becoming a lawyer. So when you throw your name in the hat for what seems like countless opportunities and no one chooses you, it’s easy to feel frustrated and demoralized. Later, if you choose to apply for a job as a research assistant or with a law firm and that also doesn’t end as you hoped, you might feel drained, confused and even scared that you won’t ever succeed.

Here are some things to consider:

It’s easy to equate involvement with success. You might feel the need to apply for as many jobs as possible, so as not to miss out on anything, even the opportunities you know are not a good match personally or professionally. Try to avoid the temptation. Instead, invest your energy in commitments that match your values and interests. Be sure to also seek out opportunities that are not advertised. You can try connecting with professionals who work in your areas of interest to see if you can work with them to develop an opportunity of your own. You might contact law firms or non-profit organizations about volunteer roles that may not involve a competitive selection process. Above all else, consider expanding your definition of success. Landing any one of these positions is not who you are, nor is it an indicator of the kind of lawyer you will become.

I really struggled through parts of my first year of law school. During the months of December and January, I was upset most days. This was mainly due to the anxiety that came from my sense that I was being given more work than I would ever be able to get through.
Ontario Law Student, Class of 2015
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