Ontario Law Student, Class of 2016
My biggest struggle with law school was that I didn’t realize how much of a mental and emotional toll it would have on me. From the infamous bell-curve to the super-humans that were my peers, my confidence took a huge hit. I tried telling myself “obviously they accepted you because you can do it.” But as my first term progressed and we hit midterm season, I started breaking down more and more. I felt like everyone was getting it and I just wasn’t. I couldn’t keep up with the workload, I didn’t understand what was going on in class, and my anxiety was so bad I couldn’t eat or sleep properly.
I thought I’d made a mistake in my career choice. If I couldn’t handle the first term, how was I going to get through 3 years plus articling, only to enter a profession that was going to be just as high-stress if not more? But I hid all these emotions (as best I could) and forced myself to try and keep up with everyone else. However, I eventually just couldn’t keep it in anymore. I was so used to being on top of everything and helping others that I had to force myself to accept that now I was in a position of need. This was the hardest, but best realization I’ve ever come to.
Once I connected to my law school’s support system, things slowly got better. I was introduced to meditation, which helped with my anxiety and sleep patterns. I also branched off from the people I’d first met and found people I connected to better, realizing that some of the people I used to hang out with were just too competitive for me. My new friends were more relaxed, supportive, and willing to help me. This drastically improved my mental health because I started to feel like I belonged and that I could actually succeed in law school and beyond.
The most important thing I’ve learned is to not compare myself to others. Some people are fast readers, don’t need to go to class, have better memories, etc. Once I started focusing on my learning style, everything became so much more manageable. I was staying on top of my readings (for the classes I’d decided to do anyways), and I was able recognize when I needed help from professors. I finally felt like I could breathe, and even take a break once in a while.
The top five tips I’d share are: meditation is amazing; there are people in law school that you can connect to (they may not be with the friends you met during o-week, or even in your section, but they’re there!); professors are amazing resources to help you understand the material (some are more approachable in person and some are best emailed, you can make that judgment call); you have to try different things before you figure out what works for you; and use your school’s resources because they know what you’re going through and can help.