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The ‘H’ Word

Cartoon man on island surrounded by sharks

WARNING – reader discretion advised. I am going to talk about something that may disturb you, and I hope it does not cause too much grief.

It is a word that has become increasingly taboo in law school circles, passed down from law student generation to generation as a ‘bad’ word, carrying with it all the negative connotations we fear: failure, inadequacy, inferiority.

H-E-L-P. Help. It’s a word that we law students for some reason refuse to say, because we don’t want to hurt our pride and yet we will willingly hurt our marks by suffering in silence, failing to reach out to others when we don’t understand, until it’s too late.

Why are we, as a cohort in general, so scared to ask others for help? It’s time to break down the idea we have that asking for help is a sign of weakness. It’s time to rebuild our thought processes, so that asking for help understanding constructive trusts, or having someone explain the exceptions to indefeasibility just one more time, is not seen as a personal failure.

The greatest resource that we have, as we trudge through the murky, muddy water that is our law degree, is each other. We each have different views, opinions and interpretations of what we learn, and we can use each other to develop a more comprehensive, critical understanding of the law. We can be challenged to think and reflect on our own views through reaching out to learn about others. Yet we think that our fellow students are also our greatest competitors and our greatest critics. Everyone has been scared to ask a question in a tutorial because they worry it is stupid. Everyone has found themselves drowning in readings that sound like they’re in another language, and yet won’t ask someone to help translate.

We need to realise that asking others for help is not about failure – it’s about acknowledging you don’t know everything, and swallowing your pride for long enough to realise that in the big picture, asking someone for help will be more of a benefit than a burden.

So break that barrier. Reach out to others and don’t be afraid to say the ‘H’ word. It’s incredibly unlikely that you are the only one that’s struggling, and the more people that come out and admit a willingness to be helped, the more people will heed the call and come out to help. Law school does not need to be as isolating as it appears. We are our greatest assets and we can break down the stereotypes surrounding asking for help. It’s not something to be ashamed of – stand up and be proud that you’re big enough to recognise when you can no longer do it by yourself. After all, even the world’s greatest athletes have a coach.

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