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Losing your Law Student Mojo: Dealing with Law School Restlessness

Austin Powers

If law school were an Austin Powers movie, it would probably be The Spy Who Shagged Me – the one where Dr. Evil goes back to the 60s and steals Powers’ mojo.

At the start of uni, everything is exciting and anything is possible. But as the semesters march on, the idealism often fades and the restlessness sets in. After a while everything just feels a bit ‘blah’.

Here are the top five causes of law school restlessness, and how to beat them…

1. I can’t remember why I enrolled

Sure class preparation and those assignments are essential to learning the ins and outs of the law, but the hours you spend digesting dense readings and cases with no clear ratio seem far, far removed from the interests that drew you to law in the first place.

The solution: You’ll probably only fall head over heels in love with a few subjects at uni, and the rest will feel like drudgery. Use your electives to pursue your pet areas of law and try to pay attention in the compulsory subjects that bore you – although you loathe contracts, it has a horrible habit of popping up in a lot of real world legal issues.

If you’re losing sight of your passion for a particular area of law, consider getting a job with a barrister or at a specialist firm, assisting an academic with a related research project, or participating in a competition – there are heaps of moots and essay comps that focus on specific legal areas.

2. Idealism? Ha! What idealism?

This is a common one. Pre-law you were going to use your degree to change the world, but somewhere along the way that dream fizzled out. Sure, a law degree may change your career direction, but idealism isn’t just for lawyers working in human rights and the community legal sector.

The solution: Make time to rekindle your idealistic spark. You could start by reading biographies of trailblazing judges and listening to the fascinating guest speakers that visit your uni. And yes, volunteer at a community legal centre – there’s nothing like seeing the real difference that the law (and lawyers) can make to someone’s life to remind you of your passion for justice.

3. I have no creative outlet

Contrary to popular belief, a lot of law students (and lawyers) have very creative minds. In their spare time they paint, sketch, compose music, sing opera, choreograph dances and write fiction… or at least they used to, before law school stole their free time. Yep, sometimes it feels like law school is the least creative place on Earth, and it’s killing you.

The solution: If your creativity deprivation is making you restless, make some time for it. Even if it’s only for an hour a week, it’ll be a good start.

If you’re not much of a creative type but have been neglecting your beloved martial arts classes or Roman history books, get back into it. When you have no free time to do the things you love, you just end up being grumpy. Having hobbies will help to keep you sane, and when you’re a law student, law does not count as a hobby.

4. I just need to get out of here

You’ve spent the past three weeks sitting under a flickering fluorescent light in the law library, and you don’t think you could handle another second of it. You need a change of scenery but the end of semester is just a few stressful weeks away.

The solution: You still have material to learn, but there’s no reason why you can’t change where you study, or the way you study. And while some say a change is as good as a holiday, a holiday is probably still better. If you can spare a few days for a weekend away, do it. You’ll come back refreshed, motivated and ready face the downhill run to holidays.

5. I haven’t seen another human being in days

Pre-exams house arrest means study, study, study, and nothing else… except you’ve spent the past five days in your room and the only person you’ve seen is the pizza delivery guy, who you explained vicarious liability to.

The solution: There’s no getting around it; humans are social creatures. Social isolation is bad news for motivation so start a study group and satisfy both your academic commitments and social needs. Failing that, just call a friend to say hi or venture outside the study to have dinner with your family/better half/flat mates.

If these tips don’t cure your restlessness, just hang in there. Holidays are just a few weeks away, and then you’ll find yourself missing law school like crazy!

FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was first published on Survive Law on 5 October 2012.

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