Top 5 Law Student Struggles
I promise the hand on my heart that I did not wake up today and choose violence. Okay, that's not the entire truth. But what are you going to do? Put me on trial? You better know your laws of Evidence before you even think about it. But I'm not here to menace you with remembering the rules of Evidence. I am here however to write about moments I experienced as a law student that are gloriously relatable. Yes, RUOKAY is over, but the opportunity to open up a space to talk about what's difficult about being a law student so you feel less alone is always on the table. In law school time is of the essence and in my experience that feeling rarely stops, which leads us to the first law student struggle.
1. Feeling guilty for resting even though you're exhausted
This is such a big law school mood and it feels like it's something you can't even really complain about. That's because there are so many ways to rationalise to yourself that someone else has it worse, or everyone's life is hard so you just have to choose your hard. Even if that's true, both thought processes are devoid of compassion and giving yourself the space to say I'm tired and my body needs rest. I think the guilt comes in because you're doing your best but equally, you don't have time to rest. You've just given everything you've got to your assignment and you have another assessment due a few days later. Many law students I've spoken to have affirmed the feeling of pouring from an empty cup during their studies. Although this mood plagues a lot of law students, the only reassurance I can give is in those moments when you feel like you have no control over your circumstances- know that you do. There's always another way or a different approach you can take. Maybe you don't need to volunteer, be treasurer of the law society and get work experience on top of studying full-time. Having a lot of ambition is great, but not if it sabotages your health and stability in the long run. You have enough time to go after your dreams and you need to rest to bring your best the next day.
2. Not being sure if balance is a myth because how is everyone objectively fine??
It is you? Are you the drama? Surprisingly, no. The way I am ready to throw hands over the toxic culture of law school which includes pretending that everything is fine. It feels like a godsend to chat with another law student who is also side-eying you when the lecturer is talking about in personum jurisdiction and you've both forgotten what that means. The best advice I have to overcome this feeling that everyone else is doing better than you or that your classmates are objectively fine is to ironically leave the library and socialise. The work will still be there once you get back and once you return to your desk you'll feel much more connected to your work and others. On TikTok as well there's a narrative that you have to isolate yourself and say no to lots of things you want to do to be a good student. The mistake I made in my first few years was taking this too literally and underestimating the importance of connecting with other people. Don't roll your eyes as if I'm a closeted extrovert, I'm actually quite introverted and coming up for air in between readings and research has become non-negotiable for my mental health. The bottom line is even if you enjoy your law degree, don't compromise on making time for fun so you don't lose yourself in pursuit of academic validation and success.
3. Legal hypotheticals- say less
Full confession here, sometimes in my spare time aka my perpetual procrastination era I like to go onto TikTok and find out what other people's glimmers are. Glimmers are small things throughout your day that pick you up. Sometimes legal hypotheticals feel capable of picking me up and throwing anxiety down into the pit of my stomach. But when I look at a legal hypothetical and find it difficult it's often mirroring back to me that I feel overwhelmed with how to solve the legal problem. Over the years, I've learnt that completing your lectures and readings on time isn't the best approach when it comes to solving real-world legal problems. Somewhat unsurprisingly, you have to practice more legal hypotheticals and get feedback from your tutor and classmates about whether you took the right approach. If you feel like you just want to go and hide when you're asked to solve a legal problem, the best place to hide is absolutely nowhere. I highly encourage you to speak up in class or on your student forum to avoid feeling clueless and wishing your lecturer had wings to swoop in to save you. Are you sure he can't fly in though? `
4. Needing mental health support but not being able to afford therapy
I can't see into the future and who knows what the legal industry will look like years from now. Times have changed post-COVID-19, Millennials and Gen Z are not delulu enough to think that working hard is the answer to living an easy life. Yes, we could open up a conversation about what an easy life looks like or the fallacy that it's even a real thing. But young lawyers these days are juggling everything from working two jobs to paying rent, studying full-time or part-time and still struggling to achieve the same outcomes as previous generations. A massive strength of younger generations is a culture of openness around sharing their emotions and mental health struggles. Although that's fostering connection, it doesn't necessarily make your own mental health journey easier when you need more support. The only loophole I've found around this is reaching out to Beyond Blue and or Lifeline before things get rough. Some law students will only call once they're at the end of their rope, exasperated with the stress, anxiety and depression they're currently experiencing. Please know that you're important. You matter. There's no rule on how often you can call when you need help. You don't have to figure everything out by yourself.
5. Saying goodbye to old versions of yourself as part of your journey to success
I'm not saying we lied, but this is the part that you inevitably end up figuring out on your own. I'm not saying that other people in your life don't help you discover these parts of yourself. However, studying for a law degree full-time really forced me to grow up and work on the least desirable qualities of myself. The way self-sabotage entered the chat literally haunts me. For example, my innate desire to avoid things that made me feel uncomfortable. I used to think that a moment in law school would arrive when things would automatically feel easier, all at once. But in my experience and among my law school friends that hasn't been the case. That's because one of the best parts of working for a law degree is that it's intellectually engaging. It's a double-edged sword that we regularly dance with because it's engaging but it's also ever-evolving too. After all, laws change and as lawyers in training, we're expected to keep on top of those changes to become students of the law. If I could go back and change anything, it would be to encourage myself not to shy away from challenges and be grateful for the continuing self-awareness law school helps you build.
I'm not saying my law degree is an abusive relationship (not even close) but my law degree says this to me semi-regularly. I didn't realise before law school that I really needed to work on my time management, not overcommitting myself to everything all at once and learning how to make my downtime meaningful instead of going to bed at 3:00 AM after binging the latest Netflix series. Studying law helped reveal my academic blind spots and interpersonal weaknesses. Although your challenges will invariably differ I know you'll overcome these obstacles and become the best lawyer you can be.