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I Think I Want to Drop Out of Law School

October 12, 2012

Most law students have those moments of exhaustion and self-doubt where the degree seems insurmountable and quitting seems sensible. I’ve felt this during a sleepless swotvac, cursing myself for not doing my notes properly during semester; and when the readings for a week go for endless pages. Yet most of us persevere.

 

Here's how to unpack those feelings, and how to know when you're overwhelmed, overcommitted or simply over it.

 

I don't want to study. I'd rather watch The Newsroom/drink Aldi beer/watch paint dry. Everyone else seems to be studying: why can't I? I'm not meant for this degree.

 

Solution: Open a book and get on with it. There will always be moments where you'd rather not do what you're supposed to, and unfortunately they're regular occurrences in this rusty bus ride called life. Unfortunately, study is about self-regulation. If you find your motivation waning, or if you've already missed three weeks of readings to shows written by Aaron Sorkin (I write from personal experience) make a little bargain with yourself. Two hours of uninterrupted study: twenty minutes playtime.

 

Too many distractions at home? Go to the law library and open your textbook: guilt will do the rest. We are (mostly) hedonistic and procrastinatory: the great challenge is to work beyond that. It doesn't mean that you should drop out. There will always be more appealing things than hard work, including Will McAvoy.

 

I'm weeks behind in my readings. I can't imagine passing this exam, let alone this degree.

 

Solution: Reach out. Most students will happily share notes. Building on the work of others is what the greats do, and we all do it, thus we're all great. If you're feeling totally overwhelmed, seek help from the student centre, as you might be eligible for special consideration and extensions.

 

Remember that there will always be times, in your degree and in work, where you have fallen behind. Even if it takes a couple of all-nighters propelled by coffee and Cadbury; you can always catch up. Dropping out is your brain asking for help.

 

I'm exhausted and overworked and the concept of equitable trusts is something I can't comprehend right now. Dropping out is attractive.

 

Solution: Give yourself a break. Go for a walk, have a day off study, meet a friend, bake something fancy. Working yourself to the point of quitting is easy in law school: if you overcommit you will become overwhelmed.

 

A tired brain can't properly comprehend complex legal theories, and it will rebel against your squidgy little body with thoughts of eschewing law to become a hobby farmer. Come back to the law when you've given yourself a holiday away from it: it won't miss you, and you'll finish the semester happier and saner.

 

I find this degree utterly unenjoyable and can't imagine being a lawyer, let alone completing it.

 

Solution: First, are feelings like these pervading all of your life, or just your studies? If they're symptomatic of a broader trend, you need to speak to someone: a counsellor, lecturer or a friend. Depression is common in the law community and students aren't exceptional. Seek help.

 

If this is directed entirely at your studies, you might need to find a new zest for the law: look into interesting electives, volunteer, or spend a day at the courtroom. Rediscover what attracted you to the law and you might find new motivation. Studying law doesn't necessarily equal future lawyer, and if you're significantly into your degree it might be sensible to continue for your future employability.

 

That’s not it!

 

Finally, if nothing can budge the feeling, it might just be that the degree isn't for you. I've toyed with ethicist, novelist, midwife and journalist before settling on the law; and in a few of the former I've found out the hard way that it wasn't meant for me. Sometimes we embark on pathways that end up being different to what we anticipated. It's okay to change direction if something is genuinely not for you.

 

Before making the mammoth decision, talk to everyone you can about it. You want to ensure you don't look back and rue the day you dropped out. Saddling yourself with thousands in debt when you hate your degree isn't sensible either, but make an informed choice. Dropping out should be about the desires of the camel, not the straws on its back.

 

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