Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is Law School Really That Awful?

The law blog reports on a pamphlet that will be distributed as part of a "mental health toolkit distributed to ABA Student Division Presidents. I do not downplay stress and depression. These are serious threats to health and well being of young people in general—not just law students. And the pamphlet, which is based on “two generations” of law students, teachers, and lawyers trumps my anecdotal accounts, but . . . I’m sitting in a lecture hall full of people who seem pretty cheerful. These people really do look happy. Is my school (or maybe just my property class) an anomaly, or is there a much darker picture under the social exterior?

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21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both. Boalt is a happier place than most, however there is definitely a darker picture under the social exterior. I know many people who are social and perky in person, but when it comes to their feelings about law school, law school debt, long hours as a lawyer, etc. they are quite depressed and disenchanted. Maybe once you are a 2L you will be able to detect it more. Everything is fresh and new when you are 1L. Reality really starts to set in after that first year summer.

3/12/2008 3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think law school is that bad. For some reason, not that many people at Boalt agree. However, whenever I talk to anyone outside the Boalt community (lawyers and non-lawyers alike), they understand that law school is horrible and sympathize with me. When I told the lawyers I worked with last summer that I went to school with people who actually liked law school, they were shocked and asked what was wrong with everyone.

I don't like to talk to too many people here about not liking law school b/c I learned during 1L year that if you tell people that, they act like *you* are the crazy one. I will say, though, that 2L year is much better than 1L year. So if there are any 1Ls out there who do secretly hate law school and feel like outcasts when they say that, you aren't completely alone, and it does get better.

3/12/2008 8:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is funny that 3:08 and 8:32 have opposite attitudes about 1L versus 2L years. It is a subjective affair.

8:32 -- Would you feel comfortable comparing your experience to the law school experience described in the pdf file linked in the original post?

I do enjoy being in law school, but I really am curious to know why others might feel differently. You are not going to change my mind about liking it here, but you might change the way I interact with and interpret some of my peers' behavior. I would honestly like to learn your point of view.

3/12/2008 9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:32 here...I have not read that article. I just posted my own view on law school without reading it. I will read it later on, though.

I also would like to clarify that I don't wish unhappiness on my classmates. I am glad that you guys like law school--I just don't understand it. It just got a little old during 1L year having people act like I was insane for not loving law school. I felt like I was taking crazy pills.

And 9:17, and please understand I don't mean to be rude by saying this, but you kind of added to my point. When I or someone else here says that they don't like law school, everyone else wants to know why instead of just accepting it.

3/12/2008 9:26 PM  
Blogger zdh. said...

I don't go to Boalt, so I can't really contribute to anything about that particular environment.

But I do go to a bay area law school that isn't ranked so hot, and that being the case, I think you have some people who would be much happier if they were at a school like Boalt, for all the associated reasons (i.e. better job/income prospects, more opportunities, more respect, etc.)

Accordingly I've always assumed there would be a higher % of unhappy people at non-elite schools. That said, I've personally really enjoyed my time at law school so far (I'm a 2L) and I find that most people here seem content with their lot and otherwise fairly happy to be here. I'm willing to concede there are potentially some really unhappy folks and they either hide it well or I don't know them.

All in all though, I think by the second half of the second year, the people who aren't fit for this path have either been weeded out or have figured it out and are no longer here.

3/12/2008 10:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just my two cents... but if people seem perky and happy I think THAT'S NOT THE REALITY!

I am one of those happy, perky people. I seem very well-adjusted and happy in general. Inside I don't feel so great. We are all very ambitious, driven people who are very good at "keeping up appearances" and not letting on when we are not feeling so ok.

In my experience, anytime I have shared with other law students how I really feel (that law school is a lonely place!), then others have felt the same and you'd be surprised how many of your classmates experience mental health issues. Intelligence is often linked to mental health issues...so make of that what you will!

I just feel that we all need to be more open about all of this. I actually love Boalt and love law school, but am unhappy on some levels with how isolating it can feel even when you are committed to a bunch of different organizations and engaged in different issues and initiatives on campus.

3/12/2008 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zoloft turned my world around.

Best move I ever made in my life. Seriously.

Just throwing that out there.

3/12/2008 10:43 PM  
Blogger McWho said...

its stressful sometimes, but I like boalt, and by far most important, I love my fellow students. A truly amazing group. I feel incredibly lucky just to see so many gifted people in one place.

that said, some don't see it that way, and that's ok.

3/12/2008 10:44 PM  
Blogger Abony Holmes said...

I'm one of the happy people, but I think that's because I spend as little time in law school as possible. I'm also one of the obnoxious people who always asks why someone is so unhappy in law school. I guess I just like it so much that I wonder what bothers people.

That doesn't mean I don't feel stress. Feeling stress and being happy are not mutually exclusive. Around finals, or when I have a lot of responsibilities outside of class, I can start to feel overwhelmed, but that doesn't mean I'm unhappy.

I wonder if maybe there is a correlation between happiness at law school and whether a person took time off from college before attending. This is just a random theory, but I spent some time after graduation as a inner city school teacher, and after that experience, I feel the stress of law school is nothing. If I had come here immediately after undergrad, I doubt I'd be able to manage the stress as well.

3/12/2008 10:54 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

This is eye-opening.

I've read a number of articles on law students' and lawyers' well-being (I'm sure you have, too). One of the intractable questions has been whether the law makes people become a certain way, or inversely, whether a certain type of people are drawn to law.

With respect to working before law school, I don't know. Working (all the damn time, it seemed) taught me important things about stress and balance in my personal life, and that surely bears on my attitude toward law school. But I have to confess, I loved my job, too.

Anyway, I'll throw out my theory on the aforementioned question (feel free to show me why I am wrong). I suspect that many introverts are drawn to law, for really complex and perfectly legitimate reasons. And I suspect that many introverts are unhappy, for even more complex (and legitimate) reasons. Luckily for most of us, introversion not a death sentence, but it seems (to me) like what makes people happy is unabashedly and freely interacting with each other. And it seem (to me) like both law school and introversion work against those kinds of relationships.

But hell. Don't listen to me. It's not like I know much.

3/12/2008 11:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I know is, law school has been the best time of my life. I woke up this morning around 11:00, and promptly went to the golf course for some range-ball action and a beer. My advice to those who stress: work hard when it counts, relax when it doesn’t, and remember that we are all making six figures next year, no matter what.

3/12/2008 11:45 PM  
Blogger zdh. said...

"we are all making six figures next year, no matter what."

11:45 - This actually goes back to my point about the contributing factors as to why students at non-elite schools are more often unhappy with law school (purely my opinion). Most of the students who graduate from my school will definitely not be starting at six figures, only 5-15% will be, and the vast majority will be falling closer to or below the national median.

But I must say I'm in agreement with your general point, I'm quite happy at law school - I usually feel engaged with the material, I'm confident about my professional prospects (in the long run at least), and in the mean time I have a blast at school with my friends. I go out far more often now than when I was working between undergrad and law school, and I never anticipated that before I arrived.

3/13/2008 12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you don't like law, that sucks because, you know, you are there and all. have a great 3 years!

3/13/2008 7:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:45 PM: [re: remember that we are all making six figures next year, no matter what.]

I and my government job would beg to differ

But seriously, Boalt is awesome.

3/13/2008 8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I can sympathize with both sides at times. Generally I really love it. Its easy to be social because the class is so much smaller and people seem to really like alcohol. I really don't have all that much work to do most of the semester, (2L). But on the other hand, I'll be working a lot in a year and a half. I know it is all downhill from here. That nags at me. So there are ups and downs, but all things considered I'm having a good time here. I think most students probably have a love-hate relationship with this place.

3/13/2008 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick, your property class is an anomaly. Your modmates have a love for The Biber that borders on crazy.

I really like Boalt, more than I thought I would. But can you people honestly say that you love your classmates? All of them? Really?
Because some of mine I would gladly have bound and gagged for the rest of the semester...

3/14/2008 3:00 AM  
Blogger McWho said...

Compare the amount of annoying people in our class to annoying people anywhere else on the planet, and you get a bit better perspective.

Of course some people got on my nerves. With being around people sooooo much our first year, not having that issue would be impossible.

3/14/2008 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've found law school (and Boalt) to involve a lot of ups and downs. I've had some very happy moments and memories at Boalt, but I've had some rough spots too. I overworked first semester of 1L year and got some major burnout (and mild depression) in the spring.

I think that at Boalt we are lucky to avoid some of the pressures that make law school depressing for many folks...we are less competitive, the grading system cushions us from failure, and our prospects are good. The times I've been down have always followed periods of unreasonable amounts of work and I've learned that I'm not a machine.

Overall, it's been a happy experience (though I have some anxiety about my future happiness in big firm life). I think that those who find they are unhappy at times in law school should be easy on themselves. It is a normal response to this admittedly unusual life style.

3/14/2008 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to second the zoloft comment.

3/15/2008 4:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not at Boalt. I'm at Georgetown, and I'm pretty unhappy. My unhappiness weighs against the earlier posting's theory about those who took time off--I worked for about 4 years before going back to school.

I think my unhappiness stems from several sources:

1. the class sizes. We have about 120 people in each class, and for someone who is a little bit shy and also has some minor-but-preoccupying health problems... Well, law school has just made me more shy. I'm also new to DC so no law school friends= no friends at all, and that is pretty isolating and difficult to deal with. And, on top of that social trepidation there is the...

2. fear of no job prospects. It's interesting what Mr. Not-top-10 said about his fearing for his job prospects. I'm at a t14, have a pretty solid resume, good grades, and I'm having trouble snagging an internship for the summer.

3. The work. I don't mind the work itself, but I mind having to do work all the time. It leaves me no time to do the things that make me happy in life. What's worse, it's not just a temporary issue--I am told that lawyers work ridiculous hours through and through.

4. Peer group= pile of seething, teething ambitionaters.

5. Debt. I'm borrowing it all, so I'm looking at 180,000 in debt and I have no interest in going to a firm.

3/15/2008 6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Boalties (or Berkeleyans, whatever we are these days):

The SHIP insurance plan gives you 25 visits to therapy. Just an FYI and nothing to be ashamed of. Might as well use the insurance you're paying for. If anything, it's good to get an outside perspective on the overblown pressures that can sometimes be created in law school.

3/27/2008 1:00 PM  

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