How to Stay Resilient in Law School

How to Stay Resilient in Law SchoolPlease welcome back guest writer Alexandra Muskat to discuss an important quality for any law student – resilience!

When I started law school, I was incapable of taking any of the steps I’m going to lay out below. In fact, it took all of my first year and half of the second, to learn I was even capable of being resilient.

For me, law school was a creative death sentence, something I took on to convince the family and friends around me that I was more than a babysitter – I was smart. But it also meant giving up writing my novel, wearing real clothes every day, and not getting to giggle until my stomach ached with little kids each day.

During that first month and a half of school, my sole focus was on my friend group. I studied and read, sure, but I spent a lot more time hanging out in the library giggling and building friendships than I did really learning material. This became evident when, after my civil procedure midterm, I was called into the professor’s office because I had gotten a C – a failing grade in some law school classes.

The professor and I sat and talked for just about fifteen minutes. It was during this time that he told me I was not cut out for law school. I was “too creative” and in his experience “creative writers make terrible law students.” AKA, we don’t write exam essays in IRAC. He told me I should drop out.

I left his office, nodding and promising to think about it. I gulped back tears until I reached the train platform, where I gave in and ugly cried. All I could think was, holy crap I am stupid. I do not deserve to be here. And for one tenth of a second, I thought about how diving off that platform in front of a moving train would make everything better.

Then, like emotional whiplash, a bigger, more primal part of my brain went, “NO.” No, I will not cower. No, I will not accept this professor’s thoughts as facts. I can do better. I am resilient. I have grit.

And just like that my new life in law school began. I decided to prove to him that not only could I pass his class, but I could ace his final. And I did.

That wasn’t the end of the struggles I would face in law school, or the bar exam, but it was the first time I chose to be resilient. And the steps I continued to take after that to stay resilient helped me graduate knowing I did everything I could to not succumb to the stress. I made it out better than I went in, and you can too.

Here are the five characteristics of resilient people:

1. Actions Affect Outcomes

Resilient people recognize that their actions affect the outcomes of events. They note that they take part in the outcome, and they consciously work to better it.

Figure out what outcomes you would like to better. Do you want to get better grades? Do you want to have an easier commute? Do you want to eat better or get more movement in during the day? Whatever it is, take a moment to review your schedule and figure out what you can do to cause these outcomes.

2. Rational Problem Solving

Resilient people are capable of looking at a stressful situation and coming up with a game plan. If you find that you have a human rights law exam the same day as two papers are due for environmental law and evidence, make a plan.

I found the best way for me to get through stressful situations was to write down all the tasks I have to get done, prioritize them, and block out 25-50 minute chunks of time to work, and then take a 5-10 minute break so I could sit back down for the next block of time with fresh eyes. In taking the time to organize a to do list and segmenting out my time, I was able to use it efficiently and get a lot done without feeling overwhelmed.

3. Strong Social Connections

Social connections are the pillar of many mental health well-being articles. Humans are social creatures, and having social connections is integral to our mental health. Think about it, how much better do you feel throughout the day after hanging out with friends for an afternoon, or seeing your grandparents for coffee in the morning? Strong social connections, not just social media, create support networks for you to turn to when life gets more stressful.

4. Be a Survivor, Not a Victim

Resiliency means recognizing that this is not just happening to you, but you are going through a struggle, and you will survive it because you are a survivor, not a victim. Being resilient is understanding that you have the power to resolve the situation. You may not have the power to stop it, but you will undergo it with more positivity than your non-resilient counterparts.

5. Ask for Help

If you find that the stress in your life is too much to handle – ask for help. Most law schools have mental health centers where you can confidentially visit a mental health professional. These mental health professionals will help you come up with a plan to be more resilient. They’ll teach you coping skills and, in my case, breathing exercises to make it through the day. In addition, most of them are trained to work with law students, so they know the struggles you are encountering. And they make great sounding boards.

Learning to be resilient takes practice, but, like any skill, once you get the hang of it, it becomes your brain’s go to, default setting. Law school is hard, and it is stressful, but if you employ the characteristics above, and take the time to get help if you can’t, then you will leave law school a more capable, resilient, human being.


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About Alexandra Muskat

Alexandra graduated from Suffolk University Law School in 2017 and passed the UBE in all 29 states, not that anyone’s counting. She has a bachelors from Florida International University in English Literature with concentrations in Psychology and Creative Writing. In edition to working on her first novel, she works part time consulting in laboratory compliance

Comments

  1. Cynthia Bassett says:

    I like your post! But the stock photo that accompanies it is jarring in its front and center male focus with females in the background. For a blog dedicated to women in law school, this does not send the right message to me.

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