Feeling Fear? Four Strategies to Help You Feel More Confident

overcome fear in law school

Please welcome back Jennifer Warren, attorney and Academic Achievement Coordinator at Oklahoma City University School of Law, to talk about practical strategies for overcoming fear and developing confidence in law school!

Law school can be enriching, intellectually challenging, even entertaining on certain occasions. But it can also be really scary! The competition with other high achieving students, the high stakes pressure of final exams, the intimidating professors, and the constant threat of the cold call can cause a lot of needless anxiety.

While it may seem like everyone else is confident and self-assured, most law students feel at least some fear when it comes to law school. If you’re feeling fearful, make use of these simple strategies to boost your confidence.

1. Get Acquainted with Your Classmates

With the exception of the one or two obnoxious gunners who seem to be present in every law school, no one particularly enjoys being called on in class, especially if it’s in a difficult course or by a challenging professors. The socratic method can make even well-prepared students feel nervous or hesitant. But answering a slew of detailed questions in front of a group of anxious law students is a lot easier when those law students are your friends, or at least your acquaintances. The more comfortable you feel with your fellow students, the less you’ll worry about being called on and the less embarrassed you’ll feel if you don’t get an answer right.

Now, I’m not saying you need to be best friends with everyone in your section, but being pleasant and kind towards everyone can go a long way towards making you feel more at ease in class. Even little things like eye contact, smiling, and making small talk will help you feel more comfortable with your classmates and ultimately less intimidated if you’re put on the spot. Engaging in these social niceties may seem trivial, but they really will help set a positive and supportive tone in the classroom, which will benefit everyone.

2. Volunteer for Softballs

Sometimes you need to take baby steps to build up your confidence in the classroom and on exams. The more questions you get right, the more poised you’ll feel when answering the difficult questions. So if your professor lobs some softball questions or if there is a topic that you know particularly well, take advantage of the opportunity and volunteer in class.

Similarly, you can boost your confidence for final exams by working through some shorter, easier practice problems and building up to more challenging problems. Success on these easier questions will give you the confidence you need to tackle the more difficult subjects.

3. Talk to Your Professor

If you’re completely terrified of being called on in class or if you were the subject of a cold call that was a complete disaster, consider talking to your professor about your concerns. With a few exceptions, most professors don’t want to embarrass their students in class. Meet with your most helpful professor during office hours to discuss your fears and brainstorm ways to help you have a positive experience in class.

Some professors are willing to schedule an on-call day to prevent you from spending every class so terrified of being cold called that you can’t focus. Other professors will give you a preview of the questions they will ask in an upcoming class so that you can specifically prepare for them. Take advantage of whatever accommodations your professor is willing to give, and the confidence you gain from those experiences will likely help in your other classes as well.

4. Don’t Worry About Anyone Else

There is no universal trick to succeeding in law school; you have to find the strategies that work best for your personality and your learning style. So, as hard as it can be at times, try to ignore what other students are telling you about how much they’ve studied, how many supplements they’ve bought, or what grade they received.

Listening to the gossip about how far ahead another student has read or how many practice tests a study group has completed, will only heighten your anxiety and make you second guess yourself. Not only do a surprising number of people lie about their grades and exaggerate their study time, but their study habits aren’t necessarily consistent with what you need to do to succeed. Focus on setting up a study plan that works best for you and stop worrying about keeping up with anyone else.

Law school can be an intimidating place, but remember that you were admitted to the program because the faculty and the administration believe that you can be successful. If you start internalizing that belief, and use the simple strategies above, you can overcome your fears and start having a more enjoyable law school experience.

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About Jennifer Warren

Jennifer received her B.A. in Politics cum laude from New York University and her J.D. with highest distinction from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. She has several years of experience in the areas of juvenile law and civil litigation and is the Academic Achievement Coordinator at Oklahoma City University School of Law.

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