Dealing with Law School Breakdowns

breakdown

Please welcome Luisa Andonie, law student and guest writer, who offers some great tips for overcoming overwhelm in law school.

First of all, if this is you, give yourself a pat on the shoulder. Bouncy legs, acceleration of the pulse, and insomnia are all part of the rite of passage in law school (along with property’s Rule Against Perpetuities, and civil procedure’s Erie case). You will have stories to tell your children when they complain about their book report assignments. These are the battle scars that will make you stand up straight in court and give you an aura of knowledge and control in business transactions.

Gratitude

So let’s enjoy them, shall we? I know it’s hard, but maybe it just starts with fertilizing our gratitude. Maybe we are luckier than we realize to be in a room of other intelligent, motivated scholars, many of whom have a desire to somehow change the world. It is a luxury to spend extra time in school, to absorb and discuss what defines our tradition, our history, and ultimately our future.

Unpredictable

Don’t be dissuaded if your exact path is unplanned (or over-planned). One of my professors said she had to take a year off after her first year of law school because it was so traumatizing. Then, she managed to come back and teach! Another professor said she aligned all her time in law school to work in one area of law, but then everything changed once she interviewed after graduation and realized it was not what she wanted. The last thing she would have believed was that she would be stepping foot back in law school, let alone teaching in it!

Journal

My second semester of law school, I started a journal to record hopeful thoughts that I could look back on to keep me going in times of doubt. One of the quotes I thought up is: “Discipline and patience work in opposite directions. Discipline requires daily conscious training; patience requires dormant waiting.”

I also note sayings from other students, alumni, teachers, lawyers, and even non-lawyers that made me think differently about law school and life in general. A young associate once reassured me: “The first semester is the hardest. The rest is just cruise control.” It may not be wholly true, but it certainly makes me feel better.

Past experiences

Reading undergrad essays you were proud of or dusting off previous awards you’ve won may make you realize you do have what it takes. It may also be helpful to jot down specific challenges you faced in the past and that seemed impossible at the time, but that you overcame nonetheless. How did you overcome it? Chances are this wall is not as insurmountable as it appears.

Talk

Notes help, but there’s something utterly relieving about speaking to someone – and to someone that truly listens. The more people I speak to, the better I feel. I seek guidance from a variety of people: friends, coworkers, and family. Sometimes people who knew you before law school are the ones who know you best, and can remind you what you love and where your strengths lie.

While friends and family play the role of moral support, law school resources can provide an internal perspective. For example, they can recommend supplements to use, or what study plan or career shift can help you. This post provides suggestions on finding resources.

Whether they are formal academic advisors, or simply faculty you trust, speaking to people who have gone through the same process and have seen other students survive semester after semester helps.

When I was worried about not fitting in with my section, falling behind with readings, and not having a study group, a student advisor wrote me a list of simple things I could do to catch up and advisors I could speak to about my issues. She again helped me a year later when I was grieving over a personal loss. Here is a post (that I hope you never need) on how to deal with personal loss while in law school.

It felt strange to make an appointment to talk about something that I couldn’t fully grasp myself, let alone put into words, but as soon as I walked into her office, the words formed themselves. It felt empowering to have an ally. Again, her written checklist of things I could do and her story of overcoming a similar personal loss did not just console me, it motivated me. Speaking to her completely reinvigorated my spirits and changed by perspective from one of disorientation to one of purpose.

Law school is hard, but that’s no reason to be hard on yourself.

If you found this story helpful, check out this post, which includes practical tips for coping with a busy schedule.


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About Luisa Andonie

Luisa Andonie is an inquisitive law student who seeks to reverse engineer the thoughts, conventions and creations she admires to recraft them into new products while providing a pedagogical journey. She believes we each have a mission and is out to find it.

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