Things I’m Stressing About Before Starting Law School (And What I’m Telling Myself)

Things I’m Stressing About Before Starting Law School (And What I’m Telling Myself)This week we welcome back guest writer Julia Gourary to talk about getting ready for law school.

Starting law school is exciting, but it’s also a big transition, filled with lots of new and challenging experiences. While I’m looking forward to embarking on this new adventure, there are also some (okay, a lot) of things I’m stressing about, from all the costs of law school to those infamous cold calls to maintaining mental and physical health and wellbeing through long hours of studying and a high-stress environment.

Read on to find out the five things I’m stressing about most before starting law school, and what I’m telling myself to ease my worries.

1. The Money

The stress: As I get closer to starting school, a lot more hidden costs are starting to crop up that I hadn’t really thought about. From casebooks (as I’ve recently discovered, a new casebook can run you close to $300) to a bookstand to prop up those massive books, subscription services like Quimbee and Westlaw, law school costs way more than just tuition. Plus, the fact that I’ll be a full-time student again means that I’ll have minimal money coming in.

What I’m telling myself: Law school is an investment, and it’s not worth stressing over costs that are a drop in the bucket of that overall investment. I’ll try to save money where I can, like buying my books used and cooking most of my meals. But I’m trying to take a long-term perspective and think of the greater job opportunities law school will afford me.

2. Did I forget how to do School?

The stress: I’ve only been out of school a little under a year, but it feels like ages since I’ve written a paper or taken an exam. I can’t help but feel nervous that I’ve somehow forgotten how to do school or that I won’t be good at it anymore. Furthermore, while in college I could skim most of my readings between classes or while eating breakfast, reading cases requires close, sustained attention.

What I’m telling myself: I need to have confidence in myself and my abilities—after all, I’ve been in school for close to two decades. The skills you develop don’t just disappear in a matter of months. So I’m telling myself that once I get back into the swing of school, it’ll be like riding a bike, and everything will come back. I’m also reminding myself that I can be adaptable—in high school and college, I adapted to different teaching styles, exam types, and assignments.

3. Being Cold-Called and Blanking Out

The stress: The Socratic method, a style of instruction based on dialogue between student and professor (read: professor peppers terrified student with questions that they attempt to answer) is often cited as one of the scariest aspects of law school. Not only are you put on the spot in front of the whole class, but so-called “cold calls” are often unexpected (read: you live in terror the entire semester wondering if you might be called on on a given day).

What I’m telling myself: Talking to current and recent law students, I found that the consensus about cold-calling was: 1) It’s not as scary as pop culture portrays it, 2) It doesn’t actually happen very often (you might get cold-called once or twice a semester) and you often are warned in advance of when you’ll be “on call,” and 3) Even if you mess up, no one really cares—other students are more concerned with themselves than evaluating your performance. Blanking out or not knowing the answer happens, and it’s perfectly acceptable to just say “I don’t know.”

4. Losing Touch with Friends

The stress: A lot of what I’ve heard or read about law school has been along the lines of, “Say your goodbyes to your friends and family, because you probably won’t see them until after finals are over!” The situation seems like a paradox, because the more stress you’re under, the more you need your friendships to maintain your sanity, but the less time you have for your friends. Plus, my friends are important to me, and I don’t want to disappear on them when my life gets busier.

What I’m telling myself: As with all aspects of life, it’s important to find balance. It is possible to maintain personal relationships in law school, but I may need to be more intentional about scheduling my time. I’ll make sure to prioritize my friendships and set boundaries on the time I’m spending on school. Something else I might try that worked for me when trying to mesh busy schedules in college was to schedule a weekly or biweekly time to hang out or talk on the phone. That way, you can take the guesswork out of scheduling and don’t have to go through the dreaded back-and-forth of finding a time that works for you both.

5. My Physical Health

The stress: Law school is mentally challenging, but it can also be hard on your body. Long hours of sitting and staring at screens can have a detrimental impact on your physical health, causing eyestrain, back pain, poor posture, tight muscles, and more. Plus, being busy and pressed for time can mean skimping on sleep, skipping exercise, and eating poorly or missing meals entirely.

What I’m telling myself: Staying healthy in law school, like maintaining my friendships, has to be an active choice. Sleep, exercise, and diet are all vital to feeling (and performing) your best, so I’ll need to schedule those in along with classes, studying, and time with friends. However, I also might need to be more forgiving of myself if I sometimes skip a workout to finish a reading or get takeout so I don’t break my study flow. I’m also making sure I have an ergonomic work setup, with a comfortable desk chair and a laptop stand and separate keyboard so I can keep my computer at eye level. In addition, I’m going to try setting a timer to remind myself to take breaks to walk around or stretch.


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About Julia Gourary

Julia is a 2L at NYU School of Law. She received her B.A. in Art History from Yale University, where she graduated magna cum laude in December 2021. In addition to writing for Law School Toolbox, she currently works as an LSAT tutor. In her spare time, she enjoys reading novels, doing yoga, and binge-watching reality TV.

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