Managing Pre-Law Stress: Getting Support
The good news is there are all sorts of resources to help you manage your stress.
The first is your friends, classmates and colleagues. They are dealing with many of the same stressors as you are, and can at the very least sympathize. (And simply sharing your stress with others actually helps to mitigate it.) But they may also have learned some important stress management techniques that you can use.
The second great resource is your friends and family members who are not applying to law school, not law students, not lawyers. Law world has a way of taking you in and isolating you from the non-legal world. As a good friend of mine told me—and this remains some of the best advice I ever got about law school—“Don’t just maintain, but actively cultivate your friendships outside of law school—you’re going to need them.” I had no idea what she meant at that time (she was in law school, and I wasn’t yet), but she was right. Your non-law-student friends and family members can keep you grounded and help you remember who you were before you started “thinking like a lawyer.”
And then there’s professional support. For some, the stress, anxiety and even depression that first the application process, and then law school may bring out or exacerbate is such that help from a mental health professional is advisable. If you’ve struggled with mental health issues in the past, or if you suspect that you might be facing some now, don’t hesitate to seek help. The University Health Services’ Center for Counseling and Psychological Health offers a full menu of mental health support services, and at a much lower cost than you’ll pay when you’re out of school.
Finally, there are a number of organizations, websites and book that offer stress management assistance, both for everyone and for lawyers and law students in particular. The list below is a preliminary one. Don’t hesitate to recommend others for addition here.
ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs—Provides an array of online and other resources for legal professionals.
The National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being is a coalition effort conceptualized and initiated by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP), the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC), and the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL). In August 2017, the Task Force produced a comprehensive report and set of recommendations aimed at a variety of stakeholders in the legal profession, including law schools, designed to address the very real mental health challenges in the professions. The full report is here, and the recommendations for law schools are on pages 35-41. In addition, the report recommends that the ABA “require law schools to create well-being education as a criterion for ABA accreditation. The ABA should
require law schools to publish their well-being-related resources on their websites.” This is something worth asking as you explore law schools: do you provide well-being education, and where do you advertise these resources for your students?
Dave Nee Foundation works to provide resources to young people, and especially law students and lawyers, suffering from depression and/or contemplating suicide. Also works to end stigma about depression and suicide, especially in the legal profession.
Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers—LCL (Massachusetts) assists lawyers, judges, law students and their families who are experiencing any level of impairment in their ability to function as a result of personal, mental health, addiction or medical problems.
Books, Blogs and More
(Amazon links do not indicate an endorsement.)
How to Be Sort of Happy in Law School, written by UMass Amherst Sociology Professor (and lawyer) Kathryne Young. The website for the book also has a resources page with many other helpful articles and sites to look into.
Lawyers with Depression—Great collection of resources for law students and lawyers dealing with depression.
Tyger Latham, “The Depressed Lawyer,” Psychology Today, May 2011
Leslie A. Gordon, “How Lawyers Can Avoid Burnout and Debilitating Anxiety,” ABA Journal, July 2015. Lots of great information, resources, recommendations in this article from the ABA Journal.
Center for Contemplative Mind Law Program—The now defunct Law Program explored ways of helping lawyers, judges, mediators, law professors and students reconnect with their deepest values and intentions, through meditation, yoga, and other contemplative and spiritual practices. While the program is no more, its archives are available free online.