Burying Our Problems Won’t Diminish Them

Wellness concerns are rarely discussed in the legal field- what can we do differently?

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How can we be a happier profession?
How can we be a happier profession?

Law school can be a stressful and anxiety ridden time. How stressful? By some estimates, nearly 40,000 law students enter law schools each year. Upon starting, students are no more depressed than the general population (about 8%), but by the end of their first year about one in three is depressed. Around 40 percent get depressed by the end of law school. In fact, lawyers are almost 4 times more likely to get depressed and 6 times more likely to kill themselves than the average member of the adult population.

Needing, But Not Seeking, Help

The stigma associated with focusing on one’s well-being often starts during law school. Law students are often hesitant to speak up about their challenges and struggles because they’re scared that they might have to disclose any mental health diagnoses or treatments to bar examiners, and that these disclosures could jeopardize everything they worked towards in law school.

This stigma contributes to students being at risk for other negative behaviors. According to the report, Suffering in Silence, Law Student Well- Being, law students often feel there is no one or nowhere to turn. As a result, up to 25 percent of law students are at risk for alcoholism; 17% report moderate to severe depression; 14% experience anxiety that inhibits academic work; and 6 percent experience suicidal ideations.

Asking for help can be easier said than done. A lot of law students know that resources exist, but they don’t feel comfortable utilizing them: there is still a lot of stigma attached to mental health or wellness in general.

Vulnerability can seem like an unattainable character trait in our profession, which is why we need to collectively open up the conversation about the ups and downs of law school (cold calls, cut throat competition, and combative environments, just to name a few).

Disliking certain parts of law school does not make us any less worthy or less qualified to be an amazing lawyer. In other words, hating law school doesn’t mean you will hate being a lawyer. It’s ok to admit that not everything about law school is admirable, or even tolerable.

From Troubled Law Student to Troubled Lawyer

Law school plagues us with unique concerns, but problems don’t disappear at law school graduation: lawyer life comes with its own set of grievances.

Life as a lawyer is more than Law and Order courtroom glamour. Many days of lawyer life feel like the entire world is against you: opposing counsel; the judge; your client; your kid’s teacher because you forgot to turn in your child’s allergy forms; your child because you forgot to pack a “healthy” allergy free snack; your hairdresser because you cancelled another appointment to get to the grocery store to buy healthy snacks; yourself because you haven’t had a haircut in 9 months; your spouse because you just brought home 5 hours of work, and on and on.

What can our profession do differently? At Sweatours, our goal is to open up the conversation about all of it, from the mundane missed haircut to the critically important issues of maintaining our collective well-being.

We don’t have to go it alone. By connecting to others, we can make law school and lawyer life a place to not only survive, but thrive.

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