Law Students

There is no doubt that law school is stressful. Managing the demands of law school can be especially challenging if you have a mental health disorder or if you’re dealing with other stressors beyond school. In a stressful environment, even a minor issue can become a major problem if you don’t take care of yourself. Some students are tempted to study 24/7 or find unhealthy ways to deal with stress like drinking in excess or misusing other drugs. To be healthy and successful, it is important for you to find balance, PLAN AHEAD, and take steps to manage your wellbeing. Explore this website to find tips on taking care of yourself or visit the wellness section of the Law School website.

One of the first things to understand is that getting help won’t affect your ability to get licensed to practice law! Many students mistakenly believe that if they seek professional help, then a state bar will not be willing to grant them a license. In fact, the opposite is true. When a student seeks help and gets better, it signals to the state bar character and fitness examiners that s/he is able to recognize when he needs assistance, get support as needed, and consequently manage the situation responsibly. In contrast a student who is in need of help but doesn’t pursue it quite often experiences more serious problems, including in extreme cases needing to drop out of school. So, the best thing that you can do is to take care of your physical and mental health responsibly. Be honest with yourself if you are struggling, and be proactive about getting help.

Where can I go for support?

The Office of Student Affairs is a great first stop if you are struggling, whether for academic or nonacademic reasons. Dean Baum and Dean Gregory each offer a safe and nonjudgmental space in which to share your concerns. They can provide you with counseling and advice on a wide range of issues and connect you with the most appropriate resources.

The Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program (LJAP) provides support to lawyers, judges, and law students who are dealing with mental illnesses, substance abuse, and other challenges in life. LJAP is especially well suited to help law students who are worried that their history of mental health and/or substance abuse–related incidents may be of concern to passing the character and fitness portion of the bar  application process, which is required to become a licensed attorney in the state of Michigan and in other jurisdictions.

Counseling and Psychological Services provides free counseling services for enrolled U-M students.

University Health Service provides health care services including medical management of common mental health issues.

Explore this site to find other mental health and support services.

What are some of the challenges that I can expect in law school that may affect my mental health?

The challenges that you may be experiencing as a law student may differ slightly depending on your year in school.

1st year challenges

High stress over grades

Tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to go to office hours! It’s a good way to get to know your professors and get some feedback about how you are understanding class material.
  • Visit your law school website for exam tips
  • Know that if your GPA falls below 3.2, you are eligible for tutoring. Be proactive!
  • All U-M Law students are high achieving, so you may need to adjust your expectations. Though you may have been at the top of your class as an undergraduate student, so were most of your peers. Remember that half of you will be in the bottom half of the class, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t go on to have a successful career.
  • It can be difficult to adjust to the idea that you won’t be receiving much academic feedback until the end of your first semester when exams are held. Due to this lack of information, you may feel tempted to fill in the gaps with misinformation. Making up information or catastrophizing will only increase your stress.

Reading!

There is a lot of dense reading required and it can be easy to fall behind – even more so  if you’re feeling frustrated or bored, or if you’re dealing with a mental health disorder. Your first year is like an endurance test and time management is critical. You can visit the Office of Student Affairs for help with time management skills.

Tip:  It is very important to keep going to class even if you fall behind in your reading! Listening to the lecture and class discussion will enable you to focus better on the most important parts of the reading when you make time to catch up. Conversely, if you don’t attend class, it can become challenging to achieve a full understanding of the material covered and to understand future classes, since quite often the material covered on any given day builds on the previous days’ material.

Disillusionment with law school

If you’re like many students, you may have decided to enter the law profession in order to help people. It may be hard to see the connection between that goal and your coursework during your first year, and you may begin to doubt your decision to enter law school. Remember that right now you are learning important analytical skills that you will need throughout your course of study and into the future, and in the end you will be able to reach your goals.

Tip: The peer-support programs offered by the U-M Law School can be very helpful in making connections and adjusting to your first year.

The First Year Information (FYI) program
Helps first-year students (1Ls) adjust to life as law students. Upper-class Leaders lead small group discussions on exam preparation, study skills, and class review sessions throughout the term. FYI is meant to provide an informative and enjoyable transition into the first year of law school, and serve as an academic support system for new students. 

Michigan Access Program (MAP)
Seeks to promote students' participation and meaningful connection to the Law School. MAP aims to build community among all students across racial, ethnic, and cultural lines, create mentoring relationships between upper class students and participating 1Ls, and provide a smooth transition into Law School by helping to demystify the first year experience.  Every student is invited to participate regardless of background, with special emphasis on encouraging the participation of non-traditional students.

Orientation Leaders
Upper-class law students serve as orientation leaders to first-year, transfer, and graduate students, and can be a great resource for you.

Active Minds
A student group that seeks to increase law students’ awareness of mental health issues, provide information and resources regarding mental health and mental illness, and to encourage law students to seek help as soon as it is needed.  

Tip:  Get involved with one or more of the Law School’s student organizations. There are dozens of student organizations that are engaged in discussions and projects related to a wide variety of topics and causes. They provide a great outlet for getting involved in the community outside of the classroom. See a list of the active student organizations.

2nd and 3rd Year Challenges

You’ve made it through your first year and the fear of the unknown is gone. You’re also able to vary your academic work by choosing your classes and reconnect with your reasons for entering law school by including some skills-based classes (such as clinics or practice/simulation courses) and extra-curricular activities (like providing legal services through a local, part-time internship). At the same time you still have to deal with the constant reading requirements, as well as face some new potential stressors:

Securing a full-time internship for the summer between 2L and 3L year

The idea that an internship may lead to a job following graduation, coupled with the tough economic climate, may leave you feeling overly pressured around recruiting and your job search.

Tip: Look to the Office of Career Services. The staff is committed to helping you obtain your career dreams and offer many useful services as you explore your career opportunities.

Debt and finances

Stress related to finances is not uncommon, as many students have undergraduate as well as law school loans to repay. You may also need health services that you must pay for on your own. If you need financial assistance or have questions about financial aid, contact the Law School’s Office of Financial Aid.

 

 

UM Depression Center© Copyright 2003-2016 Regents of the University of Michigan

The University of Michigan Health System web site does not provide specific medical advice and does not endorse any medical or professional service obtained through information provided on this site or any links to this site. Complete disclaimer and Privacy Statement.