The prospect of becoming a lawyer is an exciting one. The status, the opportunities for financial security and the ability to take part in shaping the American legal system are some of the many reasons people undertake the challenge of law school. However, law school is one of the toughest doctoral programs. The study of law is fraught with anxiety and stress in keeping up with the demanding pace, the constant competition and the long hours of study. Quite often, this is compounded with the added anxiety and stress of taking out thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans to obtain a juris doctorate degree. There is no denying that going to law school will not only challenge the intellect but test the physical and emotional limits of this three-year long-distance odyssey.
Because of the reality of law school, law students suffer from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and substance misuse at much higher rates than both the general population and other graduate level students. Law students need to understand that although they enter law school with no more depression or anxiety than the general population, after only one semester these statistics drastically increase. It is normal to experience a personal shift in response to the stressors of law school which fuels anxiety and depression. The key is to recognize the issue and work to create long lasting, healthy responses to the stressors of law school. After all, the stress of law school is simply and introduction to the stress of becoming a practicing lawyer. If depression and anxiety are appropriately addressed, if overall well-being through routine self-care becomes a priority and if stress management techniques are implemented, there is no reason that the issues arising during law school remain to become barriers to the successful, competent and healthy practice of law.
Often, law students are reluctant to come forward and ask for help. Sometimes it is because they fear it will be a barrier to being admitted to the state bar. Sometimes it is because they fear the stigma that may be attached to them from fellow students or law professors. Sometimes it is because they don’t even recognize that what is happening is real depression or anxiety because they have never experienced it before. Most often, it is a combination of all these reasons. The best way to deal with these issues before they become a problem that impairs academic performance, personal relationships or barriers to professional success is to get support. NHLAP has been helping law students free of charge since 2007. We identify problematic issues and make referrals to the appropriate resources. All services- from a simple discussion on the phone, to peer volunteers, to referral to counseling or support services- are 100% completely confidential. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it signals the strength, self-awareness and humility that are hallmarks of a successful, healthy lawyer.
Anyone call contact NHLAP for themselves or for someone they have concerns about. All contact is confidential. NHLAP can reach out on your behalf but will do so anonymously. No one is ever told where a referral started. No issue is too big or too small. All services are free to law students. NHLAP is here to help. Don’t wait.