Let’s talk straight
Although you are not a lawyer, as a law student you are a member of the legal community. Lawyers’ Assistance Program helps law students with substance abuse, drug addiction, and other mental health problems, including stress, anxiety, and depression. Since 1980, LAP has provided confidential assistance to the legal community.
- 30% of law students report they have abused alcohol
- 9% of law students report use of illegal substances, including marijuana and cocaine
- 12% of students begin abusing substances in law school
- Nearly 4% of law students feel they need help to control abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
- 17% to 40% of law students suffer from depression
- Self-reports of anxiety and depression are significantly higher among law students than either the general population or medical students.
The pitfalls of law school
Law school has much to offer. You are in the midst of an intellectually stimulating environment, you’re getting to know other like-minded students who share your interests, you have the opportunity to bond with faculty members…and you are training to be part of an exciting profession. In spite of the positives, there will be some bumps in the road which can include:
- Heavy Workload
- High Expectations
- Competition for Top Grades
- Fear of Failure
- Outside Pressures and Expectations
- Finding the Right Job
- Law School Debts
Maintain your balance
A fulfilling social life is important to keeping life in balance during law school, but it’s also easy to turn to heavy drinking, drug use, and too much partying to relieve the tensions. Some law students turn to isolation and a life of all work and no play.
Depression, anxiety, and other stress-related illnesses are all too common among law students and lawyers. Moderate levels of stress have a positive impact on performance; excessive and prolonged stress negatively impacts performance.
Lawrence Krieger, Clinical Professor of Law at Florida State University, says the key is to recognize the most significant, potentially harmful demands, eliminate any you can, and moderate your response to those that are unavoidable.
By identifying your core values and focusing on achievable goals like doing your best and learning as much as you can, you can achieve a sense of balance.
Stay connected to yourself. Stay connected to those in your life who support you and will help you have a healthy and balanced law school life. Remember that your personal values, preferences, and feelings are an important part of who you are—even as you learn to think like a lawyer.
Become a healthy law student now
Avoid Becoming an Unhappy, Unprofessional Lawyer Later
For most, legal education is unlike any other experience. The volume and intensity is far greater than undergraduate programs and, as a general rule, every class hour will require four hours of studying. That means a 15- credit course load can require 60 hours a week of studying outside of class.
For most of this work you are on your own—to learn actively, independently, and responsibly. So it is no surprise that law school can be a stressful experience.
Many law students strive for success in school along with a balanced life—yet find they get stuck and fall victim to self-defeating behaviors. It is not easy to achieve balance and perspective when caught up in study, assignments, not enough sleep, and never enough time. This can feel like “going up the down escalator.” Set the stage for the future by aiming for a balance between your personal and your professional life. Learn the difference between legal skills and life skills.
A safe place to turn for help
The solution to law school stress is to take care of yourself—but if you do have problems, the responsible thing to do is get some help. Lawyers’ Assistance Program is a safe place to turn for confidential assistance.
Lawyers’ Assistance Program addresses the problems law students face:
- Substance Abuse
- Compulsive Behaviors
- Legal Difficulties
- Career Decisions
Confidentiality is the cornerstone
All interactions with Lawyers’ Assistance Program are held in strict confidence according to Supreme Court Rule 1.6. LAP keeps no permanent records and the only information made public is non-identifying demographic information, such as the number of law students served each year.
If you are in recovery from alcohol and/or drugs, LAP can connect you with other recovering students for support and connection. We can also help you access a law student email list serve of recovering law students for support.
LAP staff members and volunteers are available to help at any time during your law school experience. But even if you do not need our services now, we want you to be aware of LAP as a resource for the future. At some point in your legal career, you may have a need to turn to us for assistance. As a legal professional, you may encounter a colleague who needs assistance. You can encourage him/her to call LAP or we can provide intervention services for the impaired colleague who may not realize there is a problem.