Law is a rewarding but challenging profession. Law students need to become experts at taking care of themselves in a healthy way for at least three reasons:
(1) the stress of law and the legal profession are well-documented with some studies showing demonstrably higher rates of depression and anxiety in law school and the legal profession than in other professional schools and careers;
(2) some scholars believe that people attracted to the study and practice of law have a tendency to be competitive, perfectionistic people who like to solve problems on their own. While these are good traits in moderation that lead to high achievement, the pressures of law school and law practice can cause these characteristics to get out of hand, causing general unhappiness and a deterioration in productivity for law students and lawyers; and
(3) there is a strong connection between wellness, learning, and creative problem-solving, with individuals who are emotionally and physically healthier having better retention, more sophisticated analytical reasoning abilities, and more creative problem-solving skills than individuals who are over-tired or over-stressed.
As you work to balance the demands of law school or consider preparing to enter law school, take stock of your self-care habits. As part of your professional development, commit to acquiring and maintaining the skills and habits necessary to remain independent, open-minded, well-balanced, generous-spirited, and creative during law school and while pursuing a legal career.
If you are presently enrolled in law school and are experiencing more stress than you are comfortable with, or if you feel that your productivity has gone down or that you are not sleeping or eating well, make an appointment to see someone at your university's Counseling Center, someone in your law school's Dean of Student's Offices, or someone in your law school's Academic Support Program. If you feel your situation is serious, tell someone you trust and seek support immediately.
Related eLearning Opportunities on this website
The following multimedia lesson prepared by Dr. Marty Peters of Elon Law School can help you think about stress and how to manage the stressors in your life in a healthy way.Strategies for Managing Stress
Related Readings on wellness
MARTIN SELIGMAN, LEARNED OPTIMISM (2d ed. 2006) (a classic book by one of the founders of the Positive Psychology movement, presently head of The Happiness Institute at The University of Pennsylvania)
MARTIN SELIGMAN, AUTHENTIC HAPPINESS (2004) (including a chapter hypothesizing that the skepticism that is a critical professional skill lawyers learn in law school also leads to the risk of acquiring a pessimistic life attitude and generalized unhappiness)
JON KABAT-ZINN, WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE: MINDFULNESS MEDITATION IN EVERYDAY LIFE (2d ed. 2004)
Martha M. Peters, "Management of Time: A Necessary but Difficult Task," FLA. B.J., Vol. LXIV, No. 4, April 1990, pp. 78-80
LAWRENCE S. KRIEGER, THE HIDDEN SOURCES OF LAW SCHOOL STRESS (available from the author at Florida State University College of Law)
Lawrence S. Krieger, The Inseparability of Professionalism and Personal Satisfaction: Perspectives on Values, Integrity and Happiness, 11 CLINICAL L. REV. 425 (2005)
SUSAN SWAIM DAICOFF, LAWYER KNOW THYSELF (2004)
STEVEN KEEVA, TRANSFORMING PRACTICES (2002)
CARL HORN, LAWYER LIFE: FINDING A LIFE AND A HIGHER CALLING IN THE PRACTICE OF LAW (2003)
Related websites on wellness:
Suffolk University School of Law Stress Management Sources