Good Faith Advice

As we’ve passed the halfway mark in the semester and exams loom ever closer, I find myself more and more overwhelmed. I work as hard as I can but it seems like everyone else is able to handle the work and stress better than I do. I’m starting to doubt whether law school is the right path for me. How do I overcome the discouragement and keep going?

Sincerely,
Sinking Fast

 

Dear Sinking Fast,

For better or for worse, many law students can relate to your struggle. As Nancy Drew and I pointed out in our last responses, law school was not created to be easily manageable. It is an intense marathon that sometimes, perhaps too often, feels too difficult to survive. That can seem like a grim picture, but it is important to remember that you can make it through, and even thrive in law school, particularly at UCI Law School. In order to do so, though, you need to find ways to keep yourself grounded and focused on the things that really matter in your life, on an academic, professional, and personal level. There is no easy fix for combatting the overwhelming pressures we face in law school, but I suggest experimenting with ways to improve your situation instead of continuing to feel like you’re drowning.

If you are finding that your schedule, studying habits, and attempts at achieving work-life balance are not working well, consider new routines. Think about what’s working and what you could improve, and then make a change for the better. For example, if you’re staying up really late every night trying to finish reading assignments and you continue to lose sleep, that could be significantly harming your ability to do your best throughout the day. If you go too long without taking care yourself physically and emotionally, you will be less and less effective, regardless of whether you completed every single item on your to-do list. So you’ll need to compromise, manage your time, and be okay with prioritizing assignments and tasks while still leaving time to breathe and rest. It may feel like you’re not reaching your full potential or that you’re not being as responsible a student as you could be, but you have to do what’s best for you. And often times, the best thing you can do for yourself is set realistic expectations and goals, as well as reserve time to enjoy life outside of the school context.

There is no such thing as a perfect law student. There is such a thing as a law student who works hard and also tries to stay sane and even happy once class is over for the day. That’s not perfect, but it’s practical and also achievable. Please don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself credit for showing up, putting in a good faith effort, and trying your best. You got yourself here, and you deserve to stay here. Surround yourself with people who will support you and encourage you to stick with it. Hopefully a slight shift in your approach will help you maintain the energy and motivation you need to persevere. I have every confidence that you can do this. It’s time to come up for air.

Just keep swimming,
Mary Poppins

 

Dear Sinking Fast,

I am sorry that you are feeling this way. It is a sad reality that the inherent stress caused by law school drives many students to feel overwhelmed, helpless and even hopeless. While it seems like others are handling it better, everyone struggles at one point in law school and I know that you can make it through this rough patch and emerge on the other side. First and foremost, the exams on the horizon will not define you. Your grades will not determine how exceptional of a lawyer you will be. From my personal experience, exams are not even an accurate reflection of one’s understanding of a subject. I have received the same grade in two law school classes where I know for sure that my level of knowledge was nowhere near equal. Did you know that there have been a number of students who have graduated from UCI Law without ever checking their grades? I love that.

You also mention that being overwhelmed has made you question whether law school is even the right path for you. I too have felt lost during this difficult path and had the same question. One piece of advice that I found valuable sticks out and I will pass it on to you. Law school has so many stressors from all different angles: vast subjects of classes, countless pro bono opportunities, moot court, law review, networking, etc. While all of these activities are important in their own right, trying to keep up with everything is overwhelming and impossible. However, if you try to remember the big picture of why you decided to go to law school in the first place and what future will make you happy, you can judge which interests directly build towards your goal. Yes, you still have to pass that class or complete this obligation that has nothing to do with your path, but it helps to prioritize and keep the big picture in mind: this is why I am here working my butt off, doing this will get me there, doing that will not so I will not stress.

You are here for a very good reason. Remember it and use it as your compass.

Cluing you in,
Nancy Drew

 

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