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04.08.2015

Everything has its beginning:  the Cosmic Bang, the French Revolution and depression in the legal profession. Attorney Andrew Sparkler, a friend of then fellow Fordham law student David Nee who suffered from depression (unbeknownst to his friends) and committed suicide in his third year of law school, observed, “To admit that you are depressed [in law school], to yourself or to others . Plug in these stats and an estimated 200,000 of this country’s 1 million lawyers are hurting.
However, there has been pushback against the theory that law school even causes much psychic damage. In an article by University at Michigan Law Professor James Justesen White, Maiming the Cubs, he takes issue with Professor Krieger theory and argues that the law school experience does not “. I think we must look at what makes people more vulnerable to depression before they enter law school – those 10% who already have depression or are at risk for developing it before they register for their first 1L class. Pessimistic thinking and persistent stress , both powerful dynamics in law school, are known triggers for depression.  When these influences are mixed in with other pre-law school risk factors, law school creates a “perfect storm” for depression to happen.
We have a sense that such a lifestyle can be problematic to our happiness, but we’re willing to keep marching to that beat in the hope of later rewards (e.g.
Besides the psychological-physiological links to depression, we live in a culture that breeds melancholy.  How could this not eek its way into the law school experience?
Maybe it’s the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of our times; the torpor of the imagination which fails to inspire our young people to live an engaged and spirited life in the law, or the cynicism to think that such a life is even possible that worries me.
Instead, students are served up programs, usually offered up by well-meaning Dean or Vice-Deans of Student Affairs and therapists from a University’s Counseling Center. Over 130 million people suffer from depression worldwide on a planet where it is the leading cause of disability. Finally, I want to urge all of you reading this blog to write in and express your views about your law school experience, whether you’re in school now or it’s been thirty years.  There’s much to be gained by such sharing. I am skeptical that law schools will be that effective in addressing depression, because they are more concerned with being successful than they are molding decent and emotionally healthy lawyers. It’s too bad that that there are so many Professor Whites and too few John Woodens teaching at law schools.
Dan, what I respect about your blog is that you address depression in emotional, ethical, cultural terms, as well as biological terms.
I think that law students as well as lawyers face an enormous challenge in admitting feelings of depression to themselves or to others: the fact that as a student or a lawyer your job is to be alert, competent and capable of handling huge amounts of work and stress at the same time. I think law schools have an obligation to inform students about depression and that it is negligent for any school not to include some kind of depression presentation as part of its orientation and this should be enforced by the ABA. I’m a 1L suffering from what the WebMD tests are saying is a major depressive episode. I’m a second year Juris Doctor student at an Australian law school and have been battling depression since the start of the degree and in the past few weeks suffered very severe depression, with inclinations towards suicide. I also offer coaching services to law students and lawyers who need to connect with someone who really understands what they’re going through and can provide them with regular, ongoing support and affirmation. ResourcesIn addition to the recommended links above, I have set up a Resources page for additional help.
Dan is a 1988 graduate of the University at Buffalo School of Law in Buffalo, New York and a managing partner at the law firm of Bernhardi Lukasik PLLC in Buffalo where he litigates cases in state and federal courts across New York State. November 12, 2013 By Lee Burgess Leave a Comment I had all closed book exams in law school until I was a 2L and I loved them. If you have a closed book exam, you want to make sure you create a study plan that reflects the type of exam you will be taking.
We have compiled a bunch of outlining tips here, but there are still a few things you want to keep in mind when outlining for a closed book exam.
Practicing is about the most important thing you can do to get ready for a law school exam.
The Law School ToolboxA® is a joint effort of Alison Monahan, founder of The Girl's Guide to Law School®, and Lee Burgess, founder of Amicus Tutoring (a law school and bar exam tutoring service). Collectively, we've got years of experience helping law students succeed, and we want to see you succeed, too! Law school tutoring provides the feedback and support you need to get the best results possible, with minimal stress. If you didn't get the results you wanted on the California bar exam, check out our targeted program Help! September 19, 2012 By Lee Burgess 1 Comment I just got back from a girlsa€™ weekend (yup, even the folks at the Law School Toolbox need a break from the grind).A  I flew down to Palm Springs from San Francisco. Many law students come into my office and tell me that one of the frustrating things about law school is that they dona€™t know where to go for help.A  Some start by going to their friends or by joining a study group of fellow law students (but they may give bad advice or be just as confused as you are).
When I was wandering around the airport, I literally didna€™t know who was the right person to ask.
Sometimes when you ask for help, you get conflicting advice (as in one person telling me to go back to a different terminal and another person telling me to go through security at that terminal).A  Whom do you listen to?
As a law student, you are going to get tons of advice in the process, from friends, family, other law students, and even faculty. As I was running around SFO, I was a little worried that I might miss my flight (which would have been disappointing).A  So although I was trying to be patient and not freak out over the fact that the signage was so terrible and my gate was not even listed anywhere, I kept in mind that I did have to keep moving to figure out a solution, because I needed to get to the gate on time! When you are confused or feeling lost as a law student, you dona€™t want to wait too long to try to get help and direction. So dona€™t lose sight of the end goala€”doing well on your final exams and getting the most out of your semester. Sign up now, and we'll immediately send you our Top 10 Law School Exam Tips - straight to your inbox.


Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising. July 17, 2013 By Alison Monahan 1 Comment Some people think you have to spend the entire summer before your 1L year of law school getting ready: hitting the books, preparing your outlining technique, and so on.
Take some photos, make them your screensaver, put them up on the wall, and you’ll have things to fondly reminisce about when that first horrible Legal Writing assignment is due! The Law School Toolbox® is a joint effort of Alison Monahan, founder of The Girl's Guide to Law School®, and Lee Burgess, founder of Amicus Tutoring (a law school and bar exam tutoring service).
One study of law students found they suffered from depression at the same rate as the general population before entering law school. Unhappiness and discontent are relatively transitory; other emotions aren’t pushed to the margins or extinguished.
Or, by the time young people get to law school, they’re so jaded by our consumer driven culture they just want the diploma to start making the big bucks. They need to listen to someone in the trenches of a profession they’ll soon be entering.  Without such depression experiences, a speaker is like someone trying to enlighten someone about the dangers of smoking and cancer, but has never smoked. In our country, it’s also the leading cause of disability and some 20 million people are afflicted.  It’s been characterized as an “epidemic.”  If that’s true, what does that say about the higher rates of law student and lawyer depression?  Just what adjective could one use to describe the scope of the problem? Have someone come in to speak to the students that are in the legal profession who has suffered from depression to reach these students.  Give it more than 15 minutes of your time and have programs for second and third year student on this critical topic. Schlitz, On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession, 52 VANDERBILT LAW REVIEW 871 (1999) and Depression and Anxiety in Law Students: Are We Part of the Problem and Can We Be Part of the Solution?, 8 JOURNAL OF LEGAL WRITING INSTITUTE 229 (2002). Depression is seen as creating a dent in that ideal and perhaps as a person who is incapable of handling the job. Zero mental health services, and in fact there never was any mention of mental health services at orientation. I’m also a 1L, and I think one of the most isolating features of the experience is that regardless of whether people are actually stressed, they are very good at faking it and putting on a front so that they are not perceived as weak. Overcoming the stresses of law school, like early depression, only to find a bleak job market and an insurmountable amount of loans is very depressing. I had an episode late last year just after the end of semester exams but was able to seek treatment.
I know, I am strange, but I thought it seemed more fair that everyone had to memorize the material for the exam. It is important when working on outlines that you focus on the need-to-know information first.
Remember: You not only need to learn it, but you need to be able to recall it quickly and write down the rules efficiently.
Not to make you jealous of my weekend away or to get sympathy for my somewhat frustrating morning at the airport.
Student mentors can be helpful, but again they are just law students giving advice to other law students. But sometimes students hesitate because they dona€™t want to feel stupid in front of their professors (which really shouldna€™t be a concern, but it is for many nonetheless). Although you may be in only the third or fourth week of classes, if you are lost, ask for help. Law school will be stressful and difficult at times, so it’s helpful to have fond memories to look back upon that can lift your spirits.
When I started college, my parents and I drove down to Houston stopping along the way in New Orleans and a few other places.
Regardless of your definition, try to add a little bit more of it into your schedule this summer. Alison is a graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was a member of the Columbia Law Review and served as a Civ Pro teaching assistant. Just two months into the school year, however, their negative symptom levels had increased dramatically.  By the spring of their first year, 32% of the same law students were depressed. Yet, I can’t help but think that we’re dimly aware, if at all, of the risk we put ourselves in for major depression.
All of this contributes to depression, to a lonely society that undermines what it means to live a decent, healthy and happy life.
I think that the school needs to encourage support groups for people who are struggling in the same ways, whether it’s disenchantment or depression. I have found that despite my efforts and mental notes to myself to keep meeting my psychiatrist,the constant pressure of enormous workloads always take priority over one that is likely to save my life.
I’ve sought help at the campus mental health center, but they are too busy to do anything for me. So make sure you set aside time not just to review the law, but to practice writing out the rule statements.
Lee is also the founder of Amicus Tutoring, LLC, a company she started to help students find success in law school and on the California bar exam.
But I thought that my experience at the airport might be similar to what a lot of law students go through, especially in their first or second years. So even though the woman giving me that advice worked at a ticket counter (and did a lot of clicking on the computer to answer my question), I decided I should ask someone else.A  And good thing too, because she had given me the wrong advice.
And remember, you can learn valuable law school lessons from just thinking about how you would handle situations in a€?real life,a€? even, say, getting lost at the airport. By the spring of their third year, the number had risen to 40%.  Two years after graduation, 17% of the students – about twice the rate of depression experienced by the general population – were still depressed. The school trotted out a variety of people in fifteen minute increments to talk about stress, drinking, drugging and, eventually, depression.


Effectively nowhere to go for help, and no one to talk to about it because everyone’s busy swapping war stories about moot court or the summer position they landed.
I don’t forsee this happening obviously though, because what institution is going to want to acknowledge that a significant segment of its population against itself?
This can be an effective way to memorize and will make writing out rule statements a breeze on exam day. Lee has been adjunct faculty at two bay area law schools teaching classes on law school and bar exam preparation. Alison and I believe we give great advice on this blog and as part of our coursea€”but, sometimes, we dona€™t agreea€”or we provide different perspectives. When you’re planning your getting-to-school voyage, consider taking a few extra days to have some fun along the way.
You’ll never start a new hobby once law school begins, but there is a good chance you can keep up with one if you start now.
Why not host a going away party (maybe a potluck if funds are tight) and let everyone come celebrate with you? If you come out and admit your depression you look weak and incapable of handling your workload, and in this economy there is another person who can handle the workload (or can fake it better) there to snap up your job. I have a good job waiting on me if I can graduate and pass the bar, so I even have that much less pressure on me.
Dona€™t just wait until the last moment to memorize though; law school isna€™t meant for cramming.
A tutor can help discuss the various aspects of the law school experience (from preparing for class and setting your schedule to writing an amazing exam answer).
Is there a fun city where you could get an inexpensive weekend hotel (no business travelers in town!) and check out a show or a museum? When the mid-semester doldrums hit, you can look back fondly and think about all the people who are supporting you in this endeavor.
The truth is that people don’t want a lawyer suffering from mental illness, people want a helpful, brilliant, personable and highly competent lawyer happy to do the work.
Most of the other students come from a very different background and I’ve had a hard time finding ways to relate. I did well enough 1L to make myself a prime candidate for those jobs, but now I find myself absolutely crippled by depression. Just spend time now having fun with the people you care about, because it’s going to be a lot harder soon. Go ahead and get started and you’ll make some fun memories the summer and set yourself up for more exciting times in the fall. So statistics and reality aside, we all fake it and pretend we’re doing just fine at the risk of losing a professional edge. My law school offers no services, no support, and no advice on how to handle a situation like mine. Along with practicing your analysis and issue spotting, you will actually be working on your memorization as well. I cana€™t tell you how thankful students are that they asked for help early in the semester. I must say that this article has helped, seeing the statistics even if they not be of your own country makes me feel less isolated. I hope that the bar association will force schools to address this issue before it takes more minds and lives. However, now that I am there, and even though I am succeeding, I feel like I am falling apart and just want to reclaim my old life.
I will be seeing a university psychologist tomorrow, but for the moment, I can must articulate a massive thank you from the bottom of my heart to the author and those who contributed. I’ve always been considered a pretty confident, outgoing, amicable, and friendly person, but over the past year, the environment at law school has bred real insecurities and even mild agoraphobia, and at times I have even struggled with something akin to delusional disorder, persecutory type. I really don’t want to be on anti-depressants for the rest of my life just because of a career choice, when I never struggled with these things before and had a vitality that has since been totally drained.
I used to be very outgoing and confident and now I find myself developing a bit of social anxiety.
I was a really happy-go-lucky live-and-let-live sort of person, and I just don’t know if I am suited for the high stakes and high pressure world of BigLaw. Thank you for this post, and if you still check this website, any advice or suggestions are very welcome. So I asked someone elsea€”who confirmed for me that I was in the right place (even though there were no signs for Gate 37 anywhere). Then I worry that my social skills will continue to suffer and that will bleed into my personal and professional life after school is over. I kept asking and finally found Gate 37 (which was in fact on a lower level but not listed). So after having walked what seemed like miles around SFO followed by a short delay due to mechanical difficulties (yes, it was one of those travel days)a€”I finally made my way to Palm Springs.



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