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Welcome to Law School: A 3-Step Survival Guide

Are you about to start law school? Congratulations . . . You have probably heard at least a few horror stories about the stress, the dropout rate, the prevalence of depression, the high student loans, the competition, the high rates of substance use, and how law school is either like military boot camp, the Hunger Games, or the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog. Challenges shape us, and law school is a life changing experience. Needless to say, it is best to have some helpful strategies at the ready, even before it seems they are necessary.

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Is This Depression or Just Feeling Down?

We all feel fluctuations in our moods (from elation to deep sadness). Some people feel this range of emotions to a lesser degree (find it hard to feel intense emotions) while others feel it to a greater degree (find it hard not to feel intense emotions). A common question we get is, “How can you tell the difference between a low mood and something more serious like depression?”.

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Depression in law school – Imposters and Socrates

The stats are alarming which indicate that before entering law school a student is just as likely to have experienced depression as any other adult in the general population (which is about 7%). After one year of law school, 32% of law students experience depression. It keeps rising to 40% by the end of the third year. So what is it about law school, and in particular the first year of law school that is so stressful to law students? While there are many sources of stress in the first year of law school, two particular stressors stick out as significant for many students: the Imposter Syndrome and the Socratic Method.

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Don’t Wait For Your Feelings: Forgiveness

Contrary to popular belief, forgiveness is not a feeling. Forgiveness is an action. Done well, forgiveness can be freeing and can allow the person to heal from a painful experience and become more resilient as a result. But there are a lot of misconceptions and fears that surround forgiveness, what it is, what it is not, and what the result might be.

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Don’t Wait For Your Feelings: Motivation

“I feel ready. Now I can act.” The order of those phrases sounds logical. First you feel ready and then you act on that feeling. No obvious controversy there. Yet some of the common phrases we toss around in everyday conversation are not only inaccurate, but they also negatively affect our abilities to accomplish what we desire. This is often used in terms of assessing our motivation to do something difficult. In this example, waiting to feel motivated (or ready) will most often prevent you from accomplishing something that you never knew was possible. In fact reversing the order of those original ideas is often more accurate and advantageous. I decide to act and then I notice my feelings changing.

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