There is another process going on in law schools that also can cause stress. It is the subtle but pervasive process of being socialized into a profession. I can’t say that I know much about this process from an academic or theoretical perspective, but I do know what I see. Every year I see the process of legal education change students in some rather fundamental ways.
Some students take the new skills they are learning as law students and absorb these skills as fundamental parts of their personality. In other words, these law students learn the role of lawyer.
- Being able to see and advocate for both sides of any argument is good.
- Losing your own personal moral, ethical or aesthetic.
- Judgment about right and wrong, true and false; that is bad.
- Being confident in stating a position and sticking to it is good.
- Being arrogant, overbearing, and unable to listen to others is bad.
- Wanting to work in a high-paid, high-status, corporate law firm is good.
Wanting that because it seems like any other choice is second-rate, and in spite of all the contrary goals or expectations you have coming into law school… well, I think that’s bad.
It’s easy to lose yourself in the process of legal education. And holding on to yourself can be a significant source of stress.
Finally, there are all the personal sources of stress that are made worse by law school.
- Few of us have enough time. Law school takes all the time you have and then some.
- Few of us have enough money. Law school is enormously expensive — for most of you, the debt you will take out of law school will be the equivalent of a mortgage on your first home.
- Few of us are in the kind of physical shape that we would like to be — imagine the results of a diet consisting heavily of coffees, donuts and Wednesday pizza, and a workout program that consists entirely of carrying 100 pounds of law books from locker to library. (it isn’t pretty)
- Few of us are crystal clear about why we came to law school — that question looms even larger when you are sitting up at midnight reading a totally incomprehensible piece of legal writing from the late 19th century.