Sunday, January 3, 2021

I Am Depressed and Thinking About Dropping Out of Law School

When I started law school I was super excited.  On my first day I met so many eager people who were all wanting to explore the depths of the law and become amazing attorneys one day.  After spending most of my high school days and four years of college wanting to be a lawyer, I was finally in law school!  Everything seemed wonderful, and my family was so proud of me.

The autumn days were filled with joy.  I would wake up early and be amongst the first in the law library, tort or criminal law book wide open, reading a case for the third time of even fourth time.  There was always something new to glean from the words of the judge.  I especially loved criminal law and have often dreamt of one day being a judge or prosecutor. 

Then something happened in December.  I stopped caring about law school.  It was like a light went off.  I went from loving the law to hating it.  I had to drag myself into the law library but was tired of the books.  Torts, criminal law, property.  Ugh!  Property law was the absolute worst.  What a depressing subject!  I looked outside, at the dark and dreary sky and thought to myself, why in the world am I here?

My professors noticed that I didn't seem to care as much.  "Is something wrong?" one of my fellow classmates asked.  

"Why do you ask?" I answered.

"You don't seem into it anymore."

"How can you tell?" I replied.

"When called on today you said you didn't read the case.  You always read the cases."

"You're right.  Something has changed.  I don't feel excited about law school anymore."

I walked towards my small apartment in the dark evening.  Cars would pass by and their lights blinded me as I walked.  I felt empty.  The old me would have cried.  Now I just would go home and lay on my bed, staring up at the ceiling, wondering what I would do with my life.  

I no longer wanted to be a lawyer.

In the corner of the room was a stack of textbooks, hornbooks, and examples and explanations books.  I read a copy of your book, From Law School to Lawyer, and I wondered if that was to be my fate.  How could have I gone from being so excited to this?

It is now my second semester of law school.  I am thinking about taking a break, but have no idea what in the world I would do in the meantime.  I can't move in with my parents again.  Yet, at the same time, I am going crazy.  Help!

***

Law School Depression and Dropping Out

Law school is a tough place, and you will not love it every day.  Some days are harder than others, and it is natural to think less of law school as time passes.  For me, I thought about dropping out in my second year after transferring.  The thrill of getting top grades and transferring to a higher ranked school was gone.  I was not sure if I wanted to practice law.  And so I thought long and hard about dropping out, just as you are.

I decided against it, and made my way through my last two years of law school.  I didn't take the traditional route to becoming a lawyer.  But, this is not about me, this is about you.

Depression is very real in law school.  It hits many people very hard in the winter months.  This is because the winter is a dark and cold time and many people realize that they miss the daylight.  Many people find that going on a vacation to somewhere warm and sunny during the winter break between semesters is beneficial.  Not everyone can do that, however.  There are other things that you can do to help you deal with seasonal depression that may be lurking below the surface.

I recommend adding more light to your house.  This is especially true if you live in the northern United States.  Not all law students are lucky enough to be going to a school in California, Florida, Hawaii or somewhere warmer.  Many of us end up going to schools in the Northeast where the sun sets at 3:45 pm.  Yes, it's depressing to be going to school in the dark and getting out after the sun has gone down.  It's like you live in darkness.  That really can affect your mood.  This is especially true if you are coming from a place that was sunnier.

I lived in California before going to law school in Massachusetts and later New York.  I was incredibly depressed as a result of the darkness that enveloped life.  This may be your problem.  If that's the case, consider getting a light therapy lamp.  Keeping one of these around you when you study is super helpful. It can help boost your mood.


Taking a semester off is sometimes a good idea, but it's not always so.  Sometimes it's impossible to do this, and it can be harder to go back after a break.  Having something non-law related in the future to look forward to is super helpful.  One thing that I did in law school was book a trip to Central America for a month in the summer.  However, that made it harder for me to have an internship during the summer months.  Lucky for me, I was able to have a short one with a local lawyer.  Talk about having your cake and eating it too! 

There are many small steps you can take to increase your mood during law school that don't involve booking expensive trips away.  You can take a weekend trip to a spa or bed and breakfast.  I did this a lot with my wife in law school and it helped with the mood.  Don't think of your law school experience as semesters, but break it up into weeks.  Instead of focusing on everything you have to do during the semester, take it one week or one day at a time.  It's a three year long adventure.  There will be bumps in the road.  But, once you look back, you will see that there were some good times that you miss.  I don't think that you are ready to give it up if it was your lifelong dream.  I recommend you think long and hard about it and ask yourself what you can do to make your life better in the meantime.  

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