Hey law students, I just want to say something you might not be hearing enough right now:
It’s okay to not be okay.
Only a matter of weeks ago, you were typical second-semester law students (or your school’s academic-year equivalent): 1Ls, you might have had your sights set on earning better grades this semester to boost your resume; 2Ls, you were gearing up for your summer job, which was perhaps a summer associate position in your dream city; and, 3Ls, you were rounding the corner to graduation, with your goal of crossing that stage to accept your diploma in front of family and friends finally about to come to fruition. There was a lot to look forward to as we moved toward summer.
Nobody could have predicted what this spring had in store instead. This new alternate reality where everything has gone remote, been delayed, or is cancelled altogether was unfathomable not that long ago. But here we are. And as a law student in the time of this pandemic, you’re really going through a lot: the transition to online classes; the lack of daily interaction with your peers and professors; new grading policies; cancelled events from moot court competitions to job fairs to Barrister’s Ball; cancelled graduation ceremonies; uncertainty about summer positions, the bar exam, and post-graduate employment—and oh, not to mention fears about the health and safety of you, your family, and community in a global crisis. Not that being a law student has ever been easy, but now more than ever, it’s an incredibly difficult time to be one.
Given everything you’re going through, I think it’s important that you hear it again: You are allowed to not be okay right now. You are allowed to feel worried, fearful, anxious, angry, and sad. You are allowed to grieve the loss of the expectations you had for this time of your life. To be clear, “not being okay” doesn’t mean you should give up on your classes, goals, or job search. But what it does mean is that you’re human. And being human means you may not be operating at peak performance right now.
Nobody is okay. Nobody has it figured out. But here are some ways to slow down and take care of you:
Be kind to yourself. If you’re not on your A-game right now, that’s okay. Maybe you botched a virtual cold call or aren’t churning out outlines at your usual speed—so what? Accept it and try again tomorrow. You, like the rest of the world, are distracted by the news, your personal life, and endless stressors and worries that this pandemic has brought along with it. You’re going to have some bad days. So be kind to yourself and accept that less-than-perfection is okay—as long as you do keep moving forward.
Show compassion to others. You are not alone in what you’re going through. Your classmates, professors, and administrators—along with practicing attorneys, recruiting professionals, and everyone else—are feeling the anxiety and stress of the current times. While everybody’s personal situation looks different, at the end of the day, we are all in this together—remember that in your interactions with others. Even though we are all experiencing various frustrations, there’s no need to be snarky, competitive, or unkind to anyone right now. Instead, ask yourself how you can make someone’s day better. Small acts of kindness could go a long way. Reach out to a friend just to check in, or compliment a classmate for the good point they brought up during your virtual class.
Take it one day at a time. With the future so full of uncertainty, it’s easy to default to catastrophic thoughts about what will happen in the upcoming months. But try to stop yourself from going down that rabbit hole—it only adds unneeded stress. Instead, ask yourself: What can I accomplish today? Set small, intermittent goals for yourself to stay on track without overwhelming yourself. On a daily basis, aim for things like staying focused in class or studying for two hours without looking at your phone. On a weekly basis, set goals like networking with one new LinkedIn connection or completing a manageable portion of a class outline.
Take a day off. There is no shame in realizing you need to take a break to decompress and process everything. If you’re stuck in cycle of stress and unproductivity, give yourself permission to take a day off. Use it to binge a TV show, take a bubble bath, call a friend, and cook a nice meal. Bonus if you can also use the day as a break from constantly refreshing the news. Getting away from all of the noise—even temporarily—can go a long way in easing anxiety.
Reach out if you’re struggling. If you find that feelings of isolation, anxiety, and fear are becoming too overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. For starters, take advantage of your law school’s mental health services—now more than ever is the time to use them. Many law schools are offering remote counseling appointments and virtual support groups, or compiling online tools that you can access from the comfort of home.
Hang in there, law students. And know that here at Vault, we’re working hard to provide you with resources for navigating these times. If you have any questions or ideas for us, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With most law schools now conducting classes remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, law students are left wondering how to navigate this strange new mode of legal education. If you’re one of the many law students trying to adjust to a new internet-based classroom, we’ve compiled some tips for you—not only on how to set yourself up for success, but also on how to stay sane in a classroom of one.