How to manage stress in law school

Photo by Ashley Golledge

Law school can be frightening because of all the unknowns, especially in these strange times. The material is challenging and it can be hard or nearly impossible to fully understand everything in the course of a semester, or even just in the course of a week. This can lead to a feeling that you don’t belong or are somehow not understanding the material as well as others. The good news is, as I’ve found it, you’re almost never alone in finding material hard to grasp. The even better news is that at KU Law, the professors are eager to ensure that you have a full grasp of the material. The open-door (or open-Zoom chat) policy at KU is real! 

That feeling of not knowing can follow some people throughout their entire career in the law. I know that at my job with a firm over the summer, it being my first legal job, I felt like I had no idea what was going on. Supreme Court Justice Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her memoir that even with all her success, she has dealt with what’s called “imposter syndrome” throughout her career. Imposter syndrome is essentially the feeling of not being smart enough and being worried about every little mistake you may make. It’s something that a lot of law students deal with. I find that discussing difficult topics from the day with a few of my classmates can really help. It can be difficult not to follow the urge to compare everything you do with other law students. The reality is that every person studies and learns differently. Above all, the fact that you’ve gotten good grades in undergraduate, done well on the LSAT, and gotten into law school is on its own enough to show that you belong at law school. 

What’s helped me deal with that stress is making sure that law school doesn’t consume my life. For me, a way to escape the stress of law school life has been with friends, both from the law school and elsewhere. Working and worrying yourself to death every day isn’t a recipe for success in law school. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your law school success is to take a day off from studying and go out for dinner with some friends. On a day-to-day basis, I typically try and cut myself off from studying at 9 p.m. Then I have the remainder of the evening (I stay up late) to myself, either to watch a movie or to just relax. KU Law’s atmosphere also helps take the stress out of things, as everyone is eager to help you in any way they can.  

— By James Schmidt, a 2L from Houston, Texas and a KU Law Student Ambassador.