To start off, think about how often you say or hear the following:
- "If I don't drink coffee I'll dissolve in these hallways…"
- "The stress bro…"
- "We're in hell…"
Next, open up Telegram and scroll through the last few announcements from the various groups in law school hosting events. How many of them preface their announcement with some variation of…
- "We know law school is hard…"
- "To ward off the stress in law school…"
- "This place is a gaol but our event will help you cope…"
Finally, consider the premise of speaking something into existence. And therein lies something I think we should be discussing: Are we artificially ballooning the amount of academic stress we face by repeating the adage that law school is hard?
Why do we say that law school is hard and stressful?
Where there is smoke, there is fire, and this is no exception – most people who aren't mind freaks will agree that this is a challenging course to undertake. Law school is an intense place to be, and if we don't admit that, that's just living in denial. It helps to commiserate, too, because tough times are better off spent together.
But walking around a freshman orientation event in July, I was shocked to observe how many freshmen seemed to have already gotten their affairs in order – told the family they wouldn't see them for many moons because of all the studying they'd have to do, how the professors wouldn't be satisfied until they saw them personally grilled on a stick over a bonfire, kissed the family pet on its head and headed off to war. Despondently, many of them told me they were 'enjoying the last days of freedom' before 'hell' started, something I heard their OGLs and other seniors repeat to them.
Hell (pun intended), I think I may have said something to that effect too, for a lack of better conversation material. It's just one of those sayings. Like when you tell a groom to enjoy his bachelor party before the old ball and chain comes knocking; But just like that saying, maybe this belongs in the past.
Setting expectations is one thing. Terrifying freshmen and inundating them with scary stories is another.
And I posit that it may be a matter of pride, too. The 'law school is so hard' adage is repeated so many times that sometimes you wonder if the people saying it want to be true. Of course, not everybody chose to be here, whether it be because of overbearing parents who couldn't envision them being anything but a lawyer, doctor, or both.
And of course, it could just be said by people who are burnt out and have too much skin in the game to leave now. So saying that law school is hard, or hearing it, it becomes sort of… a badge of honour. Because you're still here. You're still surviving. Maybe not thriving, but Cs get LLBs, and all that.
No one knows what goes on in the hallowed halls of BTC, mostly because the other faculties can't find their way here (and don't really want to walk up a really shady flight of stairs that feel like they should lead to a… lair, for the lack of a better word). But only your student card unlocks the Law student lounge, and only you take exams that double as speed-typing tests! Surely that counts for something. It's an 'elite' course, and the suffering is commensurately 'top-tier'.
So maybe that's why we say it so much among ourselves, why we joke that we need divine intervention if we want to get (insert whatever coveted law school result here), why Gideon (who is Gideon, by the way?) will never go out of business selling coffee. We're still here, and we're trying to maintain or invoke some modicum of pride. If not pride, then we're trying to cope, at least. Soothe our tired souls a little longer.
And some will argue that repeating this mantra – that law is hell – is preparing us for the legal profession. After all, many a lawyer has laughed and warned law students of 16 hour-workdays and clients calling them at 3AM, about how they're now alcoholics or addicted to caffeine. But even if that's true (and the author, for all our sakes, prays that it is not), it's not happening now. This 'preparation' sounds less like actual productive prep and more like an excuse to continue miserable banter that goes nowhere.
What's at stake, then?
So, should we still go around saying the following and its variations?
"Yo guys, let's go out and get a drink. We need to get wasted before finals season starts and we're sucked backwards and upside down into hell!"
"Hey Lawsku! Want to get your mind off being in hell and living a horrible existence with no end in sight for a few minutes? Come down to the Botanic Gardens pond. Right now we're taking turns to pour one cup into the pond to restore it to its original volume."
I personally think it's counterproductive, and I know what I said earlier: commiserating together can make things easier. But there's a breakpoint where enough is enough, and excess commiserating is just creating artificial misery that wouldn't exist if it were not spoken into existence.
That's right, I'm talking about manifestation – the act of thinking, speaking, or vibing something into existence. The mere utterance of the words 'Law school is so stressful, isn't it?', at some point, stops being useful and starts just being another stone piled on your shoulders. I don't care if you don't believe in manifestation. I listened to 583Hz Subliminal Manifest Good Grades and I passed H1 Chinese. Manifestation works. In this case, however, it's not manifesting a desirable result.
And if you don't buy the manifestation route, consider the scientific word for manifestation: Cognitive restructuring.
What is cognitive restructuring?
Essentially, cognitive restructuring is a psychological theory practised by cognitive behavioural therapists. It exists to correct maladaptive patterns of thinking. In the given example, the subject has a codependent relationship with his boss, and his boss verbally abusing him makes him believe he is worthless, leading to depression. Ideally, when we cognitively restructure the subject, when he is verbally abused, he reroutes his brain maps, and realizes that he is not fundamentally worthless – his boss was simply having a bad day. Now that he knows that he is not a broken man, our subject is no longer depressed.
Putting aside the horrifying implications of the employer-employee relationship in the above diagram, let us apply cognitive restructuring to talking about law school.
Conclusion: Law School Isn't That Hard
Just kidding. It is, and there are times where it feels so difficult it's, in a word, awful. But repeating that it is, everywhere, to everyone, can make you feel boxed-in. It may even make you feel that you need to tolerate unbearable conditions, even when you can no longer withstand it.
Really, it's not worth it. I'm guilty of this type of talk as well, and in my opinion, it's time to switch it up, for my own and everyone else's sakes, lest I drag them down with me. Let's start reducing these undesirable manifestations. Let's cognitively restructure ourselves, instead.
On a serious note – This article is not a substitute for mental health advice or treatment. Please seek help if you need it. Justified cannot guarantee that the world is a good place, but it's infinitely better off with you in it.