This is the type of thing you think about a great deal about in your forties, that I wish I had a little more in my twenties. It's also, I believe, very relatable to your law school journey, so I wanted to share.
What is our purpose in life? I'll be brief here: I was a Philosophy major (like many law school applicants – it's the 8th most popular major of law school applicants as of the 2016/2017 cycle, and we beat this subject to death. I suspect most of us have a nuanced and different answer.
Here is mine, or how I see it, and here is how it relates to law school. I see our time in this life as a way to:
- Better ourselves.
- Help to better those around us.
You can't get to (2) before you get cracking on (1), and this is the great oxymoron for many in law school. The purpose of so many law applicants is to go to law school to help others (stop reading when this doesn't sound familiar). You applied because you want to fight for a cause, or because something happened to you, your family, or someone you know when you were younger where the legal system failed, or succeeded with a just outcome. Or, simply justice means something to you and you want to help others receive just outcomes when wronged. Or you see a legal career as a way to better you and your family through various means. There are others, of course, but many revolve around the theme of helping people.
Yet, research also shows some alarming facts about law school. Despite the fact that you go to law school to help others, you aren't helping yourself. Macro data suggests that people enter law school with the same rates of depression as are found in the overall population, but within two months of entering law school those rates skyrocket. Data also suggess that substance abuse and mental health issues start or take hold in law school.
My point is simply this. There is no better place to get better, and to better equip yourself to help others, than in law school – but you have to focus on (1), on YOU. Law school is replete with pressures: from semester ending all-or-nothing tests, to the Socratic Method, from the smaller almost high school-esque social pressures to the need to unwind from it all. Never lose sight that you cannot help others if you are hurting yourself. Indeed, find strength in that. I posted a tweet the other week that I've used at the top as the image for this blog. Define what better is to you (I doubt it's actually really being seen as "cool" or spending more hours by two-fold in the library than the second biggest gunner, etc.), and work on that every day. Every day, try to get just a little healthier, a little wiser, a little more open-minded. Again, whatever your definition of better is. You will have plenty of time to help others along the way for the longer part of the journey, and meet a lot of people who could use the assistance, I can assure you.