There’s a (completely not true) saying that people either loved law school and hate practicing or they hated law school but love practicing. Obviously, the winning combo is the latter because you do that for longer. But having to do something that you seriously dislike for three years really takes its toll. And law school often has it’s highs and lows, so there are moments you’re loving it and times you really believe you’ve made a huge mistake.
That kind of love/hate relationship is super common, but then there are also situations for people where there aren’t many highs with constant lows. You get to a point where you seriously consider whether or not to continue with law school.
What happens when you think you’ve reached that point? What happens when you really hate law school?
First, above all, don’t make any rash decisions without discussing it ad nauseam with family, friends, and your advisor. Deciding to stop requires a lot of thought, discussion, and preparation so if you don’t want to continue then make sure you’re stopping because it’s the best decision for you, not because it’s something you’re doing out of fear, anger, or sadness.
Before you make that decision, you have to determine what it is, exactly, that you hate about law school because it’s very likely that the things that are making you question your capability are not valid reasons to quit:
One. It’s the people. Maybe you moved to an area full of privileged people–something you’re not used to–and it’s hard to deal with comments, with isolation, with feeling like an outsider. Or maybe classmates and administration simply tend to be really annoying, competitive, and rude. There’s no doubt that having to deal with this sucks and takes a toll on your mental health to have to deal with stressors every week. But, if it’s the people and the culture of the school, just remember that it is temporary. Temporary. And once you graduate you have the power to decide how much or how little you interact as an alumna.
Two. It’s the law. First, if you just haven’t decided what kind of law you want to practice and nothing seems to catch your attention, please know that is very common and you will eventually fall into a practice area. Try different electives to get a feel for what you like–something will click.
However, the biggest complaint about studying the law is when students realize that they may have to set aside their own ideals to represent someone–whether you’re suing widows and orphans or defending sex offenders. The practice of law can seem gross to a lot of people because you’re expected to help what you may view as dregs of society, zealously and how will you ever learn to do that? You may question whether to continue law school because you don’t know how you can be neutrally objective, but that ability is skill that grows stronger with time and practice. Essentially, you can “fake it until you make it,” and here’s a huge secret: there are PLENTY of attorneys who limit their practice to serve their preferred niche group. So you may feel squeamish at the idea that someday you may have to do defend or represent someone/thing you don’t believe in, but you also have autonomy to fashion your career to suit your needs.
Three. It’s me. I’m a tad bit narcissistic so it should come as no surprise to those that know me that I hated law school because of how it made me feel about myself. Law school, in general, made me feel stupid, insignificant, incapable, and like a failure. Every time I tried out for something that I thought was necessary for my success–I failed. And then that deterred me from trying to succeed in other areas. I often felt so lost and unsure about myself. Having the gift of time has made me realize that this was due to a ton of reasons, not just because I was the one with all the faults. When we fail to live up to our own expectations–our grades weren’t what we hoped; we failed at try-outs; we didn’t get the internship–we do a great job of picking our own flaws and missteps. And while introspection is good and required for when we fail to reach a goal; the truth is that many law school environments make it difficult for us to succeed for a myriad of reasons. So don’t believe the hype that it’s all on you.
Ultimately, if you’re hating law school because you don’t feel like you’re good enough remember that the environment you’re in was not made for us; instead, look beyond year 3 and remember that your practice will be what matters in terms of your success. Finally, never forget that you are already successful–you used your grit and intelligence to bypass statistics and a system that doesn’t want us in power, and you are capable of joining this profession, regardless of what the status quo says.