Letter to a Young Law School Student

Topics: Stress, Emotional Health

I sit down today to write you a letter to read before you start law school.

I know that you are filled with grand anticipation and a little dread. It’s a natural reaction. I hope that I will be able to assuage some of your concern, and to help you get a good night’s sleep. Please know, however, that after eighteen years (twenty-one if you count my years as a student) in law school, I still cannot sleep the night before fall classes start. When that edge of anticipation is gone, I suppose I’ll know that it’s time to retire.

I am hard pressed to know where to begin in my advice to you. My perspective on the process of legal education is skewed by the years I’ve spent immersed in it. Perhaps an outsider could explain the process better. Perhaps I no longer remember what it is like to be a first-year student. I may have very little of value to offer you.

But I cannot resist the temptation to pass along the insights that I have developed over the years, however out of touch with your experience they may prove to be. Think of me as an anthropologist, reciting my findings on a tribe I’ve observed for many years, of which I was once a member, but whom I no longer fully live among.

What I know is what it is like to be a first-year law professor. After watching the process for many years, in many different places, I’ve observed that law school involves three circles 4: the education that takes place within you, the education you share with your peers, and the education you experience with the faculty. I present them here in reverse order of importance.

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