Hello again! Spring has sprung here in Moscow: the sun is finally out, the snowdrops are blooming, and daffodils are soon to follow. For law students, all of these things mean one thing: spring break has passed and graduation is just weeks away. For many third year students this instills and generates both a sense of panic and excitement. However, with those feelings comes reflection. On your first day in law school, three years seems like a long time. After your first torts class, three years seems like ten. After your first final three years seems like an eternity. But on the sixth semester, you realize that time has flown by. As I reflect upon my time at the University of Idaho College of Law, I have thought of a long list of advise that I would give to an incoming first year students and perspective students. On the top of that list is a topic that prior to law school was more of a concept than something that might drastically impact your school experience: your physical and mental health. While many of us have been taught in secondary health education and subsequent undergraduate trainings that health is important, I personally didn’t truly understand the importance of both physical and mental health until I went to law school.
On physical health, I title this piece of advice: “Oh, the Places You’ll Eat!” Before law school, I struggled to maintain what I felt was a healthy weight for my body. However during the first year in law school, this struggle was pushed aside in order to cram in all my readings, meetings, and clubs. Oh and this is further complicated by the fact that food is everywhere in law school. It’s used as an incentive to get you to do all kinds of things and go to events. After a week, you’ll think nothing of taking cookies off one table and turning the corner to grab a slice of pizza off the other. Needless to say, by the time second semester rolled around I gained quite a bit of weight and felt terrible. So I stand sweating on the stair master today, I want to tell you to not neglect your physical health. Exercise and a good diet will not only ensure that your clothing will fit come graduation, but will improve your overall experience in law school. You’ll have more energy and a better attitude if you continue on an exercise routine. Never really consistently work out? I’d recommend beginning one as soon as you are in law school. But don’t worry there’s help. The University of Idaho has an excellent gym complete with personal trainers and a variety of classes to get you and keep you physically active. I’ll also let you in on a little secret: the University of Idaho also has a campus dietitian who is hired to work with students to design healthy meal plans (something I wish I would have discovered prior to my third year). So when you begin law school, plan on exercising your mind and your body.
But physical health is only one aspect of health. Given the stress of law school, many students’ mental heath is put through to the test. The demands of law school pull people from their support networks and families. Normal stressful life events, e.g. the death of a loved on or the birth of a child, become more stressful when your in law school. The need to get all your readings done, finish your legal writing projects, and perform well takes a hefty toll on your mental health. Moreover, by the time many people realize that they are having mental health issues, their grades have already been affected. I can attest to this personally. My advice: do not neglect your emotions or mental state. Reach out to people and form a support network. Moreover, the University of Idaho has an excellent and flexible counseling department to talk to and help you deal with the stress and subsequent depression that law school so often causes. Don’t ignore how you feel.
While law school is both physically and mentally demanding, if addressed early on, you can balance your overall health and succeed in law school. Come your sixth semester, you’ll thank yourself for devoting time to your physical health and mental wellbeing.