The honourable Justice Kirby, arguably Australia's most prominent high court judge, once told a lecture theatre packed with wide-eyed and idealistic Monash law students: "The rate of depression among law students is five* times higher than that for medical students."
*or maybe it was three
*or maybe it was three
Was that surprising? Well - yeah, cos you know, med kids have no social lives. But I was WRONG. See, med kids might not have social lives but law students just don't have lives. According to Kirby, a surprisingly high number of us have thought about suicide, self-harm or experienced depression. Or borderline depression. I don't remember his exact words. Basically, it was bad news for us.
Why are we worse off? A number of reasons were given. For example, med kids often work in smaller classes where they get to build closer friendships with their classmates and not feel as pressured to compete against the rest of their entire cohort; but for law students, it's the exact opposite. There's around 200 students per lecture and we're explicitly told that we're going to be competing against 400 others in the exam, some of which are worth 100% of the semester's mark.
Everything is about competition at law school - mooting, debating, client interview competitions. Unlike med school where it's really just "make sure you do well", we are encouraged to pit ourselves against our peers and own the fucking shit out of them. THAT'S HOW YOU WIN AT LAW SCHOOL, YOU OWN EVERYBODY'S ASSES (and taking part in lots of extra-curricular activities).
Then of course, there are law students who were top students at their high school, ending up being mediocre or less than that at law school where everyone else is just as smart or smarter. It shatters their ego and destroys their confidence. They end up demotivated. Lost. Wanting to give up.
And I think that's what a lot of my friends have been feeling lately. They've gone from 90%+ marks in high school to credits and passes at law school - terms that have been alien to them since forever. And what heightens the disappointment is when you look at your academic record and it's like:
Arts subjects: HD, HD, D
Legal subject: P
Yeah, pretty freaking sad. And when all your friends are like "nah I'm dropping out of law" or "I'm going to take just commerce units this semester, need to boost my confidence" - I'm like.... holy shit. What are we doing???!?!!? WHUT R WE DOINGGGGGGGGGGGGGG.
My friend, who had his confidence dashed after his last exam results, told me he's dropping law for an economics degree today. I was, yeah, kind of REALLY shocked. And even worse, he's like:
"Well, law degrees are hard and time consuming. If you're making the effort to graduate with a law degree, you've got to get excellent marks otherwise it's useless, at least for finding a job in the legal industry. So people who take law are people whose first preference is to get a job in law. Why should I continue with my law degree? I'm not paying 3000 dollars per unit per semester for something I don't even really like."
Aw my gawd.
I hope he's happy with the decision he's made. I sincerely hope he never regrets it.
As for me, I've always wanted to study law but I do feel the pressure mounting. I can't be lazy anymore. I've got to organise my time well and exploit all my resources - including lecturers and tutors. I have to keep in mind why I'm doing law, all those brilliant ideals about changing the world I had back in high school. It's just hard when you're not getting good marks and when you know you're up against a huge cohort of really, really smart people.