Law school is a full-time job and a shocking wake-up call for anyone who expects anything less than the former… but it’s also the gateway to a deeply rewarding and potentially lucrative career! You just need to tackle your days intelligently, prepare adequately for every class, prioritize strictly, and have a plan for coping with the law school stress you’re inevitably going to experience.

To help you with the latter, the team here at Brainscape—the world’s smartest study app—consulted with our panel of law educators to find out what the best mental health resources are for stressed-out law students who feel their grip is slipping and, in this guide, we’ll be giving you a list of those. They really can make all the difference.

First, however, let’s take a look at some of the pretty shocking mental health statistics for law students so that you can see just how not alone you are!

[Psssst! Check out Brainscape’s full-length bible on how to learn quicker: ‘How to study for the bar exam more efficiently’.]

Mental health statistics for law students

Law school is one of those academic undertakings that is universally understood to be a Herculean feat of dedication, smarts, and tolerance for punishment. With every class sending you home with entire textbooks’ worth of reading and case briefings, not to mention reams and reams of black letter law to memorize, is it any surprise that 20-40% of law students suffer from clinical depression by the time they graduate?

More than that:

  • Over the course of law school, law student depression rates increase from under 10% to 40% (Source).
  • Where 70% of med students and 43% of grad students suffer from significant school-related stress, that number is 96% for law students (Source).
  • In a 2016 study, 42% Of law students felt they needed mental health counseling, but only half of them actually sought it out (Source).

Sheesh, disheartening right? Well, it’s not just the steep academic demands that cause prevalent law school stress and anxiety; it’s also the vicious competitiveness and narrowing pool of future job prospects due to the economy.

Throw into the equation the fact that law students are taught to prioritize traits like detachment, apathy, contrarianism, and skepticism—to “think like a lawyer”, in other words—and you’ve got a literal mental health dumpster fire.

We don’t mean to depress you further. Rather we want you to know that if you’re struggling with law school stress (and you’re here, reading this, so we suspect you might be), you are definitely not alone. As with any recovery, the first step is confronting the fact that you aren’t, in fact, coping as well as you’d thought…

[Read: How to decide what type of law to practice]

Signs you’re suffering from law school stress

Law school stress overworked student

It’s important to understand just where your mental health is at so that you can seek appropriate help but because mental health and well-being are typically not prioritized by law school institutions, YOU’LL need to make it a priority. So what are the signs that your “normal” law school stress has metastasized into something uglier and more dangerous, like clinical depression?

  • You struggle to get enough sleep because of the demands on your time, and when you do get into bed, it takes you ages to fall asleep because you’re constantly thinking about what you need to do / didn’t get to that day.
  • Your nutrition is suffering because you don’t have time to prepare healthy meals, tending instead to grab fast/junk food. Plus, you find your general appetite has diminished due to stress.
  • Your life seems to be devoid of gratification and joy. Like, you can’t remember the last time it felt like you had a good day or you had a good laugh at something.
  • You feel like you’re barely able to drag yourself out of bed in the morning, either because you’re dead tired or the prospect of the day ahead of you is too much to face (or both).
  • You find yourself socially isolating: skipping classes and avoiding your fellow classmates, friends, and professors.
  • You experience anxiety or panic attacks, and are so overwhelmed, you don’t even know where to start (so you don’t get started at all).
  • You fundamentally don’t enjoy your studies anymore or the other things in life that used to bring you pleasure and joy.
  • You’ve come to seriously rely on substances like caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, prescription drugs (like Adderall), or even illegal drugs to get through your days.
  • You feel like the people you used to be close to—family and friends—don’t understand what you’re going through (or you don’t want them to see you at such a low) and so you’ve distanced yourself from them.

All of these changes could be signs that your law school stress is becoming more of a clinical problem. Now, while law school itself isn’t necessarily the ONLY cause, the heavy expectations it tends to burden students with can act like a catalyst to issues that are seething below the surface.

[Read: ‘The best podcast for law students & bar exam prep’]

Top mental health resources for law students

Mental health resources for law school students

Rather than “tough it out”—and definitely rather than turning to substance abuse to cope—here are some top mental health resources and coping mechanisms you can and should lean on so that you succeed at and, importantly, enjoy your law school education. Also, remember, these resources are for ALL law students suffering from any degree of stress and anxiety.

[If you’re powerfully motivated to do well in law school, you need an edge… and putting even more time into your studies isn’t necessarily the smartest way to do it. Instead, learn from the best by joining our Law Community in Discord. Here, Brainscape’s top law students gather to share their best tips and hacks for mastering law content, tackling bar prep, and even prioritizing their own health and wellness as they approach the bar exam and a thrilling career in law!]

Turn to your law school

Your first port of call should be your law school because they have uncompromised insights into your situation. They know what your volume of work looks like and who your support system is: your professors, mentors, and peers. Based on that, they may be able to make some recommendations or offer you some special exemptions.

Many law schools, like Texas Law, have wellness resources published on their website targeting issues like mental health, health services, counseling, and mindfulness, etc. Others, like Columbia Law School, provide comprehensive support, from individual and group counseling to a law school-specific mindfulness program.

Remember, you’re paying them for your education, so rather than looking externally for support, which may very well cost you money, approach your Dean of Students Office first to find out if they can better support you.

Turn to the American Bar Association

Another really helpful resource for addressing law school stress is the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Mental Health Initiative, a program specifically tailored for law students. The linked page provides a wealth of information and advice regarding mental health issues and wellness, for example:

Our advice is to scan through these resources right now, even if you aren’t feeling all that stressed at the moment and bookmark the specific links you find particularly relevant and helpful to you. Then, lean on them!

Turn to “your people”

Chances are, in L1, you won’t know many people in your year so it can be a little overwhelming being a single drop in an ocean of unfamiliarity. Moreover, because of the competitiveness of law school, it can be hard to find a “family” of peers you trust. And yet, it’s important that you do!

These are your comrades: they know exactly what you’re going through because you’re going through it together. Lean on each other, whether it’s simply through talking or by creating a study group to keep each other accountable, address each other’s knowledge gaps, and pool your study notes, flashcards, and other resources.

Equally as important as having a support system in law school is having a support system outside of law school so that you can escape the obsessive talk about what readings or assignments are due or which professor you all dislike the most. There’s nothing like spending a few hours or days with non-law friends and family to clear your head and cleanse your palate of law school stress.

Turn to Brainscape’s pre-made law flashcards

A major component of law school stress is the crushing overwhelm you feel when you face the MOUNTAINS of black letter law rules you need to learn and memorize in order to take your final exams and, ultimately, the MBE. This is the unavoidable grind work that no amount of intelligence can help you dodge. The only way out is through the mountain.

And this is where Brainscape can make your life infinitely easier.

Developed by a team of attorneys from UCLA School of Law and learning scientists from Yale and Columbia Universities, Brainscape’s certified MBE flashcards distill all your law school content down into its individual constituent facts, rules, and laws.

The app then drills you on this content using an intelligent spaced repetition algorithm that adapts to your unique pace of learning, effectively helping you memorize all that law school content TWICE as efficiently as any other study technique.

Spaced repetition algorithm for law flashcards
Brainscape’s adaptive MBE flashcards use active recall and spaced repetition, together with material created by MBE experts, to ensure you learn everything you need to do really well on the bar exam.

Every nugget of pertinent information is framed as a question-and-answer flashcard, which not only saves you time making these flashcards yourself BUT also helps you understand which concepts are essential to learn.

These flashcards are then neatly organized into different decks that cover all the major subject areas you’ll be covering in law school, from Civil Procedure and Constitutional Law to Contracts, Criminal Law, and Torts. (We’ve also included a “rapid-fire deck” that quickly tests the black letter law for each subject.)

Brainscape MBE Review flashcard screenshot
Brainscape’s dashboard shows you all the MBE classes (dark panel on the left) and individual decks (main light panel) within the class you’re currently studying, as well as your progress through them. To get started, simply click on your deck of choice!

So, get Brainscape’s certified MBE collection—and our hands-free MBE prep podcast or Youtube Playlist—and equip yourself with the ultimate study tool to expedite your learning of all that black letter law, anytime, anywhere, and on any device, twice as efficiently. This’ll help you get on top of your work, which’ll make you feel a whole lot less stressed.

For even more ways our app can help you streamline and optimize your study experience, check out 'How to study in law school using Brainscape'. Also check out these other really helpful apps for law students!

Find the right support early on in your law career

Happy law school students

At this point you’re just trying to claw your way through law school but, trust us, getting it right NOW is paramount to your future as a successful and fulfilled lawyer.

Lawyers work long, often lonely hours, devote their careers to the interests of others, and oftentimes deal with upsetting, even traumatizing issues. Learning to prioritize your mental health and put in place a comprehensive support system NOW, as a law student, will therefore have a profoundly positive impact upon your career.

This guide is a great starting point for you: we’ve endeavored to provide you with as detailed a list of mental health resources as possible while remaining hyper-relevant to your particular struggles as a law student (and without overwhelming you with too much information). It is our most ardent hope that they bring you relief, or at least point you towards your next attainable steps. Just remember that you’ve got what it takes to do this. Just take it one step at a time and you will rise to the challenge of law school!