This is an opinion piece by Hew Hoong Liang, an author at the CanLaw Report. This article is strictly the writers’ personal opinions. This article does not reflect or represent the view of CanLaw Report or its’ members.
“Ah girl, ah boy, being in Law School is not easy leh.”
I’ve heard that phrase countless times from my parents, uncle, aunties and friends. To that fact, that appears to be the public perception of law school.
After being in law school for about 2 years, I’ve come to an agreement with that statement. In fact, it’s relatively normal to see some of my friends and peers struggling to catch up with certain legal concept and terms or even news in the legal industry.
To make matters interesting? The Asian mentality and culture don’t really help for the most part.
From the articles written by my colleague in the past, we reveal through data and surveys that the mental health in the legal industry is deteriorating. However, from my perspective of a law student, the stress associated prior to practice may have originated from the Asian culture we grew up with.
In general, the Asian culture tends to embody the competitive need to strive and do well in exams. Doing well in exams is certainly great. In fact, my parents have taught me that I should put in the maximum effort (Yup, just like Deadpool) to achieve something.
However, in my opinion, the Asian mentality inside me tends to kick in during the exam period. It becomes a battle of the mind between learning or passing the paper to get to the next level. That becomes a huge concern because students will be more worried about the numbers on their paper rather than the knowledge they gain.
To prove my point, just look at criticisms on the Certificate in Legal Practice.
From my experience in dealing with stress in law school, I decided to change my mindset. It hit me that although a law degree is important, it does not teach me everything.
Granted, I was a very dumb kid back in primary school and till now I regard myself as being slower compared to my other peers. That might be what taught me to look at exams and a law degree from a different perspective.
Don’t get me wrong. A law degree is essential for a law student to learn about the basic legal knowledge and skills. Without a law degree, I would be lost hearing terms such as judicial precedent, ratio decidendi, obiter dicta, rule of law and more.
However, there certainly were a few lessons I’ve picked up along the way (mainly through experience) that I think would help me once I graduate law school.
So, here’s just to name a few:
1) Family and Friends are important.
For those in law school, I am sure you can relate to this: our friends or parents (in some cases maybe both) are often our sources of emotional support and motivation.
Sure, they can be a little annoying.
However, for me, it’s about having the right people at the right time. My friends and family constantly challenge and push me to do better, kept track of my emotional and academic well being and more. The benefits are endless.
A senior of mine also once told me:
It’s pretty hard for you to get through law school alone. Having friends just makes it easier. You can discuss, share notes, go out and have fun. It’s better and easier than doing it alone.
2) Traditional methods are not the only methods.
Remember I mentioned that I was slower than my peers in law school? To add on, I had a very SHORT attention span. Generally, I didn’t really spent much time revising the materials given in class and when I do, I would read through it quickly.
So what did I do? I come up with creative ways to learn.
Using Scarecrow, I incorporate his concept of fear to learn about the tort of psychiatric injury.
Another would be using Comic Book or Football reference with my friends to better our understanding of the law.
My point is that there’s usually more than one way to do something about it. To constantly think out of the box is a key aspect that law school has never taught me. Most importantly everybody has a different style of learning and I found mine.
3) Seek Discomfort. Do not be afraid to try different things.
For me, being in law school was kind of like being in my comfort zone. You go to class, listen, go back, study (or just catch up on shows and anime like me) and sleep. You meet the same friends, have some small talks and that’s it. A new week and the cycle repeats.
So one thing that I’ve learned on my own is that by seeking discomfort, I gained a certain set of skills (communication, independence and more), made tons of new connections and gained new experiences that I otherwise would not have made if I was stuck in my comfort zone.
Whether it was working as a barista to gain some new skills …
Or even travelling alone in a foreign country to meet new people …
Fun fact: I first traveled solo at the age of 19 to Japan for a week.
The list goes on and on. For that, I’m grateful for the people I’ve met on my journey.
4) Find something you enjoy.
It can be a hobby or literally anything. Finding something I enjoy doing (beside laws duh) helps me to relax or unwind whenever I felt the need to take a break from my studies.
For me, it was either catching up on the new TV series or anime of the week …
Or using my free time to write articles.
With that said, time management takes discipline. I usually stick by the mantra of play hard and work hard. By balancing my time between these studying and having fun, it adds value to my journey law school.
5) If you’re feel a little ‘off’, it’s okay. Patience is key.
For the most part of my academic life, I always felt like I was the underdog. Always having to push the extra mile, giving the extra effort just reach the standards of those filled with potentials or talent.
Some days I lose sight on why I push myself so hard. But life just works is very mysterious ways. By being patient, I learn things through experiences and by sticking strictly to the commitments I’ve made, eventually, I could see progress.
So to all of you out there who are hanging by, hang by harder. Stick to the course, and eventually, you’ll see the results (be it good or bad).
At the end of the day, these were some of the lessons I’ve learned that certainly help me in my studies and my growth in law school.
By incorporating the lessons I’ve learned into my legal studies, I’ve certainly been able to get through law school without the need of stressing myself out.
Law school is certainly not easy and I wish all law students who are on this journey the very best.
Mental health is important guys. Just like what Mohd Izral Khairy from Izral Partnership once told me:
Make sure you keep check of your health when you go into practice. Don’t neglect it.