Monday, December 8, 2008

Law Students in Distress

It's that time of the year again, and here is a brief reminder that we are entering the period when we will be seeing students in distress. 
Types of distress we see immediately before finals:

  1. Students who are unprepared to take final exams due to lack of preparation.
  2. Students with anxiety or test-taking issues.
  3. Students with unexpected personal, familial, or financial issues that need immediate attention. 

Strategies for students in distress:

  1. If they are unprepared to take exams, academic counseling is usually in order.  Help them decide if law school is the right choice for them.  Reassure them there is no shame in deciding law school is not the right path for them, or at this point in their life.  Many, many very successful people started law school but decided not to complete law school; Gene Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Lex Wexner (he started The Limited stores), and Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, both Roosevelts, and Harry Truman. Nobel Prize winner Al Gore also decided law school was not for him. 
  2. If their test anxiety or generalized anxiety is untreated, let them know there is no shame in seeking professional help.  The first semester of law school only happens once; it is a shame to waste the opportunity to do their very best because of pride. 
  3. Students that experience unexpected life challenges need to assess their ability to take exams. I have no clear advice on this; if the student has been prepared all semester, it may be best for them to take exams rather than postpone them. If the student has struggled throughout the semester, it may be best for them to start over the following year.

The most important piece of advice is to remember than each student is an individual, and there is no one solution to a challenge. We may have seen or heard about their type of problem multiple times, but for the student, their challenge is heartbreaking and often, new to them.  The most important thing to do is to listen; listen without judgment, listen without preconceived ideas, and listen with compassion.  (RCF)

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