May 24, 2012
Isolation and Disconnect in the Midst of Family Support
We just had our hooding ceremony this past weekend. Many of you are in the graduation mode as well. The celebrations are joyous - even though brief with the start of the bar review courses.
I talked with many students' parents, spouses, and children. Some for the first time. Others were family members that I have known for the three years. In many cases I knew stories about the family members even if I had never actually met them.
As I walked through the reception areas after the ceremony, I was once again struck by the isolation that law students often feel during law school even when they have lots of supportive family members. The isolation is caused by the fact that unless you have gone through law school yourself, you cannot fully understand what the law student is confronting.
Many of our students are not only the first lawyers in their families, but also the first family member to graduate from college, let alone a graduate school. They are trailblazers for all of the family members coming behind them.
They have achieved in their academics without their family members understanding the academic milieu. Some of them have had cultural expectations that they had to overcome as well - especially women students whose cultures expected them to get married at an early age and have children rather than go on in their education.
The disconnect with their families will continue for several more months. Non-attorney families expect their new graduates to act "normal" again and participate in all of the family events now that law school is over. They do not understand why one has to study for the bar when three years of law school were just completed. They do not understand the level of anxiety that attends sitting the exam and waiting for results.
We need to help our graduates as they maneuver their bar review to deal with any sense of isolation or disconnect from their families and support systems. Denise Riebe and Michael Schwartz's book, Pass the Bar!, has a short chapter on preparing your significant others. It is a useful resource for us and our students. (Amy Jarmon)
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