Rachel Gentry is a 3rd year student at Southern University Law Center. Rachel is from Houston, TX and served...
Kennedy LeJeune is a 3L at Southern University Law Center. He is the current ABA representative and head Barbri...
KyMara Guidry is a 3L at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Throughout law school, she has worked...
Ashley N. Baker is a 3L at Southern University Law Center where she holds memberships with the Journal of...
Why do law students experience such high levels of stress compared to students in other areas of graduate study? Following on from a recent episode where host Ashley Baker and new Law Student Division chair Johnnie Nguyen discussed the division’s upcoming mental health initiatives, Ashley now convenes a roundtable discussion to highlight the factors driving student mental health issues. This diverse group of guests offers perspectives geared toward helping fellow students manage stress and finding assistance when needed.
Rachel Gentry is a 3L at Southern University Law Center.
Kennedy LeJeune is a 3L at Southern University Law Center.
KyMara Guidry is a 3L at the University of Mississippi School of Law.
ABA Law Student Podcast
The Law Student Roundtable: Examining Stress–Offering Hope
Intro: Welcome to the official ABA Law Student Podcast, where we talk about issues that affect law students and recent grads. From finals and graduation to the Bar exam and finding a job, this show is your trusted resource for the next big step.
You are listening to the Legal Talk Network.
Ashley Baker: Hello and welcome to another episode of the ABA Law Student Podcast. My name is Ashley Baker. I am a 3L at Southern University Law Center, where I am the Editor-in-Chief of the ‘Public Defender’ newspaper, and a Senior Editor of the ‘Journal of Race, Gender, and Poverty’. I am also a former Delegate of Communications for the Law Student Division.
I am so excited for today’s show. In our last episode I spoke to Law Student Division Chair, Johnnie Nguyen, about the Division’s mental health initiatives. Today I’ve convened a law student roundtable to explore the mental health issues that law students face.
First, we have Rachel Gentry, a third-year student at Southern University Law Center. Rachel is from Houston, Texas and served in the Army National Guard. She has worked in the Louisiana State Capitol in different capacities. She was honored as a Competitiveness Scholar as a part of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, and is currently working for the Louisiana Board of Regents doing policy & legislative affairs research for Higher Education within the State.
We also have with us KyMara Guidry, who is a 3L at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Ms. Guidry, who also goes by KG, is also from Houston Texas. Throughout law school, she has worked on education rights issues for students with disabilities and students who identify as LGBTQ. After law school, she plans to continue to work on behalf of the most marginalized students within the school system.
In the little free time that she does have, she blogs about her experience with mental illness on her YouTube channel, named Black Girl Crazed.
Lastly, but certainly not least, we have Kennedy LeJeune. Kennedy LeJeune is a 3L at Southern University Law Center where he is the current ABA representative and Head Barbri Representative. He is also a member of moot court and serves as an editorial board member of the ‘Public Defender’ newspaper.
Kennedy has interned with the East Baton Rouge Public Defender’s Office and worked as a Committee Clerk for the Louisiana House of Representatives. He is married and has a 10-year-old daughter.
KG, Kennedy, and Rachel, welcome to the Law Student Podcast.
Rachel Gentry: Thanks for having us.
KyMara Guidry: Thanks for having me.
Kennedy LeJeune: Thanks, how’s it going?
Ashley Baker: All right, let’s jump right into it. Studies show that 96% of law students experience stress compared to 70% of medical students and 43% of graduate students. Law students experience mental health issues at a much higher rate than other graduate students. So let’s start with you KG; why do you think this is, what makes the law student experience so unique?
KyMara Guidry: I think a big part of it is the structure in which law school — how the program is structured, a big part of it is at the end of the semester your greatest desire is I want it and like as a former teacher, I think it’s really important for students to get constant feedback, and I think it helps them to know like am I on the right path, am I doing things right?
But I think in law school a lot of that you do you’re in the dark and you don’t know if you’re doing the right. You don’t really get an answer until the end of the semester and by then it’s like, okay, this is my grade.
I think another part of it is for me this was my personal experience. I already came in with mental health issues. I came in with an anxiety disorder, came in with bipolar II disorder, and often it was triggered by the law school environment. So I call in, I know that that’s a part of law school, but at the end of the day it triggered my anxiety every time because I know it will be 00:04:41, I didn’t know how to say the right things, but I think a big part of it is just how it’s structured and this like inability to imagine multiple look in a different way, I think there’s just this acceptance that while being in law school 00:04:56.
And so there — I hadn’t been a part of a lot of discussions about how can we make it better, more so how do you cope with the stress. So I think it’s just this environment that like freeze this competition, perfectionism. I know when I got my first set of grades that I cried because I’m like, oh my God, I’m a B student, I didn’t expect to be a B student, I just pushed for being at the top of the class and the reality that everyone cannot be at the top of the class and I just pushed to get these grades and this idea that if you don’t you won’t get a job, which is not true, I don’t have good grades and I’ve had amazing internships, and job opportunities that come to me.
So I think that’s like the structure of how the classes are structured as well as just the competition and this buying into perfectionism, for me at least.
Ashley Baker: Rachel, what do you think? What makes the law student experience different from other graduate school experiences?
Rachel Gentry: I’ll have to agree with KG. Basically our first year we have top typically take contract law, tort law, basic civil procedure and family law, which all of these classes have nothing to do with the other.
So, trying to balance four or five classes, don’t tie in with the other, knowing how to properly write for these classes. Sometimes getting hazed by professors in classes and making sure that you stand out amongst your peers is very stressful within itself as well as for professors who don’t provide a 00:06:37 to see where you are or don’t use certain assignments as you get through each subject or each subject matter within a course, you’re kind of like KG said, you are left in the dark until your final exam grades and for all you know you might not be writing properly, you might not be retaining the right nuances when it comes to certain classes, you might not be stating the law correctly, it could be a lot of different things that tie into that.
We are trying to master each course in the respective laws, in the respective nuances and properly writing for these essays it’s just stressful within themselves along we’re trying to make sure that once you’re done with your first year in law school you could get that position for the summer with the biggest law firm within like the city or the state that you are in. You really want to make sure that you’re doing your best but at the same time you don’t know where you rank amongst people as well as your — some of your peers are friendly, some of your peers may not be friendly.
Some people I know, I’ve had study groups all throughout law school, have some students who their classmates were so competitive that they didn’t even want to study together.
So I believe that the competition, the dark tunnel that sometimes students are left in as well as dealing with family stress, outside stress of law school, because if you’re in a relationship with parents, boyfriend-girlfriend, whatever you are in, everybody doesn’t understand that 00:08:10 as we have been told a few times.
You have to give all your attention and all your — everything that you have has to go into law school and a lot of people understand this. So that stress within yourself when your mom is calling you asking, “Baby, are you okay? I haven’t heard from you in a while.” You’re like, “Mom, I am studying” or you’re sitting there trying to tell your friends from home. I’m literally studying 24/7 365 to make sure that I make you pass the first semester, especially as a 1L, and a lot of people don’t understand that, and I believe dealing with school stress, family stress and personal life stress is what makes the law school experience quite unique.
Ashley Baker: I definitely agree with that. Real life does not stop just because you’ve enrolled into law school.
Kennedy, I want to give you a chance to chime in, what are your thoughts on that?
Kennedy LeJeune: So, I definitely agree with both KG and Rachel with what they said. KG, I also came into law school with, some mental health issues my own that I have been dealing with, high anxiety, the occasional bout of depression. So it was pretty challenging for me and I had the same experiences with what Rachel was saying, where just like this dark tunnel where you don’t know what you’re doing until the last minute and you either passed or you didn’t.
But I think there are like three main things that set law school apart from other graduate programs and medical school and that the first one being that the course content, it’s like learning a whole new language. So like medical school or graduate school, you’re kind of encountering concepts that you’ve heard before. You are familiar with science, you’re familiar with English, but law school it’s totally different language.
Kennedy LeJeune: But law school because it’s totally different language, a majority of people haven’t heard a lot of these terms and you’re having to look it up in Black’s Law Dictionary and so I think that’s a big thing, not only learning the concepts, but learning how to understand the wording of the cases you’re reading and of the content you’re learning.
The second thing I would have to say that’s different is the length of the program. So graduate school typically two to three years, medical school is four years, and then you have a couple of years after where you have a residency program, the law school is strictly three years, it is packed, you’re full time and you’re having to learn all these concepts like Rachel said your first year none of them seem to connect until you kind of get into your to 2L and 3L year and you are thinking, oh, this is how it relates to basic civil procedure when you’re at in federal jurisdiction, we don’t know that 1L year, and it’s completely new, and you’re competing against your peers like KG was saying, you have to accept you’re not going to be top of the class most of the time.
And then the third thing I would have to say that’s different is the uncertainty of job prospect. With medical school you have a residency at the end of your four-year program, you’re more than likely to get a job at the hospital, you have a residency at, whereas law school if you’re not on top of the class, if you’re not top 15% your job prospects may be a little lower or there may be this illusion that you might not have as many opportunities, but like KG referred to her internship, she’s had an amazing internship and so if I and I’m not in the top five 15%. So I think there’s just a lot of uncertainty and illusions when it comes to the law school experience.
Ashley Baker: Well, let’s talk about some of those illusions and presumptions that people have, many students into law school with a lot of presumptions, they think law school is going to be one thing and it turns out to be another, they may anticipate excessive amounts of reading or cold calling but one thing that most law students probably don’t anticipate is stress or developing depression or dealing with anxiety issues if they didn’t enter law school with those issues. So what advice would you give to pre-law students or even the incoming 1L students on dealing with the pressures of law school? And let’s start with you, Rachel.
Rachel Gentry: My advice to pre-law students and the 1Ls would be to pretty much perfect your time management skills so that you can take a break sometimes and do think that relax you so you won’t be as stressed out. It could be something as simple as taking a walk by the lake, going to work out with your friends, going to eat with your friends or just sitting down and listening to some soothing music.
I know for me when I’m pretty stressful I like to listen to a certain playlist and so sometimes I would take a break out of 30 and for at least 45 minutes to an hour and just relax because sometimes if you’re sitting there looking at your books all day and studying or if you’re in class all day or for non-traditional students like myself going to work studying and trying to go to play, I need some type of break so I can have some for myself. And I believe I’d like you to stray away from their normal activities when they get into law school and so they kind of lose themselves and that’s what kind of drives them into anxiety and depression on a deeper level because I know for myself during the summer time I like to go swimming or I like to go running and just get outside and get a breath of fresh air. A lot of people don’t do that.
Being at law school everybody feels like there’s not enough time in day to study, do your own personal things, go shopping or get food for your house. People forget to do the simple things that make them, them. So I believe their time management is really a big thing so you can have time to do things that keep you being yourself. That will be my best advice, and also talking to upperclassmen like if you are a 1L talk to the 2Ls and the 3Ls who were in your position and see what did they do dealing with the same professors that you may have and what were their corners because the best advice you can get is from somebody who is in your shoes a year prior to, and that’s all I can think of on that time management and don’t reinvent the wheel, have somebody who has been in your shoes to try to give you some good pointers.
Ashley Baker: Okay, that’s great advice. KG, what do you think?
KyMara Guidry: I have to agree with Rachel with the time management. I feel like I was a non-traditional student as well because I came from teaching into the law school. So I definitely treated law school like a job my first year like seven to five and then I finally had my admission at the school, but the things that I guess I would add to that — I mean — I think if I found a little fluffy, but it’s made a difference for me. I think understanding that you’re in a learning environment, it makes a huge difference. So it is totally fine that you don’t know everything and it’s really unfair to have that expectation of yourself like I think that when I first went in it was like I got to answer every cold call and the cold calls that ain’t even mine too, just in case they ask me or just in case they move to me for the answer, and I think that when I have that expectation and I realize that it’s impossible for me to know everything about this language like Kennedy said, it’s a totally different language in this world that I was just being introduced to.
When I learned that, okay, that’s not possible, it was devastating. So I think like extending grace to yourself from the beginning and like really understanding that I’m here to learn. I don’t have to come in as an expert and I probably won’t even graduate as an expert. I’ve worked with attorneys that are still searching for answers, so leaving that space for yourself to grow within the process.
And I think like also like what Rachel said like maintaining a life outside of law schools for me I kept Sundays or Saturdays, one of these was a day that I didn’t do anything related to law school and I know that some people will say absolutely not that’s probably why you’re not at the top of the class, but it works for me, it killed me same because if I’m depressed I cannot go to class and I’ve been depressed, I’ve been in the presence of pros while in school, it sort of comes where my professors were like where is she?
So maintaining that strong sense of soul and I think it’s sometime where ours is like my law school BFF has been my anchor throughout this whole process. So like maintaining friendships outside of law school as well because I think that when we are around each other, we just start talking about law school, and it’s just because there’s never-ending conversation about how different now we are and it is good to have people that understand this very unique experience list.
I think it’s also good to just get in the space with like, okay, girl, what podcast are you listening to, like what TV show that you watching? So I think that my friendships with people that weren’t in law school have been somehow by years have been that kept me going on because I don’t always want to talk about the law. So that would be my advice and all that other stuff about mentors and asking people questions, yeah, take care of yourself in the best way.
Ashley Baker: That’s also a great advice. How about you, Kennedy, what advice would you give to incoming law students about dealing with law school stress?
Kennedy LeJeune: I think Rachel and KG made some great points. I know personally I also struggle with depression. I’ve struggled with depression in the semester, I’ve had some episodes and I haven’t gone to class a few times and as a 3L it’s not something I can’t be doing, but I think what KG was saying we’re giving yourself just like let yourself understand that you may not be at the top of your class but you’re doing the best you can and that’s what’s most important I think to remember and what Rachel was saying finding those things to do to help you relax is important, but I think another thing to remember when you’re finding things to relax is even if you’re like folding your clothes or you download some games on your phone to play for like an hour, you can’t be thinking about law school while you’re doing those things.
That was an issue I had 1L year. I downloaded games on my phone but I was stressed out the whole time I was playing the games on my phone because I was thinking about all the other stuff I had to do, so just like letting yourself relax. Some other ways I’ve coped while in law school have been, I mean, I enjoy talking to other students who were experiencing the same thing. It kind of gives me solace to know that other law students feel the same way that I do.
I’ve talked to a therapist and in some cases I’ve been prescribed anti-anxiety medication that’s helped because one of my biggest problems is when I get very stressed out or very anxious or depressed I procrastinate, and being able to talk to somebody else about what I’m going through and having medication that helps me de-stress really gets me out of those episodes of procrastination. So those are the two pieces of advice I would definitely give in coming 1L.
Ashley Baker: Okay.
KyMara Guidry: Ashley, can I add one more thing if that’s okay?
Ashley Baker: Sure.
KyMara Guidry: I know at the University Law Center sometimes we have been told if you are going through a lot of stress take a mental health day from class, if you can do so. If you do not have too many absences at least take one mental health day because that might just be your day where you really need to just sit down and have time for yourself.
You might be bogged down with class, studying, work or whatever you’re doing and class might not be for you for that day because I sadly I’ve seen some of my classmates be in class and they’re so stressed out that they break down in class. So I would rather somebody not come to class and get time for themselves and just take a mental health day and watch movies all day they need to just like KG said, she takes Saturday or Sunday out of her weekend and just does not look at anything law school-related.
Sometimes you might have to do that during the week as well when it comes to close, especially if you’ve been having a not-so-great day, you might just have to take that one mental health day out of the semester for a certain class or maybe two classes, it just depends. If you already feel that you’re stressed out, don’t put any extra stress on yourself for that day, try to find a classmate who can take some adequate notes for you and you can bounce back the next day, that would be another good thing that I would advise on pre-law students and 1Ls, just give yourself a mental health day.
Ashley Baker: Okay. Thank you for all the great advice. I know that pre-law students and 1Ls will definitely benefit from everything that you all said.
I want to turn the conversation to a bit of a different issue. Statistics show that LGBTQ individuals are more likely to experience mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety than non-LGBTQ individuals. So, Kennedy, how it’s being a part of this community shaped your law school experience in regard to mental health?
Kennedy LeJeune: So 1L year was the hardest for me, I think. I was pre-transitioned and I wasn’t out to any of my classmates. I felt really alone and my stress and anxiety were through the roof because I was going through the hardest year of law school on top of everything else. But eventually I realized I had to transition for mental health if I was going to be able to dedicate more time into law school and since beginning my transition in the middle of 2L year I think my mental health has on average improved. Of course like I was saying I still had days where I questioned what am I doing in law school? But for the most part I am able to manage my stress and anxiety and my depression much better than 1L year.
But I think being a part of this community has a unique experience in all aspects of life, not just law school but I think it has helped me honestly for the better because I was kind of forced to deal with all of my issues 1L year. I knew that if I was going to make it through law school, I had to break down and say, okay, I have to be authentically me, so I don’t have to worry about that anymore.
Ashley Baker: Rachel, how do you feel about this?
Rachel Gentry: I would say I have to agree with Kennedy. My first year of law school I started off in the evening program so not too many people within the daytime program saw me and I’ve always had to deal with people, oh, yes, she’s a girl but she doesn’t really typically dress like a girl. So I’ve always had to deal with am I a dressing professional enough, am I still being myself with how I like to dress and what I like to wear, and am I going to miss out on this interview or am I going to miss out on this job opportunity because I don’t look how certain people would want me to look in the professional world I guess for law firms or at the Capitol or in different places, but I really just had to sit down and say to myself, you know what, all you can be is the best version of yourself.
So I would just how I want to dress but they are professional eyes. Now I might have a certain male-looking blazer on with nice pants and stuff like that but I wouldn’t wear a tie because I just didn’t want to wear a tie, I didn’t go to that extent but I’ve actually had people look at me like, hey, so she’s going to wear that, might as well put a tie on or do this do that, but I would tell them in the most polite way, I wear this because this is what I want to wear, it is how I want to wear it, and nothing looks wrong about it and I don’t know how you perceived most lesbian women who don’t typically dress gender conforming-wise but this is how I dress, this is what I like to wear and I think I look great.
And also I’ve always wanted, okay, so I wish to obtain a job, will I be possibly lit off if somebody was to really just speak about my sexuality. I’ve never been afraid to say, oh yeah, I am a woman who loves women but there’s Supreme Court cases, I think going to be heard pretty soon about employment discrimination against people who are part of the LGBT community, and the big question is, does the 1964 Civil Rights Act protect people who are part of the LGBT community, the word “fix” include sexual orientation, include people who may be transgendered and the other leg effect all within the LGBTQ umbrella.
So it’s things that are being heard now are what scare me but I’ve seen it my work ethic and Who I am within myself has changed certain people’s mindset of how people should look as they want to say or how people should act because like I said I can only be the best version of myself and people enjoyed it and people like that about me. So my originality is what has made people drawn more towards me. So my first year I used to be scared about certain things about myself because I didn’t think other people will see it as professional but now people love me. I’m who I am. And it’s my not concern, so yeah.
Ashley Baker: Yeah. KG, as an advocate for students that identify as LGBTQ what has your experience been as an advocate specifically dealing with mental health issues?
KyMara Guidry: So I think, like first I have to say that I show up as an advocate but I also identified with I’m a black queer woman. So the work that I do whether it is on internship advocating for LGBTQ students or whether it was when I was a teacher advocating for LGBTQ students, but it’s very personal for me, personal is political, and so it has had a tremendous impact on my mental health.
Especially at our law school, so the University of Mississippi School of Law tends to be more conservative, I think that the legal field as a whole is conservative and I think that our law school on this law can soon be even more conservative and I’ve served as the Vice President and now the President of our LGBTQ organization, and I remember last year my 2L year being the heart is for me because the more vocal hours of how LGBTQ issues and wanting every space to be inclusive in every space to be safe for us, it seemed like the more pushback I get, and that’s ultimately like currently I’m a visiting student in Atlanta because I literally could not deal with it.
My therapist was like it’s not okay for you to constantly be in this battle that is triggering your anxiety or triggering your depression. So I had to make the decision that I’m going to advocate from before as far as 00:28:47 law and advocating for youth, I think that just comes easy for me. For whatever reason it’s easy for me to stand open to you, it’s a no-brainer. I am like this shouldn’t even be a polarizing issue. When we started talking about bathroom laws and whether or not kids should be just called by the name that they identify with, like that is a no-brainer to me, like these are not polarizing issues. And so it shouldn’t be polarizing issues, it is polarizing.
We see with the oral arguments today for the Title VII cases but I think it’s easy for me to stand up for kids because I’m just like, okay, we’re not going to be kids, bad, so when it’s something that deals closer to myself especially at the law school in the law school context, it’s been very difficult. I deal with days where I would just sit with my therapist and cry because I’m like I don’t understand I thought I was going to school to be like someone it made a difference and not realizing that other people will come into law school and they want to make a difference too but they are on the other side of the issue.
And so there has been times where I’ve been triggered in class or I’ve been triggered while trying to push for certain programming at the law school. It’s very difficult. I think the best thing has been like moving and putting myself in a more inclusive environment, taking care of myself, knowing that we can’t change the world and I even I would love too and really doing those things that pour into my spirit. So taking 00:30:25, reading books, that kind of stuff, taking the day to just watch TV shows, that’s been a big help for me; but yes, it has had a tremendous impact on my mental health.
Ashley Baker: So what do you think that law schools could do better to change the trend of mental health issues among law students? As you know with each incoming class the rate of developing mental health issues progresses as each class matriculates through school and once you reach 3L year it’s highly likely that you will have developed some form of psychological dysfunction by the time it’s time for you to graduate. So what can law schools do better to change this trend? And KG, let’s start off with you.
KyMara Guidry: Okay. I think a big part of it, I guess, I will go back to what I said initially, there is — it seems to be this acceptance that it is going to be a difficult experience, it’s going to be a hellish experience if I can’t say that, and so I think that a lot of what was offered at our law school is more reactive approaches to mental health issues, so we have yoga and stuff like that or it’s why can’t there be a conversation on what is causing this in the first place, like not just offering coping skills, but maybe we need a midterm in every class.
I think we have a midterm in our contracts class and that was it, maybe we need more feedback throughout the semester. We have a counselor in our law school doing a better job of like really moralizing going to see a counselor, because it makes no sense to have a counselor, few people are utilizing their resource.
But I think like just shifting and I think this is probably a — I don’t know if this is possible, but just shifting what law school can be, like being a little more imaginative about it. I don’t think it has to be this environment in which we are all suffering. If you look around the person making breaking down and people are like, oh, we find some people don’t have little breakdowns and it’s just like why does it have to be there?
So if it’s keeping us in the dark, so maybe adding more checkpoints along the way or maybe I know homework could finally sound awful, because I’m in my 3L year and I’m like doing classwork and I’m like this is awful, maybe like normalizes some assignments along the way. So they were not relying upon this one grade. I think that would possibly make a difference.
Ashley Baker: Kennedy, what do you think?
Kennedy LeJeune: So I have to agree with KG that law school definitely needs to evolve. I’ve spoken to a few attorneys before I decided to come to law school and a majority of them said, if I do it over again I wouldn’t go to law school, and before law school I had no idea what they meant.
Now that I’m in law school I imagine myself doing it over again, and I don’t think I can, knowing what I went through mentally, it was just a lot. I think now in the present day law schools are — they’re getting on the right track when it comes to improving mental health, but I think the biggest hurdle like what KG kind of referred to is breaking down the stigma associated with mental health.
I think it prevents students from seeking help before it’s too late. I think one of the ways we can combat this is having an open dialogue about these issues, trying to change students’ perceptions about these issues. I also think having professors or staff members who are willing to point students in the right direction is really important because I know personally for me it’s hard for me to reach out for help, but I know if a professor makes it known that they’re genuinely interested in how I’m doing mentally then I’m more inclined to be open about what’s going on in my life, and I think what KG referred to for the previous question, for LGBTQ students, where sometimes they don’t feel safe to go to certain people to confide in them. I definitely think it would be in law schools’ best interest to have some sort of like training for professors or staff members specifically for dealing with the LGBTQ population, because sometimes comments are made or things happen and the LGBTQ population may or may not feel like they can approach a particular person based on things that they’ve said.
So I definitely think that just having professors and staff members that are open and willing to point students in the right direction no matter how they identify are a good way to go.
Ashley Baker: Okay. Rachel, what do you think?
Rachel Gentry: I’d have to agree with both Kennedy and KG. First, law schools normalizing and accepting that everybody’s going to be stressed out or depression and anxiety is just another common thing that happens in law school.
Now if people come to law school with depression and anxiety, law schools should not make it worse than what it already is. They should not add onto it. So doing things like, I know at Southern University Law Center we have JLAP, they come in, pretty often they have meditation and doing massages and stuff like that.
I think they should do that more often as well as not just from outside people of the Law Center coming in or any law school coming in, but there should be more open discussions between administrators, faculty and staff at the law schools. And the students — so students can express their grievances and kind of put faculty, staff and professors don’t notice that certain things that you may or may not do intensifies my depression and anxiety and how can we work to make sure that this doesn’t happen to another student or that you don’t continue to do this, that makes me feel scared or less comfortable to speak to you, because students should not feel afraid to speak to professors. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask professors for help with the thought in the back of their mind, okay, I might receive backlash or they might choose me a certain way because what I identify as or they might play with my nervousness of approaching them.
And I feel that if we put professors and teachers and faculty and staff more on notice that certain things that they have probably done over the past 10, 15 years depending on their tenure at that particular institution, if we put them on notice about it, it might stop. Because sometimes humans, we are creatures of habit, and if we’ve been doing things for five years plus, we’ve been comfortable with doing it so we keep it up, but unless somebody tells us about it, then we’re giving an opportunity to change their habit.
So just making people feel more comfortable, stop normalizing our law schools, distressful, so it will deal with the type of mentality. How can we make law school a better experience for everybody? So we don’t have people like the attorneys that Kennedy has spoken to saying if I was to go back in time, I wouldn’t go through law school again. That should not be the response.
We should not try to deter our future lawyer leaders from going to law school. We should encourage them to go to law school, and stress should not — being stressed or depression, anxiety that law school gives us should not be the main reason why if that makes sense.
Ashley Baker: Yeah, yeah.
KyMara Guidry: Can I add something, Ashley?
Ashley Baker: Sure.
KyMara Guidry: I really just wanted to say like what Kennedy and Rachel said about professors being able to be open with professors, I have to say like in my experience I’ve been very vocal with my professors about the fact that I have bipolar II disorder and I have anxiety disorder and I’ve just been lucky to have professors that were really open and willing to offer help in whatever way that they could. So knowing that your professors are a safe space for that, and I do think that that comes from the training that Kennedy mentioned whether that is trying to dealing with marginalize identities, but also how can we support students that have disability.
So like I went to professors and they’re like, okay, like I appreciate you are being honest to me, what ways can I support you, and I remember being caught off-guard by that question because I didn’t expect it — I didn’t expect them to offer their support, but I do think it makes a difference if the professors are open and willing to be support to students.
And like Rachel said, I don’t think they always realize that what they’re doing. They have been doing it for 10-15 years, some of them much longer than that, I don’t — I had a professor that we can’t leave out of his class and part of my anxiety is triggered by being trapped. I think he had any idea that he was triggering someone with an anxiety disorder, but he’s been able to say like, hey, telling us, we can’t leave out the class is a trigger, I think that makes a huge difference.
So I think a lot of times they don’t know that there is other phase that this could be done. So then being open to hearing our things and what our experiences are would help.
Ashley Baker: So how can our listeners reach you? KG, let’s start with you.
KyMara Guidry: I can be reached through my email, like I said, I have a blog blackgirlcrazed on YouTube, so like you can reach me at [email protected], I know that sounds odd in a law school context but that’s the way you can real me as well as Instagram, blackgirlcrazed, and that is craze with an E-D at the end.
Ashley Baker: Rachel, how about you?
Rachel Gentry: You can either reach me on LinkedIn, Rachel Gentry. You can also reach me on my email [email protected].
Ashley Baker: Kennedy, how about you?
Kennedy LeJeune: You can also find me on LinkedIn or Instagram Kennedy LeJeune, Kennedy LeJeune, and you also reach me by email [email protected].
Ashley Baker: All right, thank you KG, Kennedy, Rachel for taking the time to be guests on the Law Student Podcast.
Kennedy LeJeune: Thanks for having us.
Rachel Gentry: Yeah, thanks for doing this, Ashley.
KyMara Guidry: Thanks for putting us together, Ashley.
Ashley Baker: Thank you. I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the Law Student Podcast. I would like to invite you to subscribe to the ABA Law Student Podcast on iTunes.
You can reach us on Facebook @abaforlawstudents or @abalsd on Twitter. You can also find all of our student leaders at #abaforlawstudents on Facebook and Twitter.
Signing off, I’m Ashley Baker. Thank you for listening and I’ll leave you with this quote by Cesar Chavez.
“You are never strong enough that you don’t need help.”
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety or of something that was said today really hit home for you, please consider reaching out to your doctor or a licensed professional counselor for help.
Outro: If you’d like more information about what you’ve heard today, please visit legaltalknetwork.com. Subscribe via iTunes and RSS, find us on Twitter and Facebook or download our free Legal Talk Network app in Google Play and iTunes. Remember, US law students at ABA-accredited schools can join the ABA for free. Join now at americanbar.org/lawstudent.
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Presented by the American Bar Association's Law Student Division, the ABA Law Student Podcast covers issues that affect law students and recent grads.
Rachel Gentry, Kennedy LeJeune, and KyMara Guidry join host Ashley Baker for a roundtable discussion of law student mental health issues.
Dionne Smith offers guidance for law students to manage their personal well-being throughout the rigors of law school.
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