Asking for help and who to turn to when you need it

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By Stephanie Baldwin, University of Arizona 

It so easy to want to ask for help but can be difficult to actually do so. In law school, there’s many things that are new, different and challenging. All the legal terminology and nuances. How to develop your own best system for taking notes and building outlines. What to do next during the perpetual job hunt. How to make the most of the entire law school process. The list can go on and on.

I think because law school has so many “A type” personalities, we are used to figuring things out ourselves. It’s important to recognize the difference of when you should try to push yourself harder and when you need to ask for help. Once you realize and accept that you need some extra assistance, the next step (perhaps the most difficult) is determining how. To put it more accurately, you need to know “who” can you turn to for advice and support.

A trusted professor

For me, I think my professors have been a great source of guidance and encouragement. I have a few who have been very helpful in my journey through law school, having offered job hunting and career advice. (One of my professors, in particular, has been highly supportive in so many areas and I am extremely grateful.) They are often my “go-to person” for school-related and even personal issues. I’m sure if you look back on your previous classes, there is likely a professor who could also help you in this way. If not (yet), consider reaching out and trying to develop a relationship. You might start with the professor you approached for a recommendation letter. Maybe it’s the professor that specializes in an area of law that deeply interests you. Perhaps it is the professor who will supervise your note.

A Designated Mentor

A designated mentor

Some schools have a designated mentor program that pairs you with an upper-level student. Or you may have joined your local bar association and been assigned a mentor — that’s what I did and the career advice has been extremely helpful. I should utilize her more but because of our busy schedules, it can be easy to forget to check-in. We are a good match so I absolutely feel like I can contact her at any time. Student assigned mentors can be great as well. Just like professors, you see them on a daily or weekly basis and they were your shoes just the year before.

A school administrator

Sometimes you need support as it relates to dropping a course and planning your class load. The registrar is the person you want. At my school, our registrar is always available. For job search guidance, there’s the career office and Dean of Student Affairs, who you can speak with confidentially. The person in this role can help with everything from classes and tutoring to helping you connect to school-wide resources like counseling, housing and addressing medical needs.

A fellow 2L or 3L friend

This might be the easiest place to start but I have seen people struggle to talk to friends about more than the basics of law school. Perhaps it is because we know we are all struggling in different ways or that we do not want to burden each other with our problems. However, a close friend in law school can often be an excellent source of advice. For this reason, sometimes the best advice comes from our circle of friends or those we have networked with at school. This past week I needed to reach out to a 3L friend for some advice not only about classes but also about the workplace.

I was also able to help out a few 1L students this week, too, as they were asking for advice about grades, classes and taking on the new semester. Try to be a friendly ear to those in need. Sure, we might not have all of the answers, but at least we can listen and that is sometimes all a person needs.

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