“The emotional distress of law students appears to significantly exceed that of medical students and at times approach that of psychiatric populations.” That’s the conclusion of a new study, suggesting that law school has a corrosive effect on the well-being, values and motivation of students.
Here’s the 16-page study, “Understanding the Negative Effects of Legal Education on Law Students: A Longitudinal Test of Self-Determination Theory,” by Kennon Sheldon, psychology professor at the University of Missouri, and Lawrence Krieger, a law professor at Florida State. We picked up the study from the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, via the Chronicle of Higher of Education.
In a three-year study of two similar, unidentified law schools, the authors used questionnaires to measure the “subjective well-being” of students, their “need satisfaction,” how motivated they were for a career in law, and their “perceived autonomy support.”
The problem with most law schools, the authors write, is that they place little emphasis on hiring faculty members with proven records of teaching excellence. Instead, they tend to “emphasize theoretical scholarship and the teaching of legal theory, and many hire and reward faculty primarily based on scholarly potential and production,” say the authors. Observers suggest, they add, “that such priorities and processes train students to ignore their own values and moral sense, undermine students’ sense of identity and self-confidence, and create cynicism.”