Welcome back to BeREAL! This week, Diana and Ednesha are joined by Jolene Blackbourn to discuss mental health in the legal field.
Jolene Blackbourn is a California attorney who left her senior level position at a Fortune 100 company to help students graduate from college and law school in less time, with less debt and with less stress so they can live the life they always dreamed. She has been advising law students since she was one herself and has been giving speeches at universities for 20 years.
Jolene starts off the episode by explaining her stance on law school and the entire legal journey. She looks to promote safety in the application process and financial process. By safety this is both physical safety (student debt can lead to big issues in life) but also mental safety (both applications and finances are stress inducing). Ednesha uses this to jump into a conversation about the cost of law school. Specifically how the high cost of tuition leads to high average student debt which can create a feeling within law students that they must work long unhealthy hours to outrun their debt.
Following this, Jolene gets into talking about how to avoid law school debt. A big myth that she wants to bust is that you need to go to a top ranked law school. This mindset is what gets so many people into debt and it’s entirely untrue. In many circumstances actually, depending on what field of law you want to work in, it can be better to have a lower ranked school on your resume. And, on top of that, you’ll be leaving your law school years with less debt. Many top ranked law schools don’t even serve as gateways to a good paying legal job. Even big law has hidden costs that are often overlooked because of the big salary.
After a short break, the women return to talk about gender in the legal field. Jolene discusses the rise she sees in the number of women attending law school, and how this impacts the field. However, she also points out that many firms are still not family friendly. She offers her own experience as an example that in big law, after she had her first child, she was still expected to work long hours and neglect her role as a mother. Luckily, there are still some firms that are very hospitable to working mothers and some that were even completely remote before COVID.
Lastly, Jolene talks explicitly about mental health in the legal field. She gives examples of many stress inducing practices within law firms and how many lawyers are expected to meet unrealistic goals. To reduce stress, Jolene recommends looking for a practice that accommodates your lifestyle, and looking at ways to reduce your debt. Some suggestions she makes are taking a gap year or taking a lighter course load in law school.
Thank you for tuning into BeREAL this week. Be on the lookout for an all new episode next Tuesday. In the meantime, make sure you check out last week’s episode with Bridget Shannon and Dana Barron about diet culture.
For more information on Jolene or Legal Learning Center, visit the links below:
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