The Role of Legal Education in Producing Psychological Distress Among Law Students and Lawyers


  • G. Andrew H. Benjamin,

    1. G. Andrew H. Benjamin is an acting assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Washington. B.A. 1976, J.D. 1984, Ph.D. 1985, University of Arizona.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Alfred Kaszniak,

    1. Alfred Kaszniak is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Arizona. B.S., 1970, Ph.D. 1976, University of Illinois.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Bruce Sales,

    1. Bruce Sales is a professor of psychology, sociology, and law at the University of Arizona. B.A. 1966, Ph.D. 1971, University of Rochester; J.D. 1973, Northwestern University.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Stephen B. Shanfield

    1. Stephen B. Shanfield is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Service Center. B.A. 1961, M.D. 1964, University of Southern California School of Medicine.
    Search for more papers by this author


The anecdotal literature suggests that the process of legal education impairs the maintenance of emotional well-being in law students. The purpose of this article is to present the results of a cross-sequential research design that empirically assessed the validity of this hypothesis. Data were collected, using four standardized self-report instruments (Brief Symptom Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory, Multiple Affect Adjective Checklist, and Hassle Scale) on subjects before and during law school and after graduation. Before law school, subjects expressed psychopathological symptom responses that were similar to the normal population. Yet during law school and after graduation symptom levels were significantly elevated. The implications of these results are presented.