Quite a few law students abuse Adderall and other “study drugs.” There is an epidemic of high school students using non-prescription drugs in order to focus during exams and study for long stretches of time. It is sad and alarming to think that young people feel the need to abuse their bodies and minds to gain a slight edge over the competition in order to get into elite colleges. The fact that law students abuse the same drugs is bothersome, mostly because they should know better.
A law student using Adderall is a lot like an athlete using steroids. The athlete can make the argument that he is still working out himself, that all the drugs allow him to do is exceed his own body’s limitations, and that everyone around him is doing the same thing and so he must do the same in order to keep up. The counter-argument from society at large is: Yeah, but you’re cheating. In his 2004 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush declared that the use of steroids by professional athletes sends a message to our children “that there are shortcuts to accomplishment and that performance is more important than character.” Giving yourself an extra edge with drugs feels un-American.
Lawyers are supposed to hold themselves to a higher code of ethics than the average citizen. Baseball players don’t have to take an oath in order to play the game, but lawyers do.
So, how could it be that a group of individuals of “good moral character” could engage in an activity that we disapprove of in our baseball players? The pressure to perform in law school is astronomical. A given law school class is filled with intelligent, hard-working people, who enter a law school where students have been equally matched after the admissions process has done its shuffling. Then, these people are supposed to compete against each other, and that ranking can affect the trajectory of their careers. Of course there is pressure, and of course the pressure makes people decide to do something drastic to affect their chances.
The practice of law is supposed to be a life-long career; taking drugs in law school to excel is shortsighted. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell identified the amount of time it takes to become an expert on something: 10,000 hours. He said nothing about how quickly you need to rack up those hours. From what I saw, the people using Adderall were not the ones competing for summa cum laude; those people are already super human. People who half-study all semester (but still wanted to hit the curve) use Adderall to get through finals.
So what makes law students think such an action isn’t cheating? Law students can argue well enough to justify almost anything, no matter how incorrect. And that’s why everyone hates lawyers — they act like high school students but justify their actions like adults.
Original images from Shutterstock