Psychology and Law School: The Power of Optimism


Law School can be demanding for many students, specifically during their first year.  First-year students have to adjust to the heavy course load while also balancing their GPA.   One simple way to make the first year of law school more successful is a change in perspective.

I found a great article talking about how optimism is positively related to expected performance and self-efficacy, which is the belief in one’s own ability to finish tasks and accomplish goals (Siddique, LaSalle-Ricci, Glass, Arnkoff, & Díaz, 2006).  Here are some of the main points that I found were most interesting and valuable to first-year law students:

Optimistic people tend to:

  • Use problem-focused coping strategies to deal with stress
    • Problem-focused strategies include: (McLeod, 2010)
      • Taking Control –involves altering the relationship between yourself and the source of stress. Examples: taking away the stress.
      • Information Seeking –involves the individual attempting to understand the situation and using cognitive strategies to evade it in future.
      • Evaluating the pros and cons of different alternatives for dealing with the stressor.


 Benefits of being optimistic:

  • Optimism predicated adjustment to law school (Aspinwall & Taylor, 1992).
  • Research suggests that optimism correlates with higher academic performance (Chemers et al., 2001).


  • Aspinwall, L. G., & Taylor, S. E. (1992). Modeling cognitive adaptation: A longitudinal   investigation of the impact of individual differences and coping on college adjustment and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 989–1003.
  • Chemers, M. M., Hu, L., & Garcia, B. (2001). Academic self-efficacy and first-year college          student performance and adjustment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 55–64.
  • McLeod, S. A. (2010). Problem Focused Coping | Managing Stress – Simply Psychology. Retrieved from
  • Siddique, H. I., LaSalle-Ricci, V., Glass, C. R., Arnkoff, D. B., & Díaz, R. J. (2006). Worry, Optimism, and Expectations as Predictors of Anxiety and Performance in the First Year of Law School. Cognitive Therapy And Research, 30(5), 667-676. doi:10.1007/s10608-006-9080-3

~Brooke Rideout~

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Filed under Library, Of Interest to Law Students, Psychology and the law, Student Information

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