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Student Lawyer

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

How to Succeed in Law School Despite ADHD

Lyndsey Glasgow


  • A law student shares her experience with ADHD in law school and offers tips for managing the condition.
  • She discusses the challenges faced due to a medication shortage, feelings of isolation, and the importance of seeking accommodations and communicating with professors.
  • Neurodiverse students should embrace their differences, find support and resources, and recognize the positive impact ADHD can have on their lives. 
How to Succeed in Law School Despite ADHD DOGAN

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Either people with ADHD need to stop being so relatable, or I need to go to the doctor. 

Neurodivergence is having a moment, and it’s about time.

I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until I was 22. Although my mom was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, it didn’t occur to my parents that it may have been passed down to me. Because I lacked the hyperactivity trait most associated with the condition, the diagnosis was overlooked—which is common with young girls.

I received my diagnosis toward the end of my undergrad when things were becoming unmanageable. I had a terribly hard time in the mornings, was often late to class, had very poor short-term memory, and couldn’t focus in my classes, even though I found most of them highly interesting.

Once I began to treat my ADHD with medication, it no longer felt like I was white-knuckling it through life. When I graduated from college, I took a few gap years. I held various professional roles. It wasn’t very difficult to keep up with my responsibilities, and I’d occasionally even skip my medication.

Managing Law School with ADHD

When I began law school, things changed. What had been working for me was no longer cutting it. I went from barely acknowledging my ADHD diagnosis, convinced I had only a tiny bit of trouble focusing, to deep diving into the condition.

The more I began to accept my neurodivergent brain and its effects on my life, the more I realized I needed to revise my treatment plan. The mental endurance and executive function now required of me was unlike anything I’ve had to manage in the past. Although my medication still helped, I faced extraordinary struggles trying to keep up with my course load.

Further complicating things, there was, and continues to be, a national shortage of the medication I’d been receiving for my ADHD, which interrupted my treatment for sometimes consecutive weeks at a time each semester. Going to class and getting my work done without my medication seemed impossible, especially during the initial detox.

Most ADHD meds provide the brain with a boost in dopamine, a brain chemical ADHD brains don’t produce enough of. When you abruptly withdraw from these medications, the consequences can be detrimental. Your brain has become accustomed to receiving something that balances its chemicals, and depriving it of dopamine can result in a drastic decrease in those brain chemical levels.

For me, this meant extreme loss of executive function, depression, anxiety, brain fog, fatigue, and severe emotional anguish. Those days were particularly dark and hard to get through.

Feeling Isolated with ADHD

Another struggle I faced as a 1L was feeling isolated. Immediately preceding my 1L year, I’d moved across the country and didn’t know anybody. Due to the high-volume workload I had, there was little time to meet people outside of my law school.

But because of my ADHD brain, I couldn’t study with my fellow classmates most of the time. I require a very specific and controlled environment to get my work done, which meant working by myself or with other ADHD students—whom I’d yet to meet. This caused me to feel disconnected from my peers and made it harder to foster friendships outside the classroom.

Due to the severity of my symptoms, my enrollment in certain classes was sometimes challenged because I struggled with attendance. The differences and adversities I’ve mentioned here are normal for someone with ADHD. Some of them may even plague the neurotypical law student, but the ADHD brain magnifies these features.

Tips for Acing Law School Despite ADHD

In response to the national supply shortages, I transitioned to a medication with lower demand that was more accessible and available. This has helped curb interruptions in my treatment. If you’re facing similar challenges, I highly recommend discussing it as an option with your provider.

Aside from medication and talk therapy, I made sure I was approved for accommodations before the school year started. It didn’t make as much of a difference as when I was an undergraduate, but it still helped. I encourage other neurodiverse students to contact their school’s office for student disability services and accessible education.

Communication has also been key. I experienced a lot of shame around my ADHD and was often nervous about approaching professors to discuss my difficulties. However, the times I did communicate with my professors, I was glad I did. My only regret was that I didn't do it sooner.

Although my diagnosis was historically something I rarely shared with others, I became more open and honest about my neurodiversity. The more people I shared with, the easier it became to admit and accept, also helping alleviate my feelings of shame. ADHD transparency has allowed me to connect with other students who’ve struggled the way I have. Knowing I’m not alone has been significant and self-affirming for me.

Resources to Help with ADHD

The little amount of free time I have had has been spent conducting research around ADHD and aggressively searching for things like resources, tips, tricks, useful products and tools, and mentors and coaches. My initial efforts weren’t very fruitful. Often, I was directed to resources written from the provider’s perspective, outdated and lacking discussion about newer developments, targeted toward parents with ADHD children, or just not very user-friendly or aesthetically pleasing.

Although these results were discouraging, I continued to dig. That eventually led to everything I’d been looking for—partially due to research skills I’d sharpened in law school. I’m not a social media aficionado, but using the accounts, I did have to find useful resources made a big difference.

When researching resources that work for you, I suggest primarily focusing on Instagram and TikTok. And when using a search engine, narrowly tailor your hunt. There’s a niche for everything. I wanted to find personal and relatable testimonies that were validating or reminded me that I’m not alone but also communicated an achievement. I need to hear someone say: “Not only have I felt the same as you and faced similar struggles, but I got where I was going in spite of it.

If that’s what you need to hear, too, please explore these ADHD resources. If you’re experiencing financial woes due to ADHD, investigate accountants who can personally relate because they’ve overcome impulsive spending. And if ADHD has complicated your relationship with food, you can even find neurodivergent, licensed dieticians to help you navigate your way to food freedom.

Long story short, you’re not alone on your ADHD journey. You can find the support you need. You can still earn your degree. You can still be in a committed relationship. You can still gain food and financial freedom. You can develop a routine and stick to it.

Receiving a formal ADHD diagnosis can feel like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can be extremely validating and relieving to discover an explanation behind how your brain functions. On the other hand, it can be disheartening to know that certain things that may come naturally for a neurotypical mind won’t come easily to you.

However, these differences make us valuable. Remind yourself of the positive ways ADHD has shaped or will shape your life.

ADHD Resources

Created by Alyse Ruriani, LPC

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