Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Dealing with Causes as Well as Symptoms of Law Students’ and Lawyers’ Lack of Well-Being by John Lande
"The National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being just issued its report, The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change."
"It’s a thoughtful, constructive effort to address problems that lawyers face in practice and to promote their well-being. It deals with serious issues including substance abuse, mental health problems, and suicide. It includes recommendations for better education, fostering collegiality and civility, enhancing lawyers’ sense of control, mentoring, and systematic monitoring colleagues’ well-being, among many others. It addresses legal education, recommending adjustment of the admissions process to promote well-being, detection and assistance of students experiencing problems, addressing of issues of well-being in professional responsibility courses, and provision of onsite counselors, among other things."
"I believe that many students’ and lawyers’ problems are caused by law school and legal practice. To the extent that’s so, treating the symptoms will not fundamentally deal with the systemic causes of the problems. Rather, significant changes in the nature of legal education and practice – not merely dealing with the symptoms – would be necessary to prevent many of these problems from arising."
"It is not clear what causes law students’ distress. Theorists have suggested various features of legal education may be causal factors including ‘overvaluing theoretical scholarship and undervaluing the teaching function, employing generally unsound teaching and testing methods, and emphasizing abstract theory rather than providing practical training.’ In particular, some things causing distress may include an intimidating Socratic teaching method, novelty of the subject matter, ambiguity of the law, heavy work load, competition, lack of grades in most courses until the end of the semester, feelings of isolation, de-emphasizing personal relationships, ignoring emotional reactions, and reluctance to get help."
"As I wrote in connection with the Stone Soup Project, students may do better if they feel that their studies are relevant to professional goals — and fun."
"Some scholars argue that legal education trains students to ignore their own values, which undermines their self-confidence. For example, Dean Edward Rubin argues that lawyers experience ‘ethical stress’ where 'lawyers [and law students] are required to be insincere, to speak words they themselves do not necessarily believe.'" [As I have argued before, this is why law schools need to include professional identity training.]
"If law school faculty and administrators want to take serious action to prevent law students’ mental health problems and lack of well-being, they should conduct a careful examination of features of their programs that unnecessarily contribute to these problems."