Kudos to Professor Clark for his efforts to bring these issues into the light.
Both the mental health issues among law students and lawyers and the challenges of the profession are increasingly surfacing as topics of discussion i law schools, inspired by multiple developments. The “apprenticeship of professional identity” concept use by the Carnegie Foundation’s volume Educating Lawyers potentially provides an avenue for these discussions. So do the “humanizing legal education” effort institutionalized in the AALS Section on Balance in Legal Education, the multiple strands that Susan Daicoff has dubbed the “Comprehensive Law” movement (therapeutic jurisprudence, collaborative law, restorative justice, etc.), and efforts to incorporate “relational skills” into legal education, often by focusing on teamwork, and leadership.
This truly is a critical issue for legal educators to cover, in my opinion. I am very upfront with my clinic students as well as those in my lecture course about the intense stresses of practice. The (Family Law) casebook I use has a section on ProRep, and I use that opportunity to discuss it in some detail, but I also mention it throughout the course when discussing doctrinal matters that make it relatable, such as the development of ADR in Family Law cases due partly to the concerns about the emotional toll litigation takes on litigants as well as on family lawyers and family court judges. In my clinic we discuss it almost daily; it’s part of the reality of working closely with me. I’m a rather transparently emotive individual. I don’t pull any punches with the students about the vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue we face in the practice of law, and I share my coping tactics as well as my struggles, bit by bit, throughout my time with students. I end up hearing an unusually high amount of disclosure about mental health concerns (and triumphs) but I consider it all to the good. When a student feels safe to talk about therapy or medication or yoga or running, or even moving past a time of abuse in their life, because I did the same thing recently in class/supervision/etc., I think that we are all better lawyers and human beings.
I agree– a critical issue at a critical time. I applaud Jill’s efforts in her classes and Professor Clark’s thoughts in the article. As a legal writing professor, I’m usually the first to learn student’s names, give them their first grades, and hear about the angst they may be feeling while settling in to the first year law school experience. I often feel ill equipped to handle some of the more serious issues students come to me with (mental health issues, drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, just to name a few) and I’m happy to see more attention and resources devoted to these students who desperately want to succeed.
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Professor Mary Lynch, Editor
Rebecca Harp, Assistant
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