Educating The Whole Lawyer: Mind, Body, and Spirit

By: Kathleen Elliott Vinson & Shailini J. George

“I am anxious, stressed, and tired all the time.  I have a headache, and my body aches. I feel stupid.  I’m not good enough. Why am I the only one who doesn’t get it?  I’ll never get all this work done.  I feel so overwhelmed.  I feel like I am surviving but not living.”

Does this sound familiar: negative thoughts, physical tension, anxiety, and stress?  You are not alone.  This message plays in the mind of many students, colleagues, and even clients.

Lawyer well-being should begin in law school.  While law school tends to focus on teaching students how to “think like a lawyer” to prepare them for practice, what about students’ psychological, emotional, and physical well-being?  How are students learning these important skills that are also essential in preparing them for the stresses of law practice?  They may be more important than you think to enhance lifelong resilience and success.  To be an effective advocate for your client, you must first take care of yourself.  It is hard to be a good lawyer if you are not a healthy lawyer.

The demands of the legal profession and Life itself can be stressful and overwhelming.  A National Task Force on Lawyer Well-being issued a report acknowledging the high rates of substance abuse, depression, and chronic stress faced by law students and lawyers.  These problems are incompatible with being a good lawyer. The Task Force called for a commitment to improving well-being in the legal profession. One of its recommendations is for law schools to provide educational opportunities on well-being related topics.

Responding to this national campaign for lawyer wellness, Suffolk University Law School initiated “Wellness Wednesdays” to promote the importance of positive health and well-being for all students and faculty. The program helps law students cope with stress, enhance focus, develop healthy habits, increase community, and foster overall wellness.  Each Wellness Wednesday features a different free program focusing on mental, emotional, and physical ways to maximize wellness while navigating the stresses of law school and the legal profession. Healthy refreshments and snacks are served.

Wellness Wednesday Programs include:

A Wellness Fair – offering tools focusing on stress reduction and better sleep;

Mindfulness, Mindset, and Mantra – practicing techniques to increase focus, perseverance, and a growth mindset, including quieting your inner critic.

Creativity, Community, and Cocoa – devoting time to foster creativity by engaging in hands-on exercises to train the brain to think creatively

Finding Your Zen – yoga and meditation

Law schools can help students prepare to be creative problem solvers, effective counselors, impactful leaders, and balanced individuals. The measure of success is not just academic achievement but also well-being. Well-being needs to become a priority for law schools to lead to a healthier profession.

For more information, please check out our new book, Mindful Lawyering:  The Key to Creative Problem Solving, which you can order here.


This post will also appear on Suffolk Law School’s blog, Legal Writing Matters.

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