Academia, Uncategorized

The Personal Study of Wellness: Using Downtime for Reflection

For all of us, being our best selves takes time and effort to care for our whole being. With the exhausting pressures in our professional lives, are we paying attention to our personal well-being? The statistics tell us that as a profession we are not. Let’s help our students do and be better.

As law schools identify appropriate placement for conversations around wellness, leadership courses or programs provide a perfect opportunity. We recognized the importance of the topic and devoted chapter 11 of our textbook, Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, to “The Importance of Well-Being: Thriving in the Legal Profession.” At Baylor Law, discussions of the importance of personal wellness are woven into every offering of the leadership course. Strategies for being more intentional with wellness practices are presented in several class sessions. Through journal prompts, students are encouraged to consider how they might best plan their future with a design for finding harmony of work and life in the practice of law.  

I do believe in practicing what I preach. Yet, the fast pace of life and work often keeps me from focusing on this topic for myself. What am I doing to make sure that I am happy? This Time article discusses the daily habits of happiness experts, with the usual suspects: good sleep, exercise, eating healthy, spending time in nature, engaging in a hobby, and praying, to name a few. But one focus of the article, “is happiness a choice?”, I found particularly interesting. One expert, Tal Ben-Shahar, co-founder of the online Happiness Studies Academy, said, “part of it is a choice, part of it is innate. . . . And the part that is a choice is the choice to work hard at it.”

This Spring Break, Jeanine and I decided to work at it. We took some rare downtime to discuss what makes us happy. Some of the questions discussed were, “what activities do we enjoy?”, “How can we prioritize them?”, “how do we want to spend our time?”, “where do we want to spend our time?”, “Who do we want to spend it with?” The conversation was enlightening. Not because the answers were surprising, but because we do not go through this exercise often enough.

With trees budding and green grass popping up around us, I am reminded that spring is a time of new growth. What a perfect time to pause and reflect on your own well-being! I hope that your Spring Break allows you some space to consider your personal wellness journey.


– Stephen


Amendments to ABA Standards Support the Objectives of Leadership Development Programming, Part 3

By Leah Teague

As discussed in our last two posts, several amendments to the ABA Standard on Legal Education that were adopted on Feb. 22, 2022, reinforce the need for, and value of, leadership development. The proposed amendments are in Standards 303(b) (professional identity development), 303(c) (bias and cross-cultural competency & racism education), and 508(b) (student well-being resources). These three important topics are fundamental to robust leadership development programs and courses. Satisfying the new requirements can be achieved through adopting or enhancing leadership development at your law school. In this three-part series, we discuss each.

Part 1 was a discussion of the new requirement in ABA Standard 303(b) requiring law schools to “provide substantial opportunities to students for … the development of a professional identity.”  Part 2 of this series addressed the requirement in ABA Standard 303(c) to “provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism.” In this Part 3, we focus on the need for law schools to provide students with “information on law student well-being resources” in accordance with ABA Standard 508(b).

Part 3: Caring for One’s Well-Being is Critical to Success as Lawyer and Leader

The amendment to ABA Standard 508(b) requires law schools to provide students with “information on law student well-being resources.” The proposal also calls for the law schools to work to remove the stigma of accessing mental health and well-being supports on campus and within the legal profession.

New Interpretation 508-1 reads:

Law student well-being resources include information or services related to mental health, including substance use disorders. Other law student well-being resources may include information for students in need of critical services such as food pantries or emergency financial assistance. Such resources encompass counseling services provided in-house by the law school, through the university of which the law school is a part, or by a lawyer assistance program. Law schools should strive to mitigate barriers or stigma to accessing such services, whether within the law school or larger professional community.

New Interpretation 508-2 reads:

Reasonable access, at a minimum, involves informing law students and providing guidance regarding relevant information and services, including assistance on where the information and services can be found or accessed.

This addition to the Standards signals the importance of law schools’ effort to care for all aspects of our students’ development. For students to use their legal knowledge, skills and competencies to achieve their goals (i.e. self-actualization), they must learn to care for themselves and tend to issues related to mental and physical health. Law school is our opportunity to help students develop the healthy strategies they will need to deal with the stress of the practice of law, maintain healthy relationships with family and friends, and manage their time wisely so that they can continue to enjoy the hobbies and passions that are important to them.

Leadership development programs recognize the importance of well-being and provide opportunities for students to identify and adopt healthy practices that will benefit them as they enter the profession. In Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, Chapter 11 (The Importance of Well-Being: Thriving in the Legal Profession) discusses the dimensions of health and shares resources and techniques for long-term practices and habits. In Leadership for Lawyers Chapter 2, Rhode discusses the evolution of well-being, the underlying causes of stress in the legal profession, and suggestions for positive strategies.

Modern law schools are called to go beyond teaching law students to “think” like a lawyer to preparing them for success as whole or complete lawyer (i.e., how to “be” a lawyer) – and a healthy one at that! The efforts to increase professional identity/formation and leadership development programming at law schools are national efforts to address the Carnegie Report’s description of the third stage or apprenticeship of the development. See Growing Number of Leadership Programs and Courses Supports Professional Identity Formation for a further discussion about developing well-rounded lawyers who will be find meaning, satisfaction and success in life using knowledge and skills that are learn (or at least introduced) in law school and developed throughout their careers.  

Thank you for your efforts and keep up the good work!

– Leah