Law students across the country are reporting an increasing need for support with mental health, wellness, and wellbeing while in law school. In a 2021 survey of law student well-being published in the University of Louisville Law Review, nearly 70% of respondents indicated that they needed help in the past year for emotional or mental health problems — a significant increase from the 42% who reported needing such help in the same study in 2014. Also, alarmingly, the percentage of law students reporting suicidal thoughts increased from 6% in 2014 to 11% in 2021. The number of students previously diagnosed with depression or another mental illness before entering law school also rose significantly during the same period. While many factors may be contributing to these results—including the lasting impact of the pandemic—it is clear that the wellbeing of law students should be—and must be—of paramount concern to all of us.
Law schools and law deans across the country are responding to students’ wellness and wellbeing support needs by sharing and developing new resources, expanding partnerships, listening to student needs, and creating opportunities to learn from one another. While there are no easy answers or quick solutions available, we are paying attention, seeking to learn more, attempting to draw and allocate more resources, and taking action. Specifically, law schools may be undertaking some of the following: increasing access to mental health services; offering confidential one-on-one counseling sessions; providing mental health clinics on campus; increasing academic support; connecting students with disability services on campus; creating dedicated wellness spaces that host guided meditation, yoga, mindfulness sessions; and hosting events centered on promoting mental health and wellbeing. We know that these resources, which are not easy to provide, are critical in supporting positive learning outcomes and helping students succeed.
Additionally, law schools are collaborating with faculty, bar associations, and other partners to raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing in law school and in the profession. From creating networks for support for students, to supporting student organizations focused on wellness and wellbeing, and encouraging open dialogue and communication about mental health issues, law schools are committed to reducing stigma and to leading the way in addressing these critical issues for our students and for the profession. Multiple studies have shown that lawyers are at risk for depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and suicidal thoughts. Providing students with the resources and support they need will not only help them maintain their wellbeing during their time in law school but also as members of the bar.
As law deans, we have a collective responsibility to guide the next generation of lawyers throughout their legal education and into the legal profession. Together, we can work toward this common goal by committing to sharing resources that will improve the mental health and wellbeing of all our students, and by creating a supportive and inclusive environment where students feel comfortable seeking help and addressing their mental health needs.
This website provides resources that may be helpful to a law school dean to better understand these pressing issues and their implications as well as help spark creative ideas and new practices, programs, partnerships, or policies that could be adopted on our various campuses as we tackle this important issue, collectively.
This project was coordinated by the AALS Deans Steering Committee in Academic Year 2022-23 and led by:
- Institute for Well-Being in Law (a nonprofit that evolved from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being)
- Mental Health Resources for the Legal Profession (provided by ABA Commission on Lawyers Assistance Programs)
- ABA Substance Abuse & Mental Health Toolkit for Law School Students and Those Who Care About Them (a collaborative effort from the ABA Law Student Division, the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP), and the Dave Nee Foundation
- Law Student Mental Health Resources (provided by the ABA)
- Lawyers Depression Project
- Law School Peer Support Network Training Manual
- CoLAP Cafe Blog (ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs)
- Resources for Law Students and Law Schools (provided by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs)
- How to Be Sort of Happy in Law School by Kathryne M. Young
- Mindful Lawyering: The Key to Creative Problem Solving by Kathleen Elliott Vinson, Samantha A. Moppett & Shailini Jandial George,
- The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation by Jeena Cho & Karen Gifford
- Survey of Law Student Well-Being, American Bar Association
- Report from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, American Bar AssociationSuffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and Mental Health Concerns, Journal of Legal Education
- Helping Law Students Get the Help They Need: an Analysis of Data Regarding Law Student’ Reluctance to Seek Help and Policy Recommendations for a Variety of Stakeholders, The Bar Examiner
- Where Are We on the Path to Law Student Well-Being?: Report on the ABA CoLAP Law Student Assistance Committee Law School Wellness Survey, Journal of Legal Education
- Legal Education Needs a Wellness Reckoning, Bloomberg Law
- Science-Backed Strategies to Boost Resilience for Lawyers, Anne M. Brafford
- The Key to Law Student Well-Being? We Have to Love Our Law Students
- Voices of Recovery Podcast Series (produced by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs)
- Path to Law Student Well-Being (produced by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs)
- Law School and Depression (Produced by ABA for Law Students)
Descriptions of Law School Activities
We invite each law school to share information about what programs, services, and activities your school provides for your students related to wellness and well-being. The primary intent of this project is to enable deans to share resources, generate new ideas, and provide opportunities for law schools to learn from one another.
The following school resource summaries are offered to help educate one another, spark ideas, and generate conversations among deans. Each law school is invited to provide a brief summary (only one page in PDF format) summary of its activity and programming related to mental health, wellness, and well-being (“School Summary One Pagers”). We hope to post one-page descriptions for all schools, and we encourage all schools to contribute to this collaborative effort. To have a School Summary One Pager uploaded to the clearinghouse website, the dean or interim dean should email the document to [email protected].
- Boston University School of Law
- University of California, Irvine School of Law
- Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
- City University of New York School of Law
- DePaul University College of Law
- Thomas R. Kline School of Law of Duquesne University
- Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law
- Fordham University School of Law
- Gonzaga University School of Law
- University of Idaho College of Law
- Indiana University Maurer School of Law
- University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
- University of Miami School of Law
- University of Minnesota Law School
- New York Law School
- Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
- The Pennsylvania State University – Dickinson Law
- The Pennsylvania State University – Penn State Law
- Roger Williams University School of Law
- University of South Carolina School of Law
- University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law
- Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law
- Washington and Lee University School of Law