Penn Law will launch a pilot program this spring to integrate sessions on attorney well-being into mandatory coursework, making it the first top-ranked law school in the country to do so.
In 2017, the American Bar Association reported high levels of stress, depression, and substance abuse among practicing lawyers. In response to the report, Penn Law developed the program on the importance of attorney mental health.
1992 College graduate John Hollway, associate dean and executive director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice, said the program will focus on the resilience and mindfulness of lawyers. The pilot program will be integrated as a module into the mandatory upper-level course titled "Professional Responsibility."
“What’s really exciting about this is that it’s actually getting woven into the curriculum,” Hollway said. “This is not a bolt-on program that is given less priority than [students’] academics. This is part of their academics.”
Second-year Penn Law student Maura Hallisey said the pilot program is a step in the right direction.
“Thinking about well-being and professional satisfaction and how to achieve the most for yourself, your families, and the world around you is important and should be something we talk about,” Hallisey said.
The pilot program was developed by Hollway, who received a master's degree in Applied Positive Psychology from Penn in 2018, and by 2004 Penn Law graduate Jennifer Leonard, who is the Penn Law associate dean for Professional Engagement as well as the director of Penn Law's Center on Professionalism.
“John and I are working with those faculty members to figure out exactly where in their syllabus it makes sense to integrate the module and how best to present it to the students,” Leonard said.
The program is not the first step Penn Law has taken to address student mental health.
Last year, Penn Law partnered with the master's program in Applied Positive Psychology to incorporate positive psychology into the law school curriculum. In November, Penn Law and the graduate program hosted the "Reframing Stress Mindset" discussion for students. Through this event, which was mandatory for first-year law students, older second- and third-year law students shared tips for managing stress and anxiety.
“We started with the first-years and now we are moving into 'Professional Responsibility' on the heels of very positive feedback from the first years,” Hollway said.
Third-year Penn Law student Jenna Smith, who helped facilitate the "Reframing Stress Mindset" discussion, said she was looking forward to the pilot program's launch next semester.
“It’s helpful to come together, like the [first-years] did, and just share things that you feel like you are alone in,” Smith said.
Leonard agreed, adding that she is excited to see Penn Law taking the lead on an important issue that lawyers face.
“We have the opportunity to really lead at a law school level in preparing our developing attorneys for the profession,” she said.