Reimagining Law: How Lawyers & Law Students Can Prioritize Well-Being

In this episode of Reimagining Law, we talk to David Jaffe, Associate Dean for Student Affairs at American University Washington College of Law, and Janet Stearns, Dean of Students and Lecturer at University of Miami School of Law. David and Janet discuss how lawyers and law students can prioritize well-being in 2021, identifying mental health and substance abuse issues virtually, and simple well-being habits lawyers and law students can add to their toolkit.

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  • 0:43 – This has been a law school semester like no other. As we move into 2021, what have been the biggest challenges and lessons learned from COVID-19?
  • 2:17 – You both focus on law student well-being and serve on ABA committees that promote and prioritize well-being across the legal profession. How can law schools and legal organizations better support their community’s well-being needs in 2021?
  • 5:34 – With virtual classes and work environments, we aren’t seeing each other as often as before, which makes it difficult to observe if a fellow student or colleague is struggling with mental health and substance use issues. How can lawyers and law students identify these struggles in others virtually?
  • 9:39 – We all know that sleep, exercise, and healthy eating improves well-being. But what other positive habits can lawyers and law students adopt and how can they make these habits stick, especially as we enter the colder winter months?

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David Jaffe

David Jaffe is Associate Dean for Student Affairs at American University Washington College of Law. In his work on wellness issues among law students over the last decade, he has served on the D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program including as its chair, and continues to serve on the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) as co-chair of the Law School Assistance Committee.

Jaffe co-authored “Suffering 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,” reporting the results of the national survey he co-piloted in 2014. He was the lead author for the Law School section of “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change” released in August 2017. He also produced the “Getting Healthy, Staying Healthy” video that is used as a resource in many Professional Responsibility classes around the country. Jaffe also authored “The Key to Law Student Well-Being? We Have to Love Our Law Students” in the NALP PD (National Association of Law Placement Professional Development) Quarterly, and co-authored “Conduct Yourselves Accordingly: Amending Bar Character and Fitness Questions to Promote Lawyer Well-Being” in The Professional Lawyer magazine of the American Bar Association Center for Professional Responsibility.

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Janet Stearns

Janet Stearns is the Dean of Students at the University of Miami School of Law. She is the immediate past chair of the AALS Student Services Section and a member of the ABA Commission on Lawyers Assistance Programs. Stearns and the Miami Student Affairs Team were recognized with NALSAP’s CORE Four Award in 2020. The ABA COLAP recognized Stearns with the Meritorious Service Award at the 2020 Virtual National Conference in November 2020. She speaks nationally, writes and podcasts on Lawyer Wellness and its Impact on Law Schools.

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About Reimagining Law

The Reimagining Law video series explores how legal and judicial professionals are adapting the delivery of services to meet the unique needs of today’s consumers. Reimagining Law is produced by the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.

Recorded on December 14, 2020.

Check out more episodes of Reimagining Law here.

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