Home Mental Health & Well-Being The IBA Professional Well-Being Commission Launches International Guidelines for Well-Being in Legal Education

The IBA Professional Well-Being Commission Launches International Guidelines for Well-Being in Legal Education

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The International Bar Association (IBA) Professional Well-being Commission has announced the launch of its International Guidelines for Well-being in Legal Education (the Guidelines), a comprehensive resource designed to promote well-being among the lawyers of the future. The issuance of these guidelines represents the commitment of the IBA to improving the well-being of legal professionals around the world and to promoting the issue of well-being as a core priority for all those studying or teaching law and working within the legal profession. The Guidelines follow on from the Well-being Commission’s ground-breaking survey and report in 2021 that involved the IBA Legal Policy & Research Unit’s work in this critical area.

The guidelines are made up of 10 recommendations, encouraging law schools to:

  1. Acknowledge the importance of, and actively promote, well-being in legal education.
  2. Abandon the view that well-being issues should be seen as signs of weakness.
  3. Raise awareness of the different ways in which well-being can be addressed and prioritised in law schools.
  4. Make a commitment to evidence-based, long-lasting change in addressing well-being and the challenges faced in legal education.
  5. Continually assess and evaluate the efficacy of changes and initiatives designed to promote well-being.
  6. Ensure policies and procedures within legal education reflect the importance of student, faculty, and staff well-being.
  7. Foster an open dialogue between students, faculty, and staff, promoting a culture of trust and inclusivity.
  8. Commit to addressing systemic problems, such as excessive competitiveness and a lack of empathy.
  9. Recognise intersectionalities, including the benefits to well-being of embracing equality, diversity, and inclusion.
  10. Sharing best practice examples in an ongoing dialogue both internally and externally.

Dr Emma Jones, IBA Professional Well-being Commissioner and co-author of the Guidelines, said: “The IBA’s 2021 report refers to a crisis in well-being within the legal profession.These new guidelines place legal education at the heart of our response. We must act now to ensure the lawyers of the future are able to prioritise well-being without fear of stigmatisation. We need to challenge the damaging cultural norms that have come to exist within the law and promote thriving and flourishing amongst students, faculty, and staff.”

The competitive nature of the profession, the high-pressure environment, and the academic demands of the legal field have been linked to higher-than-average levels of stress, anxiety, and depression among students, faculty, and staff in legal education, according to research. Legal education is key to shaping the professional, social, and cultural norms that exist in the profession and how the lawyers of the future view their mental well-being.

Deborah Enix-Ross and Steven Richman, co-chairs of the IBA Professional Well-being Commission, added, “These guidelines are a proactive response to an endemic problem within our profession. They are designed not just to ameliorate the detrimental effects of poor mental health in the law but to positively enhance the well-being of students and staff, allowing them to thrive. They follow directly from the core findings of our survey and have global relevance.”

The 2021 IBA survey and its resultant report Mental Well-being in the Legal Profession: A Global Report identified a “global crisis” in the well-being of lawyers in all jurisdictions and sectors of the law. It formulated a series of principles to be implemented across the profession, including in legal education. The Guidelines launched today take inspiration from those principles and are specifically designed to be applied in legal education and training settings, both academic and vocational, pre- and post-qualification.

The guidelines follow the definition of well-being offered in the IBA’s 2021 report, mirroring the World Health Organization description of good mental health as “a state where: ‘[…] every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community’.”

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