A new seminar in the College of Law called Law and Happiness looks to explore how the law affects the health of lawyers and judges, and even students looking into entering the profession
While the class itself is new to the college, the idea had been forming in Assistant Professor Marilyn Poitras’ mind for quite some time.
“Lawyers are trained to strip away everything but the legal issue at hand, which is great for the profession, but not so great when it comes to dealing with issues at home,” said Poitras. “There is evidence that when you numb yourself to emotions you deal with at work, you can’t selectively numb yourself to those feelings in other situations.
“In a profession that is as unpopular as the law an individual might struggle finding a work life balance, she said. I started looking into the stats and they weren’t good. Depression, suicide and divorce rates in the legal profession are high.”
Her research showed that the upward slope in these rates begins in law school—and they don’t tend to go down.
These staggering statistics, along with the rates of women and minorities leaving the profession, motivated Poitras to dig deeper into the connection between the health of the justice system and the health of a lawyer.
Along with learning about the different tools that can be used to deal with depression, alcoholism and family breakdowns, students are required to submit weekly journal entries. Each student was also given a research assignment that needed to cover the topics of happiness, career choice and law.
In the future, Poitras would like the class to look more broadly at the psychological state of not only students and lawyers but judges as well. She would also like to invite more guest lecturers and wants students to hear from legal professionals who are dealing with, or have dealt with, wellbeing issues.
Furthermore, she would like to see the students in Law and Happiness work with the law school to develop services or programs that could be implemented to improve happiness while they are pursuing their law degree.
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University of Saskatchewan