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Student Wellbeing Through Teacher Wellbeing: A Study with Law Teachers in the UK and Australia

Abstract

Research confirms law students and lawyers in the US, Australia and more recently in the UK are prone to symptoms related to stress and anxiety disproportionately to other professions. In response, the legal profession and legal academy in Australia and the UK have created Wellness Networks to encourage and facilitate research and disseminate ideas and strategies that might help law students and lawyers to thrive. This project builds on that research through a series of surveys of law teachers in the UK and Australia on the presumption that law teachers are in a strong position to influence their students not only about legal matters, but on developing attitudes and practices that will help them to survive and thrive as lawyers. The comparative analysis reveals several differences, but also many similarities with law teachers in both countries reporting negative effects from neoliberal pressures on legal education programs that impact their wellbeing, performance as teachers and ability to adequately respond to student concerns.

Published:
Pages:76 to 83
Section: Articles
1 citation(s) in Scopus
0 citation(s) in Web of Science

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Author Biographies

Australian National University
Australia Australia

Dr Colin James, a solicitor since 1989, has published in many fields associated with legal education, legal history, legal practice and the well-being of law students and lawyers. He is a senior lecturer in the Australian National University College of Law.

With qualifications in law, history and psychology, Colin presents at many national and international conferences. He was chief investigator in a study (with Dr Nicola Ross) of how experienced lawyers respond to serious cases of domestic violence. He was a member of a team investigating academic integrity policies and practices in the Australian tertiary sector and published several papers on encouraging academic integrity in legal education to promote professional identity in law students.

Other projects include (with Jenny Finlay- Jones) studying the emotional intelligence of graduate lawyers, and (with Felicity Wardhaugh) with law students on clinical placement, and studies on resilience, habits and psychological strengths as strategies for thriving in legal education and practice.

Colin is contributing editor (with Professor Rachael Field and James Duffy) of a book titled ‘Promoting Law Student and Lawyer Well-Being in Australia and Beyond’, and has supervised PhDs and DBAs on topics ranging from domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, industrial ethics and worker safety practices, and first-responders’ powers of detention in a mental health emergency.

University of Portsmouth
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Caroline Strevens is Reader and Head of School of the Law School at the UNiversity of Portsmouth. Her academic career was preceded by a career in legal practice as a Solicitor. She joined the University of Portsmouth in 2001 to establish the suite of qualifying law degrees and to expand the LLM programmes.  She was appointed the first Head of Department when the School of Law was formed in 2008.

Caroline continues to use her connections with legal practice to benefit the student experience and to ensure the curriculum remains current. Her experience and achievements have resulted in appointment as a representative for JASB and appointment by the QAA to the panel requested to review the Law Subject benchmark statement in June 2014.   She is an active member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Law Teachers and Convenor of the Legal Education section for the Society of Legal Scholars and a member of their legal education sub committee.  

Bond University
Australia Australia

Dr Rachael Field is currently a Professor at Bond University Law School, Queensland, Australia. Until May 2016 Rachael was an Associate Professor in the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Law School. Her key teaching interests are in the first year experience and dispute resolution. She was a University Teaching Fellow for 2005 focussing on the development of blended models of teaching delivery. Rachael was also the co-Program Leader (with Prof Sally Kift) of the Scholarship of Higher Education Learning in Law and Justice Program in the Faculty’s Law and Justice Research Centre until 2011. Rachael was awarded an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Citation in 2008 and was made an ALTC Teaching Fellow in 2010. In 2010 Rachael worked with Professors Sally Kift and Mark Israel on the development of the Threshold Learning Outcomes for Law. In 2013 Rachael and Prof Nick James published a first year law text entitled “The New Lawyer”. Rachael has been a member of the First Year in Higher Education Conference organising committee since 2007 and will chair that committee from 2014. Rachael has published widely in her areas of research interest which include dispute resolution, the first year experience, women and the law and family law. Rachael was the Chair of the Faculty Equity Committee between 2003-2005. Rachael has also been a member of the Women’s Legal Service, Brisbane Management Committee since 1994 and has been President of the Service since 2004. In 2010 Rachael, along with the Women’s Legal Service Brisbane, was commissioned by the Federal Attorney-General to design a model of family dispute resolution for use in matters where there is a history of domestic violence. This model was implemented in 5 locations around Australia for 18 months and was evaluated by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. In 2011 and 2012 Rachael was invited by the Australian Human Rights Commission to contribute to their International Program by presenting the model to bi-lateral workshops with the All China Women’s Federation. Rachael completed her PhD through the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney under the supervision of Professor Hilary Astor in 2011. Rachael was awarded WLAQ Queensland Woman Lawyer of the Year in 2013 and received an AAUT Teaching Excellence Award in 2014. Her thesis explored the notion of neutrality in mediation and offers an alternative paradigm based on professional mediator ethics.

University of Portsmouth
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Clare Wilson lectures in Applied Psychology at the University of Portsmouth, and directs the Quality of Life, Health and Wellbeing Research Group at Portsmouth.