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Best Practice: Taking charge

Every Issue

Cite as: September 2015 89 (9) LIJ, p.80

Resilience training can help young lawyers manage their wellbeing. 

The College of Law is proud to have been at the forefront of young lawyer education in relation to mental illness and wellbeing since developing its Resilience and Wellbeing for Lawyers program in 2010. Graduate lawyers who complete their practical legal training through the College of Law participate in a half-day workshop where they explore the high levels of depression and anxiety in the legal profession and discuss strategies for managing their own wellbeing.

Before College of Law lecturers are trained to deliver the workshop, they are required to complete a two-day Mental Health First Aid course run by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Australia, which educates them about mental illness and provides guidance around how to respond to a person experiencing a mental health emergency.

Resilience and Wellbeing for Lawyers provides graduates with a forum for discussion of this critical issue at a crucial time in their development, as they are transitioning from students to young professionals and beginning to experience the pressures of legal practice.

Through the workshop, lecturers are able to raise awareness about the high incidence of mental illness in the legal profession, lead discussion about possible reasons for this, and provide information about the symptoms of depression and anxiety which graduates may recognise in themselves, a colleague or friend at some time in their working lives.

The workshop also provides the opportunity for lecturers to facilitate discussions about approaches to preserving wellbeing, and graduates are encouraged to consider putting in place personal strategies to enable them to achieve greater whole life balance, health and wellbeing throughout their legal careers. Feedback from graduates is overwhelmingly positive, with the information about symptoms identified as being particularly helpful.

Since the Resilience and Wellbeing for Lawyers program started in 2010, the College of Law has delivered it to more than 12,000 graduates nationally, including almost 3000 Victorian graduates. The College of Law is pleased to be able to contribute in a practical way to addressing this important issue for our profession and we hope that a whole generation of new lawyers will bring into practice a heightened awareness of mental health issues in the workplace and how to respond to them.

The College of Law’s Sydney campus will host the Wellness Network for Law Annual Forum on 4–5 February 2016. The forum is open to all interested parties and registration is free. See http://wellnessforlaw.com for further details.

Madeleine Dupuche is a lecturer at the College of Law in Melbourne, a legal practitioner and a member of the LIV. Michael Appleby is a lecturer at the College of Law in Sydney.

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