Balance and context: Law student well-being and lessons from positive psychology

Duffy, James (2016) Balance and context: Law student well-being and lessons from positive psychology. In Field, Rachael, Duffy, James, & James, Colin (Eds.) Promoting Law Student and Lawyer Well-Being in Australia and Beyond. Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group), Farnham, Surrey, pp. 145-157.

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Balance. In addressing the nexus between legal education and decline in law student well-being, it is important to think about balance. When levelling criticism at the content and pedagogy of 21st century legal education, we speak of adversarialism, pessimism, rationality and professional detachment in pejorative tones. We shouldn’t be. The phrase ‘thinking like a lawyer’ has become a euphemistic catchcry for the almost schizoid detachment of feeling and affect from legal reasoning. It shouldn’t be. In the public eye, there is a disconnect between the role of lawyers and the resolution of conflict. There shouldn’t be. In this context law students are being asked to feel good about themselves and the future profession that they are entering. It is little wonder that many do not.

The field of positive psychology has lessons to offer the discipline of law in terms of the importance of balance. The field of positive psychology itself is a balance to other areas of psychology which focus on damage, weakness and pathology. Perhaps one answer to the law student well-being challenge is reflected in positive psychology’s contribution to the greater field of psychology. A focus that goes beyond fixing what is wrong, to include a strengthening of what is going right. Adversarialism, pessimism, rational cognition and detachment represent incredibly important skillsets and mindsets for the law student and the legal practitioner. That said, they are context specific and should not be equated with what it ‘means to be a lawyer’ (whatever that means). Adversarialism should be balanced with alternative dispute resolution, pessimism with optimism and the cognitive with the affective. Striving towards these balances, may help to address the imbalance of psychological distress experienced by law students.

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ID Code: 96205
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Psychological well-being, Law students, Positive psychology, HERN
ISBN: 9781472445292
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 Taylor & Fancis
Deposited On: 15 Jun 2016 23:12
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2017 23:44

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