Happiness and the Law
Recently, I learned of a course entitled “Happiness and the Law,” offered to law students at the University of Ottawa. The course was designed by Professor Lynda Collins, who has niche expertise in the area of law student and lawyer wellness, focusing on the law and policy of subjective wellbeing. Professor Collins has taught the Happiness and the Law course for six years, which is designed to help law students cope with the stress of law school and, ultimately, how to handle such a high-pressure profession.
I read an interview with Professor Collins and Canadian Lawyer Magazine, where she explained that the course was designed in response to the overwhelming mental health issues many students face when they are thrown into the high-stress learning environment of law school. Many law students find these challenges are only exacerbated once they are called to the Bar and enter the high-stress work world. According to Collins, students feel as though they are poorly equipped to deal with such a uniquely challenging profession – and, as we know, this is especially prevalent for women.
Professor Collins argues that the research shows that legal professionals experience higher levels of psychological distress, depression, anxiety, burnout, and suicidal ideation compared to the rest of the Canadian working population. The course is designed to equip students with tools early on in their legal careers to combat these challenges, including the importance of sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Collins also helps students to author a self-compassion letter to themselves, aimed at refocusing their thoughts and feelings on being supportive, helpful, and caring in their internal dialogue.
As a relatively new lawyer myself, I was delighted to learn of such a trail blazing course. I found myself thinking about how helpful a course like this would have been when I was in law school. While the course is presently only offered as a first-year elective, as our industry trends towards better work life balance and increased mental health supports, I think we would all support such a course becoming mandatory.
If you had the option during your legal education, would you register for a course similar to that taught by Professor Collins’? I know I would.
You can read more about Professor Collins’ course and her interview with Canadian Lawyer Magazine, here.
About the Author
In case you don’t know her by now, Jaeda Lee is an associate at Harper Grey LLP practicing in insurance and health law and a frequent guest to the Dear LiL Blog. An avid volunteer, Jaeda gives much of her time to the ACTS Water Charity, an organization focused on providing clean, accessible water to those who need it most.