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Dean Schaumann on the Importance of Keeping a Check on Student Well-being

Dean Schaumann

Law school imposes unique pressures on students today, writes California Western Dean Niels Schaumann in an op-ed published in the Journal of the San Diego County Bar Association on student well-being.

Educators and mentors – including all who work with students or junior lawyers – need to be aware of the factors that affect the well-being of our students and the symptoms of someone in trouble, continues Dean Schaumann.

Law school has never been a picnic, but the pressure law students face has only intensified. It begins with pressure to get into the “right” school, continues with pressure to get a good LSAT score and goes on with pressure to do well, get on the law review, get the good internships, and on and on.

Students – and lawyers – who are physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy perform better. The majority of students manage the stress of law school quite well, but I believe in starting the discussion about well-being on day one in orientation. Starting good healthy habits during the first year provides a solid foundation for their entire legal career.

It was once stigmatizing to seek help for stress, drinking or drug problems. Today, the stigma has been reduced greatly. Nevertheless, it is important to send the message to students that seeking help is not only OK, but it is a sign of a high-functioning professional.

At California Western, we teach that “successful students use all the resources.” Providing an open, supportive learning community, in which students can talk to staff, faculty, or peer mentors is part of our strategy to support and engage our students to complete law school, pass the bar exam, and thrive in the practice of law.

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