St. Mary's Law Journal


Law students and lawyers experience mental illness and substance abuse at higher rates than the general population and other learned professions. This is bad for an individual’s wellbeing as well as their clients and society because mental illness and substance abuse increases stress which in turn decreases effective decision-making and judgment, and in worst case scenarios leads to attrition as individuals choose death by suicide which has cascading social and economic impacts. This Article identifies practices in legal education that likely combine in a causal mechanism, although not a sole cause, to the higher rates of mental illness and substance abuse experienced by students and lawyers and proposes a series of alternatives and mitigations to lessen impact. This work builds upon that done by Lawrence Krieger and Kennon Sheldon, as well as Jeremy Organ, David Jaffe, and Janet Stearns et al. on the subject of law student well-being. This is a multi-factor and multi-causal problem, and where prior work focused on students’ self-determination and subjective well-being, this Article looks at the educational practices that results in administering cognitive behavioral therapy en masse to law students without the protective mechanisms that surround intended therapy with a professional.

After providing a brief primer on the regulatory system that applies to counselors and therapists, the A-B-C model underlying human psyche and the various orientations that help individual’s change their psyche, this Article examines how legal education administers a course of cognitive behavioral therapy to law students without the surrounding protections that exist when a trained therapist administers CBT. The Article concludes with a number of ways to introduce protective mechanisms to legal education, reduce the harmful applications of cognitive behavioral techniques in the course of education, and suggestions for future research.

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St. Mary's University School of Law


Maximiliano Elizondo

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