Last week I was training a group of Student Leaders: high-performing, upper-level law students selected to help 1Ls navigate their first year of law school. I mentioned the movement to humanize legal education and asked how many were aware of it or had even heard about it. No hands went up.
And I thought to myself, “This movement is supposed to be for them. How can they benefit from it if they aren’t even aware that it exists?”
Stated briefly, the movement to humanize legal education seeks to examine and revise certain aspects of traditional legal education that tend to decrease the main indicators of human thriving: a general sense of well-being, connection to self and others, and connection to one’s own values, to name a few.
Stated even more briefly: the movement is trying to see if law students and lawyers can be happier, despite their choice of profession.
Larry Krieger—Professor at Florida State University College of Law and a leader in the movement—describes the movement this way:
“Humanizing Legal Education is an initiative shared by legal educators seeking to maximize the overall health, well being and career satisfaction of law students and lawyers.” [Humanizing Law School]
While the movement, according to its goals, should ultimately benefit all members of the law school community as well as practicing lawyers, the primary intended beneficiaries are law students themselves.
So . . . shouldn’t law students be exactly the people who do know about this movement?
I am certain that there are many, many law students who are aware of the movement to humanize legal education. But I now have at least anecdotal evidence that students at my school, the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, are not aware of it. The extent of student awareness of the movement is itself a topic for further study.
I had already resolved to start a blog about the movement to humanize law school before last week’s encounter with the Student Leaders. But that moment pushed me to start this effort today.
For me, learning more about this movement will improve my teaching; for my students, I hope that it will improve their learning.
Is there a problem?
One of the subjects I intend to explore in this blog is the question of whether there is even a problem to be addressed by the movement. Is the experience of legal education—and later of practicing law—in fact dehumanizing?
The American Bar Association study by Elizabeth Mertz, which I will examine at length in subsequent postings, is a valuable resource on this point. And I intend to explore this question with respect to a specific population: DU Law students.
But for now, I simply offer the following panels from “A Coloring Book for Lawyers”:
This cartoon has resonated somewhat devastatingly with every colleague with whom I have shared it. It is, I believe, a pithy commentary on the state of the profession and the mental well-being of its practitioners.
Thank you for visiting and please come again.