National Wellness for Law Forum, 5-6 February, day 2 keynote

by Paul Maharg on 06/02/2015

Day 2 of this Forum.  After opening remarks by Stephen Bottomley, Dean of ANU College of Law, keynote is by the Hon Justice Shane Marshall, Federal Court of Australia, Ambassador, Wellness and the Law Foundation.

He began citing the example of Lincoln, whose depressions apparently began with his law studies, and quoted from Courting the Blues.  Meditation, mindfulness, use critical and evaluative approaches to law as well as doctrine; ethics learning; skills-based learning; more focus on legal research than examinations.  He drew upon his own experience to say that mental wellbeing should be encouraged more, citing RMIT JD programme’s work on resilience as an example of good practice, and the work of the Tristan Jepson Foundation for law firms.  He spoke powerfully of his work as an Ambassador in helping individuals, and in coping with depression in his own life, particularly the problems of relapse and the adjustment of work/life balance that that entails.  He cited Twain, Roosevelt and others who had been in the same place, and drew a bead between depression and law students’ powerful desire to do well on their law courses, particularly given the pressures they are under for jobs, the peer competition and much else.  Depression, he stated in conclusion, is a critical issue for law students and young practitioners, and is no longer a side issue.  15 mins of questions and responses, and he quoted intimately and movingly from his experience as a judge, particularly on issues of civility in court.  A commenter made the point (to applause) that it was really useful to have a member of the judiciary speaking out on this matter so publicly.

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