I’m pleased to introduce myself as the External Director and Blog Editor of the Law School Wellness Project at Stanford Law School, working with Professor Joseph Bankman. Professor Bankman recognized the importance of emotional resilience to cope with the stresses of a demanding professional career and the need to provide law students with further information and tools to notice and effectively manage common mental health challenges. I share these concerns and values and am eager to advance the goals of the Project and develop further areas of study and dialogue.
I am a lawyer and licensed psychotherapist/consultant in private practice, where I specialize in seeing law students, lawyers, doctors, and other professionals. My passion for issues of mental health and wellness long preceded my legal and psychotherapy careers, and I often say I have been in training for this type of work since birth. My parents met on an elevator at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, where my mother was a psychiatric nurse and my father worked as a teacher for adolescents admitted to the long-term psychiatric ward. Later, after finishing graduate school, my mother opened a private psychotherapy practice, where she continued to work for much of my childhood and beyond. Dinner table conversation often revolved around some aspect of my mother’s work and no doubt shaped my empathy for and curiosity about others from both a psychological and sociological perspective. More fundamentally, my upbringing created a steadfast belief in the importance of noticing and communicating one’s feelings and of having an open-minded, non-judgmental stance toward matters of mental health.
For many years, practicing law felt like the right fit, and I had the good fortune to work with outstanding judges and lawyers. In any work environment in which I found myself, however, I often would spend several hours a day with colleagues who sought me out to listen to a variety of personal and professional challenges. Over time, I witnessed the immense value of having a space for lawyers to share openly. This inspired me to think more deeply about what professionals need to function at optimal levels and, ultimately, contributed to my career change.
As the External Director of the Law School Wellness Project, I look forward to bringing my passion and expertise to advance the goals of lawyer wellness on a broader scale. The Project is intended to be a joint effort among law schools. Our hope is that law school faculty and administrators nationwide will consider implementing courses to educate law students to cope with the emotional challenges of the profession, and that the blog will be a hub for collaboration to make it easier for those working in the area to exchange ideas, teaching materials, articles, and announcements. My personal hope is that the Project encourages people to share more openly about wellness and mental health (including universal emotions, such as anxiety) and helps destigmatize these topics within our profession.
I am very interested to get your feedback about how the Project should evolve and what content would be useful. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to share ideas, ask for further information about the psychoeducation courses taught at Stanford and Yale Law Schools, or to contribute relevant articles or teaching materials.
I’m curious to see in what directions this Project will go and look forward to working together on these important issues.
— Sarah Weinstein