Transcript:

CHRIS NEWBOLD:

Hello, well-being friends and welcome to the Path to Well-Being in Law podcast, an initiative of the Institute for Well-Being in Law. I’m your cohost CHRIS:, Executive Vice President of ALPS Malpractice Insurance. And again, most of, I think, our listeners know what our goal is but let me reiterate that we love bringing on to the podcast thought leaders in the well-being space doing meaningful work to advance the profession and to in the process build and nurture a national network of well-being advocates intent on creating a culture shift within the profession.

CHRIS:

Let me introduce my cohost Bree Buchanan. Bree, how are you doing? And how has your summer been?

BREE BUCHANAN:

Hey Chris, it has been wonderful. I get to be here in Eugene, Oregon so it’s just beautiful and getting to do a lot of fun things. I’m really blessed with that. And I just wanted to say, Chris, you’re talking about thought leaders and as regards to our guest today, Jen really is, she’s not only a thought leader in this space but she’s also a teacher of future thought leaders. So we’re really glad that we got Jen with us today.

CHRIS:

Yeah. We got a great guest today. And we are in the midst right now of spending a three-part miniseries within the podcast of really looking in terms of what’s going on in the law schools. We know that they are training the next generation in our profession and we know that these issues are becoming much more acutely aware in the environment. We started off our law school series with Linda Sugin from Fordham Law School and we will be followed in our next podcast by Janet Stearns who comes to us from the Miami School of Law.

CHRIS:

But today’s about Penn Law and introducing our, we’re really excited to have Jennifer Leonard join us on the podcast. Bree, will you do the honors of introducing Jen.

BREE:

I’d be delighted. So Jen Leonard is Penn Law’s, get this title, I love this, Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Director of the Future of the Profession Initiative. Jen’s work at Penn Law focuses on developing a deep understanding of what legal professionals need to be successful in the face of constant transformation. Isn’t that true? Working with a collaborative group of colleagues across the law school in the profession, Jen designs ways to educate new law students about changes in the profession and the skills they need to thrive in the future.

BREE:

Before assuming her current role, she served as Associate Dean for Professional Engagement and Director of the Center of Professionalism at Penn Law. And prior to that, she was Chief of Staff to the City Solicitor of Philadelphia and a Litigation Associate with a Center City law firm, and a Judicial Law Clerk. And then Jen went home when she went to work at Penn Law because she’s a graduate from there in 2004 from the law school and Penn State University with high honors. Jen’s also a frequent writer and speaker on the issues that include lawyer and law student well-being. So Jen, thank you for being here today and welcome.

JENNIFER LEONARD:

Wow. Thank you so much, Chris and Bree. I’m so excited to be here. And thank you for that lovely introduction.

BREE:

You bet. So Jen, one of the things we always ask our guests because it provides such interesting information and background and insight into the people that we have with us, tell us what brought you into the lawyer/law student well-being movement. The people that work in this space and really care about it, they have a passion for the work. And typically, there’s something that’s driving that. So tell us a little bit about that, what that means for you.

JENNIFER:

Yeah. First of all, I’m so excited that there is an actual movement now around attorney well-being and law student well-being.

BREE:

Right.

JENNIFER:

That’s an exciting development and a recent development, which I think many law students don’t fully understand because they have arrived at law school at a time when the movement is accelerating and is growing which is fantastic.

JENNIFER:

I have first-hand experience being a law student who really struggled with well-being issues including depression and anxiety and also some of the really common things that law students experience, imposter syndrome, not fully understanding that I wasn’t expected to know how to be a skilled attorney on day one. Most attorneys, hopefully, if they’ve had a really great practice will retire still growing and still learning new things. And I did not understand as a very confused and disoriented OneL that I was just at the beginning of a journey and I felt very isolated and very sort of inept in the environment and that was stunning to me because I had spent my whole life just absolutely loving school from being four years old and pretending to be a teacher in my basement with my friends all the way through graduating from college, it was just the place I felt most alive and most comfortable.

JENNIFER:

And law school was a completely different experience. I felt very uncomfortable from day one. My involvement in the well-being movement, I would say, is sort of an accident that followed from that experience which followed me into practice and I certainly experienced many of the challenges that the research shows around depression and anxiety in private practice. When I moved over to government work, because of the constraints of resources, you’re just sort of thrown into the fire and forced to grow on your own. And that was actually really helpful for me for building confidence and learning that I actually had the capacity to do amazing things if I really gave myself the time to develop and the opportunity to develop.

JENNIFER:

So when I came to the law school in 2013 and started counseling law students, it was sort of a revelation to me as I sat across from younger versions of myself that they were saying to me the exact same things that I was saying in my own head as a OneL. And that was the first time even 10 years after law school that it occurred to me that I was not the only person who had this experience. And I really wanted to prevent future generations of law students from making the mistake and thinking they weren’t capable and not allowing themselves to live up to their potential and contribute to society in the profession.

JENNIFER:

So I started building some programming, co curricular programming at first, and then programming that eventually became woven into our formal curriculum after the National Task Force report came out. And so I was just thrilled to see the movement grow over time and now to have part in leading some of those initiatives at the law school.

CHRIS:

Jen, today we’re going to talk about the work of you and your colleagues at Penn Law. Let’s set the stage a little bit. Tell us about Penn Law, your location, size, focus, types of students, and give us a flavor for the type of law school that you work within.

JENNIFER:

Well, I have the great pleasure of working at a phenomenal law school. The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School which is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We draw students from all over the world, approximately 250 incoming first-year JDs every year from all over the country and 115 LLM students from around the world who contribute just such a diversity and complexity of perspectives to our experience that we really are a global leader in legal education. And I’m excited to work at Penn as a broader university because its founder Benjamin Franklin really focused on two elements of education that I think are critical to our success.

JENNIFER:

One is a real focus on interdisciplinarity and learning across different disciplines about how to solve problems and that is a lot of what my work entails, building connections with our colleagues in innovation spaces across Penn’s campus. And the second element is really bringing a blend of high-minded intellectual research and academic efforts in translating that work into things that can really have impact in the real world. And so it’s the perfect place to be developing innovative projects including some of our work in the well-being space and seeing how that work translates in our profession.

BREE:

So speaking of innovation, I just think that you have the coolest job title I’ve ever seen. Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Director of the Future of the Profession Initiative. Tell us about that. How did all that come about? And tell us about that initiative.

JENNIFER:

Oh, thank you. I love my job. I do get to have the coolest title. And I think if I were to make a long story short, I think it’s that I chirped enough about all the changes I’d love to see in legal education and in the profession that somebody finally gave me the opportunity to focus just on that. And the longer story is that our dean was really interested in thinking about all the changes happening in the legal profession and how a leading law school really has both an obligation and an opportunity to respond to that change so that our students are entering the profession prepared with the skills they need to thrive and to also lead the profession into the next phase of its existence.

JENNIFER:

So I had the chance to work with colleagues across the law school and then through our advisory board of alumni all across the profession to iterate and refine the vision for what ultimately became the future of the profession initiative, which I now have the great honor and privilege of leading.

CHRIS:

Tell me about the scope of that initiative. I’m just curious what you’re looking at and what you’re hoping to poke and prod around into.

JENNIFER:

Sure. We have three different buckets of projects that we work on. And I’m part of a day-to-day team of three people, two of my colleagues Jim Sandman who is President Emeritus of Legal Services Corporation and now’s our senior consultant and Miguel Willis who is the Executive Director of Access to Justice Tech Fellows which is now formally affiliated with FPI. And Jim, Miguel, and I and our colleagues work on developing new curricular and co curricular offerings that are responsive to the changing conditions in the legal profession. So Jim teaches courses on leadership in law, Miguel and our advisory board member Claudia Johnson teaches courses on law, technology, and access to justice, I teach courses on user center design for the better delivery of legal services.

JENNIFER:

And so we focus on teaching students about the skills that they need to respond to future conditions. We also focus on leading conversations across the profession of leaders who are doing really interesting things in legal. And those conversations take the form of a podcast, the Law 2030 podcast, a monthly newsletter where we bring in voices not only from the legal profession but from across Penn’s campus, across other fields to help us navigate change, to teach us what they’re doing in their respective environments that we can draw lessons from. And then finally, we’re building out projects for impact, things that we can do from the unique position of being a research university that can have real-world impact. So Jim is working on a variety of projects related to regulatory reform, finding new ways to connect people with legal systems. Jim’s focused also on court simplification and form simplification so that it’s easier for individuals and small businesses to access the legal profession.

JENNIFER:

So we teach, we lead conversations and we do it all within the goal of transforming the way we deliver legal services to our clients.

CHRIS:

That sounds like pretty cool work.

JENNIFER:

It’s so much fun-

BREE:

I know.

JENNIFER:

And really, really engaging and worthwhile and so lucky to do it.

BREE:

I just think you must be so excited to go to work every day.

JENNIFER:

Totally.

CHRIS:

Anyone who gets to put the word future in their job description, I think that’s pretty fun to be able to look out at.

JENNIFER:

Oh, it’s so fun.

CHRIS:

So Jen, you’ve been back now at Penn Law I think in a professional capacity for about eight years. Let’s talk a little bit about what you’re seeing in the law school environment. Share with our listeners some of the well-being issues you’ve seen coming out of the student body, issues that students are facing. And how have those issues affected their law school and, in many cases, their post law school experience?

JENNIFER:

Yeah. So I think, again, to draw from my own experience both as a law student who struggled with these issues and also as somebody who had the chance to counsel students in a career counseling capacity early on in my time at the law school, I would say the biggest thing that I saw and see among students is the idea of imposter syndrome. When you are in an environment where you’re surrounded by really talented people who come from all different backgrounds, all different educational degrees, you look around and you think, “How can I be here with all of these smart people around me?” And then you have the opportunity to engage in Socratic dialogue with learned professors and legal scholars at the top of their fields.

JENNIFER:

And I found it to be, and in my experience talking with first-year law students, some of them also find it to be very overwhelming. And I think that helping them adopt a mindset, a learner’s mindset, that you are here because you deserve to be here is a rigorous process for admission. And our admission’s office doesn’t make mistakes. You should be here. And you are here at the very beginning of what will be a very long journey where you will grow a significant amount over the course of your life. So expecting yourself to understand the complexities of law in the first couple months, I think, is unrealistic. And so helping students understand that all lawyers have been in their shoes, that the people around them who seem the most confident are frequently the ones who are struggling the most and sometimes that manifests as overconfidence or projection of overconfidence which can feed into that imposter syndrome.

JENNIFER:

And I think just helping students adopt a growth mindset that will allow them to, I don’t like to use the word fail, I like to use the word learn, learn from missteps, learn from early misunderstandings of the law, learn even in their Socratic dialogue which was particularly challenging for me. I’m introverted by nature. And I viewed everything as a judgment on me and if I wasn’t doing it perfectly, that meant I wasn’t capable of doing it. And so supporting students in understanding that they are in a developmental process that is rigorous and at the end will benefit them tremendously if they can adopt that learner’s mindset.

BREE:

I just love how you framed that and that must be so incredibly helpful for the students that you talk to. I definitely dealt with imposter syndrome. I know that a lot of people have but I didn’t have the language for it. Do you talk to the students about, do you name it? Do you tell them what imposter syndrome is?

JENNIFER:

Yeah. I would say most students now coming in are familiar with it from their undergrad work or other graduate work, which is fantastic. As you know, Bree, there was no language when we were in law school for imposter syndrome. It didn’t even exist. So we’re already starting at a more advanced point. And also the concept of growth mindset is something that people are learning about at a younger and younger age. My kids are in daycare and kindergarten and are already learning about growth mindset. So in 20 years, we’ll be admitting people to law school who either they don’t need to learn learner’s mindset and they don’t need to learn the importance of growth mindset. We will be much more ahead of the game.

JENNIFER:

Now, I think we’re in this exciting chapter where we’re finally opening up the conversation and naming the issues as you’re saying. And students are much more comfortable, I think, than our generation was at being open about the challenges, which is really, really not only helpful for advancing the conversation but helpful for your own mental health to be engaged with other people who are experiencing the same thing.

CHRIS:

Talk to us about some of the well-being initiatives that make you most proud. You’ve obviously put a lot of time and attention into creating a culture where people’s issues are respected and there’s vulnerability and empathy. Talk to us about what are some of the things that you are most proud of in terms of what it does and some of the things that you’ve been doing.

JENNIFER:

It’s funny, Chris, because I will talk about the thing that we’ve done that I’m most proud of and on behalf of my colleagues because these are really collaborative efforts across the law school, not just from FPI. But also, what I’m most excited about for the future, but I would say that I’m most proud of our leadership at our school led by our dean really embracing the recommendations of the National Task Force report and developing the opportunity to come into all of our upper level professional responsibility courses which are the only courses that are required after the first year of law school. So it’s the only course where we will reach every student before they graduate outside of what is a very challenging and jampacked first year curriculum and talk to the students about these issues and talk to them about what the task force revealed, the current state of the research, some of the potential causes for the challenges we see in the legal profession, why those challenges relate to the provision of legal services.

JENNIFER:

One thing that I’ve learned in doing this programming over the years to the great credit of the students is sometimes they don’t want to focus as much on these issues just for their own benefit. And even though there are great benefits to doing that, what they really want to know is what does this have to do with being a lawyer? How does this impact my lawyering and my clients? And our solution to that was really to talk to them about exactly that. How does this impact the provision of service to your clients? How can you give the best legal counsel you’re capable of if you’re not well? How are the ways that we can elevate our well-being? And bringing in experts, I am not a mental health expert, I have the experience of being somebody who was challenged with these issues, but we bring in voices from the mental health community who are trained professionals to talk with the students about some of the challenges that professionals face.

JENNIFER:

And so I have been the most proud to work with my colleague John Hollway as well to deliver those lessons and guide those discussions in our professional responsibility courses. I’ll also say that I was most excited, our dean offered the opportunity to all of the faculty who teach professional responsibility in the upper levels, this is not a mandate by any stretch of the imagination, it was just a chance for them to do it if they wanted. Every single professional responsibility faculty member welcomed us in, has repeatedly welcomed us to come back, and they were really excited to see the law school doing this. So that is what I would say I’m most proud of to date, and again, with my colleagues developing this.

JENNIFER:

What I’m most proud of in the future is moving into the next phase of that conversation and having a more unified discussion between law schools and legal employers and law firms so that we’re not having one conversation at the law school level and helping students develop responsive coping behaviors to respond to stress that work in a law school environment but maybe don’t work in practice to thinking about the environments and the systems within which we practice and seeing how we can transform those environments so that it’s a shared responsibility between schools and employers and individual students and lawyers to really lift all boats and be sure that we can practice at the highest level. So that is the next phase of our work and we’re actively thinking about how we can do that in the best possible way.

CHRIS:

Yeah. There’s no doubt that the work that you are doing and, again, lots of folks in law schools are doing, if we prepare them for a profession that ultimately is very different than what we just did to create those senses of what practicing law’s going to be like and if it’s very different there’s going to be a disconnect, as you mentioned.

JENNIFER:

Exactly. And we want to teach them skills that they’re able to deploy over their entire career, not just skills that will work for the next year or two. How can we bring in more collaborative partners from practice so that we’re bridging that gap, bridging that divide more? And how are we thinking about redeveloping systems so that people can have more balance in their life and really be healthier, happier lawyers who are better serving their clients?

CHRIS:

Yeah.

JENNIFER:

It’s a huge task but one that-

CHRIS:

It is a huge task and maybe we can come back and touch on this coming back from the break. It feels like to be able to do that, you’re going to have to bring those thought leaders in the legal environments into the law school though, almost have them go through their own reflection points about how they think about culture and how they value the attorneys within the firm from a well-being perspective.

JENNIFER:

And I think that’s where we have the real ability to do that is our convening ability and we can do that and we can also bring in our colleagues from Penn Medicine and Penn Engineering. And what are their students and professionals experiencing? And then some of our psychology partners across campus to come in and talk about the complex interplay among professional satisfaction, finance, and some of these mental health conditions that elite professionals experience and how can we work together to come up with some new solutions to the problems. And I think that a law school is the perfect place to do that.

CHRIS:

Yeah.

JENNIFER:

And I would love to involve the students because I think that they would be really interested in having the conversation as well and having some agency and some involvement in driving that change.

BREE:

No doubt.

CHRIS:

Yeah. So let’s take a quick break here because, again, I think we’re getting into the meat and potatoes, so to speak, of what you’re working to do and why it’s going to be, I think, so important in terms of the future of our professionals. Let’s take a short break.

JENNIFER:

Sounds great.

 


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BREE:

So welcome back, everybody. And we have with us today Jen Leonard who is one of the, I’ll say, one of the leading thought leaders around well-being for law students. She is joining us today from Penn Law. And continue in the conversation, Jenn, I think what I’d really like for us to talk about now is focus in on what advice you can give to our listeners out there who are with a law school who are thinking about how to implement some programs, maybe something you’ve mentioned, something that they have decided they want to pursue on their own. And one of the biggest things within a large school is to get buy in from leadership and I heard you say earlier on that you do have buy in from your top leadership. How did that happen with the administration? And how did you get buy in from the faculty?

JENNIFER:

So amazing question. Yes. I would say the biggest driver of our success is really the leadership of our dean who is very interested in these topics and interested in supporting our students in developing into the best attorneys they can be. And I can’t overstate how much that matters. Our faculty, I would say, are similarly supportive and the culture at our school is, we joke that people talk about it as a collegial culture all the time, but it really is this Quaker-based culture of collegiality and collaboration. So I feel very, very fortunate and maybe uniquely situated as compared with some of your listeners who might be trying to build these programs at other schools.

JENNIFER:

But what I would say is even if you don’t have those conditions, I would not be discouraged. What I would do is I would be strategic. If you want to start well-being initiatives at your own law school, I would say start small and find the people who will be the cheerleaders for you who have voices that people will listen to. One group of voices that are really compelling to faculty and administrators alike are students. So if you have students coming to you who are interested in these topics, and as I said, I think students coming into law school now are so much more well-versed in these issues from their undergrad and other experiences that the movement is growing even among students. So being able to channel those voices and respond to them as an administration is really important. If you can find a faculty member who is really interested or who has had experience with students in their classes who have been challenged around some of these issues and would like to help you build a program, that’s fantastic.

JENNIFER:

But you can build co curricular offerings, I would say that’s the best way to start is to offer programs, maybe a brown bag lunch from students at lunchtime, bring in some alumni who are interested in this. I find in my experience that alumni who are practicing law and who are experiencing the stresses of practicing law are really, really interested in reaching back and supporting new law students and they’re also really well-respected among the student body. And it also doesn’t cost a lot of money usually to bring in an alum to have lunch with students and especially now that we do so many things on Zoom, have some of your alumni Zoom in and talk about things they wish they’d known when they were law students and how they’ve grown over time. As I said, it doesn’t have to be expensive. But if you start small and you’re willing to learn and you’re willing to get feedback from students on how to improve and iterate the programming over time, then you can start building from there.

CHRIS:

Jen, it feels like what you’re also inferring, correct me if I’m misstating it, is that you are in your effort to nurture the culture within the law school itself, there certainly is a student centric approach to that and just trying to understand where they’re at, why they’re there, again, how we can assist them on the journey, not just from a law knowledge perspective but also the mental approach to preparing them to become a lawyer down the road?

JENNIFER:

That’s absolutely right. And I love that you say a student centric approach. In our sort of general innovation programming outside of well-being, we’re really focused on human centered design. So if you apply that lens to the law student experience, what are we as administrators providing to our students and what is that provision of education and experience like from their perspective? And the way to do that is to really have conversations with student groups, maybe you have a student group in your building that you don’t even know about that is focused on well-being. We have a wellness committee of students who are interested in these topics, so meeting with them and learning about what they would find really helpful and building support from there, I would say. Bringing the student voice in is critical though.

CHRIS:

Yeah. And I know, again, I graduated from a law school class that had 75 students which is significantly less than your incoming classes. And it certainly feels like the faster that you create communities of students together or feeling that you can find people that you can relate to within the law school environment, the more that you got people that just feel more comfortable, avoid the imposter syndrome, and then hopefully we’re preparing them for an opportunity to prosper as they go through the law school journey.

JENNIFER:

That’s right. And I think also one other tip could be maybe if you feel that the environment’s not receptive to well-being programming or you’re having trouble gaining traction, there are programs that you can create that are not explicitly well-being programs but that have the corollary benefit of creating enhanced well-being in your institution. And those programs can be about team building and collaboration and legal practice skills and how those interpersonal impact skills are really being deployed in practice. And they have the benefit of building community among the students, as my colleague John talks about it. He talks about it like fluoride in the water, that you don’t really know that it’s there but in the end it has the impact of building a healthier environment around you.

BREE:

Let’s talk about getting to the nitty gritty, which is the cost of some of these programs which could be another barrier for somebody to implement. What is, I guess, the fiscal impact of the programs that you put together? And do you have any suggestions for people about that?

JENNIFER:

I would say that most of the programming we have done costs virtually nothing to do aside from maybe the cost of providing lunch, if you’re providing lunch to your students. Having alumni come in and do a panel discussion about some of these issues, if you’re at a law school that’s connected with a broader university that has a counseling and psychological services group where you can have trained mental health professionals come in and have a conversation with students will cost nothing. Even the professional responsibility module we built out costs nothing to do, other than the energy investment in building the program and engaging our professors and getting their buy in. It is a lot of sweat equity that you will put into these programs but the actual cost of running them is minimal, I would say.

JENNIFER:

So I would say no matter what your law school’s budget is, not to be deterred around having these conversations of building a community that is supportive of them.

CHRIS:

Bree knows that one of the, I sit in a management role at an insurance company, so we’re always data geeks about trying to figure out how do we measure success. And again, the well-being space is such an interesting one in terms of how do you know that you’re, so to speak, advancing the ball? How do you feel like you’re making an impact in terms of, again, preparing students for the practice of law? And as you think about your work on a day-to-day basis, are there certain metrics that you look at or is it a little bit more instinctual and you just know that you’re making an impact but in small and significant ways?

JENNIFER:

Yeah. I would say our return on investment are the qualitative reports that we have from students and alumni versus more hard data. We’ve certainly used research from other places to guide our efforts so some of the research that Sheldon and [Krieger 00:34:20] have done about the shift from intrinsic motivation to extrinsic motivation in the first year we fold into our conversations with students. But in terms of measuring outcomes, I think professional skill development is notoriously difficult to measure impact around but I talk with alumni who are five or six years now who seem to me to be very healthy and happy and thriving and really happy with their law school experience because of the community, and it’s not because of the well-being programs in particular, but because of the community that we’ve been able to cultivate here and the support that we provide to our students.

JENNIFER:

And we take a tremendous amount of feedback and we have been careful about measuring the feedback from students in the PR modules and finding ways to pivot and iterate and adjust to student feedback. And one of the pieces of feedback that I referenced earlier or the place where we want to move next is thinking about these systems. So students are curious about how our environment’s adapting to the research that people in the profession are doing around some of these challenges and how can we be a part of that as well. So it’s more qualitative admittedly than quantitative but it’s certainly I can feel a shift. I know that it’s a different environment from when I was a student there and I can only say from the students to whom I have said, “You are not alone in this,” those of us in the building have experienced this that the look of relief and sometimes surprise is really significant feedback to me.

BREE:

Yeah. Jen, just before we wrap up I just have to acknowledge the time we’re in and the context of this podcast which is coming up on a year and a half in the pandemic. So can you talk a little bit about the impact of that on your student body and what you guys at Penn Law have done to address that?

JENNIFER:

So what I can talk about, Bree, is how we adapted the module that we present to the students and the professional responsibility course. We adapted it pretty significantly over the last year and a half in response to all of the things that happened in 2020, the pandemic, the dislocation, the disconnection in our communities, the social uprising around racial injustice across the globe, the political polarization that we’re all experiencing. It’s been a lot to process and then to sit and talk with law students about their well-being, the conversation had to be different than the conversation we were having with them in December of 2019.

BREE:

Absolutely.

JENNIFER:

Some of the adjustments that we made were bringing in more voices from our counseling and psychological services offices, particularly counselors that are trained on racial identity coming in to talk with students about the experience of being historically under represented person or group in a majority institution at a time when we’re going through everything that we’re going through. So we brought in that element to our conversations.

JENNIFER:

We also brought in junior alumni who are in practice to share some of their experiences on the ground, which was a response to student feedback that they really wanted to hear from our recent graduates about specifically some of the things that they’re dealing with in practice and how they’re responding to them. We talked a lot about toxic positivity. So there have been articles about the idea that telling people they should be adopting positive mindsets in the face of everything that’s happening is not helpful and that it’s okay right now not to feel okay. And I would say that our approach really was much more student led this year. We really wanted to hear from students how they were responding to the stressful conditions, what had been helpful to them, what were their anxieties and concerns, and then having a trained mental health professional in the room with us to respond to that, and also some people who were dealing with the issues in practice. It was a much more team-oriented approach I think to having these conversations. And I hope it was a more supportive experience for the students and gave them the opportunity to process some of the things they were dealing with.

CHRIS:

Jen, I want to ask maybe one more question. I have to imagine that as you’ve visualized where a student starts and where a student walks across the podium and receives that diploma is a journey in the law school. When you look at that journey, are you visualizing what does first year look like, what does second year look like, what does third year look like from a wellness perspective and how you’re trying to nurture that as a complement to the curriculum?

JENNIFER:

Yeah. I think as the programming has evolved, we have definitely adjusted the programming to be more developmentally appropriate depending on the level of experience of the student. So to your point, there are very specific times during the first year of law school that are different in nature than the stressors that our second and third-year students face. So thinking about how stressful it is about a month in advance of your first set of law school exams and how are we helping students feel supported there versus when they’re getting close to practice and we’re having more contextualized conversations about the rigors of practice itself and some of the stressors that they face in client representation. And that was how we evolved into having a more upper level approach that is also combined with our still ongoing and fantastic professionalism program that is offered in the first year which is co curricular.

JENNIFER:

So we have been thoughtful about adjusting depending on where the student is. I would say another hallmark of our dean’s leadership and our current approach to legal education is really taking a lifelong view of the formation of a lawyer. So you referenced the podium which is a perfect visual, Chris, for thinking about where you are at that point and what is to come and how we as a law school can continue to be your partner. And we’ve done alumni programming on attorney well-being that is a more advanced version of the PR module that we do and the reception to that is different because, of course, our alumni are actually in practice and have different contexts than our students have. And we have even deeper conversations with them about what it’s like to be in practice and what some of the well-being challenges are there.

JENNIFER:

So we are definitely taking a, no pun intended, a graduated approach to the way that we talk with students about well-being. And I would also say too, I wanted to go back to the question about tips for people developing these programs in their schools. I would say too if the sense is or if you anticipate pushback being that it’s too warm and fuzzy or it’s diluting the rigor of the program, something to that effect. What I would say is that when I think about the way that we’re supporting students, it should be a really intense physical workout. You don’t want somebody who’s leading a really rigorous exercise session to go easy on you because at the end you’re not going to feel like you grew at all. What you do want is a coach to help you work through the really tough parts which is where the transformation happens and I think the analogy works for lawyer formation.

JENNIFER:

There are really, really tough parts where as a student I didn’t feel that supported and I felt very alone. And I think I probably did not push through and grow in the way that I could have had I had a bit more coaching and get more support and that’s how I think about the service that we’re providing by implementing well-being programming along the way.

CHRIS:

Yeah. And I think it’s interesting that the firms that are likely hiring your students are also now talking a little bit more about the wellness components associated with, in the talent acquisition process. And I’m wondering whether you’re doing something similar. You’re a highly-respected law school, whether your commitment to this particular issue of well-being and wellness of the student body as part of the experience is also coming into play as you think about the recruitment and the admissions process.

JENNIFER:

I haven’t actively thought about how it would be appealing to applicants to law school. I think as a school, again, our collegial nature is our hallmark and what we think makes us a very strong community where ideally people would want to come and learn. But I think you’re right in the sense that increasingly students and aspiring professionals are looking to be in environments where they can grow and learn and be tested and challenged but also supported and develop really strong connections along the way and feel great about what they’re doing. And so to the extent that that is a secondary benefit, that’s fantastic. I think savvy legal employers are thinking about how to better support their attorneys so that they are not losing that talent.

JENNIFER:

I think one of the really undesirable outcomes of our failure to pay attention to these issues for so long is the hemorrhaging of enormous amounts of talent from the profession.

BREE:

Absolutely.

JENNIFER:

And imagine what we can accomplish together if we just adjusted and had deeper conversations and develop new solutions so that we keep all that brilliant talent working to support the health of society.

BREE:

Wow.

CHRIS:

What a great way to end the podcast. I think that’s exactly right and indicative, Jen, of again why we see you and your experience at Penn Law as being so much a part of, again, realizing the potential of our profession and how important it is that we focus on these particular areas. Any closing comments, Jen, before we close it out?

JENNIFER:

Thank you so much for having me on. And again, I really just want to give credit to the entire Penn Law community, alumni, students, colleagues, faculty, staff, administration. This is a team effort and I have the honor of being a spokesperson today but it is far from a solo mission.

CHRIS:

Well Jen, we certainly are very thankful and grateful for all of your contributions and, again, I think there’s a lot of takeaways in your experience at Penn Law that I think can really have … If our goal ultimately is to engineer a culture shift in the profession, it starts with individuals like you and we thank you so much for your work and your leadership.

BREE:

We have much to learn.

JENNIFER:

Thank you so much.

BREE:

Yeah.

JENNIFER:

Thank you both so much for what you do to drive this conversation and lead thoughts and conversations like this. So grateful.

CHRIS:

Yeah. That was Jennifer Leonard of Penn Law School. And again, we’ll be back in a couple weeks with Janet Stearns of the Miami School of Law as we continue and close out our law school focus. Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you in a couple weeks.

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