Developing a Positive Psychology Course for Law Students
IAALS’ Foundations for Practice project has defined the foundation that new lawyers need to succeed—based on responses from over 24,000 lawyers around the country—and it continues to change the foundation of legal education. More and more law schools and legal educators are embracing the fact that legal theory and skill aren’t enough to satisfy today’s legal employers. Characteristics—like integrity and resilience—and professional competencies—like listening attentively and arriving on time—are far more important for newly minted lawyers than previously thought.
In response to this new reality, R. Lisle Baker, Professor of Law at Suffolk University in Boston, has created a course on Positive Psychology for law students. While the practice of psychology has traditionally focused developing methods to combat the more negative aspects of life, positive psychology serves to compliment this school of thought by strengthening the more positive aspects of life. The course aims to teach law students crucial lessons in positive psychology that will help them better serve their clients and improve their performance as attorneys; the curriculum includes topics such as how to identify positive values important to the students and their future clients, how to build greater resilience in the face of the profession’s challenges, how to reframe negative events to make them less disabling, how to effectively achieve a goal, and how to manage work-life balance.
By helping students recognize and reinforce their character strengths, this course can instruct them on how to use those strengths more effectively within the context of the legal profession. Producing lawyers that can sympathize with their clients and utilize their own personal strengths is imperative to creating a system where the interests of attorneys and their clients are more aligned. Programs like this have the ability not only to improve client-attorney relationships, and they can aid future lawyers in living happier and more productive and balanced lives.