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Bond research to help 'highly stressed' lawyers find their Zen

Lawyers and law students need support to deal with the high-pressured nature of their chosen career, or the future of the profession could be in jeopardy, according to the country’s leading academics.

Bond Faculty of Law Professor Rachael Field said that Australian empirical research indicates that one third of Australian solicitors and one fifth of Australian barristers reported elevated levels of psychological distress.

She said one third of law students also reported increased levels of stress after their first year of study, a statistic first reported in 2009 and consistently reinforced by various studies since then.

"Research indicates that for many law students, symptoms of psychological distress begin early and continue throughout their study and into their working lives," she said.

"The legal profession has an ethical imperative to respond to the high levels of psychological distress experienced by lawyers and law students.

"A failure to act on this imperative will impact the future sustainability and success of the profession."

Professor Field and Assistant Professor Jackson Walkden-Brown presented a seminar titled 'Psychological Wellbeing in Law: A Snapshot of Evidence and Strategies' as part of Bond University's Research Week.

Research Week features free public lectures, seminars and debates showcasing the array of research underway at the Gold Coast university from 10 to 14 October.

Professor Field said the legal seminar provided an overview of the latest academic research into psychological wellbeing within the practice of law, and explored some key strategies for coping with stress and building resilience.

"Resilience is more than just the capacity to cope well under pressure, resilience enables people to 'respond and endure' or 'develop and master' in spite of life's stressors and adversity,‚ÄĚ she said.

"In the field of law, it is crucial we develop a deeper understanding of the onset and cause of psychological distress and take a practical approach to managing the stressors of legal education and practice.

"Whilst it is important for individuals to learn coping mechanisms to avoid psychological distress, institutions and workplaces have a duty of care to provide access to information and support," she said.

"The law profession needs to acknowledge that psychological distress is a problem for our professional community, not for individuals to manage alone.

"We need to focus on establishing supportive environments and maintaining connectedness in order to ensure the physical and mental health of our lawyers and students, and the longevity of the legal profession."

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