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    02.22.19 In Visit to the Law School, ABA President Focuses on Improving Wellness in the Legal Profession
    In Visit to the Law School, ABA President Focuses on Improving Wellness in the Legal Profession

    American Bar Association President Bob Carlson visited Brooklyn Law School on Feb. 14 to meet with students, faculty, and staff to explore some of the pressing issues of the practice of law today. Carlson has a special interest in improving law student and lawyer wellness and mental health, and he brought his message to a series of gatherings at the Law School, including a special lunchtime open forum attended by more than 100 students and faculty in the Subotnick Center.

    At the forum, Carlson was introduced by Interim Dean Maryellen Fullerton and spoke about the ABA’s commitment to lawyer wellness—the organization provides an online well-being toolkit that includes “80 Tips for Lawyers Thriving” and has launched a pledge for legal employers to make their practices better geared toward wellness. So far, 80 legal employers have signed.

    He then engaged in a Q&A with Professor Heidi Brown, author of The Introverted Lawyer: A Seven-Step Journey Toward Authentically Empowered Advocacy (ABA Book Publishing, 2017) and the forthcoming Untangling Fear in Lawyering: A Four-Step Journey Toward Powerful Advocacy. Brown emphasized that it was important for leaders of the legal profession to open up and be vulnerable and authentic. The problem, she said, “goes beyond diagnosable disorders. This encompasses every day occurrences. Many people are coming into work with fear and anxiety. So, I’m excited that we’re talking about this. Let’s establish a culture of care.”

    Carlson lamented the epidemic of mental health problems in the legal profession, including substance abuse and suicide. At a time when “Americans believe our national values are facing historical threats, and our democracy can falter,” he said, “we need strong vibrant lawyers and judicial leadership and a strong vibrant bar to advance the culture of justice under the rule of law.”

    As for legal education, said Carlson, “we can’t treat students like we were treated,” referring to the intimidation style of teaching made famous in the movie, The Paper Chase. “We all managed to survive, but that’s not what it should be about.”

    “But students here are pretty lucky,” he concluded. “Because you’re at a school that really does care.”

    Carlson also met with student organization leaders, including Jean Paul Stefan ’19, President, Student Bar Association; Caitlin Baranowski ’19, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Corporate, Financial & Commercial Law; Michele Jackson ’20, Vice President, Black Law Student Association; Michael Luongo ’19, President, Moot Court Honors Society; and Taylor Bleistein ’20, ABA Coordinator for Alternative Dispute Resolution Honors Society. They discussed existing mental health initiatives on campus and resources offered by the ABA.

    Earlier in the day, Carlson addressed students from Brooklyn Laboratory School who were attending a Youth Law Day program at the Law School. He gave opening remarks along with Dean Fullerton and Dean of Admissions Eulas G. Boyd Jr. The program, held in partnership with the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) and the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), promotes diversity in the legal field by working with organizations to host high school and college students for an educational day about law school and careers in the law. 

    Carlson earned his B.A. with honors from the University of Montana, and his J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law. He is a shareholder with the Butte, Montana, law firm of Corette Black Carlson & Mickelson.