Putting wellbeing at the heart of legal education
Zoe Swan, Senior Lecturer in Law and Undergraduate Law Courses Leader at the University, and certified Health and Wellness Coach launched the ground-breaking wellbeing and resilience workshops for first-year undergraduate students earlier this academic year.
Thought to be the first timetabled taught content of its kind on law degrees in the UK the classes consist of two one-hour lectures followed by two hourly workshops for each seminar group.
Says Zoe “This year I gained permission to incorporate wellbeing and resilience into two skills-based law modules in the first and second year. These are called law in practice and law in action. Inserting taught content on wellbeing and resilience into these modules is the most logical place to begin as it is part of students timetabled teaching. This action supports the University’s core value of ‘practical wisdom,’ which culminates in ‘Creating knowledge through practice, applying knowledge into practice and putting knowledge back to work,’ which sits perfectly with developing ‘sustainable wellbeing.’”
As well as being heralded as ‘ground-breaking’ by The Times in an article about helping young lawyers deal with stress, Zoe also discussed the topic at a prestigious conference, The Future of Legal Education Conference 2019, presented by industry leaders Legal Cheek. Sitting as part of a panel of professionals Zoe presented her insights as a Wellness Coach and how these have informed the work she is developing with the law students. She also contributed to a wider discussion on wellbeing, mental ill health and resilience in the legal community.
Findings published earlier this year identified being a lawyer as the second most stressful profession. By cultivating the culture of wellbeing in legal education supporting students to understand resilience and the range of techniques and strategies available, we can help the next generation of legal professionals to cope with pressures often experienced by those working in the field of law.
Zoe explores the concept of resilience and well-being with students from a variety of perspectives and strategies for enhancing emotional resilience as part of lectures and workshops. Students also take part in ‘experiential’ workshops that include working with essential oils, breath work, gratitude practice, self massage techniques to alleviate stress and guided meditation.
Andrew Pearson, Student Law Society President says: “As I closed my eyes and lay on the floor of a University teaching room, I was transported…. I don’t really recall hearing anything around me, I was in my own little place, but a happier and more relaxed place.”
Zoe’s initiative was supported by colleagues across social media following the panel at the Legal Cheek conference.
Zoe also won the Student Union Award for Innovative Teaching at this year’s University of Brighton Student Union Awards 2019.