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IBA launches new guide for wellbeing in legal education

A new set of International Guidelines for Wellbeing in Legal Education has been launched by the International Bar Association (IBA), designed to promote wellbeing in the lawyers of the future.

user iconLauren Croft 18 March 2024 Big Law
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The International Bar Association (IBA) Professional Wellbeing Commission has launched its International Guidelines for Wellbeing in Legal Education – a resource designed to promote wellbeing for future lawyers and make wellness a core priority for those studying or teaching law and working within the legal profession.

These guidelines come after the Wellbeing Commission’s 2021 survey and subsequent report, Mental Wellbeing in the Legal Profession: A Global Report, which identified a “global crisis” in the wellbeing of lawyers in all jurisdictions and sections of the law.

The guidelines take inspiration from the principles formulated in that report and are specifically designed to be applied in legal education and training settings, both academic and vocational, pre- and post-qualification, according to Dr Emma Jones, IBA professional wellbeing commissioner and co-author of the guidelines.


“The IBA’s 2021 report refers to a crisis in wellbeing within the legal profession. These new guidelines place legal education at the heart of our response. We must act now to ensure the lawyers of the future are able to prioritise wellbeing without fear of stigmatisation,” she said.

“We need to challenge the damaging cultural norms which have come to exist within the law and promote thriving and flourishing amongst students, faculty, and staff.”

With employee wellbeing now being a “positive legal obligation”, many law firms have implemented wellness days or additional leave entitlements to combat burnout in the profession.

The guidelines are made up of 10 recommendations, encouraging law schools to acknowledge the importance of, and actively promote, wellbeing in legal education, cease seeing wellbeing issues as a weakness, raise awareness of the different ways in which wellbeing can be addressed and prioritised in law schools and make a commitment to evidence-based, long-lasting change in addressing wellbeing in legal education.

In addition, the IBA has urged law schools to continually asses changes and initiatives designed to promote wellbeing and foster an open dialogue around wellbeing between students, faculty and staff, as well as share best practices, recognise intersectionalities and commit to addressing systematic problems in the profession, such as excessive competitiveness and lack of empathy.

Poor mental health and burnout in the legal profession have been continually revealed to be all too common, with high-pressure legal environments being linked to higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression. As such, legal education and shaping how lawyers of the future view their mental wellbeing is key, added the co-chairs of the IBA Professional Wellbeing Commission, Deborah Enix-Ross and Steven Richman.

“These guidelines are a proactive response to an endemic problem within our profession. They are designed not just to ameliorate the detrimental effects of poor mental health in the law, but to positively enhance the wellbeing of students and staff, allowing them to thrive,” they said.

“They follow directly from the core findings of our survey and have global relevance.”