Our students are in the process of becoming professionals. Specifically, they are entering the legal profession, and as with any profession, there are unique challenges, expectations, and responsibilities. At Pepperdine Law, we believe it is our responsibility to prepare our students, not only with legal knowledge and skills, but also with “professional” knowledge and skills.
This year, we expanded our “professional development” offerings and have required attendance for our first year students. We have seven separate presentations planned over the course of this academic year. Yesterday, we hosted our first presentation, and the topic we decided to lead with was “professional health.”
I hope to come across as a realist and not an alarmist, but it is worth noting that those in the legal profession are notoriously bad at taking care of themselves. High stress and poor coping mechanisms is a bad combination, and lawyers are famous for combining the two. In particular, substance abuse is a major problem in the profession, and state bar associations around the nation struggle to educate attorneys on the dangers. Often, however, the state bars find themselves disciplining lawyers for the problems that arise.
So, yesterday, we brought in two engaging speakers to address these issues head on. Dr. Connie Horton, Director of the Counseling Center here at Pepperdine University, did a masterful job teaching the students on the broad topic of professional health. As expected, Dr. Horton delivered the perfect blend of the realistic challenges of law school and the proper coping mechanisms for dealing with law school. Our second speaker was David Mann, who works as a consultant to The Other Bar, an organization that provides support to lawyers, judges, and law students struggling with substance abuse. David has a personal story that immediately grabs the attention of lawyers and aspiring lawyers, and he does not pull any punches when speaking to the unique substance abuse problem in the legal profession.
Both speakers did a terrific job, and I feel that our professional development series is off to a strong start. I hope that the lessons shared yesterday — at such an early stage of the professional development of our students — will make a difference for many years to come.