David Jaffe (American), Katherine Bender (Bridgewater State) & Jerome M. Organ (St. Thomas-MN), 'It is Okay to Not Be Okay': The 2021 Survey of Law Student Well-Being, 62 U. Louisville L. Rev. __ (2022):
The Survey of Law Student Well-Being, implemented in Spring 2014 [hereinafter “2014 SLSWB”], was the first multi-law school study in over twenty years to assess alcohol and drug use among law students, and it was the first multi-law school study ever to address prescription drug use, mental health, and help-seeking attitudes. The article summarizing the results of the 2014 SLSWB has been downloaded over 12,000 times.
With a desire to learn what has changed since 2014 given the increased emphasis on law student and lawyer well-being among law schools and legal professionals, the authors sought and received grant funding from AccessLex Institute to implement another survey of law student well-being. In addition to assessing alcohol use, street drug use, prescription drug use, mental health, and help-seeking attitudes, the 2021 Survey of Law Student Well-Being [hereinafter “2021 SLSWB”] also included new questions focused on law student experiences with trauma and on concerns of third-year law students related to preparing for and taking the bar exam. Additionally, the 2021 SLSWB included a set of open-text questions asking respondents to identify actions their law schools are taking or could be taking to support law student well-being.
Section II provides a literature review, inclusive of research on law student wellness since the original article on the 2014 SLSWB was published in 2016. Section III describes the methods of recruitment, response rates, and design of the 2021 SLSWB survey instrument. Section IV provides results from the largest multi-law school study of its kind, comparing results from the 2021 SLSWB with results from the 2014 SLSWB where possible. Section V discusses the results and includes recommendations for steps different stakeholders within legal education and the legal profession could pursue to better support law student well-being. With representation from thirty-nine law schools across the country, including public, private, and religious law schools, as well as small, medium, and large law schools in terms of student enrollment, the findings of the 2021 SLSWB have implications for multiple stakeholders in legal education, including students, faculty, staff, and administrators, along with boards of law examiners.