Publications

This is a searchable catalogue of the College's most recent books and working papers. Other papers and publications can be found on SSRN and the ANU Researchers database.

Being Well in the Law

Being Well in the Law

Author(s): Tony Foley, Vivien Holmes, Stephen Tang, Colin James, Ian Hickey

When it comes to wellbeing, NSW Young Lawyers, the Australian National University and the Law Society of New South Wales are keen to lead. Being Well in the Law is a toolkit for lawyers. It draws on expert and multidisciplinary knowledge about the breadth of mental health problems and offers ideas to help everybody, young and old, deal with depression, anxiety and stress and learn to better manage the business and pressures of work and life. We all share a responsibility to continue the conversation about mental health. In the legal profession this is especially important as lawyers have a heightened pre disposition to depression and mental illness. 

This small but important book, with its varied suggestions and personal stories from people who have been touched by mental illness, is a solid first step towards a happier and healthier world.

View the guide online, order a free copy online, or pick up a free copy in person

Centre: PEARL

Research theme: Law and Psychology, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

Being Well in the Law: A Guide for Lawyers

Author(s): Stephen Tang, Tony Foley, Vivien Holmes, Colin James

Being Well in the Law is a toolkit for lawyers. It has been well informed by the input of experts from the Australian National University and Sydney University, as well as a range of other experts. It draws heavily on multidisciplinary knowledge embracing mindfulness and meditation, and evokes ideas to help us switch off from other thoughts and focus only on the moment, helping to alleviate anxiety.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, PEARL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Health, Law and Bioethics, Indigenous Peoples and the Law, Law and Psychology, Legal Education, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

The Practice of Law and the Intolerance of Certainty

Author(s): Stephen Tang, Tony Foley

This paper seeks to challenge a lingering view that law is and should be intolerant of uncertainty and must strive for certainty. Although inconsistent with the embedded uncertainty and ambiguity of law as a system, there is still an implicitly accepted view that the practice of law, and the role of lawyers, is to make determinate the indeterminate, to use legal rules to remove the uncertainty from human existence. This paper provides a preliminary sketch of an alternative and humanising epistemology of law in practice, one that embraces and makes adaptive use of uncertainty at the level of psychological experience, rather than just at a conceptual or institutional level. It focuses its attention on the preparation for practice of new lawyers and their lived experience of uncertainty as one of the defining aspects of their transition from law student. In the process, the paper challenges the conventional perceptions that thinking like a lawyer involves an additive set of skills sitting above and beyond those of ordinary thinking. Learning to think like a lawyer is more often subtractive, leaving out the messy world and in the process leaving out the messiness of uncertainty. As an alternative, the paper examines what many good lawyers have taught themselves: the importance of embracing uncertainty, complexity and acquiring a healthy intolerance of certainty. It suggests these skills and habits would be better taught and learned in advance of practice.

Read on SSRN

Centre: PEARL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Health, Law and Bioethics, Indigenous Peoples and the Law, Law and Psychology, Legal Education, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

Teaching Professionalism in Legal Clinic – What New Practitioners Say is Important

Author(s): Tony Foley, Vivien Holmes, Stephen Tang

Anecdotal evidence suggests new lawyers may struggle as they begin legal practice. Little is known empirically about their actual experiences. This paper provides some insights into what occurs in this transition. It reports on a qualitative study currently underway tracking new lawyers through their first year of practice. Preliminary analysis of data from interviews and from workplace observations suggests clinical legal education can play a significant role in smoothing the transition and helping new lawyers develop their sense of professionalism.

This project builds on similar UK research which followed law graduates into their vocational training year. The authors tracked new lawyers in the context of their post-admission practice with a small cohort of recently admitted lawyers interviewed and observed in their day to day practice. This paper describes what these new lawyers say is important to an effective transition – developing autonomy, learning to deal with uncertainty and finding an accommodation between their developing professional values and those modelled by their firm and colleagues. Clinical programs offer opportunities for an early reflective exposure to these experiences.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, PEARL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Health, Law and Bioethics, Indigenous Peoples and the Law, Law and Psychology, Legal Education, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

Teaching Professionalism in Legal Clinic – What New Practitioners Say is Important

Author(s): Tony Foley, Vivien Holmes, Stephen Tang

Anecdotal evidence suggests new lawyers may struggle as they begin legal practice. Little is known empirically about their actual experiences. This paper provides some insights into what occurs in this transition. It reports on a qualitative study currently underway tracking new lawyers through their first year of practice. Preliminary analysis of data from interviews and from workplace observations suggests clinical legal education can play a significant role in smoothing the transition and helping new lawyers develop their sense of professionalism.

This project builds on similar UK research which followed law graduates into their vocational training year. The authors tracked new lawyers in the context of their post-admission practice with a small cohort of recently admitted lawyers interviewed and observed in their day to day practice. This paper describes what these new lawyers say is important to an effective transition – developing autonomy, learning to deal with uncertainty and finding an accommodation between their developing professional values and those modelled by their firm and colleagues. Clinical programs offer opportunities for an early reflective exposure to these experiences.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, PEARL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Health, Law and Bioethics, Indigenous Peoples and the Law, Law and Psychology, Legal Education, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

A Puppy Lawyer is Not Just for Christmas: Helping New Lawyers Successfully Make the Transition to Professional Practice

Author(s): Tony Foley, Vivien Holmes, Stephen Tang

The research reported here is a pilot project which investigated the transitionary period from study to work for entry-level lawyers. The research was designed to identify factors which may assist new lawyers in making this a successful transition.

This is crucial research. There is no similar empirical work in Australia focusing on the transition towards a legal professional. The support and endorsement of the Law Society of the Australian Capital Territory ensured that the pilot could provide some valuable preliminary data.

The design of the study consisted in tracking a small sample of newly admitted lawyers who volunteered to be followed through their first year. The sample consisted of eleven participants (4 male and 7 female) employed variously in private and public practice in the territory. Their median age was 25 years. They worked in a range of different practices – small, medium and large private firms, and government legal practices, legal aid and community legal centres.

Data was collected between 2009 and early 2011. The study used a multi-method qualitative research approach to gather information through interviews, participant observation and self-recording of daily work activity.

Data analysis showed the crucial importance of appropriate supervision and mentoring to new lawyers’ capacity to gain autonomy and competence. Also notable was new lawyers’ need to see their work as intrinsically worthwhile, either when it provided a direct public service or more indirectly. Pro bono work was important to them. New lawyers were also keenly alert to the real ethical climate of the practice in which they worked. The way a practice treated its staff (both professional and support) was seen as a reliable indicator of its ethical culture.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, PEARL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Health, Law and Bioethics, Indigenous Peoples and the Law, Law and Psychology, Legal Education, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

No Time to Lose: Negative Impact on Law Student Wellbeing May Begin in Year One

Author(s): Molly Townes O'Brien, Stephen Tang

Preliminary results of a pilot study of law students suggest that, during the first year of law study, students may experience changes in thinking styles, stress levels, and satisfaction with life. Although further inquiry into the cause of law student distress is necessary, the authors consider certain assumptions underlying the legal curriculum - particularly the conception of a lawyer as adversarial, emotionally detached, and competitive - to be possible sources of the negative impact on student wellbeing. It is suggested that legal educators should reexamine their curricula, particularly their conception of what it means to be a lawyer, and think creatively about ways that law schools may encourage healthier approaches to the study of law.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, PEARL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Health, Law and Bioethics, Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Psychology, Law and Social Justice, Legal Education, Private Law, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

Changing Our Thinking: Empirical Research on Law Student Wellbeing, Thinking Styles and the Law Curriculum

Author(s): Molly Townes O'Brien, Stephen Tang

We surveyed first-year students at the ANU College of Law on various measures of well-being, thinking styles and motivations for attending law school. We followed up our surveys with a student–faculty dialogue retreat. The results of our work confirm that, even in a law school where formal mentoring programs are in place and where resources for student counseling are readily available, law students suffer symptoms of psychological distress at levels higher than their age peers in the general public. During the first year of law school, many students experience psychological struggles, changes in their thinking styles, and changes in self-concept and sense of well-being. By the end of the first year many students in our sample showed increased rational thinking and lower experiential thinking. Lower levels of experiential thinking were associated with increased symptoms of psychological distress, while students with a higher propensity toward experiential thinking showed little change in depressive symptoms from the beginning to the end of the year of law study.

In extended deliberations on law student well-being, faculty and student retreat participants highlighted their sense that law school changed them in important ways, making them more rational, analytical, competitive and adversarial. Law school also promoted feelings of insecurity, inefficacy and isolation. To address these changes, participants made a variety of proposals for curricular reform, which are discussed here. Specific changes in law school curricula – including proposals for greater transparency, clarity and guidance about course work, for more positive and formative feedback, and for more social and intellectual engagement – are identified as having potential to improve law student well-being.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CCL, CIPL, LGDI, PEARL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Health, Law and Bioethics, Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Psychology, Law and Social Justice, Legal Education, Private Law, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

Changing Our Thinking: Empirical Research on Law Student Wellbeing, Thinking Styles and the Law Curriculum

Author(s): Molly Townes O'Brien, Stephen Tang

We surveyed first-year students at the ANU College of Law on various measures of well-being, thinking styles and motivations for attending law school. We followed up our surveys with a student–faculty dialogue retreat. The results of our work confirm that, even in a law school where formal mentoring programs are in place and where resources for student counseling are readily available, law students suffer symptoms of psychological distress at levels higher than their age peers in the general public. During the first year of law school, many students experience psychological struggles, changes in their thinking styles, and changes in self-concept and sense of well-being. By the end of the first year many students in our sample showed increased rational thinking and lower experiential thinking. Lower levels of experiential thinking were associated with increased symptoms of psychological distress, while students with a higher propensity toward experiential thinking showed little change in depressive symptoms from the beginning to the end of the year of law study.

In extended deliberations on law student well-being, faculty and student retreat participants highlighted their sense that law school changed them in important ways, making them more rational, analytical, competitive and adversarial. Law school also promoted feelings of insecurity, inefficacy and isolation. To address these changes, participants made a variety of proposals for curricular reform, which are discussed here. Specific changes in law school curricula – including proposals for greater transparency, clarity and guidance about course work, for more positive and formative feedback, and for more social and intellectual engagement – are identified as having potential to improve law student well-being.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CCL, CIPL, LGDI, PEARL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Health, Law and Bioethics, Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Psychology, Law and Social Justice, Legal Education, Private Law, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

Developing a Professional Identity in Law School: A View from Australia

Author(s): Molly Townes O'Brien, Stephen Tang

Preliminary results from our study of law student wellbeing at the Australian National University are consistent with results of studies in the US and elsewhere in Australia, suggesting that law students may begin to experience increased psychological distress, including symptoms of depression, in the first year of law school. In light of this evidence, the particular challenge facing legal education is to look at the study of law itself and examine how the pedagogy, substance, and approach of legal education impact students’ self concept and well-being. This paper begins that task by exploring the formation of professional identity in law school.

In making decisions about legal content, materials, and pedagogy, legal educators (often unconsciously) adopt and communicate assumptions about professional identity that may be outmoded, incomplete, and inappropriate for the students’ futures as legal professionals. The typical law school curriculum offers a conception of the lawyer identity that is impoverished by legal education’s over-emphasis on adversarialism, detached analysis, and competitive individualism. Each of these factors may contribute to undermining students’ sense of values, feelings of power and competence, and general sense of wellbeing. Students’ exposure to this inadequate formulation of professional identity comes at a critically important time in the formation of their identities, a time when we, as educators, ought to be particularly sensitive to the messages we send.

We encourage legal educators to correct the distorting effects of a poor conception of the legal professional identity by encouraging the development of key aspects of personality, such as empathy, that are currently under-emphasised in legal education. We also argue that by improving the ways in which the law school environment fosters resilience, legal educators will contribute to their students’ current and future well-being and to the revitalisation of the profession.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CCL, CIPL, LGDI, PEARL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Health, Law and Bioethics, Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Psychology, Law and Social Justice, Legal Education, Private Law, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team