For The Record

Photograph by Mark Gormus/Richmond Times-Dispatch

When it comes to addressing mental health issues in legal education and the profession, the consensus is clear: Progress has been made, but there is more work to be done. A 2017 report by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being outlined nine recommendations for positive changes in law schools, such as empowering students to help their peers in need or facilitating a recovery network.

In 2018, an American Bar Association survey found that law schools are taking substantive action toward fulfilling these recommendations and increasing resources to support mental health. That’s certainly true at Richmond Law.

Richmond Law will partner with the school’s first on-site counselor, available exclusively for law students, beginning in the fall 2019 semester. Hilary Delman, a University of Richmond Counseling and Psychological Services counselor, will be accessible to students from an office in the law school building on a part-time basis throughout the academic year.

“We are excited to offer our students in need easier access to counseling services,” said Alex Sklut, Richmond Law associate dean of students. “Our community encourages students to seek help when they need it, and bringing counseling services inside the law school building is another way to support our students and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues.”

Outside of Richmond Law, the legal community is also witnessing a changing landscape — most recently in a development from the Virginia State Bar, which will no longer ask bar exam applicants to disclose mental health treatment.

Gray O’Dwyer, L’18, helped spearhead an initiative to urge the VSB to make this change, collaborating with fellow students on letter-writing campaigns, reaching out to the media to raise awareness, and partnering with the Student Bar Association while in school and then as a recent graduate.

“If we can start people down the path that it’s OK to ask for help,” O’Dwyer said, “I think we can avoid so many of the problems that have become an issue in the field and make happier, healthier, safer lawyers.”

Several Richmond Law students attended the inaugural Law Student Wellness Summit, where the change to the bar exam application was first announced. Hosted by the Virginia Law Foundation and Lawyers Helping Lawyers at the University of Virginia School of Law, the February event brought together students, administrators, and members of the bar and the judiciary to explore how to prioritize mental wellness in the profession.

“At the end of the day, we are the student advocates,” said Kurt Lockwood, L’19, outgoing SBA president, “and we do our best to represent all of the law school and the law students.”

Richmond Law will host the second summit in 2020, inviting stakeholders from across Virginia to campus to learn about valuable updates and resources in the mental wellness field.