The role of place, people and perception in law student well-being
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry
School of Arts and Humanities
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd There is a growing body of international research examining psychological distress in law students. Generally, the studies have tended to be either very narrow, focussing on a single law school, or very broad, targeting all law students regardless of their institutional affiliation. This study adds to the existing literature by examining the levels of psychological distress of law students at two quite different law schools in Australia. An online survey was used to assess self-reported emotional well-being, university appraisal, university belongingness, perceptions of competitiveness and supportiveness, perceived sources of pressure, and motivations for studying law in 225 law students. Consistent with prior research, the data reflect lower levels of well-being in law student participants compared to the general public. However, the factors that appear to affect the students' well-being differed slightly between the two participant cohorts. For the law school that caters more to mature age and online students, the students' perception of their overall law school experience, belongingness, and support are important factors. Whereas for the law school that caters more to high achieving younger students, the competitiveness and perceived lack of support within the law school environment appear to have a greater influence on the students' self-reported well-being. In addition, across both participant cohorts, self-imposed pressure was notably high. Overall, the results of the study reported in this article provide valuable insights into the external and internal factors underpinning the well-established heightened levels of psychological distress in Australian law students.