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FIU Law’s “Well-Being at FIU Law program” has won the 2021 American Bar Association’s E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award.

The award recognizes the nation’s exemplary, innovative, and on-going professionalism programs established by law schools, bar associations, courts and other legal organizations that help ensure the maintenance of the highest principles of integrity and dedication to the legal profession and the public.  The recognition comes with a $3,500 award, administered by the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism and supported by the E. Smythe Gambrell Fund for Professionalism.

The Gambrell Award judges and the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism were impressed by “the depth and innovation of the Well-Being at FIU Law program, integrating well-being and professionalism at all levels of students’ experiences, offering cross-disciplinary programming and engaging all members of the FIU Law community to empower law students with skills and knowledge about well-being and its importance to a successful and healthy career in the practice of law.”

Well-Being at FIU Law is a proactive response to statistics and studies documenting the devastating, long-term effects of chronic stress, substance abuse, and mental health issues in the legal profession, which are often stigmatized.  The program equips law students with science-based skills and knowledge on well-being and its relationship to learning, resilience, performance, and ethical decision-making in the law.   Consistent with the 2017 Path to Lawyer Well-Being Report, the program emphasizes that well-being is not defined by the absence of illness;  rather, well-being is a continual process of seeking to thrive in various life dimensions: emotional, occupational, intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social.

“We are honored that the Committee has recognized FIU Law’s commitment to well-being in legal education,” said Rosario Lozada, Professor of Legal Skills and Values. “We owe the early growth and success of this program to the contributions of student leaders, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, local practitioners, and national experts—who are deeply committed to the well-being and mental health of our students.”  Associate Dean Angelique Ortega emphasized that “the program is part of FIU Law’s commitment to train future attorneys who are equipped to competently, ethically, and professionally serve their clients, their communities, and the profession.”

The program was co-developed by Professor Lozada and Dean Ortega and implemented with the assistance of Marissa Cabrera and Zory Hernandez of the Office of Student Services.

“I am very proud of this initiative, led by Professor Lozada and Dean Ortega, to promote student health and well-being,” said Dean Antony Page. “Law school, like the practice of law, can be very stressful, and learning skills that can help our students manage that stress is critically important to their academic and professional success.  I am delighted that the ABA has chosen to recognize FIU Law’s work in this area.”

Professor Lozada and Dean Ortega have designated the Gambrell Award funds to be awarded to the hardship fund at FIU Law.

“Well-Being at FIU Law is focused on empowering and supporting FIU law students.  In the past 16 months, many of our students have suffered unexpected financial challenges due to medical and family emergencies.” said Lozada. “With the generous assistance of the Gambrell Award, the Law Student Hardship Fund will continue to provide emergency assistance to students who are experiencing such unanticipated challenges, so that they may focus on their legal studies.”

The E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Awards was presented at the August 11, 2021, meeting of the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism.