New program helps law students connect values and goals to career development

 
Thanks to generous funding from the Franklin Lew Innovation Fund, the Career Services Office at the Allard School of Law recently launched LawMap: Use Your Strengths to Chart Your Path, a pilot program that helps students to identify their strengths and values early on to better support their long-term career development. 
 
The program is part of the law school’s ongoing commitment to equipping its students with tools for wellness and resilience, and is in direct response to feedback received through consultation sessions held with current Allard School of Law students in the 2016/2017 academic year. 
 
“The consultations produced, among others, a recommendation that the Allard School of Law support wellbeing in personal and career development by facilitating opportunities for students to set and revisit individual career values and goals,” explained Chira Perla, Assistant Dean of Career Services at the Allard School of Law. “With LawMap, we used our students’ recommendation as a jumping off point for promoting career development from a strengths theory perspective.  When students are able to identify and connect their personal strengths, values, and goals, the result is a touchstone they can refer back to in moments of celebration and challenge; something to anchor their decisions and provide them with agency as they move through law school and into the profession.”
 
It’s an idea that is well supported by empirical research. A 2009 study (1) of law students found that those who become aware of and use their top strengths were less likely to suffer from depression and more likely to report satisfaction with life. The study confirmed for law students what previous research had already indicated in other fields: that people who use their strengths experience higher levels of energy, goal attainment, congruence, and well-being, and that working on enhancing strengths is associated with numerous positive workplace outcomes, including increased employee engagement and job success.
 
Leading up to in-person sessions during Orientation Week, all incoming first year JD and graduate students completed an online StrengthsFinder assessment, followed by a personal questionnaire. The assessment identified key strengths of the student, while the questionnaire asked students why they came to law school, what they hope to accomplish, and to define their personal values. It also asked them to make some personal observations and reflections about their StrengthsFinder results.
 
The in-person sessions were facilitated by Kimberley Rawes, a Career Educator with UBC’s Centre for Student Involvement and Careers, who worked with the Allard School of Law to develop LawMap. The sessions asked students to further explore and connect their strengths to their values, and to set short-term goals in support of those values. They also required students, as a community, to identify common strengths and values, and ways in which to support and hold each other accountable.   
 
Student responses to LawMap were extremely positive and affirming. Students overwhelmingly identified “honesty”, “compassion”, and “support” as the strengths they bring to the law school community and will offer to their peers. When asked how their strengths or values would help them this year, student responses included: “remind me of who I am at my core and why I'm doing what I'm doing.”; “help me maintain a balanced lifestyle so that I can succeed academically, socially, personally, or otherwise”; “Will be a daily reminder that I can do this, even when it feels like I can't”; and “help me identify areas of law that are best suited to my interests and skill set”.
 
A second module of LawMap is planned for (Re)Orientation on January 26, 2018, where students will build on their earlier work by adopting a design mindset as they identify and take steps to move forward in their unique career goals, drawing on their strengths and values.
 
(1)  Peterson, E.W. & Peterson T.D. (2009). Stemming the Tide of Law Student Depression: What Law Schools Need To Learn from the Science of Positive Psychology. Yale Journal of Health, Policy, and Ethics. 9(2), 357 – 434.