Yoga and therapy dogs: What law school is all about

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Rachel Hawkinson helps keep her classmates happy, healthy and studious.
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Law school can be tough on even the most talented, dedicated go-getters. With the high rates of burnout and depression among law students, something has to be done to lighten the mood and relax those frazzled legal minds. Fortunately for those studying at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, they've got Rachel Hawkinson in their corner.

Aside from being the student bar association president, Hawkinson, a third-year law student, is also coordinator of the recently founded student wellness initiave. The initiative started last year as a way to combat the mental and physical fatigue that often accompanies a demanding career in law. Students spend their days and nights at desks poring over documents, which can lead to lack of sleep and nutrition as well as repetitive stress injuries. With this in mind, Hawkinson spearheaded the wellness initiative.

"It's about taking good care of your body, your mind and your spirit," Hawkinson said. The programs now in place are all about self care, diet, stress reduction and having fun.

Stop by the UNH School of Law these days, and you might find students participating in a yoga class in one of the boardrooms. Maybe you'll see students at their desks, meditating. Or you might see a therapy dog wandering the halls, giving a friendly nuzzle to a lonely student far away from home.

"It's easy to forget people can get homesick," Hawkinson said. She stressed the importance of building a community of supportive students to keep their spirits soaring, both while they are in school and throughout their future careers, where problems like vicarious trauma plague the profession.

"It's not often someone comes to a lawyer with a happy story," Hawkinson said. "Spending your working hours dealing with people's tragedies can wear you out."

Hawkinson has helped tie together a network of local professionals to help with the wellness programs, both via appearing at the school to speak and through things like providing discounts for law students at local yoga studios. She said she was confident that that community would remain in place even after she graduates this year, and she hopes that the wellness initiative can serve as a model for other law schools.

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