Debra Austin, JD, PhD

professor of the practice of law
university of Denver Sturm College of LaW
FACULTY PAGE

Dr. Austin teaches Lawyering Process, Advanced Legal Research & Writing, and Professionalism and Well-being Skills for the Effective Lawyer. She received the University of Denver Distinguished Teaching Award in 2019 and the William T. Driscoll Master Educator Award in 2001.


Dr. Austin writes and speaks about how neuroscience and psychology research can improve the well-being and performance of law students, lawyers, and other professionals. Her presentations connect well-being to enhanced performance and ethical obligations, and they are accredited for general and ethics CLE in multiple states.


Dr. Austin's scholarship has been ranked in the top 10% of authors on SSRN by all-time downloads every month since August 2017.  Killing Them Softly  shines a bright light on lawyer depression, substance abuse, and suicide, and its application of neuroscience to the chronic stresses of law school and law practice depicts how law students and lawyers suffer cognitive brain damage that impairs them from doing precisely what their studies and practices require.  Drink Like a Lawyer  uses neuroscience research to demonstrate how self-medication with substances like alcohol, marijuana, and study drugs impairs law student and lawyer thinking.  Food for Thought  examines neuroscience research that explores the relationship between diet and increased risk of cognitive damage, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and describes optimal nutrition habits that build and maintain a healthy lawyer brain.  Positive Legal Education  proposes a new field of inquiry and a new method of training lawyer leaders, and offers research-based guidance on how law schools can address the recommendations in the ABA National Task Force on Lawyer Well-being Report.  Windmills of Your Mind  challenges law students, legal educators, and lawyers to improve their understanding of the impact emotion and stress have on performance, and how building mental strength can empower their professional and personal lives.   Dr. Austin is a contributing author on the 2017 ABA National Task Force Report on Lawyer Well-being – The Path to Lawyer Well-being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change.