Dr. Debra Austin
Advanced Legal Research
B.M.E., University of Colorado at Boulder
J.D., University of San Francisco
Ph.D., University of Denver
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 law student and lawyer well-being and performance. Dr. Austin's presentations connect lawyer well-being to 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. 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. 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 it 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 has received a number of grants for her teaching and research. In April 2012, she was awarded a Legal Writing Institute-Association of Legal Writing Directors-LexisNexis 2012 Legal Writing Scholarship Grant. She was also awarded a grant for integrating a SmartBoard and Student Response Systems into her Legal Skills Courses from the Morgridge Family Foundation. She was a co-investigator on a $1.2 million dollar ITEST grant awarded by the National Science Foundation to study the role of interdisciplinary humane games in learning.
Prior to coming to DU, Dr. Austin worked for West Publishing Company teaching lawyers in Denver and Salt Lake City how to use Westlaw and she was a law clerk at Wendel, Rosen, Black, Dean & Levitan, in Oakland, California.
Dr. Austin is a member of the Rhone Brackett Inn of Court, and she serves on the AALS Balance in Legal Education Section Board.
Windmills of Your Mind: Understanding the Neurobiology of Emotion, Wake Forest Law Review, Forthcoming.
Positive Legal Education: Flourishing Law Students and Thriving Law Schools, 77 Md. L. Rev. 649 (2018).
Food for Thought: The Neuroscience of Nutrition to Fuel Cognitive Performance, 95 Or. L. Rev. 425 (2017).
Drink Like a Lawyer: the Neuroscience of Substance Use and its Impact on Cognitive Wellness, 15 Nev. L.J. 826 (2015).