Debra Sue Austin

Professor of the Practice of Law

  • Faculty


Lawyering Process

Professional Biography

Dr. Austin is a nationally recognized expert and scholar in lawyer well-being. Her scholarship is focused on how neuroscience and psychology research can help law students, lawyers, judges, and other professionals to improve their performance and well-being. Her seminal work, 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 depict how law students and lawyers suffer cognitive damage that impairs them from doing precisely what their studies and practices require. Drink Like a Lawyer demonstrates how self-medication with substances like alcohol, marijuana, and study drugs impairs law student and lawyer thinking. Food for Thought explores using nutrition to fuel optimal cognitive performance. Positive Legal Education explores how neuroscience, positive psychology, and positive education research can improve legal education to enhance law student well-being and achievement, 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 teaches Lawyering Process and Professionalism and Well-being Skills for the Effective Lawyer. She is a member of the AALS Balance in Legal Education Executive Committee (Chair 2019) and served as Co-Chair of the Law School Working Group on the Colorado Supreme Court Lawyer Well-being Task Force. Dr. Austin is the recipient of the university-wide University of Denver Distinguished Teaching Award for 2019.


  • Ph.D., Education, University of Denver, 2004
  • JD, Law, University of San Francisco, 1989
  • Bachelor of Music Education, Music Education, University of Colorado, 1982

Licensure / Accreditations

  • Animals and Human Health Certificate