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Zen and the Art of Practicing in a Pandemic

Register for our free 1-hour CLE webinar on Dec 15.

“Sadly, our profession is falling short when it comes to well-being.”

Those stark words come from the 2017 Report of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being. The report, produced by the American Bar Association, Hazelden and other groups, found a profession “at a tipping point,” with alarming levels of stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, alcoholism, substance abuse and suicide among lawyers and law students.

Download the 2017 Report of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being here.

Want to learn how well-being can take your practice to the next level? Attend our FREE, one-hour CLE webinar “Zen and the Art of Practicing in a Pandemic” on December 15. JD and licensed therapist Michael Kahn, host of the “Thriving Lawyer” podcast, will offer practical tips on ethics, mindfulness and work/life balance. Calendar the date, and stay tuned for further details.

Well-Being Tip #1: Take a Holistic View of Lawyer Wellness

Well-being is not just the absence of dysfunction, and it’s not the same as feeling happy.

From the ABA Report: “Lawyer well-being [is] a continual process of seeking to thrive in each dimension of one’s life: Emotional, Occupational, Intellectual, Spiritual, Physical, and Social. [It] requires things like connection, belonging, continual growth, and aligning our lives with our values. It requires that we take care of all aspects of our lives.”

  • Emotional Well-being. Value emotions. Develop ability to identify and manage our emotions to support mental health, achieve goals, and inform decisions. Seek help for mental health when needed.
  • Intellectual Well-being. Engage in continuous learning. Pursue creative or intellectually challenging activities that foster ongoing development. Monitor cognitive wellness.
  • Occupational Well-being. Cultivate personal satisfaction, growth, and enrichment in work. Strive to maintain financial stability.
  • Physical Well-Being. Strive for regular activity, good diet, and nutrition, enough sleep, and recovery. Limit addictive substances. Seek help for physical health when needed.
  • Social Well-Being. Develop connections, a sense of belonging, and a reliable support network. Contribute to our groups and communities.
  • Spiritual Well-Being. Develop a sense of meaningfulness and purpose in all aspects of life.

Well-Being Tip #2: Use this ABA Well-Being Toolkit

The ABA Well-Being Toolkit contains best practices, online resources and even an 8-Step Action Plan for implementing a wellness program in your practice.

“This Toolkit is designed to help lawyers and legal employers improve well-being holistically and systemically,” says attorney and psychologist Anne Brafford, one of the Toolkit’s creators, in n this ABA article. “This goal will require new choices, considerable effort, and changes that likely will upset the status quo.”

Included in the ABA Well-Being Toolkit: suggested activities, events and educational opportunities; how to assess and track progress on well-being goals; online resources and technology for well-being initiatives; reading recommendations; a list of organizations that focus on lawyer well-being; a list of speakers and consultants on well-being; an activity workbook; a Policy and Practice Audit.

Well-Being Toolkit 8-Step Action Plan

  1. Enlist leaders
  2. Launch a well-being committee
  3. Define well-being
  4. Conduct a needs assessment
  5. Identify priorities
  6. Create and execute an action plan
  7. Create a well-being policy
  8. Continually measure, evaluate and improve


Here’s a blogpost with more information on the ABA Well-Being toolkit.

Well-Being Tip #3: Take the Well-Being Pledge

Recognizing that high levels of problematic substance use and mental health distress present a significant challenge for the legal profession, and acknowledging that more can and should be done to improve the health and well-being of lawyers, we the attorneys of ___________________________________ hereby pledge our support for this innovative campaign and will work to adopt and prioritize its seven-point framework for building a better future.

  1. Provide enhanced and robust education to attorneys and staff on topics related to well-being, mental health, and substance use disorders.
  2. Disrupt the status quo of drinking-based events: (a) Challenge the expectation that all events include alcohol; seek creative alternatives. (b) Ensure there are always appealing nonalcoholic alternatives when alcohol is served.
  3. Develop visible partnerships with outside resources committed to reducing substance use disorders and mental health distress in the profession: healthcare insurers, lawyer assistance programs, EAPs, and experts in the field.
  4. Provide confidential access to addiction and mental health experts and resources, including free, inhouse, self-assessment tools.
  5. Develop proactive policies and protocols to support assessment and treatment of substance use and mental health problems, including a defined back-to-work policy following treatment.
  6. Actively and consistently demonstrate that help-seeking and self-care are core cultural values, by regularly supporting programs to improve physical, mental and emotional well-being.
  7. Highlight the adoption of this well-being framework to attract and retain the best lawyers and staff.


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