“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.
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
- Enlist leaders
- Launch a well-being committee
- Define well-being
- Conduct a needs assessment
- Identify priorities
- Create and execute an action plan
- Create a well-being policy
- Continually measure, evaluate and improve
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.
- Provide enhanced and robust education to attorneys and staff on topics related to well-being, mental health, and substance use disorders.
- 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.
- 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.
- Provide confidential access to addiction and mental health experts and resources, including free, inhouse, self-assessment tools.
- 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.
- 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.
- Highlight the adoption of this well-being framework to attract and retain the best lawyers and staff.
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