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The Legal Profession's (Un)Healthy Disregard For Lawyer Well-Being

In December of 2018, the American Heart Association ("AHA") published a report entitled, Mental Health: A Workplace Crisis. A workplace "crisis"? As reported by the AHA? That's quite a report, from quite a source--and, quite an alarming title.

I would imagine it's a report that lawyers, or law firms, would be interested in reading--at least, those among us who have any responsibility for, or interest in, the mental well-being of the individual lawyers who are our law firms, and comprise the legal profession.

The strange thing is, the AHA report summarizes the mental health programs of sixteen large companies (many of which are household names), and NOT ONE of the companies identified in the report is a law firm. Just a coincidence? Perhaps, but I don't think so--the last time I checked, there were plenty of law firms that represented, or had some other kind of business relationship with, the AHA.

And, incredibly, the American Bar Association ("ABA") has a well-being campaign (including the well-being pledge to which many law firms have already lent their names) that is active right now ! So, I have a question: Who's zooming who?

Mindfulness and meditation are important pieces of the well-being pie--particularly the mind part of the mind/body dichotomy that any balanced well-being program should include. And yet, not a single lawyer was on the dais of either of the biggest conventions of mindfulness organizations in the country, during the past two years.

Mindfulness in America (New York City)--any lawyers speaking? Nope. Wisdom 1.0 and 2.0 (San Francisco)--any lawyers speaking? Nope. The healthcare community? Yep. The business community? Yep. Will the legal profession ever get with the program? If the past is prologue, the future does not look promising.

I just read a tremendous thought piece, A Transtheoretical Model of Stages of Change, which identifies five different stages of change. Most lawyers, and the vast majority of law firms, are what the author labels "pre-contemplation"--where there is no intention to change behavior, in the foreseeable future.

But facts and statistics are stubborn things, and they are ignored at great peril. Sadly, for the legal profession, those facts and statistics may be overlooked or minimized in order to serve short-term goals. They will not, however, serve our profession in the long-term. The literature on this particular point, is overwhelming.

The cause of lawyer well-being presents a tremendous opportunity for law firms that elect to embrace it--we should all do what we can to seize that opportunity and build up the legal profession!


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