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"Soft" And "Hard" Mental Or Emotional Challenges

I'm not medically trained and I am not a statistician, but anecdotal evidence and common sense tell me that for every medically diagnosable victim of severe depression or substance abuse, there are likely dozens of women and men who suffer from what I refer to as "soft" mental or emotional challenges-- conditions like stress, anxiety, inability to focus or stay on task, sleep disruption, or work-related burnout (to name a few).

Victims of what I refer to as "hard" mental or emotional conditions are certainly deserving of, and in need of, the legal profession's assistance-- kudos to those organizations (like the various State LAP programs) and dedicated individuals (like Patrick Krill and Bree Buchanan), who have championed the cause. Also, kudos to the law firms and other legal institutions that have invested their care, attention and resources in promoting the cause.

There are, however, a number of "soft" mental and emotional challenges that also require the attention of the legal profession-- concerns identified as critical to the well-being of both women and men, by the National Task Force for Lawyer Well-Being. What is more, there are a variety of different strategies that can be institutionally adopted, to address many of those "soft" concerns-- my preferred strategy is a combination of education and training in mindfulness and the practice of meditation.

The case for treating "hard" conditions is well-documented. By contrast, the case for addressing the "soft" challenges that plague so many in the legal profession is recognized, but it is not yet documented or studied as extensively-- perhaps, because it is more difficult to get a handle on conditions that remain largely self-reported (i.e., subjective), as opposed to conditions that are readily diagnosable (i.e., objective).

Whatever the case may be, the fact that "soft" mental or emotional challenges may be harder to isolate or quantify should not be relied upon by law firms or other legal institutions, as a rationale to justify deferred action. Research will proceed apace, but the challenges are readily observable to even the untrained eye, and the need is immediate.

The purpose of this posting is simple, and compelling. We need to start addressing "soft" mental or emotional challenges, just as aggressively as we treat "hard" conditions-- if for no reason other than a fear that "soft" issues today, may ripen into "hard" issues tomorrow.

As a homeowner, I learned the hard way that a sapling (which can be easily eliminated with a pair of clippers) will grow into a mature tree (which requires professional intervention, and thousands of dollars), with little more than a bit of sunshine and rain. It's the oldest gotcha in the world.

Deferred maintenance of individual lawyers' well-being can be just as expensive-- even more. Don't let it happen to your firm!


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