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Fungible Goods

We are not interchangeable. We're all unique. The value, the professional experience and personal qualities that we bring to our work, are not things that any business entity can easily replace. Sadly, many business models in the legal profession (particularly BigLaw firms) are built on a foundation of fungibility-- but those models need to change. They're simply not sustainable.

Sustainability is a concept that is most often associated with the environment, but we need to also think of it in terms of people-- particularly people who make their living in a profession as toxic as the legal profession. How can we restore the sense of balance that seemed to exist in prior generations? How can we make the legal profession sustainable, once again?

In recent years, as challenges to sustainability in the legal profession have multiplied, our courts and other leading institutions have tried to address the situation by labelling it a matter of civility and professionalism. The chosen methods of delivering that message have included amendments to rules of professional conduct and changes to continuing legal education. Respectfully, however, those changes have not been sufficient-- the legal profession needs to do more.

What ever happened to the notion that we can disagree, without being disagreeable? Why do we so often tend to personalize the things we disagree about? Since when did the duty of zealous advocacy justify or require that we belittle and berate our opponents? Can we do anything more to stem the tide? Spoiler alert: I believe there is.

Mindfulness and meditation-- as components of a balanced and thoughtful well-being program in our law firms-- can provide us with tools that will further the causes of civility and professionalism. Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic has required us to take steps that were previously unthinkable; why not take advantage of that experience to do something that may have been previously unthinkable, or unaffordable-- something like taking well-being seriously?

Well-being is critical to the notion of human sustainability. It's the diametric opposite of fungibility. People-- particularly us lawyers-- are not fungible goods, and I the legal profession will only be restored to the elevated status it previously enjoyed, by embracing the issue of well-being-- which includes both the mind and the body!




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