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The World Has Changed-- Have We?

Aldous Huxley wrote his book, Brave New World, almost one hundred years ago-- between World War I and World War II-- at a time when there was a lot of optimism about the role that technology would play in improving life. Sound familiar?

The old adage (in the English world) is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. For the sake of our well-being, I certainly hope that is not the case. Institutional budgets may be up in the air because of the ongoing pandemic, but it strikes me that one of the things that needs to be moved from the non-essential column to the absolutely essential column, as we re-open, is the personal well-being of the individuals who make up our institutions -- yes, law firms, I'm talking about you.

Financial viability will obviously continue to be a primary cause for concern, but it can't be our only concern. Right alongside the matter of financial viability must be the cause of individual well-being-- it's the sine qua non of all institutions, including institutions that function within the legal profession. Particularly, our law firms.

Just as politicians wrestle with defining essential services and determining how they should be reopened, so too will the leaders of our law firms have to wrestle with the reality of balancing budgets against the increasing awareness of lawyer well-being. Maybe the savings realized through new efficiencies that technology may bring, can be used to fund well-being programs?

Change requires us to rethink our priorities, and in spite of the current circumstances, I see a silver-lining-- one that may be a surprise to some, but one that is nonetheless very real, and ought not be disregarded. That silver-lining is a reminder we can all use, concerning the primacy of-- the genuine value of-- people. Even in  -- especially in-- the legal profession.

Technology is what everyone was talking about before COVID. Like the brave new world that Huxley imagined, it seems likely that technology will be all the rage after the pandemic subsides (hopefully, not in the same way that the book predicted), but I believe there will also be a big push for revaluing the critical importance of people, and a renewed appreciation of mindfulness and the practice of meditation, as tools that can help us get there.

Crediting the woman and man who wrote the song, and with apologies to Barbra Streisand, people who need people really are the luckiest people in the world, and lawyer well-being is about just that -- people !


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