I recently attended a webinar focusing on the issue of lawyer wellbeing, hosted by the International Bar Association ("IBA") and you know what? It was really enlightening. In particular, one guest-- Pierre Gentin (Global General Counsel for McKenzie & Company) offered a point of view that I thought was right on point.
Actually, there were several tremendous guests, including Ira Coleman (Managing Partner of McDermott Will & Emery), but what really resonated with me was a observation offered by Mr. Gentin in response to a particular question: Do you think GC's can do anything to advance wellbeing [initiatives] in law firms?
His response? Clients and GC's can certainly help, but they can only do so much. "Law firms need to own the ascendancy of compensation over values [and begin offering] sensible support for the values of professionalism and basic decency". Wow-- simply stated, and pointedly dispensing with the usual word salad to which we've all become accustomed.
Of course, the devil is in the details and it is up to each law firm to figure out an initiative that best serves the culture of the firm, but the basic premise is unassailable. Changing behavior is a tremendously difficult task, but we have to begin somewhere, and the benchmark notion of "sensible support" is not in the least bit complicated.
An anonymous comment from one attendee perfectly captured the truth of the moment, and (I believe) the points made by Messrs. Gentin, Coleman and others-- "Just start". Sure there will be successes and failures. Stops and starts. But most individuals being served (both staff and professionals) will understand, and cooperate with good faith efforts on the part of management.
If I were King of the Forest (tip of the hat to the Cowardly Lion and the iconic movie, The Wizard of Oz), I'd immediately set about letting my staff and professionals know that the new standard of behavior in the firm is taking care of one's self, and being OK.
Then I'd implement one or two initiatives aimed at encouraging that behavior, and begin taking peoples' temperature about what they want, or need.