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Moving The Lawyer Wellbeing Needle in 2022

In the past couple years, I've been a producer, organizer, moderator, speaker, attendee and chief cook/bottle-washer-- all in service of lawyer wellbeing. And in those various roles, I've met some amazing women and men, all of whom are every bit as committed to the advancement of lawyer wellbeing as I am-- I've been an incredibly lucky guy!

But I've been reflecting on all those introductions and amazing experiences, and you know what? I'm not sure the proverbial needle on lawyer wellbeing has moved, all that much. Greater awareness? Sure. Lots of sincere conversation and pledges of good intention. Tangible progress? Not so much. The wellbeing movement remains something of a patchwork-- a Tower of Babel, as it were.

Although a diverse, individualized approach can sometimes result in exciting new developments, it can also sometimes have the unintended consequence of actually stalling progress. Perhaps, even preventing progress. And that concerns me-- I think it should concern all of us.

How can we change that? I go back to the simple wisdom that if we're going to ask people to alter their thinking or behavior, we have to meet them where they are. We give them what they believe they need, before we ask them to listen, and perhaps, begin to change-- let people figure things out for themselves and choose to be curious about their options, rather than be told what they should think, or do.

Lawyers should be empowered to do for themselves what they believe they need, and trust that-- once they have fulfilled their own needs-- their curiosity (and a healthy dose of common sense) will lead them to expand their thinking about other practices that might further their personal journey toward a more balanced lifestyle of wellbeing-- whatever that may mean, for him or her.

Instead of coaxing lawyers to "eat their vegetables", we should empower them to decide for themselves, whether the proverbial "vegetables" are something they're interested in trying. The facts have been marshalled-- all the relevant data has been reported-- isn't that what lawyers are supposed to sift through, as they construct their arguments?

The word of advice imparted to Dustin Hoffman's character in the 1967 film, The Graduate, was "plastics"-- the word of advice that I pass along to those in the legal profession who possess the ability to advance the increasingly important cause of lawyer wellbeing, is -- here comes the big reveal-- "insurance". Not insurance that covers physical risk, but insurance that covers all risk-- physical, mental and emotional. With absolute confidentiality. Like what many of us had back in the "good old days". Our law firms have the ability to do that, so why don't they?

First, I respectfully suggest that protecting wellbeing be recognized as (in management terms) compensation, not a benefit. Second, I propose that the professionals designated as being in charge of wellbeing, be empowered-- with an appropriate budget, and seat at the management table-- to do their jobs. Third, and finally, I urge the men and women at the top of firm management to visibly support and participate in, a firm's wellbeing initiatives.

Firm leaders need to loosen or let go of the reins, and let the proverbial horse find water himself or herself-- there's a very good chance that he or she will choose, of their own volition, to drink!


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