Lawyer Wellbeing Is A Critical Part Of Professional Competence
Familiarity with, and the use of technology relevant to our area(s) of practice is the second leg of the competence stool-- the Comments to Rule 1.1 of the Model Rules. which have been adopted/adapted by the majority of State regulatory agencies, tell us so. The first leg, of course, is substantive knowledge of the law. But we all know that two legs don't make for a very stable rule-- so what's the third leg?
The third leg of professional competence is wellbeing. For all our knowledge and technological skills, we can't be truly competent lawyers unless we are well. Addiction is an obvious challenge to one's wellbeing (kudos to the Lawyer Assistance Programs for their work in battling addiction), and just as important is the timely treatment of diagnosable medical/psychological, as well as mental health conditions.
It's also important to provide self-care tools for the many professionals who may not (yet) suffer from diagnosable conditions that require the intervention of trained third parties. Those of us who may be a step or two off our game, because of personal pressures or setbacks-- pressures or setbacks that can be effectively dealt with, through one's own resources.
All are part of wellbeing, and they must be addressed in a sensitive and sensible manner-- they're all part of the mind/body continuum of which we lawyers should be aware. And they're all relevant to the challenge of building and maintaining professional competence-- which is why workplace wellbeing should be a priority for all institutions that are part of the legal profession.
Concededly, that's a high bar but it's a bar that lawyers are required to clear every day-- why not give them some encouragement, and a bit of an assist? We sometimes like to pretend that it isn't so, but after all, lawyers are human beings, too!
As part of the legal system, lawyers are given the benefit of the doubt much of the time, but the same system that is their friend today can be their downfall tomorrow. The same is true of law firms, bar associations and other professional organizations-- in extreme cases, it's also true of clients. At the end of the day, however, we're ultimately accountable to ourselves-- that's where competence converges with the many other qualities that define us.
Given all the above, how can we best work to be competent? Know the law. Familiarize ourselves with available technology. And be well.