Friday, March 12, 2021
The Business Case For Promoting Lawyer Well-Being
It's been one year since the US declared a pandemic. It's been a stressful time for everyone, but this post will focus on lawyers.
I haven't posted any substantive legal content on LinkedIn in weeks because so many of my woo woo, motivational posts have been resonating with my contacts. They've shared the posts, and lawyers from around the world have reached out to me thanking me for sharing positive, inspirational messages. I hope that this care and compassion in the (my) legal community will continue once people return back to the office.
Earlier this week, I took a chance and posted about a particularly dark period in my life. I've now received several requests to connect and to speak to legal groups and law firms about mindset, wellness, resilience, and stress management. I've heard from executives that I used to work with 15 years ago asking to reconnect. Others have publicly or privately shared their own struggles with mental health or depression. I'm attaching a link to the video here. Warning- it addresses suicide prevention, but it may help someone.
I'm also sharing an article that my colleague Jarrod Reich wrote last year. He and I have just finished sitting on a panel on Corporate Counsel and Professional Responsibility Post COVID-19, and it's clear that the issue of lawyers and mental health could have been its own symposium. Here is the abstract for his article, Capitalizing on Healthy Lawyers: The Business Case for Law Firms to Promote and Prioritize Lawyer Well-Being.
This Article is the first to make the business case for firms to promote and prioritize lawyer well-being. For more than three decades, quantitative research has demonstrated that lawyers suffer from depression, anxiety, and addiction far in excess of the general population. Since that time, there have been many calls within and outside the profession for changes to be made to promote, prioritize, and improve lawyer well-being, particularly because many aspects of the current law school and law firm models exacerbate mental health and addiction issues, as well as overall law student and lawyer distress. These calls for change, made on moral and humanitarian grounds, largely have been ignored; in fact, over the years the pervasiveness of mental health and addiction issues within the profession have persisted, if not increased. This Article argues that these moral- and humanitarian-based calls for change have gone unheeded because law firms have not had financial incentives to respond to them.
In making the business case for change, this Article argues that systemic changes designed to support and resources to lawyers will avoid costs associated with lawyer mental health and addiction issues and, more importantly, create efficiencies that will increase firms’ long-term financial stability and growth. It demonstrates that this business case is especially strong now in light of not only societal and generational factors, but also changes within the profession itself well. As firms have begun to take incremental steps to promote lawyer well-being, lasting and meaningful change will further benefit firms’ collective bottom lines as it will improve: (1) performance, as clients are demanding efficiency in the way their matters are staffed and billed; (2) retention, as that creates efficiencies and the continuous relationships demanded by clients; and (3) recruitment, particularly as younger millennial and Generation Z lawyers—who prioritize mental health and well-being—enter the profession.
If you have any feedback on Jarrod's article or tips on how you are coping, surviving, or thriving in these times, please feel free to drop them in the comments.
Take care and stay safe.
I survived a very dark period in my life/legal career, and I shared my experience and insights in an article "Mental Health in the Legal Profession: A Crisis, a Case Study and a Call to Action," published as the cover story in the Tennessee Bar Journal (January-February 2021). Here is a link to my article:https://www.tba.org/?pg=TennesseeBarJournal&pubAction=viewIssue&pubIssueID=7986&pubIssueItemID=9752
WARNINIG -- IT ADDRESSES SUICIDE IN THE LAW, BUT IT MAY HELP SOMEONE
The response to my article from attorneys and non-attorneys across the country was overwhelmingly positive. Here is a link to over 40 of those responses:https://www.tba.org/?pg=TBJSelect&pubAction=viewIssue&pubIssueID=8096&pubIssueItemID=11214
Posted by: Kent Halkett | Mar 15, 2021 8:34:45 PM
I worked as a mental health counselor for roughly 8 years before pivoting to the law, and your post/video reminded me of the following saying from Alcoholics Anonymous:
“I am Responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.”
Thank you for reaching out your hand by way of your “most vulnerable post ever.” Someone (likely many) will gain the courage to seek the help they need because of that. God bless.
Posted by: Stefan Padfield | Mar 13, 2021 7:36:56 AM