Authored By: Rachel Markin
The necessity of attorney self-care has become increasingly clear as studies documenting the career’s demanding lifestyle continue to be published. Recent statistics indicate lawyers are the most frequently depressed occupational group in the country. The Journal of Addiction Medicine reported more than 20% of its nearly 13,000 attorney participants scored a level consistent with problematic drinking. Despite the evidence, some hesitate to discuss mental health amidst attorneys.
Creating an open atmosphere to talk about how lawyers can live healthier, more whole and meaningful lives is something attorney Michael Ethridge of Carlock Copeland LLP in Atlanta has become passionate about pursuing. Ethridge created a blog called Lawyers In Search of Soul and invites readers to self-reflect and explore why the practice of law can be so taxing on those who choose it for a profession. The attorney writes on his website that, “The most intelligently gifted, thoughtful and ethical people I know are lawyers…Nevertheless, our work can be soul killing and our profession is frequently maligned. Why is it that there is so much suffering among those involved in the practice of law?” Ethridge’s effort to discuss and answer critical questions has helped aid a growing national conversation about attorney wellness.
Lawyer, author and speaker, Jeena Cho offers training to help anxious lawyers find peace. In an Above The Law article, Cho defines self-care as activities and practices that we can engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance our short and long term health and well-being. The trainer notes some lawyers believe practicing self-care will take valuable time away from their work. However, she argues healthy legal professionals perform better than unhealthy ones.
Cho suggests 12 practices for creating healthier attorneys and law firm cultures:
- Have walking meetings. (Check out this TED talk by Nilofer Merchant on how this works.)
- Host monthly potluck get togethers. Offer childcare to make it easier for people to attend.
- Have a Stress Free Zone room. Encourage everyone to spend 15 minutes per day to recharge and de-stress.
- Recognize and praise employees that demonstrate a well developed balance between working hard and taking time for family and self-care.
- Start a mentorship program.
- Start a monthly wellness challenge. Some ideas: daily meditation, drink more water, or have a goal of taking certain number of daily steps.
- Celebrate your employees’ work anniversaries with a day off.
- Host workshops or “lunch and learn” sessions on health issues. Invite experts from the community. For example, have a dietitian speak about healthy cooking.
- Partner with local college and offer discounted education.
- Offer a standing desk.
- Host an art participation night. (Creativity is essential for good lawyering!)
- Offer flex-time.
The 12 practices offer creative ways to manage stress. For more resources to aid attorney wellness, visit the ABA’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs.
Photo Credit: bowie15