Integrating Wellness into Legal Culture

Many law firms are battling an invisible problem: mental health issues. Research shows that legal professionals struggle when it comes to mental health and well-being. As with any problem, a solution can’t be addressed until we first acknowledge the issue and understand both the depth of its impact and why it is happening.

How are legal professionals struggling?

  • Behavioral health problems:
    • hazardous, harmful and potentially alcohol-dependent drinking
    • increased use of stimulants (75%)
  • Mental health:
    • high rates of depression, anxiety, and stress
    • Increased rates of suicidal ideation

Significant mental health issues within the legal profession provide cause for concern. Lawyers influence public policy and their work has far reaching impacts on the economy and government. Research shows that 40-70% of disciplinary proceedings and malpractice claims against lawyers involve substance abuse or depression, and often both.

Of particular concern are those who are recently graduated or new to their practice. These individuals have a much higher rate of experiencing mental health distress than those who have been practicing for 15 years or more. These individuals require special attention and extra care should be taken in including them in wellness initiatives.

Wellness initiatives, according to the American Bar Association, include 6 dimensions of lawyer well-being:

  1. Occupational: Satisfaction, Growth, Financial Stability
  2. Emotional: Manage Emotions & Protect Mental Health
  3. Physical: Healthy Lifestyle, Help-Seeking When Needed
  4. Intellectual: Learn, Pursue Challenge, Keep Developing
  5. Spiritual: Meaning & Purpose
  6. Social: Connection, Belonging, Contributing

They offer ideas like book clubs, incorporating treadmills and standing desks into workplaces, adding mental health apps into insurance plans, investing in professional coaches, and getting creative with CLEs like offering spin classes.

Self-care and community care is modeled from the top down. Managers and supervisors need to take extra care to ensure they are modeling the same type of well-being mindfulness that they want their staff to exhibit.

Lawyers, like any professionals, need their basic needs to be met at work in order to deal with a job that is high pressure and high performing. An organizational culture of trust and transparency is important, along with supervisors that provide psychological support, clear leadership and expectations, civility, balance, and recognition. In addition, opportunities for growth and development are important.

 “Well-Being”: A

Continuous process

toward thriving across

all life dimensions.

For more information, check our resource page.