Lawyer Well-Being, 1019 UTBJ, Vol. 32, No. 5. 42

AuthorMartha Knudson, J.
PositionVol. 32 5 Pg. 42

Lawyer We1l-Being

No. Vol. 32 No. 5 Pg. 42

Utah Bar Journal

October, 2019


Martha Knudson, J.

"I don't give a damn about the happiness of lawyers." A judge said this to a friend of mine right after he'd finished his speech on the importance of lawyer well-being. D.S. Bowling III, Lawyers and Their Elusive Pursuit of Happiness: Does it Matter?, 7 Duke Forum For Law & Social Change 37-52 (2015). These are some pretty strong words. But they do represent a view that, until recently, was prevalent in our profession - that your well-being is your own business, handled on your own time, and it has nothing to do with the successful practice of law. Many of us have adopted this view figuring that we can either gut it out to do well professionally, or we can have less success and be well personally. This is a false choice. Overwhelming amounts of research confirms that being well actually drives doing well. See A. Brafford, Positive Professionals: Creating High-Performing Profitable Firms Through the Science of Engagement 1-2 (2017). If we want to have a successful and sustainable career, happiness matters.

Think about our most important assets as lawyers. Primarily it's our intellectual talents and the ability to think critically and manage problems that gives us a competitive advantage. These things drive our success and the success of the organizations to which we belong. As a profession we recognize this to be true and invest time and money into building these abilities. But we do little to protect these same assets from wearing down under the strain of the practice of law, even despite the sizable amount of information suggesting rising levels of lawyer distress. See Nat'l Task Force on Law. Well-Being, Am. Bar Ass'n, The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change (Aug. 2017) (citing research on lawyer and law student mental health).

Consider a lawyer's job demands. We're required to function at the highest levels cognitively handle complicated tasks, navigate difficult matters, generate business, maintain healthy client relationships, and do so while often managing extraordinary levels of stress. People perform better under such circumstances when they are thriving. Brafford, supra, at 1-2. So, shouldn't we equip ourselves with how to thrive while also practicing law? This is where the...

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