The recent report from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being (1) finds that too many lawyers struggle with mental-health conditions and alcohol abuse. (2) Even lawyers who do not have diagnosable disorders are not necessarily fully healthy, engaged, and thriving. Too many neglect their own needs, which harms not only their health but also their ability to be their best for their clients, colleagues, and families. If you are a leader in a law firm or another type of legal employer, I hope the report has prompted you to ask yourself: What can I do to help?
You can make a big difference in the health of lawyers you employ. Healthy, engaged workers will help make your organization successful. Research definitively shows that, for people to be their best at work, a supportive workplace is essential. The goal should be to build a structural support system that enables lawyers to grow and follow pathways to success while maintaining physical and psychological health. To help make progress toward this goal, below are recommended strategies and tools for your Lawyer Well-Being Starter Kit.
1) Launch a Lawyer Well-Being Committee
As a first step, launch a Well-Being Committee that is responsible for championing well-being. The committee should include a high-level leader who has the credibility and influence to make things happen. Your organization's Employee Assistance Program, if you have one, and health insurance carrier may be interested in participating and contributing resources. (3) The South Carolina and Georgia bars both have attorney well-being committee websites that serve as great resources. (4)
2) Define Well-Being, Set Goals, and Create a Plan
Next, create a positive, concrete vision for your desired future. Start by defining well-being, which can be done either from scratch or by borrowing from the National Task Force's report, (5) which takes a multi-dimensional approach. You then can create goals and plans for creating policies and practices needed to support the well-being vision. The following are just a few resources to help in this step:
* Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation's "Best Practice Guidelines for the Legal Profession." (6)
* The World Health Organization's "Healthy Workplace Framework and Model." (7)
* Cary Cooper and colleagues' book: Building Resilience for Success: A Resource for Managers and Organizations.
3) Measure Indicators of Well-Being
You're likely familiar with the popular saying "What gets measured, gets done." Measuring things makes us pay attention to them--especially when consequences are attached to the outcome, such as including lawyer well-being metrics as part supervisors' performance reviews. Measuring also informs us when to celebrate a success and when a course change is needed due to a lack of progress. Several ideas for scales are provided below:
* Subjective Well-Being--Subjective well-being (SWB) is a widely used measure of "happiness," which has been used by Professor Larry Krieger (a contributor to this issue) and others in multiple studies of lawyer and law student well-being. SWB is an assessment of life satisfaction and the balance of negative and positive emotions.
Relevant scales can be freely used for...