While everyone loves chair massages and most can’t pass by a puppy petting booth at their annual bar meeting, the concept of well-being for lawyers extends beyond these one-off feel good activities.
Well-being, as envisioned by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, is a multifaceted, overarching term that incorporates both prevention of behavioral health impairments (e.g. substance use disorders, burnout, depression, etc.) and treatment for those who succumb to these impairments.
Those in the latter group need targeted interventions and resources that can be accessed through their insurance, employee’s assistance program or state’s confidential lawyers assistance program. Meanwhile, those interested in boosting their resilience in the interest of preventing future problems, or in simply priming their performance, are increasingly being presented with a dizzying array of tips and strategies.
To effectively support one’s own well-being, the effort must be sustained over time and inclusive of multiple facets of health. From law school to retirement, lawyers should consider preservation of well-being to be part of both an ongoing duty of competence and a core competency, one that exists alongside knowledge of civil procedure and the rules of evidence.
To understand the full spectrum of health it’s intended to reflect, the National Task Force adopted the World Health Organization’s definition which provides that well-being is “a continuous process whereby lawyers seek to thrive” across all dimensions of life – emotional, occupational, intellectual, spiritual, physical and social. In essence, for example, maintaining a connection to something greater than one’s self (spiritual) merits focus, just as striving for physical exercise and healthy eating.
In May, the ABA and the National Task Force are promoting the first annual Lawyer Well-Being Week, with each day dedicated to different activities that support one’s development across all facets of well-being. While only a week, the event offers a window of time dedicated to heightened attention to the inherently human needs of lawyers and to the growing “lawyer well-being movement.” BREE BUCHANAN