The American Bar Association collaborated with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in a nationwide study of approximately 15,000 attorneys from 19 states. The findings were dismaying, if not surprising: 19 percent of licensed, practicing attorneys exhibit symptoms of anxiety, 21 percent drink excessively, and 28 percent struggle with some form of depression. Lawyers are at higher risk of alcohol abuse and suffer more significant mental health distress than other professional populations. The best option for some lawyers is to seek professional assistance from an organization such as Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. While there is no quick fix for routine daily stress, mindfulness can help lawyers reduce stress and improve performance.
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment without being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is happening around us. In addition to reducing stress, mindfulness can improve problem-solving and focus, increase creativity and energy, and foster empathy.
THE MINDFUL LAWYER
The mindful lawyer is rooted and focused in the tasks and objectives of the present moment, deploying critical thinking skills to execute with clarity, creativity, and commitment to colleagues and clients. Responding without judgment to one’s own condition and to issues that arise is a hallmark of mindfulness. Mindfulness is not a destination but a way of being, and momentum builds with daily practice.
ONE STEP TO MINDFUL LAWYERING
Jumpstart your mindful practice with as little as five minutes at the beginning of the day, before a meeting, or whenever you need to reset yourself emotionally or mentally. Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Close your eyes and take some calming breaths. Visualize how you will bring your best (e.g., most calm, confident, assured, knowledgeable) self to the day. Cultivating this habit will be especially helpful when facing challenging interactions. SPIWE L. JEFFERSON