As an advocate of mindfulness and meditation programs in law firms, I have a somewhat different take on the lawyer well-being issue that has been championed by the American Bar Association (ABA), but we both agree that lawyer well-being is a timely and important concern.
For the longest time (since at least 1980, when I was sworn in) the prevailing attitude in the profession was akin to the old adage, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Law firms operated in many ways like the fraternities that so many had come from — the older lawyers had been through hell with opposing counsel, certain clients, and even some of their partners — now it was the turn of the younger lawyers, in the proverbial barrel.
But explaining something is not the same as excusing it. As an older attorney who may have “paid his/her dues,” the perpetuation of that attitude may be understandable, but it does not excuse it. Going through hell with opposing counsel, or one’s clients, or some of one’s partners ought not to be regarded as a necessary rite of passage for younger lawyers — particularly if it negatively impacts one’s well-being.
Being mindful of lawyer well-being is not a bad thing. It’s actually a very good and sensible thing — both for individual lawyers and collectively, for law firms. I believe that mindfulness and meditation are core building blocks that should be incorporated into any well-being program — particularly in law firms. Most of us have come around to understanding and accepting that physical fitness has a material bearing upon our ability to function capably. What about our mental/emotional fitness?
For a profession that is built upon the value and effectiveness of our lawyers’ minds, it is curious — some might even say, irresponsible — that we would not proactively strengthen and protect the mind part of the mind/body dichotomy, which is the very foundation of our profession.
Sadly, the beat does go on. “Cars [our minds] keep going faster all the time”, as Sonny once sang to Cher. But nobody, at least in the legal profession, is doing anything meaningful about it. Half-day programs are nothing more than what they are: half-hearted lip service.
Let’s stop conforming, and start reforming!