Answering Legal Presents: A Guide To Lawyer Wellness
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
A 2016 ABA study showed that approximately 28 percent, 19 percent, and 23 percent of practicing lawyers are struggling with some level of depression, anxiety, and stress, respectively. The study also revealed that between 21 percent and 36 percent of attorneys qualify as problem drinkers.
Those working in the legal profession have it just as hard as anyone when it comes to dealing with mental, physical and emotional wellness challenges. The intense daily pressure of being an attorney and managing a firm can leave many feeling overwhelmed, depressed, stressed, anxious, angry and alone. All of these feelings are of course now being combined with a great deal of uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fortunately for those working in law, conversations about lawyer wellness issues are starting to pick up. More attorneys are starting to share their wellness related struggles, and offer real support for those who are in need of help.
In this guide we’ll share a collection of wellness related stories with you, and introduce you to some great organizations and people that can assist you in living a happier and healthier legal life.
Stories Featured In This Guide:
The Value Of Speaking Up About Depression
Pairing Time Management With Mind Management
Understanding The Causes Of Our Stress
Overcoming Occupational Burnout
Improving Wellness Through Science
Making Time For Me
Learning How To Self-Care
Overcoming Occupational Burnout
The friendship between attorneys Cindy Sharp and Becky Howlett is somewhat of an unlikely one. It is not unlikely because of who they are as people, as the two women have both experienced wellness struggles in their careers and personal lives, and actually have a great deal in common, even with Cindy being over 30 years older than Becky.
Featured Organization--The Legal Burnout Solution
The reason their friendship is unlikely, is because it began on March 18, 2020, right as a global pandemic was getting underway. Sharp and Howlett’s first meeting took place virtually, by way of a CLE session. And, while many of us were isolating from our peers during this time, Sharp and Howlett began to bond and exchange stories.
Sharp shared her challenges with alcoholism and Howlett her experiences with depression and anxiety. The two women found that they had both suffered through occupational burnout in their legal careers, and that they had both used meditation and mindfulness to overcome their respective challenges.
As their conversations continued, both Sharp and Howlett quickly felt a burning desire to team up and take action. With Howlett about to be certified as a meditation teacher, the duo decided to launch The Legal Burnout Solution, a mindful community dedicated to lawyer wellness.
“By normalizing conversations about and implementing strategies to effectively cope with burnout, mental health issues, and substance abuse within the legal field, we can create purposeful environments that safeguard and support our ability to be happy, healthy, and productive legal advocates and people,” Sharp said.
The Legal Burnout Solution brand is meant to represent the eternal flame or divine spark within each of us. The flame on their logo speaks to the journey of extinguishing burnout by neutralizing emotional reactivity and actively cultivating our ability to live mindfully.
The Legal Burnout Solution currently offers training and presentation sessions (which are done on behalf of state and local bar associations), individual coaching services, online meditation classes and a mindfulness Facebook group. Right away the demand for the type of services they were offering was clear, when they had 234 attorneys register for their debut program.
The organization uses evidence-based mindfulness tools and techniques, including breathwork and visualization meditations to help attorneys with lowering stress and preventing burnout. They also focus on strengthening the mind-body connection, including through yoga and self-massage.
Even with many lawyers working from their homes during the pandemic, Sharp says legal burnout remains a significant problem. She notes that attorneys must deal with juggling numerous roles and responsibilities at once in the same environment. Also an issue is the blurring of boundaries between when are you working and when are you resting. Sharp encourages lawyers to take care of themselves during this time period.
“You are your most important relationship,” Sharp said. “Set aside time every day for self care. If you don’t prioritize yourself, who will? As lawyers, we tend to put others’ needs before our own, sometimes forgetting that you can’t fill another’s cup from our own empty vessel. While there are many ways to take care of ourselves, the benefits of mindfulness are many – increased focus and concentration along with decreased anxiety and stress.”
Originally printed 10-13-2020 on Answering Legal. All Rights Reserved.