State of Lawyer Mental Health & Well-Being
A healthy happy lawyer is the foundation of a productive and competent lawyer. Now more than ever in these challenging times, we need to adopt well-being practices. The Mental Health & Wellness Committee (MHWC) seeks to advance the well- being of lawyers by curating wellness initiatives and engaging in advocacy efforts that will enhance the public trust and confidence in the legal profession.
Stress-related illnesses among lawyers are rampant. Lawyers disproportionately experience stress, anxiety, depression, suicide, and substance abuse in comparison to other professionals. Too often, our approach and exposure to mental health issues for attorneys is reactionary.
Current programs focus on identifying attorneys who are already in crisis — suffering from substance abuse problems or other behavioral issues that lead to attorney misconduct, disciplinary action or even suspension from the practice of law. Too few of our continuing legal education courses, if any, focus on avoiding these behaviors by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
National Wellness Expert Tracy L. Kepler notes, “All the evidence suggests that the current state of lawyers’ health is not sustainable and cannot support a profession dedicated to client service and dependent on the public trust. In order to change the culture around well-being, legal employers need to be proactive in assessing what they prioritize and value, and how those values are communicated.”
MHW Committee Leads the Charge
The Mental Health & Wellness Committee has reexamined and restructured itself to develop programs and strategies for averting mental health issues that may lead to negative behaviors and consequences. In 2017, the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being issued its seminal report: Path to Lawyer Well-Being. This report stresses the critical need for implementation of proactive stress-reduction strategies and practices for lawyers and law students. Programs promoting regular exercise, meditation, and healthy dietary habits are just as critical for lawyer continuing education as the current programs that focus on identifying attorneys already in crisis.
Consistent with the National Task Force’s recommendations, the MHWC organized outstanding fall programs designed to reduce lawyer burnout and stress. Video replays are available for MHWC members. MHWC is excited to announce the establishment of the Student Advisory Sub- Committee (SAS). A partnership with law students fromCaseWesternReserveUniversity,Cleveland- Marshall College of Law, and University of Akron Law, SAS spearheads wellness initiatives and programs for area law students.
Strategic Priorities and Action Plan
One of the National Task Force Commission’s recommendations is the modification of the rules of professionalism to endorse well-being as part of a lawyer’s duty of competence. The Commission found that competence, ethical conduct, and attorney wellness are intertwined. Other states have endorsed well-being as part of a lawyer’s duty of competence. For example, California’s Rule of Professional Conduct 3-110 defines “competence” to include the “mental, emotional, and physical ability reasonably necessary.”
The report recommends expanding the definition for continuing education requirements to include wellness programs and topics. CLE seminars that focus on attorney wellness — including those that discuss meditation and mindfulness techniques — should qualify for CLE credits. The physical and emotional benefits of meditation are undisputed. Seeking approval form the Ohio Supreme Court for programs that encourage attorneys to engage in preventive health measures in order to promote a more positive well- being is essential for avoiding issues that lead to attorney discipline, misconduct, or malpractice
In addition to the above, the MHWC adopts the following strategic priorities:
- Introduce Mindfulness and Mediation Practices and Other Stress-Reduction Programs to the Legal Profession
- Cultivate and Strengthen Collaborations and Partnerships with the Health Care Industry, including the Cleveland Clinic Foundation
- Advocate and Promote Attorney Well-Being on a National, State and Local Level
- Collaborate with Legal Employers to Promote a Strong Workplace Well-Being Culture
- Encourage Legal Employers to Take a Wellness Pledge
- Develop an Online Wellness Took-Kit & Wellness Hub
National Lawyer Well-Being Week Events
The MHWC will bring cutting-edge seminars in celebration of National Lawyer Well-Being Week. Programs will provide techniques that re- energize, bring calm, balance, and focus to your practice. We are excited to announce the following line-up:
- Dr. Michael Roizen, Cleveland Clinic – May 3rd, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
- Judy Cohen, Warrior One – May 4th, 12 – 1 p.m. • Gloria Triester & Dr. Tammy Gutierrez, Wellness Evolution – May 5th, 12 – 1 p.m.
- Virtual Lawyer Well-Being Networking/Breakout Sessions – May 6th, 12 – 1 p.m. • Virtual Yoga – May 6th, 12 – 1 p.m.
CALL TO ACTION: Join the MHW Committee (no cost to CMBA members) and become a LAWYER WELL-BEING CHAMPION!
Awatef Assad is Risk Manager for Cuyahoga County, Member of CMBA Board of Directors & Executive Committee, Chair of Mental Health & Wellness Committee, and Vice-Chair of the Inclusion & Diversity Committee, & Vice-Chair of the Women in Law Section. She has been a CMBA member since 2015. She can be reached at (216) 698-2061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.