Being a lawyer is stressful. Many factors—demanding workloads, long hours, deadlines, billable hour requirements, pressure to secure favorable outcomes for clients, student loan debt, the demands of keeping up with ever-changing law, and innumerable others—contribute to this. All these pressures can, and often do, manifest as physical and/or mental health issues. As a result, attorney wellness often suffers. Attorneys are known to experience anxiety, depression, and substance abuse at a higher rate than the general population.[i]
Fortunately, these issues have not been ignored. The American Bar Association has made resources available, and all U.S. states have created lawyer assistance programs.[ii] Further, law firms have increased the time and resources dedicated to wellness programs—and this is a good thing. Law firm wellness programs not only help promote attorneys’ health and well-being, but they benefit firms by increasing employee satisfaction (which means greater retention and better work product) and decreasing health care costs.
So, what should you look (or ask) for in your employer’s wellness program?
What Works Well in a Wellness Program
Successful wellness programs can include several features, including:
Even Stronger Measures to Consider
Any or all of the above initiatives go a long way toward improving attorney wellness, but law firms looking to do even more should implement one or more of the following ideas:
Attorneys need to take time to tend to their physical and mental wellness, and having structured law firm wellness programs is one way to make sure this happens. For other ideas—and for a listing of law firms with strong wellness initiatives—check out the Vault Law rankings of the 2023 Best Law Firms for Wellness here.
[i] Greene, J. (2021, November 9). Why lawyers in trouble shun treatment – at the risk of disbarment. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/legal/legalindustry/why-lawyers-trouble-shun-treatment-risk-disbarment-2021-11-09/
[ii] American Bar Association. (2022, January 18). Stress. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/lawyer_assistance/resources/stress/
[iii] Abrams, Z. (2022, April 1). The urgent necessity for paid parental leave. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/04/feature-parental-leave
[iv] Mora, M. (2022, September 7). When a Judge Reconsiders: Good News for Lawyer Seeking ‘Paternity Leave’. Law.com. https://www.law.com/dailybusinessreview/2022/09/07/when-a-judge-reconsiders-good-news-for-lawyer-seeking-paternity-leave/
[v] Sloan, K. and Merken, S. (2022, January 26). Want lawyers to take time off? This law firm is bankrolling vacations. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/legal/legalindustry/want-lawyers-take-time-off-this-law-firm-is-bankrolling-vacations-2022-01-25/
Law is a demanding profession with steep hours, high stress, and immense pressure—and in recent years, law firms have begun answering the call for more resources to support well-being. That’s why this year, Vault launched its first-ever law firm wellness rankings (for both large and midsize firms) to highlight industry leaders in this area.
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