CBA Record May-June 2021
As critical as that is, it is anecdotally the case that for every lawyer who suffers from a mental or emotional illness that LAP and/or other mental health professionals can address, it seems there are dozens of lawyers who suffer from non-medical, situ- ational discomfort that can be addressed through self-care techniques that may not require the intervention of a healthcare professional. Reference is made to social or profes- sional stress, free-floating anxiety, dimin- ished focus, burnout, and diminished resilience—all of which can impact both personal and professional well-being. Private Sector Action Commensurate with the initiatives under- taken by bar associations and quasi-govern- mental agencies, the private sector (pre- dominantly law firms) also has recognized the bona fides of the well-being movement in a variety of ways. An indication of recognition is the hiring, or internal appointment, of a Direc- tor of Well-Being (or person of equivalent title and responsibility). This indicates the growing importance of lawyer well-being taking root. Once the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic subsides, stronger action in the private sector should be more apparent. At present, much of the attention given to lawyer well-being in the private sector comes with extremely low expectations, if not skepticism. An inkling of private
sector recognition has come in the nomi- nal support of the well-being “Pledge”—a campaign supported by the American Bar Association and acknowledged by 200-plus entities (predominantly law firms), who have signed the Pledge. Academic Action Though far from uniform, many law schools are already incorporating well- being classes into their curricula. Some are denominated mindfulness classes, some are denominated meditation classes, some are denominated diet and nutrition classes, and some are more generically denominated well-being classes. Regardless of title, however, the importance of both physical and mental/emotional well-being are incrementally making their way into the consciousness of young lawyers-in- training, and that holds obvious positive implications for the future of the profes- sion. Thanks to the support of law schools and the initiative of certain professors, a generational change is afoot that will bring lawyer well-being into the practice of law. Changes Lawyer well-being is not a new notion. That said, lawyers are notoriously slow adopters, and change within the legal profession is inevitably incremental— but change is coming nonetheless. By all appearances, the change occasioned by rising awareness surrounding lawyer well-being may be slow, but that certainly
doesn’t mean it will be insignificant—quite to the contrary, the change will likely be far-reaching, in important and meaningful ways. Most immediately is the evolving notion of lawyer “competence”—today, the focus of attention (and rules of professional conduct) is on lawyer competence relative to the use of technology. Tomorrow, the focus of attention could well shift to lawyer well-being. Related to such a change, one can imagine that the notion of “representation” could also change—if not in the view of the law, then in the eyes of the public. How long will it be until a disgruntled or a misrepresented client files a claim of professional negligence against a lawyer who is not well, and his or her law firm? Can the legal profession get out in front of those kinds of changes, and take lawyer well-being more seriously? Can it address the concern responsibly and empatheti- cally, in a manner that protects both law- yers and clients? We would be well-advised to take account of the shift that is occurring and make lawyer well-being the priority it needs to be.
Jeffrey H. Bunn, a retired commercial l i t igator, founded the Mindful Law Coaching & Consulting Group and is an advocate for lawyer well-being.
Seeking Legal Writing Tips for Junior Attorneys and Their Supervisors
By Kathleen Dillon Narko, CBA Record Editorial Board
We need your legal writing tips for junior attorneys (and those who supervise them).
The CBA Record wants your input for an upcoming column on legal writing tips and other work advice for less- experienced attorneys. In the January/February issue the CBA Record published “Communication is Key: Writing Tips for Junior Attorneys (andThoseWho Supervise Them),”which covered how these attorneys can communicate well with superiors to understand the task and how to produce the best work product. Now we need your help. Is leaving time to edit crucial? Is checking inwith the partner before completing a brief important? Send us your best tips, and we will compile them for publication. Email to: CBARecord@chicagobar.org. We want to hear from you.
CBA RECORD 21
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