Shortly after I started at this firm, I was informed that all the lawyers would be participating, as a group, in a six month program with a life coach/executive business coach. Although I had heard the term “life coach” on trendy t.v. shows, I really did not know what a “life coach” did or how it would open my eyes to the endless benefits of mindfulness. “Mindfulness”-another loaded word I had heard a lot about, but did not truly understand how it correlated with the legal profession. Mindfulness is defined as the “quality or state of being conscious or aware of something; a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” Fast forward to six months later and, after a life changing program with our life coach, Fernanda Bressan, I was armed with the tools I needed to deal with the day to day stresses of life and this profession. We talked about meditation, journaling, establishing exercise routines, and saying yes to things that were effortless and that brought us ease and enjoyment. However, around that time, the South Florida legal community began to hear more and more about lawyers tragically ending their life and the Florida Bar’s initiatives to address and educate lawyers about mental health and wellness issues.
According to The National Task Force On Lawyer Well-Being, a task force conceptualized and initiated by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, the National Organization of Bar Counsel, and the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, 21-36% of lawyers are problem drinkers; 28% suffer from depression; 25% suffer from work addiction; and 23% have elevated stress. To further compound the problem, most lawyers avoid seeking help. In 2017, The Task Force published a report titled “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change” where it discussed the current state of lawyers’ health and how the current state could not support a profession dedicated to client service and dependent on the public trust. The report wisely and succinctly stated “[t]o be a good lawyer, one has to be a healthy lawyer.” It further found that lawyer well-being contributes to organizational success in law firms because if cognitive functioning is impaired, legal professionals are unable to do their best work.
I am very proud of that fact that at this firm the well-being of the lawyers is just as important as the quality of work we provide to our clients each and every day. It is not uncommon to find us engaging in ten minute group mediations in the conference room or being gifted with the Time Special Edition “The New Mindfulness” magazine (Thanks, Mick!). On Friday afternoons, we gather around and praise co-workers for a job well-done, share struggles we may have faced throughout the week, but overcame, and always end with a gratitude exercise. On Monday mornings, we set our intentions for the week and every day we receive an inspirational message via e-mail to put a smile on our face.
With incivility on the rise within the legal profession, it becomes more and more difficult to amicably resolve cases and avoid protracted litigation. Here at Maspons & Sellek, we know that arguing for the sake of arguing is not good for either us or our clients. We believe being effective is better than being right. We strive to apply that motto to every decision we make because when we can calmly, clearly and with an open mind analyze the problems before us, both as lawyers and individuals, we know that being effective is what we always want to be.
For more information regarding The National Task Force on Lawyer Well Being’s “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change”, click on the link below.