Embodied Lawyering: How Somatic Practice Can Transform Our Beliefs, Behaviors, and Impact

Embodied Lawyering: How Somatic Practice Can Transform Our Beliefs, Behaviors, and Impact

By Lindsey Frischer (she/they), somatic coach and lawyer



In this interactive article, we explore how the existing conditions of institutionalized law shape us as legal professionals and impact our well-being. Within this context, we introduce how the somatic process of generating greater awareness, agency, and accountability helps (1) better care for ourselves and each other; (2) align with our individual and collective values, vision, and purpose; and (3) transform our role as advocates in service of a more healing, equitable and just legal system.


We encourage you to watch the 7-minute video below alongside this article demonstrating the application of this somatic process to one of the core shapes we experience as a legal professional, irritability & impatience.






The legal profession is suffering from harmful working conditions and systemic neglect. The common working conditions of legal professionals, such as: heavy caseloads; ongoing exposure to trauma; lack of time to process issues or give/get support; lack of autonomy; and lack of respect, generate high amounts of pressure, stress, and overwhelm on our bodies. When compounded with the institutionalized expectations to win at all costs and standardized practices such as the billable hour to incentivize hyper-productivity, these working conditions become unsustainable and adversely impact the health and well-being of its practitioners.


Without practicing the vital skills to transform the existing conditions and sustain our role as more embodied lawyers, the high rates of attrition, burnout, compassion fatigue, depression, and substance abuse will continue to pervade the industry, and our system of justice will be compromised.




Over time under consistent levels of pressure, we learn to adapt our behaviors in order to survive within the circumstances. We do this by inhabiting the dominant beliefs, values, and practices that are conditioned upon us, which impacts how we show up and react to life.


In the video, you witness how Lindsey’s historical shaping as a private law firm attorney influenced a subconscious belief that her time “was not her own.” Years later, no longer in the law firm setting, Lindsey continues to react defensively against any perceived encroachments on her time by tensing up and contracting the muscles in her body as a physical boundary. This familiar tension causes irritability and impatience and negatively impacts how she conducts her current work as a lawyer and the relationships she has with her colleagues and clients.


Consider other potential pathways for how our conditions shape our beliefs and behaviors as lawyers: as we multitask across heavy caseloads with high expectations of meeting deadlines and billable hours, we may start to skip meals, lose sleep and become overly attached to the outcome while feeling increasingly less in control of our time. We believe that everything is urgent, and if we don’t win, we’re a failure. We notice we’re becoming more irritable and impatient.


Similarly, navigating high-stakes matters involving traumatic issues for our clients, without the resources or time to process the issues we’re managing, we rely on alcohol to cope with the emotional stress and start to feel numb and withdrawn. We believe that if we ask for help managing the caseload, we’ll seem incompetent. Fearful of the stigma from expressing our need for support, we become isolated and lonely and start to feel depressed.


Current and conventional health care tends to overemphasize treating these individual symptoms (e.g., depression) without addressing the systemic conditions perpetuating these problems. This places the burden on the lawyer to find ways to take care of themselves in addition to fulfilling the demands of the job. Over time, we start to internalize the beliefs that “our time is not our own” (as was the case for Lindsey) or “there is something wrong with me if I can’t keep functioning at such high levels” and “I’m a failure if I don’t win this case.”  Similarly, we believe if we ask for help, we’re “incompetent at our jobs” or “not smart enough” and that “vulnerability is a weakness” and “emotions are not helpful to express.”




Psychotherapist and relationship expert Ester Perel explains that the “mental health crisis is a way of individualizing social problems.” By bringing our attention to the conditions that cause such a consistently high and pervasive threat to our well-being, we can start to acknowledge the source of the problem. In the video, Nik’s inquiry as to the origin of Lindsey’s habituated reaction to tensing up to protect herself against perceived demands for her time allowed her to acknowledge it was the dominant conditions, expectations and practices of the firm – e.g., the billable hour, working late nights and weekends, and unreasonable partner and client demands for work, that shaped this behavior. We become more aware of how we’ve learned, through institutionalized training as lawyers, to practice compartmentalizing our feelings and emotions.


By learning how to practice embodied self-awareness, as demonstrated on the video, we begin to notice how we connect and respond to our felt experience of life, our sensations, our emotions, our needs, and desires.  Our bodies, responding to unprocessed stress and pressure, begin to contract and brace in order to stay the course; tension builds in our muscles and our tissues tighten, our eyes narrow, our jaws lock, our breath shortens, working to harden, numb and desensitize us. We become less flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances. We lose touch with our own dignity and compassion. We become depressed, burned out and exhausted. Through this conditioned shaping we come to rely on maladaptive ways to cope and further isolate ourselves from life and disconnect from our sense of purpose and belonging.


The impact of this shaping (in addition to diminishing wellness) is that we lose access to a more visionary, responsive, and imaginative worldview. When our body is rigid, constrained, and has limited range, our impact is equally as rigid, constrained, and limited. How we, as lawyers, connect to and care for our bodies – and that of the collective legal body – cannot be separated from how we practice law and how we serve justice.




We want to acknowledge and disrupt the way these existing legal conditions shape us as practitioners by orienting us back into the life of our bodies as a source of resilience, wisdom, creativity, dignity, and belonging.  Somatic practice helps us to identify what is not serving us, cultivating greater embodied self-awareness to interrupt these habituated behaviors and indoctrinated beliefs and generate new skills to take centered action and respond in ways that serve our vision, values, and our well-being. We turn to somatic practice to grow our capacity to care for ourselves and each other differently; to organize a legal community that prioritizes its well-being as directly relating to how we serve justice.


Lindsey Frischer (she/they) is a lawyer and somatic coach working at the intersection of somatics and legal justice to help transform the legal profession to become embodied advocates in service of a more caring, equitable and just legal system. Lindsey is a partner at Murmur Collaborative delivering somatic coaching, consulting and facilitation across the legal industry to support the well-being of legal professionals, and runs her own coaching and consulting practice offering somatic coaching for lawyers and change-agents. Lindsey also practices as a pro bono attorney with Oasis Legal Services and the Immigration Justice Campaign representing the international LGTBQ+ community seeking asylum. She was a former corporate litigator at a Wall Street law firm in NY representing high-profile government investigations of global financial institutions during the height of the financial crisis.