How It All Began: The Evolution from the National Task Force to the Institute for Well-Being in Law

While attending the 2016 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, leaders of three national organizations commandeered an empty conference room and committed to the creation of a movement that would transform the well-being of the legal system. Their motivation stemmed from two new national studies that clearly demonstrated the unacceptably high rates of depression, anxiety and problematic drinking among U.S. lawyers and law students, along with the long-held knowledge that too many members of the profession were functioning below their ability.

Intent upon systems change, these organizations – the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC), the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL) and the ABA Commission on Lawyers Assistance Programs (CoLAP), formed the core of the grassroots movement which was ultimately named the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being.

Over the course of the next nine months, other national organizations and thought leaders joined together to develop the groundbreaking report, The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change. In August 2017, the Report was published, and both the ABA and the Conference of Chief Justices passed Resolutions urging all states to review and consider the Report’s 44 recommendations.

The National Task Force grew to include 13 national legal associations that represent the judiciary, regulators, bar examiners, lawyers’ assistance programs, law schools, as well as individuals representing the risk-management and insurance industry and global law firms.

This initial work of the Task Force relied largely on dedicated professionals who volunteered their time and effort to the movement while having to focus primarily on their full-time obligations. For effective, ongoing change, the work of the National Task Force needed to evolve into a permanent model. To that end, the Institute for Well-Being in Law was formed as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in December 2020.  Its mission statement is as follows:

The Institute for Well-Being in Law (IWIL) is dedicated to the betterment of the legal profession by focusing on a holistic approach to well-being. Through advocacy, research, education, technical and resource support, and stakeholders’ partnerships, we are driven to lead a culture shift in law to establish health and well-being as core centerpieces of professional success.