In 2017, the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being (which, in 2020, became the Institute for Well-Being in Law) published The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change. The report triggered concern and activity across the profession. Much has been accomplished in the several years since the report’s publication, but there’s much more work to do.
Historically, law firms, law schools, bar associations, courts, and malpractice insurers have taken a largely hands-off approach to mental health and well-being issues. We need to do more to help. The goal of achieving increased well-being in the profession is within our collective reach. The time to redouble our efforts is now.
A Holistic Definition of Well-Being in the Legal Profession
The Report defines well-being as a continual process of seeking to thrive in each dimension of one’s life: Emotional, Occupational, Intellectual, Spiritual, Physical, and Social.
Hover over the buttons below to read the definition of each dimension.
Maintaining well-being is part of lawyers’ ethical duty of competence. It calls for healthy, positive choices to assure that lawyers can be their best for their clients, families, organizations, and communities. Further, to be their best, lawyers depend on a large number of important contributors who are not lawyers. Therefore, well-being across the legal profession is an important goal.
The Task Force’s definition of well-being is not defined solely as an absence of dysfunction; nor is it limited to feeling “happy.” Full well-being is multi-dimensional and requires things like connection, belonging, continual growth, and aligning our lives with our values. It requires that we take care of all aspects of our lives.
We’re All In This Together
The Report also emphasizes that well-being is a team sport. The contexts in which we live and work such as organizational and professional cultures can play a powerful role in helping or harming individual well-being. Each of us contributes to our workplace and institutional cultures and each is affected by it. What this means is that we’re all in this together.
Value emotions. Develop ability to identify and manage our emotions to support mental health, achieve goals, and inform decisions. Seek help for mental health when needed.
Engage in continuous learning. Pursue creative or intellectually challenging activities that foster ongoing development. Monitor cognitive wellness.
Cultivate personal satisfaction, growth, and enrichment in work. Strive to maintain financial stability.
Strive for regular activity, good diet, and nutrition, enough sleep, and recovery. Limit addictive substances. Seek help for physical health when needed.
Develop connections, a sense of belonging, and a reliable support network. Contribute to our groups and communities.
Develop a sense of meaningfulness and purpose in all aspects of life.