Ripped From the Headlines: Addressing The Well-Being of Lawyers and Administrative Professionals - Summary

By Krista Larson posted 04-07-2020 15:51

Please enjoy this summary authored by Krista Larson, Director of Employee Well-Being, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

The title of "well-being director" seems to be very new. What education/skills go into that role?

  • It looks a little different for all of us. Some legal well-being professionals are more clinical in focus, others come from the coaching world, and yet others are human resources professionals. My background is in Positive Psychology and leadership program design and delivery.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this role. Different organizations take different approaches depending on what works best for them as the unique organization they are.

Why is "well-being" so prominent now?

  • The pace of change impacts all of us. The novelty of being able to be connected all the time is wearing off, and we’re now seeing the downsides.  Being “always on” can be a hindrance to well-being.
  • Increased conversation in the media certainly plays a role.
  • Studies like the one published in 2016 by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation that looked at rates of behavioral health challenges also did a lot to ignite an increased focus on these topics. The findings, which, in short, were that lawyers experience these challenges at rates that far exceed the general population, were perhaps unsurprising but alarming nonetheless.
  • Further, we're seeing this trend in other industries as organizations realize that there are real bottom line implications for investing in their human capital. Particularly in the world of professional services, this investment in employees can go a long way.
  • There are real bottom line implications for investing in their human capital. Especially in the world of professional services, this investment can go a long way.

It seems to us that there are three main goals of the ABA 7-point pledge: Raising awareness; Creating a healthy work environment; Providing resources for people in need. What point(s) do you think are the most important and why?

  • I think the most important point is the one that's going to make the biggest impact on your organization. For example, you might have a firm that has done a lot to provide resources, but those resources are only go so far unless you raise awareness.
  • Understand the unique opportunities and challenges within your organization to have the strongest impact.

How has this topic been impacted by the current global COVID-19 health crisis?

  • One of the unique challenges in our industry during this time relates back to loneliness and isolation, which have been a problem for lawyers and the focus of attention for some time now. And needless to say, the lack of connection lawyers were already shown to be experiencing has been exacerbated by the social distancing guidelines.  Try to reframe “Social distancing” as “physical distancing”.  We should be connecting more than eve
  • During this time, as much as we need to continue to serve our clients, this starts with taking care of ourselves.
  • Encourage your managers and other leaders to set the tone for continued connection.
  • Make mental health resources known.
  • Promote other wellness resources for people to consider, such as physical fitness, mindfulness and time management techniques. Many of these resources are now free! has a series of articles and resources in a section called "Mind Over Matters." In that, John Hollway wrote a great article, "The Well-Being Spectrum: There's More Than 'In Crisis' or 'Perfectly Fine.' What are the issues our programs should address?

  • Well-being exists on a continuum. It's not as simple as being well or unwell, and it's not as simple as the absence of mental illness.
  • So, while mental health challenges are crucial to focus on, it's also important to focus on things like resilience and flourishing and other protective factors that can help prevent those challenges in the first place.

How does ignoring these problems impact the law firm or legal organization?

  • There are a handful of major opportunity costs associated with ignoring these problems. The first is that it’s just the right thing to do. Thriving at work means thriving in life.  The two are interdependent.  It’s also important to consider the bottom line implications of a healthy and engaged workforce (such as talent retention), and the impact that such a workforce can have on your organization’s ability to delivery top-notch legal work. Well-being is important to the success of individuals, legal organizations, and their clients.  Everyone wins.

Could/should programs extend to business professionals?

  • Well-being efforts should absolutely extend to business professionals. While much of the literature and research on the topic of well-being in law focuses exclusively on lawyer populations, we view these efforts as having the opportunity to positively impact everyone in the community.



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