Update: The Well-Being Tool Kit is a project conceived by Anne Brafford not the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being as originally reported. Brafford was the editor-in-chief of the task force’s report The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change. The title of this post and the language in the introduction have been edited to reflect this information.
A recent report by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being focused on solutions to prevailing mental health and substance abuse disorders among attorneys. Many lawyers, it found, neglect their own needs, inhibiting their ability to be at their best for clients, colleagues, and families. To counter that, the report emphasized the importance of fostering a supportive workplace, highlighting areas where firm leaders can make a positive impact on the health of their employees. The report’s editor-in-chief Anne Brafford designed a Well-Being Tool Kit that offers even more guidance, including 10 recommendations for promoting good health in the workplace.
- Launch a Lawyer Well-Being Committee. The committee’s leader should be someone proactive with credibility and influence.
- Define Well-Being, Set Goals & Create a Plan. Define well-being from scratch or use the National Task Force’s report (pages 9-10) as guidance; then establish policies and practices that support that definition.
- Measure Indicators of Well-Being. Potential resources include Subjective well-being, which assesses life satisfaction and the balance of negative and positive emotions; the Maslach Burnout Inventory and Oldenburg Burnout Inventory; the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 for depression; the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test; and any measures that gauge a person’s knowledge of how to seek help and their likelihood of doing so.
- Provide Tools for Lawyers to Individually Track Their Own Well-Being. Confidential self-tests are readily available, including the University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness, a questionnaire that assesses optimism, depression, and satisfaction; the “Wheel of Life” exercise, which measures satisfaction with different areas of life; and the Wellness Assessment.
- Provide Education on Well-Being. Regularly offer educational programs and create an information hub on your intranet for resources. Education should guide people on identifying, addressing, and supporting colleagues with mental health and substance use disorders.
- Ask Lawyers to Include Well-Being Topics in Their Goal-Setting Practices. Goals can include nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Leaders should monitor these goals as they would professional development goals.
- Embed Well-Being into Meetings. Include well-being as an agenda item in meetings, offer gratitude activities, and encourage “walking meetings” outside of conference rooms.
- Include Well-Being Topics in Organizational Transitions. Give a realistic preview of new roles and identifying common stressors and well-being strategies.
- Leverage Well-Being-Related Technology. Encourage the use of mental health apps, health-related smart phone apps, tools such as Glint, and treadmill desks in a conference room for all. Offer health-related prizes, such as Fitbits, in office giveaways.
- Develop Effective Leaders. The more contact with lawyers, the bigger the impact leaders have on their work experiences. It’s essential for leaders to optimize performance, work engagement, and job satisfaction—and to retain valued people.
For a full list of the recommendations, along with valuable resources for each, go to the toolkit online.
The Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program provides additional resources for wellness, stress and anxiety, mental health and substance abuse disorders, suicide prevention, and cognitive decline. For more information, go to tlaphelps.org.