In 1829 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story stated, “the law is a jealous mistress and requires a long and constant courtship.” This sentiment has held true to this day for far too many attorneys and that’s a problem, particularly for those who are unable to say no to their jealous mistress’s demand for a never-ending sacrifice. If this is striking a chord, meaning you are one who feels that your jealous mistress will never allow you to prioritize taking care of yourself along the way, it’s time to reframe your relationship with the law. I say this because I believe the only way to sustain a long and successful legal career is to prioritize wellness. Here are seven reasons why.

  • Mental Health Matters – The practice of law is renowned for its stressors. Over time, the long hours, tight deadlines, emotionally charged situations, and high stakes matters will take a toll on your mental wellbeing. When you ignore this truth, you risk jeopardizing your personal happiness and your professional efficacy.
  • Enhanced Mental Sharpness – Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and mindfulness will lead to improved mental clarity, concentration, problem-solving skills, and memory, all of which are essential attributes for sustaining success as an attorney.
  • Improved Client Relations – Effective attorney-client relationships are built on more than just legal skills; empathy, communication skills, and emotional intelligence are also part of the equation. When you prioritize personal wellness, perhaps with meditation, yoga, or even therapy, you become better equipped to listen to, understand, and meet your clients’ needs.
  • Professional Longevity – Remember that a career is a marathon, not a sprint; and burnout is an all-too-common issue in the practice of law. Neglect wellness and you risk experiencing a decline in your performance and potentially a premature exit from the profession. It needn’t be this way.
  • Ethical Decision-making – The demanding nature of legal work coupled with the financial pressures of running a successful practice can sometimes lead attorneys down the slippery slope of blurred ethical boundaries. A well-rounded wellness routine that includes time for reflection, relaxation, and self-care can help you stay ethically grounded, even when under stress.
  • Leadership and Influence – If you happen to be a firm leader, you have the power to influence others. Create a firm culture that not only encourages but enables everyone to prioritize wellness and be the example that others can follow. The end result will be a healthier, more productive work environment and your clients will take note.
  • Personal Fulfillment – Prioritizing wellness isn’t just about sustaining a long and successful career. It’s also about what you want your life to be like between now and dead. When you make wellness a priority in all aspects of your life (emotional, physical, social, financial, environmental, professional, and spiritual) you are far more likely to enjoy your work, have a fulfilling life outside of work, and be happy and content.

Of course, there are going to be times when the law can and will be a jealous mistress. Sacrifices will be asked of you, and they will need to be made, often at the expense of other aspects of your life. Prioritizing wellness isn’t about denying this reality. It’s about remembering who is in control of your life. It’s not the jealous mistress. It’s you. So, go ahead, reframe your relationship if need be. You won’t lose your relationship with the law. It will just be a healthier relationship, and that’s a good thing.

Since 1998, Mark Bassingthwaighte, Esq. has been a Risk Manager with ALPS, the nation’s largest direct writer of professional liability insurance for lawyers. In his tenure with the company, Mr. Bassingthwaighte has conducted over 1200 law firm risk management assessment visits, presented numerous continuing legal education seminars throughout the United States, and written extensively on risk management, ethics, and technology. Mr. Bassingthwaighte is a member of the State Bar of Montana as well as the American Bar Association where he currently sits on the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility’s Conference Planning Committee. He received his J.D. from Drake University Law School.