This is a national topic. Others states have undertaken similar projects. The ABA has been a leader in raising awareness of issues related to lawyer well-being.
Last week, the ABA Journal reported that several of the country’s largest law firms have signed a pledge to follow a 7-point plan to improve lawyer well-being. The pledge and the plan are here. The pledge was developed by the ABA’s Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession. The group has also developed this Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers.
Per the article in the ABA Journal, the goal is for all legal employers to take the pledge by January 1.
Here’s the pledge:
- “Recognizing that substance use and mental health problems represent a significant challenge for the legal profession, and acknowledging that more can and should be done to improve the health and well-being of lawyers, we the attorneys of _______________________ hereby pledge our support for this innovative campaign and will work to adopt and prioritize its seven-point framework for building a better future.”
The seven-point framework:
- Provide enhanced and robust education to attorneys and staff on topics related tow well-being, mental health, and substance use disorders.
- Disrupt the status quo of drinking based events by challenging the expectation that all events include alcohol, and, ensuring there are non-alcoholic alternatives when alcohol is served.
- Develop visible partnerships with outside resources committed to reducing substance use disorders and mental health distress in the profession: healthcare insurers, lawyer assistance programs, EAPSs, and experts in the field.
- Provide confidential access to addiction and mental health experts and resources, including free, in-house, self-assessment tools.
- Develop proactive policies and protocols to support assessment and treatment of substance use and mental health problems, including a defined back-to-work policy following treatment.
- Actively and consistently demonstrate that help-seeking and self-care are core cultural values, by regularly supporting programs to improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
- Highlight the adoption of this well-being framework to attract and retain the best lawyers and staff.
The ABA’s program is a 2 year process. The first year is focused on legal employers to recognize the problem and, as stated above, pledge to commit to promoting awareness & the seven-point plan. Then, in year 2, the ABA will ask legal employers to complete a commitment form that describes steps taken in the prior year.
In my view, whether formally taking the pledge or not, the ABA’s program provides a fantastic vehicle for legal employers to make the workplace healthier.