I’ve been blogging & speaking about wellness since March 2016. Over time, the tide has turned. Early skepticism and resistance has given way to widespread acceptance that wellness must be addressed, and even wider enthusiasm in providing solutions.
The various responses to the wellness crisis flow from this 2017 report from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being. Among other things, the report urged state supreme courts to create commissions to study & make recommendations on how the profession’s various stakeholders could act to improve wellness.
Under the leadership of Chief Justice Reiber and the Supreme Court, Vermont did exactly that.
Late last year, the Vermont Commission on the Well-Being of the Legal Profession issued a State Action Plan. The plan outlines the proactive measures that the stakeholders in Vermont’s legal community will take to improve the profession’s health and well-being. To my knowledge, following the report & recommendation from the National Task Force, Vermont was the first state to issue an action plan.
Interestingly, while the profession has accepted and started to address the problem, nobody has looked critically at the “why?” Why do legal professionals suffer from behavioral health problems at such staggering rates? What is it that puts us at risk?
Last month, the Virginia State Bar’s Special Committee on Lawyer Well-Being issued The Occupational Risks of the Practice of Law. Professor Alberto Bernabe blogged about it here. The report identifies four categories of risk, then dives deeper within each:
You don’t have to read the entire report. Pages 2-11 include an accessible and hepful matrix that, for each risk, sets out its (1) potential effects; (2) practice pointers for individuals; and (3) practice pointers for organizations.
For example, lately, I’ve blogged and spoken often on the connection between incivility and wellness. Here’s what the report from the Virginia State Bar says about the occupational risks associated with the adversarial nature of our work:
Good stuff. The matrix does the same for each risk factor. Give it a read. Again, it’s here.
After all, it only makes sense that the most effective response will come from understanding the risk.