At last week’s YLD Thaw in Montreal, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion on attorney wellness. Three lawyers shared personal & moving stories. One described how substance abuse almost kept him from entering the profession, while two recounted experiences that nearly drove them from the profession. Experiences inextricably linked to stress, anxiety and depression.
The presentation was well-received. Several lawyers have contacted me since to express an interest in “the next step.” That is, it seems we’ve arrived at a point where everyone agrees that wellness is an issue that is impacting the profession. Now, it’s time to move beyond raising awareness. It’s time to provide lawyers with tools and techniques to achieve and maintain well-being and wellness. I received a few great ideas from the lawyers who reached out. Today I’ll focus on one: mentoring.
This morning, a young lawyer sent me an email in which she thanked me for incorporating wellness into so many of the CLEs that I present. She wrote that it “is important that we make space within the profession to raise awareness of issues such as those the panel brought up.”
It’s what she wrote next that struck me:
- “I hope in the future we can have further discussion on how to be the change we wish to see in the profession…managers and mentors, in my opinion, need to lead the charge.”
She’s right. We who’ve been around must help younger lawyers manage the stress that the profession brings. And there’s no better time to do so than now.
January is National Mentoring Month. I’ve previously urged lawyers to consider serving as mentors for new attorneys. Indeed, it’s a concept that can be traced back to one of the original expressions of our professional duties.
Of course, mentoring need not be formal. It can be as simple as checking in with the younger lawyer in your firm. The lawyer who, like you once were, is overwhelmed and reluctant to ask for help.
Be the help that we want the profession to provide. There might be no more important form of mentoring.
For more, check out the mentoring resources that the American Inns of Court made available on its site. And, for more general information on creating a workplace that values well-being & wellness, don’t forget two incredibly helpful resources:
- The ABA CoLAP Well-Being Toolkit for Legal Employers; and,
- The ABA CoLAP Well-Bing Toolkit in a Nutshell: 80 Tips for Thriving