NOTE: Updated April 6 to include ABA Journal link
It’s been a while. For too long, any attempt to draft a new post has resulted in nothing but a blank space. So that there’s no bad blood, rest assured, it’s not you. Rather, lacking any motivation to blog, I’m the problem, it’s me. Today, however, a story that’s related to professional responsibility has helped me to shake it off. By now, readers who know me all too well likely have guessed the story’s topic.
That’s right: wellness.
Over the past few days, a slide from a presentation done for newer associates by an associate at a global law firm has gone viral. Among others, Law.Com, Legal Cheek, and the ABA Journal have coverage. Here’s the slide:
As the ABA Journal reported, the firm released a statement to Law.Com indicating that “the views expressed do not reflect the views of the firm or its partners.” Nevertheless, here’s another excerpt from the ABA Journal’s post:
“Tom Sharbaugh, a former Morgan, Lewis & Bockius managing partner who’s now a professor of practice at the Pennsylvania State University’s law school, told Law.com that he thinks that messaging similar to the associate’s advice may be prevalent at many elite firms.“
“I think you’re expected to just be always available, regardless of what they say about work-life balance and wellness and all that stuff,” Sharbaugh said. “At the end of the day, you’re married to the firm.”
So far, not exactly a love story.
Reaction to the story, however, served to remind me of the good and important work that so many have done to assist law firms and legal employers to make the workplace healthier.
A few weeks ago I posted We’ve Only Just Begun To Begin. In brief, the post argues that it’s not enough to provide assistance and resources to legal professionals in need. In addition, we must also work to reduce the root causes of stress, anxiety, and burnout. That is, and as Patrick Krill noted in When Our Stress Becomes Dangerous, we must “the more stubborn forces of inertia, maladaptive attitudes, entrenched business models and extrinsic motivations.” With today’s viral slide in mind, perhaps the most entrenched and stubborn of those root causes are unreasonable workloads and unreasonable work expectations.
My wellness presentations also include a slide that contains the numbers 24/7/365. The slide follows one in which I ask this question:
“What three numbers do not appear in Rules 1.3 or 1.4 of the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct?”
When I show the “answer” slide, I acknowledge that, yes, there will be situations that arise outside “regular” work hours that require lawyers to provide clients with immediate assistance or attention. However, I add that the duties of diligence and communication are modified by the word “reasonable.” Further, I remind legal professionals that making time for things other than work and clients is an aspect of wellness, with wellness, in turn, an aspect competence.
More succinctly, here’s a comment that’s in the ABA Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers:
“We are happiest and healthiest when we adopt healthy work habits and lifestyle choices. Importantly, though, we won’t be successful on our own. Well-being is a team sport.”
I can sense your thoughts: “Mike, what can I do to encourage my team to adopt healthy work habits and lifestyle choices?” I’m glad you asked!
In addition to the ABA Well-Being Toolkit, I recommend the condensed version: the ABA Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers in a Nutshell: 80 tips for Thriving. Also, I’m a big fan of the recommendations made by the Legal Employers Committee in the 2018 State Action Plan issued by the Vermont Commission on the Well-Being of the Legal Profession.
I don’t expect to learn that a Vermont firm or legal employer has adopted expectations that mirror those in today’s viral slide. Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Check out the resources. Find one change that makes sense for you and your colleagues. When it comes to the profession’s health and well-being, every small improvement matters.
And, in my opinion, improving our health and well-being is what should be non-negotiable.
As always, let’s be careful out there.
 In particular, today’s viral slide reminded me of prior posts in which I’ve referenced the Legal Employers Committee’s recommendations and shared on work/life boundaries, billable hours, making wellness an expectation of the attorney-client relationship, and the importance of valuing employees as people.
Previous Wellness & Well-Being Posts
- We’ve only just begun to begin
- Wellness Wednesday: Make Well-Being an Expectation in the Attorney-Client Relationship
- Wellness Wednesday: Pro Bono
- Wellness Wednesday: R.I.P. Ray Massucco
- Wellness Wednesday: Don’t Stresslax
- It’s healthy for legal employers to value employees as people
- Meet David Rocchio: The Move to Movies
- Wrapping up Well-Being Week: my self-report of significant bread-making violations
- The 253rd legal ethics quiz: Emotional Well-Being & my Kentucky Derby picks
- Connect & Contribute
- I Made Bread
- Stay Strong
- With 40 Wellness tips, the ABA has at least one for everyone
- R.I.P. Charlie Kryst
- Aiming for Well-Being
- Wellness, Emotional Regulation, and the power of “What’s Important Now?”
- A lesson from my dad, Nandi, and The Foo Fighters: find & experience awe
- Ask the Question
- Wellness Wednesday: Set communication boundaries with clients & opposing counsel
- Yes, wellness includes the results of my first moot court competition
- Wellness Wednesday: It’s okay to ask for help. Bar Assistance will listen and support you
- Wellness Wednesday: Set communication boundaries with clients and opposing counsel
- Wellness Wednesday: Compassion Fatigue
- Wellness Wednesday: A message from Justice Eaton
- Jessica Burke: “Well People Do”
- Wellness Wednesday: Schitt$ Creek and Paddles
- Wellness Wednesday: Be Kind to Lawyers
- Civility Matters. Especially Now.
- Coping with COVID-19 Related Stress & Anxiety
- Wellness Wednesday: Unplug
- Well-Being is an Aspect of Competence
- Wellness Wednesday: Survival Skills
- Wellness Wednesday: Make time for what (and who) matters
- Wellness Wednesday: Risk & Response
- Do summer your way
- Wellness Wednesday: Meet Alison, Shireen, Samantha, and Alison
- Reach Out, Check In
- Wellness Wednesday: Mentor Someone
- Wellness Wednesday: Joan Loring Wing
- Wellness Wednesday: Law Day & Pro Bono
- Get your sleep
- Take a Chance on Being Nice
- Attorney Wellness: We’ve Only Just Begun
- Be Kind to a Lawyer Today
- Be Nice to Someone Today
- Wellness v. Well-Being
- Wellness Wednesday: Meet Molly Gray
- Wellness Wednesday: Judge Garland & My Cousin Vinny
- Shakespeare, Pink Floyd and Wellness
- Wellness Wednesday: You are not an impostor
- Wellness Wednesday: “N O” is “O K”
- Wellness Wednesday: Stop it!
- Wellness Wednesday: Meet Jeff Messina
- Lawyers Helping Lawyers Part 2
- Lawyers Helping Lawyers: Keep it on the front burner
- Lawyer Well-Being: a call to action
- Anxiety, Stress & Work-Life Balance for Lawyers
- Make time for what matters
- Lawyer Wellness: resolve to find 6 minutes for yourself
- 108 is way too many
- Workplace Happiness
- Make Wellness a Habit
- A pledge by legal employers to focus on lawyer well-being
- Legal Ethics & the Water Cooler
- Wellness Wednesday: Island Vines
- Wellness Wednesday: on ponds, puffery and paltering
- Wellness Wednesday: Neil Diamond, the Lock Screen, and National Mental Health Day for Law Students