In my blog Is Law Practice Your Passion? I mentioned several surveys in which lawyers reported not being happy with law practice. Likewise, neither money nor prestigious positions—such as being a partner at a large firm—were things that led to career happiness. So what’s the secret to a happy legal career? Balance.
Sure, everyone is looking for work-life balance, but what is surprising is the extent to which bar associations, law firms, and even law schools are working to provide resources and concrete guidance to help lawyers build and sustain satisfying lives.
In June 2016, the Law Practice Division of the ABA rolled out its new Attorney Well-Being Committee in response to a study confirming that rates of depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse in the legal profession are higher than in the general population. The entire June 2016 issue of Law Practice Today, named the Attorney Well-Being Issue, featured articles on resiliency, achieving work-life balance, and healthy attorney-client relationships.
Law firms too are recognizing that the key to a successful practice is attorney well-being and happiness. Kirkland & Ellis LLP recently implemented its Life XT program, which includes one-on-one wellness coaching as well as meditation and yoga classes.
Balance is a life skill that law schools are working hard to develop as well. Harvard Law School has its HLS Wellness Program that offers year-round exercise and stress-reducing events, mindfulness training, and more. The University of Michigan Law School offers a mini-seminar called Lawyers Are Smart, So Why Are They Unhappy? that teaches students how to prioritize happiness. Still other schools, such as Stanford Law School, go even further by offering courses in which students learn cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for dealing with stressful situations.
So what can you do to start on the road to balance and happiness? Remember to breathe.