According to a 2016 study run by Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, up to twenty-one percent of legal professionals faced significant mental health concerns. To put it another way, a large proportion of the professional community was dealing with some form of mental health issues.
What can be done about this frequently overlooked epidemic? For starters, lawyers could begin to practice more mindfulness alongside practicing the law. The earlier one starts preventative measures – the better off they are in the long run. Dr. Andy Benjamin of the University of Washington agrees, stating that mental concerns rise as early as law school.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is both common and yet so frequently misunderstood. It is the practice of being aware – mindful – of the moment you’re in. In other words, a mindful person is in the here and now. They’re not thinking about the next task ahead of them or even focused on something that already happened.
The practice of mindfulness encourages people to be more aware of what they’re doing, who they’re with, and where they are. All of which are admittedly good things for a lawyer to be mindful of.
Protecting Your Mindset
Part of the goal when it comes to combining mindfulness and practicing law is to protect your mindset. Lawyers face a lot during their daily lives, and it can leave a mental impact. By practicing mindfulness, lawyers can hope to stave off negatives such as critical thinking and perfectionism.
Mindfulness also has the added benefit of increasing compassion, which can help improve relationships with coworkers and clients alike. Being more personal is always a positive, especially for people as social as lawyers.
How to Encourage Mindfulness
The real question is, how can a lawyer make time for mindfulness in their busy schedules? There are plenty of ways to go about this, including just setting five minutes to help reset your frame of mind.
Those find minutes can offer a fresh perspective, both on the situation and the world as a whole. The more one does this, the more reflexive it will come with time. Alternatively, a lawyer can reach out to a community or even a few other lawyers interested in becoming more mindful. Working together as a group will make the practice easier and bring in a certain level of accountability.