Well-being in the legal workplace has been a trend for a while now. Post-COVID, legal employers are keenly aware of the stress that their employees bear, personally and professionally. Many employers have instituted some aspect of well-being development for their staff, including digitally tracked incentives for walking, eating well, and meditating. Eating well, slowing down and sitting still are great well-being tools. However, true well-being is much more than eating salads, deep breathing and meditating. Well-being is a confluence of physical, mental and social elements, the lack of which builds up over time leading to disease and an ailing niche practice.
You and your niche practice co-exist. On a holistic level, when you are well, your practice niche is also more optimal than it would be otherwise. Said another way, there is a direct correlation between your niche practice growth and how well you, and your legal professional team, are feeling.
The problem is it’s challenging to focus on your own well-being and that of your team if you are worried about how well you can grow your practice and where your next niche client is coming from.
Due to the complexity and focus required to stay on track with your niche practice, the wellbeing of employees and staff, exemplified by lack of engagement at first and then attrition, often takes a backburner. How many different places are you expected to focus on, after all? As a result, perhaps you find stress runs higher in your niche practice than at other firms because of the need to stay focused on the niche and establish yourself as the market leader. This cycle of extreme focus followed by stress and lack of attention to your own health and well-being and that of your team’s continues until something happens to shift the focus completely (i.e., a major health crisis is triggered, a client erupts at you, the state bar is notified, your malpractice carrier comes calling, your spouse forces the issue, etc).
As with any solution, you know your niche practice, personality and bandwidth best. What I recommend is to take things slow, focus on small changes that will feel good, not stretch you too far and allow you a “win” so you can keep forward momentum and progress.
Just like any change, simple is not always easy, and sometimes obvious suggestions seem befuddling and perhaps even downright embarrassing in their simplicity. After all, we are smart lawyers. Stay open.
- Be Crystal Clear on Your Practice “Why”- Starting with this inquiry gives you greater confidence and a path forward when things get murky and the stress builds. Stop and figure out questions such as: why did you select this particular sector niche, industry or area of law? Step back to this bigger picture often and always as your guiding light. It will help you establish clarity and credibility in the field with clients, prospective clients, and colleagues. This is how market leadership starts-- with YOU the person who has a dream that is put into an intentional, focused plan. Knowing this answer allows you to relax and settle into being your authentic self, thereby generating comfort and health and business.
- Message Correctly- Once you have the answer to #1 above, being able to message it correctly is important. Who needs to know your message? Likely, the staff other attorneys, and the market. What is the easiest way of stating your message? Where should you be sharing this message so it’s natural and easy to do? This phase takes time, patience, and likely professional support. After all, your job is to run your niche practice, not be an expert in messaging.
- Cultivate Your Attorneys and Staff - ensure that your employees are on board and understand and engage with the greater mission and purpose of the niche practice. This will require you to nurture your staff to keep them engaged and effective.
- Create Community - As with anywhere else in your life, creating a community is a requirement for a healthy career and life. After all, no one supports us like those in our community. When we give to our community, we receive so much back not just in monetary rewards but in the sense of wellbeing for ourselves.
Who is in your community? It would seem the obvious answer to create community with others in your niche community. After all, lawyers get conflicted out often. It’s also good because you can collaborate with other lawyers in your niche.
Think bigger though. Create community with other niche practitioners in complementary areas of practice. When you do so, you open yourself up to not only easier referrals but also to a larger practice offering. Plus, who knows what may happen in the future if you collaborate?