In September 2017, at President Hilarie Bass’s request, the ABA Board of Governors created an ABA Presidential Working Group to examine and make recommendations regarding the current state of attorney mental health and substance use issues with an emphasis on helping legal employers support healthy work environments.

The National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being’s 2017 report shined a spotlight on evidence that too many lawyers face mental health and substance use disorders or otherwise aren’t thriving. Wanting to support the effort to catalyze positive change, American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass formed a Presidential Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession in September 2017. Its focus is on helping legal employers support healthy work environments, which are critical for lawyer wellness. Research shows that if workplace cultures support well-being, lawyers will be better able to make good choices that allow them to thrive and be their best for clients, colleagues, and work organizations.  

Many legal employers are ready to become positive change agents but have been unsure where to start. The new Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers is designed to help. It offers tools and practical guidance for legal employers who want to join the lawyer well-being movement by launching organizational initiatives. The Toolkit, created by Presidential Working Group member Anne Brafford (a lawyer and organizational science researcher) can be viewed as a design prototype. It is meant to be a living document that will continue to develop and improve—an effort in which you are encouraged to participate. You can do so by trying out the Toolkit and offering feedback on what’s helpful, what can be improved, and what other resources are available. The Toolkit is offered as another step on the path to lawyer well-being—to help lawyers be their best as they carry out their critical roles contributing to the vitality of our government, business sector, community safety, and individual lives.

Also available is the Well-Being Toolkit Nutshell: 80 Tips For Lawyer Thriving, summarizing 80 of the Toolkit’s key items to help get you started on a lawyer well-being initiative. 

Note for Use: The Toolkit is filled with electronic hyperlinks to websites and online resources that appear in blue underlined type. As a result, it is intended primarily for online viewing. If you decide to print the document in hard copy, select “fit to page” in your print dialogue box to ensure proper printing.


                             Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers            Well-Being Toolkit Nutshell:
                                    and Legal Employers                   80 Tips for Lawyer Thriving

The Presidential Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession is sponsoring Proposed Resolution 103 which adopts an ABA Model Impairment Policy for Legal Employers and urges legal employers to do the same. Proposed Resolution 103 updates an existing ABA policy adopted in 1990. The foundation of this policy is the recognition that well-being is essential to an attorney's duty of competence, and that impairment is antithetical to both the competence and quality service expected by the clients of the legal employer. It deals only with the impairment of a legal employee, a sub-set of the overall well-being of a legal employee, and is not meant to encompass the panoply of all well-being initiatives that can be implemented in the legal employer setting.

Update: Based on the comments received from various groups both inside and outside the ABA, the Working Group has decided to withdraw Resolution 103 until the February meeting of the House of Delegates to ensure that this Model Impairment Policy contains the best and most appropriate terms and provisions so that it can and will be implemented by legal employers of all different sizes and types, and so that it will serve to continue this movement of change towards improving the health and well-being of the legal profession.

In order to reach this goal, the Working Group looks forward to discussing the proposed resolution and working collaboratively with anyone interested as we move forward to the February meeting. Contact Working Group Chair, Terry Harrell at, or Center for Professional Responsibility Director, Tracy Kepler at with questions or comments. 

ABA House of Delegates Adopts Lawyer Well-Being Resolution at Midyear Meeting

Resolution 105 – primarily sponsored by the Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession – was adopted by the ABA House of Delegates at the Midyear Meeting in Vancouver. Resolution 105 supports the goal of reducing mental health and substance use disorders and improving the well-being of lawyers, judges and law students, and urges stakeholders within the legal profession to consider the recommendations set out in The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being

Resolution 105 was co-sponsored by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism and the National Organization of Bar Counsel.

National Workshop on the Advancement of Attorney Well-Being in the Law Firm Setting with Special Guest, ABA President Hilarie Bass

Spring 2018 National Legal Malpractice Conference | April 25, 2018

The ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession is focusing on the importance of well-being in the legal profession, with an emphasis on helping legal employers support healthy work environments.

To achieve this goal, one of the first steps is to formulate a national model policy on lawyer well-being for use in law firms. This interactive workshop was intended to create practical and workable law firm policies to reinforce lawyer well-being as a core component of the ethical obligations of competence and diligence as well as professionalism. Using a collaborative process, firm leaders, risk management providers, and subject matter experts, including members of lawyer assistance programs, met to generate ideas, innovations, and tools to develop this national model. Participants also learned ways to foster healthy lifestyles within firms as well as how to address addiction and mental health issues to help lawyers as part of a firm’s risk management strategy.

Information about Proposed Resolution 103 is above, one of the products this program helped shape. 

Presented by the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession, Standing Committee on Lawyers Professional Liability, Center for Professional Responsibility and the Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs.


What other projects should the Working Group be pursuing? 

Share your thoughts and ideas by emailing Tracy Kepler