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August 01, 2023

Annual 2023: Well-being, mental health strategies take center stage

Maintaining a healthy work-life “flow” — versus work-life “balance” — is key to reducing lawyers’ stress, anxiety and depression.

A Healthy Career website describes work-life flow this way: “If our work doesn’t fulfill or enable us to focus on self-care, the concept of work-life balance is ever fleeting. It’s why we should aim for work-life flow instead of balance. When we’re in a state of flow, we’re going along with the rhythm instead of beating ourselves up if life isn’t in perfect order.”

At the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Denver on Friday, Aug. 4, speakers will discuss work-life flow and the causes and possible solutions to the mental health crisis in the legal profession in the program, “The ‘Resilient Advocate:’ Practicing Self-Care and Prioritizing Well-Being as Members of the Legal Profession.”

According to the ABA Profile of the Legal Profession 2022, more than half of all lawyers (51%) said they work long hours. Asked to “generally describe their work week,” one-third of the lawyers surveyed (39%) said they often work long hours, and another 12% said they “never stop working.”

“While a balance can’t be achieved between work and homelife, attendees will gain practical skills that show the importance of the flow and how to incorporate it into their daily lives,” said Josephine Bahn, chair of the Young Lawyers Division.

The panel will focus on the “big ideas” related to being a resilient advocate, said Moderator Richard Rivera of Smith Gambrell Russell in Jacksonville, Florida. “We are going to talk about not only surviving in the current practice of law, but also ways that we might improve the practice of law and its effect on practitioners.

“it’s important that we are discussing these topics now as we are all getting back to a more standardized or hybridized practice of law following the changes that were made in response to the COVID 19 pandemic,” he said. Working from home has blurred or even destroyed boundaries, Rivera said, and “it is important to provide attendees with tools and other lenses through which to view our profession.”

The panelists, who will outline systemic changes in law and ways to re-envision it as a profession, include Judge Cheryl Ann Krause of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia; Jeena JeeHyun Cho, a lawyer, author, mindfulness and meditation consultant in Sacramento, California; Dr. Maya Prabhu, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut; and Janet P. Van Cuyk, deputy executive director of the Virginia State Bar in Richmond, Virginia.

The program is sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the Young Lawyers Division and cosponsored by the ABA Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence and Standing Committee on Professionalism and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.