For years, the legal profession has struggled with mental health and substance abuse issues. Year after year, lawyers top the lists of professions with the worst quality of life when considering their overall well-being. In the wake of studies like the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation survey and exposés like the infamous New York Times article released last July, the legal profession decided to take action.
Lawyers assistance programs, law schools, ABA groups, and more came together to form a National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being. As a result, the task force released a report calling for five core actions that must be taken by the entire legal profession to address these wellness issues.
Inspired by this report, the Illinois Lawyers’ Assistance Program (LAP) established an Illinois Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, in hopes of addressing the health and wellness of lawyers within its own state-lines.
At the end of February, the task force held its first planning meeting, and already had a number of goals and initiatives up its sleeves for 2018. The group is considering developing an app, law school curriculum, a program for attorneys undergoing career transitions, and more.
The Illinois Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being is also planning an upcoming wellness CLE – “Practicing Wellness: Skills Beyond the Status Quo” – scheduled for May 16th from 3:00 to 5:00pm.
Co-sponsored by the Illinois MCLE Board, the ISBA, and IICLE, workshop’s goal is to help lawyers find balance, increase focus, and reduce stress by incorporating simple wellness skills into their daily lives. Lawyers will learn yoga poses, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and how to quiet the racing mind in high-stress situations. The program is approved for two hours of MCLE credits in Illinois.
Member of the Advisory Committee to the LAP Board of Directors, Andrea Olness, is optimistic about the future of our profession and eager to lead a sea-change in the Illinois legal community.
I feel fortunate to be involved with this effort, and to be working with so many energized people. A tipping point has been reached in the profession – there is a groundswell of awareness of the great need to proactively support the mental health and well-being of lawyers and judges. This will benefit them, and, of course, also will benefit the clients the system is designed to serve.
Interested in ending the stigma and transforming the well-being of the profession? Get involved. For more information about the task force and the Illinois LAP, please contact Robin Belleau, Executive Director of the Illinois Lawyers’ Assistance Program.