Happy 2020! A new year and a new decade have arrived. Have you set any resolutions for the year ahead? If so, I have some bad news. Eighty percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
However, all hope isn’t lost. The success rate improves if you set small, realistic goals. Therefore, I’ve laid out three manageable goals for lawyers in 2020 that can improve your practice and the profession.
First in my goals for lawyers in 2020 is prioritizing wellness. Over the past year, I’ve presented on lawyer well-being to audiences across the state. These presentations help attorneys meet their mental health and substance abuse CLE requirement.
In almost every presentation, the attendees were surprised that 90% of lawyers score in the bottom half of the scale on the psychological trait called resilience. People with low resiliency don’t bounce back well from things like criticism and setbacks. This stat contradicts the assumptions of many attendees, who think that they (and most other attorneys) can handle whatever’s thrown at them.
The good news is that people can improve their resiliency. This is one reason why the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism — in partnership with the Illinois Lawyers’ Assistance Program (LAP) — recently launched a new, free online CLE called The Resilient Lawyer.
Carve out 30 minutes in the next week or two and take this course. In addition to earning 0.5 hours of FREE mental health and substance abuse CLE credit, the course encourages you to think about implementing actions that can improve your resiliency and, subsequently, your overall well-being.
Work toward diversity
Second in my goals for lawyers in 2020 is working toward diversity. Diversity numbers remain stagnant for the legal profession. In fact, a recent study from the American Bar Foundation found that discrimination at all levels in the legal workplace remains pervasive despite efforts to address it. So what’s being done?
One interesting example is the work of Legal Innovators. The Washington, D.C.-based staffing startup has introduced a new model for recruiting and training lawyers. Legal Innovators is hiring, compensating, and training new associates who are then contracted out to major law firms and corporate law departments for one year.
Legal Innovators believes this model could provide opportunities for those who wouldn’t traditionally be recruited by Big Law firms. And, it’s prioritizing diversity in its recruitment. Its first-year class of 16 lawyers includes eight women and eight minorities.
Another example is Paul Weiss. The Big Law firm provides a case study in organizations looking to improve. After being criticized for the lack of diversity in its 2019 partner class, Paul Weiss vowed to “Do better.” Chairman Brad Karp told Law.com that it formed an inclusion task force consisting of partners, counsel, and associates that set “the most bold and audacious goals in the industry and beyond in terms of diversity and inclusion.”
Paul Weiss has made progress. Its 2020 partner class includes three women and four men, including one LGBT lawyer. However, the lack of racial diversity underscores the work that still needs to be done.
How can you promote diversity in 2020? What about engaging with an affinity bar association that doesn’t fit your demographic, inquiring about your organization’s diversity goals, or getting involved with organizations that foster diversity early on, like the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program or Jumpstart.
Third in my goals for lawyers in 2020 is getting involved. In her 2019 “Person of the Year” interview, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot praised pro bono work for providing attorneys with an outlet they may not be getting at their firms.
“I used to say to the young associates who worked for me, ‘The objective every day is to maximize your happiness quotient’ and pro bono I think really fills that void for a lot of people,” Lightfoot, a former partner at Mayer Brown, told the magazine.
The online Pro Bono Opportunity Guide from Paladin and the Chicago Bar Foundation makes it easy to find pro bono projects year-round that fit your experience, interest, and availability. Additionally, Illinois legal aid organizations like Prairie State Legal Services, Land of Lincoln Legal Aid, CVLS, Legal Aid Chicago, ILAO, and the ABA’s Free Legal Answers are always in need of lawyers willing and able to volunteer.
These are three manageable goals for lawyers in 2020. What else can attorneys do to improve the profession this year? Share your ideas below.
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Laura Bagby contributed to this piece.