Bloomberg Law
Sept. 1, 2021, 9:00 AM

ANALYSIS: Anxious, Sleepless Lawyers Need Well-Being Resources

Francis Boustany
Francis Boustany
Legal Analyst

Lawyers are no strangers to well-being issues—whether it is a demanding client, a tight deadline, or a strenuous billable hour requirement, many lawyers are under constant pressure to perform. And Bloomberg Law survey data show that well-being problems are quite widespread: A majority of respondents experience anxiety and disrupted sleep due to work-related issues.

Nevertheless, there are productive and healthy ways to handle well-being issues that arise, and giving lawyers employer-provided well-being resources and educating them on how to use them can make a difference.

A Litany of Well-Being Issues

Among respondents to Bloomberg Law’s second-quarter Attorney Workload and Hours Survey, 83% reported that they experienced at least one of the work-related well-being issues presented in the survey.

Disrupted sleep and anxiety were the top well-being issues selected, but issues with personal relationships, physical health issues, and depression also impacted more than a quarter of the respondents.

Organizations Should Offer More Resources

Organizations should care about their lawyers’ well-being and provide resources to help to improve it. After all, happier and healthier lawyers translates into greater efficiency, better work product, and improved attorney retention. And while many organizations already provide resources such as telehealth services, helplines, and well-being workshops, survey data show that despite the relatively low use of existing resources, many lawyers would like this selection to expand.

When offered by organizations, well-being workshops (with or without CLE credit) and personalized coaching are resources most used by lawyers, while the resources most often offered, helplines and telehealth services, are used less than other resources.

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When asked about what resources lawyers would like to see their organizations offer that they do not currently offer, survey respondents indicated that they would like well-being activities (yoga sessions, walking or hiking opportunities, etc.) and personalized coaching. By contrast, fewer than 10% of the survey respondents indicated that they would like helplines and telehealth.

Organizations should rethink their approach and if possible, request input from lawyers on which specific well-being resources they would like and try to offer them, where possible.

Cost is, of course, a factor, and not every organization can offer something like personalized coaching. However, it does appear that such hands-on resources are used more often when offered, and not all of these (such as well-being activities) have to come at a hefty cost.

Helping Lawyers Help Themselves

It is notable that, even at organizations that offer well-being resources, our survey data indicate that a relatively small number of lawyers actually use resources that are available to them. This could be a result of lawyers not being aware of the programs’ benefits, not believing that they will be impactful, and/or not having enough time to take advantage of them.

The likely root cause of these factors is that organizations may not be adequately promoting or communicating about their well-being resources, leading to employees’ underestimation of their value. Additionally, lawyers may also feel that they cannot take the time away from work to use resources. To address this, organizations should clearly communicate that taking time off to take advantage of these resources is completely acceptable and have leadership visibly promote and take advantage of these resources when possible.

Organizations should invest time in communicating to lawyers and staff the benefits of employer-offered well-being resources to ensure lawyers are aware of available resources and understand their value.

Expanding the list of available well-being offerings can give lawyers additional resources to address work-related (and non-work-related) well-being issues. This also allows lawyers to pick a solution or solutions that work best for them rather than promoting a one-size-fits-all resource. Educating lawyers on these resources and promoting their use can help increase adoption.

As for the lawyers, they should take advantage of the resources that are available to them. Even if doing so won’t solve all of their well-being problems, it could still put them on the right track to deal with these issues.

Bloomberg Law has free resources available in our In Focus: Lawyer Well-Being page, including links to assistance programs.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on our In Focus: Legal Operations page.

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