Well-being is a smart business proposition that will bring many benefits: a healthier, happier law firm, a roster of satisfied clients, and a blossoming bottom line.
But getting there won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight.
Fortunately, there’s a free roadmap to guide you. The ABA Well-Being Toolkit is a 99-page how-to guide to help lawyers and firms improve their personal and professional wellness.
“Well-being is a team sport,” says the introduction to the Toolkit. “Many legal employers already have started well-being initiatives and are looking for more guidance on where to go next. Others are unsure how to begin. This Toolkit offers reasons for prioritizing lawyer well-being as well as information, strategies, and resources for implementing a plan for positive change.”
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How to Use the ABA Well-Being Toolkit
The Toolkit contains information and resources to get started on the path to well-being. Included are the following sections:
- An introduction to why lawyer well-being should be a priority.
- A definition of lawyer well-being.
- A definition of a healthy workplace.
- An 8-Step Action Plan for legal employers.
- Guidance for a Policy and Practice Audit to evaluate what supports and harms well-being.
- Recommendations for activities and events and for education and development to include as part of your Action Plan.
- Ideas for assessments to track progress on wellbeing goals.
- Online resources and technology to help start and develop well-being initiatives.
- Book recommendations.
- A list of partners, which are organizations that already focus on lawyer well-being and can assist legal employers in their efforts.
- A list of speakers and consultants to contribute to well-being initiatives.
- An Activity Workbook that contains worksheets with hands-on activities and checklists for enhancing well-being that can be used individually or collectively as part of organization level initiatives.
Strategies and Resources
Here are some of the steps and strategies in the Toolkit:
- Enlist leaders. No organizational change effort will succeed without leader commitment, support, and role modeling of desired behaviors. Communicating the business case for well-being can help build leader buy-in.
- Launch a well-being committee. As a first step, recruit a champion or launch a committee to lead your well-being agenda. The committee should include a high-level leader who has the credibility and influence to make things happen. Your organization’s Employee Assistance Program, health insurance carrier, and/or a local Lawyer Assistance Program may be interested in participating and contributing resources.
- Conduct a needs assessment. Any organizational change effort is more likely to succeed if it grows out of an analysis of the gap between the desired and current state. A number of needs assessment templates created for other contexts are available on the Internet and can be adapted for legal employer well-being programs. The assessment might include stakeholder interviews or surveys to understand challenges to well-being that dominate in your organization. The assessment also should include an audit of policies and practices that influence lawyers’ wellbeing. The Policies & Practices Audit section provides recommendations and online resources to guide an audit. The list includes topics that are not routinely encompassed in discussions of well-being, such as on-boarding, diversity, work-life conflict, 24/7-availability expectations, billing practices, performance appraisals, compensation systems, and fairness.
- Identify priorities. The best way to get started on well-being initiatives is to set a narrow set of priorities and to accumulate quick “small wins” that can build credibility and momentum.
- Create and execute an Action Plan. This phase should include a discussion of concrete goals, obstacles to achieving them, and pathways for overcoming obstacles. This phase also should consider how the well-being program will be sustained over the long-term.
- Create a well-being policy. Ideally, legal employers will invite broad review and comment on a draft of the policy. Employers should incorporate impairment provisions into their policies but also will want to convey that the initiative broadly seeks to advance well-being and is not focused solely on detecting and treating mental health and substance use disorders.
- Continually measure, evaluate and improve. Possible measures include: satisfaction with and attitudes toward well-being programs; extent of learning new information and skills; behavioral change growing out of the programs; measures of lawyer well-being and organizational success.
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Today he helps lawyers and firms succeed through marketing, work-life balance and reclaiming passion for what they do. He is available for consultations, retreats and presentations (www.yourlawlife.com). Contact email@example.com or 919-619-2441 to learn how Jay can help your practice.