What is “Wellness?”
Wellness relates to physical, emotional, and spiritual health—and particularly relates to issues like stress reduction and programs against substance abuse. Healthy lawyers need to have a thorough knowledge of the law. Just as important, however, lawyers need to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy. The importance of lawyer well-being was affirmed in 2018 by the inclusion of a new comment on well-being in the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct. Specifically, new comment 7 to Rule 1.1 Competence reads: [“A lawyer’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being impacts the lawyer’s ability to represent clients and to make responsible choices in the practice of law. Maintaining the mental, emotional, and physical ability necessary for the representation of a client is an important aspect of maintaining competence to practice law. See also Rule 1.16(a)(2).”
The State of the Legal Profession
In 2016, the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation published their study of nearly 13,000 currently practicing lawyers. This study found that:
- 21%-36% qualify as problem drinkers
- 28% struggle with some sort of depression
- 19% struggle with some level of anxiety
- 23% struggle with some sort of stress
The problems afflicting lawyers also included suicide, social alienation, work addiction, sleep deprivation, job dissatisfaction, a “diversity crisis,” complaints of work-life conflict, incivility, a narrowing of values so that profit predominates, and negative public perception.
Another 2016 study of 15 law schools and over 3,300 law students confirmed that many of the problems facing lawyers are faced by law students:
- 17 % experienced some level of depression
- 14% experienced severe anxiety
- 23% had mild or moderate anxiety
- 6% reported serious suicidal thoughts in the past year
- 45% reported binge drinking at least once in the prior two weeks
Both studies are summarized in the 2017 report from National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, which can be read here.
Regent Law Initiatives
- Virginia Lawyers Helping Lawyers offers an on-campus support group in which legal professionals and law students can talk in a safe, confidential setting about the challenges in their lives. The group meets every Thursday during the academic year at Regent Law School at 6 p.m. in Robertson Hall on the second floor in RH 247 (Career Services Resource Room). For more information on LHL, click here.
- CEFLER matches every first-year law student with a faculty member who mentors the student throughout law school.
- CEFLER’s Mentoring program matches current law students with attorneys and judges to promote healthy relationships and encourage students to rely on those with experience in addressing the stress and challenges of the profession in healthy ways.
- CEFLER hosts accomplished speakers each year to help Regent Law students begin to develop the tools necessary to meet the challenges of the profession in a way that will promote their growth rather than hinder it.
- CEFLER hosts a weekly prayer breakfast for bar exam takers each summer to provide support and to teach students contemplative practices that not only help them rely on their faith but also have been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and other causes of dysfunction.
- Regent’s Psychological Services Center provides outreach as a professional counseling resource center to Regent’s students and the Hampton Roads community. It is accredited by the American Psychological Association through the Doctor of Psychology Clinical Program within the School of Psychology & Counseling. The center is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. with some evening appointments available. For more information about the center, click here.
- ABA Listing of Resources for Law Students and Law Schools