Given the importance of wellbeing to the productivity and success of lawyers and the companies they work for, it's no wonder Biglaw is increasingly interested in offering programs that are wellbeing focused. But how do you get over-scheduled, overused attorneys to take the time to participate?
While the benefits of a wellness program speak for themselves, Offering CLE credits can be a great incentive to participate. However, professional development teams need to be careful: it can be difficult to get wellness programs accredited. Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you develop:
Make sure your learning goals support lawyers' wellbeing. Remember, CLE wellbeing programs are clearly about the wellbeing of attorneys or the wellbeing of the legal profession. Program content cannot be about general (or client) wellbeing.
Focus on awareness and recognition of substance abuse or other wellbeing issues that affect a lawyer’s ability to provide legal services with competence – and address the consequences of the lawyer's mental health problems. Your examples should be specific to law firms, legal practice, and attorneys.
Issues such as well-being, mental health, and drug abuse awareness are recognized for professional responsibility in many states. For accreditation purposes, tie your discussions to professional codes of conduct and raise questions that may imply lawyers' ethical obligations.
Refer to the ABA National Task Force on Attorney Wellbeing. The Task Force's 2017 report describes attorney well-being as "an ongoing process of striving for success in every dimension of one's life: emotional, professional, intellectual, spiritual, physical and social". You can find definitions of these dimensions, resources and recommendations on his website.
Check out the benefits of wellness programs. Discuss where and how to find available help (e.g., Lawyer Assistance Programs (LAP)), treatment options, and the benefits, success stories and examples of addressing wellbeing challenges. Discuss metrics and best practices to measure the effectiveness of wellness programs and to create incentives for lawyers and professional staff to participate in these programs. (Note: credit is a great incentive!)
While practicing mindfulness is always recommended, you should be aware that participants should not be asked to meditate or perform other treatments or exercises during the accredited portion of your program. States will not allow meditation sessions; Some, like California, specifically disqualify it.
With that in mind, your program should focus more on wellbeing rather than solving legal problems. Instructors are not qualified to deliver the treatment and CLE regulators are unable to assess it.
Make sure all of your program materials support the attorneys' wellbeing as well. Regulators often ask about the materials for these programs.
Of course, you should always read your state's CLE rules – regulators have different views on wellness programs. Check out other wellness programs that have been approved as examples.
Still not sure? Call the regulators in your state and ask for advice!
PLI recognizes November as the month of professional development recognition with the free webcasts of the Empowering Professional Development Series 2020: Wellbeing in the Legal Industry. Other PLI Wellbeing programs include the upcoming live webcast Taking Control of Your Wellbeing: Mental Health and Wellness for Attorneys and the On-Demand Roundtable Programs Mental Health and Wellness for Litigators and Combating Perceived Stigma – A Discussion on Mental Health of lawyers.
The Practicing Law Institute is a non-profit learning organization that aims to keep lawyers and other professionals at the forefront of knowledge and expertise. PLI was chartered by the regents of the University of New York State and founded in 1933 by Harold P. Seligson. The organization offers high quality, accredited, ongoing legal and professional development programs in a variety of formats offered by more than 4,000 voluntary schools, including prominent lawyers, judges, investment bankers, accountants, business consultants, and US and international government regulators. PLI publishes a comprehensive library of papers, course manuals, answer books and journals, which are also available on the PLI PLUS online platform. The essence of PLI's mission is commitment to the pro bono community. Watch the upcoming PLI live webcasts here.