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Wellness in BigLaw: Are you at risk? 

The Facts

BigLaw associates are at a higher risk of burnout than their colleagues, according to the survey, The State of Wellbeing in Law, available here.

  • 53% of respondents reporting low leadership support say their work has a negative impact on their mental health.
  • 35% thought that their firm isn’t committed to supporting their mental health.
  • 19% disagreed with the statement: “I trust the senior leaders in my firm to make decisions that are in the best interests of employee mental health and well-being.”

The Problem

Unfortunately, at most law firms, clients’ happiness is expected to come before attorney well-being. Being an attorney means challenging work and long hours so finding time to take care of oneself can be a daily struggle. Mental health problems in particular tend to fester if not properly addressed. It is especially difficult to put wellness first if there is a stigma around mental health at that firm, which is often the case.

So what is the root cause of this problem? Based on the survey results, it appears that the problem and solution lie largely within leadership at a firm. Partner attitudes and expectations around mental health have a major influence on how employees view wellness and care for themselves. 

The Truth

Attorneys themselves need a certain level of care and well-being to do their best work. In truth, the happiest clients are those working with an attorney who is in a healthy and positive state of mind. This is what we like to call the sweet spot. 

Leadership and associates must be on the same page, working together to create a supportive work environment where attorney wellness and client happiness go hand in hand. Ideally, that should be the goal of every law firm today now knowing more about the effects of mental health on work performance.

The Solution

Partners must make a conscious effort to build a firm culture where prioritizing self-care is not stigmatized, and rather, it can be seen as a positive thing when handled properly. 

Attorneys must know that leadership understands and supports their well-being before they can feel comfortable asking for help and avoid things worsening. Some Partners may even need to educate themselves further on mental health issues and go outside of their comfort zone to better understand the needs of their employees. 

While changing the culture around mental health will take time and patience, the efforts will be worth it for the sake of employee happiness, client satisfaction, and ultimately, the reputation and longevity of the firm.

External Links: 

Hallinan, 2024

Weiss, 2023