The Practice

In September 2018, the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession launched a seven-point pledge campaign for legal employers “to raise awareness, facilitate a reduction in the incidence of problematic substance-use and mental health distress and improve lawyer well-being.”

Related Professionals: Kimberly J. Gold

The seven points of the pledge to reduce substance use disorders and mental distress in the legal profession are as follows:

  1. Provide enhanced and robust education to attorneys and staff on topics related to well-being, mental health, and substance use disorders.
  2. Disrupt the status quo of drinking-based events:
    • Challenge the expectation that all events include alcohol; seek creative alternatives.
    • Ensure there are always appealing nonalcoholic alternatives when alcohol is served.
  3. Develop visible partnerships with outside resources committed to reducing substance use disorders and mental health distress in the profession: healthcare insurers, lawyer assistance programs, EAPs, and experts in the field.
  4. Provide confidential access to addiction and mental health experts and resources, including free, in-house, self-assessment tools.
  5. Develop proactive policies and protocols to support assessment and treatment of substance use and mental health problems, including a defined back-to-work policy following treatment.
  6. Actively and consistently demonstrate that help-seeking and self-care are core cultural values by regularly supporting programs to improve physical, mental and emotional well-being.
  7. Highlight the adoption of this well-being framework to attract and retain the best lawyers and staff.

As the lead story to this issue of The Practice notes, the pledge has since garnered more than 180 signatories (as of March 17, 2020) spanning some of the country’s largest law firms, corporations, and law schools. Beyond simply signing the organization’s name to the pledge, signatories must annually renew their commitment by attesting to their progress with specific programs and progress they have made in accordance with the pledge.

Read the full article, "Operationalizing Well-Being," at thepractice.law.harvard.edu.