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A couple years back, a lawyer couldn't throw a handful of rocks at a computer screen without hitting some article on the subject of mindfulness. If you managed to avoid the deluge of articles from the mindfulness invasion, maybe because you were too busy litigating to read anything unrelated, basically, it's a philosophy that promotes a healthy work-life balance.
Mindfulness in the legal profession quickly became rather trendy, particularly as our profession tends to have a high rate of alcoholism, depression, and suicide. Lawyers that are overwhelmed with the practice of law, or can't seem to keep their personal lives in order due to their career, can be greatly helped by practicing mindfulness.
However, recently, mindfulness does not seem to be as hot of a topic in legal circles, and has been seeing some pushback in other industries. So what gives? Is mindfulness out of mind now that it is out of sight?
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness stresses the importance of meditation, relaxation, self-reflection, self-actualization, and, most importantly, self-care. The basic premise is to be aware of your needs, and the needs of those around you, and to make sure you meet those needs. One of the central needs that mindfulness teaches must be met, especially for lawyers, is stress relief. Recognizing the need for ongoing and appropriate self-care to relieve stress is definitely something that many lawyers struggle with.
Like social justice activists, lawyers loathe to admit they need time for self-care. The concern is that doing so will be seen as a sign of weakness, either by opposing counsel, or worse, by those within your own firm.
One possible explanation as to why there is no longer a seemingly overwhelming barrage of mindfulness articles is that many of the principals applicable to the legal industry have been assimilated into law firm life. The call for a better work-life balance for attorneys had been on the cusp of normalcy as the lawyer mindfulness movement took off.
Recently, more and more firms have been willing to allow associates to telecommute, or use flex time, and others are providing better family and parental leave. But most importantly, the stigma of self-care has been slowly fading as it is becoming more socially acceptable (at firms) for attorneys to have a manageable work-life balance.Perhaps soon the stereotype of the callous, grouchy, grumpy, impersonal, lawyer will fade too.