ATLANTA, GA / ACCESSWIRE / October 10, 2019 / While mental health and substance abuse are societal concerns in all walks of life, the pressures of working in the legal industry makes attorneys more susceptible to experiencing anxiety and depression and, therefore, makes substance abuse more prevalent. A study by the American Bar Association and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in 2016 found that 28 percent of lawyers suffer with depression, 19 percent have symptoms of anxiety, and 21 percent are problem drinkers. In comparison to professionals in other industries, lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to be depressed, according to a Johns Hopkins University study.
In reaction to these statistics, the American Bar Association (ABA) formed the Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession in 2017 to research attorney substance abuse issues and mental health. The Working Group launched the ABA Wellness Pledge challenging employers in the legal industry to recognize these issues and adopt and prioritize processes and policies to create healthy work environments for its lawyers.
As an early signatory of the Pledge, Ogletree Deakins is attempting to remove the stigma that can be attached to these issues and, as a firm, is working to provide support and resources to help attorneys who may be experiencing them. The firm focuses on creating communication channels where attorneys feel safe discussing their concerns and providing tools and resources to practice wellness and mindfulness at work and at home.
Ogletree Deakins' Human Resources department has created an extensive wellness resource page on its intranet site. This page contains relevant information about the ABA Well-Being Campaign, lists resources regarding suicide prevention, substance dependence, self-help sites, compulsive gambling, eating disorders, family support, mental health sites, and also provides access to the Resilient Lawyer podcasts that offer practical and actionable information for attorneys to become healthier lawyers.
Well-being activities and techniques becomes more relevant and effective when the firm's local offices can be 'arms' that extend the helping hand of the firm. Across Ogletree Deakins' 53 offices, health and wellness activities are championed to serve as those extending 'arms'. These initiatives include:
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
- Teledoc services for physical and mental health
- Behavioral health consultations
- Meditation/quiet rooms
- Onsite flu shot clinics
- Walking groups
- Health challenges
- Charity walks/runs
Last year Ogletree Deakins offered a six-eight week pilot mindfulness program with Jenna Cho, where attorneys were asked to meditate at least five minutes daily. The program resulted in an increase in stress resiliency overall.
Moreover, at this year's Attorney Retreat, where all of Ogletree Deakins' more than 900 attorneys were invited to a two-day gathering, several wellness activities were incorporated into the robust schedule to include yoga, breathing techniques, a 5K walk/run, stress-resiliency training, self-defense, a mindfulness session, and a relaxation lounge. Notably, there were signature 'mocktails' at each evening's event that were advertised and provided as an alternative to alcoholic drinks. Ogletree Deakins also provided confidential Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings during these retreats.
For Ogletree Deakins, having a workforce that is strong physically, financially, socially, and mentally only serves to increase the firm's ability to provide excellent service to clients. The firm encourages not only its attorneys, but all legal professionals- from shareholders to law students- to not only recognize when they may need help, but leverage resources that can help them be at their healthiest, both physically and mentally. These include:
- Visiting a local primary care physician or a mental health professional. Insurance companies can be a great resource to identify practitioners within the health insurance network.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has both a website and a hotline number (1-800-273-8255).
- The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs 'has a mission to assure that every judge, lawyer and law student has access to support and assistance when confronting alcoholism, substance use disorders, or mental health issues so that lawyers are able to recover, families are preserved and clients and other members of the public are protected.' The ABA also provides a very comprehensive list of helpful resources for lawyers, judges, and law students.
- Using the resources the state bar association provides to its members.
- Rebecca Baumgartner is the Diversity & Inclusion Manager in the Professional Development & Inclusion department at Ogletree Deakins.
- Symone Martin is the PDI Specialist in the Professional Development & Inclusion department at Ogletree Deakins.
SOURCE: Ogletree Deakins
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