Attorney well-being mandate or law firm well-being movement?

This article has been popping up all over my LinkedIn feed today. So, this week I'll take a break from my August series on developing a successful attorney well-being program to consider who should be included in this well-being mandate.

My short answer: EVERYONE.

Law firm well-being is one part programs and one part firm culture. And for any well-being program to be successful, there must be a simultaneous shift in firm culture. There is strong evidence that positive behavioral change tends to promote more positive behavioral change. So, including some (attorneys), and excluding others (staff) is unlikely to promote the type of firm-wide shift that is required to impact long term well-being.

Larry Krieger and Ken Sheldon’s comprehensive study on job satisfaction in the legal profession showed that one of the three key things that most strongly correlate with long-term well-being at work can loosely be identified as "relatedness." That is, how you connect, or relate to others, and whether you feel a sense of belonging at work.

This concept of relatedness is deeply tied to how attorneys and staff behave towards one another and the collective ability to be understanding and empathetic. Including attorneys and staff in a comprehensive well-being movement, allows this sense of relatedness and empathy to grow and eventually move the needle within the firm as a whole.

As Jamil Zaki writes in "Making Empathy Central to Your Company Culture"

people conform not just to others’ bad behaviors, but also adhere to kind and productive norms. For instance, after seeing people vote, conserve energy, or donate to charity, people are more likely to do so themselves. My own research also demonstrates that empathy is contagious: people “catch” each other’s care and altruism.

Companies with well known and successful wellness programs are lauded for their comprehensive as well as inclusive approach to wellness (think Google, Microsoft, and Accenture). The legal industry has an opportunity here to take this attorney well-being mandate and transform it into a law firm well-being movement.

Next week, I'll be back with Part 3 of 4 Keys to A Successful Attorney Well-Being Program: Implementing Your Plan.