10:05 AM

Special Committee on Lawyers Living Well reports on its year of activity

Chairs of The Missouri Bar’s Lawyers Living Well Special Committee presented to the Board of Governors during its May 13, 2022, meeting in Jefferson City.  

Athena Dickson, Whitney Dunn, and Erica Mynarich, shared about the special committee’s work over the past year to promote well-being among lawyers and asked for the board to consider making the group – which was established in 2021 by John Gunn, then Missouri Bar president – a standing committee. They also requested support for a survey of lawyers, judges, and law students to assess general well-being across the state and better understand the needs of those practicing or entering the profession.  

The Lawyers Living Well Special Committee maintained three working groups, all of which were tasked with evaluating and providing direction in three key areas surrounding lawyer wellness: education, stigma, and policy.  

The education working group recommended more QPR trainings, which teach participants how to respond to a person at risk for suicide; increased engagement with law schools, including classes on wellness offered to students; and the continuation of Well-Being Week in the Law, a national lawyer well-being awareness initiative.  

The special committee’s policy working group recommended monitoring for potential amendment recommendations to the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct regarding well-being by following the lead of the American Bar Association model rules, as well as continuing cooperative efforts with law students to be transparent about mental health matters when completing their character and fitness applications; ensuring that wellness is being discussed at the law school level; and introducing a revised model policy on well-being to law firms, both large and small.  

The stigma working group recommended creating content for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September and incorporating wellness matters into the bar’s existing Speakers’ Bureau.  

Most recently, the Lawyers Living Well Special Committee coordinated events for Well-Being Week in Law, a national movement to have open discussions surrounding wellness in the legal profession. Over the course of five days, lawyers and judges from across the state joined in to discuss #MOLawyersLivingWell and offer each other support while learning techniques for even better self-care.  

The special committee’s recommendations were included in a robust report available online here.  

The Board of Governors voted to accept the report of the Lawyers Living Well Special Committee, approve the recommendation as to conducting a statewide well-being study, and approve the remaining recommendations subject to the board’s strategic planning committee’s review and consideration of priority and resources.