Jefferson City,
10:42 AM

What happy lawyers do differently

It’s no secret that the legal profession is a demanding one. With the pressures of getting good results for clients, running a business, and maintaining ethical standards in the practice of the law, personal and mental well-being can sometimes become a secondary concern.

In a no-cost CLE on Sept. 8, Martha Knudson will offer insights into strategies, skills, and resources aimed at guiding lawyers through the challenges of their profession in a manner that promotes excellence in their practice and in their mental, emotional, and physical health.

“Mental health runs the gamut,” said Knudson. “The idea is that we exist on a spectrum between thriving, barely surviving, and everything in between. And where we exist on that spectrum changes day to day with our habits of thought, our habits of interaction, our habits of managing our emotions, and our habits of coping-whether adaptive or maladaptive.”

Emphasizing that establishing healthy habits is key to building skills that determine how we react to adverse situations in life and in the practice of law, Knudson said that building skillsets and discussing risk factors will ultimately help lawyers stay higher on the mental health spectrum.

“That way, when hard things come our way in life and in our practice, we’re better able to weather that storm,” she said.

Data in recent years has found that one of the biggest risk factors of suicidal ideation is loneliness.

“Loneliness is a huge problem for lawyers,” said Knudson. “Experiencing loneliness significantly heightens the risk of suicidal ideation. As a profession, we can be doing more to build healthy connections."

Recent research provides data that can help lawyers identify where they sit on the mental health spectrum, and how to recognize signs of mental health concerns and burnout.

There are also studies that point to what motivated lawyers who are happy in their careers might be doing differently than colleagues who are struggling.

“We need to be building skills, tools, and resources within our individuals and organizations upfront because it is a piece of professional development,” said Knudson. “Not only does it help us to take our technical skills and use them at the highest possible levels, there’s a lot of data that show that if you are higher on the well-being spectrum, your brain works better, your memory works better, your cognitive abilities are sharper, you have lower levels of ethical violations, and you have higher levels of professionalism.”

Ultimately, Knudson said she hopes lawyers who attend her CLE will walk away with concrete habits that they can put into use immediately.

Register online to attend the no-cost CLE on Sept. 8 for 1.0 MCLE/ 1.0 E.

To access additional resources on mental health, well-being, and addiction and recovery, visit the Missouri Lawyer’s Assistance Program.

If you are thinking about suicide, know someone who is, or need to talk with someone, we encourage you to immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. Depression is treatable. For free, confidential screening, please contact the Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program at 800-688-7859. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength and hope.