During her 2019-20 term, then-Alabama State Bar president Christy Crowe placed emphasis on wellness for attorneys in our State, and she appointed a Quality of Life, Health and Wellness Task Force. (To read the purpose and scope of the task force, click HERE.) As a part of that initiative, four articles on wellness appeared in the November 2019 issue of The Alabama Lawyer. (To read them, click HERE.)
The Solo & Small Firm Section was pleased to support President Crow’s initiative by placing our wellness information on the public side of our website for all attorneys to access.
Attorneys Wellness Programs
“Wellness” is a popular concept these days, with both brick-and-mortar and online businesses offering many options and versions. It is very relevant for lawyers, many of whom do not have a plan for physical and emotional issues that they may face in their practice or at home.
Our section has cut through the clutter of wellness books, videos and apps by providing the information and structure for an Attorneys Wellness Program based on the simple but powerful goal of helping Alabama attorneys and their families actively pursue good physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Resources are also available through the state bar’s Alabama Lawyer Assistance Program.
We acknowledge the advice and support of one of our section members, Eric Davis, who is a co-founder of the Facebook group “Lawyer Wellness”. This group has over 1,000 members. For more information on this Facebook group, click HERE.
We have identified eight major areas for a robust wellness program. If you have any information that could help your colleagues in any of these eight areas, please contact our section officers. We would like to hear from you!
Eight Areas of the Program
- Core Supplements – Omega #, Vitamin D3, and Probiotics
- Proper Hydration
- Anti-Inflammatory Foods
The Alabama Department of Public Health advises that a healthy diet and regular exercise are the best way to achieve these target goals of a healthy lifestyle. Below are some of the most important markers in a medical checkup,
Blood Glucose – Normal fasting blood sugar level is over 100 mm/dl.
Blood Pressure – Normal blood pressure is less than 130/85 mm.
Blood Sugar – Normal blood sugar range is between 60 and 120.
BMI – BMI is Body Mass Index, a measure of a person’s weight compared to their height. Normal BMI is 25 or less. To calculate BMI, click HERE.
Cholesterol (HDL) – HDL is commonly described as “good” cholesterol because it removes “bad” cholesterol from the body. Normal HDL is at least 40 for men and at least 50 for women.
Cholesterol (LDL) – LDL is commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol because it causes fat deposits in the arteries. Normal LDL is under 100.
Triglycerides – Normal triglycerides, which are fat in the blood stream, are less than 150.
Waistline – Normal waistline is under 40 inches for men and under 35 inches for women.
Have you ever attended a deposition where the witness or opposing counsel wanted to smoke or vape during the questioning? Or perhaps they waited until a break to go outside, but came back smelling of nicotine?
This is unfortunate, especially when one considers these observations by the American Cancer Society:
- 20 minutes after quitting, one’s blood pressure drops
- 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide in one’s blood drops
- 2 weeks after quitting, one’s circulation and lung function improve
Despite all of the available information on health problems associated with smoking and vaping, a significant number of lawyers still engage in this unhealthy behavior.
If you are not familiar with the term ‘vape’, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “to inhale vapor through the mouth from a usually battery-operated electronic device (such as an electronic cigarette) that heats up and vaporizes a liquid or solid.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vape November 25, 2019).
So, how big is this problem? A 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 9.4 percent of practicing lawyers were regular smokers. A 2016 study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine stated that 16.9 percent of lawyers were active smokers. This higher number is closer to a 2014 study indicating that 24 percent of French lawyers were active smokers.
If you consider smoking as an isolated problem, there are numerous programs and products relating to smoking cessation. However, aside from the physical hazards of smoking, there is also the consideration that an addiction to cigarettes may indicate other self-destructive behavior. The study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine which stated that 16.9 percent of lawyers were active smokers, also found that 20.6 percent of lawyers engaged in harmful drinking to excess. (https://tobaccofreelife.org/resources/smoking-lawyers/ November 25, 2019).
The alarming conclusion of these studies is that such behaviors are linked to work stress, anxiety and depression among lawyers. Consequently, lawyers who want to quit smoking should not only focus on the habit but also consider possible causes in their work and home life.
Getting back to the basic thought of lawyers smoking and vaping, there are many “quit smoking” products and programs on the Internet, and numerous apps in the Apple and Google app stores, including:
- My Last Cigarette
- My Quit Coach
- Quit Genius
The obvious conclusion is that a lawyer wanting to quit smoking or vaping should do the research among programs, products and apps to find what works best for him or her. They should also seriously consider whether their smoking or vaping is linked to work stress, anxiety or depression.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word for a traditional Hindu discipline that arose several thousands of years ago in India. The central goal of yoga is to bring order to your life by promoting a sense of balance and calm. It is best known for the use of certain body postures, but it also involves meditations and breathing techniques.
There are several types of yoga, which differ in their emphasis of various elements of the overall discipline. Most include posture (asana), breathing (pranayama) and cleansing the body-mind (shat karma).
Yoga has become so accepted in modern western society that in 2014 the American Bar Association published a book entitled “Yoga for Lawyers: Mind-Body Techniques to Feel Better All the Time.” The website describes this book as offering “…techniques that can be practiced at home, in the office, and even while taking a break in court. This book can help you improve your law practice by sharpening your ability to concentrate and bettering your overall state of mind and well-being.” (https://www.americanbar.org/products/inv/book/138457162/ , November 25, 2019) There are numerous books on yoga, but if you want to check into this ABA publication, click HERE.
Moreover, the October 1, 2013 issue of the ABA Journal included an article on a Houston attorney who had both her law practice and a yoga studio. The article observed, “Scheel believes her efforts to grow as a yoga practitioner have made her a better lawyer, particularly in how she relates to clients.”
Several websites cater specifically to lawyers who are interested in yoga, including:
There are also numerous videos on YouTube, including an hour-long tutorial,“Work-Life Balance with Yoga: A Seminar for Lawyers”, which you can access by clicking HERE.
The word ‘meditate’ may conjure for some attorneys a mental picture of monks in flowing robes, surrounded by burning incense and tinkling wind chimes, a situation far removed from law offices and courthouses.
That image is not wrong, but it is incomplete. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meditate#other-words November 13 2019) defines meditate as follows:
- to engage in contemplation or reflection (He meditated long and hard before announcing his decision.)
- to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.
For further clarification, Merriam-Webster also provides recent examples of common uses of the word:
- Be sure to find and, again, model healthy and natural ways to regulate stress, such as laughing, exercising, meditating and taking calming breathes. — Sara Clarkson, chicagotribune.com, “Clarkson: Parent may feel back-to-school stress, too,” 1 Aug. 2019
- One of the best and easiest way to rid your mind of extra thoughts is to meditate. — Amanda Mitchell, Marie Claire, “The Tired Girl’s Guide To Getting More Sleep & Having More Energy,” 2 May 2012
So, with due respect to the monks and their wind chimes, meditation is a technique that lawyers can use to reduce stress and focus their thoughts. There are numerous guides and commentaries on the Internet; one example comes from Jeena Cho, a California bankruptcy lawyer and author of the American Bar Association book The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Happier, Saner Law Practice Using Meditation.
In her online commentary, “How to Meditate: A Guide for Lawyers,” Jeena suggests the following:
- Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes.
- Find a comfortable seated position.
- Close your eyes.
- Bring your attention to your breath.
- Continue returning your attention to your breath.
- Practice until the bell rings.
You can read the full text of Jeena’s two-part online commentary on meditation for lawyers here:
and here: https://jeenacho.com/2019/01/21/how-to-meditate-part-two/
Again, there are numerous guides and articles on meditation. Perhaps you can find one that you like and give meditation a try. After all, what have you got to lose, except your work stress?
Finally, a big shout-out to Alabama State Bar members Emily Hornsby and Susan Han who have organized the Alabama Chapter of the Mindfulness in Law Society (MILS), which is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization falling under the umbrella of the national MILS. The MILS is the education and support hub for mindfulness in the legal profession, bringing together lawyers, law students, law professors, judges, secretaries, paralegals and other individuals associated with the legal profession across the nation to support mindfulness meditation, yoga and other contemplative practices, all with the goal of alleviating suffering in the legal profession.
The National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, whose members include the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility, the Conference of Chief Justices and the National Center for State Courts, recommends mindfulness meditation as a way for lawyers to reduce stress and promote well-being and balance in their lives. The benefits of joining the Alabama MILS are that it immediately connects you with a community of other like-minded people and provides you with Mindful Mondays, which is a virtual meditation sit from 2:00 pm (Central Time) to 2:30 pm every Monday, as well as one hour of free MCLE credit with a new membership.
For more information on MILS, how to join MILS and how to participate in Mindful Mondays, visit https://mindfulnessinlawsociety.com/ or contact Emily Hornsby at [email protected] or Susan Han at [email protected].
Ergonomics is the study of the essential functions of any work-place job. While the importance of health and safety is obvious in a warehouse or on a construction site, they are also important in an office setting, where pain and even injury can occur.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill notes that “a poorly designed computer workstation and/or bad work habits can result in serious health problems… in the back, neck and shoulders, hands and wrists, as well as headaches and eyestrain.” (https://ehs.unc.edu/workplace-safety/ergonomics/office/ November 13, 2019).
The UNC website suggests that among the most important considerations are a seat with adjustable height, back support, arm rests and foot rests, and a properly designed keyboard and mouse. A monitor with negligible flickering or glare to minimize eye strain is also recommended.
The Mayo Clinic suggests regular fitness breaks during your work day. A break can be as simple as a stretch at your desk or conference table. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/office-stretches/art-20046041, November 13, 2019). The Clinic’s website also provides several useful videos on stretching at the office:
Q: Are foods high in sugar and sodium actually bad for my long-term health?
A: Yes, numerous scientific studies have concluded that creating a healthy diet includes cutting back on foods high in added sugar and sodium, and also foods high in saturated fats.
Q: Does drinking alcohol in moderation fit with a healthy life style?
A: Yes, in moderation. Federal guidelines suggest no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Q: Is there any point in using the limited free time I have to exercise each day?
A: Yes, the American Heart Association recommends 20-25 minutes of moderate exercise per day, but even walking for 5 minutes each day will have a positive effect on your health.
Q: Can stress lead to physical symptoms?
A: Yes, the National Institute of Mental Health notes that, in addition to emotional signs of stress, you can also develop physical symptoms like headaches, high blood pressure and even heart disease.
Try these wellness links to find the one that helps you focus on physical and emotional wellness for yourself and your family.
USDA My Plate
Eat Smart Move More North Carolina
American Lung Association
American Heart Association
American Cancer Society
American Diabetes Association
Massachusetts DPH Working on Wellness
CDC Workplace Health Promotion
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
7 Easy Ways to Move More