By Renee Branson, Founder and Principal Consultant, RB Consulting
Headlines concerning mental health, addiction and burnout in the legal profession are quickly becoming the norm. This is a good thing. Our attention is being drawn to a problem that has festered quietly for far too long. Still, awareness alone cannot be the goal; instead, our focus should be on action and measurable improvement. With the pressures of the billable hour, a culture of perfectionism, law firm dynamics and political minefields, paying attention to the happiness of the individuals who make up a law firm can seem like a waste of precious resources. That is why appealing to the altruistic motivation of doing what is right (i.e., making changes to address mental health, addiction and burnout) needs to be followed with appealing to the bottom line motivation of how those changes – or lack thereof – impact profitability.
Simply, employee experience and employee resilience impact the mission and financial bottom line. Attrition and turnover costs $9.1 billion in the top 400 U.S. law firms each year alone. This does not include the cost of mental health and addiction challenges of the lawyers and legal professionals who are suffering and don’t leave their firms. It does not account for the cost of malpractice or the firm’s loss of reputation when those challenges impact the quality of a lawyer’s work. Nor does it account for the toll it takes on legal professionals who are often left out of the data on law firm wellness.
Regardless of where the motivation originates, law firms should begin looking at what factors improve employee experience and increase resilience within their organization.
Positive employee experience has little to nothing to do with having ping-pong tables and gumball machines in the break room. (Sorry, Silicon Valley). Employees who have a positive experience in the workplace report a sense of belonging, purpose, achievement, happiness and vigor. These can be markedly improved by focusing on cultivating individual and team resilience.
There are six domains of resilience that impact how an organization thrives (or fails to thrive):
- Vision: Connection to greater purpose and values
- Tenacity: Grit and resolve during challenge and change
- Composure: Ability to self-soothe, be self-aware of our needs and understand the importance of internal 'care-taking'
- Collaboration: Ability to develop relationships, have healthy boundaries and seek/give help
- Health: How well we eat, sleep, exercise and breathe
- Reasoning: Ability to gain perspective, problem solve, be proactive and not reactive, and be self-aware of how our behavior impacts others
Those in the legal marketing profession can cultivate these skills in their own professional lives and are uniquely positioned to promote a culture of resilience in their firms. One way is by promoting and communicating a firm’s vision that in turn connects others to a sense of purpose. Another involves modeling and encouraging collaboration between practice groups or departments, which encourages a sense of community and reduces isolation.
The more we understand the domains of our own resilience and how to encourage it in others, the more we can increase wellness in our lives and in our workplace.
Want to learn more about creating a culture of resilience in your firm? Renee will present “Cultivating Resilience: The Six Domains for Law Firm Wellness” at the LMA Midwest Regional Conference, taking place June 18-19 in Detroit, Michigan. Learn more and register here.
Combining over 20 years in education, counseling and non-profit management, Renee Branson's passion and purpose is helping individuals, teams, and organizations cultivate resilience. As a Certified Resilience Coach (CReC) with a MA in counseling psychology, she provides clients with immediately usable tools to increase resilience, well-being, and optimism in the workplace. Renee works with lawyers, legal marketers, business professionals, non-profit leaders and others to help them understand and incorporate resilience in their own professional lives and in the teams they lead.