For lawyers looking to become more effective in the workplace, a new study suggests that the answer may be found in a practice not typically covered in law school: mindfulness. The legal profession is one where high stress levels and high burnout rates are common. The toll that work-related anxiety takes on lawyers can lead to a loss of focus, creativity and efficiency. But a recent studyconducted by the University of Western Ontario found that mindfulness training successfully helped participants become more effective, happy lawyers.
Research has shown that mental health issues are common within the legal profession. A survey by the Canadian Bar Associationfound that 58% of lawyers reported experiencing stress/burnout, while 48% experienced anxiety. A 2012 study by the University of Ottawafound that “20% of the entire legal profession suffers from clinically significant levels of substance abuse, depression, anxiety or some other form of psychopathology.” These findings make it clear that mental health must be a priority within the profession, to ensure the wellbeing of lawyers and the sustainability of their legal careers.
The case for combatting mental health issues with mindfulness
Can mindfulness help prevent mental health issues in the legal profession and encourage resilience? The recent Western University study set out to answer that question. It followed 46 lawyers through an eight-week mindfulness meditation program that was designed specifically for those in the legal profession. The classes were conducted online through webinars and audio recordings of guided meditation sessions. Participants in the study were assessed before the program began and again once they had completed it.
The results were incredibly positive: participants reported significantly lower rates of depression, anxiety, stress and negative mood. And in fact, participants experienced an increase in positive mood and psychological resilience.
Here are some details of the findings:
- Participants experienced an increase in job effectiveness by 6.15%
- They reported a decrease in depression by 28.84%
- Theiranxiety reportedly dropped by 30.29%
- And stress decreased by 32.45%
The initial study, similar to the findings of the Canadian Bar Association survey, found “fairly high levels of depression, anxiety and stress” in the original sample. But the mindfulness program helped significantly improve the mental health and positive outlook of participants.
Mindful lawyers are more effective lawyers
Looking more closely at the observed increase in job effectiveness gives great insight into just how big an impact mindfulness can have in the workplace. A workplace increase in effectiveness of 6%, assuming a 40-hour work week, would result in an extra 2.4 hours per week of productivity. Applying that to a large law firm of 500 lawyers, and you would witness a weekly increase in productivity of 1,200 hours across the firm.
It’s important to note that these results didn’t stem from an in-depth, time consuming program. Participating lawyers experienced these benefits by practicing meditation for just nine minutes per day, on average.
A mindfulness program geared toward the specific needs of lawyers can make for more effective, resilient and happy lawyers. In the fight against mental health issues within the legal profession at large, a daily focus on mindfulness and meditation can significantly improve the mental health of legal professionals, and ensure the long-term viability of their careers.
Lime Horse offers tailored online and in-person mindfulness programs designed specifically for lawyers that are accredited by the Law Society of Ontario. Visit our Courses page to sign up today.