Army-style resilience training for lawyers?

An expert in positive psychology recommends that law firms provide Army-style resilience training to their lawyer recruits, reports Debra Cassens Weiss for the American Bar Association’s weekly e-newsletter (link here).

Psychology professor and lawyer Dan Bowling proposes that large law firms adopt programs used by the Army to help them train their new lawyers to be more resilient, because “they suffer from mental and emotional disorders at a higher rate than other professionals.”

What about root causes?

I happen to think that resilience is a good quality for everyone to possess. All but the most charmed existences have their ups and downs, and if we can deal with the latter more effectively, our lives will be better for it. That includes difficult situations and experiences at work.

But I hope that talking about symptoms doesn’t preclude deeper, mainstream conversations about root causes: Quite simply, a life in the law today can be stressful and difficult, and working conditions within our profession unnecessarily contribute to that state of affairs.

Hopeful voices and practices

Although large commercial law firms are not yet terribly receptive, thoughtful voices are emerging with alternatives. I’ve written about some of them before, but they are worth reintroducing:

  • The therapeutic jurisprudence movement (link here), founded by law professors David Wexler and the late Bruce Winick, examines how law and legal practice can lead to psychologically healthier outcomes for stakeholders in the legal system, including clients and lawyers.
  • Attorney J. Kim Wright is the founder of Cutting Edge Law (link here), a website that gathers a host of thoughtful alternative approaches to legal practice, and author of Lawyers as Peacemakers: Practicing Holistic, Problem-Solving Law (2010).
  • One of my former students at Suffolk University Law School, Gretchen Duhaime, has launched Practicing on Purpose (link here), which provides wellness training to lawyers and law students.
So yes, let’s talk about how to be more resilient. But let’s not lose sight of the more important goal, that of transforming a profession badly in need of change.

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