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Legal Loop: The Zen lawyer

Lawyers tend to be stressed out. We all know that. The question is, what can we do about it? My suggestion? Consider mindfulness.

Nicole Black

Nicole Black

I know, I know. I was skeptical about the idea of meditation for years. It sounded so hokey to me. And I’ve never been able to sit still anyway. That’s why, during pre-natal yoga when I was pregnant with my first child over a decade ago, when they used to tell us to sit still and focus on our breath, I couldn’t do it. All I could think about was how busy I was and what a waste of time it was to just sit there with my eyes closed. I wanted to yell: “For goodness sake! Give me some pre-natal stretches already and stop making me sit here and do nothing!”

I’ve always been that way. I’ve never able to sit still. I’m always moving, always thinking. That was, until recently. I started meditating for about 10 minutes nearly every day and haven’t looked back. And here’s why.

Mindfulness has been the hot topic lately. I’d read about it a bit and Jeena Cho, an attorney, started blogging about it, so it was on my radar. Then earlier this year, the American Bar Association published a book that she co-authored with Karen Gifford, “The Anxious Lawyer.” For the first time ever, I was intrigued by this idea of mindfulness.

Then, in the spring, during my work travels, someone mentioned mindfulness to me and recommended that I read Dan Harris’ book “Ten Percent Happier.” And I did. Because of that book, I started meditating each day. Sometimes I miss a day or two, but I’ve been pretty good about it. And over time, I’ve really come to enjoy it. It’s a few minutes of quiet and I’m getting pretty good at trying to still my mind.

And I’ve even been able to take some of the concepts/benefits of mindfulness into my day-to-day life — especially the idea that it’s beneficial to simply notice things and move on instead of ruminating or overreacting.

Another thing I’ve started doing is incorporating gratitude into my day-to-day life. For example, earlier this week, when making my daily green tea latte, I inadvertently spilled soy milk down the cabinet and onto the floor. My typical reaction to an event like this is to curse and get really annoyed. Instead, I just looked at it for a minute, shrugged my shoulders and figured, OK, well that’s done. And I guess it’s an opportunity to wipe down that cabinet.

Then I thought — what?!? Who is this woman? It was a bit strange, but it felt good. Instead of getting mad about something I could do nothing about, I simply moved on.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I don’t do this all the time, but I find myself doing it a bit more than I used to — about 10 percent of the time in fact. And that’s the whole point of Dan Harris’ book.

So do me a favor. Think about it. Just as I always say to lawyers about technology — at the very least, educate yourself, and then decide if it’s for you. The same goes for mindfulness. Maybe it’s not for you; but it might be. And if it could possibly help to make you 10 percent happier, isn’t it at least worth keeping an open mind? And if it isn’t for you or doesn’t work for you — well at least you know you tried!


Nicole Black is VP at, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is also of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester and is a GigaOM Pro analyst. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes three legal blogs and can be reached at