It’s not easy being a lawyer. Lawyering can be a contentious, combative line of work. Your days are filled with constant and sometimes unexpected deadlines. The stress of practicing law is further compounded by the unrelenting pressure to bring in new books of business. And let’s not forget about billable hour requirements, which only add to the pressure cooker. And in some cases, despite your best efforts, you’re unable to achieve the desired results for your clients.
For all of these reasons, lawyers suffer from depression at twice the rate of the general population, and 40% of law students are clinically depressed before they even graduate. Suicide rates for lawyers are nearly four times higher than other professions; seven in 10 lawyers report that they would change careers if the opportunity arose.
In other words, lawyering isn’t always easy. The good news is that there are ways to address the stresses that go hand-in-hand with practicing law. One of the most effective ways that you may have not yet considered is to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life.
Fortunately, there are lots of mindfulness apps and tools available for lawyers seeking to reduce their stress levels through more mindful thinking. Here are some of my favorites, all of which are low-cost or free resources designed to get you on your way to a more stress-free existence.
Let’s start with two very helpful books. The first is Dan Harris’ book, “Ten Percent Happier.” In this book, Harris provides a great overview of the benefits of mindfulness from a refreshing, matter-of-fact perspective and explains very convincingly what a difference it can make if you’re able to use mindfulness to become just 10% happier.
Another book worth checking out is “The Anxious Lawyer,” an ABA-published book written by attorneys Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford. This book offers an 8-week guide in which mindfulness is used as a tool to help you achieve a more satisfying and balanced law practice. You can also access guided meditations based on the teachings of the book here: http://theanxiouslawyer.com/category/guided-meditations/.
Another great mindfulness resource is your smartphone. There is a vast assortment of mindfulness apps available for both Android and Apple devices. So much so that it can be difficult to sift through the plethora of options available to you.
But guess what? You’re in luck! I’ve made it easier by doing the leg work for you.
First, my two favorite mindfulness apps: Headspace and Calm. Both are very well-known; when they were first released years ago, they offered a large number of free mindfulness meditations. But as a result of their increasing popularity, both have shifted to paid subscription plans, which are well worth the price once you choose the one is the best fit for your needs.
In the meantime, both offer a few free guided meditations that you can try out. Additionally, if you have Apple TV, all of Calm’s meditations are available for free. And if you use Amazon’s Alexa, you can access a free daily guided meditation from Headspace via the Headspace skill. So those are two other very convenient ways to test out each app’s meditation offerings.
If you’d rather not invest in a monthly subscription payment in order to access guided meditations, then check out a free meditation app that I recently discovered: Smiling Mind. It’s an app created by an Australian not-for-profit organization, and it offers a vast array of free guided meditations and meditation series.
Next, if you wear an Apple Watch, make sure to take advantage of the free, built-in Breathe app. This app reminds you periodically, using a schedule that you determine, to take a minute to focus on your breathing. You also have the option of choosing the “Breathe” watch face for your Apple Watch. This makes it even easier for you to access the app and check in with yourself by taking a mindful minute for breathing.
And don’t forget to take advantage of any support services offered by your local bar association. As mindfulness becomes increasingly common, bar associations across the country are incorporating mindfulness classes into their CLE schedules and are also providing members with other types of support services to help address stress-related issues. For example, if you’re a member of the Monroe County Bar Association, there is a “Lawyers Support Group for Self-Care and Well-Being,” which meets monthly.
And last, but not least, to learn more about lawyer mindfulness and see if it might be a good fit for you, make sure to watch this video recording of a webinar on mindfulness for lawyers with Jeena Cho: https://www.mycase.com/blog/2015/01/webinar-recap-stress-anxiety-mindfulness-increase-happiness-law-practice/.
Nicole Black is a director at MyCase.com, 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,” coauthors 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 [email protected]