Mindfulness in Law: A Path to Well-Being and Balance for Lawyers and Law Students

The National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being has raised strong concerns about the poor state of the mental health and well-being of lawyers and law students across the country. The co-chairs of the Task Force concluded that recent studies’ findings of professional ill health and lack of well-being were incompatible with a sustainable legal profession and raised troubling implications for many lawyers’ basic competence. This Article takes an in-depth look at the relevance of mindfulness for the legal profession and legal education and offers mindfulness as one way to begin to respond effectively to the Task Force’s concerns. After first reviewing studies demonstrating high rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse among lawyers and law students, it reviews personal and professional options that have been used to date, with limited success, to address these problems, and it offers that developing a routine mindfulness practice could be one potential, effective solution to promoting the mental health and well-being of lawyers and law students. This Article explains what mindfulness is, describes a few of its most common meditation practices, and explores the benefits that can ensue from regular mindful practices, which have been scientifically supported in the clinical literature. It analyzes how the Author’s law school has incorporated mindfulness and other wellness programs into its offerings for law students and offers some recommendations for how other law schools and legal employers might adopt mindfulness programs. This Article concludes by encouraging law schools and legal employers to incorporate mindfulness training and other wellness programs designed to enhance the health and well-being of law students and lawyers.