Increased awareness of mental health problems within the legal profession has led many firms to
introduce wellbeing programmes. One practice that has gained in popularity in recent years is
mindfulness. The benefits of mindfulness are universal to all professions but there is a reason that
Mindfulness is a skill that is particularly advantageous to lawyers.
Firstly, lawyers are centred on people-related skills and tasks that use a high degree of emotional
intelligence to understand their client and their opponent’s psychology to win their cases. Mindful
awareness of emotions can help lawyers avoid getting sucked into the reactive state of fight or flight
response that can get activated in a fight against an opponent. Mindfulness helps to maintain this
objectivity by down regulating the emotional response that so that the situation is not perceived as a
Unfortunately, lawyers are so used to living in a stressed state they accept the feelings as their
normal. This constant adrenaline state could be responsible for the results in The Junior Lawyers
Division’s 2019 Resilience and Wellbeing survey. This survey reported that over 93% of respondents
felt stressed in their role the month before completing the survey, with almost a quarter being
severely or extremely stressed. Importantly, over 77% of the respondents felt that their firm could
do more to tackle stress at work and that stress was negatively impacting upon their personal lives.
Mindfulness in Practice
The above survey’s highlighted a problem that the legal profession had known all along – that the
culture was damaging not only to health but also to the results for clients. The answer to solving the
adversarial fight or flight culture was not clear until mindfulness began to be introduced to law firms.
Mindful awareness is an antidote to the adversarial nature of the legal profession. It helps to provide
a natural breathing space in which we can see things more dispassionately. In this space it provides
the time and clam to respond in a more reflective way that both looks after our own interests and
takes into wise consideration the other side’s interests. Taking this further, this enhanced ability to
understand human interactions can lead to a more holistic meeting of the minds between opposing
parties. In other words, it leads to better and more robust agreements and resolutions.
Indeed, since mindfulness has been introduced to law firms it has been a massive hit. For example,
international law firm Dentons appointed its first chief mindfulness officer. Other firms and
chambers also look set to follow suit, with the growth of wellbeing committees, officers and other
mindful initiatives, such as the Mindful Business Charter. Mindfulness has also gradually found its
way to the bar. Following the first Wellbeing at the Bar report in 2015, Middle Temple and Gray’s Inn
held mindfulness sessions for barristers – the first such wellbeing initiatives in this field. In 2018, the
Mindfulness in Law group was created as a resource for all legal professionals and others working in
the legal industry to learn and deepen their mindfulness practice and promote wellbeing and
mindfulness education within the profession. The group now meets monthly in London with the
support of the Law Society. Alongside the initiatives taken by firms across the country, the
institutional framework of mindfulness is strengthening as the Bar Council and Law Society recognise
Mindfulness legal research
Currently, empirical research on how practising mindfulness affects members of the profession is
thin on the ground. There are growing calls for more professional-specific research which is currently
being tested and researched in universities throughout the world and the evidence soon will catch
up with the results that are been seen practically. What is known currently is that regular
mindfulness meditation can enhance self-awareness and interpersonal relationships which has been
shown to have a dramatic affect on a lawyers stress levels, their ability to concentrate at work and
their personal lives.
Many leading law firms are appointing mindfulness programmes because they recognise the positive
effect mindfulness has upon their staff, their clients and their services. If you haven’t already done
so, why don’t you bring a mindfulness session to your practice so you can experience the power of
mindfulness for you firm. As part of research into this area it would be good to have a list of law
firms who would be happy to be a part of mindfulness research.
If your firm would like to participate in enhancing the body of research contributing to mindfulness
at work then please send an email to the address below and it can be arranged for your firm to be
involved. Likewise, if you would like to experience the Mindfulness for Lawyers programme – a
mindfulness programme developed just for lawyers with lawyer based outcomes in mind – then also
send an email to the address below.
For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.satis.org.uk