Eight Pillars of Attorney Well-Being: Finding Balance in the Profession

By Jennifer Andrus

May 8, 2024

Eight Pillars of Attorney Well-Being: Finding Balance in the Profession


By Jennifer Andrus

Springtime is a time of renewal with warmer temperatures and budding flowers and trees. It can also be a time to review your habits and consider adding a healthy habit to your lifestyle.

It is all part of celebrating Well-Being in the Law week, which takes place each year during the first week of May. Two members of the NYSBA Committee on Attorney Well-Being held a lunchtime continuing legal education program “Eight Pillars of Attorney Well Being.”

A legal career comes with built-in stressors that other professionals may not experience. There are serious consequences to meeting deadlines and the gravity of the work can impact a lawyer.

“When there is a deadline, it could be a life-or-death situation,” said legal aid attorney Lisa Podemski. “Is it someone’s freedom in jeopardy? Will someone be unsafe if you don’t file that motion? Some of this rides on my shoulders, it gets heavy.”

Both Podemski and fellow committee member Niti Parthasarathy shared their own experiences with stress, burnout and the path they took to creating healthy habits.

Parthasarathy says her previous work in corporate law led to a never-ending work cycle where associates are valued for their long workdays and little sleep.

“There is not a lot of space to rest and take a breath as lawyers. There is a fear of what will happen if you rest. It becomes a cycle of working more and resting less, it’s a toxic cycle,” she says. “I was well compensated so I must be happy – I can’t have stress.”

Many Routes To Finding Wellness

Both attorneys shared their experiences with stress and burnout and the need to take time away from work. Paying attention to these principles now can lessen the chance that a lawyer will need to make a more drastic change later.

Podemski recounted her time as a mergers and acquisitions attorney where she would sleep with her mobile device on her pillow. At the time, she boasted about sleeping in her office and extoling how many all-nighters she pulled.

“I didn’t go to the doctor, which led to medical issues. I needed a change,” she said. The change landed her in public interest law, which still came with its own type of stress.

“Take all of your vacation days, even if you stay home and watch Netflix. You are not going to see that it is needed until it’s too late,” she said.

“I did time in a literal detox,” said Parthasarathy. “Take time to regularly ask yourself if this is the type of work you want to do. When I was in treatment, it gave me insight into the type of work I wanted to do. It helped me to move to a different type of law.”

Other examples of occupational wellness include finding a trusted co-worker to vent to on tough days and scheduling time to rest in your calendar. Spending time outside in the sunshine in nature can improve emotional and spiritual health. Both attorneys encouraged attendees to find creative outlets and social functions not connected to their jobs as a way to combat isolation and improve social wellness.

Parthasarathy reminded attendees to give themselves grace and understand that any move toward a healthy habit is a good start.

“A few minutes of meditation or reading each day in a consistent practice is helpful. If you have a few bad days, it’s OK, just keep trying.”

Watch the CLE on demand:  The Eight Pillars for Attorney Well-Being: Finding Balances in the Profession – New York State Bar Association (nysba.org)

Wellness Programming this week:

Friday, 1:30pm-2:00pm: 5/10/2024 Mindful Moments: Spring Meditation Series – New York State Bar Association (nysba.org)

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