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Kicking Off The Lawyer Well-being Program

Well-being, or wellbeing, also known as wellness, prudential value or quality of life, refers to what is intrinsically valuable relative to someone. So the well-being of a person is what is ultimately good for this person, what is in the self-interest of this person.

Law firm Kirkland & Ellis announced this week the creation of a new firmwide wellness program with a new director, part of the ongoing efforts by Big Law to tackle mental health issues that plague the legal profession.

Robin Belleau will be Kirkland’s first firmwide director of well-being. A former assistant state’s attorney turned counsellor, Belleau officially joined the law firm back in March.

She is the former executive director of the Lawyers’ Assistance Program in Illinois and is a member of the advisory commission of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Lawyers’ Assistance Programs.

Kirkland’s new program will proactively work with its attorneys and staff on issues related to mental health and substance misuse and will offer education and enhanced dialogue across three core areas: resilience, connection and fitness and nutrition.

As a part of the program, the law firm will host educational courses and seminars on well-being. It will also introduce two well-being apps that aim to support stress reduction, increase resiliency and support individuals in combating substance abuse and other addictive behaviours.

The law firm will also launch an internal website that will provide its employees with additional resources.

The wellness program will help identify paths to support individuals dealing with substance abuse issues and other mental health concerns rampant in the legal profession like depression, stress or anxiety.

Kirkland’s new program is just the latest initiative offered by law firms to help their attorneys and staff deal with the pressures within the profession. Earlier this year, Morgan Lewis launched a new initiative “ML Well” and added its first-ever director of employee well-being.

Reed Smith launched a firmwide program “Wellness Works” to support the health and well-being of its lawyers and staff.

And in addition to its “Be Well” program, Akin Gump added an on-site counsellor to its Washington office to provide therapy sessions its attorneys one day a week.

Hogan Lovells has had on-site psychologists available at some of its offices for several years.

According to a 2016 American Bar Association study of lawyers, 28 percent dealt with depression and 19 percent dealt with anxiety. Between 21 and 36 percent were “problem drinkers.”