ANALYSIS: Avocados’ personal care takes its place in the sun

Results from Bloomberg Law’s most recent Workload and Hours Survey show the largest increase in the number of hours spent on personal care by attorneys since the survey began. The 658 survey respondents reported spending an average of 6.6 hours per week on personal care in the first half of 2022, one hour more than lawyers reported spending on personal care in the fourth quarter of 2021 (5.6 hours) .

Even though that weekly amount breaks down to less than an hour a day, in a profession where burnout is high, I think any increase in time spent on self-care is a step in the right direction.

Female lawyers follow men in self-care

Consistent with previous survey results, female lawyers reported spending less time on personal care than their male counterparts.

The survey used the National Institute of Mental Health‘s definition of self-care: taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical and mental health.

Both men and women surveyed reported spending at least an hour more per week on personal care since the last quarter of 2021, but female lawyers – reporting 5.9 hours per week – still trailed men, who claimed 7.2 hours.

Women suffer “disproportionately” due to work-life conflict, research shows. Survey responses support this finding, as women have consistently reported spending less time on self-care than men over the past year and a half (since the survey began).

When personal care data is broken down by job title (i.e. senior partner, associate, general counsel, etc.), an increase in weekly personal care hours was reported for all lawyers, except except for those who identified themselves as Advocate General. These respondents reported a slight decrease in S1 (5 hours per week) compared to the previous quarter (5.2 hours per week).

Do lawyers prioritize physical health over mental health?

For the first time, Bloomberg Law’s Workload and Hours Survey asked attorneys what forms of self-care they practiced.

“Exercise” emerged as the most popular form of self-care, with 66% of respondents selecting it (nearly 10% more respondents than activity #2: “family time”) .

Exercise is promoted by legal organizations and it’s a quick (and acceptable) way to relax. Legal organizations organize walking challenges, sponsor 5Ks and provide access to fitness apps. My old law firm even had regular virtual yoga classes. Since the start of the pandemic, I have used more walking shoes than in the previous five years.

In contrast, only 14% of respondents chose “taking care of my mental health” as a form of self-care. Although mental health awareness is promoted by legal organizations, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health care and addiction treatment, which often goes hand in hand with mental health issues.

With alcohol consumption on the rise and wellbeing on the decline in the first half of 2022, legal organizations must continue to encourage and even support lawyers to take care of their mental health in addition to their physical health.

Self-care is a start, not the solution

The increase in time spent on self-care reported in the Bloomberg Law survey is encouraging and may be due in part to the work that attorney assistance programs and other bar organizations have devoted to promoting well-being. to be lawyers.

Last month, I attended the ABA’s 2022 National Conference on Attorney Assistance Programs (CoLAP), which had the theme that self-care isn’t just good for you, it’s good for business. And CoLAP took that idea and continued it, so to speak: one session was about self-compassion, and another session was about meditation and taking restorative breaks for yourself during the day. Personally, these breaks then allow me to return to work with increased productivity.

Another important theme I noted during CoLAP 2022 is that if the legal profession is serious about improving the welfare of lawyers, there needs to be more education and buy-in from people at the top. Self-care won’t solve everything. Structures and systems must change. But, since we can’t control everything around us, we can start with what we can control.

Last Monday, October 10, was World Mental Health Day and Law School Mental Health Day. Now is a great time for all of us – law students, young lawyers and seasoned lawyers – to make self-care a priority.

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