In our last post, we discussed the toxicity in the legal profession, including a report from the National Task Force on Lawyer Wellbeing. While studies have focused on attorneys, the temperature of a workspace certainly affects those who are not in power, such as paralegals and other legal staff members.
So, how could paralegals and office staff use the task force report in their self-advocacy with their employers? This task force report can help a paralegal or staff member understand their employer’s situation. What is that position? The employer may have attorneys on staff who are struggling right now with substance use, depression, and anxiety. The employer knows that something needs to change before the attorney makes a mistake at work or becomes unable to work. However, the employer might have no idea what to do, or even that this is a profession-wide challenge.
Using that point of view, a paralegal or staff member can strategize. Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling.
- Ask legal employers whether they are aware of the report.
- Invite law firms to share how they are planning to implement the report’s suggestions in their offices. Once a legal employer knows about this report, a paralegal or staff member can ask how the employer may use the report in their own office. Offering to help put the ideas into practice can start an ongoing dialogue and show new ways that a paralegal or staff member can help the firm develop.
- Use the report as a way to introduce the topic of wellness. Job interviews and performance review are useful opportunities for opening this kind of discussion. Bring some notes about the report and offer a link to show the employer that the individual has done research and can use it to ask an important but challenging question in a way that deserves a thoughtful response. That is a strategy that any lawyer should appreciate!
- Bring this report to the attention of paralegal associations and ask that the associations consider steps the organization can take to advocate for the same wellness measures for paralegals.
What if a stakeholder asks, but a legal employer does not want to consider this report or explore ways to improve wellness in the office? Dig a little deeper into understanding their particular point of view. Talk it over with a mentor. Developing further strategies could help melt some initial resistance. If nothing seems to move the conversation forward, it may be that the employer is more attached to the toxicity than to the value of team member wellness. If that is the case, try looking beyond that employer to see who in your legal community is taking wellness seriously.
Whether you work in the legal profession or not, are you ready to claim your value and see yourself as a stakeholder in when it comes to wellness in your employment? Learn more about our self-advocacy program.