Meditation has been touted by celebrities and high-powered business executives. Similar to yoga and other wellness practices, mindfulness meditation is a multibillion-dollar industry. Industry leaders recognize this mindfulness method helps lawyers achieve goals.
Many studies have shown that meditation helps boost resilience and mental clarity while decreasing anxiety. For lawyers, this practice can have a transformative impact on their legal practice.
Alcoholism, depression, and other mental health issues are more prevalent in the legal profession than is often assumed. According to a 2016 study by the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, approximately 28% of licensed, employed attorneys suffered from depression. Further, the study also revealed that nearly 20% of employed lawyers experienced symptoms of anxiety and about 21% had problematic drinking habits.
Client demands, stressful deadlines, and a competitive work environment often drain lawyers. In addition, the job involves complex legal issues and high client expectations.
The Power of Meditation
Meditation is a self-care method that could improve the well-being and mental acuity of lawyers. There are numerous benefits. It improves analytical thinking skills, memory, and bolster self-assuredness. People who regularly meditate attest that it improves concentration and precision. Finally, it improves emotion regulation and reduces stress. These are valuable traits for lawyers dealing with intellectually rigorous work under stressful conditions.
According to neuroscience research, a regular meditation practice can actually alter the neural structure of the brain. Research published by Sara Lazar, a Harvard neuroscientist, demonstrated that practicing meditation for half an hour a day over eight weeks altered the physiology of the brain. Scans showed thickening of key areas of the prefrontal cortex that play a role in attention span. In addition, studies have shown it caused enlargement of the insula, a part of the brain involved in emotional self-awareness, as well as the cingulate cortex and orbitofrontal cortex, regions involved in self-regulation. Finally, research data indicates it can alter neural circuitry to promote compassionate behavior.
Making Time for Meditation
One common refrain from busy lawyers is that they do not have time to incorporate the practice into their daily schedule, which eats away from the minimal free time they already have.
Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of wellness company Thrive Global, emphasizes this mindfulness practice is not just “one more thing to do.” Rather, it increases the quality and productivity of the other hours in your day. “Although I’ve known its benefits since my teens, finding time for meditation was always a challenge because I was under the impression that I had to ‘do’ meditation,” Huffington commented. “And I didn’t have time for another burdensome thing to ‘do.’ Fortunately, a friend pointed out one day that we don’t ‘do’ meditation; meditation ‘does’ us. That opened the door for me. The only thing to ‘do’ in meditation is nothing.”
The corporate world has demonstrated growing interest in mindfulness meditation. Johann Berlin, CEO of the TLEX Institute, provides mindfulness training programs to CEOs and corporate teams. According to the program’s website, they provide “practical training for mental clarity, social connection, and inspiration.”
Several of TLEX Institute’s Fortune 100 clients have integrated mindfulness techniques into their leadership practices. “Most of our new clients are not sold by mindfulness as a novelty. They want to see how these approaches are truly beneficial to existing priorities like retention, talent advancement, innovation,” states Berlin.
Peter Cooper is an investor who began meditating. He has noticed its transformative benefits. It has improved his investment results and increased his mental clarity and creative thinking skills. “Being an investor requires the distillation of large volumes of information into a few relevant insights. Meditation has helped me discard interesting but unnecessary information and focus on the few things that make a difference to long run investment performance.”
There is an increasing interest around its positive benefits in the legal community. At a conference at UC Berkeley School of Law a few years ago, almost 200 lawyers from across the U.S. attended the first-ever national conference on the legal profession and meditation. Programming included sessions with titles such as “Alleviating Lawyers’ Stress, Depression and Substance Abuse: Mindfulness and Health,” “Sitting in Meditation, Sitting on a Bench,” and “Mindful Emotional Intelligence as a 21st Century Lawyering Skill.”