This week I attended a legal conference where a panel of experts discussed current national and state initiatives to advance lawyer well-being. One of the panelists shared a story about a conversation she had with a psychologist about these initiatives. His comment? “Who the h*ll cares about attorneys?”
I’ll tell you who cares about attorneys.
I do. And so should everyone.
Attorneys and the practice of law constitute one of the main pillars of security and stability undergirding our personal freedom, liberty and responsibility to each other. The rule of law, the practice of law and the very existence of the law itself protects and guards us every moment of every day. Both conservatives who would lay down their lives for their Second Amendment right to bear arms, and progressives who champion equality of rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, implicitly recognize that collective adherence to the rule of law is essential to our very existence.
We may, and do, argue passionately about the nature and scope of the law. But the rule of law, rather than the tyrannical whim of “might is right” or the scourge of anarchy, is at the core of what makes our country unique and valuable.
Attorneys are the practitioners and preservers of our precious rule of law. Why in heaven’s name would we not care about their well-being?
Would you want an exhausted and demoralized surgeon operating on you or your loved one? Would you demean and insult your doctor and her integrity? And if you did, could you reasonably expect your health would be adequately protected by doctors and the medical profession? Of course you couldn’t.
So why would you expect that an exhausted, stressed and demoralized lawyer can do your will properly (so that your loved ones are taken care of as you intend after you are gone), can ensure your house closing is in order (so title to your home is safe and secure), or defend you (or your teenager) against the awesome power and resources of the state in a DUI case?
Do you not want your attorney to be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, allowing her to be attentive, capable and responsive to you and your legal needs?
I saw “RBG” recently, a wonderful documentary about the life and career of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. One of the many things I learned is that she and now deceased conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were great friends. As she said in her own words, they were “best buddies”. Although they frequently disagreed on their interpretation of the law, they no doubt shared an abiding love and respect for law itself and its critical importance in preserving all we hold dear.
Must we stretch ourselves far to imagine these Supreme Court justices cared about each other’s well-being? Might they have listened to each other’s opposing viewpoints with more open hearts and minds since they cared about other?
Didn’t it benefit our country, never mind our humanity, to have some of the most powerful lawyers (justices) in the world treat each other with respect, affection and kindness?
I believe it did.
So, my lawyer friends, do not doubt for one minute that your well being is vitally important to you, your family, your community and your society. You are vitally important to us.
Let us care, deeply and with open hearts, about all our lawyers. They deserve it. And we need them.