Putting Mindfulness into Practice: Promoting Well-Being, Reflection, and the Formation of Professional Identity

“To be a good lawyer, one has to be a healthy lawyer. Sadly, our profession is falling short when it comes to well-being.” So begins the ABA’s recent report, The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change. The report recommends mindfulness meditation as a practice that can improve resilience and reduce stress, depression, and anxiety, and that can enhance many lawyering competencies, including improved attention and focus, critical cognitive skills, and ethical and rational decision-making. Above all, mindfulness fosters self-awareness and a habit of self-reflection, both of which are integral parts of experiential learning and the development of professional identity. Increasingly, law schools across the country are incorporating innovative mindfulness-based programming into their curricula, for the skills and values promoted by mindfulness are central to becoming an effective, well-balanced practicing lawyer. Externship programs are particularly well-suited to offering mindfulness-based practices to law students as clinicians help to foster these professional skills and values. In addition to mindfulness and meditation, the ABA report also mentions yoga as among the restorative practices that lawyers and law schools are encouraged to incorporate into their programs to promote personal and professional well-being. This session will introduce new and experienced clinicians to mindfulness, its many benefits, and the science that supports it. It will engage participants in several short meditation practices and exercises, and will explore different approaches to incorporating these practices into the externship experience. Finally, this session will emphasize that these practices are not just for students, and that we as educators and role models should adopt them or other restorative practices as part of our own self-care plans by which we can nourish ourselves and promote our own health and well-being.