All professionals, especially those in the legal profession, are likely to feel stress at some time in their career.
According to Caytie Matti, human resources manager at Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs in Akron, and Stephen Zashin, co-managing partner at Zashin & Rich in Cleveland, law firms benefit from supporting their legal professionals in their physical and mental well-being.
For Buckingham Doolittle, Matti said the firm supports overall health.
“The firm has a robust wellness committee and fortunately, we have members that are at all different levels of the organization,” she said. “These are all individuals who have a passion for wellness. We brainstorm monthly on how to keep employees healthy and happy overall. Things, like not eating well or not exercising, can lead to poor mental health. So, we also have a reimbursement program for gym memberships, not just for the employee, but their spouse too.”
Buckingham Doolittle also offers voluntary, monthly company weigh-ins to motivate employees to stay healthy.
At Zashin & Rich, professionals are expected to work without bosses hovering.
“Our environment is a very open and collaborative space,” Zashin stated. “We don’t have doors on our offices, and that has been predominately done to give employees the freedom and flexibility to work with others. With collaboration comes results.”
Along with the open workspace, Zashin said the firm has collaborative and laid-back spaces with pingpong tables. There are also smaller, more private areas should an employee need to recharge, lie down, watch TV or listen to music.
Zashin explained that lawyers, like other demanding professions, feel like they’re “rats on a wheel at all times.”
“It feels like it never ends sometimes,” he said. “While we have cases that end, the work really doesn’t. There is a lot of pressure on lawyers for billable hours, too, and that can be hard on people. Our jobs also, in many situations, have incredibly high stakes. Lives and livelihoods are at stake. The idea of making a mistake is unheard of, which creates stress itself.”
Along with mental health, Matti said overall health and wellness should be a focus.
“Everyone’s first job is to take care of themselves,” she noted. “The firm is going to have a wellness coach for the last few months of the year. All of this is important because, as I said, your first priority is to take care of yourself and to be well. You want people in your organization to do well and be successful, but not at any cost.”
Both professionals said promoting self-care is important.
“If anyone is interested in self-care, that is phenomenal,” Matti said. “We want to be in an environment where people know their first job is to take care of themselves. We want the firm to thrive, but for them to thrive too.”
Zashin added, “The one really important thing is that people are capable of detaching. When my lawyers are on vacation, I don’t like bothering them. They are on vacation. And if people are distracted, it impacts their ability to do their job. We like people to have a life and to have families. We’re very supportive of that other side. It only leads to greater quality work and more satisfied lawyers.”
Professionals should also look to their colleagues for support.
“We have a nice commitment to the wellness of our staff and attorneys,” Matti stated. “It is one of the great things about the firm that makes me proud to work here.”
Zashin added, “It creates increased morale, but also creates a pathway where newer lawyers can understand how to solve a problem. This is what we do – we look at our job as being here to solve a problem. Also, if you have a bad work culture, it creates stress, disharmony and nonproductive competitiveness. So, good culture is king.”