Employment Law Firm Transforms its Annual Retreat to Address Well-Being
ATLANTA, GA / ACCESSWIRE / October 10, 2019 / Ogletree Deakins, one of the largest labor and employment law firms, recently launched its first official Wellness Welcome, an initiative to assist firm personnel in understanding, addressing, and overcoming the physical and mental health challenges many face working in the legal industry. The Wellness Welcome was launched as the conclusion of the firm's September fitness challenge and as the introduction to the firm's annual Attorney Retreat. This focus is part of an intentional strategy to recognize and prioritize employees' mental and physical well-being.
During the firm's 2019 Attorney Retreat, more than 900 Ogletree Deakins personnel came together in Indianapolis. Rather than being greeted with a traditional cocktail reception, attendees were introduced to the Wellness Welcome, a program of different activities aimed at wellness and employee health.
"We want to emphasize to our team that our acknowledgement of their wellness goes beyond one single initiative and is a priority for the firm," said Matt Keen, Managing Shareholder of Ogletree Deakins. "We decided to emphasize an awareness of the resources we make available and our commitment to each individual's holistic health during our firm-wide Attorney Retreat. Unfortunately, for many in this industry, extreme stress and severe anxiety are seen as norms of the job. As a firm, we're taking a stand against this to ensure this pressure is not normalized, can be discussed openly, and make sure every member of the firm knows there are resources to assist".
According to the American Bar Association (ABA)'s Study on Lawyer Impairment, published earlier this year, American attorneys face anxiety, higher stress levels, substance abuse, and mental health issues. The study, conducted in partnership by the Hazeldon Betty Ford Foundation and the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, found that almost half of all respondents (46 percent) reported concerns with depression and over half (61 percent) reported concerns with anxiety. Further, nearly 21 percent reported drinking at frequencies that indicate problematic alcohol use.
The Wellness Welcome was headlined by the firm's second annual David Jones Memorial 5K Walk/Run in memory of Ogletree Deakins colleague Hal Coxson, and to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association. The 2019 5K raised nearly $23,000 for the organization.
The 5K race was followed by various wellness sessions, including a stretching class and yoga, aimed at reducing anxiety and establishing coping mechanisms during stressful situations. Additional classes were led by Ogletree Deakins' attorneys and shareholders. These 45-minute sessions included calming breathing techniques, self-defense, and mindfulness. Demonstrating a blend of physical activity and education, the firm also provided a stress-resiliency training, which explained the science behind stress, how to identify it, and beneficial responses and next steps.
"I'm happy to see our firm commit to wellness in such a way that allows our own team members to learn from each other first-hand," said Michelle Wimes, Ogletree Deakins' Chief Diversity and Professional Development Officer. "This not only allows for personal instruction, but establishes open communication among the team and firm."
After the Wellness Welcome, the Ogletree Deakins Attorney Retreat included two breakout sessions during which attendees were encouraged to share insights around work-life balance and mental health through sessions titled, "Parenting While Lawyering is an Extreme Sport-How Our Policies Can Help You Excel at Both" and "Mind Matters: How to Deal with Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues While Practicing Law."
Ogletree Deakins made a formal commitment to wellness when the firm joined the American Bar Association (ABA)'s Well-Being Pledge. Core to the ABA's Campaign, led by the Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession, the pledge calls on employers in the legal industry to address the gap in acknowledgment of and resources to address the health of those working in the industry. The pledge further calls on employers to recognize the prevalence of substance use and mental health problems in the field, as well as adopt and implement the Campaign's seven-point framework. By signing on to this initiative, Ogletree Deakins pledged to:
- Provide education to staff on substance use, mental health, and overall well-being
- Reduce alcohol served at firm events and provide alternatives where alcohol is served
- Partner with third-party organizations experienced in mental health distress and substance use disorders
- Ensure confidentiality in services and resources offered
- Offer proactive services, such as substance use assessments, mental health assessments, and a back-to-work policy for any staff who undergo treatment
- Demonstrate support of self-care and wellness-focused programs within the firm's core values
- Implement the Well-Being Pledge and principles to attract and retain top talent.
To date, Ogletree Deakins joins nearly 140 other law firms who have taken the pledge to address these issues.
SOURCE: Ogletree Deakin
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