For Attorneys

Congratulations to the Well-Being Week in Law Bingo winners from May 6 – 10, 2024! Still want to play?
The prize period is closed but the Bingo card is still available here

In 2017, the American Bar Association brought attorney well-being into the limelight for three reasons: (1) ethical rules, such as competence, diligence, and others; (2) the business case—high-functioning attorneys are better for the bottom line; and (3) from a humanitarian perspective, it was the right thing to do.  Prior to that call to action, attorney well-being lingered in the background of the profession. Anecdotally, people in the profession knew there was a talent drain when people left the profession and knew some legal professionals struggled with managing the stressors of practice, alcohol and substance abuse, depression, and physical health. About eight years ago, well-being got an evidence-based foothold in the profession after several empirical studies were released, showing widespread well-being challenges in the legal industry.

The ethics case. One of the easier ways to see the intersection of well-being and the practice of law occurs when lawyers struggle with alcohol or substance dependency. Missed deadlines and less-than-stellar performance can be visible symptoms. Physical health is another: attorneys who suffer a stroke, major medical event, surgery, or traumatic brain injury may be unable to practice while they recover. Less obvious intersections arise with depression, unmanaged stress, and vicarious trauma: these occur on a spectrum of severity, can fluctuate, and might not have visible symptoms.

The ABA Task Force linked attorney well-being to the ethical duty of competence, and some states then added a comment to Rule 1.1 of the rules of professional conduct expressly recognizing the intersection of physical and mental health with competence. Rule 1.16 can also apply, requiring withdrawal from representation if the lawyer’s “physical or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer’s ability to represent the client.”  Other rules sometimes figure into the well-being equation. Rule 8.4 may be triggered, particularly in substance abuse and dependency cases, if a lawyer’s dependency leads to criminal activity “that reflects adversely on a lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.”  A lack of financial well-being can sometimes lead lawyers down a pathway to IOLTA violations, in violation of Rule 1.15.  Rules 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3 are often cited too, reflecting the special obligation of supervising attorneys to make reasonable efforts to ensure subordinate lawyers and nonlawyers comply with the same ethical rules.

The business case. Organizational success in law firms is, in large part, a result of individual attorney well-being. Employee engagement, often a direct byproduct of mental and physical wellbeing, is linked to organizational success factors, including lower turnover, higher client satisfaction and loyalty, and higher productivity and profitability. Unfortunately, the majority of workers (estimated to be around 67%) are not engaged, meaning organizations are not getting the full benefit of their people. Low engagement is also linked to turnover, a costly expense for law firms. For example, a 2016 survey by Law360 found that over 40 percent of lawyers said that they were likely or very likely to leave their firms in the next year. When considering the cost to replace an associate attorney is estimated to be 400% of their salary, law firms should seek to retain talent, and a key driver for retention is engagement and associated well-being.

In whole, firms and organizations that prioritize well-being will see a return on investment. From maintaining talent to supporting employees to do their best work, the business case for attorney well-being should not be ignored.

What Is Well-Being? Well-being is a continuous process where lawyers, judges, law students and legal professionals seek to thrive in each of the following areas—emotional and mental health, physical health, social connections, occupational satisfaction, intellectual pursuits, aligning with a sense of purpose in life, environmental health and personal and professional financial health. Well-being is not the same as wellness. “Wellness” is often affiliated with physical well-being like exercise, nutrition and self-care. By contrast, “well-being” is broader in scope and looks at a larger umbrella of human activity.

In 2017, the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Attorney Well-Being in its 2017 Task Force Report, illustrated attorney well-being with this:



  • Nationwide, the well-being in law movement began with some vigor when the American Bar Association (ABA) released its Task Force Report on Attorney Well-Being in 2017. The Task Force Report was a call to action across the profession, with recommendations for all sectors: lawyers, firms, bar associations, the judiciary, law schools, regulators and insurers. ABA Task Force Report
  • Attorney Well-Being is a nationwide effort. The Institute for Well-Being in Law offers resources for legal professionals around the country. Institute for Well-Being in law
  • You don’t have to manage alone. The Wyoming Lawyer’s Assistance Program is a free and confidential resource for Wyoming’s lawyers, judges, and law students for support in unmanaged stress, depression, impairment, substance abuse, and more. WyLAP
  • Attorneys employed by the State of Wyoming have access to the broad suite of resources offered by the State of Wyoming’s Employee Assistance Program. Wyoming EAP



The American Bar Association’s Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers & Legal Employers summarizes the business case for attorney well-being and provides links to surveys about the costs of turnover, substance abuse and mental health, and reduced client satisfaction.

Emotional & Mental Health

The emotional and mental dimension of well-being is a large category and is particularly important for attorneys who, as a profession, face higher than average rates of depression, suicide, and substance abuse.

  • E-Home Counseling is a Wyoming State Bar member benefit linking members with online, face-to-face counseling in your home or office. e-Home Counseling
  • Sometimes you want a peer-to-peer connection, which can be challenging in a small and rural state. The Lawyers Depression Project is a nationwide, grassroots initiative to provide a peer-to-peer network. Lawyers Depression Project
  • The Wyoming Professional Assistance Program (WPAP) offers Wyoming State Bar members an anonymous and confidential self-assessment service to provide attorneys experiencing burnout, stress, depression, substance use issues or other mental health concerns a way to connect anonymously to support and services. Complete the brief online Self-Check Questionnaire. Then, a WPAP Clinician will review your Questionnaire and provide you with a confidential, personalized response including information, recommendations and options for connecting to support and resources. WPAP Self-Assessment Tool
  • In 2022, Governor Gordon and the Wyoming Department of Health launched their first mental health summit, raising awareness about mental health in Wyoming, including the high rates of suicide in Wyoming. Wyoming is now connected to 988, expanding suicide prevention resources in the state. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by dialing 988, or text “WYO” to 741-741 for the Crisis text line. People can talk or text about anything: financial troubles, relationships, their sources of stress, relationships, depression, illness, and loneliness, to name a few.
  • Sometimes suicide reaches our communities. Here is a guide from the American Bar Association on how to talk about it: Addressing the Lawyer Suicide Crisis: A Guide for Bar Leaders.


Social well-being is about connection and support systems outside of the work place. Social well-being helps to support emotional resilience in times of stress, and the practice of law is a high-stress profession. Social well-being efforts can include social events with colleagues in the legal community, like bar associations, conferences and Inns of Court events, and family connections and all types of friendships.

  • According to a survey reported in the Harvard Business Review, practicing law can be a uniquely lonely expedition, seconded by professionals in engineering and science. Creating and maintaining connections, and utilizing those connections to combat the pernicious effects of loneliness, can be important. This blog by a fellow lawyer breaks down this topic specific to the legal profession. Professional Cost of Loneliness, Nov. 2022


Occupational, or vocational, well-being is about personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work.


Physical well-being is necessary to support all of the other categories of well-being. After all, without a healthy body and a healthy mind to go with that body, all other activities may be impaired or at least less than optimal. Rule of Professional Conduct 1.16 discusses withdrawal when “the lawyer’s physical or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer’s ability to represent the client.”

  • Physical well-being is not one-size-fits-all. Check out the Physical Activity guide prepared by the Institute for Well-Being in Law, released during Well-Being Week in Law in May 2023, for a list of tools and options to pick from. Physical Activity Tips and Tools
  • Designate a Surrogate Attorney. When an attorney becomes physically or mentally incapacitated and is unable to attend to their practice, Wyoming Rule of Disciplinary Procedure 26(d) provides for the appointment of a surrogate attorney by a district court judge. Be proactive and designate your surrogate, just in case you ever need one, through the Wyoming State Bar’s free form.


The intellectual category of well-being is different than the occupational category, although the practice of law is intellectual. According to the ABA Task Force on Attorney Well-Being and its subsequent Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers, intellectual well-being entails “[e]ngaging in continuous learning and the pursuit of creative or intellectually challenging activities that foster ongoing development; monitoring cognitive wellness.” This intellectual category can be about intellectual interests outside the practice of law, such as books, movies, languages, hobbies or other intellectually stimulating pursuits.


One dimension of well-being is about our sense of purpose in life. While ABA Task Force referred to this as spirituality, other commentators refer to this as staying true to your purpose or aligning your life with your personal values.

  • A fellow attorney published this article in 2023 identifying the impacts of lacking purpose in work (burnout, less productivity, decreased client satisfaction) and crafted a recipe for finding, or renewing, purpose in legal work. Read Article
  • Mindfulness gets quite a bit of coverage in attorney and judicial well-being circles. Check out the Wyoming Lawyer’s review of The Anxious Lawyer, by Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford. Read Article
  • Purpose is not just in the nature of our work but also in the networks around the work. People in organizations doing noble work—curing disease, saving children’s lives, educating—can be among the unhappiest while those doing seemingly mundane things feel a stronger sense of purpose. Both work and life connections create a sense of purpose. Check out this article: Do You Have a Life Outside of Work?



Financial well-being was characterized by the ABA Task Force as an aspect of occupational well-being and law practice management.  It is about financial literacy and developing the tools to help you be comfortable where you are and where you want to be. It might not be about how much you earn. Many lawyers earn less than they are worth but have highly satisfying lower-paying work in the public sector or legal aid. Financial well-being has two aspects: personal and professional. Personal finances may be things like paying for rent and daycare and saving for retirement. Professional finances may be things like managing office payroll and expenses and managing client funds. Managing both aspects could help deter the temptation to invade client funds, which is prohibited by Rule 1.15 of the rules of professional conduct.

  • Financial well-being can mean different things for young lawyers, mid-career lawyers and retirement lawyers. Read more at the Wyoming Lawyer’s August 2021 Be Well Column, Financial Well-Being: Literacy from Graduation to Retirement and In-Between. Read Article
  • Financial well-being is not a taboo topic in the profession. It has growing traction, particularly for young lawyers after a 2020 survey by the ABA about student loan debt. Legal employers are taking notice of financial well-being and some common themes have emerged. Legal employers & financial well-being
  • The Wyoming State Bar offers members a scope of resources related to personal and professional finances to support your law practice management Check out the Member Resources page for links to resources ranging from access to ABA retirement plans, discounts, student loan refinancing, and Red Cave Consulting. Member Resources