The Redesigning Wellness Podcast

246: Wellbeing in the Legal Profession with Robin Wolpert, Attorney

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U.S. News named being a lawyer as the 2nd most stressful job in 2022. But it wasn’t until recently that far reaching reports identified major wellbeing deficits, such as problematic drinking, workaholism, and mental health concerns.

The reports led to a major call to action for the industry to address lawyer wellbeing. It also led to the creation of the Institute for Well-Being in Law (IWIL), a non-profit dedicated to the betterment of the legal profession through holistic well-being.

Podcast guest Robin Wolpert is an appellate practitioner, business litigator, and white-collar criminal defense attorney at Sapientia Law Group in Minneapolis. She is Treasurer of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, Treasurer of the Institute for Well Being in Law, Member of the ABA House of Delegates, Member of the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism, and past President of the Minnesota State Bar Association. 

In this episode, Robin shares her entry into the industry and what’s changed in her 20 years of practice. Robin describes some unique challenges lawyers face, both in law school and once they are practicing. She explains a series of reports that emerged, which was a call to action for things to change in the legal industry. Robin walks through a couple of the recommendations to enhance lawyer wellbeing and asks a question for lawyers to reframe their current environment.

Episode Highlights:
  • When Robin was in law school in 1998, there was no focus on wellbeing. Because there was a large volume of work, competitive culture, and many deadlines, you did what you had to do – some sacrificing personal health and family time. Fortunately, wellbeing is now being incorporated into the curriculum in some law schools. 
  • The pressures of the legal profession include high standards of excellence, doing everything you can for your client at the expense of your own well-being, and the stigma to asking for help (feels like you’re not on top of things).
  • Some people will interpret self-care as being lazy.
  • In 2016 two reports came out that illustrated problems in the legal profession –lawyers are the most unhealthy of any other professions (problematic drinking and mental health challenges) and the newest lawyers were most at risk.
  • The International Bar Association conducted a global wellbeing study in 2021 that found the top four workplace factors having the most negative impact on wellbeing: 
    • Workplace harassment and bullying
    • Unrealistic time pressures
    • Demand to hit targets
    • Inability to take breaks
  • 25% of the Attorney population are considered workaholics compared to 10% of US adult population. Workaholism is characterized by being addicted to work and get a high from it. They typically engage in too much work because they don’t want to address other issues in their lives.
  • Robin asks people to imagine what they would like to create for themselves and their clients.
  • Institute for Well-Being in Law (IWIL) was created in 2020 as think tank for education, resources, and programming to create a cultural shift within the legal profession.
Links Mentioned:

Institute for Well-Being in Law

National Task Force on Lawyer Well-being

International Bar Association – Mental Wellbeing in the Legal Profession: A Global Study – 2021

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Full Bio:

Robin Wolpert is an appellate practitioner, business litigator, and white-collar criminal defense attorney at Sapientia Law Group in Minneapolis. Robin is Treasurer of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, Treasurer of the Institute for Well Being In Law, Member of the ABA House of Delegates, Member of the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism, and past President of the Minnesota State Bar Association. She served on the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being from 2018-20. She was Chair of the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board from 2017-2021, responsible for oversight of Minnesota’s lawyer disciplinary system.