I had the privilege recently to speak at the admission ceremony for December U.W. Law School and Marquette Law School graduates and other attorneys being admitted to practice under reciprocity. Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Ziegler asks one of the justices to address the newly admitted attorneys at each admission ceremony on a topic of the justice’s choosing. At the recent ceremony, Justice Jill Karofsky spoke to the new admittees, and she used her time to discuss the idea of changing the paradigm of practicing law in all aspects.
Justice Karofsky asked these attorneys to imagine using law as a therapeutic tool to help heal trauma, rather than creating additional trauma for all involved. No matter what the issue, could these attorneys imagine the entire legal system as a place where everyone emerges better for having gone through the legal process, rather than feeling even more stress and pain. It was a thoughtful message to our newest colleagues, one that all of us should consider, given the amounts of stress, anxiety, and unhappiness that working in our profession seems to generate.
I bring this up because the Task Force on Wisconsin Lawyer Well-Being has just released its report titled “Well-Being: Changing the Climate of Wisconsin’s Legal Profession” and made its initial presentation to the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors at its February meeting. The task force included attorneys, judges, and members of the public brought together by the State Bar, with the support of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, focusing on the fact that enhancing lawyer well-being is not only a foundational pillar for each lawyer’s individual success but also a foundational pillar for the profession’s success and, ultimately, the success of the legal system as a whole.
Not surprisingly, Justice Karofsky was on the task force and she, along with member Justice Rebecca Dallet, are committed to the idea of lawyer well-being and to the findings and recommendations in the report to help achieve a stronger, more sustainable profession that will truly be able to assist clients and the public as a whole.
The Board of Governors will vote soon whether to approve the report in the near future, and I fully expect that it will be approved. But at that point, what is to be done with a report packed with recommendations for the entire legal profession – from the law schools to the law organizations to the judiciary?
The first step is for all members to read the report. Yes, we are all incredibly busy, but this is about the legal profession, a part of our lives that might use a huge amount of our mental, emotional, and physical energy and both power us up to the best that we can be and drain us dry. So, read it and then begin thinking, how do I apply this to my workplace? Then, begin the conversation about well-being, and perhaps the healing will truly take hold.
Justice Karofsky asked these attorneys to imagine using law as a therapeutic tool to help heal trauma, rather than creating additional trauma for
» Cite this article: 95 Wis. Law. 4 (March 2022).