News Releases
February 21, 2024

Statement of Principles Concerning Lawyer Well-Being

Letter or Statement

Before COVID, there was momentum building within the legal community, both nationally and locally, to take concerted action to address the issue of lawyer well-being. In 2017, the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being issued its report: The Path to Lawyer Well Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change. In response, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) formed its own Steering Committee on Lawyer Well Being in 2018, which issued its report on Lawyer Well Being in Massachusetts in 2019, noting the poor state of lawyer well-being and the necessity of systemic action by the legal community to address it. On the heels of the report, the SJC formed its Standing Committee on Lawyer Well Being which, among various ongoing efforts, commissioned a study of the well-being of Massachusetts lawyers. In February 2023, a report on this study found that the Commonwealth’s lawyers are still struggling – their well-being challenged by burn-out, mental health issues, and substance abuse, among other challenges; challenges that are even more significant in underrepresented groups.

The mission of the Boston Bar Association (BBA) is to advance the highest standards of excellence for the legal profession, facilitate access to justice, foster a diverse and inclusive professional community, and serve the community at large. The well-being of the Commonwealth’s lawyers is critical to meeting the aims of this mission; as BBA President Hannah Kilson stated, “the future of the profession depends on taking care of ourselves and each other, and on being fully engaged in the profession. The latter is not possible without the former.”

To further effectuate its mission and as a catalyst for change in the legal profession, the BBA has outlined the principles intended to guide its activities to meaningfully improve the well-being of lawyers in the Boston legal community.

As a fundamental matter, lawyer well-being should be a term that is consistently defined, well understood, and recognized by members of the legal community. The BBA considers the definition of well-being to be two-fold: (1) thriving in the workplace by finding purpose and dignity in our work, and having agency, flexibility, and opportunities for growth; and (2) thriving individually and collectively by managing our health, safety, and security, and fostering connections, inclusion and belonging within the community we are building together.

Based on this definition, the BBA articulates the following principles to guide its work in supporting lawyer well-being:

1. Lawyer well-being should be a priority for those involved in the legal profession and it should begin with education and training.

2. Principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging should be part of any well-being strategy within the legal profession.

3. The legal profession should be a profession that promotes sustainable meaningful and lasting careers that support lawyer well-being.

4. Leadership in the legal profession should not only prioritize well-being but also consistently define, identify, cultivate, support, and exemplify well-being.

5. Isolation, alienation, incivility, stigmatization, and bias are barriers to lawyer well-being and the BBA is committed to being a resource to combat these issues in the legal profession.