On Well-Being

Mindfulness meditation: an achievable resolution for lawyer well-being

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In 2016, I partnered with the National Association of Women Lawyers and the Seyfarth Shaw law firm to offer an online mindfulness training program. In total, 968 lawyers participated.

As part of the program, we collaborated with John Paul Minda, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Western Ontario, who conducted a study to measure the impact of the program. Forty-six lawyers joined in this phase, in which we wanted to measure the impact of mindfulness programs for lawyers.

The lawyers who participated in the study completed a self-report. It included: a perceived stress scale; positive and negative affect schedule; brief resilience scale; five-facet mindfulness questionnaire; depression, anxiety and stress scale; and job effectiveness questionnaire.

The results were:

  • Perceived stress scale: 22.73 percent reduction.
  • Positive affect subscale: 13.65 percent change.
  • Negative affect subscale: 17.78 percent change.
  • Brief resilience scale: 10.36 percent change.
  • Five-facet mindfulness questionnaire: 15.61 percent change across the five subscales.
  • Job effectiveness questionnaire: 6.15 percent increase.
  • Depression scores: 28.84 percent decrease.
  • Anxiety scores: 30.29 percent decrease.
  • And stress scores: 32.45 percent decrease.

Minda used the same questionnaire to measure depression, anxiety and stress as in the 2016 ABA study.

It was interesting to note that the participants spent, on average, 57.98 minutes per week meditating—just eight minutes per day. Reducing stress and anxiety by 30 percent with just eight minutes of regular meditation practice is an investment of time worth making.


If you’re interested in trying meditation, here’s a simple practice to get you started.

Find a time when you can practice on a regular basis. It’s helpful to anchor to an existing habit. For example, if you drink coffee every morning, meditate beforehand.

Set a timer for the desired length of time.

Sit comfortably on a chair, both feet firmly on the floor, and lift your torso up through the spine. Allow the shoulders to relax.

Close the eyes.

Begin by feeling the movement of the breath. You can focus on the movement in the chest as the lungs rise and fall, or perhaps you might notice the movement in the stomach as the diaphragm expands and contracts.

When the mind wanders (thinking, worrying, daydreaming), gently return the mind to the breath. This may happen repeatedly during the meditation. It’s normal.

Continue until the timer sounds.

Practice for six minutes a day for at least 21 days. Perhaps at some point you’d like to increase the duration, or it might still be the right amount of time for you. (You can hear an audio version of this guided meditation at jeenacho.com/wellbeing.)

Often, lawyers feel discouraged by thoughts about not meditating correctly or doing it poorly. This is part of the journey. See whether you can view those thoughts for what they are—your inner critic narrating your experience rather than facts. Give yourself the permission to show up as you are each day and enjoy the practice.

Jeena Cho consults with Am Law 200 firms, focusing on actionable strategies for stress management, resiliency training, mindfulness and meditation. She is the co-author of The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation. Cho practices bankruptcy law with her husband at the JC Law Group in San Francisco.

This article was published in the January 2018 issue of the ABA Journal with the title “Starting Small: It’s time to make an achievable lawyer well-being resolution.”

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