The Legal Well-Being Push: Creating a Healthy Work Environment for All Law Firm Personnel - Recent News

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Posted by: Stephanie Dorssom on Feb 19, 2020

Photo of Stephanie DorssomStephanie Dorssom
Digital Marketing Manager, Husch Blackwell LLP

Originally published in the February 2020 issue of the St. Louis Lawyer magazine.  View in the archives.

I have been a certified group fitness instructor through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) since 2015, and have been teaching cardio boxing and kickboxing classes ever since. Something about hitting a heavy hanging bag as hard as you can really helps reduce the stress in your life.

I am proud to be employed full-time as the digital marketing manager at Husch Blackwell, a law firm that values and cares about the well-being of all its personnel. Whether you are an attorney, a legal secretary, a marketing professional, or in IT, recruiting, records or other departments, employee health and mental well-being is a priority.

ACE Guidelines and Good Work Policies

I practice what I preach. Study after study proves that physical activity aids the health of the mind and body, and can be a terrific mood-booster. The key is finding something you enjoy and being consistent. Guidelines from ACE suggest that Americans should strive for 150 minutes per week of physical activity, including two days of strength exercises. With that in mind and understanding that legal professionals are extremely busy and work extended hours, it is routinely difficult to find time to exercise.

This is where good work policies come into play. Some firms, including Husch Blackwell, offer group fitness classes at lunch and have an on-site workout space equipped with TVs for recorded workouts, free weights, medicine balls and other equipment. If your firm does not offer this, consider recommending it as an initiative.

Husch Blackwell also employs onsite certified health coaches in our three largest markets. These coaches are employed by outside companies that contract with Husch Blackwell, which allows for separation of personal health data from the firm. Additionally, Husch Blackwell offers "recharge classes" — 10-minute mediation classes designed to help attorneys and employees "quiet the mind," which is important for good mental health.

Take a Break and Get Outside

I work in Clayton and there are great walking paths in the neighborhood that vary in length from less than 2 miles to 4 miles and beyond. The added benefit of getting outside is a nice dose of Vitamin D, which can elevate your mood and help with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Find another colleague who will motivate you to step out for 20-30 minutes of physical activity throughout the day (maybe as part of your lunch hour) and hold each other accountable.

Finding a Gym

If a group fitness setting motivates you, find an offering that you enjoy and that has a wide variety of class times to cater to your busy schedule. Many fitness studios offer classes as early as 5 a.m. and as late as 7 p.m.; there also are gyms open 24/7. Nothing is more important and nothing contributes to on-the-job success for legal professionals more than individual physical and mental health. That should come first, above everything else, and I am proud to work for a firm that recognizes its importance.

American Bar Association Well-Being Pledge

At the beginning of 2019, Husch Blackwell signed on to take the Well-Being Pledge, part of a campaign established by a working group of the American Bar Association to improve the substance use and mental health landscape of the legal profession. In agreeing to the Well-Being Pledge, participating law firms and legal employers recognize that "high levels of problematic substance use and mental health distress present a significant challenge for the legal profession," and acknowledge that "more can and should be done to improve the health and well-being of lawyers." Since our firm committed to the Pledge, I have seen changes that challenge the status quo.

Challenging the Status Quo

While not radical changes, these subtle moves can make a difference in people's lives. Non-alcoholic cocktails and signature drinks were added to the menu at firm events. Internal events were not as focused on drinking as they were on team-building, camaraderie and networking activities. Our Health Enhancement Department has organized exercise challenges in each office that offer rewards for healthy eating and fitness activities. We have an employee assistance program (EAP) in place if an employee or immediate family member needs to talk about something with which they are struggling. Our health benefits are top-notch and our work-from-home policy can ease the stress of the daily grind. All of these offerings support the American Bar Association's seven-point framework to reduce substance use disorders and mental health distress in the legal profession.



The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, the Saint Louis Bar Foundation or BAMSL’s Board of Governors. Acceptance of advertising and new product information does not imply endorsement of products or services advertised or listed nor statements concerning them.


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