There’s a reason that SAP, Google, Aetna and IBM all have Chief Mindfulness Officers–they are explicitly trying to address the emotional fallout among their ranks in tech-revolutionized workplaces. But those working in legal workplaces are also feeling emotional fallout, from technological pressures, isolation and other major stressors, as the Law.com Minds Over Matters project conducted over a full year makes crystal clear. So it is encouraging to see that there are those at the top in law starting to step up to support those at risk.
Dentons recognizes that in looking at the legal workplace of the future, “people are going to continue to be the differentiator,” in that “the critical part of the legal workflow will be the human interactions and the humanity that we bring.” To that end it has developed a comprehensive program called NextTalent that has resulted in some substantial programs, promisingly innovative but still rare in the legal world, which emphasize the development of emotional intelligence: “Dentons sees its NextTalent initiative filling the need … for the next generation of lawyers [to] be globalists and adaptable to working with different people from different backgrounds and different cultures from across the world … by focusing on emotional intelligence.”
So the firm is piloting several programs in different countries to see what works best, including introducing various assessments to see which helps their people best understand and improve their EI skills, offering eight-week mindfulness programs, and experimenting with teamwork and leadership trainings borrowed from other industries.
One Dentons pilot program called Ginger Emotional Support, an on-demand component of their “Wellness for Life” initiative, has been instituted in 6 California offices, Phoenix and Honolulu, offering coaching services by text, video or in-person. If needed, an onsite wellness coach can help address professional or personal issues through direct counseling or by making referrals. That is in addition to the firm’s “headspace in the workplace” pilot program which promotes meditation and mindfulness for enhanced mental health.
More recently has come Dentons’ appointment of a Warsaw tax partner as “Chief Mindfulness Officer” for Europe, specifically charged with, of course, developing lawyers’ emotional intelligence.
“It is odd that we’re all spending tens of millions of dollars on new tools and new technology for the legal talent we have, but we’re not spending even more on finding ways for these lawyers and professional staff to find more fulfillment in their jobs,” Joe Andrew, Dentons’ Global Chair, notes. As Jay Connolly, Dentons’ Global Chief Talent Officer, puts it: “I want our talent to wake up in the morning and think, ‘I love coming to work. This is where I want to be.”
Even if your firm or department hasn’t caught up to to providing these types of programs, there are always other avenues, like the myriad podcasts, for example, that lawyers everywhere can access to help assess, explore and build their personal and interpersonal skills. Among many are those provided by the ABA (including specifically for law students), Stanford Law School, the Florida Bar, the Happy Lawyer Project, and Lawsome.
Let us hope that this is the beginning of a race to the top–to develop the emotional intelligence of lawyers worldwide, a goal benefiting all the stakeholders in the legal firmament.