Daily Dispatch

Five Ways Mindfulness Can Benefit Lawyers

By | Aug.20.14 | Balance, Daily Dispatch, Health, Law Practice

Mindfulness

Mindfulness means to be in the present and to accept each moment without preference or judgment. It’s an ancient practice that comes from Buddhism. It’s not a religious practice. Rather, it’s a way to engage in our lives with care and awareness.

The primary way to practice mindfulness is through meditation, where you sit quietly and settle your mind and body. It’s interesting to note that in every religion, there’s a practice of sitting silently, whether that’s in meditation or in prayer.

So how can cultivating mindfulness benefit lawyers? Here are several ways.

1. Reduced stress and anxiety. Regularly practicing mindfulness allows you to be in the present moment. The less time you can spend worrying about the future (which you can’t control) or thinking about the past (which you can’t change), the less stress and anxiety you’ll experience.

2. Response vs. reaction. Most of us feel like we’re in a constant state of crisis, rushing from one urgent activity to the next. How often do you look up from your work to find it’s already 3 p.m.? You’ve managed to put out some fires but haven’t gotten to the really important work. With mindfulness, you’ll learn to respond to situations, prioritizing your life so you can focus on what’s really important.

3. More happiness. Mindfulness allows you to wake up to your life and “smell the roses.” Research shows that with mindfulness we can raise our baseline of happiness by paying attention to the small details of life — a smile from a stranger or tying your child’s shoelaces. Instead of having your mind ruminating over the next day’s hearing, you can enjoy being at the dinner table with your spouse.

4. More compassion. Being a lawyer is hard work. We witness a lot of suffering. This can lead to vicarious trauma. Attorneys may try to shield themselves from this pain by disconnecting but that isn’t an effective strategy. A better way of coping, one that mindfulness enables, is to practice being compassionate — toward yourself for being in this difficult position and toward your client, who is experiencing pain.

5. Better listening skills. How often have you had the experience of talking with someone when you notice that you’ve checked out of the conversation? Or maybe you’re so busy thinking of what you’re going to say in response that you aren’t really listening to the speaker? Mindfulness allows you to be in the moment so you can fully engage in the conversation and listen but, at the same time, tune in to your inner state.

One-Minute Mindfulness Exercise

1. Have a timer ready and find a comfortable seated position. Make sure you’re sitting upright, with shoulders back and both feet firmly on the ground.

2. Set the timer for one minute.

3. Breathe in and out. Simply pay attention to the sensation of the breath as it goes in and out. You’ll soon notice that your attention has drifted away from the breath. When you notice this, come back to the breath.

Many people find it helpful to use a guided meditation. You can find a number of these online. You can also practice this while you’re walking, checking email and at other points in your day. Consider increasing the time you devote to your mindfulness exercise as you become more skilled at the practice.

Jeena Cho is a partner at JC Law Group PC, a bankruptcy law firm in San Francisco. In addition to her legal practice, Jeena teaches mindfulness and meditation to lawyers. Her second book, The Anxious Lawyer (ABA), is slated for release in 2015. Find her on Twitter at @jeena_cho.

Mindfulness Resources

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5 Responses to “Five Ways Mindfulness Can Benefit Lawyers”

  1. Brian Vincent
    20 August 2014 at 7:37 am #

    Dear Jeena, You have written a beautiful piece and are making a huge contribution to all of us. Thank you. I would welcome a discussion with you about your practice, the response that you have received, and any challenges you see in assisting others to find what you have already found, and practice. Thank you. Brian

  2. Andy Clark
    20 August 2014 at 8:33 am #

    Good article Jeena – short and to the point and identifies that mindfulness & meditation need not take a long time to be beneficial.

    Andy

  3. Andrew Cohn
    2 September 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    Thank you for the simple, practical, and important post, Jeena. So glad you are continuing to bring this message out to our legal community- and by extension to clients and communities.

  4. Jeena Cho
    3 September 2014 at 8:05 pm #

    Thanks to all of you – Brian, Andy and Andrew for your kind comments. Brian, I’d be happy to chat. Please drop me an email: jcho@jclawgroup.com

    - Jeena


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