Raising the Bar: A Better Life for Women Attorneys

Last summer I attended the New Mexico Bar Convention in order to earn my annual Continuing Legal Education credits. The convention started off with its usual plenary session.  This year, however, the topic was one that was of special interest to me: “Taking Care of Yourself, Your Practice and Your Clients.” The speaker, a member of the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program, cited many studies and papers that address the role of stress in the lives of attorneys. Some of the research showed:

  • that lawyers have a high rate of drinking and drug problems—1½ times the average baseline; 15-18% of attorneys have a substance abuse problem compared to 8-10% of the general population.
  • that 13% of male and 20% of female attorneys drink six or more alcoholic beverages each day.
  • that attorneys are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than other professions.

The fact that attorneys are in a highly stressed and unfulfilling profession was not new to me. For a female attorney, the pressure to succeed is ramped up further as we struggle in a still male-dominated arena. Law is certainly one of those professions where stress can affect performance, as the higher reasoning centers of the brain shut down and fight or flight responses set in and cortisol levels peak. The battle is on!

The speaker suggested several regimens: counseling, attorney support groups, exercise, and …meditation. I was ecstatic! At last, my profession recognized the need for a better way to manage stress. As a long-time practitioner of the Transcendental Meditation technique, I could truly attest to the powerful, cumulative benefits of TM.

It is also known that women are more prone to stress on the job; numerous scientific studies have rated Transcendental Meditation as more effective than other meditation techniques in reducing anxiety and high blood pressure. TM practice also promotes the optimization of brain functioning and improvement in intellectual performance.

I am hopeful that, next year, I will learn that the Bar Association is giving more recognition to the Transcendental Meditation program as a solution for those attorneys who need help conquering substance abuse and as a tool to reduce stress and improve the job satisfaction, performance, and quality of life for all attorneys. I personally plan to further this end by promoting the TM program in my local Bar Association and hope that other women attorneys follow my lead.