Self-care as a professional virtue for lawyers

Caroline Strevens, Rachael M Field, Nigel Duncan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review

Abstract

[Extract] The practice of law can be rewarding and fulfilling, but also involves significant stressors. In the context of working in a stressful, risk-averse profession, lawyers in Western common law countries have a paramount professional duty to the court and to the administration of justice, followed by a duty to serve the interests of their clients.1 The professional persona of lawyers is portrayed as one of resilience, stamina, strength and fortitude.2 These are possible reasons to explain why the concept of self-care for lawyers and attention to their welfare and psychological well-being have not until recently been a focus for the legal profession. Indeed, the promotion of self-care might even appear as anathema to some legal professionals, particularly the more senior members of the profession who may perceive the concept of self-care as indicative of weakness or being 'soft'.
In this chapter we argue, however, that self-care is in fact a professional virtue for lawyers and an important element of a positive professional legal identity. Using Self-Determination Theory (SDT) and the work of Sheldon and Krieger,we situate an intentional commitment to self-care within the realm of legal professionalism, arguing that lawyers who engage in self-care, and are supported to self-care, are better positioned to behave professionally and to make ethical decisions. The chapter begins by explaining the notion of self-care and why it is important for the legal profession. We then analyse some of the key stress­ors of contemporary professional legal practice and use SDT to explain their detrimental impact on lawyer well-being. We conclude that whilst self-care is a professional virtue for contemporary legal practitioners, the legal profession, and particularly its leaders, have a primary responsibility to address the structural,
cultural, political and social issues that underpin the stressful nature of modern lawyering.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEducating for Well-Being in Law
Subtitle of host publicationPositive Professional Identities and Practice
EditorsRachael Field, Caroline Strevens
Place of Publication Abingdon, Oxon
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter2
Pages14-26
ISBN (Print)978-1-138-47756-8
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2019

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    Strevens, C., Field, R. M., & Duncan, N. (2019). Self-care as a professional virtue for lawyers. In R. Field, & C. Strevens (Eds.), Educating for Well-Being in Law: Positive Professional Identities and Practice (pp. 14-26). Routledge.