December 13, 2022
Content notice: several articles in this eBulletin cover a variety of mental health issues, diagnoses and crises. Some of this material may be challenging to engage with or triggering. Please engage at your individual comfort and safety level.
Letter from the Law Society: The Intersection of Lawyer Competence and Lawyer Well-Being
In recent years in our society, there has been an increase in awareness of the prevalence of mental health issues and the importance of seeking solutions. Where no one used to speak of such problems, a growing number of public figures have been open about their struggles and unapologetic when they need to take time away from their careers to focus on their mental health. We have also learned of far too many public figures who have taken their own lives. If enormously talented people who seem to have it all can suffer so much that they see suicide as their only option for relief, it becomes very clear that it can happen to anyone, no matter their personal circumstances and how well they appear to be "on the outside". 

Gradually, the same awareness is taking root in the legal profession. We hear more stories about mental health concerns among our colleagues and how common they truly are, even amongst the best and the brightest of our profession, including the judiciary. Our profession can be resistant and slow to make change, but steps are being taken to continue to increase awareness and find solutions. 

The Law Society of Alberta has made it a priority to do both, especially as it is increasingly acknowledged that lawyer competency and lawyer wellness go hand-in-hand. Lawyers perform high-stakes, mentally challenging and often emotionally taxing work. Our ability to competently meet client needs depends on both our bodies and our minds remaining in good health. Moreover, anyone can face a mental health challenge at any time. While there are those with chronic challenges, mental health is not fixed. Any lawyer may experience times in their lives when their mental health suffers, for any variety of reasons.

As you read through the remainder of this eBulletin, I encourage you to think about ways you can enhance your own well-being, and how you can support others to do the same. We all have a part to play in addressing these issues for the betterment of our profession and the clients we serve....

All the best,


Deanna Steblyk, KC
Chair, Lawyer Competence Committee and Incoming President-Elect
Law Society of Alberta
Letter from Assist: Insight into Lawyer Well-Being Data
Canadian lawyers and articling students are experiencing high levels of psychological distress, anxiety, depressive symptoms, burnout, and suicidal ideation, and consumption of alcohol and drugs is at a worrying level, according to the National Study on Lawyer Well-Being (the study), released in late October. This study was carried out through a partnership between the Université de Sherbrooke, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the Canadian Bar Association, as well as with the mobilization of the law societies of Canada and the Chambre des notaires du Québec. Assist’s Board of Directors and I will be analyzing this study and the recommendations which were released on Dec. 12, 2022 as we design and deploy resources to the Alberta legal community.

I want to share some initial insights from the study.

The study indicates that lawyers and articling students experience major depressive disorder, anxiety, suicidal ideation, psychological distress and burnout at much higher rates than the general population.

27.2% of survey respondents indicated that they “often to always” think about leaving the practice of law and 23.7% “somewhat to strongly regret” pursuing law. Can our profession sustain itself and thrive with such high levels of dissatisfaction?

Wishing you well-being,


Loraine Champion
Executive Director
Alberta Lawyers' Assistance Society

Psychological First Aid
The Power of Kindness
with Brian Forbes, PhD, R.Psych.
Forbes Psychological Services

The legal profession is a demanding profession that takes its toll on lawyers, particularly in terms of their mental health and well-being. We know from multiple surveys that upwards of 60% of lawyers report being stressed, distressed or burned out. There are numerous articles and studies focusing on how to cope more effectively with the stressors in our lives and build resiliency. Yet few lawyers actually engage in these activities. Indeed, in a national survey, lawyers reported that they do not have time for physical exercise, hobbies, volunteering or vacations in order to establish a balance between work and personal life. The demands of the job are so great, that for many lawyers the job takes precedence over all other aspects of their life.

According to author and palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, studies have shown that the five most common life regrets at the end of life are:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had given more time to my family and friends.
5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

This all being said, there is a very simple strategy that does not require a good deal of time, commitment or effort that each and every one of us can apply to enhance our mental health and well-being. What is it you ask? The answer is simple: spreading kindness. Acts of kindness are one of the important factors in building resiliency.

Ethically Speaking
Linking Civility and Well-Being
Civility and resolute advocacy are not at odds. Resolute advocacy creates “a duty …to raise fearlessly every issue, advance every argument, and ask every question, however distasteful, which the lawyer thinks will help the client’s case” (Code of Conduct Rule 5.1-1, Commentary 1). This does not mean that no holds are barred. Rather, the lawyer must discharge the duty by “fair and honourable means” and “in a manner that is consistent with the lawyer’s duty to treat the tribunal with candour, fairness, courtesy and respect.”

To improve civility and thereby improve lawyer well-being, some American bar societies established formal civility codes. However, as Rebecca Howlett notes in her column Improving Civility with Mindfulness, “we are frankly perplexed that adults with advanced degrees require a code of conduct designed to promote respectful behavior.”

Incivility often manifests in personal attacks on the opposing lawyer or their client, in berating staff, in insulting justices or other lawyers (to their faces or behind their backs), in misleading the tribunal or in bullying junior lawyers. Or female lawyers. Or lawyers belonging to an equity deserving group.

Such strategies are designed to undermine the opposing lawyer, their client or their client's cause but ultimately lack courtesy and respect and bring the profession and administration of justice into disrepute. None of these strategies has anything to do with the merits of the case, nor are they resolute advocacy. Generally the issue is not that the other lawyer’s conduct could be resolute advocacy. The issue is blatant and personal attacks designed to undermine the opposing lawyer, their client and the merits of their side of the matter.

A Word on Wellness
Cultivating Well-Being
As is oft quoted, well-being is a journey, not a destination. An essential aspect of the journey is finding and maintaining routines, supports and resources that work for you. This is often easier said than done. What works for some may not work for others, and what works at one point in your life may not work or be possible at other times. It can also be difficult to determine how to concretely incorporate new ideas into your everyday, busy life. Fortunately, there are free resources to help get you started or to add to your toolbox.

For the 2022 Well-Being Week in Law, the Institute for Well-Being in Law developed a suggested five-day schedule that provides tips and activities that you can participate individually or with colleagues, friends and family. Each of the five days is focused on a different dimension of overall well-being, including physical, spiritual, career and intellectual, social and emotional. There are also options in the type of resources available, including articles, podcasts, guides, challenges and recorded webinars. Whether you follow the suggested schedule or explore the resources as your time allows is up to you. Assist and CBA-Alberta have sponsored Well-Being in Law Week during the first week of May. Watch for Alberta-specific content this spring.

Mind, a mental health charity based in England, has developed Guides to Wellness Action Plans to help you reflect on the things that support your daily mental health and well-being at work. Mind defines a Wellness Action Plan as “a personalized, practice tool that we can all use – whether we have a mental health problem or not – to help us identify what keeps us well at work, what causes us to become unwell, and how to address a mental health problem at work should you be experiencing one.” There are guides for people working in a workplace, people working remotely and people working in a hybrid arrangement. Each guide includes definitions, information to get started with a Wellness Action Plan, a fillable template with guiding questions, and information on sharing your plan with others who can support your well-being. Mind also offers a Guide for Managers that includes information on how to support your team to develop and implement a Wellness Action Plan and maintain your own well-being.

Cultivating well-being can be a challenge, but the benefits of taking time to find and prioritize what works for you are worth it.

Brain Break
10 Minute Mindfulness Meditation
Tamara Levitt guides this 10 minute Daily Calm mindfulness meditation to powerfully restore and re-connect with the present.