12 Steps Toward Fulfillment in the Practice of Law (Step 9)

Step 9 – Stay Emotionally Healthy

In Step 9, Judge Carl Horn reminds us of the need to balance not only the hours in our lives but to balance our rational and cognitive side with our feelings, emotions, heart and imagination. Simply put, it is important that we stay emotionally healthy. Lawyers spend much of their time disconnected from daily life and often disconnected from themselves. While even highly successful, many lawyers can feel lonely among their fellow citizens. Horn encourages lawyers to “educate their passions and invigorate their imaginations with the same dedication they apply to sharpening their analytic skills.” He quotes George Kaufmann who has written about his experience as a lawyer. Kaufmann notes that imbalance occurs in the lives and personalities of many lawyers because “our training honors our cognitive skills and dismisses information gathered through other channels. As such, we tend to exploit our rational capacities and ignore other parts of ourselves that offer different ways of learning.”

Kaufmann says lawyers should reflect on what our foundational values are, and “then to be honest with ourselves about whether and how well we are putting them into practice.” Lawyers’ experiences often make it difficult for them to find emotional help and balance. Taking the other steps recommended by Judge Horn is certainly helpful in this area, including developing and practicing good time management, implementing healthy lifestyle practices, living beneath our means, not letting technology control our lives, and just saying “no” to some clients. The stress will not resolve on its own; reducing it is an ongoing struggle in which we must actively and continuously engage.  

Horn concludes that we must seek a healthy balance between our rational, cognitive sides, on the one hand, and our feelings, emotions and imagination on the other. We must pursue balance not only in how we spend the limited hours of our lives but also between our outer and inner selves. We must strive to stay emotionally healthy. 

Next week we will address Step 10 – Embrace Law As a “High Calling.”

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