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A Different Kind of Diversity

Generational Diversity: Are We Ignoring Our Strongest Assets?

We all know diversity is an asset, so why aren’t we doing more to bring older and younger together in the legal industry?

When older adults contribute to the well-being of youth, it cultivates a sense of purpose and extends benefits both ways, according to a 2016 Stanford report. Intergenerational bonding is good for everyone, and also has many benefits starting from improving the immune system to enhancing social intelligence. The legal world is full of stress: couldn’t we all use a little boost of immunity and social intelligence?


YOUNGER LAWYERS AND STUDENTS: STRESSORS

Falling Through the Cracks, a 2014 survey of Yale Law School students, found that 70 percent of them have struggled with mental health issues during their time at law school.In the Yale Law School study, a chunk of the students who considered seeking treatment for mental health challenges opted not to because they feared exclusion from faculty, administrators, peers and state bar associations.

The mental health stats are not surprising to hear: the profession is very detail oriented. An entire case can hinge on the presence or absence of a comma, as was the case with dairy farmer drivers last year. (A judge ruled in the drivers’ favor last March, and it was all thanks to the lack of an Oxford comma in a Maine labor law.)

Law students are trained to scan the horizon to anticipate what might go wrong at any time. It can add up to a lot of anxiety. Stress can accumulate quickly as a result, as this thinking often permeates every aspect of their lives.


PRACTICING AND RETIRED LAWYERS: STRESSORS

A 1990 Johns Hopkins University study examined more than 100 occupations for anxiety-related issues and found that lawyers suffer from depression at a rate 3.6 times that of the other professions studied. This is simply not a tenable situation. Something needs to change, and fast.


WELL-BEING OF LAW STUDENTS AND LAWYERS THROUGH INTERGENERATIONAL EFFORTS

“Show me any social problem and I’ll show you an intergenerational solution,” says Shannon Jarrott, PhD, a professor of social work at Ohio State University. Demographics support her assertion.

According to Generations United, a not-for-profit that advocates for intergenerational living, by the year 2040, older adults, children and youth will make up over 40 percent of the population.

Generational diversity in the legal profession can be a powerful force for good. We can use this to our advantage by encouraging both groups to work together on their well- being. For example, sleep enhancement and sleep hygiene have gained attention lately as a critical component to our well-being. In a law school setting, faculty and students can all participate in well -being programs that focus on reaching these benchmarks together. In so doing, communication opens up as well, and stronger human connections can form.

In a law firm setting, younger and older lawyers can engage in sleep challenges, such as the ones offered by Sweatours.com. Getting additional sleep is a benefit in and of itself, but the camaraderie from group challenges can also fend off isolation and reduce anxiety.

We know it’s not as simple as just implementing a wellness program at a law school or law firm, but these programs can help people feel connected to others with similar stressors of late nights, billable hours, and stressful career paths. It’s important to feel connected to other people, no matter what stage of your legal profession you may be in.

Through these wellness programs, the hope is that enough people from different generations will connect, and when they realize they suffer from the same stressors, will band together to push real change in the industry.

Expressing feelings of anxiety to another person who listens, cares and understands can be enormously therapeutic. So what would happen if we learned to step into each other’s shoes and help each other handle the stressful situations from a wider perspective?

Leaning into generational diversity at law schools and law firms might not be a cure all, but it sure would be a good place to start. We don’t always have to go it alone. Offer to help someone from a different generation when they are suffering, and seek them out when you need someone to talk to. Together, we might be able to affect real change in the industry.

“Individually, we are one drop, Together, we are an ocean. ” – Ryunosuke Satoro

For more information or to send us your comments, email us at [email protected] or visit us at www.sweatours.com.

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