Lawyers Go Zen as Mindfulness Moves Into the Law Firm

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on June 19, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Early in Tony Kushner's "Angels in America," the lawyer and arch-villain Roy Cohn, multitasking between phone calls, sandwiches, and an interview, declares "I wish I was an octopus, a f---ing octopus. Eight loving arms and all those suckers." That sentiment would be shared with more than a few other lawyers. Imagine, three arms for billing clients, two to check your stocks, another for booking theater ticket and one for patting yourself on the back. Sounds great, right?

Not for some lawyers. Many lawyers and law firms are moving away from frantically paced legal work and adopting a philosophy of "mindfulness," according to The Wall Street Journal. For lawyers practicing mindfulness, two arms are plenty -- and they are almost as likely to be occupied by meditation as memo-writing.

Taking Up a Mindful Life

Mindfulness is the practice of "active, open attention on the present," according to Psychology Today magazine. Sound a bit nebulous? It is. To get the general idea, think of saying "ohm," clearing your mind, and focusing in on your breathing to create a calm, centered mind frame.

Mindfulness is particularly taking off among young lawyers, accord to the Journal. To the many lawyers who've grown up doing yoga or thinking about Eastern spirituality, mindfulness is simply an extension of a well-rounded life. For other lawyers, it's simply a strategy for dealing with the stress and contentiousness that can surround them. For law students, mindfulness can mean an easy credit, as schools like the University of Miami offer mindfulness courses for law students. (Q: D they grade on a curve?)

Mindfulness isn't the only trend lawyers are turning to in an attempt to get more relaxed and focused. Of course, there's yoga, including the desk-reference book "Yoga for Lawyers." There's traditional religion and general spirituality, which promises lawyers that they can practice and still have a soul. Anything to give life some extra meaning and help stave off a stress-induced heart attack.

Of Course, Some Lawyers Aren't Impressed

Of course, not everyone is on board the mindfulness train. The Journal quotes Scott Greenfield, a New York criminal defense attorney who believes that mindfulness "feeds the narcissism that being a lawyer should be fun, happy and pleasant." Yeah -- stop trying to find peace and accept your misery. If you wanted a happy life, you should have been born an octopus.

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