The April issue of The Florida Bar Journal is devoted to the issue of mindfulness. Mindfulness involves intentionally bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment. It can be developed through the practice of meditation, which can be defined as the intentional self-regulation of attention from moment to moment.1
Florida Bar President Ramón A. Abadin points to an American Bar Association survey that found that 20% of the nation’s licensed attorneys drink at levels that are considered “hazardous, harmful and potentially alcohol-dependent.” This is three times the rate of problem drinking among the general public.2
Mindfulness is needed for lawyers to cope in a profession where heavy drinking and lack of balance have become normalized.
Judge Alan Gold began the practice of mindfulness meditation after his 2001 open heart surgery. When he returned to the bench, he found that mindfulness practice helped him to do a better job. He points out that “lack of civility” is one of the most significant problems that negatively affect the practice of law.3
Judge Gold recommends that lawyers and judges be taught the medical and physiological effects of stress. Then, they can be taught how to better cope with stress through meditation.
If stress is a problem for the general population of lawyers, it is certainly a problem for family lawyers. If someone sets out to practice in this area of the law, mindfulness meditation is an important tool to remain balanced and free of compulsive or addictive behaviors.