by Rhonda V. Magee
By now, you’ve probably heard that mindfulness meditation may be beneficial to your health and well-being. With a new magazine, Mindful, devoted to it, and a cover story in Time, mindfulness is likely to continue to feature in prescriptions for living well and working effectively. Few would argue that if the purported benefits of mindful- ness prove accurate, no profession is in greater need of the
benefits than the legal profession. The good news is that lawyers are beginning to discover these benefits. More and more, law schools, lawyers, and
judges are examining the case for mindfulness meditation. They are reviewing
the growing mountain of research detailing benefits from stress reduction to
lower blood pressure, from increased empathy to improved performance on
exams. And they are bringing these practices to bear to help lawyers support
their own well-being and to improve their capacity to work more effectively.
As one of a small group of lawyers, law professors, and judges who have
been working together for more than a decade to bring about these changes, 1 I
admit to being more than a little encouraged by these developments. While the
research is not yet entirely conclusive, it provides ample ground for innovation
in legal education and the training of lawyers bringing the benefits of mindfulness to the profession.
What is Mindfulness and Why Should Lawyers Practice It?
Mindfulness is one of a number of practices that assist people in becoming
more aware of thoughts, emotions, and physical states, and thus more capable
of concentrating and developing the capacity to approach each moment with
fresh presence. The practices assist people in being more deeply present and
capable of choosing their responses to stimuli in their environments. Combined with recent research confirming the capacity for changes in our brain’s
functioning that may be supported by mindfulness, the case for including
mindfulness among the trainings that lawyers undertake to support them in
being their best over the course of their careers seems stronger by the day.
“Mindfulness” or “mindfulness meditation” is a form of contemplative
practice, and is perhaps the most widely adopted and studied, to date. The term
“mindfulness” may also be used to refer to the state of awareness and presence that commonly results from the practice of mindfulness meditation. It
has been studied and introduced through a variety of religious or philosophical traditions, mostly Eastern in origin, and has become the focus of research
within the fields of neuroscience and psychology. Researchers describe mindfulness as paying attention, in a particular way, with an attitude of nonjudg-ment, and with the intention of increasing one’s capacity for awareness in the
present moment. It’s a universal practice that can improve the experience of
any activity. As UCLA’s Dr. Daniel Seigel explains it, “Mindful awareness
techniques help people move towards well-being by training the mind to fo-
and the Law