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Hawaii Task Force Recommends Plan of Action for Improving Lawyer Well-Being

Posted on Jun 1, 2021 in News & Reports, Press Releases

HONOLULU – The Hawaii legal profession “is at a crossroads” with respect to how it will address attorney well-being in the future, according to a report issued today by the Hawaii Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being.

The task force was formed in May 2019 by Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald in response to a National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being report entitled, “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change.”

The Hawaii Task Force was asked “to review the recommendations of the National Task Force on how to address lawyer well-being issues, assess which recommendations can be implemented to address the unique needs of Hawaii’s legal community, and recommend how those proposals can best be implemented.”

Co-chairs Associate Justice Sabrina S. McKenna and attorney Louise K.Y. Ing led the task force comprised of more than 20 representatives of state and federal judicial branches, Hawaii State Bar Association and Neighbor Island bar associations, University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, legal service providers, Attorneys & Judges Assistance Program, Office of Disciplinary Counsel, and University of Hawaii Foundation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of well-being issues, and provided a turning point for us,” the task force reported. Well-being affects attorneys’ ability to adequately represent their clients, and when attorneys are well, the community benefits.

In response to the report, Chief Justice Recktenwald, HSBA President Levi Hookano, and Dean Camile Nelson of the William S. Richardson School of Law have committed to work together on implementation of the report’s recommendations, including by meeting with leaders of the bar.

“I want to thank Justice McKenna, Ms. Ing, and the task force members for their dedication to their profession and the community,” said Chief Justice Recktenwald. “They have worked incredibly hard to examine the findings of the national report and make recommendations for improving well-being in Hawaii.”

“I am grateful for the work of the Hawaii Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being in situating the importance of well-being in our personal and professional lives. This report signals the importance of taking well-being seriously,” said Camille Nelson, Dean of the William S. Richardson School of Law. “Richardson Law is happy to be a part of these important conversations towards enhanced awareness of, and support for, the improved mental health and well-being of law students, practicing attorneys, and members of the bench.”

“Attorney well-being is an extremely important aspect of our profession. Everyone needs help from time to time, and we must work together to destigmatize mental health issues,” said Levi Hookano, HSBA president. “We look forward to working with the Judiciary and the William S. Richardson School of Law to improve attorney well-being for all of those we serve.

The task force examined the wellness state of the legal profession overall, as well as recommendations for judges, regulators, legal employers, law schools, bar associations, lawyers professional liability carriers, and lawyers assistance programs. It added that well-being isn’t just about stress management. It encompasses preventing suicide, substance abuse, and severe mental illness, from the time individuals enter law school through joining the legal profession.

One of the task force’s key recommendations is that the HSBA create a Well-Being Committee to carry on the work of the task force and to follow-up on recommendations within this report.
Some of those recommendations include:
• Destigmatize mental health issues
• De-emphasize alcohol at social events
• Emphasize lawyer competence to WB
• Increase flexibility in work schedules and expectations
• Assess law school practices for unhealthy consequences and increase on-site WB education and services


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