Academia, Uncategorized

The Personal Study of Wellness: Using Downtime for Reflection

For all of us, being our best selves takes time and effort to care for our whole being. With the exhausting pressures in our professional lives, are we paying attention to our personal well-being? The statistics tell us that as a profession we are not. Let’s help our students do and be better.

As law schools identify appropriate placement for conversations around wellness, leadership courses or programs provide a perfect opportunity. We recognized the importance of the topic and devoted chapter 11 of our textbook, Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, to “The Importance of Well-Being: Thriving in the Legal Profession.” At Baylor Law, discussions of the importance of personal wellness are woven into every offering of the leadership course. Strategies for being more intentional with wellness practices are presented in several class sessions. Through journal prompts, students are encouraged to consider how they might best plan their future with a design for finding harmony of work and life in the practice of law.  

I do believe in practicing what I preach. Yet, the fast pace of life and work often keeps me from focusing on this topic for myself. What am I doing to make sure that I am happy? This Time article discusses the daily habits of happiness experts, with the usual suspects: good sleep, exercise, eating healthy, spending time in nature, engaging in a hobby, and praying, to name a few. But one focus of the article, “is happiness a choice?”, I found particularly interesting. One expert, Tal Ben-Shahar, co-founder of the online Happiness Studies Academy, said, “part of it is a choice, part of it is innate. . . . And the part that is a choice is the choice to work hard at it.”

This Spring Break, Jeanine and I decided to work at it. We took some rare downtime to discuss what makes us happy. Some of the questions discussed were, “what activities do we enjoy?”, “How can we prioritize them?”, “how do we want to spend our time?”, “where do we want to spend our time?”, “Who do we want to spend it with?” The conversation was enlightening. Not because the answers were surprising, but because we do not go through this exercise often enough.

With trees budding and green grass popping up around us, I am reminded that spring is a time of new growth. What a perfect time to pause and reflect on your own well-being! I hope that your Spring Break allows you some space to consider your personal wellness journey.


– Stephen


One Law Firm – 23,000 Pro Bono Hours

As a follow-up to our recent blog posts on the importance of Pro Bono,

We wanted to share with you the following article from Law360 on how the law firm of Lowenstein Sandler LLP clocked more than 23,000 hours of Pro Bono legal services in 2021:

How Lowenstein Managed 23K Pro Bono Hours Last Year


The Business Case for Pro Bono

By Stephen Rispoli

Lawyers are regularly asked to serve in their communities, and we hope lawyers do so with a servant’s heart. When asked to join local boards, help with civic needs, and take on pro bono cases, young lawyers can benefit beyond the personal satisfaction that comes with knowing they are doing these things for the right reasons. These efforts also can be helpful to their careers with intention and planning. In 2016, Matt Czimskey, one of my law school classmates, Jeanine Rispoli, my wife and the current President of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, and I presented at the ABA Young Lawyers Division Fall Conference. The topic for our presentation was “Growing Your Network: Ethics and Professional Conduct that Builds Relationships.” In the paper that was given to the audience, we highlight the importance of community service and three questions that every young lawyer should consider:

Community involvement should have a positive impact on your community and your career. Thus, there are three fundamental questions that you must ask yourself: (1) who am I and what do I want to do; (2) how can I best inform people who I am and what I do; and (3) what decisions must I make to make myself known and build a reputation for my practice?

The full paper can be read here.

There are always too many demands for our time. Our experience has been that by answering these questions and being intentional about serving the community, young lawyers can live up to the aspirational goals of the profession and benefit their careers at the same time. In Chapter 22 of Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, we give some further guidance to students about their service paths and some thoughts to consider as they explore options.

We’d like to hear from you about how you address this subject. When students ask you why they should get involved in the community, what do you tell them? Are they seeking aspirational reasons? The practical side of actually getting involved? Or do they want to know whether it is worth doing given their billable-hour minimums at the law firms? Tell us what you say in the comments below.