Australia: Wellness - the key to good health in law

Last Updated: 30 June 2016
Article by Mary Digiglio

At Swaab Attorneys, we want to set the benchmark for bringing good people together. We say it on our website. We want Swaab to be a workplace they not only enjoy, but which inspires great work and personal and professional growth.

But, as Managing Partner, I want to do more than talk.

I understand that to keep our talented people happy we will work hard to ensure they are being challenged but, more importantly, that they are healthy - physically and mentally. Keeping well means our talented people can be fit to do more than just interesting work, they will be energetic and enthusiastic about doing a good job and achieving great outcomes for clients.

Wellness in the workplace is the key and I am committed to being a leader in wellness in the law. It is such a big issue in our profession and one about which not much was said for a long time.

I think there's been a perception that if you're a lawyer and you're having some emotional or mental challenges, it might somehow be reflected in the quality of your work.

Well, we certainly have moved a long way from that attitude, and the conversation certainly has opened up for everyone to share their own personal stories. Everyone has an experience to share and the more we talk about keeping well, the better it will be for us all.

To that end, I am very proud of my involvement in the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation – formed in honour of Tristan, a bright and talented young lawyer and comedian who we lost to mental health issues.

I consider how lucky I am to have a great support network around me – from my family through to my colleagues and to networks beyond. What I want to do is ensure I give strength to others, to help them build the same support networks, remembering that support does not always come from above.

My biggest supporters on a day-to-day basis are the people in my practice group and on the management team, who exercise care, compassion, respect and integrity every single day.

When we consider bringing new people into the Swaab community, the first consideration always is the cultural fit. We want to ensure that our people are the right fit for our professional environment.

This is a firm with 80 people, from partners to support staff, and I want to ensure they are happy and enjoy coming in to work every morning. Yes, this is a commercial business and we have to make money.

Healthy people, means a healthy practice. It gives clients confidence, because if the staff are satisfied, so are they.

Two key initiatives within the firm, are examples of us putting wellness front and centre:

  1. The Swaab Brand of Service: I introduced this initiative when I became Managing Partner in 2014, as a framework for behaviour. It serves as a reminder to all of us about how we interact and respond to each other both inside and outside the practice. Everyone has embraced the philosophy and it is certainly setting an even higher standard of service – we meet our colleague's needs as well as meeting the needs of our clients.
  2. The Thrive Program: This is a more recent example of the firm giving staff the opportunity to join a mindfulness program, specially designed for us at Swaab. It gives us all another way of considering how we work and live, and gives us tools to deal with professional and personal challenges. I'm so pleased to see evidence of the impact it is having among our staff, who discuss the techniques they have learned to take a break, or clear their mind, or gain some perspective and to enjoy "quiet time". The feedback was so awesome we introduced a second program to involve more staff!

In summary, I am proud of the way we have developed a culture of wellness within our Swaab community. If we can enable everyone to be emotionally and mentally in a healthy place, it permeates every aspect of their lives – client relationships, colleague relationships, personal relationships. At the end of the day it's all about people. It sounds so very simple, but often it's the simple things in life that have the greatest impact.

For more information, please contact:

Mary Digiglio, Managing Partner
Phone: +61 2 9233 5544
Email: MED@SWAAB.COM.AU

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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