As attorney wellness takes center stage across the nation—thanks in large part to the 2016 landmark study that revealed significant substance abuse and mental health issues among practicing attorneys–people are looking for ways to reduce stress in the legal industry.
Turns out that our pets might be able to help do just that.
In fact, research has shown that interacting with animals not only helps reduce anxiety and stress, but it can also lower blood pressure, improve our cardiovascular health, and have positive effects on our mental and physical health in many other ways. What’s more, people who bring their dogs to work experience lower stress levels throughout the work day, report higher levels of job satisfaction, and have a more positive perception of their employer.
And plenty of lawyers can attest to this.
Personal injury attorney Justin M. Lovely says his entire office is “always stressed” dealing with their heavy injury case load. That’s why Lovely and his partner decided to bring a puppy named Bizzy into the office to lighten the mood. Bizzy (yes, that’s a play on the word “busy”) comes into the office every day so the staff have plenty of opportunities to take breaks and enjoy his company. Bringing Bizzy into the office has been a “game changer” according to Lovely, and has provided significant and much-needed stress relief.
While Sherwin Arzani believes being a personal injury attorney is incredibly rewarding, like Lovely, he has found the job can also be very stressful and time-consuming. About a year ago, his firm, Citywide Law Group, decided to look into ways to make the office a more enjoyable and relaxing place. “We threw around several ideas but ultimately kept coming back to one idea: Pets,” Arzani recalls. “We turn to our pets when we’re stressed out or upset at home, so why not do the same at work?” Everyone loved the idea and today, the attorneys take turns bringing their dogs into the office. Meanwhile, the tension that once filled the office is greatly reduced, if not gone.
Pets in the office aren’t only soothing for lawyers, criminal defense attorney Ambrosio Rodriguez can vouch for how pets in the office benefits both attorneys and clients.
“Our attorneys work tirelessly and handle incredibly complicated legal matters,” he says. “When clients visit the office they’re often incredibly stressed out. Together, this can create the perfect storm for disaster.”
Bringing dogs into the office has worked wonders in creating a more ideal work environment at Rodriguez’s firm. “Attorneys can decompress with the dogs and enjoy their company, which helps minimize stress. This in turn pays off with our clients because when they visit the office, they walk into a more relaxed environment, which helps them feel more comfortable and leads to more open and honest conversations.”
Miami lawyer Boris Lavent is yet another believer—he considers bringing the dog into the office “a tremendous asset for the firm.”
“There’s no better remedy for a bad day than spending some quality time with my little four-legged companion, Igor,” he says. “When I’m in the office for a long stretch of time, I can get overwhelmed and stressed. However, with my dog by my side, it’s easy to take a break and get away for a little while. I’ll take him for a walk every few hours and use that time to clear my head. I’ve thought up some great legal strategies and ideas while walking around Miami with my dog in the middle of the day.”
As a personal injury lawyer, Lavent tends to represent clients who have suffered some pretty severe injuries. Physical and mental injuries can take their toll on a person and Lavent has found that having a dog in the office can help distract clients from the challenges with which they’re grappling. “When they walk through the door they can put their troubles and pain on hold and enjoy my spunky, furry sidekick,” says Lavent. “I’ve found that client satisfaction has increased significantly since my dog became a staple in the office. Igor makes me happy, and he makes my clients feel right at home.”
It makes sense, considering published studies that show that “paws have a definitive place in mental well-being.”
Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University agrees. “If you look at what animals do for people and how we interact with them, it’s not surprising at all,” he says.
“It’s a special day when your own pet is right there in the office with you,” adds Arzani. “They know how to make you feel better with a simple look or nudge.”
Kristin Johnson is an executive and corporate communications professional, and founder of KSJ Communications, a communications and public relations firm. She consults with a diverse roster of clients spanning the technology, professional services, financial services, public sector, consumer, and healthcare industries. In addition to Rocket Matter, Johnson writes for various other publications as well.