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Family, The Profession

Law firm wellness room fosters productive, less stressful environment

Toronto-area family lawyer Nicolle Kopping-Pavars makes a strong case for “wellness rooms” at law offices.

“A wellness room is a place where lawyers can take a break to get their moment of space, to get their moment of sanity,” says Kopping-Pavars, a proponent of mindfulness training for legal professionals.

A wellness room has the single purpose of fostering wellness and mindfulness. Once inside, a lawyer should not be disturbed. 

“It’s a peaceful, serene, calm, mindful space that is not associated with anything that happens outside of those four walls,” says Kopping-Pavars, who focuses her practice on collaborative family law, mediation and fertility law. 

Kopping-Pavars, principal of NKP Law, holds weekly “meditation Mondays” in her office, where she leads other lawyers in sessions lasting 10 to 15 minutes. To create a calm atmosphere, she closes her office blinds and lights incense and candles. But it’s not an ideal location, she says.

“It’s still my office, essentially, at the end of the day,” Kopping-Pavars explains. “It’s not really the most conducive place."

Although some of the lawyers who now attend the meditations were initially skeptical about meditation, they have come around, she says. “Every single one of them recognizes the need for a wellness room and we are now looking to create this space within our premises. They’ve seen the benefits of having a place to come together to practise mindfulness and meditation as a community,” she says. 

Meditation allows you to go into yourself and examine what you’re feeling, she says.

“The whole energy changes,” she explains. “It’s soft. It’s quiet. It’s compassionate and the lawyers honestly just look at each other as though they could conquer anything because they’ve had that time just to de-stress, even if it’s only for a five-minute meditation.”

Kopping-Pavars envisions the wellness room as having subdued, subtle lighting and inviting decor. It would be soundproof, free of clutter and comfortable. It would contain mats, cushions and a few chairs. Headphones and sound equipment would be available for listening to talks on mindfulness. Candles and incense would be set out. Plants could be added to enhance the atmosphere.

Some wellness centres even include an indoor water fountain or a mini Zen garden with its calming raked sand or gravel, she says.

“The room would be designed and created for lawyers’ mental wellness, emotional wellness and mindfulness,” she says. “It’s like a mini-vacation during your workday.”

The wellness room can be occupied by several people at a time but would be a “no zone” for chatter, business and clutter, she adds. “No one knocks on the door and says, ‘I know you’re really busy but can you just come out? There’s a client here.’”

Kopping-Pavars is convinced there is a real interest in the profession around the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. She recently sent an email to 100 colleagues asking if they would be interested in attending two-hour classes on mindfulness she would be conducting every week for a period of five weeks — a pilot project to show the Law Society of Upper Canada that the demand exists.

“Within half an hour I had 15 lawyers signing up,” she says. “I was overwhelmed with the amount of support that I got. So lawyers want this because they recognize there’s a problem here.”

Kopping-Pavars is not sure if other law firms will follow in setting up a wellness room. “But I hope that it will catch on because there is no negative side to this,” she says.

The worst that could happen is the wellness room doesn't work out and the law firm changes it back to an office, she says.

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