Reducing stigma and promoting wellness in the legal industry

To advance and excel in the extremely competitive legal field, attorneys and legal professionals are pressured to work long hours, handle substantial workloads and exhibit a high degree of professionalism when dealing with complex issues. Although their role is undeniably vital, the industry is facing growing criticism for the negative impact its demanding work environment can have on the wellness and mental health of those working in it.

The Legal Marketing Association’s Well-being Committee was created to advocate for healthy work environments, reduce mental health stigma and provide resources to increase well-being and support the success of legal marketing professionals. Cynthia Voth, who currently serves as the LMA West Region president and formerly served as the President of the LMA International Board of Directors, was a key player in launching the committee. 

In this episode of “Spill the Ink,” host Michelle Calcote King interviews Cynthia, discussing why the committee was founded and how it helps industry professionals. They also talk about the different ways Cynthia’s law firm is making resources available to its employees and why normalizing conversations about mental health is critical to the industry’s survival.

Here's a glimpse of what you'll learn

  • How the Legal Marketing Association's Well-being Committee is driving change and promoting wellness

  • The legal industry's mental health stigmas and strategies for law firms to overcome them

  • How Miller Nash LLP is making wellness resources available to its attorneys and professionals

  • Advice for cultivating a culture of wellness in law firms

About our featured guest

Cynthia Voth is an experienced legal marketer and law firm administrator with a passion for collaborating with and coaching attorneys on business development and delivering excellent client service. She is the Chief Client Officer at Miller Nash LLP. Dedicated to the advancement of the legal profession, Cynthia serves as the 2023 Legal Marketing Association West Region president, previously served as the 2019 president of the LMA International Board of Directors and has been part of numerous committees, including as a founding member of the LMA Well-being Committee.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by Reputation Ink.

Founded by Michelle Calcote King, Reputation Ink is a public relations and content marketing agency that serves professional services firms of all shapes and sizes across the United States, including corporate law firms and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms. 

Reputation Ink understands how sophisticated corporate buyers find and select professional services firms. For more than a decade, they have helped firms grow through thought leadership-fueled strategies, including public relations, content marketing, video marketing, social media, podcasting, marketing strategy services and more.

To learn more, visit or email them at today.


[00:00:00] Cynthia Voth: I think there's been this long-standing feeling that to talk about your mental well-being is a weakness. It's not. It's a strength.


[00:00:11]: Welcome to “Spill the Ink,” a podcast by Reputation Ink where we feature experts in growth and brand visibility for law firms and architecture, engineering and construction firms. Now, let's get started with the show.


[00:00:28] Michelle Calcote King: Hey, everyone, and welcome to “Spill the Ink.” I'm Michelle Calcote King, I'm your host, and I'm also the principal and president of Reputation Ink. We're a public relations and content marketing agency for law firms and other professional services firms. To learn more, go to

 In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, at “Spill the Ink,” we're spending the entire month of May focusing on conversations that help law firms prevent and address burnout, stress and anxiety, and generally support well-being in this demanding industry.

A few years ago, the Legal Marketing Association announced a Well-Being Committee to support legal professionals in promoting mental health and creating healthy work environments. Cynthia Voth is a former LMA president, and she was a key player in launching the Well-Being Committee in 2019. I am delighted to welcome her on today's episode to talk about such an important topic and learn from her experiences. Thanks for joining me today.

[00:01:27] Cynthia: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

[00:01:29] Michelle: Yes, I'm excited to talk to you. I'd love, if you don't mind, introduce to our listeners your role and your experience in the legal industry.

[00:01:42] Cynthia: Sure. Yes. I am with a firm based in the Northwest, Miller Nash. We're about 150 attorneys. My role is chief client officer. I am basically chief operating officer but with a client development focus, and client service focus. My long professional career has been in marketing and business development or client development, and marketers tend to be pretty capable people, and over time, you just take on more responsibility. Next thing you know, you're managing the law firm. That's been my, in a nutshell, trajectory of my career.

I've been a long-standing supporter and volunteer for the Legal Marketing Association. I've served in a number of leadership roles. As you mentioned, I served as president of the International Board of Directors in 2019. I'm currently serving as the West Region president, so I came back for more. I love our association so much that doing another tour of duty for the amazing West Region, but that, in a nutshell, is my background, and I'm based in Seattle, Washington, if the people care about that sort of thing.

[00:02:56] Michelle: Yes, I noticed the difference here. I got my Florida short sleeves on and you're bundled up there.

[00:03:01] Cynthia: I'm in fleece with my Patagonia puffy behind me. It's quite cold. I'm waiting for spring to arrive. 

[00:03:07] Michelle: If you can talk to us first about the stigma surrounding mental health in the legal profession. Why is there the stigma?

[00:03:19] Cynthia: Yes, I'm sure there's a lot of different reasons. I think culturally, there's just stigma about mental health. Thankfully, it's getting better. People are normalizing conversations about mental well-being. They're being a lot more forthright. I feel like there's a lot more acceptance than even five years ago. I think the legal profession is high demand and it's a critical profession. Lawyers are trained to find what's wrong with— They are actually drawn probably, to the profession because their brains are wired to find the nuances, the errors in the argument, the errors in the document.Sadly, it also extends to the errors in people. What's wrong with the firm? What's wrong with people? They don't like to show weakness. There's a high level of competitiveness. 

All of those things don't really lend to a nurturing environment that's accepting and open when it comes to the struggles that people may have. I think there's been this long-standing feeling that to talk about your mental well-being is a weakness. It's not. It's a strength. I think there are shifts happening, but I think historically, they just haven't been there from the staff side. That's for attorneys. Right?We've seen the ABA come up with their well-being pledge, and they've had that for several years. It's been very focused on the attorney side of the equation, and I think the staff side at law firms, there's been a long-standing divide. Attorneys sometimes use the word non-attorney. Right?

[00:04:59] Michelle: Right.

[00:05:01] Cynthia: We, in the legal professionals' sector have been using a term that is “not staff,” because we also are important for the success of a law firm. There are pressures that we feel because there are long-standing hierarchy differences. Staff are not treated very well, in some firms. They're not as respected in some firms. Not all firms, but in some. Throughout the course of my career at one point supervised legal assistance and paralegals, and I was shocked at how many people told me in interviews that they had had staplers thrown at them by attorneys in the course of their career. That's abuse. That's physical abuse.

[00:05:50] Michelle: I have heard the same stories, yes.

[00:05:52] Cynthia: Yes, and they were true. People aren't making this thing up. To work in an environment— I'm not saying all firms are like that, but there's definitely real struggles and pressures and abuses and transgressions that happen, which is just incredibly unhealthy. We're not supposed to be subjected to that on a regular basis. I think that has also added to some of that because when that has been accepted behavior for people, then if someone complains or— It's not even complaining, just flags, "I've had this abusive thing happen to me," then sometimes the reception is not, "Oh, my gosh, I can't believe that. We will never do that again."That's not always been the response from law firms. It's like, "Oh, well, that's just so and so." Right? That's just what they do. That's not okay. 

I think that has also added to the stigma, because it's don't talk about that sort of thing. Yes, there's a real need to normalize the conversations and create more compassionate, supportive workplaces everywhere in the world butI think, and particularly, I think the legal profession has a lot of work to do.

[00:07:08] Michelle: It reminds me of thinking about how extending this conversation, not just from attorneys to the professionals that work in firms, is that hurt people hurt people. You've got two groups of people there, and if you don't address one or the other, it's going to continue. 

Let's talk about the Well-being Committee. Why that was founded, and what were some of the goals?

[00:07:33] Cynthia: Yes. Along the lines of what I was just sharing, I was hearing from a number of our members the pressures that they face. To be real honest, we lost some beloved members of our community who committed suicide, and nobody knew. I'm not saying the job is what caused them to do that, but it was probably a contributing factor. It's just one of those things where when you know people are struggling, but they don't always have the support or the environment to reach out. It inspired me to address that issue.

The Legal Marketing Association clearly focuses on supporting professionals within law firms, business professionals within law firms, to help grow marketing, client development, business development. Part of being successful in your job is having that sense of well-being. It felt like an area where the association could put some energy and resources to normalize conversations, and to really see if we could give people resources and support so that they wouldn't feel alone or they wouldn't feel that stigma, and hopefully, we wouldn't lose any further members to suicide.I know it's more complicated than that, but if you don't try, if you don't offer something up there, then nothing's going to improve or change. Even if it made a difference in one person's life, that there's a resource they didn't know they had, or a stigma that got taken away because it's like, "Oh, I've heard this person talk about their depression struggles,” then that to me is a success. Honestly, the response from people was amazing. It was just this really wonderful, "Oh, my gosh, I want to be a part of that. I'm so thankful that we're bringing this into the conversation."

We had Renee Branson and Ryan King as our initial co-chairs, and now we have Megan Hill and Terry Isner, who are co-chairing that committee, but just really passionate, beautiful people who really want to help others. It just was this incredibly supported and wonderfully embraced initiative.

[00:10:07] Michelle: Yes. I love that. I didn't know Terry was doing that. I'm a former Jaffe-ite. So, yes, good friends with Terry.

[00:10:12] Cynthia: There you go. He's that. He's the co-chair. He was co-chair last year. He is co-chair this year.

[00:10:17] Michelle: That's great.

[00:10:18] Cynthia: Yes, really excited to have him part of it.

[00:10:20] Michelle: It's a good fit. Tell me about, what are some of the initiatives that the committee tackles?

[00:10:25] Cynthia: A lot of programming, I think, normalizing the conversation. Like making sure that people— I think just even talking about mental health and well-being is powerful in and of itself because when we don't talk about things, then people feel like there's shame there. A lot of programming; the well-being Wednesdays; and making sure that the events that are hosted include well-being elements. Rooms that you can go to if you need to just take a breather. Just even morning yoga sessions or things like that. Little things that you can do for self-care. Well-being… It's normalizing conversations, but it's also doing things for yourself to make sure that you are physically and mentally feeling fit.The committee has worked that into a number of events. 

They're working on a well-being pledge just to help educate, much like the ABA pledge. That's still in the works, and I'm not quite sure the status of it, but I'm hopeful and optimistic that we will have that as a toolkit for folks to bring back to their firms. So, yeah, a number of different fronts. There's, honestly, so many things. 

One of the things that we actually did immediately was a really wonderful resource page on the website. That was largely, it was put together by the committee, but Renee Branson was really a driving force because she just had a wealth of resources.

For those who haven't visited the website, most of our content is behind a paywall. It's a professional association, you need to be a member to access all of that. We were really adamant, for the well-being work, to put that in front of the paywall, so it would be free for anyone to use. I just encourage everyone, whether you're a member or not — I do think it's a great association to encourage membership, but if you're just looking for a really great list of resources, I would definitely go to and check out the Well-Being Committee page and the resources listed there.

[00:12:27] Michelle: Thank you. You actually just got ahead of one of my questions, was about, where can we point people to resources? That's fantastic. 

If you're a law firm leader and you know this is something that you want to tackle for your own firm, you want to address it. What are some ways that firms can support mental health in their firms?

[00:12:49] Cynthia: I'll use our firm as an example. I think trying to normalize the conversation. Again, I can't impress that enough. I think there's so much stigma and shame, and I think people need to know that the folks they admire, who seem so strong and put together, have their own struggles, too. It makes you feel less isolated and alone. It gives you resources to go to. I think having that be part of a conversation. We've held firm meetings where I've had pretty successful firm partners talk about their own depression.

[00:13:21] Michelle: That's great.

[00:13:21] Cynthia: Talk about the struggles they have, talk about being on medication, and normalizing that so that there isn't stigma that sometimes I think people think it's a crutch or it's a weakness if you have to take medication. Blood chemistry is a really complex thing. Sometimes you need medication to help you out, and that's okay. We've done things like given some billable credit for a well-being day, just to make sure that people know we value taking time to take care of yourself.It's a day, so I'm not saying it's a month, but it's a gesture of making sure people know that's important, too, and you should invest in yourself, and the firm will give you some billable credit for those timekeepers out there. 

For Valentine's Day last year, we signed onto the Calm app for our firm. There's corporate memberships to Calm Premium that you can do, and so that offers meditation, and sleep assistance, and all of the things. We gifted that to everybody as a gesture of caring and they can share it with their families. They can have up to five logins on this Calm app. It's really a valuable resource for our folks.

[00:14:43] Michelle: It's a great idea.

[00:14:44] Cynthia: We've had some people who have never meditated before. If you've never meditated and you're like, "Oh, I can't meditate." I would encourage you to try guided meditation. Sitting there in your own brain without someone talking you through, or some calming music can be really tough, especially if you're in the legal profession. It's hard to get the wheels to stop spinning, but I have been trying guided meditation for some time, and I will say it does help my brain quite a bit. There's so much research out there about the physiological and mental benefits of meditating regularly and getting your brain into that state.

That was something we wanted to invest in. I think it's knowing your firm culture and community and making gestures and bringing it forward to people. It's not just an EAP program. It's important to have an EAP program that has resources, but I think it's taking those extra touches to bring it into conversation. I've seen some firms who have even normalized it by having backgrounds that have statements and slogans about normalizing talking about well-being and health, and that's just part of what they put front forward.

I think it's really knowing your firm and your culture and working with your executive committees or your C-suite or whoever is going to set the tone and make decisions. Then really making gestures and staying with it. I think that will help move the needle for people feeling cared for and feeling like they're not alone, and there isn't that stigma there. They're not going to get penalized if they speak their truth.

[00:16:21] Michelle: Do you feel like this is really taking hold in the industry, or is there quite a ways to go? I know there was that PowerPoint slide that got a lot of attention at an Am Law 100 firm, where it was basically like, "Hey, you're in the big leagues. This is your life 24/7."

[00:16:42] Cynthia: Suck it up.

[00:16:42] Michelle: Suck it up, buttercup. Yes, basically. What's your sense of where the industry is right now with all of this?

[00:16:52] Cynthia: There are surveys out there, and I think the industry still has a ways to go. I think some firms have made some good inroads, but there isn't— You read some of the horror stories. There was that horror story chain of the woman who took family leave to have a baby and some of the abuse that was thrown on her.

[00:17:16] Michelle: Oh, I missed that one.

[00:17:17] Cynthia: I can't remember it. It got a lot of play on the social media for a while. People, there is some old-school mindsets out there. It was the suck it up or the walk it off. I will say my age, I'm 53—No, I'm 52. I'm not 53 yet. I will be 53.I came up in an era where it was walk it off, don't talk about it. That's weak. Don't be weak. Firms are still led largely by some boomers, and a little bit of Gen Xers. I'm a Gen Xer, and I feel like we swing in between the Millennials and are a little more capable and willing to speak our truths, but I think there's a lot of management that still holds to that old-school model.

I do think the billable hour model, and the pace of law firms as a business model do lend to some challenges, but I think people are brilliant, and they're creative, and if they bring a level of care and passion to it, we can solve any challenges. We can remove stigma and support people's mental well-being while still having successful business.

[00:18:33] Michelle: Right.

[00:18:34] Cynthia: I would argue, it would make our businesses more successful. When people are happy, and they feel cared for, and they are feeling well, they will perform better, they'll be more creative; cognitively, they function at a higher level—

[00:18:47] Michelle: Yes, 100%.

[00:18:48] Cynthia: —than if they're feeling abused and they feel like, "The firm's sucking the marrow out of my bones." I do think there is a real strong business case to be made for firms to really embrace making this part of their culture. For everybody, not just for their timekeepers, but for all of their business professionals, because people have choices of where they can work, and life is short, and the world is pretty dark and hard right now. We just came out of a pandemic. That was brutal. The environment's not in very good shape.There's a lot of pressures out there where people are questioning how they spend their time and their days and recognizing that life's short. If we can, as an industry, make improvements so that the quality of people's life and emotional well-being is better, then our industry will be stronger for it.

[00:19:41] Michelle: Yes. Absolutely. You're absolutely right. The research supports that this is good for business. I remember when I first started managing people reading about how being a boss you need to approach it almost like when you're on an airplane and they say to take the oxygen mask first and help those around you. You can't be a good, effective boss if you yourself are unhealthy. Get your own house in order first. And we've all worked for that unhealthy boss. It's not fun.

[00:20:11] Cynthia: No, it's not. As you said, unhappy people or injured people injure or bring misery to others. What does it look like if people are in a better head space? You will be a better manager. You will retain your talent. Your teams will go to bat for you because you've shown that you care and that their life and their well-being is important to you. That's how you create great teams. 

Oh, gesundheit.

[00:20:44] Michelle: Thank you.

[00:20:45] Cynthia: You're welcome.

[00:20:46] Michelle: I sneezed. I muted it though. 

That's great. You had mentioned the Legal Marketing Association's support page. If you're not a member of the Legal Marketing Association, are there other resources out there that you can think of?

[00:21:02] Cynthia: Yes. Like I said, our support page is in front of the paywall, so you don't have to be a member. I think that's a pretty nice list of websites and places you can go to. 

I mean, the ABA has their well-being pledge, so if we're looking at legal-specific places, I think that's another resource. Our firm just signed on to that. I'm looking forward to bringing that front forward. There are things in there, I will say, that I think firms need to focus on, like not making alcohol front forward the centerpiece of all events. 

[00:21:34] Michelle: Right. Yes, right.

[00:21:37] Cynthia: In terms of other resources, I guess I kind of lean on those largely for the law firm, just because I'm trying to stay in that space where I bring acceptance. That's been my go-to. I know there are a lot of places out there

[00:21:53] Michelle: That would be a great place to start. Both of those. Absolutely. 

Before we go, I'd like to ask, if there's one lesson that law firm leaders can take from this conversation, what would it be?

[00:22:07] Cynthia: I think it is normalize the conversation. Reduce the stigma. We all have a responsibility to reduce that stigma. You don't realize how some offhanded comments can make people feel shame about the things that they're feeling, and if we're going to create an environment that is supportive and people can thrive, then I think we really need to create that level of acceptance and normalcy so that everybody is comfortable to speak their truth.

[00:22:40] Michelle: Yes, I love that, because it is. It's just such a vital part of the whole conversation, being able to talk about it and feeling comfortable talking about it. Absolutely.

[00:22:47] Cynthia: It costs firms nothing to do that. It costs you nothing. You don't have to pay for a fancy program or buy some expensive things to install into the offices. It's not easy for some people to do it, but it can be easy once you start that conversation and people don't feel like they're going to be judged, or penalized, or stigmatized for speaking their truth.

[00:23:19] Michelle: Right. Yes. Well, thank you so much. 

We've been talking to Cynthia Voth — boy, I just got tongue twisted there — Of Miller Nash. Cynthia, if people want to just reach out and talk to you more about this subject, what's the best way for them to do that?

[00:23:32] Cynthia: I'm on our firm website, so my email address is there, and my phone number. It's just I'm on social media. I'm on social media, so you can reach out to me on LinkedIn. Instagram is all about hiking for me. That's my well-being happy space. If you want some beautiful pictures of the Northwest, and some hiking, and some dog photos, you can follow me there. I haven't been super active on Twitter, to be honest. I gave up on it a few years ago. I'm on there, but—

[00:24:04] Michelle: Yes. I'm the same way.

[00:24:05] Cynthia: —I'd reach out on Insta or LinkedIn. Yes. Those are great. I welcome anyone to reach out. I think this is such an important conversation. I think we as an industry, we as individuals can have a huge impact on our industry and within our organization. Anyone who wants to just talk about it, start a movement, or whatever, I'm happy to support and talk about the subject because I think it really has the ability to change people's lives and honestly, even potentially save people's lives. That's the best way we can spend our energy.

[00:24:40] Michelle: Yes. Well, thank you so much.

[00:24:41] Cynthia: You're welcome. Thank you very much for having me.


[00:24:46]: Thanks for listening to “Spill the Ink,” a podcast by Reputation Ink. We'll see you again next time, and be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.



Featured Guest

Cynthia Voth

Miller Nash LLP


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