Australian lawyer named as commissioner on IBA Professional Wellbeing Commission

The International Bar Association has established a Professional Wellbeing Commission, with a lawyer and mentor from Leo Cussen Centre for Law being named as a commissioner.

Desi Vlahos (pictured) has been appointed as a commissioner for the new Professional Wellbeing Commission, a permanent body within the IBA dedicated to improving the wellbeing of lawyers and legal professionals around the world.

It will aim, the IBA said in a statement, to promote the importance of wellbeing as a core issue and priority for the global legal community, raise awareness of the challenges and stigma surrounding discussions of wellbeing, and make recommendations to change or modify the practical and regulatory environment of the legal profession at all levels, among other objectives.

The commission’s resources will likely include, the IBA went on, research, tools and materials relating to legal education, including producing best international guidelines for legal education providers.

“As the work of the commission develops, the role of bars and regulators, and wellbeing in the judiciary will become key areas of focus, among others to be determined,” it said.

The commission will be led by co-chairs Steven Richman and Deborah Enix-Ross, who will serve for two years, and be supported by 15 commissioners from around the globe — including Ms Vlahos — who will serve from anywhere between one to five years each.

In a joint statement, the co-chairs said: “The wellbeing challenges faced by the profession seem to be growing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is vital that any response to this crisis is coordinated at a global level, and so we look forward to working with our commissioners, and dedicated IBA staff, to make a difference to lawyers and other legal professionals wherever they may be in the world.

“We are extremely excited by the opportunity to continue the great work of the IBA presidential wellbeing taskforce, initiated by a former IBA president, Horacio Bernardes Neto. Our hopes for the success of the commission are high, and we are honoured to be entrusted with its launch.”

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly about her appointment, Ms Vlahos said that it is “an honour and delight” to become a commissioner on the newly established body.

“The commission, in its mandate, aims to take a sector-wide focus on wellbeing in the legal profession, including the role of law and bar societies, regulators and the judiciary. As the Australian commissioner, I feel empowered to continue to raise awareness and share best practice with respect to the recent regulatory changes around psychological health and safety in Australia, highlighting the importance of taking an integrated approach to workplace mental health,” she proclaimed.

“Purpose-driven organisations that foster cultures reflecting the highest standards of wellbeing will be sustainable in the long term and weather future uncertainty.”