Saying something so others think of us as being caring or virtuous, is hardly a new phenomenon. Turns out, however, that actually doing something is often a different story.
The not-so-subtle cynicism that lies just below the surface of that kind of virtue signaling, however, is really troubling. If nothing else, it gives one pause to wonder and gives weight to the old saying that we should watch what others do, not simply listen to what they say (or promise, or pledge).
To date, there seems to have been a priority given to obtaining as many signatures as possible to the wellbeing Pledge (there are now more than 200), but precious little has been done verify that law firms, law schools and other institutions aligned with the legal profession are actually doing anything.
As it turns out, spending money and devoting other resources to making certain that lawyers, or lawyers in training, and staff are actually benefitting, is apparently complicated. As one managing partner recently said to me (confidentially), “Ask me to sign a wellbeing Pledge– that doesn’t cost anything. But don’t tell me I have to do anything to make it happen”.
Another way of virtue signaling is hiring someone to be the Director of Wellbeing, trumpeting that fact to anyone who’ll listen, but affording him/her little internal support, either financially or politically. Alternatively, there’s the classic gesture of virtue signaling– write a check for some other organization to spend on promoting wellbeing in the profession-at-large, but not in the office(s) of the check writer.
One hopes the legal profession doesn’t attempt to virtue signal it’s way around the current lawyer wellbeing movement, but there are plenty of indications that it’s trying to do exactly that. What a shame.
As the inner caveman in me might put it: “Virtue, good! Signaling, bad”!