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The Face of ML Well: Krista Larson

April 17, 2019

When ML Well launched in March, Morgan Lewis introduced its first-ever director of employee well-being, Krista Larson. Armed with a degree in positive psychology and a spirit to match, Krista is charged with defining a firmwide approach to support the well-being of all Morgan Lewis legal and professional staff in their intellectual, physical, emotional, and occupational health. Here she shares more about her passion for this program, why she was thrilled Morgan Lewis created this novel role at a law firm, and what well-being means to her.

Tell me about your current position here.

In my position as director of employee well-being, I’m tasked with designing and implementing a custom well-being curriculum for everyone who works here. The launch of ML Well is the first major milestone in that effort. I’m looking forward to incorporating the firm’s holistic outlook on well-being into many of the programs that already exist here, as well as in some new and innovative ways. We have various academies and internal development initiatives throughout the year, including our new summer associate academy, where we can really weave in a focus and specific teachings on well-being into already successful events.

That sounds like a unique role at a law firm. How did it come about?

The legal profession as a whole is really starting to give more focus to this topic of well-being. The ABA task force published a report in April 2017 that served as a call to action for law firms to improve people’s abilities to thrive. They followed up in September 2018 asking law firms to sign a pledge making a commitment to improve lawyers’ well-being. Morgan Lewis was one of the inaugural signatories and senior leadership has taken that pledge seriously, including by creating my role as director of well-being.

What in your career history prepared you for this role?

I’ve spent my career working in management consulting, specifically around leadership and talent solutions. Working with organizations to design and deliver talent development curriculum is really the same as what I’m doing here, but now with a specific focus on well-being. I also have a master’s degree in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where I studied the science of well-being with the founder of the field, Dr. Martin Seligman. So my role at Morgan Lewis is a beautiful combination of my educational and professional background. I was thrilled to find a firm that was so forward-thinking and committed to its people.

What is positive psychology?

Positive psychology, in a nutshell, is the science of well-being. Now what is well-being? Well-being as a general concept can’t be defined as one thing—it’s like the weather. You can’t talk about the weather without discussing temperature, rain, wind, sun. Positive psychology takes that same holistic view of physical, social, community, emotional, and intellectual components of well-being, but explains them with scientific and empirical evidence. For example, we may all know that we feel sharper when we meditate, but positive psychology comes in with the science of why.

What are you most looking forward to with the rollout of ML Well?

One of our main goals is to create a platform where all Morgan Lewis employees can easily access tools, resources, news, and general information about well-being and well-being events. We want people to feel empowered to make well-being a personal priority. We launched an internal portal in mid-March as the beginning of this platform, where we will feature our curriculum as it’s built out. I look forward to making well-being really a core component of the culture here.

What does well-being mean to you?

Well-being is something related to, but bigger than, wellness. Wellness has really exploded in pop culture. While it’s great to see it become a focus for so many people, the way that it’s typically talked about is much narrower than how I conceptualize well-being. To me, well-being is a holistic view of how people can thrive in every dimension of their lives, including the usual physical and emotional definition of wellness, but also through a sense of purpose, community, and engagement.

How do you maintain your own well-being?

I feel really fortunate to be able to say that I’m thriving in life, but I don’t believe I’m doing anything extraordinary to achieve that. I think that’s an important point – well-being interventions don’t have to be major life changes, and what works best for me might not work best for the next person. In my master’s program, on the very first day, they drove home the point that there was no one-size-fits-all solution to being able to thrive. It’s up to each individual to find the tools that work best for them. For me, it’s a combination of a lot of small things. I practice mindfulness. When the weather permits, I bike to and from work in order to ensure I'm able to incorporate movement into each day. So, I take care of my mind and body but I also give a lot of attention to the important relationships in my life and have a job that is meaningful. I think another big part of well-being is mindset. It's not to say that we should always be optimistic—pessimism is important to have in certain situations—but I try to ask myself on a regular basis, “Is how I'm thinking about this, my internal dialogue, serving me or getting in my way?” More often than not, it helps focus my attention on what's going well than to ruminate over the negative.

What is one thing that always puts a smile on your face?

Without fail, I will always be smiling during a boat ride in the summer. I grew up in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, so that is my happy place. It can be a sail boat, canoe, kayak—as long as you get me on the water, I’m happy.