Five for Friday #147: Under Pressure

Under Pressure.

I usually use the intro to the quiz to share a memory triggered by the week’s number.

Not today.

The staggering rates at which lawyers suffer from behavioral health issues have the profession at a crossroads.  To borrow a phrase, we are Under Pressure.  More precisely, the pressures on lawyers are not only driving lawyers from the profession, they’re killing lawyers.

Our response, or lack thereof, will shape the profession for decades.

Let me back up.

I’ve blogged , some have told me “ad nauseam,” on lawyer wellness.  My first post, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyerswas in May 2016.  My most recent was two days ago: Wellness Wednesday: an action plan.  There were at least 24 in the interim.

If the seemingly endless posts bother you, I’m not sorry.

Available data suggests that approximately 500 of Vermont’s licensed, employed lawyers are problem drinkers.  At least as many have likely suffered from problem anxiety or  problem depression within the past year.

I know, for a fact, that in the past 3 years, as many of Vermont’s licensed, employed lawyers have had their law licenses transferred to disability inactive status as did in the preceding 15 years.

I know, for a fact, that at least 5 of Vermont’s licensed, employed lawyers have taken their own lives since 2014.  I also know, for a fact, that at least 1 other died of alcohol abuse.

I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that we’re killing ourselves.

What’s this got to do with ethics?  Pretty much everything.

The first of the Rules of Professional Conduct requires lawyers to provide clients with competent representation.  Here’s a quote from last summer’s report of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being:

  • “To be a good lawyer, one has to be a healthy lawyer.  Sadly, our profession is falling short when it comes to well-being.  The two studies referenced above reveal that too many lawyers and law students experience chronic stress and high rates of depression and substance abuse.  These findings are incompatible with a sustainable legal profession, and they raise troubling implications for many lawyers’ basic competence.” (emphasis added).

Last week’s quiz referenced James Valente’s fantastically competent rendition of the minutes of the Windham County Bar Association’s 2018 Annual Meeting sung to the tune of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.  Quite cleverly, a team of lawyers submitted answers to  the quiz using the team name Under Pressure.  

(For those of you who don’t know, Under Pressure is a song by Queen and David Bowie.  The official video is here.  The version with the Freddie I remember is here.)

Last night, reflecting on what to post today, I listened to music. As I navigated my Amazon Music app, I stumbled across “Top Songs in Prime.”  Scrolling thru, there, at #88, was Under Pressure.  I’d have listened anyway, because I love the song.  Still, seeing the title made me think of last week’s quiz.

I like to sing along when I listen to music.  And I like to be right.  Exactly right.  So, despite having listened (and sung along) to Under Pressure countless times in my life, I Googled the lyrics.

Until last night, I’d listened, but never heard. The lyrics almost perfectly describe the pressures that the legal profession is facing.

For example:

It’s the terror of knowing
What the world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming ‘Let me out’

That’s what 5 suicides are.

Next:

Turned away from it all like a blind man.
Sat on a fence, but it don’t work.

That’s what we’ve done for years. Ignored the problem.  Sat on the fence.

Neither works. Neither helps.

Here’s the part that most struck me:

‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word,
And love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night,
And love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves.
This is our last dance.
This is our last dance.
This is ourselves.

The Vermont Commission on the Well-Being of the Legal Profession recently released its State Action Plan.  Please read it.

It’s time to fund a Lawyers Assistance Program.

I dare you to care for the lawyers who are on the edge of the night.  The lawyers who, due to the stigma we’ve imposed, are too afraid to ask for help. If you don’t think the stigma is real, read this.

I dare you to change the way we think about caring about ourselves as a profession.

I dare you to love your fellow lawyers.

Our response the State Action Plan presents a chance to help to relieve the pressure.

We have to take the chance.  Because the problem?  This is ourselves.  And, absent action, this opportunity to act might be our last dance.

Under pressure.

Image result for freddie mercury and david bowie together

Onto the quiz.

Rules

  • None.  Open book, open search engine, text/phone/email-a-friend.
  • Exception – but one that is loosely enforced – #5 (“loosely” = “aspirational”)
  • Unless stated otherwise, the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct apply
  • Team entries welcome, creative team names even more welcome.
  • E-mail answers to michael.kennedy@vermont.gov
  • I’ll post the answers & Honor Roll on Monday
  • Please don’t use the “comment” feature to post your answers
  • Please consider sharing the quiz with friends & colleagues
  • Please consider sharing the quiz on social media.  Hashtag it – #fiveforfriday

Question 1

In Vermont, if a prospective client meets with but does not retain a lawyer, the lawyer’s duty of loyalty is relaxed vis-à-vis the client, but another duty is not.

Which duty?

Question 2

There’s a rule that prohibits “qualitative comparisons” that cannot be factually substantiated.  A disciplinary prosecution under the rule is most likely to involve:

  • A.  a frivolous pleading
  • B.  a statement made during closing argument in a jury trial
  • C.  extrajudicial statements made to the press that are likely to prejudice an adjudicative proceeding
  • D.  attorney advertising

Question 3

With respect to the Rules of Professional Conduct, the phrase “acting through its duly authorized constituents” is in the rule on:

  • A.  the duties when representing an organization
  • B.  lawyers holding public office
  • C.  firm names & letterhead
  • D.  the unauthorized practice of law

Question 4

Here are 2 things I mentioned at CLE:

  1. last minute changes to wire instructions;
  2. a prospective out of state client who claims to be owed money by a Vermonter, and who only communicates with you by e-mail

What topic was I discussing?

Question 5 (Fill in the blank)

I often blog about Rule 1.1’s duty of competence.

Some might argue that when the answer is relevant to a witness’s credibility, competence includes knowing how long it takes to cook grits .

Proponents of that theory would assert that Vincent Gambini complied with Rule 1.1 by asking that “so, Mr. Tipton, how could it take you 5 minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire grit eating world __________ minutes?”

I got no more use for this guy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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