Reach Out

It’s going to take me 3 or 4 paragraphs to get to my point.  Bear with me.

Earlier this week, I noticed a spike in blog traffic.  It coincided with a “hey, how are you doing?” email that the VBA’s Covid-19 Committee sent to the bar.  The email included a link to this blog’s tab HELP: Resources for Assistance & Recovery  As soon as the email went out, visits to the tab skyrocketed.

Important Aside! I am not able to discern WHO visited a particular page.  I’m only able to see the number of visits that each post and tab receive.

Anyhow, the tab includes links far and wide.  Lots got clicks.  From the resource page published by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, to my post Coping With Coronavirus-Related Stressto the proactive and socially focused tips in the ABA’s Well-Being Toolkit for Legal Employers in a Nutshell.

My point: the Committee’s email caused people to reach out.

Not only via clicking the link, but by contacting me.  Two lawyers called for no other reason than to chat, each mentioning that it’s good to have someone to talk to, if only for a few minutes during otherwise stressful times.  If that’s you, reach out whenever you want.

And don’t forget to reach out to others.  Last year, I posted Wellness Wednesday: Reach out, check in.  Prompted by a tip from Andrew Manitsky, I quoted from an op-ed that had run in the New York Times: I Had Completely Lost the Knack for Staying Alive I highlighted a tip from the author.  Referring to spring’s annual arrival, she wrote:

  • It brings new pleasures by the week — asparagus in the farmers’ market, excitable toddlers in the playgrounds — and also a reminder to try to reach out to people who have lost someone recently, or those who seem withdrawn. They may need to be given a chance to talk about how they’re doing, and if things are very bad, encouraged to get the professional support they need. I can confirm that with time, help and love, things get better.” (emphasis added).

There are times when it’s not necessary to over complicate things.  Each one of us can be our own lawyer assistance program.  If someone you know has withdrawn, maybe all they need is chance to say “hey, thanks for thinking of me.”  Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

Finally, don’t forget about your own proactive well-being.  The things that each of us can do to help prevent us from having to access recovery resources.  For more on this, check out my National Lawyer Well-Being Week posts and videos.

Whether for yourself or to someone you know, reach out.  It’ll make a difference.

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Emotional IQ: W.I.N.

It’s National Lawyer Well-Being Week.  Spurred by the joint efforts of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, the ABA’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, and the Well-Being Committee of the ABA’s Law Practice Division, the week’s aim “is to raise awareness and encourage action across the profession to improve well-being for lawyers and their support teams.”

Each day has a different theme.  Today’s theme is “Feel Well.”  The goal is to remind lawyers that our emotions impact wellness.  The specific topic is way outside my lane and one best reserved for the experts.  Still, I shared some thoughts in this video.  In particular, I believe that if we remember “what’s important now,” we’ll do well to increase our emotional health.

For resources from the experts, go here.

Virtual Pub Quiz Tonight!

It’s Lawyer Well-Being Week!  Spurred by the joint efforts of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, the ABA’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, and the Well-Being Committee of the ABA’s Law Practice Division, the week’s aim “is to raise awareness and encourage action across the profession to improve well-being for lawyers and their support teams.”

Each day has a different theme.  Today’s is “Social Wellness.”  The goal is to focus on the importance of forging social connections within a community.  To provide an opportunity to do so, albeit virtually, I’m live streaming a legal ethics pub quiz.

The questions are officially done!  Thank goodness. My wellness was in issue.  Now I need to hope I don’t botch the live stream.  Tech incompetence would not be good for my well-being. 70% of the questions focus on the Rules of Professional Conduct.  30% are a loose mix of legal ethics in pop culture, the United States Constitution, and May 7 in History.

The skinny:

  • Where:  VTBarCounsel YouTube Channel
  • When:  7:00 PM Eastern
  • How long:  approximately 45 minutes or 5 rounds (10 questions per round). But you can leave whenever you want!
  • Stakes:  Like, whatever is below “low”.  No prizes, no recognition, no parting gifts.

If the link doesn’t work, go to YouTube and search VTBarCounsel.

It’ll go live shortly before 7:00 PM.  Look for the countdown clock. I will not be monitoring the chat during the quiz.  Please keep it clean.

Remember: this is for FUN.  The aim is to provide social connections in a relaxed, non-work setting. And, who knows? Maybe learn a valuable tidbit about legal ethics in the process.  So, whether Zoom, Google Hangouts, group text, or whatever, grab a team and give it a shot.

Oh – for those of you who might want to submit answer sheets, go here.

Lawyer Well-being Week Activities

 

 

 

 

Social Well-Being: Community, Connections, and Hope.

Good morning!

For those of you who’ve been following, it’s National Lawyer Well-Being Week.  Each day has a different theme.  Today’s is Social Well-Being.  The focus is on connecting within the community at-large.

My message is a variation on the theme.  To me, communities provide connections, and connections provide hope.  Communities, connections, and hope is are critical components of well-being.  So, in this video, I share my thoughts on building communities, forging connections, and inspiring hope.

Don’t forget!  Tonight at 7:00PM, I’m building social well-being by live-streaming pub quiz style legal ethics on my YouTube Channel!  (see the video link or subscribe to VTBarCounsel on YouTube.

Engage intellectually. And, you are not an impostor.

Good morning!

For those of you who’ve been following, it’s National Lawyer Well-Being Week.  Each day has a different theme.  Today’s is Engage & Grow.  The focus is to remind lawyers that wellness includes challenging ourselves to engage & grow intellectually.

Here’s today’s video message.  Note: it’s the first not done from the cozy confines of the Garage Bar Studio.  For those who prefer to read, my written words are below the logo.

Lawyer Well-being Week Activities

Intellectual engagement & growth for lawyers:

  1. Engage & grow outside the law: challenge yourself with an intellectual pursuit that has nothing to do with the law.  Learn a language or an instrument, read the book you’ve never read, watch those documentaries on the historical event that’s intrigued you, but for which you’ve  told yourself “I don’t have the time.”
  2. Engage & grow within the law: challenge your intellect by exploring a new practice area, even if it’s only via a single seminar.  Jennifer Emens-Butler has a series of high-quality webinars planned through the end of June.  You never know, one might pique your interest and provide an opportunity to spend a bit of time outside what might have become the monotony of your daily routine.  Or, get in touch with Mary Ashcroft or Sam Abel-Palmer.  The VBA and Legal Services Vermont have numerous pro & low bono opportunities that provide a perfect chance to challenge yourself in a new area of law while helping those in need.  The challenge might leave you refreshed and reenergized when you return to your day-to-day.

Intellectual growth improves confidence.  And, while some of you might not know this, many lawyers struggle with self-confidence.  Many consider themselves “impostors,” not good enough or skilled enough to belong. I can’t stress this enough.  Please read my post Wellness Wednesday: You’re not an impostorIt shares a heart-breaking story that should open our eyes to the threat that impostor syndrome imposes

Lawyers like Gabe aren’t impostors.  They’re people who, like all people, sometimes make mistakes, but who are valuable members of your team.  Support and encourage their growth and wellness.

In closing, engage yourself intellectually both inside and outside the law.  Also, be sure to encourage and support others to grow more confident in themselves.

 

 

Align.

Good morning!

It’s Day 2 of National Lawyer Well-Being Week.  If you missed Day 1, don’t sweat it, I’ve got your back.  My opening day thoughts are here.

Today’s theme is “Align.”  The focus is on spiritual well-being.  The aim is to provide lawyers with resources to align their professional and personal lives so as to find meaning in their work.  Why? Because the data shows that much of the burnout that impacts legal professionals is rooted in a sense that their work isn’t meaningful.

Confession: to say that I’m outside my lane delivering this message would be an understatement.  I’m no counselor or life coach, and I don’t even play one TV.  That being said, I’ll do my best.

Here’s the video message I recorded this morning.  I tried to make three points:

  1. Incivility leads to stress and burnout.  We need to call out the lawyers who are chronically and corrosively uncivil.
  2. Supervisors: find ways to make your younger/newer associates & employees feel meaningful.  Do you define their roles within the team? Do you acknowledge work done well even when it’s work that’s not the most revenue-producing or glamorous, but nevertheless important? Do you know anything about your co-workers’ personal interests? In short, do you make them feel meaningful?
  3. Younger/Newer lawyers: remember, even if today’s work isn’t what you envisioned in law school, it matters to someone.  Whether that’s the client, or, your co-workers’ interest in the office producing good work.  Also, years from now, you WILL find yourself in a better position to control whether and how your work aligns with your personal life.  Until then, do the best you can now.  If you do, each and every moment is an investment in Future You that will help Future You to align work more fully with your personal values.

Fortunately, the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being has provided resources created by actual professionals who are well within their lanes:

 

Stay Strong!

It’s National Lawyer Well-Being Week.  Spurred by the joint efforts of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, the ABA’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, and the Well-Being Committee of the ABA’s Law Practice Division, the week’s aim “is to raise awareness and encourage action across the profession to improve well-being for lawyers and their support teams.”

Lawyer Well-being Week Activities

Each day this week will have a different theme.  Today’s theme is “Stay Strong: Physical Well-Being.”  My short video message promoting today’s theme is here.  Remember, I’m not asking you to run a marathon, hike the Long Trail, or join a cross-fit group.  I’m simply reminding you that physical well-being is an aspect of well-being.  By creating healthy habits, we can improve our well-being.  For today, the National Task Force recommends these simple steps:

  • Go for a short walk.  Don’t bring your phone.
  • Stand up during one phone call or virtual meeting.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
  • Eat well.

Stay strong!

Additional resources:

 

Get ready! National Lawyer Well-Being Week is only 12 days away!

National Lawyer Well-Being Week begins May 4.  Now is the time to plan your involvement.

Here’s the key message from the organizers:

  • “Well-being is an institution-wide responsibility. When our professional and organizational cultures support our well-being, we are better able to make good choices that allow us to thrive and be our best for our clients, colleagues, and organizations. It is up to all of us to cultivate new professional norms and cultures that enable and encourage well-being.”

Each day has its own theme:

I can hear you now!!  “Great Mike, what am I supposed to do with an infographic??”

Not so fast my contrarian friends!

The organizers have made available a veritable plethora of resources on each day’s theme, resources that I’m here to share. Thus, much of the rest of this post will be a long list.  Intentionally so!  Like ordering soup on Planet Seinfeld, there will be no excuses for you!

But first, don’t limit wellness to a week.  Don’t limit a component of wellness to a single day.  Make wellness a habit.

For instance, imagine that today is “National Running Day!”  I’d easily find the motivation to get out to run with the enthusiasm and vigor of the event, eager to post my apres-run selfie with the obligatory hashtag.  But a Wednesday run won’t prepare me for October’s Vermont City Marathon.  Instead, I must make running a habit.

That’s wellness. Make it a habit.  Because life is a marathon.

Finally, like a marathon, wellness begins with a single step.  And there’s no reason to wait until National Lawyer Well-Being Week to take the first step.

Thanks for listening.  Get involved!

Here’s the promised list of resources. I am brazenly taking them from National Task Force’s Lawyer Well-Being Week site.

The Entire Week

Monday – Stay Strong 

Tuesday – Align

Wednesday – Engage & Grow

Thursday – Connect

Friday – Feel Well

Finally, the Task Force has also compiled a list of  wellness & well-being resources related to COVID-19

 

 

 

 

Wellness Wednesday: Lawyers Depression Project

A phrase that’s new to me has entered the public discourse in the past 24 hours: “social distancing.”  Coincidentally, shortly after hearing it for the first time, I stumbled across a tweet that’s the impetus for today’s post.  Here’s the backstory.

Brian Cuban is an attorney.  To me, he’s an invaluable resource on addiction, recovery and the legal profession’s response to each.  You can read more about Brian here.  I follow Brian on Twitter.

Today, Brian retweeted a link to a blog he posted last December.  Check out the comment that accompanied the retweet — it references “social distancing.”

The December post is one that I’d missed.  In it, Brian introduced his readers to the “Lawyers Depression Project.”  In Brian’s words, it’s a project that is “an incredible mental health resource that has been flying under the radar.”

I don’t want to block quote Brian’s post. So, read it.  Again, it’s here.  The link to the Lawyers Depression Project is here.  However, here’s something that’s

IMPORTANT!!! 

Some of you might be thinking “Thanks Mike. But this isn’t for me. It’s for people who’ve been diagnosed with depression.”

Wrong.

And now you’ve forced me to resort to a block quote.  From Brian’s post:

  • “The LDP consists of attorneys, law students, law school graduates pending bar exam results and/or admission, and others in the legal field who were diagnosed at one point or another in their lives, with major depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, general anxiety disorder, or another mental illness.

“It is also for those who are suffering but not formally diagnosed or who simply feel that something ‘isn’t right’ but have not sought formal mental health help.”

Check it out.  Even if only because, every now and then, things don’t feel right.

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Related Posts:

 

 

Bar Assistance Program: why I support it.

This morning, I blogged on the Vermont Supreme Court’s proposal to create a Bar Assistance Program that would be administered by bar counsel.  Here’s why I support the proposal to expand the assistance that the Professional Responsibility Program and bar counsel already provide.

A New Approach to Attorney Regulation

For too long, the prevailing thought was that an attorney regulation program had to focus on discipline to be effective.  States devoted more resources to responding to misconduct than to preventing it.  The focus, then, was not on enhancing the provision of competent legal services, a focus that, really, is the best form of (a) public protection; and, (b) promoting confidence in the bar’s ability to self-regulate.

Times have changed.

ABA Resolution 105 (2016)

In 2016, the ABA House of Delegates approved Resolution 105.  In it, the ABA adopted “Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services” and encouraged states to do the same.  Among the objectives, the “efficient, competent, and ethical delivery of legal services.” While Resolution 105 did not come out of the wellness movement, its intent applies.

Simply, Resolution 105 recommends that each state supreme court decide what it wants the objectives of its attorney regulation program to be.  Per the report submitted to the House of Delegates in support of the proposed resolution, identifying and adopting regulatory objectives “serves many valuable benefits,” including:

  • Defining the purpose and parameters of the regulatory program;
  • Identifying the goals and objectives of the regulatory program; and,
  • Enhancing trust that lawyers have in regulators, as well as the trust and confidence that the public has in the profession’s ability to regulate itself.

The ABA adopted 10 model regulatory objectives.  They include the “[e]fficient, competent, and ethical delivery of legal services.”

The National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being

Next, in 2017, the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being issued The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change (“The Report”).  The Report kickstarted the attorney wellness movement.

I will not go through the entire report. It is important, however, to review its purposes.  There are 5, each of which is listed in a letter written by the Task Force’s co-chairs when the report was announced.  Three are key here:

  1. Eliminating the stigma associated with help-seeking behaviors;
  2. Emphasizing that well-being is an indispensable part of a lawyer’s duty of competence;
  3. Taking small, incremental steps to change how law practice and how lawyers are regulated to instill greater well-being in the profession.

I want to emphasize the third: changing how lawyers are regulated to instill greater well-being in the profession.  Indeed, The Report itself recommends that regulators “develop their reputation as partners with practitioners.”

ABA Resolution 107 (2019)

Last  summer, the ABA House of Delegates adopted Resolution 107.  The resolution urges states to adopt Proactive Management Based Regulation (“PMBR”).  In short, PMBR encourages a system of attorney regulation that focuses more on promoting compliance than it does on responding to misconduct.  A core objective of PMBR is to promote the provision of competent legal services.

Vermont was ahead of the curve.  We adopted a version of PMBR in 2012.  As I blogged here, we know that it works.  Essentially, we – thanks to you – have created a culture of compliance.

A New Paradigm

The profession has come to recognize that proactive regulation is the future.  Gone are the days of a monolithic focus on responding to misconduct.  Now, it’s time for each state to look within, and identify, announce, and implement the objectives of its own regulatory system.

Since 1999, bar counsel’s role has been to “provide referrals, educational materials, and preventive advice and information to assist attorneys to achieve and maintain high standards of professional responsibility.”  Supreme Court Administrative Order 9, Rule 9. To me, that necessarily includes providing assistance, referrals, and preventive advice on behavioral health issues.

As a profession and a Professional Responsibility Program, our objectives should include doing whatever we can to help lawyers to develop and maintain the ethical infrastructure needed to provide competent legal services.  In that well-being is an aspect of competence, that necessarily includes making well-being an objective.

Here are two statements from the Executive Summary submitted with Resolution 107 when it was proposed:

  • “PMBR programs encourage professionalism and civility, and change for the better the relationship between the regulator and regulated.”
  • “PMBR programs are not one-size-fits-all, may be crafted to meet the needs of each
    jurisdiction, and are reasonable in cost.”

In my view, Vermont is well-suited to adopt the proposed Bar Assistance Program. We’re small enough to make it work and can add it without any corresponding increase to attorney licensing fee. Further, affirmatively decoupling assistance from discipline will only serve to improve the relationship between the regulator and the regulated.

These are among the reasons that I support expanding the assistance that the Professional Responsibility Program and bar counsel already provide to include assistance of the type traditionally referred to as “lawyer assistance.”

We might not get every starfish back to the water, but it will mean the world to the one that we do.

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