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the playgrounds — and also a reminder to try to reach out to people who have lost someone recently, or those who seem withdrawn.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  If someone you know has withdrawn, maybe all they need is chance to say “hey, thanks for thinking of me.”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.

Image result for starfish story printable pdf

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

A Lawyer & His Music. Or, one more row.

When I started training for my first marathon, my dad bought me a running shirt that said “One More Mile.”  He knew.  Hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll understand my point.

May 4 marks the beginning of Lawyer Well-Being Week.  During the lead-up, folks like me are supposed to raise awareness and share thoughts & tips on attorney wellness.

A competent blogger would’ve done so yesterday in a Wellness Wednesday post.  Fortunately, I’ve never claimed to be a competent blogger.  So while you might get me for incompetence, you won’t get me for lying or false advertising.

Anyhow, a day late, I’m here with my wellness tip for the week. It’s a winding road. Bear with me.

A few weeks ago I posted a blog in which I acknowledged that I’d heard from several lawyers who had questions relating to the intersection of the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Supreme Court’s Judicial Emergency Order, and Governor Scott’s Stay Home/Stay Safe order.  In the post, I

  1. urged lawyers to contact me with specific inquiries;
  2. reminded lawyers that the Rules of Professional Conduct are rules of reason; and,
  3. stated that, in my opinion, there’s nothing unreasonable about conducting a law practice in such a way to MINIMIZE the risk of acquiring or spreading COVID-19.

I’ll be honest: ever since, I’ve expected to learn that a lawyer – whether in Vermont or another state that’s under a “stay home” order – had been charged with violating the order.  I couldn’t settle on the circumstances most likely to result in such a charge, but some seemed better bets than others.

Well, today I learned what I’ve anticipated for weeks: a licensed lawyer has been charged with violating a “stay home” order.  Alas, I’d have lost my bet.

The Law360 headline that caught my eye:

“NJ IP Atty In Hot Water Over Pink Floyd Covers Concert”

Per the story, the attorney is alleged to have performed songs by Pink Floyd from his porch while approximately 30 people listened in his yard.  His lawyer contends the arrest was a misunderstanding, that the lawyer/musician was live streaming the performance and did not know that a crowd had gathered. Among others, the ABA Journal, NJ.com, and NBC New York reported the story. 

Aside: the responding police department’s Facebook update is here.  I must say, as police updates go, it’s quite clever.  In context, #wedontneednocoronaparties is sneaky legit.

Anyhow, I’ll leave it to others to sort out whether the situation was a mix-up or a lawyer’s brazen flouting of Governor Murphy’s Executive Order.  Today, I write for one reason.

The story made me realize – for about the quadrillionth time  –  that we’re in bizarro world.

Imagine being transported back in time. Even to as recently as March 1. Then, imagine, once there, clicking on the headline NJ IP Atty In Hot Water Over Pink Floyd Covers Concert What do you imagine the you of seven weeks ago would’ve expected the story to be?

Knowing me as I do, I’d have gleefully expected to revel in the irony of an IP attorney in trouble for copyright infringement.

Those were the days.

My friends, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: keep rowing.  And here’s my wellness tip for the week: don’t think about having to row all the way to shore.

One of my favorite shows of the past few years is Prime’s PatriotThe lead character is John Lakeman. When it comes to daunting tasks, Lakeman’s philosophy is one that I love: get halfway. Why?

“If you can make it halfway and one more step, it’s longer to go back, and shorter to just finish, so you just finish.”

One more row.

You never know.  It might be the one that puts you closer to the finish than to the start.

Pink Floyd - Time - YouTube

ps: I have a sneaking suspicion that “row” isn’t the singular of what when repeated is “rowing.”  If not, I apologize.  Again, I never claimed to be a competent blogger.

 

 

Wellness Wednesday: Be Kind to Lawyers

Tomorrow is “International Be Kind to Lawyers Day.”

I’m not too conversant in legal phrases or the principles of statutory construction.  Yet, I’m generally aware of the maxim “inclusio uno (est) exclusio alterius.”

I’d be surprised if the creators of “Be Kind to Lawyers Day” intended to limit it to a single 24-hour span.  So, I hope that the Inclusio Uno Legion doesn’t intend to argue for such a restriction. If they do, here’s my rebuttal:

Why wait until tomorrow?  When it comes to being kind to lawyers, there’s no better time than now.  And, on that point, remember:

  • It’s always “now.”
  • For lawyers, being kind to a lawyer includes being kind to yourself.

Wellness

Below, I’ve pasted in my post from 2019’s Be Kind to Lawyers Day.  I’m re-posting because it’s consistent with Wellness Wednesday.

*****************************************

Originally Posted on April 9, 2019

Today is International Be Kind to Lawyers Day.

I’ve done some research on the day’s origins.  Meaning, I read this and this.  While each suggests we might debate the motivation behind the creation, #bekindtolawyersday is legit trending on social media.  So, it must be a real day.

Who is most likely to deal with a lawyer today?  Other lawyers.  Thus, to borrow a quote from JFK, here’s my request of my lawyer-readers:

  • Ask not who will be kind to you today.  Ask to whom you will be kind.

I’ve often mentioned that the Rules of Professional Conduct don’t require lawyers to be nice.

Still, why not try?

Indeed, as I mentioned here, I recently did a CLE on attorney wellness that segued into a discussion on whether a lack of civility within the profession contributes to the profession’s lack of wellness.

The VBA has adopted Guidelines for Professional Courtesy.  The last is my favorite:

  • “Effective advocacy does not require antagonistic or obnoxious behavior. Lawyers should adhere to the higher standard of conduct which judges, fellow attorneys, clients, and the public may rightfully expect.”

Today you will have many chances to be kind to another lawyer.

Take advantage of them all.

Wellness