Wellness Wednesday: might adopting some pandemic-related changes improve the profession’s well-being?

We know that the pandemic changed how, when, and where we work.  We also know that some of the changes will remain once the pandemic concludes.  Today, I write to share two developments that, to me, provide insight into pandemic-related changes that may prove beneficial to the profession’s well-being, thus warranting consideration as to whether they should become permanent aspects of how, when, and where we work.

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The first development comes from Florida.

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court approved an advisory opinion issued by the Florida State Bar’s Standing Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law.  The opinion concludes that a lawyer who is licensed in another state, but not in Florida, does not violate Florida’s rules on unauthorized practice by providing legal services to out-of-state clients on matters not involving Florida law while working remotely from Florida.  The Legal Profession Blog and ABA Journal reported the Court’s decision to approve the opinion.

The advisory opinion cites to similar conclusions reached by the ABA and the Utah State Bar.  Those of you who recall my post ABA issues common sense guidance on working remotely will not be surprised to learn that I’m a fan of the Florida opinion. It’s a post in which I used this hypo to introduce the ABA and Utah opinions:

“Imagine this:

  • You are a lawyer who is licensed in Other State but not in Vermont.
  • You live and work in Other State and own a condo in Vermont.
  • For various reasons, you move to the Vermont condo during the pandemic.
  • There, and thanks to technology, you continue to work on your clients’ legal matters.
  • You do not open an office in Vermont, advertise in Vermont, accept new clients in Vermont, or give advice on Vermont law.
  • Not one of your client matters has anything to do with Vermont or Vermont law.
  • But for the fact that you’re in your condo, your work is exactly what you’d be doing if you were working from your office in Other State.”

I remain of the opinion that the Utah State Bar nailed it:

  • “what interest does the Utah State Bar have in regulating an out-of-state lawyer’s practice for out-of-state clients simply because he has a private home in Utah? And the answer is the same—none.”

 Returning to the Florida opinion, I support it even independent of any connection to well-being. However, I’m interested by (and appreciative of) the fact that the Florida committee went out of its way to note a comment that an individual lawyer submitted in support of the proposed opinion.  The Committee wrote:

  • “In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Standing Committee finds the written testimony of Florida-licensed attorney, Salomé J. Zikakis, to be particularly persuasive: ‘I believe the future, if not the present, will involve more and more attorneys and other professionals working remotely, whether from second homes or a primary residence. Technology has enabled this to occur, and this flexibility can contribute to an improved work/life balance. It is not a practice to discourage.'”

No, it is not!

The second development is actually an older story.

In early May, Above The Law posted Ropes & Gray’s Reopening Plan Puts An End To The 5-Day, In-Person Office Work Week For Associates.  The post reports on the return-to-work plan announced by one of the nation’s largest law firms.  ATL applauded the firm’s phased re-opening and the flexibility associated with the “ramp-up time the firm is allowing [staff] to reacquaint themselves with office life.” In addition, ATL noted statements that the firm’s chair included in a memo to staff that announced the plan:

  • “No matter what phase we are in, we endorse flexibility post-pandemic. We don’t expect that we’ll ever mandate a five-day a week in-office environment.”

Here here.  Management’s endorsement of flexibility demonstrates a commitment to the well-being of both staff and the organization as a while.  Indeed, as the Florida lawyer noted in the comment above, flexibility contributes to a healthy work/life balance.

Making permanent some of the changes caused by the pandemic won’t be a bad thing.

Emotional Well-Being: the debrief video

It’s time for Friday’s debriefing.  Today’s discussion was so thoughtful that there’s no way my recap will do it justice.

Again, it’s Well-Being Week in Law.  Today’s topic is Emotional Well-Being.  I focused on the importance of learning to accept that we will experience negative emotions and learning to control our responses to them.  Earlier today, I posted this blog advance of a group discussion that took place at lunch.

As have been the others this week, the discussion was fantastic. Here’s the debrief video with my takeaways.

Thanks to everyone who participated today and this week!

Enjoy the weekend.

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Related Material from the Institute for Well-Being in Law

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Emotional Well-Being: W.I.N. your 3 feet of influence.

Welcome to Friday of Well-Being Week in Law.

Today’s topic is Emotional Well-Being.  The focus is on learning to understand and identify our emotions.  Here’s a video (8:36) in which I share some thoughts.  The headlines:

  • It’s okay to feel negative emotions
  • W.I.N.
  • W.I.N. your 3-feet of influence
  • It’s okay to ask for help, and help is available.
  • Be 1 of somebody’s 3 or 4

I’m hosting a Zoom discussion today at noon.  The invite is here.  If you’re interested in sharing your thoughts on emotional intelligence, listening to others share theirs, or both – please join!

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Related Material from the Institute for Well-Being in Law

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Communities & Connections: the debrief video

It’s time for Thursday’s debriefing.

Again, it’s Well-Being Week in Law.  Today’s topic is Social Well-Being and the importance of communities and connections.  Earlier today, I posted this video in advance of a group discussion that took place at lunch.

As have been the others this week, the discussion was fantastic.  Here’s the debrief video (7:34) with my takeaways.

Tomorrow’s topic is Emotional Intelligence and the critical role it plays in our well-being. I intend to frame the conversation around an idea (not my own) that I used as a coach:  W.I.N.  Or, “What’s Important Now.”  From there, we’ll talk about how emotional intelligence can help us to W.I.N our three feet of influence.  Feel free to join to share your thoughts, listen to others share theirs, or do both! I’ll include the link in tomorrow morning’s blog post.

Thanks again to everyone who participated today.

Connect!

Related Material from the Institute for Well-Being in Law

Communities & Connections

Welcome to Thursday of Well-Being Week in Law.

Today’s topic is Social Well-Being and the importance of communities and connections.  Here’s a video in which I offer to be your guide as you hunt for connections.

I’m not sure that today’s theme is amenable to discussion as yesterday’s or tomorrow’s, but I’m hosting the noon time chat anyway!  Whether to share your thoughts on communities & connections or to listen to others share theirs, you can join the discussion here.

Connect!

Related Material from the Institute for Well-Being in Law

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Engage & Grow: the debrief video

It’s time for Wednesday’s debriefing!

But first, many thanks to those of you who joined the conversation and shared your thoughts. I appreciate your involvement, as well as your continued commitment to the well-being of the legal profession.

Again, it’s Well-Being Week in Law.

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Today’s topic is Intellectual Well-Being, with the mantra “Engage and Grow.” The focus is on striving for continuous intellectual engagement and growth in our work and personal lives.

Earlier today, I posted this blog in advance of a group discussion we had at noon.  A few minutes ago, I recorded this video (5:36) in which I provide a short debriefing of the discussion.  Check it out.  Among the key takeaways from today’s discussion:

  • many confirmed that pro bono work provides an opportunity to engage intellectually while at work. Especially when providing pro bono services in an area outside your normal practice area.
  • another avenue for intellectual growth within the law is board service. For example, a lawyer mentioned serving on a school board and the associated opportunity for intellectual growth because of being exposed to education law.
  • I continue to learn of more and more lawyers who have fascinating interests outside the law! Interests that require intellectual engagement. Today, a lawyer who taught himself to play guitar.  And another who is on her 110th consecutive day of taking at least one French lesson per day.  C’est fantastique! During the discussion, I committed to learning how to . . . . (the answer is available only via the debrief video!)
  • Finally, we had an insightful talk about Impostor Syndrome. For one, so many of us have experienced it. For another, each of us who has was surprised to learn that so many others have too. As I mentioned this morning, if you feel like a phony, or like someone who doesn’t belong in the profession, (1) you’re not; and (2) you’re not alone. Check out the debrief video for additional thoughts.

Thank you again to those who joined today!

I’ll host another discussion tomorrow at noon.  The topic will be Social Well-Being.  The discussion will focus on the importance of finding communities and forging connections within those communities. I’ll post the link tomorrow morning.

Engage & Grow!

Related Material:

 Related Posts:

Align

Welcome to Tuesday of Well-Being Week in Law.

Before we begin, how about a nod to Disciplinary Counsel’s well-being?  Happy Birthday Sarah Katz!

Onto business.

Today’s focus is Spiritual Well-Being, with the cue being “Align.”  The goal is to consider how we can “foster a sense of meaning and purpose in all aspects of life” so as to “align life and work to serve your values.”

Last year, I posted this video on Spiritual Well-Being.  I tried to make three points.

  1. “Incivility is corrosive” in the profession. It causes stress, anxiety, and burnout. In turn, these corrode a sense of meaning and purpose.
  2. Supervisors should strive to ensure that those who work for them feel a sense of meaning in what they do.
  3. Younger legal professionals should remember Future You. Not every task is what Younger Me expected I’d be doing once I began my career.  Some feel meaningless.  But every task I complete matters to someone.  Most importantly, Future Me is far more likely to find meaning in my future work if I invest in myself now. And treating every task, no matter how small, as if it is the most meaningful is a form of investment.

I’d love to learn how others strive to find meaning & purpose. What are your thoughts and strategies on how align your work and professional live?  Today at noon, I’m hosting a Zoom meeting.  Everyone is invited.  It won’t be a lecture, but a discussion.  The link is here.  Please consider joining!

In the meantime, here are resources on “Align: Spiritual Well-Being” from the Institute for Well-Being in Law.

Align!

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Stay Strong!

Welcome to 2021 Well-Being Week in Law!

Today’s theme is Stay Strong.  We are focusing on physical well-being and its importance to our overall well-being.

A few minutes ago, I recorded this video.  In it, I shared some thoughts on physical well-being.  The key takeaway is to remember what I’m NOT asking you to do.

Medical science types know that physical well-being can help to reduce anxiety and calm stress. In turn, reduced anxiety & stress helps to avoid burnout and depression.

So, I’m not asking you to commit to run a 5K.  Or to take up cycling.  Or to hike the Long Trail.

I’m asking you to take a few minutes to consider whether you could:

  • Get more regular activity;
  • Eat better;
  • Sleep better;
  • Reduce or limit the addictive substances that you put into your bodies.

Each is an aspect of physical well-being.

And, for those of you in supervisory roles, I’m asking you to take a few minutes to consider whether, as a legal employer, there are ways that you could do more to promote the physical well-being of those who you supervise.

Don’t know where to start?  The Institute for Well-Being in Law has resources galore.  For instance,

  • Could you stand up for 2 or 3 phone calls or virtual meetings?
  • Could you go for a walk a few days a week?
  • Could desk yoga be for you?
  • Do you have 2 or 3 minutes for a breathing exercise?
  • Can you turn off your devices before you get into bed?

Each can help.

Finally, don’t forget to exercise your brain.  Your brain is as part of the physical you as any other body part.  Personally, I suggest playing Hunt-A-Killer with your mom & brother, but that’s just me.  For you, it might be chess, or crossword puzzles, or mindfulness.

That’s right: mindfulness is a form of brain exercise.  And if mindfulness interests you, the VBA scheduled two mindfulness courses for this month alone!  For more info, check out the events calendar on the VBA’ sleek new website.

Whatever it is for you, I invite you to take steps to improve your physical well-being.

More importantly, I invite you to start small.  It’ll add up.

Stay strong.

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Let’s Light Some Candles

Here’s a quote to ponder as you read this post.  At the end, I’m going to ask you to remember it.

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

~ James Keller

candle

Next week is Well-Being Week in the Law.  A project of the Institute for Well-Being in the Law, one of the goals is to provide resources that will help lawyers & legal employers to bolster well-being throughout the year.  As the infographic at the bottom of this page shows, each day has a different theme, with each theme a component of overall well-being.

The Institute’s website includes a plethora of ideas for individuals and organizations to participate in Well-Being Week.  In a way, the plethora can be dizzying.  The tools & suggestions run the gamut from desk yoga to this Alcohol Use Policy Template for Legal Employers.

Indeed, the more I learn, the more I’m convinced that while the profession must prioritize the wellness and well-being of its members, it’s not one-size-fits-all.  Each member’s journey to wellness and well-being will be along the path of their choosing.

For instance, Monday’s theme is “Stay Strong” and is intended to focus on physical well-being.  I tend to my physical well-being by running as often as possible and doing yoga 2 or 3 days per week.  Yet, having a 5K on Monday wouldn’t necessarily benefit someone who prefers biking (or walking, hiking, or swimming) and occasional breathing exercises.

The same goes for emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.  To each their own.  The square peg does little for the round hole’s well-being.

In short, I’m not holding a 5K Monday.  Rather, I encourage everyone to take a few minutes on Monday to consider how you might improve your physical well-being over the course of the year, or how your firm or office might do the same for all who work there. Then, throughout the week, do the same for each of the daily themes.

Here’s where I might be able to help.

Next week, I’ll open a Zoom meeting everyday at noon.  All are welcome.  Whoever joins, we’ll share thoughts and ideas on the day’s theme.  Take what works for you, leave the rest. All I ask is that you come ready to share.  I’ll get each discussion started, but they will remain discussions, not lectures.  You can email me for the links, and I’ll include them in the daily blog posts that tee up each discussion.

The schedule:

  • Tuesday, May 5. Align: Spiritual Well-Being.  We will share ideas related to aligning our work with our values, enabling ourselves to find meaning and purpose in what we do.
  • Wednesday, May 6. Engage & Grow: Occupational and Intellectual Well-Being.  We will share ideas on how to continuously learn and develop, within the legal profession and, as importantly, outside the law.
  • Thursday, May 7. Connect: Social Well-Being. We will share ideas on the importance of forging connections that help us to build communities and support networks.
  • Friday, May 8. Feel Well: Emotional Well-Being.  We will share ideas related to emotional intelligence and learning to identify how our emotions impact us.

You’ll note that I’ve not provided a link for Monday.  That’s because Monday’s focus is physical well-being.  Instead of logging at noon, go for a walk! Or turn off your devices for 15 minutes and do nothing!  Tech breaks help to improve physical well-being!

Again, my goal is to promote the concepts of well-being and wellness. How you go about it is up to you.

That said, here again is the quote:

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

~ James Keller

On wellness and well-being, many of you are candles burning brightly.  Next week, consider joining to share your thoughts and ideas. You might light another.

candle

Wellness . . . umm, Thursday?

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I get it, I’m a day late.  Story of my life.

However, wellness & well-being have meaning even without alliteration.

wellness

I continue to feel my way into my role in the new Bar Assistance Program.

On the one hand, I’m comfortable responding to inquiries and presenting CLEs on so-called “traditional ethics.”  That is, conflicts of interests, client confidences, the trust accounting rules, and duties owed to opposing counsel and parties. My comfort a function of having worked in the Professional Responsibility Program since 1998.

On the other, wellness & well-being remain oddly new to me.  I say “oddly new” because it has been more than five years since my first blog post related to lawyer wellness. It’s a post in which I reported on the study in which the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Clinic found “substantial and widespread levels of problem drinking and other behavioral health problems in the U.S. legal profession.”  Since then, I’ve posted more than 50 additional blogs related to well-being & wellness, with the topics ranging from attorney suicide in Vermont, to Vermont lawyers who ran a 4-mile race that gave out cool hats, to everything in between.

Two things strike me as BAP begins.

First, like beauty, wellness & well-being are in the eye of the beholder. To some, BAP’s focus should be on assisting legal professionals to address substance abuse & mental health issues that are impacting their ability to do their jobs daily.  To others, the focus should be proactive.  Encouraging legal professionals and legal employers to change the profession to one that values and prioritizes work-life balance.

Second, BAP won’t please everyone.  Some who appreciate the proactive approach are tired of me posting blogs in which I argue that the profession is under pressure because we are literally killing ourselves.  This group includes people who’ve told me that highlighting the negative contributes to their personal stress and anxiety.

Meanwhile, some who favor a BAP that hones in on treating lawyers who are in crisis find frivolity in wellness posts that call attention to legal professionals who are in bands or who play hockey, or posts in which I suggest that a strategy to deal with stress is to take a deep breath and slow down.  Members of this group have suggested that this is a “rainbows & unicorns” approach that diminishes the crisis.

To me, BAP will occupy a spectrum.

When confronted with a legal professional gripped by addiction or serious illness, we will work to assist that person back to health without involving the disciplinary process. At the same time, I will continue to remind lawyers that it’s okay to have interests outside the law, to take a mindfulness class at lunch, or to set boundaries as to when they will be available to clients. Who knows?  Maybe I’ll even organize a summer run/walk followed by grills, lawn chairs, and legal ethics, pub quiz style.

So, yes, BAP is here for each group.  And the middle.

Last night, I found Sam Rosenthal’s Lawyer Wellness and Mental Health: Changing the Conversation on Clio’s blog.  This paragraph:

  • “In its purest form, wellness involves doing whatever you need to do to feel better and be healthier on a day-to-day basis. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving a general sense of well-being and overall health, and anyone who claims otherwise is selling you something.”

I’m not selling anything.  Rather, BAP is here to promote well-being, decouple assistance from discipline, and, however incrementally, make the profession healthier.

It’s a big tent.  Welcome in.