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.

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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

 

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.

Image result for starfish image

The Proposed Bar Assistance Program

The Vermont Supreme Court has proposed to create a Bar Assistance Program.  Housed within the Professional Responsibility Program and administered by bar counsel, the program aims to assist lawyers who are facing behavioral health issues.  The trade-off, which gives me pause, is that bar counsel would no longer screen disciplinary complaints.

The proposed revisions are here.

Over the next few weeks, I will share my thoughts on what a comprehensive system of attorney regulation should look like.  For now, the proposal is a good first step.

The State Court Administrator’s memo announcing the proposal includes the following note:

“The proposed amendments to A.O. 9 establish a Bar Assistance Program within the purview of the Professional Responsibility Board. The program will continue to provide guidance and educational programs on ‘traditional’ legal ethics and professional responsibility. In addition, the bar assistance program will assist by

  • developing programs to educate judges, lawyers, legal professionals, law students, and the public on issues related to professional competence, professional responsibility, legal ethics, law practice management, and behavioral health issues that impact the practice of law;
  • developing programs that promote lawyer wellness and educate judges, lawyers, legal professionals, and law students on issues related to the signs, symptoms, causes, and prevention of behavioral health issues that affect professional competence and impact the practice of law; and
  •  helping impaired lawyers and judges to begin and continue recovery.

The proposal assigns Bar Counsel with the responsibility for operating the Bar Assistance
Program. Although Bar Counsel will continue to respond to ethics inquires, Bar Counsel will not have any role in screening formal disciplinary complaints. The proposal assigns this task to newly created Screening Counsel. The proposed rules contain a confidentiality provision, specifying that information related to the operation of the Bar Assistance Program is confidential.”

A few quick points:

  1. A comprehensive system of attorney regulation should focus as much on assisting lawyers to achieve and maintain high standards of professional responsibility as it does on responding to misconduct.
  2. Vermont’s Professional Responsibility Program has long believed in using bar counsel to assist lawyers to acheive & maintain those standards.  Since 1999, and with respect to lawyers’ inquiries on ethical issues and practice questions, 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.
  3. Data proves that focusing on proactive regulation works.
  4. A lawyer’s core standard of professional responsibility is to provide clients with competent representation. As the profession has come to acknowledge, well-being is an aspect of competence.
  5. The profession owes a duty to assist the lawyers whose behavioral health issues threaten to impact their ability to provide competent legal services.  The assistance must be decoupled and distinct from the disciplinary process.

So, that’s what we’ve proposed.

Bar counsel’s role has always included assisting lawyers to comply with their professional responsibilities. For instance, trust accounting, conflicts of interests, client confidences, etc., etc., etc.  The new program is but a natural extension of the assistance we already provide.

Again, over the next few weeks, I’ll continue to blog on the larger issue of what a comprehensive system of attorney regulation should look like in the 21st century.

For now, comments on the proposal are due April 13, 2020.  They should be sent to me.  To learn more, or to chat informally without making a comment, feel free to call: 802-859-3004.

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Wellness Wednesday: Unplug

I confess: today’s topic isn’t much more than a regurgitation of a blog I posted this summer.  However:

  1. It’s important.
  2. I’m pressed for time and out of ideas.
  3. And it gives me an excuse to ask readers to share their favorite episodes of MTV Unplugged.  More on that later.

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In July – a time & place that seems so far away this morning – I posted Vacations, Devices and Vacations from Devices.  The post highlighted excerpts of this report issued by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Steering Committee on Lawyer Well-Being.

I focused on the fact that the report identified “the pace of work” as one of 8 major issues affecting lawyer well-being.  In particular, that so many of the Steering Committee’s sub-committees urged legal employers to encourage lawyers to take vacations that include vacations from their devices.  For instance, the Massachusetts Bar Association Sub-Committee on Attorney Well-Being wrote:

  • “By far, the single most common cause of stress among all the disparate areas of legal practice was technology. The fact that technology allows attorneys to always be accessible to colleagues, partners, clients, and courts creates the expectation that they will always be accessible. Technology impacted the ability of attorneys to unwind, relax, and focus on the nonlegal aspects of their lives. They expressed concern that, if they do not respond to partners’ emails, texts or calls immediately, that they will lose their positions. They also believe that law firm culture demands that they remain accessible in order to meet billable hour requirements and to advance within the firm.”

And,

  • “Client expectations of full-time access with no boundaries is bolstered by the
    competitive nature of the practice of law. Attorneys reported that they fear that clients who demand immediate responses to emails and cellphone access, regardless of the date and time, will go elsewhere if the attorneys do not respond quickly enough. Reviewing work emails, text messages, and responding to work-related phone calls at all hours interferes with family time, social interactions, and self-care. A common issue among the responding attorneys is that they feel they never truly get away from work to recharge.”

In the end, the Steering Committee urged legal employers to “encourage vacations, set limits on client access, and allow attorneys to establish boundaries to them to devote time to self-care and family life, without fear of retribution.”

I’ve often mentioned Jeena Cho.  Jeena is a lawyer, author, and mindfulness instructor.  In my opinion, Jeena is one of the most important voices in the attorney wellness discussion.

Earlier this month, the ABA Journal’s On Well-Being column featured Jeena’s post Adults need screen time limits too.  It’s a great reminder that it’s perfectly okay to go more than a minute without checking your cell phone or work email.

I’m guilty of all the bad habits Jeena lists in her column.  Just last night I woke up around 1:00AM.  I was thirsty.  Inexplicably, before I walked to get a glass of water, I checked my cell phone – which was in my bed – to see how my NBA fantasy team did in last night’s games.  That is a problem!

Anyhow, this morning, I was struck by the “Intentionally Unplug” section of Jeena’s post:

When is the last time you intentionally ‘unplugged’ from your digital device? I’ve found that carving out regularly scheduled time where I give myself an opportunity to unplug is helpful in allowing me to better connect with my family as well as myself.

There are many pockets of time where you can institute ‘unplugged’ time. Some people observe the “digital sabbath” turning off the phone and laptop on Saturday evening and not turning them on again until Sunday evening, while others practice no screen time during meals.

If you’re like most lawyers and always eat lunch at your desk, looking at a screen, take yourself out to lunch once a week where you don’t look at your smartphone.”

Excellent advice!

It’s time for Wellness Wednesday to morph from a hashtag to action.  I’ll start.  Here’s how.

As many of you know, I love to run.  Among other things, whether I run 3 miles or 18, I love the time that goes by without checking my phone. I never bring it with me  . . .

. . .except on the rare occasions I run on a treadmill.  Then, I use my phone to listen to music or podcasts. Of course, at the same time, I find myself glancing at it to see if a text or email has popped in.  The intervals between glances grow shorter with every step.

That defeats the purpose of going for a run!

It’s so damn cold that today’s run will be on a treadmill at the gym.  I vow to leave my phone in my car.

Unplug. It’ll help you recharge.

Oh yeah, MTV Unplugged.  The interwebs are chock full o’ lists of the top performances ever.  My favorite? The Mariah Carey & Trey Lorenz cover of the Jackson 5’s I’ll Be There.

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DC advisory opinion addresses duties when another lawyer is impaired.

In March 2016, I authored my first post on lawyer wellness.  In it, I mentioned that lawyers often inquire whether Rule 8.3, the mandatory reporting rule, requires them to report impaired lawyers.  I added:

  • “Maybe.  But how about this? How about coming it at from the perspective of helping another human being instead of analyzing whether another’s struggles trigger your duty to report? If a colleague, co-worker, or opposing counsel needs help, why not help them?”

I suggested contacting me or Josh Simonds at the Vermont Lawyers Assistance Program.

Somewhat ironically, a lawyer called me this morning, minutes before I began to draft this post.  The lawyer asked for help getting into a residential treatment program. It was my first call of that nature. I referred the lawyer to Josh and stand ready to assist if the lawyer enters treatment and steps need to be taken to protect the interests of the lawyer’s clients.

But I digress.  I write today because I suppose there are instances in which helping a colleague doesn’t work.  If so, when does the colleague’s level of impairment trigger the duty to report?

Earlier this week, the D.C. Bar issued Ethics Opinion 377: Duties When a Lawyer is Impaired.  I want to highlight the paragraph that I consider most important:

  • “Beyond the ethical obligations embodied in the D.C. Rules, a fundamental purpose of identifying and addressing lawyer impairment is to encourage individuals who are suffering from mental impairment to seek and obtain assistance and treatment.  This purpose should not be forgotten as lawyers, firm, and agencies seek to comply with the ethical mandates discussed herein.”

In other words, let’s help people and let’s not disincentivize seeking help.  That’s why assistance must be decoupled from discipline.

As for the guts of the opinion, I don’t want to regurgitate it here.  It’s worth reading on your own.  In sum, it recommends that lawyers in supervisory & managerial roles:

  • “seek to create a culture of compliance” within their firms & agencies;
  • promote an office culture that encourages those in need to seek assistance;
  • develop internal policies & procedures to encourage early reporting to appropriate personnel within the office;
  • develop internal policies & procedures with which an impaired lawyer will be expected to comply**;
  • keep in mind that the duties to clients might include removing an impaired lawyer from involvement with client matters; and,
  • keep in mind that the substantive law will inform the firm or office on how to deal with an impaired lawyer’s privacy and employment rights.

** On this point, last week I blogged about the ABA Well-Being Template for Legal Employers.

I understand that many lawyers will continue to view lawyer wellness through the lens of a duty to report.  Even if that’s your perspective, don’t forget the key line from the D.C. opinion:

  • “Beyond the ethical obligations embodied in the D.C. Rules, a fundamental purpose of identifying and addressing lawyer impairment is to encourage individuals who are suffering from mental impairment to seek and obtain assistance and treatment.”

Help because you can, not because you have to.

As always, if you or a legal profession you know needs help, contact me or Josh Simonds at the Vermont Lawyers Assistance Program.

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Wellness Wednesday: the ABA Well-Being Template for Legal Employers

Last Wednesday, I blogged about the small things that we can do to promote wellness & well-being within the legal profession.  Two of the examples I shared:

  • every Friday in August, the workday at a large Vermont firm ended at 3:00 PM.
  • the lawyers who work in-house for a Vermont government agency recently created a Well-Being Committee whose first task was to develop a tool to allow lawyers and nonlawyer staff to weigh in on the office’s strengths & weaknesses on well-being issues.

I’m a fan of whatever proactive initiative, no matter how small, that legal employers take to promote well-being.

Today, however, I’m blogging on a different topic: responding to a co-worker who is impaired.

The ABA and its Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs have been at the forefront of the drive to promote wellness & well-being within the legal profession.  Yesterday, I came across the ABA’s Well-Being Template for Legal Employers.  Per the Preamble:

  • “In 2019, the Policy Committee of the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance
    Programs (CoLAP) and the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession developed this template to provide suggested guidelines to legal employers for responding to an employee who is experiencing impairment due to a substance use disorder, mental health disorder or cognitive impairment.”

Employers who adopt the template not only commit to proactive wellness initiatives, but also to:

  • “(1) early identification of impairment and proper intervention to assist with
    preventing, mitigating, or treating the impairment; and (2) preventing our professional standards and the quality of our work from being compromised by any personnel member’s impairment.”

Along with the Law Firm Pledge, the Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers & Legal Employers, and the Well-Being Toolkit in a Nutshell, the Well-Being Template serves as another valuable resource developed by the ABA for legal employers committed to their employees’ well-being.

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Wellness Wednesday: Small Things

As many of you know, I’m a big believer that small things matter.

In my view, when working to address the larger challenges that face the legal profession, we too quickly write off suggestions that will help a little for no other reason than they won’t help enough.  With “help enough” often defined as “solve the entire problem.”  I’ve used the Starfish story to make my point.   I’ve also argued that while changing the world would be ideal, winning your 3-feet of influence is a great start.

Imagine if each of us did.

Wellness is one of the profession’s most significant challenges.  Fortunately, it appears that many within the profession are taking small steps to meet the challenge instead of searching for a non-existent magic cure.  Today, I’d like to share some examples with you.

  • every Friday in August, the workday at a large Vermont firm ended at 3:00 PM.
  • the lawyers who work in-house for a Vermont government agency recently created a Well-Being Committee whose first task was to develop a tool to allow lawyers and nonlawyer staff to weigh in on the office’s strengths & weaknesses on well-being issues.
  • the VBA now includes mindfulness & wellness programs for members at all its meetings.
  • practicing what it preaches, this summer, the VBA staff rotated thru 1/2-day Fridays.

Outside Vermont, and as reported by Law.Com’s Corporate Counsel section, legal departments within some of the nation’s largest businesses are making wellness part of their culture. For example:

    • law firms that bid for 3M’s outside legal work must disclose whether they’ve adopted the ABA Pledge on Lawyer Well-Being and the steps they’ve taken to promote well-being within their own firms.
    • Cummins is a Fortune 500 company that makes engines.  The in-house legal department has recently taken several steps aimed at wellness: health screenings, yoga instruction, and 20-minute breaks from meetings to go for a walk with someone you don’t know too well.
    • The in-house staff at Barclay’s must consider the effects that their requests will have on other lawyers.  For instance, unless absolutely necessary, supervising lawyers are discouraged from assigning work with a Monday deadline.

Finally, in July 2018, the Delaware Supreme Court issued an order addressing issues related to work life balance. Among other things, the Court

    • changed the deadline to file most pleadings from 11:59 PM to 5:00 PM after concluding that the 11:59 PM deadline had “contributed to a culture
      of overwork that negatively impacts the quality of life for Delaware legal
      professionals without any corresponding increase in the quality of their work product or the functioning of the judiciary;” and,
    • ordered all lower courts to consider adopting policies that would disfavor (1) Monday deadlines; (2) issuing dispositive opinions on Friday afternoons; and (3) scheduling oral arguments and trials in August; and,
    • ordered all lower courts to consider anything else that would “improve the quality of professional practice by and quality of life of Delaware legal professionals.”

The Delaware Court’s order doesn’t preclude “small things.” Neither should you, your office, or your firm.  No matter how small, every improvement will make a difference to someone.  And that’s what matters.

For ideas, check out the ABA Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers (or the same tookit, but in a nutshell).

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ps:   speaking of small things, with this blog on my brain, my personal wellness program will undoubtedly include blaring Blink-182 in the garage while I grill tonight.  Bad karaoke is better than a life without karaoke.

 

Wellness Wednesday: It’s okay to be you.

At the end of May, I posted this blog.  In it, I suggested that, this summer, you do what works for you, not what you think others expect you to do.  In other words, be yourself.

A few weeks later, I posted Wellness Wednesday: Survival Skills.  It’s a post in which I referred to Link Christin, a lawyer who contributes to Attorney at Work.  In February, Attorney Christin started a series on survival skills for lawyers.  As of my blog, he’d posted five:

A few weeks ago, Attorney Christin posted Survival Skill No. 6 for Lawyers: Bring Your Authentic Self to Work.  In it, he writes:

  • “Lawyers must create an environment where they can deal with personal and professional behavioral issues in a timely way rather than internalizing them only to have them surface later in more dangerous and destructive ways. We shouldn’t expect everybody to embrace or even like our authentic selves. But, at the end of the day, our success as lawyers and our happiness and stability in life are premised on honoring who we truly are.”

Attorney Christin’s argument that well-being includes being your authentic self reminded me of my suggestion that you spend the summer being you.  And, the more I thought about it, the more I was reminded of my friend David Marlow.

Dave is the Activities Director at Mt. Mansfield Union High School.  In 2018, Dave was Vermont’s Division 1 Athletic Director of the Year.

Last year, Dave did a lot of work getting MMU’s student-athletes involved with mental health awareness.   An aspect of the students’ focus was de-stigmatizing mental health issues and encouraging peers who want help to seek it.  They came up with a phrase that Dave uses often on social media: “It’s okay not to be okay.”  Dave often follows it with #EndTheStigma.

Attorney Christin and Dave make great points that, really, are part of a singular message.

Again, Attorney Christin writes that “[l]awyers must create an environment where they can deal with personal and professional behavioral issues in a timely way rather than internalizing them only to have them surface later in more dangerous and destructive ways.” In other words, not only must we help lawyers deal with behavioral health issues, we must create an environment conducive to seeking help.  Which is exactly what Dave and his student-athletes mean when they say, “it’s okay not to be okay.”

It’s okay to be you.  And, if you need help being you, that’s okay too.  There’s a list of resources here.

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Wellness Wednesday: Time to change our business model?

“BigLaw” refers to the nation’s largest law firms.  Contrary to popular stereotypes, BigLaw lawyers have been some of the most influential voices in the on-going discussion of attorney well-being.

Jana Cohen Barbe is a partner at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm.  Last week, several outlets, including LawFuel and Law.Com, published an open letter in which Attorney Barbe argued that a root cause of the legal profession’s mental health crisis is, in fact, the profession’s business model.  As such, Attorney Barbe urged firms to re-think compensation systems, vacation packages, and “the almighty billable hour.”

I urge you to read Attorney Barbe’s letter.  Here’s the paragraph that resonated most with me, mainly because it reminded me of a blog I posted two weeks ago: Vacations, Devices & Vacations From Devices:

  • “What would happen if we de-emphasized the billable hour or did away with it completely, sizing our fees to projects undertaken and rewarding efficiency in performance? What would happen if we fostered a culture where vacations were mandatory and professionals were instructed not to check email while out of the office? I posit that our workforce would be happier, our clients would be happier (and also institutionalized to a far greater degree) and we could still pay the proverbial rent.”

Indeed, what would happen?  It’s time to find out.

(thank you Geoffrey Bok for the tip!)

Wellness