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.

Wellness Wednesday: Compassion Fatigue

This is my first wellness post since the new Bar Assistance Program came into existence on April 1.  An aspect of BAP is me providing resources related to well-being in the legal profession.

Today, I intend to do so in two ways.

First, you should have Brian Cuban on your radar.  An attorney, Brian has long been a leading voice on issues related to lawyer wellness, including addiction and recovery. I recommend his book The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow and Redemption. Or, if an entire book (gasp!) isn’t your thing, I recommend Brian’s interview with Rocket Matter and this piece that he wrote for Above The Law.

Second, a few days ago on LinkedIn, Brian shared an article that appears in Canadian Lawyer: How compassion fatigue affects lawyers and what they can do about itLike Brian, compassion fatigue should be on the profession’s radar.

What is “compassion fatigue?”

The ABA has dedicated this page to the topic. Per the ABA:

“Compassion fatigue is the cumulative physical, emotional and psychological effect of exposure to traumatic stories or events when working in a helping capacity, combined with the strain and stress of everyday life.

It’s important to note that compassion fatigue is different than burnout.  While burnout is predictable, building over time and resulting in work dissatisfaction, compassion fatigue has a narrower focus.  Someone affected by compassion fatigue may be harmed by the work they do, experiencing intrusive imagery and a change in world-view.

Compassion fatigue is also known as vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress, second hand shock and secondary stress reaction.  Regardless of the term used, compassion fatigue affects those in the helping professions, including the legal profession, and is treatable. Treatment of compassion fatigue may prevent the development of a more serious disorder.”

It was only a few years ago that I first encountered compassion fatigue insofar as it relates to the legal profession. At the time, I was sitting on the Vermont Commission on the Well-Being of the Legal Profession.  Chairing the Commission’s Judge’s Committee, then-judge Cohen raised the issue.  Then, when we published the Commission’s State Action Plan, the Judge’s Committee recommended that we “make available secondary trauma resources for judges, lawyers, court personnel and jurors.”

My sense is that compassion fatigue has spread within the profession during the pandemic.  While I’m no professional, I don’t doubt that each of us has only so much to give.  Thus, not immune to the personal stress and anxiety that has affected everyone over the past year, legal professionals may have grown weary of helping others with theirs.  Truth be told, I’ve had that exact feeling on occasion.

That’s why I think it’s important to understand that compassion fatigue is a thing.  And that it’s a thing that impacts legal professionals.

So, take a minute to review the ABA’s compassion fatigue site  or the Canadian Lawyer article that Brian shared.  Each includes tips on how to recognize the signs & symptoms of compassion fatigue, the risks of not addressing it, and steps to take in response. In particular, I’m a fan of the section in the Canadian Lawyer article sub-titled “How to combat compassion fatigue.”  It reminds me of the attempts that Jennifer Emens-Butler and I have made to remind lawyers that it’s important to find time for things other than the law.

Make time for what matters to you.  Self-compassion will help recharge your efforts to help others.

wellness

Previous Wellness Wednesday Posts

Wellness Wednesday: A message from Justice Eaton

Jessica Burke: “Well People Do”

Wellness Wednesday: Schitt$ Creek and Paddles

Wellness Wednesday: Be Kind to Lawyers

Civility Matters. Especially Now.

Coping with COVID-19 Related Stress & Anxiety

Wellness Wednesday: Unplug

Well-Being is an Aspect of Competence

Wellness Wednesday: Survival Skills

Wellness Wednesday: Make time for what (and who) matters

Wellness Wednesday: Risk & Response (this one is about the report I mentioned from the Virginia State Bar)

Do summer your way

Wellness Wednesday: Meet Alison, Shireen, Samantha, and Alison

Reach Out, Check In

Wellness Wednesday: Mentor Someone

Wellness Wednesday: Joan Loring Wing

Wellness Wednesday: Law Day & Pro Bono

Get your sleep

Take a Chance on Being Nice

Attorney Wellness: We’ve Only Just Begun

Be Kind to a Lawyer Today

Be Nice to Someone Today

Wellness v. Well-Being

Wellness Wednesday: Meet Molly Gray

Wellness Wednesday: Judge Garland & My Cousin Vinny

Shakespeare, Pink Floyd and Wellness

Wellness Wednesday: You are not an impostor

Wellness Wednesday: “N O” is “O K”

Wellness Wednesday: Stop it!

Wellness Wednesday: Meet Jeff Messina

Lawyers Helping Lawyers Part 2

Lawyers Helping Lawyers: Keep it on the front burner

Lawyer Well-Being: a call to action

Anxiety, Stress & Work-Life Balance for Lawyers

Make time for what matters

Lawyer Wellness: resolve to find 6 minutes for yourself

108 is way too many

Workplace Happiness

Make Wellness a Habit

A pledge by legal employers to focus on lawyer well-being

Legal Ethics & the Water Cooler

Wellness Wednesday: Island Vines

Wellness Wednesday: on ponds, puffery and paltering

Wellness Wednesday: Neil Diamond, the Lock Screen, and National Mental Health Day for Law Students

Wellness Now!

Sung to the tune of a song heard this time of year:

“We need a little wellness now!”

Actually, with Festivus approaching, I should’ve gone with:

Wellness Now!**

  *****************************

I’m concerned for the profession.  Whether responding to inquiries or screening complaints, a message has emerged over the past 6 weeks: tension is rising & nerves are frayed. I’ve seen it in many contexts:

  • A rise in incivility between lawyers on different sides of a matter.
  • Increased tension between lawyers and their clients.
  • Lawyers from multiple practice areas convinced that theirs is the busiest, their clients the most insistent, and their work-induced stress levels the highest.
  • Lawyers from practices areas that are significantly less busy than prior to the pandemic convinced that their work-induced stress levels are the highest.

Most noticeably, the message emerges in the form of more and more lawyers contacting me to ask for tips & strategies to stay well.

That never used to happen.

Anecdotal? Small sample size? A blip that will revert to the mean?

I don’t know.

But it’s happening.

(I’ll leave for another post my thoughts on the fact that lawyers are reaching out even though they know I still screen disciplinary complaints.)

Today, in response to what I perceive to be a profession-wide need for a little wellness, I decided to repost videos I recorded from the Garage Bar in May. I did so in conjunction with 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 was “to raise awareness and encourage action across the profession to improve well-being for lawyers and their support teams.”  The organizers assigned a different theme for each day of the week.  For each theme, I posted a video.

Yes, if you watch all five, it’s 40 minutes of CLE in the new “wellness” category.  But the point isn’t to make progress towards the CLE requirement.  The point is to progress – however incrementally – down the path towards improved wellness.

Beginning now.

National Lawyer Well-Being Week Videos

** I’m aware that “Serenity Now!” is first heard in a different episode than the one in which Festivus is celebrated. My point was the connection. So, if you’ve already emailed me to suggest a mistake, I will challenge you to feats of strength. Actually, I won’t.  Instead, I’ll air my grievances. I’d need a Festivus Miracle to perform a feat of strength.

Serenity

Wellness Wednesday: Schitt$ Creek & paddles.

Believe it or not, there are days when I do things that don’t involve running or bar counseling.  Usually those days involve binging.  Admittedly, the objects of my binges vary.  Alas, more often than not, it’s a streaming service.

Netflix’s Schitt$ Creek  is one of my favorite binges of the pandemic.

schitts creek

For the uninitiated, it’s a Canadian sitcom that ended a six-year run in April. After dominating the awards circuit north of the border for years, Schitt$ Creek went out in a blaze of glory, winning all seven major comedy awards at this year’s Primetime Emmys.  People who went to college and law school around the same time as I did will recognize the father from American Pie, the mother from Home Alone, and the cameraman from Groundhog Day.

Highly recommend.

But what’s this got to do with wellness, surveys, and paddles?

I’m glad you asked.

In an episode of Schitt$ Creeks that I watched last night, characters who are siblings each took a “How Electric Is Your Relationship Test” that ran in a magazine  The results? Each learned that their respective romantic relationship was “in need of a generator.”  Neither was happy.

I’m here to argue that survey results can be misleading.

Earlier this year, the International Bar Association launched a project to address the wellbeing of legal professionals.  The project includes a survey on wellbeing issues, including the extent to which COVID-19 has exacerbated the impact that we know anxiety, depression, stress, and addiction have on the profession.

The survey is here.  The IBA and others associated with the attorney wellness movement are urging lawyers and legal professionals to take it.  The more data, the better.  You do not need an IBA member to participate.  I completed the survey this morning. It took 6 minutes.

The VBA’s COVID-19 Committee recently put out a similar survey. It’s here. Please take that one too!

Back to my point.

I assume the results will paint a dreary picture, with many proclaiming that the profession is up Schitt$ Creek without a paddle.  If that happens, I will channel my inner Lieutenant Commander Galloway and object.  Strenuously.  Here’s why.

For starters, let’s not pretend that the staggering rates at which behavioral health issues impact the profession are new.  It has been more than 4 years since I first blogged on the topic.  In my opinion, there will be something positive to take from data showing that the numbers have increased.

Mike, wait?  What the hell are you talking about? Worse numbers are a positive?

Yes. Because it shows that those within the profession are more willing to admit to coping with behavioral health issues.  We can’t help those who claim not to need it.  For far too long, we ran our profession in such a way as to discourage honesty on survey’s like the IBA’s.  If that has changed, it’s a positive.

For instance, since July 1, I’ve received more calls and emails from lawyers who want help than I did in my first seven years as bar counsel.  And, for the naysayers, yes, I received those calls and emails from lawyers who knew full-well that I would screen any disciplinary complaint that might be filed against them.  Maybe it’s true that the 80s were more than 30 years ago.  But I digress.

My point is this: the profession began debilitating its members long before the Hazeldon Study was released in 2016.  We just never admitted it. Rather, we compounded it by stigmatizing help-seeking behavior.  The fact that lawyers are asking for help – from bar counsel no less – is a positive.  I’d argue that, given our past, acknowledging our own behavioral health issues – even anonymously – is as well.

Take the surveys.

Which brings me to another positive.

Even destigmatized, requests for help wouldn’t come if people didn’t realize that others are willing to, you know, help.   Most importantly, we’ve made clear that we’re willing to help without reporting you to disciplinary authorities and without jeopardizing your law license and livelihood.  To stick with the theme, some of us are adrift in the water.  In the old days, the profession left us in its wake.   Now, there are many of us willing to extend a paddle to help pull others back to the boat.  That’s a positive.

So, yes. In my view, there will be positives to take from survey results that, at first blush, appear anything but encouraging.

But let me be honest. It’s not going to be all rainbows and unicorns.  We are going to need to redouble our efforts to help.  We’re all going to have to paddle.

In the early stages of the pandemic, I referred to it as “rowing the boat.”  I blogged:

I let things slide over the past several days.  Not today.

This morning, I made my bed.  I picked up the clothes that had been lying on my bedroom floor for days, folded them, and put them where they belong.  As my coffee brewed, I washed the mugs that had up in the kitchen sink.

I call this “rowing the boat.”  For me, routine helps keep my mind & spirit well.  Completing one simple task leads to another, and so on.  Next thing I know, I’ve changed my focus, been productive, and find myself one day closer to the good days that surely will return.

In rough seas, all I can do is keep rowing the boat.

I love and admire how so many of you are striving to take care of your clients and colleagues during this crisis.  Take care of your own wellness too.

Note: due to letting things slide, I haven’t shaved in 13 days.  “Rowing the boat” doesn’t include removing the pandemic beard . . . at least not yet.

Next week I’m going to post a blog aimed at those who are coping with personal issues and urge you to keep paddling.  Today I’m going to focus on a different maritime analogy.

Yesterday I interviewed a lawyer against whom a disciplinary complaint had been filed. After we finished discussing the complaint, the lawyer shared a story about how stressful the lawyer’s practice area has become since the onset of the pandemic. Then, the lawyer thanked me for blog posts that continuously “nudge” lawyers to remember things like wellness and civility.  The lawyer likened getting the profession to focus on wellness to turning a battleship.  If you aren’t aware, battleships don’t exactly turn on a dime.

It got me thinking.  To turn this ship around, we need as many as possible on board, on the same side, helping to paddle. One way to help? Take the  IBA survey and the VBA’s COVID-19 Committee survey. Answer honestly.

In closing, I suspect I’ve lost my train of thought.  I apologize.  I’ll leave you with this:

We might be up Schitt$ Creek, but we aren’t without paddles.

Additional Resources

Lawyer Wellness & Lawyer Assistance

National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being:  The Path to Lawyer Well-Being, Practical Recommendations for Positive Change

Vermont Commission on the Well-Being of the Legal ProfessionState Action Plan

American Bar Association: Law Firm Pledge & 7 point framework to reduce substance abuse disorders and mental health distress in the legal profession.

American Bar Association: ABA Well-Being Toolkit in a Nutshell

The Virginia State Bar: The Occupational Risks of the Practice Law (with tips on prevention & risk reduction)

Blog Posts

Wellness Wednesday: A Stunning Opinion.

Over the past few years, I’ve argued that we must do whatever it takes to destigmatize behavioral health issues. We must encourage people to seek needed help. We must ensure that doing so will not cost them their law licenses.

Last Friday, a federal judge issued a decision in a case involving a challenge to questions that the Kentucky Bar asks of applicants about their behavioral health.  The opinion is here.  The ABA Journal and Volokh Conspiracy reported it.

I don’t know that I’ve ever read a more scathing opinion.  It makes my point, albeit in a manner more forcefully than I have ever argued.  I imagine many will criticize the tone and analysis, but there’s no denying the message: no lawyer or law student should have to choose between help and licensure.

I suggest reading it.  For an appetizer, the final paragraphs:

“Law school is hard. The stress, rigor, and competition can lead to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Many students who start school healthy are far from it by the time they graduate. Some kill themselves.

Aspiring lawyers should seek the health care they need. But if Kentucky continues to punish people who get help, many won’t. And one day, a law student will die after choosing self-help over medical care because he worried a Character and Fitness Committee would use that medical treatment against him—as Kentucky’s did against Jane Doe.

It is not a matter of if, but when.”

wellness

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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.

wellness

Related Posts:

 

 

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: Risk & Response

I’ve been blogging & speaking about wellness since March 2016.  Over time, the tide has turned.  Early skepticism and resistance has given way to widespread acceptance that wellness must be addressed, and even wider enthusiasm in providing solutions.

The various responses to the wellness crisis flow from this 2017 report from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being.  Among other things, the report urged state supreme courts to create commissions to study & make recommendations on how the profession’s various stakeholders could act to improve wellness.

Under the leadership of Chief Justice Reiber and the Supreme Court, Vermont did exactly that.

Late last year, the Vermont Commission on the Well-Being of the Legal Profession issued a State Action Plan. The plan outlines the proactive measures that the stakeholders in Vermont’s legal community will take to improve the profession’s health and well-being.  To my knowledge, following the report & recommendation from the National Task Force, Vermont was the first state to issue an action plan.

Interestingly, while the profession has accepted and started to address the problem, nobody has looked critically at the “why?”  Why do legal professionals suffer from behavioral health problems at such staggering rates?  What is it that puts us at risk?

Until now.

Last month, the Virginia State Bar’s Special Committee on Lawyer Well-Being issued The Occupational Risks of the Practice of Law.  Professor Alberto Bernabe blogged about it here.  The report identifies four categories of risk, then dives deeper within each:

You don’t have to read the entire report.  Pages 2-11 include an accessible and hepful matrix that, for each risk, sets out its (1) potential effects; (2) practice pointers for individuals; and (3) practice pointers for organizations.

For example, lately, I’ve blogged and spoken often on the connection between incivility and wellness.  Here’s what the report from the Virginia State Bar says about the occupational risks associated with the adversarial nature of our work:

More Risk

 

Good stuff.  The matrix does the same for each risk factor. Give it a read.  Again, it’s here.

After all, it only makes sense that the most effective response will come from understanding the risk.

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