Wellness Wednesday & Bar Assistance: Quick Stress Relief Techniques

The Professional Responsibility Program’s new Bar Assistance Program (BAP) begins on April 1.  Set out in amendments to Administrative Order 9 that the Supreme Court adopted last November, BAP will be administered by bar counsel. My new role will:

  • continue to include responding to “traditional” inquiries. For example, questions on conflicts of interest, client confidences, whether to withdraw, and trust accounting.
  • continue to include presenting CLE seminars.
  • expand to include responding to and assisting legal professionals who are confronting behavioral health issues. For example, substance abuse, mental health challenges, chronic stress, or gambling addiction.
  • no longer include screening disciplinary complaints. That task will be assigned to Licensing Counsel Andy Strauss.
  • continue to include the #fiveforfriday legal ethics quiz.

In short, much like we should with behavioral health, my job will be decoupled from the disciplinary system. Having done nothing else since 1998, I’m both excited and apprehensive.

Anyhow, infused in BAP is a mandate for me to provide legal professionals with resources to assist with wellness and well-being.

Today, I’m sharing techniques to reduce stress.  These are not long-term strategies.  These are tools to use in the moment: whether immediately after the obnoxious email from opposing counsel, to help calm you after the phone call with the client who is never satisfied, or in response to any of the numerous interruptions inherent in working remotely.  Each comes from the American Psychological Association. Not one is longer than 50 seconds.

  1. Quick Ways to Manage Stress: Calm Yourself
  2. Quick Ways to Manage Stress: Relax Yourself
  3. Quick Ways to Manage Stress: Ground Yourself
  4. Quick Ways to Manage Stress: Celebrate Yourself
  5. Quick Ways to Manage Stress: Focus Yourself

Now that I think about it, these strategies shouldn’t be reserved for after your stress level rises.  I’ve been quite open recently: my conversations with lawyers around the state lead me to conclude, however anecdotally, that rising stress is causing increased incivility in the bar.  So, any of these techniques might be an appropriate appetizer to whatever uncomfortable communication you’re about to have.

You know, proactive wellness!

Oh, speaking of which, check out the flyer for the VBA’s upcoming Mid-Year Meeting.  The programming includes not one, but TWO wellness seminars.

Wellness

Wellness Wednesday. Jessica Burke: “Well People Do.”

Jessica Burke is a Vermont lawyer who founded Burke Law.  I don’t remember how we first met. I assume it was at a CLE or via an ethics inquiry. Anyhow, I’ve known Jess for many years.

Oddly, I remember the last time I saw her. It was a beautiful day in March.  We bumped into each other on the sidewalk outside the Costello Courthouse.  We agreed that soon, Jess, me, and her significant other would grab beers after work. Then, you know, the pandemic.

Had we met for drinks, I have no idea what we’d have chatted about. I don’t doubt I‘d have learned something interesting or funny about Jess. Alas, I doubt I’d have learned anything to make me more proud of her than an experience she recently shared with me via email.

Jess Burke

I’ve long called for the legal profession to destigmatize help-seeking behavior. The process includes fostering an environment in which people are comfortable sharing the experiences that led them to seek help. I don’t think we’re there yet. That’s what makes me so proud of Jess: she just moved the needle.

A few weeks ago, Jess emailed me a link to a blog she’d posted on her website: Attorney Wellness In Vermont. Jess gave me permission to re-post it. Soon, I hope to interview Jess as a sort of follow-up. For now, read Jess’s post.

I’m serious. Read it.

It’s easy for me constantly to tell everyone that running helps me to de-stress.  Or for others to advocate for yoga, hiking, crocheting or whatever.  There’s no stigma attached to those activities.

Jess’s post is a courageous and brave step forward.

Moreover, Jess’s references to feeling numb and detached from her clients and environment are exactly what I was trying to get at in blog post last week, and again in a seminar I did the following day. Indeed, her post captures so many of the thoughts and feelings that, in my observation, are affecting more and more legal professionals with each passing week.  Simply, Jess nailed it.

Again, read the post.

Here’s my favorite of Jess’s thoughts.  Referring to her decision to try therapy, Jess wrote:

“Who takes two hours a week to have someone else help you process your thoughts? It turns out, well people do.”

Well people do.

Preach on Jess!

We must do everything we can to encourage legal professionals to do the things that well people do.

In the meantime, please join me in thanking Jessica Burke.

wellness

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: 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.

wellness

 

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).

wellness

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.

 

Well-Being Is An Aspect Of Competence

Two years ago, the National Task Force on Lawyer Well Being published The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive ChangeThe report issued in response to two studies that revealed alarming statistics with respect to the well-being of the legal profession.

In their letter introducing the report, the Task Force’s co-chairs noted the report’s “five central themes:

  1. identifying stakeholders and the role each of us can play in reducing the level of toxicity in our profession,
  2. eliminating the stigma associated with helpseeking behaviors,
  3. emphasizing that well-being is an indispensable part of a lawyer’s duty of competence,
  4. educating lawyers, judges, and law students on lawyer well-being issues, and
  5. taking small, incremental steps to change how law is practiced and how lawyers are regulated to instill greater well-being in the profession.”

Among other proposals aimed at furthering the third (bolded) theme, the report recommended modifying the Rules of Professional Conduct “to endorse well-being as part of a lawyer’s duty of competence.”

The Vermont Supreme Court has done exactly that.

Yesterday, the Court promulgated an amendment to Comment [9] to Rule 1.1.  The new comment reads:

  • “[9] A lawyer’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being may impact the lawyer’s ability to represent clients and to make responsible choices in the practice of law. Maintaining the mental, emotional, and physical well-being necessary for the representation of a client is an important aspect of maintaining competence to practice law.”

Two questions jump to mind: what is well-being and how does a legal professional maintain it?

As to the former, the Task Force wrote:

  • “We define lawyer well-being as a continuous process whereby lawyers seek to thrive in each of the following areas: emotional health, occupational pursuits, creative or intellectual endeavors, sense of spirituality or greater purpose in life, physical health, and social connections with others. Lawyer well-being is part of a lawyer’s ethical duty of competence. It includes lawyers’ ability to make healthy, positive work/life choices to assure not only a quality of life within their families and communities, but also to help them make responsible decisions for their clients. It includes maintaining their own long-term well-being. This definition highlights that complete health is not defined solely by the absence of illness; it includes a positive state of wellness.”

In addition, the Task Force noted that:

  • “The concept of well-being in social science research is multi-dimensional and includes, for example, engagement in interesting activities, having close relationships and a sense of belonging, developing confidence through mastery, achieving goals that matter to us, meaning and purpose, a sense of autonomy and control, self-acceptance, and personal growth. This multi-dimensional approach underscores that a positive state of well-being is not synonymous with feeling happy or experiencing positive emotions. It is much broader.”

Finally, the Task Force explained that it:

  • “chose the term ‘well-being’ based on the view that the terms ‘health’ or ‘wellness’ connote only physical health or the absence of illness. Our definition of ‘lawyer well-being’ embraces the multi-dimensional concept of mental health and the importance of context to complete health.”

With the definition in mind, how does a legal professional maintain well-being?  It strikes me that the answer depends on the individual. A place for everyone to start, however, is the ABA’s Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers.  Its 99 pages are chock full o’ helpful tips and guidance.

I can hear you now:

  • “Ummm, what’s that you say Mike? 99 pages? I don’t have that much time to work on my well-being!”

Fear not!  Besides the full toolkit, and perhaps with my law school career in mind, the ABA also created the Well-Being Toolkit Nutshell: 80 Tips For Lawyer Thriving.  It’s only 2 pages.  No excuses!

Well-being is important.  Take the time to understand what it is, how to achieve it, and how to maintain it.  As you do, try not to get caught up in “I’m only doing this because the new comment says I should.”  Rather, get caught up in the first of the Well-Being Nutshell’s 3 reasons to care about well-being:

“It’s the right thing to do.”

 

Image result for images of lawyer well-being

 

 

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.

Wellness

 

Wellness Wednesday: Reach out, check in.

Granted, as a morning person and a creature of spring & summer, I’m biased. That being said, between the sun, the bluebird skies, and the temperature, it doesn’t get much better than this morning in Vermont.

Speaking of spring and summer . . .

. . . oh wait, before I go on: happy birthday Ben Traverse!  Ben has long contributed to others’ wellness, including mine. He was one of the earliest supporters of this blog, has a stellar record of providing pro bono services to clients unable to afford legal services, and, via his leadership role with the Young Lawyers Division, has served the past several years on the VBA’s Board of Managers.  If you know him, check in with him today to wish him well.

Speaking of checking in, back to our regularly scheduled blog.

If you’re at all like me, you associate spring and summer with an improved mood & outlook on life.  ‘specially ’round these parts, winter is long & dreary. So, as you enjoy a coffee on your porch with the only sounds being those of the birds, and as you revel in rolling the recycle bin to the curb without having to drag it thru slush, a morning like today’s lifts the spirits.  Spring, summer, and all the good that comes with each are finally here.

But not everyone feels the same.

Like Ben Traverse, Andrew Manitsky sits on the VBA Board of Managers and has long-supported this blog and the profession’s larger efforts on attorney wellness.  He’s a member of a PRB hearing panel and gets his wellness on by playing in a band.  Last weekend, Andrew sent me this opinion piece that ran in the New York Times.

Warning: it is a heavy read.

But it raises an important point: for some, spring is a time of despair.  Here’s the opening paragraph:

  • “It’s a popular and perhaps dangerous belief, reinforced by that inescapable Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” that winter is the peak season for suicide. Yet experts have known since the late 1800s that it’s not true: More people take their own lives in the spring months than in other times of the year. No definitive explanations have emerged for why this is so.”

From there, the author shares a moving personal story. Then, concludes with a tip that all of us should consider.  Referring to spring, she writes:

  • 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.”

Back to my original thoughts.

Speaking of spring and of checking in with someone, odds are that you know or work with an attorney who, if not struggling with significant behavioral health issues, is on the path towards the full-on struggle.  An attorney who has started to withdraw.

Reach out, check in.  As the author points out, sometimes that’s all it takes to make a difference for someone.

And, as regular readers of this blog know, I’m a big believer that we can make a difference, one person at a time.

Image result for starfish story printable pdf