Vacations, Devices & Vacations from Devices.

Last week, I went to Chicago with the First Brother and Waskow.  We went to a Cubs game Friday.  It was a fantastic day off.  Yet, what did I do as we approached the Cubbie Bear before the game? I lagged behind so that I could respond to a lawyer who had emailed me an ethics inquiry.

Not cool.  I need to practice what I preach.  And here’s today’s sermon in 4 points:

  1. It’s mid-July.  A time for Vermonters to be on vacation.
  2. It’s also 2019.  A time for everyone to be on a device (or 2 or 3).
  3. If you’re a legal professional on vacation, stop reading now!
  4. Put the device down, back away slowly, and resume your vacation.

Wellness

Here’s the longer version.

Last week, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court received this report from its Steering Committee on Lawyer Well-Being.  The report, which is like Vermont’s State Action Plan, includes an array of recommendations from various stakeholders within the profession that is incredibly thorough and well thought out.

The Massachusetts report identifies 8 “Major Issues Affecting Lawyer Well-Being.”  They are:

  • Stigma
  • The pace of work
  • Financial pressures
  • Court deadlines & courtroom dynamics
  • Alienation from a lack of diversity and inclusiveness
  • Isolation
  • Secondary Trauma
  • Incivility

Over the next few months, I hope to touch on each.  Today, I’m focusing on “the pace of work” as a major issue affecting lawyer well-being.  In particular, I was struck by a theme that emerged  from the Steering Committee and its subcommittees: take a vacation, including from your devices.

Here’s the opening paragraph from the section of the report that deals with “pace of work” as a “major issue affecting lawyer well-being.”

  • The pace of work: The relentless pace makes it very difficult for lawyers
    to set boundaries between work and the rest of life, and appears to be significantly
    exacerbated by the technology-fueled demands for constant availability. This point
    was underscored by practitioners in firms of all sizes, public attorneys, and in-house counsel.”

From there, the report recommends that legal employers “encourage employees to take vacations.”  The recommendation cites to a study of 6,000 lawyers that “found that their number of vacation days was the strongest predictor of well-being of all activities measured in the study – – even stronger than income level.”

The recommendation follows from the reports of the Steering Committee’s various subcommittee.  For example:

The Subcommittee on Lawyer Well-Being noted that “work addiction” is 250% more prevalent among lawyers than nonlawyers and recommended that employers “encourage vacations.”

The Subcommittee on In-House Counsel found that “in-house counsel face the same pressures as other lawyers,” including “an expectation of 24/7 responsiveness.” As such, the subcommittee recommended that lawyers in supervisory roles should “encourage mental health days and vacation that specifically includes time away from work devices such as laptops and cell phones.”

The Large Firm Subcommittee cited several “major sources of stress.”  Among them, a workload that causes lawyers to “feel pressure to avoid taking full vacations or otherwise establishing time blocks when they are not available to work.”  Another source of stress:

  • “Lack of boundaries: Lawyers often feel that there is no line between being ‘on’ and ‘off’ duty and that they are expected to be available to respond to firm and client demands at all hours of the day and night. As a result, there is no true ‘down time’ for lawyers when they can recharge and be fully present with other aspects of their lives.”

Thus, the subcommittee’s recommendations include:

  • “Vacations. Lawyers should be encouraged to take their full allotment of
    vacation time as an essential component of their job responsibilities. Lawyers should be discouraged from remaining ‘on the grid’ while on vacation. Lawyers should be encouraged to cover for others who are away so that any disruption of service to clients is minimal. Vacation time should be tracked and inquiry made by attorney supervisors or the human resources department if attorneys are failing to take most of their allotted time to make sure that the failure to take vacation is not an early warning sign of burn-out’ or other mental health issues.”

The Massachusetts Bar Association Subcommittee on Attorney Well-Being found that:

  • “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.”

Then, the subcommittee recommended that legal employers “encourage vacations, set limits on client access, and allow attorneys to establish boundaries to allow them to devote time to self-care and family life, without fear of retribution.”

In sum, take a vacation.  Not just from your job, but from your devices.

Start now.

 

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: Survival Skills

One of the blogs I frequent is Attorney at Work.   Enshrined in the ABA Blawg 100 Hall of Fame,* its mission is as follows:

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

One Really Good Idea Every Day for Enterprising Lawyers

At Attorney at Work, our goal is to give you the inspiration and information you need to create a law practice — and a life — you love.

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

A lawyer named Link Christin contributes to Attorney at Work.  In February, he started a series on survival skills for lawyers. The posts to date:

I recommend each.  Christian identifies the more common aspects of lawyering that put attorneys at risk, then provides practical tips on how best to reduce and respond to the risk.

Proactive wellness is a good thing.

wellness

* Hopefully I’m 101.

Wellness Wednesday: make time for what (and who) matters.

 

Over the past three years, I’ve not stopped speaking or blogging about lawyer wellness.  A consistent component of the message: make time for what & who matters.

For various reasons, I didn’t write my regular Wellness Wednesday blog this morning.  Then, about an hour ago, I found myself scrolling thru Twitter looking for updates on KD’s injury and its impact on NBA trades & free agency.  In the process, I found this thread. It’s a more heartfelt message on attorney wellness & making time for what & who matters than any I could’ve posted.

After I post this, I could finish up tomorrow’s presentation for the Defender General’s Annual Meeting.  But I’ll have time for that in the morning.

Tonight is the most beautiful night of the year.  For us in northern Vermont, it’s possible no summer night will top it.  Indeed, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.  And, when I go, I don’t want a blog post or, no offense Matt, prepping a CLE on the legal ethics of criminal defense to be the last thing I did.  So, I’m going to slice a lemon, grab a Corona, walk down to my mom’s, and wait on her deck for her to get home from her Wednesday night running class.  That’ll be time that matters.

I urge you to make time for whatever or whoever matters most to you.

wellness

PS: if i get hit by a truck on my way to my mom’s, please don’t consider this post to have been spooky. I’m Irish!  So, if it happens, my brother re-telling the story will make for the greatest wake in the great history of Irish wakes!

 

 

 

 

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: Meet Alison, Shireen, Samantha, & Alison

Happy Wellness Wednesday!

I’ve often used Wellness Wednesday posts to introduce you to legal professionals who make time for interests outside the law and who are willing to share their thoughts on how those interests relate to their practices and wellness.

Today, with the Stanley Cup finals in full-swing, I’m thrilled to introduce you to 4 of Vermont’s hockey-playing lawyers:  Alison Bell, Shireen Hart, Samantha Lednicky, and Alison Milbury Stone.

Alison J. Bell    Shireen T. Hart  Alison Milbury Stone

I started my interview by asking each to respond to this email:

  • So, you’re a hockey playing lawyer.  I don’t know about you, but I’m often asked, “why’d you go to law school?”  Tell us how you got into hockey & your involvement with the sport now.

The answers fascinate me.  So much so that I contemplated stopping there.  Nevertheless, Alison, Shireen, Sam, and Alison were kind enough to answer follow-up questions as well.

Thank you to this fantastic foursome!

Any and all typos are mine.  Enjoy!

Alison Bell – Langrock, Sperry & Wool

Alison J. Bell

I started playing (a version of) hockey when I was 16 (for those counting, I am now almost 62). I grew up in a skiing/ski racing family in Stowe, so had never really skated. But one winter, there was literally no snow, and a bunch of us decided to play broom ball. Unlike some versions of that game, we used skates. My parents owned a convenience store, so I ordered a box full of regular brooms, chopped them at an angle in my high school shop class, and dipped them in fiberglass (I was a white water kayaker, with access to fiberglass, but that is a different story). Needless to say, the “sticks” weighed a ton, and were dangerous weapons. But we chased that ball around the rink, and I (sort of) learned to skate.

I first went to college at Bowdoin, then a men’s hockey powerhouse. There was no women’s team, but there was something called “Powder Puff Hockey” (seriously!). Some male students volunteered to coach, and I learned a lot about the game. But I still could not really skate.

I transferred to Harvard for my junior year, and some first-year women, who had actually played in boarding school, were agitating for a team. We were granted club status for my junior year and then, thanks to Title IX and an imposed need for parity, we became a Division 1 varsity team my senior year. My claim to fame is that I was the first-ever captain of Harvard Women’s Hockey, now a women’s hockey powerhouse. The first ever coach – Joe Bertagna – is now the head of Hockey East, and still a dear friend. We get invited to alumnae events as the OG, and get to share the dais with various Olympians, which is a thrill. I was recently honored along with other original players at the 40th anniversary of the Women’s Beanpot tourney, also a thrill.

As to the actual quality of hockey, my Harvard team was awful; we once lost by “two touchdowns and a field goal,” as Coach said. But we worked hard, had fun, and my teammates remain my friends, which is the best part of hockey (more on that below).

After college, I played and coached in a girls’/women’s program in Stoneham, MA for many years, while I was in law school and working in Boston. That was when I really learned to play. I had a specific epiphany, when I realized that the edges on my skates were the same as the edges on my skis, and it all clicked. My women’s team won a national championship at the Senior A level (that would clearly be B or C level today), and I helped to coach a U12 team to a national championship in Lake Placid, where Sandra Whyte (who would later play for Harvard and score the game winning goal in that first Olympic gold medal game) scored the only, winning goal, in the fourth overtime. That was a high point!

Moving back to Vermont, my husband and I coached all three of our kids in youth hockey, much to their dissatisfaction with being the coaches’ kids. I also played a lot of pick up hockey, both with women and coed, and frankly grew to dislike it. It is frustrating when you have an idea how the game should really be played and others do not. I was thinking about quitting, when a new opportunity arose. A guy named Ian Smith – who had been D3 player of the year at Middlebury and who is a natural teacher – offered to coach a team of women. We put a team together, and actually had practices once or twice a week, in addition to games. We learned so much, by focusing on more technical skills, game strategies, mental aspects, etc.

Though we no longer have a coach, that team continues to exist and play in the VWHO league. It is the best group of people (our rule is no drama!), ranging in age from early 20s to me, and they are my closest friends. There is such joy in being able to play a team sport, at a decent level, at this stage in life. I can actually say that all of the best things in my life have been connected to hockey, as I met my husband playing in a law firm league in Boston!

Shireen Hart – Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer

Shireen T. Hart

About 10 years ago, I was spending a lot of time in the stands watching my son play. A friend who was in the stands with me reached out to Dan McFall (played for the Winnipeg Jets and runs Full Stride Hockey) to put together a women’s intro to hockey group. About 20-30 of us showed up – all “hockey moms.”  Most of us were brand new to the sport – and skating too. At the end of the two-month session, we had the temerity to break into 2 teams and join an existing women’s league.

Our first season was not pretty. We were playing against women who had been skating since the time when they could walk. I had somehow convinced myself that I would be safer in net than skating out – given that I hadn’t mastered the hockey stop yet. I also figured that my less than stellar skating would be less obvious between the pipes – even though goalies are supposed to be the best skaters on the ice.

Fast forward to today, where I play pickup twice a week with a co-ed group that has been playing together for decades. I have met some of the most interesting and entertaining people through hockey. It is rare when I go out these days and don’t run into someone, I have at some time met on the ice.

Perhaps the most surprising outcome from taking up this kind of endeavor mid-life is what it has done for my all-around confidence or moxie. While there is still plenty of room for improvement, and I still consider myself a baby goalie, I thankfully can’t remember the last time I had to use double digits to count the goals I let in.  Goalies don’t pay to play hockey, but, looking back, my teammates probably should have charged me to play for the first several years.

By the way, Sam can attest to this. She played D on one of my teams several years ago and could not have been more gracious about my utter lack of know-how. Always a smile and positivity.

Samantha Lednicky – Murdoch, Hughes, Twarog & Tarnelli

That’s a good question, I remember taking skating lessons when I was really young (with figure skates first!) and skating on my town outdoor rink in the winter. I didn’t get into hockey until my sister picked it up and played on CVU’s first women’s hockey team.  When she graduated (she’s 5 years older) I inherited her equipment and asked to play CSB (a youth team) and then join the high school team. It was in high school where I discovered I had a passion for the game.

Although I was far from the best skater on the ice, I was probably one of the most determined and fearless (often ending up in the penalty box because I didn’t know how to stop).  At UVM I joined the women’s club team, which started out playing in the local Full Stride League in the fall and traveling to New England colleges in the spring.  Since women’s hockey was still relatively new, most colleges didn’t have developed club teams yet, so we found ourselves playing against whoever would agree to play us.  Notably I remember traveling with the whole team up to Quebec and playing in a tournament against all male teams whose average ages were 20 years older than us.

Once I moved on to law school in Boston I stopped playing, but one of my internships in law school brought me to the Burlington US Attorney’s Office where I was introduced to Barb Masterson who happened to be the captain for the “Switchblades” (the jerseys were sponsored by Switchback Brewery) an all-women’s hockey team.  Then after graduating law school and moving back to Vermont I started playing with the DRM Sharks and Vermont Vixen.  At one point I was playing three times a week, now I’m down to twice a week.  Somehow I manage to get myself to late night games, even when they start at 10:05PM and I have to be in court at 8:30AM the next day!

Alison Milbury Stone – Assistant Attorney General

Alison Milbury Stone

I’d say I didn’t have a choice, but my rebellious younger sister proved otherwise by signing up for basketball. By then it was too late for me.

Hockey is part of the fabric of my family, and I can’t remember being introduced to it, only that it was always around. My dad played for, coached, and managed the Boston Bruins, and later coached and managed the New York Islanders. My mother was the leading scorer for the first Colgate University women’s hockey team. I grew up playing street hockey and pond hockey with my two older brothers. We spent a lot of time at the old Boston Garden, watching games and practices and playing in the bowels of the old building. I played on boys teams until I was about 11, when a regional girls team was formed (and then I played with both the boys and the girls).

Hockey has taken me many places. One of the first was Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire as a high school freshman (among other draws, they had a girls team and two sheets of ice).

Next was Brown University. There, the Bears (dubbed the Pandas) were ranked #1 in the country, and we were Ivy League champs but lost the national final in an upset to the University of Minnesota. As a junior and a French major, I decided to study abroad in France, but made sure to pick a city (Lyon) that had a women’s ice hockey team. Unfortunately, they cancelled the season after a few training sessions, but as a consolation I joined their roller hockey team and was able to travel around France – to the Alps, Bordeaux, and then Lille for the national championships, where we clinched second.

After graduating from college, I bought a backpack for a round-the-world adventure. But as chance would have it, I went with my dad to the NHL entry draft that summer (in Nashville, Tennessee, of all places), and found myself sitting between the New York Islanders’ Swedish talent scout and Finnish scout at dinner. Both spoke Swedish, a language I had studied my senior year. They quickly decided that as a Swedish-speaking hockey player, it was imperative that I do a stint in Scandinavia, and they made good on their word to facilitate that. A few months later I moved to Stockholm, Sweden, where I suited up for the Allmänna Idrottsklubben (AIK) women’s team. I also got a day job at the Stockholm offices of the American law firm White & Case – the start of my career in the law. My team won the Swedish national championship, and I still have a gold Jofa helmet to show for it (though now it is a bit dinged up from my family playing with it and using it as a bike helmet).

I subsequently moved to Washington, DC, where I adopted the Washington Capitals as my second team and joined a beer league (coed by virtue of my participation). When I was considering Vermont Law School, a colleague introduced me to a female hockey player there. It turned out the VLS Swans were playing in a tournament the weekend I was to visit, and because it was their spring break, they were short on players. So, I suited up for the Swans before even enrolling. I took it as a sign that the school was a good fit.

Though I am now well past my hockey prime, I still play on two Burlington-area teams, both with Sam Lednicky: a co-ed team, the DRM Sharks (Sam and I are both Downs Rachlin Martin alums) and a women’s team called the Vermont Vixen. We play against Alison Bell in the women’s league. This year I made my fourth appearance at the Lake Champlain Pond Hockey Tournament in Mallet’s Bay. I am now also a proud hockey mom as my oldest child, 4-year-old Ned, just finished his first season.

MK:  Fantastic stories! I’m in awe.  Do you remember what made you burn to be a lawyer? These days, I wonder if one of the challenges of “attorney wellness” is keeping that fire lit.  How do you as lawyers make sure that the drive that landed you in law school continues to push you? Are there lessons from hockey?

Alison Bell:  I did not have a burning desire to be a lawyer, but I knew I wasn’t going to medical school, and I didn’t know what else to do. I did work as an investigator under some superb lawyers after college and before law school, so that encouraged me to apply.  But I have always been driven by social justice issues, even since childhood, and that keeps me going as a lawyer. I am fortunate enough to work in a firm that supports such efforts, both in our own work and in involvement with other organizations and causes. As I look at “retirement” I am thinking about using my legal skills in the service of a cause. Not sure any of this relates to hockey, other than the general idea that sports teach perseverance.

Shireen Hart: I consider myself new to hockey (and probably always will), so I am still developing my skills. I tend to focus on one different skill or strategy over the course of several games until muscle memory kicks in. I then turn to another new skill or strategy.

In my law practice, I try to push myself in a similar way. While I can certainly continue to do the work I have been doing for more than 2 decades, I am making myself step out of my comfort zone to take on new types of cases within health law – the most recent being serving as a Patient Care Ombudsperson in bankruptcy cases and representing a court-appointed receiver for several long-term care facilities. This new work has not only rejuvenated my practice, but it has also offered me additional skills to apply throughout my health law practice.

Samantha Lednicky:  I started undergrad as a psychology major, got involved in various research projects and found myself interviewing juveniles at Woodside as a research assistant studying risk/reward deficits in youth.  It was then that I realized I was bound to be in a courtroom helping criminal defendants and not in a research lab. Every day that I’m in court or meeting directly with clients I am reminded why I became a lawyer.  The feeling I get with direct client contact and courtroom time is the same feeling I get on the ice—an excitement to be there and a determination to do well.

Life gets busy and client needs can be demanding.  It’s easy to put your head down just to get through the day, that’s when I think lawyers suffer the most and burn out.  If hockey has taught me anything it’s keep your head up and skate hard to the net.  Practicing law it’s equally as important to keep your head up and work hard towards your goal.  But you have to maintain a work life balance, just as in hockey, you can’t skate every day of the week you need a rest day.  I recently had a particularly tough day in terms of the subject matter of the cases I was working on, and I reminded myself that it’s okay to take a break and I took some time for myself by, you guessed it, playing hockey!

Alison Milbury Stone:  Same formula: do something you are passionate about, that plays to your strengths, and do it with good people. Also, leave room for other things in your life so you can have balance and not burn out!

I went to law school because I was concerned about environmental degradation and wanted to be part of the solution. I love reading and writing, am very detail-oriented, and enjoy some healthy competition, so I settled on environmental law and policy as a way to marry my strengths and interests. The environmental challenges and tensions that initially “lit that fire” still persist, and continue to motivate me to become the best advocate I can be.

The environmental field being a broad one, I’ve worked in a range of and the diversity of my work – in terms of substance areas as well as the mix of litigation and transactional matters – keeps things interesting. I still learn something new every day, and that’s very gratifying.

But equally important is that fact that I really like and respect my colleagues. In sport and at work, having strong leadership and supportive peers can make all the difference in the quality of the experience. In my current position at the Attorney General’s Office and in my most recent job in private practice, I’ve been lucky to work with skilled attorneys who are good team players and who I consider friends as well as colleagues. People who, before delving into work matters, ask how my weekend was and genuinely listen to the answer. And they elevate my game; just as a goal in hockey is made sweeter by a crisp set-up pass from a teammate, a brief that is improved by colleague’s adept edits is all the more satisfying.

Finally, I’ve been fortunate to work with people who value and promote wellness. When I worked with Leslie Cadwell, she would encourage me to walk my dog during conference calls on sunny days, and once surprised me by sending a NutriBullet to my house so my family and I could sneak vegetables into our morning smoothies. Attorney General T.J. Donovan still makes time for basketball, and Chief Assistant Attorney General Sarah London and Environmental Division Chief Rob McDougall do marathon training runs at lunch. That sets the tone for a culture where people feel they have the space to get out and exercise and come back to their desks refreshed and more focused (and it kind of feels like slacking if you don’t!).

MK:  Lately, I’ve spoken & blogged often on increasing reports that civility among lawyers is no longer a thing, so much so that it might be a cause of many lawyers’ anxiety & stress.

Bigger deterrent to lawyers who are rude & obnoxious: contempt of court, PRB disciplinary action, or an actual penalty box to which a judge might banish them for 2 minutes during a hearing.  Or, do the rest of us just keep on “killing ‘em with kindness?”

Samantha Lednicky: The great thing about hockey is you can get a penalty in the heat of the moment but at the end of the game you always go through and shake everyone’s hand.  As a lawyer, I think it should be required to look opposing counsel in the eyes at the end of a hearing, shake their hand, and thank them for their civility—maybe if we knew this was coming we would all be more civil.

Alison Milbury Stone: The genius of the penalty box is the shame that comes from sitting behind the glass in plain view, watching helplessly as your teammates play on short-handed due to your bad decision. We’d have to figure out how to do this without leaving the client high and dry during a hearing (a particular challenge if there is no co-counsel), but I think you’re on to something here.

Shireen Hart: I have not found player yet that can’t be broken down with some good locker room banter.

Alison Bell:  I love the image of a penalty box in the courtroom; it will never happen, but I bet it would work!

MK: There are 4 of you.  We need 2 more to fill out a team.  For each of you, who are the 2 “dream teammates” you’d add to fill out the team?

Shireen Hart: Both are women with whom I currently play. One plays D and is the kind of player who stands right next to me until everyone clears the area. I like to kid myself that I actually need that kind of protection. And, it doesn’t hurt that she is truly a fierce defender with a great slap shot – the kind of shot where everyone in the puck’s path dives away from it. The other is a woman who was apparently born with skates on her feet and a stick in her hand. I am truly awed watching her on the ice. She can put the puck wherever she wants and score on demand, but 9 times out of 10, she’s going to make the pass to set up a teammate instead.

Samantha Lednicky:  Kendall Coyne because she’s a badass. She’s on the US women’s hockey team and competed this year in the NHL (previously all male) skills competition, placing as one of the fastest skaters.

Cale Makar because he won the Hobey Baker this year and two days later played in his first NHL game and scored a goal.

Alison Milbury StoneOh, this is a tough one. Since Sam and I are both forwards, Alison B. plays defense, and Shireen is a goalie, I’ll be practical in terms of the lineup and pick one forward and one D.

With my first pick in the fictional draft, I select Bruins defenseman and captain Zdeno Chara. “Big Zee” is hands down the hardest worker I’ve ever met, a really nice guy, and an intimidating 6’9” before he even puts on his skates. You don’t want to be digging a puck out of the corner when he’s on the other team.

I also pick my former teammate Danijela Rundqvist, previously a member of the Swedish national team. She is a pure talent, a really positive and encouraging teammate, and fun in a mischievous kind of way, which is good for the atmosphere in the locker room.

Alison Bell: I would add my two daughters, both great players, because there is nothing better than playing with your kids.

MK:  Last question: Stanley Cup finals: Bruins, Blues, Don’t Care?

Alison Milbury Stone:  Bruins ALL THE WAY!

Alison Bell: Bruins. I have never worn socks in my skates, because I read Bobby Orr’s book as a kid, and wanted to be like him.

Shireen Hart: Bruins in 6.

Samantha Lednicky: BRUINS.

Thank you all again!  And let’s hope you’re right about the Bruins!

Boston Bruins Decal

Related Posts

Prior to today, Heather Moreau shared her Route 66 adventure, Jeff Messina and Andrew Manitsky talked about their respective bands, and Molly Gray reflected on her days as a competitive skier.

Also, before I ever imagined a “Wellness Wednesday” column, Elizabeth Kruska & Wesley Lawrence were kind enough to take the time to discuss their interest in horse racing, Scott Mapes talked soccer with me, and many lawyers & judges shared their marathon stories.

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.

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Wellness Wednesday: Mentor Someone

Last week, I used this space to celebrate Joan Wing.  The post generated a ton of feedback, mostly from lawyers grateful for Joan having mentored them.  The feedback got me thinking.

Then, I read this post in the ABA Journal.  The post references a survey of Florida’s young lawyers.  Per the survey, many of Florida’s young lawyers aren’t happy with their chosen profession.  The results got me thinking even more.

In my post on Joan, I suggested that we try to be more like her.  Mentoring a younger attorney presents an opportunity to do so.

I can hear you now: how’s that wellness?  The Vermonter that I am, I answer your question with my own: how’s it not?  Consider:

What if:

  • you showed a younger attorney that you cared enough to help her become a better attorney?
  • you helped a newer attorney avoid some of the mistakes you made as a younger attorney?
  • introduced an attorney who is brand new to Vermont to other attorneys who have established themselves here?
  • did nothing more than listen to a younger attorney who is frustrated, anxious and questioning whether he wants to continue in the profession?

It’d certainly help the younger attorney’s wellness, and likely would help yours as well.  Not only that, you might learn a thing or two from the younger attorney.  Umm, tech competence anyone?

And if that’s not enough, there’s CLE credit!

A few years ago, the Vermont Supreme Court adopted new Rules of Admission.  The rules did away with the “clerkship.”  Now, whether by exam or motion, new lawyers have one year to complete 15 hours of CLE in the basics of Vermont practice & procedure.  Additionally, attorneys admitted by exam have one year to complete a mentorship.  Mentors are eligible for up to 5 hours of CLE credit per reporting period.

We need mentors.  If interested, email me. I keep a list of those willing to serve.

Mentoring helps.  And, as Joan proved, helping is wellness.

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Wellness Wednesday: Joan Loring Wing

Attorney Wellness is a big tent.  A lot fits underneath:

Lawyer assistance programs.  Helping colleagues in need.  Mentoring attorneys. The connection between wellness and civility.  Making time for what matters: family, friends, interests outside the law.

Of all that’s under the tent, nobody did them better than Joan Loring Wing.

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Many of you knew Joan.  For those who did not, she was a titan of the Vermont legal community.  A figurative Giant.  All the good we’ve done on attorney wellness over the past few years?  It’s not as much us as it is that Joan lifted us up, put us on her shoulders, and showed us the way.

I knew Joan well.  She was on the Professional Conduct Board when I was hired as deputy disciplinary counsel in 1998.  To the extent that wellness includes having a job and being involved in the profession, Joan is why I’m well.

In 2000, it looked like my job would be cut.  Joan made sure it wasn’t.  I’m still here and, honestly, do not want to imagine how my career would’ve turned out if she hadn’t intervened.

In 2009, Liz Miller asked me to the run for a seat on the Vermont Bar Association’s Board of Managers.  Waffling, I turned to Joan for guidance.  As had her father and grandfather, Joan had served on the Board and become President.  She told me it’d be the best experience of my professional life.  Then, to make sure I didn’t chicken out, she showed up to the voting meeting and gave a speech nominating me. I remain convinced that many who voted for me did so only because Joan vouched for me.

Joan was right about the Board experience.  As with my day job, I don’t like to think how my career would’ve turned out had she not convinced me to run.

Tonight, I’m speaking at the meeting of the Joan Loring Wing Inn of Court.  About a week ago, I decided to mark the occasion by making today’s post about Joan.

Thinking about Joan and “wellness” can be funny.

  • She smoked constantly.  Even in her office.  I remember many a meeting having to look thru Lark smoke to see her across the desk.
  • She drank a ton of soda.  She brought a little cooler full of cans of Coke to every meeting or event that I remember.  Then asked the serving staff to bring her a cup of ice.
  • The soda chased the Cheetos and Thin Mints that she brought along with it.

Cigarettes & junk food.  And from what I recall, her work days began in the middle of the night.  But Joan would be at the forefront of Attorney Wellness.  How do I know?  Because she was all about Attorney Wellness even before it was a thing.

Joan died in a car accident on December 8, 2009.  Two days later, the Supreme Court held a swearing-in ceremony for new lawyers.  Chief Justice Reiber spoke.  He dedicated his words to Joan. The VBA Journal printed his speech here,  It tells the story of Joan, and what she meant to Vermont, far better than I can.

So can others.  In anticipation of this blog, I asked several who knew her to share thoughts on Joan and how she’d view the “attorney wellness” phenomenon.  Here are some responses:

  •  “Joan knew the benefits of social interaction, positive mentoring, and just plain support to the profession.  No matter the age, nor level of experience of the lawyer, she was always willing to provide unbiased and meaningful advice.    She promoted wellness among the bench and bar by encouraging personal best behaviors and openness for constructive criticism.    Joan knew that small gestures which invoked humor where absolutely necessary for the practice:  always having “settle” and “pay” M& Ms at mediation would bring some comedic relief to an otherwise stressful situation for both the parties and the lawyers.   While her methods of practicing “wellness” were non-traditional, they were effective to promote the best version of ourselves as lawyers, and deal with the stressors that come with an active practice.”  Attorney Bonnie Badgewick
  • “Joan Wing was like a sister to me.  I can hear her now delivering some irreverent tongue-in-cheek comment about what the legal profession was coming to if it actually needed to focus on ‘wellness’ and on teaching ourselves how to take care of ourselves.  But if someone were not well and she found out about it, she would have been one of the first to respond.  While never taking herself too seriously, she manifested for all of us a caring attitude toward her fellow attorneys, which in and of itself helped promote our collective wellness.” Honorable Peter Hall, United States Circuit Judge, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
  • “You know for Joanie I think over all the years when she served as a leader in so many capacities, what she did and what she said was never about her. Her efforts were not designed to invite praise or attention to herself. I think the motivation was to push us all to be our best selves, not for our self-interest but for the betterment of the whole. The notion that we in the bar need to look after our own mental health and support our friends and colleagues, seems to me to be very much in concert with Joan’s strong sense of duty. Like her father who escaped a German prisoner of war camp in the winter in bare feet, Joanie was tough, with a single-minded devotion to the common good. I will never forget the moment I learned of her death. Through her memory she continues to be an inspiration.” Honorable Paul Reiber, Chief Justice, Vermont Supreme Court.
  • “She absolutely would have been on board with wellness, as long as there was no mandatory smoking cessation program. The first thing Joanie ever said to me was ‘well, are you a shrinking violet or what?’  I told her ‘or what.’  She always made sure to reach out to young women starting out in the RCBA to make sure we were introduced to our fellow RCBA lawyers and to make sure we knew that we weren’t alone in our experiences and could tap into the resources of those who had been there before us.  I am so thankful to her for helping me meet people and making me feel supported as a young lawyer starting out in Rutland County.  She was an endless source of historical information and quick wit, and I feel incredibly lucky to have known her.” Attorney Erin Gilmore.
  • As to wellness, I agree, she would be on board. Her heart was open as a shrine, and anyone could walk in and be welcomed.  A particular wellness initiative on the part of her and her family: ARC (Advocacy, Resources, Community). She had a special-needs brother who was beloved by his family — the original spark for ARC, which she supported throughout the years. On a personal wellness note, I was phobic about snakes, and eventually went through a course of exposure therapy to overcome my fear. When I finished, Joan was so pleased that she gave me an extraordinarily beautiful Venetian glass pendant in the shape of a snake. She supported my efforts and cheered my triumph.” Attorney Lisa Chalidze.
  • “One thing she told me when there were some issues at my firm was something akin to, ‘No matter how much work you have put into this profession, nobody can prevent what someone else might choose to do to you. Sometimes it is healthier to just walk away.  Being a lawyer is not more important than being healthy.'”  Matt Valerio, Vermont Defender General.
  • “I know she was defiinitely on board with wellness. I remember on a few different occasions her bringing some folks into the office (or she would go to them), who she was trying to help without posting their troubles for the whole world to see but at the same time letting them know that they needed to get their ** together! She was sympathetic but also wasn’t afraid to tell them what was unacceptable. Thank you for keeping her spirit alive, I still miss her each and every day.” Karen Poljacik, Joan’s long-time employee.
  • “Joan epitomized wellness, because she made everyone who encountered her feel great. It was impossible to feel stressed or anxious around Joan. You’d either be laughing too hard, or you’d be marveling at whatever her insight was about the topic of the day.  Plus, you knew that Joan would be the first to help any lawyer in need.  She was a lawyer’s assistance program before we had lawyer’s assistance programs!” Teri Corsones, Executive Director, Vermont Bar Association.
  • “And now we have this attempt to link Joan Loring Wing to ‘wellness’.  Another well-intentioned gesture to connect a cause to a person who did much to distance herself from it.  From the Classic Cokes she snuck into restaurants in her giant purse to the Larks that she and Harold Berger smoked with abandon in her office ‘back in the day’, Joan was the epitome of an unhealthy lifestyle.  Salt and Cheezypoofs were two of her main food groups and she even co-opted M&M’s into her mediation practice with her famously inscribed ‘settle’ and ‘pay’ candies.   But just as [her father] settled hundreds of cases in his own gruff style so did Joan encourage the big picture of ‘Wellness’ in her care for her fellow lawyers and her attitude towards life itself.   If Wellness means embracing life and living it to its fullest without concern for judgment and constraints, then mark Joan down as very well indeed.  Joan may have been a terrible patient but a great friend to all who had the privilege of knowing her.  Her concern for the wellbeing of the attorneys around her was legendary and that should surely entitle her to be enshrined in the Wellness hall of fame.”  Honorable Karl Anderson, Probate Judge, Rutland County.

Attorney Wellness is about improving the profession’s health.  Joan devoted herself to doing so.  May her star never fade from our collective memory or her example from our collective conduct.

I’ll leave you with words from my good friend Eric Johnson, another attorney who knew Joan.  Hootie captures how Joan would remind us to move forward:

  • Joan was one of the best people I have ever known.  She was appropriately old school, with a wicked sense of humor and a ton of common sense.  She gave a lot of her time and of herself to help others, both within and outside of the Vermont Bar.  It has been nearly ten years since we lost Joanie, and I still miss her.  I keep the card from her funeral in my office, which reads: 

Grieve not…
nor speak of me with tears…
but talk of me…
as though I were beside you.
I loved you so…

’twas Heaven here with you.

Indeed it was.

Wellness Wednesday: sleep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Game of Thrones.

Sometimes I post early, sometimes I post late.  I guess I’m the Nice & Smooth of legal ethics bloggers.

Today I meant to post early.  After all, it’s Wellness Wednesday, a huge day for this blog.

Alas, I didn’t.  But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about you! Indeed, this post has been on my mind nearly all day.

I went to bed early last night.  I anticipated being up later, but the Bruins game proved anti-climactic so I went to bed.  To me, it was PERFECT sleeping weather.  Meaning, I slept with the windows open and the covers drawn.

Does this ever happen to you?  You’re sleeping so well that you’re actually aware of how well you’re sleeping as you sleep?  I swear it happens to me.  Not often, but on occasion. And last night was one of those occasions.

Then I woke up.  Raring to go.  The birds were singing and I felt good.  Sure, it was still a bit dark, but that was probably just the clouds.

Except it wasn’t.  It was dark because it was 3:30 AM.

That NEVER happens to me.  Yes, I like to get up early, but I define “early” as 5:30.  As good as I felt, I wanted my 2 hours of sleep back!   Then, the irony struck me.

In response to last week’s Wellness Wednesday post, a friend/lawyer/reader sent me Americans aren’t getting enough sleep and it’s killing usIt’s an opinion piece that Dr. Jonathan Fielding contributed to The Hill.  I found it fascinating, but scary.

Give it a read.  It cites various studies that indicate that a lack of sleep causes health problems.  And, contrary to popular opinion, our bodies struggle to recover from sleep deprivation.  Meaning, “I’ll work all night tonight because I know I can sleep late Sunday” is not scientifically valid.  And, as Fielding writes, “All-nighters push anxiety to clinical levels and even modest sleep reductions are linked to increased feelings of social isolation and loneliness.”

Folks, that’s attorney wellness.  Get your sleep.  Let your associates get theirs.

Alas, this morning, I didn’t fall back asleep.  Rather, I made the mistake of checking scores, then email and –  yada yada yada – the next thing I knew the coffee was brewing.

There was, however, a silver lining.

When I checked my email, I saw a notification that Professor Bernabe had posted a new blog. Given that the post focused on two topics near & dear to my blog –  the duty of competence & fictional lawyers – it was a great way to start the day! Check it out.  (My favorite voir dire (fictional or real) of an expert witness begins at the 8:13 mark in the video.)

The post put me back in a good mood, the early wake-up banished to the dusty corners of a memory bank that seems to consist of nothing but corners.  In other words, reading the post increased my well-being. Thanks Professor! Further evidence of why you’re always on the #fiveforfriday Honor Roll!

Reading the post also got me thinking: I haven’t blogged about tv or movie lawyers in a while. And, for me, doing so is a source of wellness.  So, I started searching the dusty corners – have I watched any blog-worthy fictional lawyers lately?

Not really.   Recently, I’ve been into HBO.  I re-upped a few weeks ago to catch up on Game of Thrones. When not catching up, I watched a bunch of episodes of Barry and 1.5 episodes of Big Little Lies. 

The former?  I know it has won a ton of awards, but I don’t love it.  The latter, I loved the book. Despite its critical acclaim, I’m worried that the show won’t live up.  So, as with most of my relationships, I’m starting by showing the show a lot of lukewarmth.

Besides those two, I binged on Veep.  More accurately, re-binged, I LOVE that show.  JLD has long been a favorite.  Of course, I liked her in Seinfeld.  And, as should be obvious by her numerous appearances in my real-life and #fiveforfriday quizzes, I thought she was fantastic as the ethically-challenged prosecutor Maggie Lizer in Arrested Development. 

But she ROCKS as Selina Meyer.  (some of you can probably guess who she reminds me of)  And, Jonah, Gary, and Richard make me laugh out loud.

Alas, Veep provides no lawyers to write about.  Yes, Selina was a lawyer before entering politics.  And Richard holds a doctorate in constitutional law and is an expert on the electoral college.  Still, nothing inspired me to write about either.

That leaves Game of Thrones.  No, no character’s official profession is “lawyer.”  I submit, however, that Samwell Tarly is the show’s functional equivalent thereof.  If anything, he’s a veritable expert in parentage actions! Still, he’s nothing to blog home about.

So, having increased my wellness by using legal ethics as an excuse to write about tv shows, and having started to blather on even further than could be fairly described as “rambling,” I’ll get to the point.

I want to know what my readers think:  when it’s all said and done, who will sit on the Iron Throne?

The latest Vegas odds are here.  I can’t believe the line on Baelish. Intriguingly short!  And, my poll is here, with candidates listed in the same order as the betting odds. I was tired of typing, so I cut off the list after Brienne of Tarth (and actually left off a few between her and Varys).  Or, you can email me your theory/prediction.

I’m not sharing my vote.  I do have one prediction to share though: the Night King and his ice Dragon will not be at Winterfell Sunday night.  I predict they’ve headed south to attack King’s Landing.

Now, either vote, send me your prediction, or go to sleep.   It’s all wellness!  Even weller if you do all 3.

Hope you enjoyed your Wednesday.

P.S. if you can’t sleep, check out an old post on unethical lawyers from an HBO show: The Night Of:  Who Gets Disbarred First?

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