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

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

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The first development comes from Florida.

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

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

“Imagine this:

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

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

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

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

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

No, it is not!

The second development is actually an older story.

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

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

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

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

Engage & Grow: the debrief video

It’s time for Wednesday’s debriefing!

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

Again, it’s Well-Being Week in Law.

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

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

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

Thank you again to those who joined today!

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

Engage & Grow!

Related Material:

 Related Posts:

Venue, the Electric Slide, and Impostor Syndrome: thoughts on intellectual engagement & growth.

Welcome to Wednesday of Well-Being Week in Law.

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

Here’s a video in which I go into more detail.  The video ranges from my personal (and borderline frivolous) engagement and growth – venue in federal criminal cases and mastering the Electric Slide – to a serious discussion of Impostor Syndrome.

I’d love to learn your thoughts & strategies for intellectual growth.  Please consider joining this Zoom discussion at noon to share & listen as others share theirs!

 Links to material referenced in my video are below:

Engage & Grow!

  • An article in Elemental on the connection between curiosity and well-being.
  • An article in Courthouse News about a 9th Circuit opinion that involves an international arms dealer and proper venue in federal criminal cases.
  • Joanna Litt’s letter to The American Lawyer about her husband’s suicide.
  • Neha Sampat’s post in the ABA Journal calling on the profession to address Impostor Syndrome.

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Related Posts:

Let’s Light Some Candles

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

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

~ James Keller

candle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s where I might be able to help.

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

The schedule:

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

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

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

That said, here again is the quote:

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

~ James Keller

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

candle

Wellness Wednesday: Compassion Fatigue

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

Today, I intend to do so in two ways.

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

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

What is “compassion fatigue?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Previous Wellness Wednesday Posts

Wellness Wednesday: A message from Justice Eaton

Jessica Burke: “Well People Do”

Wellness Wednesday: Schitt$ Creek and Paddles

Wellness Wednesday: Be Kind to Lawyers

Civility Matters. Especially Now.

Coping with COVID-19 Related Stress & Anxiety

Wellness Wednesday: Unplug

Well-Being is an Aspect of Competence

Wellness Wednesday: Survival Skills

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

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

Do summer your way

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

Reach Out, Check In

Wellness Wednesday: Mentor Someone

Wellness Wednesday: Joan Loring Wing

Wellness Wednesday: Law Day & Pro Bono

Get your sleep

Take a Chance on Being Nice

Attorney Wellness: We’ve Only Just Begun

Be Kind to a Lawyer Today

Be Nice to Someone Today

Wellness v. Well-Being

Wellness Wednesday: Meet Molly Gray

Wellness Wednesday: Judge Garland & My Cousin Vinny

Shakespeare, Pink Floyd and Wellness

Wellness Wednesday: You are not an impostor

Wellness Wednesday: “N O” is “O K”

Wellness Wednesday: Stop it!

Wellness Wednesday: Meet Jeff Messina

Lawyers Helping Lawyers Part 2

Lawyers Helping Lawyers: Keep it on the front burner

Lawyer Well-Being: a call to action

Anxiety, Stress & Work-Life Balance for Lawyers

Make time for what matters

Lawyer Wellness: resolve to find 6 minutes for yourself

108 is way too many

Workplace Happiness

Make Wellness a Habit

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

Legal Ethics & the Water Cooler

Wellness Wednesday: Island Vines

Wellness Wednesday: on ponds, puffery and paltering

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

Wellness 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.

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Save The Date: Well-Being Week In Law

The inaugural National Lawyer Well-BeingWeek took place last May. If you missed it, don’t worry. – it’s back!

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Rebranded as Well-Being Week In Law (WWIL), the event will run from May 3 – May 7.  Each day will focus on a different aspect of wellness.  Per the Institute for Well-Being in Law,

  • “The aim of WWIL is to raise awareness about mental health and encourage action and innovation across the profession to improve well-being.”

There’s a lot more information on WWIL here.  Check it out.  The Institute has done a great job providing firms, offices, and employers with resources to make well-being part of the day-to-day instead of something we do one week per year.  That said, if a dedicated week in May is what gets you to the starting line, then save the date!

Stay tuned.  I will have updates on WWIL as we get closer to the event.

Related Posts:

Last week’s National Lawyer Well-Being Week Videos:

And speaking of resources, I’d be remiss not to include the Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers.

Wellness Wednesday: a message from Justice Eaton.

I would ask you to remember that incivility is not advocacy, nor is it effective lawyering.”

~ Harold Eaton, Associate Justice, Vermont Supreme Court

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I’ve blogged & spoken often on the connection between civility and attorney well-being. Recently, I’ve expressed concern that an erosion of the former is negatively impacting the latter.

Last week, the Vermont Supreme Court held its annual admission ceremony. Following the administration of the attorney oath, Justice Eaton delivered remarks that touched upon civility, attorney well-being, and the impact one has on the other. In short, a reminder that we must take care of ourselves, take care of each other, and that civility & courtesy are at our endeavor’s core.

The YouTube video of the ceremony is here.  Justice Eaton begins at the 9:33 mark.   Otherwise, the full text of the speech is below.  It would bode well for our collective well-being if even those of us no longer new to Vermont’s legal profession took time to consider Justice Eaton’s message.

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Thank you, Chief and welcome to all the admittees, their families and friends. The Justices of the Supreme Court are very pleased to be with you today, even though we must do so remotely. We extend our warm welcome to the legal profession to those of you who have recently been admitted, and to the Vermont bar for you and for any attorneys previously admitted in other states. On behalf of the entire Supreme Court, I congratulate all of you on your great achievement. We wish could be with you in person, but the challenges of these times make that impossible. We hope to meet each of you soon under sunnier skies.

As new lawyers, you are entering the profession at a time unlike any other. This is a period of great challenge, great change and great adaptation in the world and in our profession. As attorneys, it is up to us to meet those challenges and make the changes and adaptations necessary to protect and preserve the rule of law and the system of justice which is built upon it. It is a heavy responsibility, but I know that you will each do your part.

I am sure few of you know the exact path your legal career will take. Regardless of what your path may be, you have the opportunity, whether actively practicing law or not, to make a difference on big stages and on small ones. Especially in these times, in the face of a global pandemic and when it seems that the rule of law is and has been under attack, there is so much to be done. This is such an important time for lawyers, as we work to preserve our legal system and our country’s and the world’s respect for it.

I hope that you will never forget the exhilaration you felt when you learned you passed the bar exam, the joy of that moment and of this day, and, as importantly, the awesome responsibility that comes with being a lawyer. When times get tough reflect on the sacrifices you and your family have made to get you to this place. It is no small achievement.

It has been my privilege to be a member of the Vermont bar for over forty years. During that time, I have made some observations, some of which I would like to share with you in the hope you may find them useful.

Vermont is a small state with a small bar.  The anonymous lawyer is a rarity here. You will become known in your community and in the legal profession. As you start with clean slates, you get to write the first chapter in your “I’m a Vermont attorney” book; make it one which sets the tone for the chapters to be written in the years to come—many of which will be penned by others based upon their dealings with you.

Vermont’s small size can work to your advantage. Ask questions of experienced lawyers you meet. You will find most, if not all of them, very willing to share their knowledge with you.

Learn from your experiences. One of the best things about being an attorney is the opportunity to continue to learn and to grow. Your legal education is never completed, there is always something new to learn. The day you think you’ve “got it” about being an attorney is probably the first day you begin to “lose it.”

In order to win the trust of your clients or your employers it is not necessary that you have all the answers. What is important is that you know what you know and recognize what you do not know. A good lawyer doesn’t have all the answers at their fingertips but has the ability to find the answers and the humility to know when research is necessary. Despite your best efforts, you will make mistakes. When you do, learn from them. Strive to be a better lawyer tomorrow than you were today.

You have received a bar admission which reads that you are an “attorney and counsellor at law.”  Your counselling role with your clients is just as important, if not more so, than your substantive knowledge. What you can do for a client is often different from what you ought to do for them or what they are at first urging you to do. Part of what you bring to your clients is your judgment, not just your legal acumen. Although the final decision may be your client’s, do not withhold your counsel, even when it may not be what the client wants to hear.

The legal system has been called an adversary system. But being a good advocate for your client does not mean that you can write a more stinging rebuke than your opposing counsel. The lawyer who gets the best results for the client is not necessarily the one who knows or uses the most adjectives.

The electronic world has changed the practice of law in many good ways and in a few bad ones. It remains to be seen what the impact of remote hearings and yes, even remote trials, will be. When we come out of this pandemic one thing is certain—-the practice of law will be different than it was when we went into to it. We communicate so often now by rapid and remote means, rather than in person. This lends itself well to incivility, which has become more prevalent in recent years. I would ask you to remember that incivility is not advocacy, nor is it effective lawyering.  The Vermont Bar Directory contains the Guidelines of Professional Courtesy which the Bar Association membership adopted in 1989. I commend them to you.

If you are in a contested matter, learn to win with humility and to lose with grace. Remember: the other side feels as strongly about their position as you and your client do about yours.

As you start this chapter of your legal career, challenge yourself to be good stewards of the law. Our legal system works because people put their trust in it. Make it your goal to uphold that trust and to further it, so that many years from now, upon your retirement, people will say that you were a good lawyer and an honest person.

Being a lawyer is difficult; the work is hard, and the demands are many. The Supreme Court, in connection with the VBA, continues to work on important issues concerning attorney wellness. We see all too often lawyers neglecting their own physical, emotional or mental well-being, often with sad, if not disastrous, results. Keep a distance between your client’s problems and your personal life. You cannot serve your clients or your profession if you do not take care of your own mental and physical health.

That starts with taking the time to decompress. The practice of law is as draining as it is rewarding. You have to keep sacred the time to do the things you enjoy and the things that help you to relax. Believe it or not, in the not-too-distant past, there was a time without cell phones. Remember to turn yours off from time to time. It is not your responsibility to be available to your clients 24/7 even if they think that it is. If, despite your best efforts you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, reach out to the Bar Association’s lawyer assistance program or to a colleague for help.

Justice must always mean more than who can shout the longest or the loudest. We all must ensure that the weak as well as the strong are heard; that the poor as well as the rich have a playing field that is level for everyone; and that we as attorneys do no falsehood nor delay any person for lucre or malice. These are the things which serve to maintain public confidence in the legal system. It is our responsibility and our duty to fight for these things with all our combined strength every day of our legal career. The challenges of today will give way to the challenges of tomorrow, but we must always rise to meet them, whatever they may be.

The legal profession in all its varied aspects is bigger than any one of us, but its vitality, and the public’s confidence in it depends upon all of us. Each of us as attorneys have a shared responsibility to make the legal profession all that it can be and all that it needs to be.

As you begin your career as a Vermont attorney, I leave you with this quote from “A Commencement for Scoundrels” by Samuel Hazo:

I wish you what I wish

myself: hard questions

and the nights to answer them,

the grace of disappointment

and the right to seem the fool

for justice. That’s enough.

Cowards might ask for more.

Heroes have died for less.

Thank you, welcome to the Vermont bar, and good luck to you all.

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.

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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!**

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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