Wellness Wednesday: Reruns

What’s Happening?!?!

Last week, I did a series of posts and videos for National Lawyer Well-Being Week.  I think it’s important to remember that wellness & well-being merit more than a week of attention.  In my view, we must remain committed and vigilant year-round. So, with that in mind:

This week, I’m busy with non-blog projects and, further, stumped as to blog topics. So, all you get today are links to other stuff!   That’s right: today you get Reruns:

What's Happening! | VPM

And since it’s Wednesday, each rerun is related to wellness.  Have a great day!

Fun Wellness Posts

I’ve profiles many legal professionals who engage in non-law related activities that, whether they know it or not, serve to assist their well-being.  The profiles are here:

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.

National Lawyer Well-Being Week Videos

National Lawyer Well-Being Week Blog Posts

Finally, the Vermont Bar Asssoation and the ABA have published lists of COVID-19 practice management & mental health resources:

 

Engage intellectually. And, you are not an impostor.

Good morning!

For those of you who’ve been following, it’s National Lawyer Well-Being Week.  Each day has a different theme.  Today’s is Engage & Grow.  The focus is to remind lawyers that wellness includes challenging ourselves to engage & grow intellectually.

Here’s today’s video message.  Note: it’s the first not done from the cozy confines of the Garage Bar Studio.  For those who prefer to read, my written words are below the logo.

Lawyer Well-being Week Activities

Intellectual engagement & growth for lawyers:

  1. Engage & grow outside the law: challenge yourself with an intellectual pursuit that has nothing to do with the law.  Learn a language or an instrument, read the book you’ve never read, watch those documentaries on the historical event that’s intrigued you, but for which you’ve  told yourself “I don’t have the time.”
  2. Engage & grow within the law: challenge your intellect by exploring a new practice area, even if it’s only via a single seminar.  Jennifer Emens-Butler has a series of high-quality webinars planned through the end of June.  You never know, one might pique your interest and provide an opportunity to spend a bit of time outside what might have become the monotony of your daily routine.  Or, get in touch with Mary Ashcroft or Sam Abel-Palmer.  The VBA and Legal Services Vermont have numerous pro & low bono opportunities that provide a perfect chance to challenge yourself in a new area of law while helping those in need.  The challenge might leave you refreshed and reenergized when you return to your day-to-day.

Intellectual growth improves confidence.  And, while some of you might not know this, many lawyers struggle with self-confidence.  Many consider themselves “impostors,” not good enough or skilled enough to belong. I can’t stress this enough.  Please read my post Wellness Wednesday: You’re not an impostorIt shares a heart-breaking story that should open our eyes to the threat that impostor syndrome imposes

Lawyers like Gabe aren’t impostors.  They’re people who, like all people, sometimes make mistakes, but who are valuable members of your team.  Support and encourage their growth and wellness.

In closing, engage yourself intellectually both inside and outside the law.  Also, be sure to encourage and support others to grow more confident in themselves.

 

 

Get ready! National Lawyer Well-Being Week is only 12 days away!

National Lawyer Well-Being Week begins May 4.  Now is the time to plan your involvement.

Here’s the key message from the organizers:

  • “Well-being is an institution-wide responsibility. When our professional and organizational cultures support our well-being, we are better able to make good choices that allow us to thrive and be our best for our clients, colleagues, and organizations. It is up to all of us to cultivate new professional norms and cultures that enable and encourage well-being.”

Each day has its own theme:

I can hear you now!!  “Great Mike, what am I supposed to do with an infographic??”

Not so fast my contrarian friends!

The organizers have made available a veritable plethora of resources on each day’s theme, resources that I’m here to share. Thus, much of the rest of this post will be a long list.  Intentionally so!  Like ordering soup on Planet Seinfeld, there will be no excuses for you!

But first, don’t limit wellness to a week.  Don’t limit a component of wellness to a single day.  Make wellness a habit.

For instance, imagine that today is “National Running Day!”  I’d easily find the motivation to get out to run with the enthusiasm and vigor of the event, eager to post my apres-run selfie with the obligatory hashtag.  But a Wednesday run won’t prepare me for October’s Vermont City Marathon.  Instead, I must make running a habit.

That’s wellness. Make it a habit.  Because life is a marathon.

Finally, like a marathon, wellness begins with a single step.  And there’s no reason to wait until National Lawyer Well-Being Week to take the first step.

Thanks for listening.  Get involved!

Here’s the promised list of resources. I am brazenly taking them from National Task Force’s Lawyer Well-Being Week site.

The Entire Week

Monday – Stay Strong 

Tuesday – Align

Wednesday – Engage & Grow

Thursday – Connect

Friday – Feel Well

Finally, the Task Force has also compiled a list of  wellness & well-being resources related to COVID-19

 

 

 

 

Wellness Wednesday: Be Kind to Lawyers

Tomorrow is “International Be Kind to Lawyers Day.”

I’m not too conversant in legal phrases or the principles of statutory construction.  Yet, I’m generally aware of the maxim “inclusio uno (est) exclusio alterius.”

I’d be surprised if the creators of “Be Kind to Lawyers Day” intended to limit it to a single 24-hour span.  So, I hope that the Inclusio Uno Legion doesn’t intend to argue for such a restriction. If they do, here’s my rebuttal:

Why wait until tomorrow?  When it comes to being kind to lawyers, there’s no better time than now.  And, on that point, remember:

  • It’s always “now.”
  • For lawyers, being kind to a lawyer includes being kind to yourself.

Wellness

Below, I’ve pasted in my post from 2019’s Be Kind to Lawyers Day.  I’m re-posting because it’s consistent with Wellness Wednesday.

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

Originally Posted on April 9, 2019

Today is International Be Kind to Lawyers Day.

I’ve done some research on the day’s origins.  Meaning, I read this and this.  While each suggests we might debate the motivation behind the creation, #bekindtolawyersday is legit trending on social media.  So, it must be a real day.

Who is most likely to deal with a lawyer today?  Other lawyers.  Thus, to borrow a quote from JFK, here’s my request of my lawyer-readers:

  • Ask not who will be kind to you today.  Ask to whom you will be kind.

I’ve often mentioned that the Rules of Professional Conduct don’t require lawyers to be nice.

Still, why not try?

Indeed, as I mentioned here, I recently did a CLE on attorney wellness that segued into a discussion on whether a lack of civility within the profession contributes to the profession’s lack of wellness.

The VBA has adopted Guidelines for Professional Courtesy.  The last is my favorite:

  • “Effective advocacy does not require antagonistic or obnoxious behavior. Lawyers should adhere to the higher standard of conduct which judges, fellow attorneys, clients, and the public may rightfully expect.”

Today you will have many chances to be kind to another lawyer.

Take advantage of them all.

Wellness

 

Civility Matters. Especially now.

I consider civility one of the 7 Cs of Professional Responsibility & Legal Ethics.  In my opinion, conducting one’s practice in a civil manner is not inconsistent with the obligations imposed by the Rules of Professional Conduct.

A seminar at the VBA’s 2019 Midyear Meeting made me realize the connection between civility & wellness.  In this blog posted the morning after the seminar, I wrote:

Indeed, nothing in the rules is incompatible with civility.  As a comment to Rule 1.3 says:

 “[t]he lawyer’s duty to act with reasonable diligence does not require the use of offensive tactics or preclude the treating of all persons involved with courtesy and respect.”

Courtesy and respect.  We need more of each in the air.

For the duration of public health crisis, we need even more of each in the air.

My first post related to COVID-19 was on March 13.  In it, I urged “all lawyers to be accommodating when considering requests from opposing counsel that are related to COVID-19.”  I’m by far from the only one, with bar associations and courts making the same request.  The good news? I’ve not heard any Vermont stories like the two I’m about to share.  Let’s hope it remains that way.

Each story comes from the same federal court in South Florida.  The ABA Journal covered both.

In the first, also reported by Law360 , a federal magistrate had to intervene in a discovery dispute.  Here’s part of the magistrate’s order.

  • “If all the issues we are currently facing were to be organized on a ladder of importance, this deposition-scheduling dispute would not even reach the bottom rung of a 10-rung ladder. It is painfully obvious that counsel for both sides failed to keep their comparatively unimportant dispute in perspective. Would the world end if the corporate deposition did not occur next week? Obviously not.”

The rest of the order doesn’t reflect any better on the lawyer’s involved.

A few days later, the same magistrate issued an order in a different case. I’m not a fan of block quotes, but this order is better read than described.  As reproduced by the SDFLA Blog:

Given the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is hardly surprising that Plaintiff filed a motion to extend the mediation and discovery deadlines and all related deadlines and to reschedule the special set trial date.

Plaintiff’s motion represents that Defendant objected to the request. That’s right. Defendant objected to what appears to be a realistic and common sense motion to reschedule the trial and other deadlines. I had to read the certification twice in order to make sure that I was reading it correctly. 

If the motion is correct, then Defendant wants to push forward with the existing trial date and all trial-related deadlines even though no one has any idea when the Court will be able to safely resume jury trials (or when it will be safe to travel by air, to return to work or to get closer than ten feet to anyone).

Rather than guess at defense counsel’s motivation, the Undersigned requires defense counsel to by March 26, 2020 file a double-spaced memorandum explaining (1) whether he did, in fact, oppose the motion to reschedule the trial and enlarge trial-related deadlines and the mediation deadline, and (2) all the reasons justifying his opposition (assuming that he did actually advise Plaintiff’s counsel that he opposes the motion).

If defense counsel opposed the motion, then he is best advised to provide a comprehensive and rational explanation. Before filing this response, though, defense counsel may want to brush up on the concepts of karma, goodwill, grace, compassion, equity, charity, flexibility, respect, spirituality, selflessness, kindness, public spirit, social conscience, and empathy.

No reply absent further Court Order. Signed by Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman on 3/25/2020.”

Again, I’ve not heard any Vermont stories on par with these.  Still, I blog as a reminder that there’s a line between acting reasonably to provide clients with competent & diligent representation and using the public health crisis to gain an advantage.

Where is that line?

I don’t know.

But, in searching for it, we could fare worse than to be guided by Judge Goodman’s words.  Whatever we do, let’s not forget “the concepts of karma, goodwill, grace, compassion, equity, charity, flexibility, respect, spirituality, selflessness, kindness, public spirit, social conscience, and empathy.”

That’s civility.  And civility is part of wellness.

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Updates on Wellness, Lawyers & the “Stay Home/Stay Safe” Order, new rules on notarization & the execution of wills, and a potential Zoom scam.

Good morning all.  This post includes:

  1. Today’s Wellness Message.
  2. An update on the Governor’s “Stay Home/Stay Safe” Order.
  3. An update on Execution of Wills & Notarization.
  4. An alert to a potential Zoom scam.
  5. Wellness Resources

Wellness Message & Encouragement

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “Stay Home/Stay Safe” Order

Many lawyers have contacted me with questions about the Governor’s “Stay Home/Stay Safe” order. The questions relate to a perceived tension between a lawyer’s obligations under the order and the lawyer’s obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Trust me, I understand.

There’s no blanket response.  Contact me with specific questions and I will do my best to guide you. Later today, I will try to post tips on complying with the Rules of Professional Conduct during the pandemic.  For now, remember: the preamble makes clear that the rules are RULES OF REASON. In my view, there is nothing unreasonable about minimizing and mitigating the risk of acquiring or spreading a devastating virus.

I spoke this morning with Beth Novotny and Teri Corsones, the VBA’s President and Executive Director. Later today, they are conferencing with the county bar presidents and VBA section chairs.  The goal is to craft and submit a unified request offered on behalf of the Vermont legal community that addresses your collective concerns regarding the “Stay Home/Stay Safe” order.

The VBA is posting its efforts on the VBA website.  The VBA is encouraging you to work with your section chairs and county bar presidents to ensure an effective flow of information.

In addition, the Judiciary is aware of the order and monitoring the situation.  I will update you as a I learn more.  If you missed them, here are the Court’s March 16 Emergency Order, March 18 amendments, March 20 amendments, and March 24 amendments.  The March 24 amendments apply to me.  As I posted here, I will continue to perform my core functions.

Notarization & Execution of Wills

I understand that, soon, the Secretary of State will adopt emergency rules to allow remote notarization.

Also, yesterday, the Vermont Senate passed S.316.  Probate practitioners take note.  Here’s the key language in the bill:

Ҥ 5. EXECUTION OF WILL; REQUISITES

(a) A will shall be:

(1) in writing;

(2) signed in the presence of two or more credible witnesses by the testator or in the testator’s name by some other person in the testator’s presence and by the testator’s express direction; and

(3) attested and subscribed by the witnesses in the presence of the testator and each other.

(b) During the period that the Emergency Administrative Rules for Remote Notarial Acts adopted by the Vermont Secretary of State (“the Emergency Rules”) are in effect, the witnesses to a will signed in conformity with the Emergency Rules and pursuant to the self-proving will provisions of section 108 of this title shall be considered to be in the presence of the testator and each other whether or not the witnesses are physically present with the testator or the notary.

Sec. 2. EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect on passage.

And that when so amended the bill ought to pass.”

Zoom Scam

Many of you are using technology to communicate with clients, colleagues, and courts.  Likely family and friends too.  Be wary.  Here’s an email that a lawyer sent to me this morning:

“Hi Michael:

 I wanted to give a heads-up.

 I received an email from Zoom today, purporting to be a reminder for my 7 AM zoom meeting and claiming a named participant (not a familiar name) was waiting for me.  Fortunately, I KNOW I would never schedule a meeting for 7 AM.

 There’s a link in the email which I did not click on, but I assume it would have been trouble.

 Folks should be aware of this.

 I agree. To the lawyer, thank you for making us aware!!

Coping with Coronavirus & Covid-19: Wellness Resources

Last Wednesday’s posts included links to various resources.  It’s here.

Remember, even if you only want to say hi, feel free to call or email.

Final Thought

Be good to yourself and others.

Image result for update

Coping with Coronavirus-Related Stress

On this Wednesday of all Wellness Wednesdays, I hope you’re taking care of yourselves and others.

I’m posting to pass along a few resources.

The first is from the ABA Journal: Lawyers Are Supposed to Plan For The Worst, So How Can You Ease COVID-19 Anxiety?  It’s got some great tips.

Next, Josh Simonds runs Vermont’s Lawyer Assistance Program.  Josh tipped me off to the list of  COVID-19 Mental Health Resources recently published by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs.  It’s broken down by topic area, including resources for those looking for help with:

  • Anxiety
  • Office Management/Leadership
  • Panic
  • Social Distancing
  • Staying Mentally Healthy
  • Stress
  • Substance Abuse Resources

Thank you Josh!

In addition, don’t forget about the Lawyer Depression Project.  As I blogged last week, it’s a terrific resource for any lawyer who wants to provide or receive support from others in the legal profession.  Per the website, the folks at LDP

  • “are a group of legal professionals (attorneys, paralegals, law students, and admin) who have suffered from depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD, eating disorders, trauma, sexual abuse, addiction and other mental health conditions, or who just don’t feel quite right.”

It’s okay not to feel quite right.  It’s okay to ask for support and assistance.

Finally, I just got off the phone with Beth Novotny.  Beth is a friend, lawyer, and current president of the Vermont Bar Association.  She had a great idea: we should do something for lawyers and other legal professionals who are isolated and simply want to check in with another human being.  I agree and we’re trying to figure out how to set something up.  In the meantime, if you want to call or email, I’m here.

Be well.

wellness

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Wellness Wednesday: Lawyers Depression Project

A phrase that’s new to me has entered the public discourse in the past 24 hours: “social distancing.”  Coincidentally, shortly after hearing it for the first time, I stumbled across a tweet that’s the impetus for today’s post.  Here’s the backstory.

Brian Cuban is an attorney.  To me, he’s an invaluable resource on addiction, recovery and the legal profession’s response to each.  You can read more about Brian here.  I follow Brian on Twitter.

Today, Brian retweeted a link to a blog he posted last December.  Check out the comment that accompanied the retweet — it references “social distancing.”

The December post is one that I’d missed.  In it, Brian introduced his readers to the “Lawyers Depression Project.”  In Brian’s words, it’s a project that is “an incredible mental health resource that has been flying under the radar.”

I don’t want to block quote Brian’s post. So, read it.  Again, it’s here.  The link to the Lawyers Depression Project is here.  However, here’s something that’s

IMPORTANT!!! 

Some of you might be thinking “Thanks Mike. But this isn’t for me. It’s for people who’ve been diagnosed with depression.”

Wrong.

And now you’ve forced me to resort to a block quote.  From Brian’s post:

  • “The LDP consists of attorneys, law students, law school graduates pending bar exam results and/or admission, and others in the legal field who were diagnosed at one point or another in their lives, with major depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, general anxiety disorder, or another mental illness.

“It is also for those who are suffering but not formally diagnosed or who simply feel that something ‘isn’t right’ but have not sought formal mental health help.”

Check it out.  Even if only because, every now and then, things don’t feel right.

wellness

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Wellness & The New CLE Rules

This morning I had the opportunity to address the Charlotte-Shelburne-Hinesburg Rotary Club.  It was great group, and there were some fantastic questions about professional responsibility and legal ethics.

Whether speaking to lawyers or nonlawyers, I often mention that it’s easy to get lost in (or overwhelmed by) the minutiae of the rules.  Instead, I urge people to (try to) remember what Brian Faughnan refers to as the 5 C’s of Ethics:

  • Competence
  • Communication
  • Confidentiality
  • Conflicts
  • Candor

A lawyer who keeps the 5 C’s in mind goes a long way towards complying with the rules.

Faughnan’s “recipe” is here.  My post on his recipe is here.

This morning, stressing the duty of competence, I remarked that, to me, it means “know your job, do your job.”  That prompted a Rotarian to ask how many CLE hours are required of lawyers.

(Aside: CLE isn’t my bailiwick. Andy Strauss is the Judiciary’s Licensing Counsel. Andy advises the CLE Board and administers the MCLE program. Still, I answered the question.)

My answer surprised a few of the lawyer-Rotarians who were at the breakfast.

For those of you who don’t know, the Vermont Supreme Court recently approved significant changes to the CLE rules.   The CLE Board’s summary of the changes is here.  The rules themselves are here.  They take effect on July 1, 2020.

A notable change: each cycle, lawyers will be required to earn at least 1 hour of “Attorney Wellness Programming.”  Per the Board’s summary,

  • “‘Attorney Wellness Programming’ means CLE programming designed to help lawyers detect, prevent, or respond to substance use, mental health, and/or stress-related issues that can affect professional competence and the ability to fulfill a lawyer’s ethical and professional duties. Such programming must focus on these issues in the context of the practice of law and the impact these issues can have on the quality of legal services provided to the public. Examples:
    • Depression, Competence and Substance Abuse in the Legal Profession
    • Stress Management: The Power of Change
    • Substance Abuse and Stress for Lawyers: Mindfulness as a Competence Tool
    • Lawyers and Mental Disorders
    • Recognizing, Understanding and Referring a Colleague in Need
    • Vicarious Trauma and Self-Care.”

With the Vermont’s new rules in mind, I post today to report two things:

First, 2Civility is the communication channel for the Illinois Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism.  It’s a fantastic resource.  Earlier this week, 2Civility announced the rollout of the Commission’s free online CLE The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Well-Being Course.   It’s available to all – I tried it this morning – and has been approved for .5 hours of mental health and substance abuse CLE in Illinois.

Second, I’m going to ask Andy and the CLE Board to approve the program for credit towards Vermont’s new requirement of “Attorney Wellness Programming.”

Stay tuned.

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Wellness Wednesday: Pro Bono Award Recipients

Having spent time at the bar exam the past two days, I was reminded of the Basic Skills Seminar that the VBA presents for new lawyers.  It occurs twice each year: the days before Mid-Year and Annual Meetings.

The agenda includes 2 hours on “Vermont Professionalism.”  I open by discussing professional responsibility, then Eileen Blackwood hones in on the pro bono opportunities.  Over the past few presentations, we’ve used “wellness” as segue from my presentation to Eileen’s.  Specifically, Eileen has made it a point to mention that one of the most rewarding cases of her career was one that she took pro bono.  While Eileen says it better than I can, the reward is the positive feelings that flow from helping someone who desperately needed it, for no other reason than because you could.

On the flip side, let’s leave no doubt: pro bono work is a form of giving that can improve another’s wellness.  To that end, on Wellness Wednesday, I’d like to call your attention to the recipients of the VBA’s 2020 Pro Bono Award: Tom French & Samantha Lednicky.

Image result for you won GIF

I’ve pasted in the VBA’s official announcement.  The link is here.

The Vermont Bar Association is proud to announce that Attorneys Thomas M. French and Samantha V. Lednicky will both be this year’s recipients of VBA’s 2020 Pro Bono Service Awards.  The award is given annually to one or more attorneys who exemplify the best traditions of our profession by giving unselfishly of their time and skill to provide pro bono legal services to the poor and disadvantaged.

Thomas M. French is a pro bono emeritus attorney in Brattleboro who was nominated by attorneys James Valente and Thomas Costello for his work with military veterans.  Following military service himself as a JAG attorney, French worked as a general practitioner in Windham County for 50 years, often serving clients pro bono.  After retirement, Attorney French set up a pro bono program at his local American Legion post where he can be found every Tuesday and Thursday helping veterans obtain benefits they have been wrongfully denied.  In 4 years, Attorney French has won 14 out of the 15 actions he brought for his veteran clients, securing nearly $500,000 in benefits for them.  

Samantha V. Lednicky is with the firm of Murdoch Hughes Twarog and Tarnelli in Burlington.  She was nominated by Hon. Helen Toor and Frank Twarog, Esq. who recognized her work in the rent escrow clinic in Chittenden Civil Division.  Not only does Attorney Lednicky regularly volunteer to represent low income tenants at these clinics, but she frequently continues representation beyond the clinic to ensure that the tenants receive justice in the court process.  Attorney Twarog also praised Lednicky for her successful pro bono efforts to win parenting rights for a low income, homeless parent in a case to which she brought “a fresh prospective and her usual diligence.”

Attorneys French and Lednicky will be presented with the VBA’s Pro Bono Service Award at our mid-year meeting luncheon on March 27 in Burlington. 

Congratulations – and thank you – to Sam & Tom!

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