The Wellbeing Week Wrap-up and my self-report of significant bread making violations.

Last week was Wellbeing Week in Law (WWIL). One of the goals was to encourage legal professionals to take action to improve their well-being. I’m here today to recognize the members of Vermont’s legal community who did exactly that.  And, sadly, I’m also here to self-report significant violations of the bread making code of conduct.

But first, I want to share a comment that, to me, perfectly captures the importance of tending to our own well-being.

Patty Turley is General Counsel for the Vermont State Colleges. I met Patty many years ago when we served together on the Board of Bar Examiners. Here’s part of Patty’s reply to the email I sent encouraging participation in WWIL:

  • “Hi Mike – This was such a good reminder for wellness!  It was a crazy busy week; they are all busy but this one was exceptionally crazy.   At first I thought: “It is such a busy week, I don’t have time to take this on.”  Then I decided to switch my thinking: “It is such a busy week, it is more important than ever to make time for wellness.”  It worked.  I often did 2-3 shorter activities (walks, yoga, strength-training, meditation, reading for pleasure) each day.”

Let me repeat Patty’s words:

  • “It is such a busy week, it is more important then ever to make time for wellness.”

Patty – you nailed it! Our new catchphrase should be “Busy? Then now’s the time to make time for wellness.”

Okay, turning to the bread.

During WWIL, Wednesday’s theme was Intellectual Wellbeing. The focus was on the importance of continually challenging ourselves to engage and grow intellectually. To mark the day, I shared this video of myself making bread.

The video ends before I sliced or tasted the bread. So, it fails to reveal that the final product was not fit for consumption. Therefore, this morning I recorded this video in which I self-report multiple violations of the culinary canons. In mitigation, and as this picture proves, my second attempt went much better than the first.

IMG_6838

Finally, here’s a list of the members of Vermont’s legal community who let me know that they participated in WWIL. If I forgot to include you, I apologize. Message me and I’ll update the list.

To wrap up Wellbeing Week in Law, here’s to hoping that our participation continues beyond the confines of the week itself.

Indeed, let’s make well-being a habit.

2022 Wellbeing Week in Law Participants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five for Friday #253: Emotional Well-Being & The Kentucky Derby

Welcome to Friday and the 253rd #fiveforfriday legal ethics quiz!

It’s Well-Being Week in Law and today’s theme is “Emotional Well-Being: Feel Well.”  The organizers challenge us to learn to identify and manage our emotions to use them in a positive manner. In this video, and using a construct I used when coaching, I discuss emotional intelligence and:

  • accepting that we’ll experience negative emotions;
  • remembering W.I.N. when responding to those negative emotions;
  • winning our 3-feet of influence;
  • striving to be one of the 4 positives that others might need for their own well-being; and,
  • my Kentucky Derby picks.

The video references my blog post W.I.N. your 3-feet of influence. Finally, there’s still time to participate in Well-Being Week in Law.  For ideas, check out the participation guide. And, if interested, email me about your participation and I’ll include you in tomorrow’s blog post summarizing Vermont’s participation in the week’s well-being activities.

Have a great weekend!

Onto the quiz!

Kentucky Derby - Home | Facebook

Rules

  •  Open book, open search engine, text-a-friend.
  • Exception:  Question 5.  We try to play that one honest.
  • Unless stated otherwise, the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct apply
  • Team entries welcome, creative team names even more welcome.
  • E-mail answers to michael.kennedy@vermont.gov
  • I’ll post the answers & Honor Roll on Monday
  • Please consider sharing the quiz with friends & colleagues
  • Share on social media.  Hashtag it – #fiveforfriday

 

Question 1

 At CLEs and in response to ethics inquiries, I often state “it’s broader than the privilege.”  When I do, which of the 7 Cs of Legal Ethics am I referring to?  The duty of _____________.

 Question 2

 Which appears in a different rule than the others?

  • A.  explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary for the client to make informed decisions about the representation.
  • B.  is likely to be a necessary witness.
  • C. unless the testimony relates to an uncontested issue or to the nature and value of legal services rendered in the case.
  • D.  unless disqualification of the lawyer would work substantial hardship on the client.

Question 3

 When using the following phrases at a CLE, what am I discussing?

  • prohibited when representing the defendant in a criminal case.
  • prohibited in exchange for securing a divorce;
  • prohibited if based on the amount of spousal maintenance, spousal support, or property settlement in lieu thereof.
  • allowed in post-judgment divorce actions that involve collecting past due spousal maintenance.

Question 4

 In which of the situations below are the rules governing conflicts of interest stricter than the others?  When a lawyer:

  • A.  in private practice represents clients at a pro bono clinic sponsored by a court or non-profit.
  • B.  moves from private practice to government work.
  • C.  moves from government work to private practice.
  • D. transfers from one private firm to another private firm.

 Question 5

 I’m not positive how widespread the news is, but some of you might have learned that a draft Supreme Court opinion was leaked this week.  Discussing it during our bread debrief, the First Brother and I agreed that we were less surprised by the leak than we were that it hadn’t happened before.  Well, as it turns out, there has been at least one other instance in which a well-known Supreme Court opinion was leaked to the press prior to being released. Indeed, it involved not one, but two leaks.

First, shortly after the arguments, the Washington Post ran a story about the Court’s internal deliberations on the case. The story included a leaked memo that one justice had written to the others.  Seven months later, and a few hours before the Court announced its opinion, Time Magazine published the opinion and the details of the vote. The incident resulted in the then Chief Justice imposing a so-called “20 second rule,” a rule that a law clerk caught communicating with the media would be fired within 20 seconds.

What was the name of the case in which the opinion was leaked?

Bonus: who was the Chief Justice who imposed the 20-second rule?

Align

Welcome to Tuesday of 2022’s Well-Being Week in Law. Today’s focus is on spiritual well-being, with the key word being “Align.”  The organizers are challenging us to assess whether we are “cultivating a sense of meaning and purpose in work and life.”  One that allows us to align our work & personal lives with our values, goals, and interests.

My thoughts on the day are in the video below.  Or, you can access it here. For those who prefer to consume content via blog post, I’ve shared them below.

To me, it’s tough to assess whether you’re cultivating your values if you don’t know what your values are. So, the way I’m participating today is by taking the Values Activity Challenge. It’s an activity designed to assist people to identify their core values and think about ways to exemplify them every day.

Honestly, I was tempted by the awe walk and might build that into the run I’m going on as soon as I finish this post.  Typing of which, this post about awe, my dad, the Foo Fighters, and Nandi was one of this blog’s most read in 2021.

Last thoughts on Align & Spiritual Well-Being.

For those of you whose work lives align with your personal values, that’s fantastic and is a good sign for the spiritual component of your well-being.

For those of you who aren’t quite there yet, that’s okay. While your current position might not be the job you envisioned when you entered law school, there’s still meaning in it. Maybe not the meaning you’re seeking, but it has meaning to your clients and to your office. It also has meaning to Future You. What you do now will put Future You in a position to choose a next job that best aligns with your values. Future You will thank you for today’s efforts towards those values.

Finally, for those of you who aren’t concerned about finding meaning in work, that’s okay too! In the group discussion we had on Tuesday of last year’s Well-Being Week, I learned from other participants that it’s not uncommon not to seek meaning in work, so long as the job allows the person to pursue the values that are important to them in their non-work life. In a sense, the job’s meaning is that allows the person to find meaning elsewhere.

In short, well-being is personal.  Find what works for you.

Be well!

Wellness Wednesday: Mentoring

It’s been a bit since my last Wellness Wednesday post.  And, since I already blogged once today, I’m reluctant to do so again.  However, in that this morning’s was about trust accounting, my personal well-being requires a new post to cleanse my palate of my least favorite topic.

So, let’s consider mentoring as an aspect of well-being.

wellness

I’ve long thought that mentoring provides an opportunity to improve well-being. Not only for the mentee and the obvious benefits of wise guidance, but for the mentor.  In fact, a quick search reveals that I’ve posted several blogs in which I urged lawyers to consider serving as mentors.

The first was Resolve to be a Mentor, a post in which I suggested that mentoring can be traced back to the earliest recorded guidelines of attorney conduct.  Next, here and here, I used the Wellness Wednesday forum to encourage lawyers to serve as mentors. The former referenced my tribute to Joan Wing.  Very few, if any, have done more to promote the wellness and well-being of the Vermont legal profession than Joan, with her various efforts including serving as a mentor to many lawyers who still practice today.  This blogger included.

My prior posts focused on the benefits to the mentee. I’ve never been able to articulate my feeling that, at some level, helping others to find their way benefits the helper as well.  Then, today, I saw the ABA Journal’s Mentorship is not all about the menteeIt’s a great post in which Katherine Gustafson reminds us that, yes, while ‘the benefits of being mentored have been extolled in articles everywhere,” when it comes to mentoring “before you reject the idea, consider the benefits that come with such a role.” Among those benefits, wellness.

Referring to the “intrinsic rewards” associated with mentoring, Gustafson notes:

“Let’s face it, the practice of law is difficult, often frustrating, work. Even those of us who love our jobs sometimes feel burned out and unsatisfied. This burnout can affect our physical and mental health as well as our work productivity. We long for something in our daily work that satisfies our soul. Mentorship can be that magic ticket.

We have long known that helping others makes us feel good, but research by the University of Wisconsin—Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs proves it. The research concluded that helping others makes us happier. When you do something good for someone else, the pleasure centers in your brain light up and endorphins are released that give you a sensation referred to as a ‘helper’s high.’ So, taking a little bit of time out of our daily life to help a new attorney find their way in the profession can counteract some stress and negativity that naturally accompanies law practice.”

I agree!

So today I’m here to share two mentoring opportunities.

Last month, the Vermont Bar Association announced the Vermont Mentor Advice Program (VMAP).  VMAP aims to pair “experienced Vermont lawyers with new lawyers practicing in Vermont and with lawyers newly-located in Vermont.” The VBA hopes that VMAP “will be a helpful way to welcome new lawyers practicing in Vermont to the Vermont legal community, and for experienced lawyers to be able to share their knowledge and experience with new Vermont lawyers.”  For more info, including answers to frequently asked questions and an application form, please go here.

In addition, the Vermont Judiciary administers a separate program.  The Rules of Admission to the Bar of the Vermont Supreme Court require newly admitted lawyers to complete a mentorship.  More information is available here.  To be added to the list of those willing to serve mentors in the admission program, please email Licensing Counsel Andy Strauss.

Note: the VBA program is NOT for mentees seeking to satisfy the admission requirement.

If I know Joan, she wouldn’t recommend one program over the other.  Rather, I expect that she’d suggest – as only Joan could “suggest” things – that you serve in BOTH.

For now, please consider one.

Here’s to being like Joan and improving our own well-being while helping others.

Previous Wellness Wednesday Posts

Wellness Wednesday: Aiming for Well-Being

Whether blogging or presenting on wellness, I’ve frequently mentioned Jeena Cho.  I’m a big fan of Jeena’s thoughts and work on the well-being of the legal profession.

In 2017, the ABA Journal ran Jeena’s post Talking about the elephant in the room – social anxietyThe closing sentence has always resonated with me.  It strikes me as perfectly capturing the idea that well-being is an aspect of competence.  Jeena wrote:

 “Finally, remember: ‘Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.’”

 Of course, therein lies the challenge, right? How do we help ourselves?  More specifically, how do we align and balance our personal lives & values with our work lives & values?  It’s a question I addressed in this video during 2020’s Well-Being Week in Law, and again here during the same week last year.  Jeena has addressed the question too.

Last summer, the ABA Journal posted Jeena’s piece Are you living your values?  Use the ‘Bull’s Eye” exercise to check these 4 areas of your life.  Check it out.  The exercise Jeena shares a great tool to help to clarify values and to enhance well-being. And, as you read it, take note of the final paragraph.

When discussing wellness and well-being with legal professionals, it’s common for someone to tell me something like “I stink at this.”

Not true.

As Jeena writes:

  • “My advice is to practice being gentle with yourself. Most of us are overtaxed, juggling more than what can possibly be accomplished in a day, and working under intense pressure. It’s also possible that you may consciously choose to focus more of your time and energy in one domain. This exercise is a tool to increase your awareness so that you can actively pay attention to the areas of your life that are in balance as well as areas that have been neglected. If there are areas that you would like to prioritize, start by setting some achievable goals. This isn’t a test to see how successful you are at life but rather a tool you can use on a regular basis to pause, to reassess and make course adjustments as you go. Ultimately, it’s a tool for increasing self-awareness and learning to be a better person.”

Great advice!  Thank you, Jeena.

Wellness

Previous Wellness Wednesday Posts

Wellness Wednesday: Ask the question.

When it comes to attorney wellness, I do not doubt that most lawyers and legal professionals want to help those in need.  In that respect, we’ve come a long way from the days when we convinced ourselves “that person’s issues are none of my business.”

No, I don’t think we continue to ask ourselves “should I help?”  Instead, from personal experience and stories shared by other legal professionals, my sense is that we now tell ourselves “I want to help, but I have no idea what to do.  So, I probably should stay out of it so that I don’t make it worse.”

Fortunately, the folks at the Institute for Well-Being in the Law are here to help us to help others.

wellness

The Institute has created Managing Mental Health in the Workplace: A Challenging Conversations GuideI recommend it for anyone wondering how and where to begin.

The Guide begins by sharing 11 tips on how to approach a colleague.  I like them all, especially the first and last.

Recognizing that we’re often unsure whether to reach out, Tip 1 urges us to trust our instincts and to “err on the side of checking on the person.”  Meanwhile, Tip 11 echoes a point I’ve learned from experts in the wellness community: sometimes the best thing to do is to ask, “are things okay?”  As the Guide points out by quoting an anonymous person:

  • “What made a huge difference was being asked if I was okay – simple as that.”

From there, the 4-page Guide includes:

  1. Signs It May Be Time To Have A Conversation.
  2. Conversation Checklist.
  3. Questions/Statements That May Help.
  4. Questions To Encourage Action.
  5. Questions/Statements To Avoid.

And more.

Again, I’m no expert and I’m often reluctant to help and even more clueless how to do so.  But thanks to resources like the Guide and the people who published it, I’ve learned a few things, including that sometimes a simple “are you okay” is all that it takes.

Ask the question.

And, when you do, remember that if the person’s response is “no,” that’s okay too.

Because it’s okay not to be okay. Help is available.

Previous Wellness Wednesday Posts

Yes, wellness includes the results of my first moot court competetion

Wellness Wednesday:  It’s okay to ask for help.  Bar Assistance will listen and support you

Wellness Wednesday: Set communication boundaries with clients and opposing counsel

Wellness Wednesday: Compassion Fatigue

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: It’s okay to reach out – BAP will listen and support you.

The Bar Assistance Program (BAP) began on April 1.  An aim of BAP is to assist lawyers and judges with behavioral health issues.

There haven’t been many referrals.  I suppose some might view that as a good thing.  Alas, given the informal inquiries I receive, it’s clear to me that many continue to struggle with stress, anxiety, and burnout.  If you are among the many, reach out.  We are here to help.

And, while I doubt you’ll ever find BAP on Yelp or Google, I’m here to share a positive review!

Through the end of August, I’d heard from a handful of lawyers who wanted guidance or resources, but not from any who wanted to participate in a more structured form of assistance.  Nor had Screening Counsel or Disciplinary Counsel referred to BAP a disciplinary complaint that revealed or was rooted in a behavioral health issue.

Then, in early September, a lawyer contacted me.  The lawyer reported levels of stress, anxiety, and burnout that had the lawyer considering whether to quit the profession. After I explained what BAP can and cannot do, the lawyer asked me to set up meeting with an assistance panel.  Three days later, the lawyer met via Zoom with me and two lawyers who volunteer in BAP.

I started the meeting by commending the lawyer for reaching out.  Each volunteer did the same. It takes a ton of courage to ask for help.

Then, the lawyer shared with us a perfect storm of personal and professional challenges that, over the past year, have relentlessly attacked the lawyer’s sense of self, self-worth, and worth as an attorney. To be very clear, challenges above and beyond those that are common to all practitioners, and challenges that I’m quite sure would’ve defeated me.  I found the lawyer’s strength inspiring: both in confronting the challenges and in expressing vulnerability to them.

In return, the panel members and I shared thoughts, experiences, and resources.  Our focus was that the lawyer is not alone, that it is okay to seek help, and that the lawyer is not an impostor.[1]  The lawyer intends to follow-up with one of the panel members to discuss a challenge common to their shared practice area.  In that sense, perhaps a mentorship was formed.

Today, I called the lawyer to check in.  Despite yet another setback that is outside the norm, the lawyer is doing okay. Challenges remain, but the lawyer is ready to take them on.  Then, the lawyer thanked me.  Specifically – and I have the lawyer’s permission to share this – the lawyer told me that mentors had often left the lawyer fearing “judgement,” a fear that caused the lawyer to engage in “approval seeking behavior” that wasn’t helpful or healthy. The lawyer told me the BAP experience wasn’t like that at all.  That it was supportive and “freeing.”

I shared the lawyer’s comments with one of the volunteer panel members.  The volunteer attorney said something that struck me. I don’t have the volunteer’s exact quote, but it was essentially this:  “sometimes people who are supposed to help think their job is to tell people what to do.  No.  Our role begins with listening.”

BAP is here.  It’s okay to reach out.

We will listen and we will support you.

wellness

[1] I have several posts and videos that touch upon “Impostor Syndrome.”  Including this post, this video, and this video.

Previous Wellness Wednesday Posts

Wellness Wednesday: Set communication boundaries with clients and opposing counsel

Wellness Wednesday: Compassion Fatigue

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. 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 Wednesday: A Stunning Opinion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is not a matter of if, but when.”

wellness

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Wellness Wednesday: Finding the Starting Line.

I’ve been blogging and speaking about attorney wellness for years. A smattering of the posts appears at the end of this column.

wellness

Initially, there was resistance.  Thankfully, we’ve reached a point where most lawyers recognize and accept that wellness is an aspect of competence. Indeed, last summer – a time that feels decades ago – the Vermont Supreme Court adopted Comment 9 to V.R.Pr.C. 1.1:

  • “[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.”

Then, on February 10 of this year – a time that feels longer ago than last summer – the Court abrogated and replaced the Rules for Mandatory Continuing Legal Education.  Among other things, the new rules require lawyers to obtain at least 1 hour Wellness CLE per reporting cycle.

A question that’s not uncommon: “Mike, where do I start?”

An answer that tempts me: “Damned if I know. But once you find out, share! I could use a good starting point!”

I’d say I’m half-kidding . . .

Actually, there are resources. For instance, I’ve long been a fan of both the ABA Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers & Legal Employers and the ABA Well-Being Toolkit in a Nutshell.  Then, last week, the ABA Journal posted 10 Steps to identify irrational resistance to self-care.  It’s by Rosario Lozada.

I think it’s a great place to start.  Mainly because Professor Lozada points out that the starting line might not be where we think it is.  That is, self-care doesn’t necessarily begin with self-care. Rather, the beginning is to identify whether – and why – we’re reluctant or resistant to starting.

Professor Lozada shares 10 tips to identify the status of our own relationship with self-care.  The tips are not designed to “fix” anything.  Rather:

“For now, see whether you can appreciate yourself for taking these precious moments to open up to your needs and to care for yourself.

“And the next time you pull up your calendar or another to-do list, add a specific self-care duty. Pick an activity that renews and energizes you; make it a recurring, high-priority event. You may have just engaged in a courageous act of ‘self-preservation.’”

I wish each of us the courage to help ourselves

Other Wellness Wednesday Posts