It’s healthy for legal employers to value employees as people.

In 2018, the Vermont Commission on the Well-Being of the Legal Profession published its State Action Plan.  As I blogged here and here, I’m a big fan of the recommendations made by the Commission’s Legal Employers Committee.  Among other things, the Committee stated:

  • “Legal employers, meaning all entities that employ lawyers, paralegals and legal assistants, can play a pivotal role in promoting and maintaining lawyer well-being.”

I agree 100%.  Which is one of the reasons that I’ve incorporated wellness and referred to the Committee’s recommendations for legal employers at nearly every CLE I’ve presented so far this month.  I will continue to do so, that’s how much of a fan I am of the Committee’s work.

Today, however, I’m here to share a new tip for legal employers: the more you value your employees as people instead of as revenue producers, the better for their well-being.

Says who?

Experts who asked the employees.  That’s who.

In 2020, the California Law Association (CLA) and the District of Columbia Bar Association (DC Bar) agreed to participate in a research project to study issues related to lawyers and their behavioral health.  Last Friday, the CLA announced the project’s most recent findings.  The findings are based on “research [that] examined the relationship between what lawyers think their employers value most about them, and the mental and physical health of those lawyers.”

To me, the key findings are both unsurprising and eye-opening.

As summarized by the CLA, the study

  • “found that lawyers who felt most valued for their professional talent/skill or overall human worth had the best mental and physical health. Lawyers who felt most valued for their billable hours, productivity, and responsiveness were a distant second in mental and physical health. Lawyers who did not feel valued by their employers or did not receive enough feedback to know what their employers value about them fared the worst in terms of mental and physical health. In addition, lawyers who felt most valued for their professional talent/skill or overall human worth were much less likely to report they were considering leaving the profession.”

Imagine that! Valuing your employees for their “human” worth is better for their well-being than valuing them as revenue-producers or not showing them that you value them at all!

(The findings appear in a report by the researchers that was originally published in Behavioral Sciences.1)

The researchers surveyed thousands of members of the CLA and DC Bar. Based on their responses, lawyers were broken into three groups.  Those groups, and each group’s percentage of the total were:

  • Feel valued for their talent, skill, humanity:                               62%
  • Feel valued for their productivity & financial worth:                28%
  • Don’t feel valued or receive no feedback as to value:                10%

And here’s how the researchers ranked each group’s behavioral health and risk of attrition from the profession:

  • Feel valued for their talent, skill, humanity:                               Best health, lowest risk
  • Feel valued for their productivity & financial worth:                Worse health, higher risk
  • Don’t feel valued or receive no feedback as to value:                Worst health, highest risk

For more details, check out this infographic.

According to the CLA, the “key takeaways for legal employers” are:

  • “Employers who can make their lawyers feel more valued for their skill or humanity may be able to improve lawyer well-being, reduce healthcare costs, and mitigate unwanted turnover.
  • Providing clear and regular feedback may reduce stress and improve mental health.
  • By targeting and seeking to improve maladaptive behaviors in their workplace, employers may be able to improve the stress levels and mental health of their lawyers.”

In other words, when employers make people feel valued as people, the people are healthier and less likely to leave. And while I’m no expert, my guess is that healthier employees who aren’t looking to leave make for better business.

Here’s to making people feel like people.

For additional tips on how to create a healthy work environment, check out the ABA Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers or, my favorite, the ABA Well-Being Toolkit in a Nutshell.


1 Last year, and as part 1 of the same project that’s the subject of today’s post, the researchers released Stress, Drink, Leave: an examination of gender-specific risk factors that their findings on the factors that drive lawyers from the practice. As Bloomberg Law noted upon its release, the first report concluded that women were at a higher risk of leaving the profession for behavioral health reasons than men.

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 Wellbeing Week in Law Videos


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.


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


  •  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
  • 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?

Connect & Contribute

It’s Well-Being Week in Law. Today’s theme is social well-being.  The focus is on connecting with others within our communities. Doing so fosters a sense of belonging and provides us with a reliable support network, critical components of social well-being.

Many of us are part of communities both in our work and personal lives.  Examples include practice areas and interests that we have outside the law. There are many ways to contribute to those communities.  As this activity guide makes clear, it can be as easy as expressing gratitude or doing something nice for someone.

I’ve been encouraging members of the Vermont legal community to do ONE thing to participate in Well-Being Week in Law. Imagine the result if a lot of us chose a random act of kindness? Or to thank someone?

I’ll start.

Judge Colleen Brown: thank you for all you did for the Vermont bar during your tenure as United States Bankruptcy Judge. I’m especially grateful for your support for wellness related initiatives within the profession.  Happy retirement!

Karen Allen, fellow member of both the legal and running communities: thank you for letting me know about the random acts of kindness you recently decided to make part of your daily runs!

Sarah Katz: thank you for suggesting that we honor Well-Being Week in Law by going for a run from the office yesterday morning.  It was great!


Finally, mom.  Thank you for the wave as I was filming today’s video from my deck.  And thank you for the mint plant that is on the deck.  I forgot to include it in today’s video but look forward to enjoying a few of its crushed leaves during the Kentucky Derby!


For anyone interested in 8 more minutes of social well-being, in today’s video, I eulogize my external camera, steal an idea from one of my basketball players, share one of my favorite things about United States Bankruptcy Judge Colleen Brown, and urge us to reach out to the members of our community who no longer feel connected.

I Made Bread

Happy Hump Day!  I have big news to report.

First, my sense is that many in the Vermont legal community are participating in Well-Being Week in Law.  And now I have proof!  Congratulations to the folks at Dunkiel Saunders!  Yesterday, Melinda Siel let me know that, over lunch, the firm had a lively game of Viking Chess on the lawn and that they’re doing something related to wellness each day this week.  This makes Dunkiel Saunders the first Vermont firm or office to reach out to me to confirm participation!  True to my word, I’m here to launch them to internet fame! If you or your office/firm is participating, let me know.  I’ll post the entire list on Saturday.

And that’s not the only big news!

I am here to report that, yesterday, I made bread.  The official video chronicling the endeavor is here:

Now, I know what you’re asking yourself.  “Self, why is it big news that Mike made bread?”  Fear not my friends! I have the answer.

Today’s theme is Intellectual Well-Being.  Continuing to grow intellectually is an important component of our overall well-being. We should strive to grow both at work and in our personal lives.

For instance, at work, you might resolve to wade into a new area of law. Or, take a pro bono case in an area that you don’t typically practice. Remember, even if the area is new to you, the person you’ll help is far better off with your assistance than they would be if left to their own devices.

Similarly, in your personal life, stagnation doesn’t do much for well-being. We need new interests and challenges.  To that end, on this day during last year’s Well-Being Week in Law, I resolved to learn how to make bread.  It took me 364 days to get around to it, but I did it!  Many thanks to the First Brother for his assistance, and to Nicole Killoran and Heather Devine for supporting this project from the start and checking-in, both periodically and gently, on my, umm, “progress.”

That’s the news for today. If you’re interested participating in Well-Being Week in Law, here’s an activity guide.  Or, like Dunkiel Saunders and me, find your own thing.  After all, and as we know, well-being is personal.

As always, be well and may the 4th be with you.

Consider participating in Well-Being Week in Law. Nothing is too small . . . and there are prizes!

Next week is Well-Being Week in Law. Conceived and promoted by the Institute for Well-Being in Law (IWIL), the event’s goals are “to raise awareness about mental health and to encourage action and innovation across the profession to improve well-being.”

I encourage you, your co-workers, and your colleagues to participate, even if only by doing something that might seem “small” or “inconsequential.”  Indeed, as we know too well, when it comes to improving the profession’s well-being, there is no step too small to help. For example, sending a “thank you” note. Surely, someone at your office has time (and reason) to express gratitude at some point next week!

Of course, Well-Being Week in Law features many additional activities and opportunities to promote well-being. Legal professionals can participate as individuals, with a friend/colleague/co-worker, or as an entire office/firm. There’s something for everyone!

And speaking of everyone, you lawyers, don’t forget to include your non-lawyer staff. They are much a part of the profession as lawyers!

Each day focuses on a different aspect of wellness:

Each Day

IWIL’s participation guide includes dozens of suggestions for each day, breaking the suggestions into things to read, things to watch or listen to, and things to do.  For instance, on Monday, legal professionals might

Or, for the legal professional who has an Apple Watch, Vermont lawyer Tammy Heffernan has offered to host a month-long challenge associated with well-being. Tammy set it up so that there are both team and individual challenges. Instructions on how to sign-up are at the end of this letter.

There are other ways to participate in Well-Being Week.

The event coincides with May being Mental Health Awareness Month. So, next week, you and your co-workers might consider the daily challenges in the 31-Day Mental Health Challenge.

In addition, I plan to host virtual discussions on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The discussions will begin at noon and focus on the day’s theme. All are welcome. Each morning, I’ll post a link to join that day’s discussion on my blog. The videos I recorded last year provide a flavor of the discussions.

Again, the participation guide is chock full of ideas.

Finally, well-being is not “one size fits all.’  It’s personal. As the participation guide states:

Pick & Choose to Fit Your Needs

WWIL is designed so that people and organizations can participate in any way that fits their goals and capacities. If you want to participate in multiple things every day, that’s great. But also feel free to select only a few things over the entire week that match your priorities.

As I mentioned, there’s something for everyone. I encourage you to find what works for you and to encourage your colleague and co-workers to do the same.

Oh! One last thing. With participation comes reward(s)!

IWIL is offering legal professionals a chance to win prizes by completing the 2022 Well-Being Week in Law Participation Survey.  Or, you can show your commitment to well-being by participating in the Social Media Challenge.  Finally, I will use my blog and Twitter account to mention any member of Vermont’s legal community who lets me know that they, their co-workers, or their office/firm participated, even if just barely, in Well-Being Week.

Thank you for considering ways that you and your co-workers might participate in 2022 Well-Being Week in Law.


P.S. – thank you Tammy!


”VT Attorney Well Being Team Challenge ”

First, download Challenges:

Once you have the app, enter invite code: ‘cheu’ or tap on the link below to join:


“VT Attorney Individual Challenge”

First, download Challenges:

Once you have the app, enter invite code: ‘kfdk’ or tap on the link below to join:

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Here’s how Vermont’s legal professionals can plan for Well-Being Week in Law.

Well-Being Week in Law begins on May 2.  Driven by the efforts of the folks at the Institute for Well-Being in Law (IWIL), the week is designed to raise awareness by encouraging all in the profession to engage in activities that promote well-being.

There are many ways to get involved.

Each day has a different theme, with each theme a component of wellness.


Last year, I hosted daily virtual meetups over the lunch hour.  There was no agenda.  Rather, we shared thoughts and tips related to the day’s theme.  My posts and videos on the project are here.  I intend to reprise the discussions this year.

There’s also A LOT more that folks can do. I encourage legal professionals, legal organizations, and individuals within the profession to get involved.  Here are some resources from IWIL’s website:

I’ve not yet finalized the activities I’ll promote in addition to the daily discussions.  I hope to do so next week.  Until then, if you, your firm, or your organization is interested in planning even a single activity, let me know if you need assistance or want me to stop by.  I will if I can. Also, if you’re interested in learning what others intend to do, IWIL is hosting a series of free planning sessions.  For more information on how to register for the planning sessions, go here.

Let’s continue to promote the well-being of Vermont’s legal profession and its members.

 Related Resources

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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.


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

R.I.P. Cheslie Kryst – may your tragic story spur us to continue to help others.

This post deals with suicide.  It is devastatingly sad.

Here is a picture of Attorney Cheslie Kryst:


Attorney Kryst first made national news in May 2019 when she was crowned Miss USA.  At the time, she was in private practice in North Carolina.  I referenced the achievement in Question 5 of this #fiveforfriday legal ethics quiz, also noting Attorney Kryst’s pro bono work.

A few months later, Attorney Kryst’s firm announced her role in securing a sentence reduction for a pro bono client who had been sentenced to life in prison. Later that year, Insider noted that Attorney Kryst was far more than the stereotypical pageant winner, using her podium as Miss USA to advocate for social justice and changes to laws that resulted in long prison sentences for relatively low-level drug possession.

Upon leaving private practice, Cheslie started White Collar Glam, a site dedicated to assisting others to find “appropriate, affordable, professional clothing.”  The project was inspired by Cheslie’s experience during a mock trial competition. Then, in 2020 and 2021, Cheslie received Emmy nominations for her work as reporter for Extra.

Cheslie died on Sunday.

As reported by many outlets, including the Charlotte Observer, the Washington Post, and CNN, Cheslie jumped from the Manhattan building in which she lived.

Cheslie was 30 years old.

This is the third post in which I’ve referenced suicide and the legal profession.  That’s three too many.

In the first, 108, I shared statistics that suggest that 108 Vermont lawyers with active licenses had serious thoughts of suicide in the previous year.  In the next, Enough, I linked to the heartbreaking story of Gabe MacConnail and Joanna Litt, and urged us all to check in with others who we know are struggling.

We must continue the effort.  We must work to ensure that everyone knows:

  • It’s okay not to be okay.
  • It’s okay to ask for help.
  • Help is available.

May our efforts help to prevent a fourth blog post.

May Cheslie rest in peace.


If you need help:


If you want to help others but don’t know how, start with my post Ask the Question.


Previous Wellness Wednesday Posts

 Aiming for Well-Being

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.


Previous Wellness Wednesday Posts