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Alternative Dispute Resolution Section rolls out six-part webinar series ‘Be Well, Stay Well’

Senior Editor Top Stories

ADR SectionSurveys from President Dori Foster-Morales’ 20-circuit listening tour suggest that stress in Florida’s legal profession is a shadow pandemic.

That’s on top of a 2016 ABA/Hazelton Betty Ford Foundation survey that concluded 28%, 19% and 23% of U.S. lawyers struggle with some form of depression, anxiety and stress, respectively.

Anticipating the challenge, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section in October will sponsor a six-part webinar series, “Be Well, Stay Well.”

“Before the pandemic, we knew the life of a lawyer was fraught with emotional difficulties,” Foster-Morales says in a video introduction. “And when this pandemic was added into to the mix, it heightened those issues.”

Miami lawyer and ADR section Vice Chair Patrick Russell, who chairs the section’s Health and Wellness Committee, said final preparations are nearly complete.

“We are rapidly receiving accreditation for all of the CLE presentations, and they are loaded with hard-to-get technology, ethics, and mental health credits,” he said.

Registration links for each of the programs will go live shortly on the ADR section’s website as well as the In Reach webpage that hosts all of the Bar’s CLE programs, Russell said.

The series will feature prominent lecturers, including University of Miami law school Professor Scott L. Rogers, director of UM’s Mindfulness in Law Program.

The section partnered with Legal Services of Greater Miami to produce the webinars, and topics range from “The Ethical Considerations When Using Alternative Dispute Resolution to Bridge the Justice Gap,” to “Balancing Wellness and the Ever-Present Demands of Technology.”

Paula Black, a nationally recognized lawyer coach and author of “A Lawyer’s Guide to Creating a Life, Not Just a Living,” will lead a segment titled, “Navigating Lawyering and Life: A Roadmap.”

Black said that by blurring the distinction between home and office, the pandemic has forced lawyers to rethink the notion of “work-life balance,” a term she has come to loathe.

“I think that phrase does us more harm than good, because it isn’t always so clear cut,” she said. “I believe each lawyer has the ability to create their life in their own way, to structure their practice in a way that it fits in with their life.”

Think symphonies instead of silos, Black said.

“I look at it like it’s in harmony,” she said. “Just like in an orchestra, sometimes the horns are more important, sometimes the strings are more important, it all blends together in a harmonious way.”

Black says one of her lawyer clients, Karen Lapekas, is a good example. The two will appear together on the webinar panel.

Lapekas was already harmonizing her career with her personal life when she became pregnant, so the transition to working mother was less of a challenge, Black said.

“When she had a child, she saw her practice in a whole other way,” Black said. “She could bring her child to work, she could integrate when she works and when she takes care of the baby, and how it can all work in harmony.”

Lawyers who are working from home during the pandemic can find the same harmony, Black said. Some of her clients help their children with online schooling from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., then retreat behind a closed bedroom door to consult with clients or write briefs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., or 8 p.m., or whenever, she said.

“You don’t have to answer the phone every single time a client calls,” she said. “You can call them back a little later when you have the time to devote your full attention to them and to their matter.”

Black helped one lawyer client realize that she could structure her legal practice in a manner that allowed her to join her anesthesiologist husband on his seven weeks of vacation. Another lawyer client found time to launch a practice and find a life partner, she said.

“I’m a business development coach who looks at all aspects of your life, so that it’s all integrated,” she said. “If we’re going to build something, we need to build it on the foundation of how you want your life to work.”

For all of its lethality and economic dislocation, the pandemic has at least allowed lawyers to spend more time with their families, Black said, and possibly gain a new perspective.

“It’s not a work life and a personal life, it’s one life,” she said. “We should shed those preconceived ideas of how life should be, because it can be freeing.”

Here is the schedule:

• October 8 — 11 a.m.: Balancing Wellness and Ever-Present Demands of Technology (Presenter: Ilenia Sanchez-Bryson, Legal Services of Greater Miami)

• October 13 — 12 p.m.: Changing the Paradigm of Who We Are (Panel Members: Deborah Corbishley & Professor Janet Seitlin)

• October 21 — 12 p.m.: Ethical Considerations When Using Alternative Dispute Resolution to Bridge the Justice Gap (Presenter: Jayme Cassidy, Legal Services of Greater Miami)

• October 26 — 12 p.m.: Navigating Lawyering and Life: A Roadmap (Panel Members: Bruce Blittman, Paula Black, Maia Aron, and Karen Lapekas)

• October 29 — 12 p.m.: Happiness For Lawyers Guaranteed…or Your Misery Back (Panel Members: Arielle Capuano & Mark Eiglarsh)

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