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Group provides support for working mothers

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'There’s a robustness to the exchange, there’s a willingness to be open with each other'

A working mothers’ support group for attorneys is tackling challenging issues and generating positive feedback, and more help for Bar members is on the way, say members of the Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers Committee.

At an October 14 virtual meeting, the committee received an update on the support group, and discussed projects it will pursue in the coming year.

Launched in May, the support group is a joint effort of the committee and Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc.

“The discussions have been extraordinarily valuable to the participants,” FLA Executive Director Dan McDermott told the committee. “There’s a full range of issues that this committee identified as important to call out and offer resources to.”

The group is modeled after stress support groups FLA launched at the beginning of the pandemic for judges, attorneys, law students, and paralegals, McDermott said.

The support group for attorney mothers meets every Friday at the lunch hour and is facilitated by FLA Clinical Director Scott Weinstein and FLA case manager Lauren Morris, a PhD licensed mental health counselor.

About 100 participants registered for the group, but attendance has been uneven, partly due to fluctuating schedules, McDermott said.

“We have usually mid- to single-digit participation every week,” McDermott said. “The ideal size is about a dozen. If it gets much bigger than that, then the opportunity to participate gets a little challenging.”

Topics vary from the tragedy of miscarriage to “the challenges of being a front-line attorney in a domestic violence practice in the day, and switching to nurturing mother at night,” McDermott said.

In follow up surveys, participants say the discussions have been rewarding, McDermott said.

“The quality of the interaction in this group has been extraordinary from the beginning,” he said. “There’s a robustness to the exchange, there’s a willingness to be open with each other.”

Facilitators noticed an uptick in attendance after the Florida Association for Women Lawyers promoted it to members, McDermott said. The Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers Committee intends to increase its promotion efforts.

“The more Florida working mother attorneys know that this is out there, the better our chances of catching somebody’s attention,” McDermott said.

Meanwhile, committee Chair Karl Klein said he will soon announce committee assignments for a “project of the whole” that will focus on “Reimagining the Practice of Law.”

The goal will be to produce a white paper of resources and best practices on three aspects — “physical environment,” “professionalism and interaction,” and “personal enrichment.”

Several committee members will be assigned to gather data to support the paper’s findings, Klein said.

Meanwhile, an education subcommittee has divided into three subgroups to work on various projects, Klein said.

One subgroup will develop CLEs on vicarious trauma for prosecutors and public defenders.

A second subgroup will develop CLEs on vicarious trauma for family law and dependency lawyers, Klein said.

A third subgroup will develop a speakers list, Klein said.

“We do get a lot of requests during the year for speakers that can either address a firm or a non-profit group, and they look to us to help connect the group with resources,” he said.

A communications committee headed by Vice Chair Rich Rivera will focus, among other things, on improving the Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers webpage and social media presence.

“We want to see what we can do to improve the functionality of the website and make it more useable for Bar members who are actually looking for resources,” he said. “As of right now, it’s not the most functional. It’s hard to navigate.”

Rivera said he plans to develop a master events list.

“I’m going to be creating a Google spread sheet for upcoming events, for things that we should be promoting for our work and The Florida Bar, and then cross-promote other committees and local bar associations,” he said.

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