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Lawyer-mother support group works to grow its ranks

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SupportWorking mother attorneys are giving high marks to a new support group that has been tackling challenging issues, sponsors say.

“Our hope is that more members of the legal community become aware of this,” said Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc. Executive Director Daniel McDermott.

Launched in May, the support group is a joint effort of FLA, Inc., and the Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers Committee.

“It sounds like a very rich and meaningful experience for the people that are participating, which is great,” said Committee Chair Karl Klein.

The support group meets every Friday at noon and is facilitated by FLA Clinical Director Scott Weinstein and FLA case manager Lauren Morris, a PhD licensed mental-health counselor.

Topics range from the tragedy of miscarriage to the challenge of dealing with domestic violence victims by day, and transitioning to a nurturing mother at night, McDermott said.

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

Registration has grown to about 100, McDermott said. However, participation continues to be uneven, largely due to fluctuating work schedules.

“The actual participation numbers are still in the mid-to-high single digits, which for a support group is good, but it could be a little higher,” McDermott said. “So, from that standpoint, it’s really doing quite well.”

The ideal size is about a dozen — any larger and the group gets too unwieldy, McDermott said.

Facilitators send weekly reminders to registrants who have yet to attend, and ask participants for feedback, McDermott said.

Working mother attorneys are finding the discussions worthwhile, McDermott said.

A recent meeting featured a law student, a beginning lawyer, and an attorney with 20 years of experience, McDermott said.

“The more senior lawyer was really able to help them see ahead, and to kind of give them some ways to think about what they’re dealing with now, and what lies beyond that,” he said. “So, it became a kind of mentoring as well as a support session.”

The working mother support group grew out of a series of stress support groups FLA sponsored for judges, lawyers, law students, and paralegals at the beginning of the pandemic.

At the October 14 meeting, Klein said the Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers Committee will expand its promotion of the support group.

He also discussed a series of projects the committee will pursue for the coming year.

One, a “project of the whole,” 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 Committee 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 spreadsheet 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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