March 7 webinar aims for happy, productive lawyers
Second course on May 30 offers practice, de-stressing tips
Lawyers frequently feel their busy schedules deprive them of satisfying personal lives at the same time the grinding stress of the adversarial system often leads to frustrations that they’re not doing enough for their clients.
A March 7 online seminar sponsored by the Bar’s Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers Committee will take aim at those issues; while a second session a couple months later will offer practice tips and exercises to deal with stress.
Committee Chair Dori Foster-Morales, the Bar’s president-elect designate, said the panel, which met at the Bar’s Winter Meeting, is moving to address the issues it has identified — and that includes getting lawyers to share their stories about surviving mental health and substance abuse challenges.
Foster-Morales said one of the more successful strategies the committee has found is getting lawyers to talk with other lawyers about how they overcame mental health and substance abuse issues.
“When you get people to talk, it gets more people talking,” said Foster-Morales, adding that way it doesn’t come off “as a lecture.”
The programs will explore how to identify, and what to do, when encountering an impaired lawyer or judge, Foster-Morales said. They will discuss how to be a happy lawyer; how to survive in a big firm as a young lawyer; the stresses that working parents experience, as well as the issues associated with taking care of elderly parents.
The March 7 webinar will feature psychologist Amy Wood and is titled, “Law and the Good Life: How to Be a Productive and Happy Attorney.” It’s set for 2 p.m., EST, and will have 50 minutes of Wood’s presentations and 10 minutes for questions.
Wood, who specializes in dealing with attorney stress, said the program is based on her studies last summer, including conversations with around 100 lawyers.
“If you look at a bell curve of stress that professionals in America experience in their work and in their lives, I would say attorneys are on the far right [the highest level],” Wood said. “It’s not what most people experience. We’re all stressed out, but what attorneys experience is well beyond that.”
Woods said the top frustrations lawyers express are a personal sense of having no control over their work and life, particularly those who have to go to court, and feeling they are “always on” and they “can’t get away from that.”
“The next frustration was not being able to sufficiently help clients,” she said, noting that’s what every lawyer she interviewed said was the reason they decided to study law for in the first place. “They wanted to help people, they wanted to help clients; but because of all the roadblocks and all of the delays, they can’t help clients. They don’t feel like they have a purpose, because they don’t feel they can get anywhere.
“The third one is the obsessively demanding and often adversarial work. They talk most about attorneys who are difficult to work with, when that other attorney’s job is to rip apart what you’ve created.”
Dealing with those stressors calls for improving vitality — mental, emotional, and physical — building connections with clients, other lawyers, and families, and finding ways to sustain successful techniques for dealing with stress, including how to make smart decisions and dealing with the “distractions, demands, and deadlines” that go along with the practice of law, Wood said.
She said attorneys should learn how to emulate top athletes, who are constantly expected to perform at the highest levels.
“They’re in an elite field and they need elite interventions to deal with the stress,” she said.
The second webinar is set for May 2, at 2 p.m. EDT. Wood will co-present that with Alexandra “Cookie” Echsner-Rasmussen, a young lawyer and certified yoga instructor and wellness coach. It’s titled, “Winning the Race Without Losing Your Health and Mind: Six Powerful Practices to Make Lawyering Less of a Physical and Mental Toll.”
Wood will talk about practice tips for lawyers, while Echsner-Rasmussen will present mental and physical exercises to help lawyers cope with stress and develop a sense of well being.
To sign up for the March 7 session, go to https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6460926434261102082.
For the May 30 session, visit https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8595615065448885250.