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The Beacon

A Panel of VSB Presidents Address Law Students

February 23, 2021
A Panel of VSB Presidents Address Law Students

Yesterday, VJLAP and the Virginia Lawyer’s Wellness Initiative (VLWI) hosted the second in a series of statewide Law School Wellness Forum webinars highlighted as “real talk with interesting people.” The program yesterday was titled “Identifying and Managing the Risks to Wellness in the Practice of Law (An open conversation with current and former Virginia State Bar Presidents).” The panelists were the current VSB President Brian L. Buniva, President-Elect Jay B. Myerson, and former Presidents Marni E. Byrum (2019-20), Leonard C. Heath, Jr. (2018-19), and Doris H. Causey (2017-18). Students from five of Virginia’s law schools attended the event.

The panelists discussed a risk to wellness within the practice of law, as identified in the 2019 report, “The Occupational Risks of Practicing Law,” issued by the VSB President’s Special Committee on Lawyer Well-Being. Each discussed (i) how the risk manifested at different parts of their careers (in self or colleagues) and (ii) what practice pointers have worked to address it. After the panelists brief presentations, they responded to questions from the attendees on different scenarios, skills, and resources to support wellness.

  • Heath discussed the risk of working indoors, for long hours, under constant stress.
  • Buniva addressed imposter syndrome and the culture within the profession of needing to constantly display confidence and conceal vulnerability.
  • Myerson addressed the importance of being prepared for the business management side of practice.
  • Causey reviewed the impact of technology and compulsive behaviors related thereto and the impact the lack of diversity has throughout the profession.
  • Byrum explored the manifestation of values conflicts within and the reality gap in expectations prior to and reality after starting in practice including finding balance.

The panelists really allowed themselves to be vulnerable when reviewing what worked and what has been successful throughout their careers and provided innumerable practice tips. One of the best tips was Mr. Myerson’s advice to have your dog approve or reject taking a client (Ruby and Riley have not led him astray). Other tips included improving peer and colleague support systems through local and specialty bar associations, inns of courts, and mentoring groups and incorporating existing resources including VBA’s free practice management consultation and the free services through VJLAP. Ms. Byrum noted that the problem with mentoring partnerships is not a lack of mentors, it is a lack of lawyers seeking mentoring. And, of course, no wellness program would be complete without reminding attendees of the importance of sleep and balance (if you are working 22 hours in a row, what does that mean and how does that impact your performance and you).

The first Law School Wellness Forum was held on February 2, 2021 (“The Intersection of Mental Health, Addiction, and Character and Fitness” featuring Catherine Crooks Hill from the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners) and had attendees from five of Virginia’s law schools.

We hope these session will help law students think about developing positive coping strategies early so these practices will convey into the development of their professional identities as young lawyers. Additional forums are being planned.

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