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Well-Being Week In Law Round Up

May 12, 2021
Well-Being Week In Law Round Up

Last week, we celebrated Well-Being Week In Law 2021 (WWIL), as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, together. It was great sharing this week with you. Each day, you read our posts in The Beacon Blog and on our social media sites. Many of you were able to join for one or all of our WWIL CLE offerings.

Together, we can (i) improve education and awareness; (ii) increase prevention and early intervention efforts; (iii) encourage and support asking for help and receiving treatment, when needed; and (iv) reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and substance use issues in our profession!

Below is a summary of what we learned last week:

Managing Stress & Building Resilience:

On Monday (5/3), Barbara Mardigian, VJLAP’s Deputy Clinical Director, and Drew Sarrett, solo practitioner and VJLAP Board Member, mixed clinical and practical advice for managing stress and building resilience. They provided insight into the impact of chronic stress on performance and some memorable tips on supporting resilience by building boundaries such as: (i) do not give clients your cell phone number and use an app or the *67 feature before making calls from your cell phone; (ii) turn off your email notifications; (iii) not working past the point of optimal performance (avoiding zero sum gains in your work hours); and (iv) remembering your routines (and if you do not have any, take steps to establish them). Watch now.

Identifying & Managing the Risks to Wellness in the Practice of Law:

On Wednesday (5/5), five current and former Virginia State Bar Presidents enthusiastically reminded us that they love our profession, a love which has been bolstered by the steps they have taken to reduce the risks to wellness inherent in the practice of law. The panelists allowed themselves to be honest and vulnerable with reviewing what has helped them to be successful throughout their careers.

  • Heath discussed the risks of working indoors, for long hours, under constant stress. Law can be a “loneliness profession.” We should listen to those around us who express concerns (e.g., seasonal affective disorder) and remember that it is okay not to be okay, help is out there, and getting help actually improves our performance.
  • Buniva addressed the culture within the profession of the need to constantly display confidence and conceal vulnerability. He reminded us that as stress becomes chronic or too high, symptoms and anxiety increase. Ask for help and talk about it. Trust your instincts and share with your trusted circle or VJLAP.
  • Myerson addressed the importance of being prepared for the business management side of practice and encouraged attendees to utilize the services of professionals (e.g., accountant, banker, insurance, IT) and maintain peer support through your practice community, bar associations, or mentor program. Plus, having an office dog definitely makes for intra-office stress relief.
  • Causey reviewed the impact of technology and compulsive behaviors related thereto. Unplug. You have a right not to be “on” all the time. Set working and availability hours. Set limits on your outlets (e.g., CandyCrush). Small, incremental changes eventually make huge differences. She also addressed the impact the lack of diversity has throughout the profession and encouraged fostering positive, inclusive environments, open to exploring biases in house and through CLEs. While it may feel that way, you are not alone. Participate in mentoring programs and join specialty groups and bar associations.
  • Byrum explored the manifestations of values conflicts within and the reality gap found in the practice of law. Why did you become a lawyer? Explore that and hold that truth. Explore you goals and look for ways to engage these in incremental ways. A practice course can be changed, with planning and 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 a day, what does that mean and how does that impact your performance and you?). Watch now.

Addiction Is Not a Moral Failure (It Is a Disease):

On Friday (5/7), Dr. Stephen Loyd provided insight into the impact addiction has on brain functioning, including limiting moral reasoning (the frontal lobe) and revving the limbic system (reward seeking). He defined addiction as “continued use despite consequences.” He noted that cravings drive relapse and distinguished the phenomenon of craving for individuals struggling with addiction as 10 time stronger for an addict’s drug of choice (c.f., non-addicts craving for food). In reviewing the “bio-psycho-social model” for understanding addiction: Biology (self; family); psychological (upbringing; adverse childhood experiences; trauma); social (opportunity; social acceptance; availability). Watch now.

Your questions, input, and feedback are amazing. We all hope that the information provided last week was helpful to you and will further assist in our communal efforts (i) to identify, prevent, and intervene early when we and/or our colleagues are experiencing difficulties and (ii) to reduce the impact of stigma within our profession and in our lives generally.


This week (5/9-15) is National Prevention Week, an annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness and action around substance use prevention and the promotion of healthy mental health. Learn more.


The focus on wellness in the legal profession this month does not end with WWIL. Next week (5/17-21), the Institute for Well-Being In Law is holding the WWIL “After Party.” Each day there will be programming focused on organizational practices that science has shown have a substantial impact on workplace well-being, offering a mix of ways to participate (e.g., readings, resources, pre-recorded videos, live webinars). Learn more.


If you missed any of this week’s webinars or would just like to view them again or share with your friends and family, they have been posted on the VJLAP website. I haven’t yet viewed them, please let me know if you experience any problems. Watch now.


We would love to get your feedback on this week’s programming and hope you will take a moment to help us improve future events by providing feedback to with any suggestions on how to provide programming that is relevant and timely for Virginia’s legal community. Your feedback is extremely valuable to our ongoing prevention, education, and outreach efforts for addressing substance use, mental health, and wellness concerns in our legal community. Thank you in advance for your recommendations.


Please mark your calendars for VJLAP’s 17th Annual Fall Retreat to be held on September 17 and 18, 2021, in Lynchburg, Virginia (with hybrid live streaming of CLEs). Registration for the Annual Retreat is open. Please visit the VJLAP event’s page to register. Register now.


VJLAP assists members of the legal profession and their families who are concerned with mental health and substance use issues. We are here 24/7 to help, provide information, or just listen. Please do not hesitate to contact us (by email, phone, letter, carrier pigeon, smoke signals, etc. at; Office: 804.644.3212; HelpLine (24/7): 877.545.4682).

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