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The Beacon

VJLAP Board Members Discuss Wellness at VSB Conference

June 27, 2022
VJLAP Board Members Discuss Wellness at VSB Conference

Three VJLAP Board Members participated in the Lawyer Wellness CLE “Maximizing Performance and Avoiding Pitfalls in Practice and in Life” at the Virginia State Bar (VSB) Annual Conference in Virginia Beach. Board Members Len Heath, Hon. Doris Causey, and Joey Carico were joined by Aaron Rouse, Virginia Beach City Council Member, who brought his experience as a professional athlete to inform our perspective on wellness as it impacts our performance as lawyers.

The presentation began in Mr. Heath reviewing the June 2022 update on the VSB President’s Special Committee on Lawyer Well-Being’s (Committee) report “The Occupational Risks of the Practice of Law.” He noted that the Committee focused on how these occupational risks were impacted during the pandemic and are most likely to be “lasting and continuing changes.” Those identified were:

  • Individual Work
  • Managing Legal Paradigms, and
  • Lack of Diversity in the Legal Profession.

Below are highlights from the panel discussion:

  • Wellness is not “One Size Fits All.” You need to figure out what works for you.
  • There is a business case for wellness (employees feeling valued report higher work satisfaction; costs savings by retaining talented employees). Management should be vested in setting a culture of support and leading by example to maximize employee performance. Practice is more than billable hours.
  • Focus on your “today.” What you have within your control. We do not know if tomorrow is going to happen. We also know that tomorrow will be a new day. If you are focusing on today, the “win” for the day is what is important. Define the “win” in a way that is meaningful.

  • When we are in a game, we are focused only on the game. When we are in a trial, we are focused only on the trial until resolution (verdict, settlement). After this focus period, we need to focus on the “recovery period” to “let the brain rest” (e.g., Heath has to have “quiet time.”).
  • Setting time for yourself and taking care of your mentality keeps you in shape and ready for the next challenge.
  • There is no “off season” to change your focus. It is important to deliberately add this into your calendar and routines.
  • We often have to “roll with it” and have the space and ability to leave past concerns and issues behind. Determine when thoughts become unproductive and take steps to redirect.
  • “When you are working remotely, you lose the genius of the hallway.” It is important to build alternative ways to promote such communication, collaboration, and creativity.
  • “We need each other.” It is always important to have a network and support. We “get innovative” in our shared, open experience.
  • Some people can “be alone without being lonely.” It is important to know the different and set in measures to protect your need forcommunity and comradery.
  • Promote open culture by saying “hello” to everyone in your office. This may have to be done very deliberately but the advantages are incalculable.
  • There are parallels to managing stress and being resilient. VJLAP is┬áthere to help attorneys and not just for addiction – also for mental health and things like codependency. It is a great resource.
  • Stigma is a huge problem. All should take steps to normalize mental health concerns as common issues for which there are solutions.
  • Set your values with an order of priority. For example: self first, then family, then caseload. As manager it is important to ensure that colleagues have time for themselves and their families.
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