The Oregon Attorney Assistance Program publication, inSight, helps lawyers, judges, and law students to improve the quality of their lives.

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Practicing Law with Depression & Anxiety

I am told that I am an up-and-coming young attorney with the potential to do great things, and...

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Steps to Building a Sustainable Career: Ready to Thrive?

For the past several years, our profession has seen a rise in attrition and a decline in...

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Five Ways to Make Your Days Better

Sometimes your day is cruising happily along when a bump in the road – or a major pothole –...

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September 2018 - Full IssueSeptember 2018PDF
Five Ways to Make Your Days BetterSeptember 2018HTMLSometimes your day is cruising happily along when a bump in the road – or a major pothole – comes along to derail you from the easy life. Then there are days when everything seems to go wrong all day long. Life isn’t always easy, but there are steps you can take to make your days better. Here are five: Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Many thought leaders, from Brene Brown to the Dalai Lama, tout the benefits of living with an  attitude of gratitude. This is different from positive thinking in the face of real adversity. Rather, it is seeing life for the reality that it is and being grateful for what’s good about it even when some parts are not good. My friend Diane Costigan, who is Director of Coaching at Winston & Strawn LLP in New York City, taught me this phrase when I was working with her as a coach: “What I like about it is…” This is a great way to live with an attitude of gratitude. It can also make you laugh in the face of trouble. For example, I lost my cellphone (disaster!), but what I like about it is I can get an early upgrade to a better phone. Accept reality. As one of my favorite authors, Byron Katie, would say, when you argue with reality you always lose. I love this thought. It makes life much simpler. Katie says to let go of the “shoulds” in your life. Yes, opposing counsel should be more civil. Yes, the judge should let you make your argument without interruption. Your difficult client should appreciate how hard you are working. But sometimes the reality is that those things don’t happen, even if they should. The best way to handle these difficulties is to accept that they exist and then work with them. You can either work to remedy them or change something in your life or practice so that you don’t continue to find yourself in a reality that you don’t like. Delegate. It is difficult to succeed without a team. If you don’t have teammates – colleagues, friends, assistants, family – take the time to create a team that can help you handle all your responsibilities. It can be hard to let go of the control to effectively delegate. Let’s be honest, though: If you micro-manage the person to whom you delegate, you aren’t saving yourself any time and you are frustrating him or her. So instead, take the time to find a competent and cooperative teammate, be very clear in your directions, and let him or her take the responsibility. There may be growing pains, both in your ability to give effective directions and your teammate’s ability to deliver as expected, but it will be worth it. Organize. One of the best ways to keep all your various responsibilities in order and successfully handled is to be organized. Organize your office so that things don’t get lost in the shuffle. Organize your day so that you use your time as efficiently as possible. Organize your life so that you have resources readily available to you. When you are organized, you don’t waste time and energy trying to find whatever you need to be successful. Meditate, then plan. When I am overwhelmed with work and life, I want to jump in as quickly as possible and tackle things. Resist that temptation. Take a breath, and take the time to meditate and then plan. Would you build a house without first drafting a plan? Of course not. Take the same approach to your day, your matter, and your life. You actually save time when you make a good and thoughtful plan. When you take five minutes to meditate before you plan, your planning will go more smoothly and efficiently. Meditation will clear your mind of the noise and allow you to breathe, slow down, and think. Have a great day! Jamie Spannhake Jamie Spannhake is a lawyer, mediator, and certified health coach. She is a partner at Berlandi Nussbaum & Reitzas LLP, serving clients in New York and Connecticut, practicing in the areas of commercial litigation, estate planning, residential and commercial real estate, and business transactions. She writes and speaks on issues of interest to lawyers, including time and stress management, health and wellness, work-life balance, and effective legal writing. Follow her on Twitter @IdealYear. This article first appeared in Attorney at Work at Reprinted with permission.
Steps to Building a Sustainable Career: Ready to Thrive?September 2018HTMLFor the past several years, our profession has seen a rise in attrition and a decline in satisfaction. Too many talented attorneys have walked away from the profession, believing that it’s an all-or-nothing gig, and truthfully, there are few resources available to discourage that. Yet many attorneys do succeed in building thriving, sustainable careers. What sets them apart? How do you join those ranks if you’re teetering on the edge of law career despair? Whether you’re a recently admitted attorney or an experienced professional, it behooves you to assess your career and your life at regular intervals. Circumstances, priorities, and desires all change. To be the best lawyers that we can be, as well as to feel motivated and purposeful, means integrating our full complement of human intelligence into our thinking, then acting accordingly. Many attorneys move from soul-deadening jobs to fulfilling careers by integrating their full complement of human assets to find purpose and motivation, and to thrive. How do we actually do this? Many avenues do exist; a few are listed below. Before you find yourself paralyzed by inertia, trapped by golden handcuffs, or dropping out altogether, consider the concepts below. Contemplate them. Notice which resonate with you. Then choose one or more upon which to act. Regardless of the stage you’re in, a few fundamentals remain important: Find Your Why: Research confirms that when our core values and our work are not aligned, our well-being plummets. Manage Your Energy: Even when we love our work, if demands exceed our energy, we are left feeling exhausted, with little left over for ourselves or others. Find Your People: Humans tribe. We’re designed to connect. Law practice is often an isolating experience, even in the largest firms. Do You, Today: Much of the stress we experience is self-generated by anticipating the future or ruminating about the past. Find Your Why Think back to your pre-law days. Something drew you to the practice of law and led to the place you sit now. What motivated you to take the LSAT, fill out and submit applications, and pay perhaps hundreds of dollars in fees to be considered for a coveted slot? Was there a spark of inspiration attached to that effort, or did it simply seem like a good idea at the time? Does that pre-law motivation still exist for you? Motivations change. What has moved to the top of your priority list? To thrive in any career over a period of decades, our work has to matter to us in some way. Where do you, or can you, find meaning in your work? Practicing law is complex and demanding, so many of us expect to feel some measure of daily discomfort and accept it. This is a far cry from the capacity to thrive that we can achieve. Attorneys who practice in areas that answer their WHY shift from a job to a career, and sometimes even a calling. You can begin by reflecting on the underlying purpose for the day-to-day work that you do and the needs of the client for whom you do your work. Consider completing a values identification. This is very useful for crafting a life that is fulfilling to you. A primary value for one of my law students was adventure. Knowing that means it’s important for her to work in a field that she finds stimulating. Are you doing work that reflects something you care about? Where do you find joy or meaning in your work? Notice your resistance. We all have it. Examining the areas of resistance yields our greatest insights. Many attorneys pivot at early, middle, and later junctures in their careers and land in practices they love. Filter out the naysayers who tell you it can’t be done. Whether you’re in your second, seventh, or seventeenth year of practice, it’s never “too late” to live your life. Manage Your Energy Practicing law requires stamina. Even when we love our work, if demands exceed our energy, we are left feeling exhausted, with little left over for ourselves or others. Powering through a long day of billable hours or back-to-back clients can leave us feeling exhausted. Technology places an added drag on our attention and our energy. Our human brains were not designed for the 24/7 demands we’re placing on them. For too many attorneys, the substantive work is challenging and enjoyable, yet they are so drained, that their life enjoyment is reduced to a concept. This, too, is where understanding a little human physiology goes a long way in battling burnout. When we’re doing mental work, our brain is working hard to connect thoughts, process information, produce neurotransmitters, and manage the many other systems operating in our bodies. To improve stamina and sustain energy throughout your day: Sip water. As little as 1% dehydration diminishes cognitive function and impairs mood. Staying hydrated provides the electrical energy our brains need to think and process information. Focus on one task at a time. Single-tasking is more efficient, improves outcomes, and leaves you feeling more alert throughout the day. The effort involved in multitasking – switching between two or more cognitive tasks – increases the output of stress hormones and drains the brain of resources needed for cognitive function. As a result, we tire rapidly and diminish the quality (and enjoyment) of our work. Rather than answering emails and phone calls while working on a document, give your focused attention to each task individually; you’ll save time, improve outcomes, and feel more alert at the end of the day. Take mental breaks. Two to five minutes of brain rest at regular intervals are imperative for mental processing and productive work. Powering through is not a productivity tool. Turn away from your computer (and phone!), and gaze out the window for a few minutes of nondirected thought. Breathe. Take a short walk, perhaps to the water cooler. We can’t skip these human physiological processes any more than we can skip fueling our cars when the tank is empty. A brief break every 45 to 90 minutes will save you time, boost your energy, and pay off in productivity. Skip the soda. Though you may experience a quick, temporary “feel-good” fix, the sugar content actually interferes with mental focus. Find Your People Humans tribe. We’re designed to connect. On par with meaningful work is mutual respect in our workplace. Yet law practice is often an isolating experience, even in the largest firms. It’s important to work with attorneys who care about you as a person and take an interest in your career and your well-being, for more than the obvious reasons. A substantial body of research suggests that the people with whom we work are strong indicators of who we become. Are your colleagues collaborative or competitive, encouraging or discouraging, kind or sarcastic, healthy or unhealthy, optimistic or pessimistic? In his insightful TED talk, Nicholas Christakis, MD, a Yale sociologist and physician, explains how the people with whom we work day in and day out influence our lives, our health, and our happiness. I recently met with a young lawyer and former student of mine who loves her substantive practice but regularly finds herself at odds with her supervising attorney’s approach and style. She recognizes that while she is committed to continuing in her field, practicing meaningfully over the long term means working with more like-minded practitioners. Many attorneys find connection and community in the firms and organizations in which they work. When we enjoy the people and the environment in which we spend most of our waking hours, we’re able to thrive. Do You, Today Although humans are no longer in danger of being eaten by a predator for lunch, our brains are still primed to protect us from danger. Much of the stress that we experience is self-generated. Large caseloads, irate clients, and traffic, to name just a few potential stressors, are interpreted by our brains as threats that trigger a stress response, even though we’re in no actual danger. A truly wonderful human gift is our ability to observe ourselves. Once we identify the source of the stress response, we’re able to step back, put it into perspective, and respond to potentially stressful situations in a more detached, composed fashion. Recent research in health psychology also shows that when we view stress as a motivator or as neutral, it doesn’t have the negative health impacts that accompany concern about feeling stressed. Below are some useful strategies. “Have I done all that I can in the present moment?” A “no” answer to that question guides me toward appropriate action, while a “yes” reassures me that in the present moment, the situation is the best that it can be and no further action is needed right now. Depending upon the circumstances, I’ll often make an appointment to revisit the issue at a later time. For many, the question, “Does this serve me?” proves useful. We’ve all agreed to serve on additional committees or take on matters that pick up another’s slack. This question enables us to recognize situations that require a “no” response now, thus avoiding situations that result in resentment or unwanted outcomes later, and also building confidence. Develop your confidence. Confidence turns thought into action, and action moves us forward. Notice your thinking and your self-talk. You may inadvertently be holding yourself back with doubt and unwarranted self-talk that are unsupported by evidence. While your brain may think it’s keeping you safe, recognizing the skills you possess that propel you will move you and your career forward. Attend to your inner life. Whether it’s to paint, read, run, meditate, cook, or stargaze, incorporate one activity into your routine that brings you joy for no other reason than its existence. Finally, “never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” Dolly Parton   Judith Gordon Judith Gordon is a speaker and coach and a lecturer at UCLA School of Law, committed to empowering attorneys so that they thrive in law and in life. She can be reached at or 310-968-7270.
Practicing Law with Depression & AnxietySeptember 2018HTMLI am told that I am an up-and-coming young attorney with the potential to do great things, and by all outward accounts I suppose that must be true. My firm has gone out of its way to offer me opportunities for growth beyond its norms. I have won awards. I have spoken at conferences and CLEs. I have been elected to boards and run committees. People seek me out for these positions because they are confident in my abilities, my commitment, and my sense of responsibility. I am dependable, competent, and pragmatic. I apparently give the impression of someone with goals and drive who knows where she is going and how to get there. It is an impression I have a hard time accepting because on the inside it is a very different story. I have struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life and expect I will continue to struggle with them into the foreseeable future. I have been medicated for 13 years and have no intention of quitting any time soon. I fight a neverending war against a part of myself that I cannot remove. Every day I win battles, but the war continues. I fight to get out of bed in the morning, to smile when I see other people. I fight against the voice that tells me constantly that everything I am doing and saying is wrong and everyone knows it. I question every decision I make and my ability to make them. I feel like a failure and a fraud every single day. When something goes wrong, it is proof. When something goes well, it is luck or a fluke. Every day is a challenge, to keep going, to appear normal, to not give in. It is painful and exhausting. Even on my best days, the depression lurks in the back of my mind, waiting for a moment of weakness. I am constantly frustrated by my inability to be rid of it, no matter how hard I work and no matter how amazing I make my life. Practicing law with depression is incredibly challenging. We work in a system that expects us to be perfect, to always know the answer, to be able to fix everything. It is impossible to live up to the image, and for those of us who are already inclined toward mental health issues, that impossibility can feel crushing. In many ways, I am one of the lucky ones. I have come to recognize my issues and get the help I need. I have family and friends who understand and support me, and I work in an environment that gives me the flexibility to attend therapy and confidential OAAP support group meetings with no questions asked. I am even able to speak openly with some of my supervisors and colleagues about my mental health and how I manage it. I work hard to maintain balance in my life because I know I can’t survive without it. I can’t join every organization, be on every board, go to every social, and work the long hours this profession often demands. None of this makes me a bad lawyer. It does not make me weak, fragile, or unreliable. On the contrary, it has made me stronger. I wake up every day and fight for the life I have because the alternative is not an option. I know that I am capable of fighting, I know that I can survive, and I know that I can triumph. I know that good days can come, even after the darkest times. That knowledge gives me the resilience to face struggles in the rest of my life, as well as in my practice. When I learned how to accept and take care of myself, I also learned how to take care of others. I learned compassion and patience, and I learned perspective. I learned to look beyond what people project and see who they are beneath the surface. I can usually see where a person is coming from, and most of the time I can meet him or her there without judgment. I treat my clients like human beings, and as a human being I do my best to guide them through an often impersonal legal system. As lawyers, we are ashamed and afraid to admit when we suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. We are afraid to admit our weaknesses because of how our clients might judge them or how our colleagues might exploit them. I recognize my weaknesses, and I also know how to work with them. I know my limitations, and I know what I need to do to succeed. I am not only the part of me that wants to run away from the world. I am also the part of me that gets up every day and fights, that can accept the possibility of failure and understand that I can come back stronger. Without my depression, I would not have any of those strengths. I am not ashamed of that part of me – I am proud of it. I am a good lawyer, not in spite of my depression, but because of it.
June 2018 - Full IssueJune 2018PDF
Women's Wellness RetreatJune 2018HTMLThe Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP) and Oregon Women Lawyers (OWLS) held their 11th Annual Women’s Wellness Retreat for Lawyers at the Surfsand Resort in Cannon Beach on April 27 and 28. A wide-sweeping view of the ocean and the majestic Haystack Rock served as an inspiring and spectacular backdrop. This year’s theme was “Powering Up Our Resilience Through Mindfulness.” Fifty-six women lawyers came together to learn, relax, and create new or sustain existing connections. With the help of our speakers, this two-day event was filled with thought-provoking presentations, reflections, and relaxation. We kicked off Friday afternoon with a satisfying lunch, welcome remarks, and introductions. The atmosphere was casual, light, and cheerful. Speaker Virginia Terhaar, PsyD, encouraged us to turn off our phones for 24 hours and to observe any reactions to the urge to reach for our device. Our keynote speaker, Laura Mahr, JD, a mindfulness coach, defined mindfulness, resilience, and power. She distinguished between discernment and criticism in explaining mindfulness as the act of paying attention to the present without judgment. Nonjudgment can be understood as being less critical of one’s present experience while engaging in discernment. Laura also conceptualized resilience as making use of mindfulness tools to bring us out of our reactive mode to a responsive mode, where we can make better decisions and enter a state of flow. After Laura’s presentation, we were given free time to enjoy our cozy rooms and make use of the pool, hot tub, and sauna before returning for dinner. During dinner, attendees discussed their favorite ways of de-stressing, including any meditation practices, and the meaning of resilience. Most of us stayed behind for the beach bonfire. Friday night ended with our yoga teacher, Michelle Ryan, JD, guiding us with her soothing voice into complete relaxation through Yoga Nidra (sleep with awareness). The next day, Michelle led us in a morning yoga session to help us feel grounded. We gathered for breakfast and readied ourselves for a presentation on Trauma-Informed Lawyering by Brigitte Rodriguez, MSW, and Ali Schneider, JD. Brigitte helped us understand that trauma is an individualized experience and influenced by culture. She spoke of the main elements of trauma-informed care (realization of trauma’s prevalence, its recognition, and responsiveness toward it) and the principles of a trauma-informed approach, such as safety, trustworthiness, and peer support. Ali then described the practical steps lawyers can take, such as creating a comfortable space, making one’s legal services more accessible to clients with barriers, or spending more time introducing clients to the process during a consultation. Virginia Terhaar later led us in a discussion on how to create a supportive legal community. She explained that the quality of our connections gives us our secured sense of self. She had us consider how we may use the ideas from the retreat to form or improve our relationships with other lawyers. During lunch, attendees had the option of participating in an arts-and-crafts activity with creativity coach Megan Saint-Marie by creating a vision candle. Participants were given a candle to decorate as they envisioned their past, present, and/or future. We wrapped up the retreat with Laura Mahr leading us through exercises and discussions that reflect how we can be responsive rather than reactive. She had us list our personal strengths and taught us mindfulness tools so we can build resilience, transform our emotions, and take actions that improve our well-being. Special thanks to all of our speakers and the wonderful women lawyers who participated in our event. Your presence was truly valuable, significant, and impactful. Cheers to OAAP and OWLS for another successful retreat!  
Moving in Place: Four Steps to Creating More Satisfaction in Your WorkJune 2018HTMLLife is good. You are one of those seemingly rare attorneys who is content at work. You feel a sense of mastery (or at least competence) over the subject matter you handle, you have a good relationship with your peers, and the compensation meets your needs. Your employment provides the stability that you crave. You have no desire to change the status quo. Yet when you notice that your colleagues in other offices are jockeying for some bigger-and-better opportunity, you start to wonder whether you should aspire to climb the corporate ladder. But what if you don’t want to? Or what if you’d like to grow but are at an organization that does not offer a ladder to climb? Is it OK for an attorney to simply stay put? In short, yes. But to avoid burnout and boredom and to continue adding value to your internal and external clients, it is helpful to find ways to develop and grow, even when staying in place. The good news is that the strategies you can use to avoid stagnation are easy to add to your plate. In fact, by engaging with issues that excite you, or by seeking opportunities for connection and leadership, you can infuse your professional life with energy. In the event your work circumstances change, this approach will also put you in a better position to successfully navigate a job transition. The key is to find activities that are intrinsically interesting to you. Here is a menu of ideas to consider; select the ones that resonate most with you. Continue to build and showcase your expertise Whether you are new to the profession or a seasoned veteran, be a curious consumer of the legal issues in your practice and trends in your clients’ industries. Set aside a period of time each day or week to review the legal press and bar association newsletters. Subscribe to topical legal blogs, and actually read the posts. (The American Bar Association has an excellent directory of legal blogs for you to explore.) Listen to podcasts during your commute, or view webinars on your lunch hour. Figure out what your favorite mode of delivery is, and seek out material that suits you. Consider sharing your knowledge by writing for the very resources you are consuming; many of them thrive on volunteer submissions. Or consider writing for non-legal publications where you can offer your expertise to a lay audience. If you are more of a talker than a writer, consider speaking on topics of mutual interest at bar association meetings or community groups. These are effective ways of connecting with others who share your passions, displaying your expertise, and raising your professional profile. They can also help you provide a more interesting answer to the tired “what are you up to” question you will inevitably receive at social and networking functions. Deepen your skill set To represent your clients effectively, it is essential that you continue to deepen your skill set. Look at what attorneys who are senior to you in your office are doing to identify gaps in your skills, and design an action plan to build in these areas. Take the initiative at work to seek new responsibilities that expand your repertoire. Consider pro bono opportunities to gain more experience in direct client representation. Seek out CLE courses that focus on skill building and training. Expand your circle of contacts Practicing law can be very isolating. While this is particularly true for solo practitioners, attorneys in larger organizations can also struggle to find trusted colleagues. By expanding your professional community, you are likely to find mentors, new peers who share your interests, potential client referrals, and opportunities for leadership. Start by tending the network you’ve already established. Reconnect with old colleagues, supervisors, law school professors, and mentors with a holiday card, an email message, or an invitation to get together for lunch or coffee. Join professional, industry, and community associations that relate to your professional or personal interests, and seek ways to get involved by serving on a committee or task force. If you are seeking something that requires less bandwidth, join virtual groups on LinkedIn and other platforms that provide an opportunity to exchange ideas and build a presence within your professional community. Seek leadership opportunities within and outside of your organization One of the best ways to solidify your own skills and knowledge is to train and support others. Volunteer to mentor junior colleagues or people new to your organization. Serve as a mentor through bar associations or community groups. Investing in someone else’s success tends to add a residual effect to your own. Consider mentoring “up” by noticing the tasks that vex senior colleagues. Are they struggling with technology? Procrastinating on writing that law journal article or preparing that bar association presentation? Avoiding the preparation for a client pitch meeting? Volunteer to help with the projects that they find burdensome. These are easy ways to showcase your value to your employer and solidify relationships with key stakeholders. By adding more value to your current organization, you enhance your worth to them while building more variety into how you spend your day. Getting Started Enhancing your professional life with new activities does not have to be hard or time consuming. Identify two or three items from this article that you want to incorporate into your routine. Be specific: what steps do you want to take and when will you take them? Even better, find a colleague who is similarly motivated, and serve as accountability partners for each other. Share your goals and outcomes with each other. Articulate for each other how these activities will add value to your professional portfolio. In addition to celebrating your successes, you may even find some new sources of inspiration.   Susanne Aronowitz, JD, ACC The author is a career coach and can be contacted at She will be one of the featured speakers at the fall career CLE. This article was previously published at the ABA Legal Career Center in February 2017.
Interview with OSB Bar Admissions ManagerJune 2018HTMLThe OAAP helps a lot of law students who then go on to apply for Oregon State Bar admission. Some of them have had difficult times earlier in their lives, have made poor choices, or have substance use or mental health challenges. OAAP Attorney Counselor Douglas S. Querin, JD, LPC, CADC I, interviewed Troy Wood, OSB Admissions Manager, about the Character and Fitness interviews and the conditional admissions process. DSQ: Will an Oregon State Bar (OSB) exam applicant with a problematic alcohol/drug use history automatically be denied Bar admission or have to be “conditionally admitted”? TW: Absolutely not. Generally, applicants with a history of problematic substance use who do not have a corresponding criminal or negative employment history and who candidly disclose their use and appropriate efforts they have taken to address it, are granted full Bar admission. If the applicant’s recovery efforts are consistent with recognized recovery practices and the applicant has credible recovery time, then the admission process should be uncomplicated. DSQ: About what percentage of law student OSB exam applicants are interviewed as part of their admission process? What percentage of these interviews are because of the applicant’s drug/alcohol use history? TW: Looking at our averages since 2014: Character and Fitness (C&F) interviews are required for about 2.2% of all exam applicants. Approximately 25% of this 2.2% group were interviewed primarily for reasons related to alcohol/drug use issues. Approximately 80% of this interviewed group were unconditionally admitted to practice in Oregon; about 20% were “conditionally admitted.” Thus, of the entire Bar exam applicant population during the last four years, only about 0.1% were conditionally admitted because of problematic substance use issues. DSQ: What are some of the primary factors considered when making admission decisions about a Bar applicant’s alcohol/drug use history? TW: Some of the main questions are: Is the applicant in denial about his/her substance use challenges, or does the applicant acknowledge having, or having had, problems with alcohol and/or drugs? Does the applicant take responsibility for past alcohol/drug-related actions or conduct and acknowledge the relationship between the problematic substance use and those behaviors? What recovery-related actions has the applicant taken to address the problematic substance use? For example, does the applicant consistently engage in recognized recovery practices? Does the applicant practice healthy self-care? Does the applicant participate in recovery support groups? Does the applicant have a demonstrated record of recovery? Does the applicant utilize health and/or recovery professionals when necessary? DSQ: What advice would you give to law students struggling with alcohol/drug use challenges who are applying to the OSB? TW: My best advice to the law student would be: Take an honest look at your condition and take responsibility for your actions. Do not fool yourself into denial, hide your condition, assume it will automatically get better after the stress of law school, or delay addressing it until some more convenient time in the future. Knowledgeable medical and recovery professionals are very clear that serious and addictive alcohol and drug use are progressive diseases; they are conditions that typically do not get better, only worse. The good news, however, is that they are conditions that, when properly addressed, can be successfully dealt with and treated so they do not lead to severe personal and professional consequences. Applicants with significant substance use problems who have taken the necessary actions to address them are generally admitted without condition upon successfully passing the Bar examination. Those who are in need of ongoing support for serious substance use are regularly offered “conditional admission,” which permits the active practice of law with ongoing monitoring of their recovery eff orts for a designated period of time.  Those successfully completing their conditional admission requirements receive full admission status. The OSB’s conditional admission program has proven to be very successful in both protecting the public and getting quality lawyers off to a good start in their careers. Once the Supreme Court approves a conditional admission, the OSB does not publish or disclose a lawyer’s conditional admission status to anyone. Of equal importance to the program, conditionally admitted lawyers are not required to disclose their conditional status to others. Resources What resources are available to law students to get additional information about the OSB’s Character & Fitness (C&F) process? Applicants are welcome to contact Bar Admissions with procedural C&F questions, but recognize that they cannot give advice or counseling. You can contact Troy Wood, Admissions Manager, at 503-620-0222, ext. 310, or at It is best for an applicant to call the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP) and discuss their issues. It might also be helpful to consult with legal counsel. What role, if any, can the OAAP play in the Bar admission process for a student with  alcohol/drug use issues?  The OAAP is a confidential, voluntary, and free service whose resources are available to all OSB applicants. We strongly recommend that any law student with drug and alcohol issues or similar concerns contact the OAAP. The communication is confidential and will not be reported to the OSB, PLF, or others without the consent of the applicant. The OAAP Attorney Counselors are knowledgeable and experienced, with over 35 years of experience of helping Oregon Bar applicants get their lives in order so that they can be admitted to the practice of law. You can contact the OAAP Attorney Counselors at 503-226-1057 or at 800-321-6227.
Law Students, Substance Use, and the "Character and Fitness" ReviewJune 2018HTMLApplicants who have a history of substance misuse face additional challenges to admission to the Oregon Bar, including the possibility of having to go through a “character and fitness” review and the fear that it may impact their future as a lawyer. However, it is important to know that disclosing a history of problem substance use on the Bar exam application is not an automatic bar to admission in Oregon, especially if the applicant has sought help. (See the sidebar: Interview With OSB Bar Admissions Manager.) For example, Tom(1) is a lawyer who stopped drinking while in law school. “My life had become chaotic. While I hadn’t (yet) been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, I clearly had a problem. But I was lucky – I never had any legal consequences as a result of my drinking.” Tom got help from the OAAP and from other lawyers in recovery. “When I filled out my application, I felt it was important to be completely honest. I wrote that I had been sober for two years and that I was attending Alcoholics Anonymous. I let them know that I had a sponsor and had ‘worked the Steps.’ Apparently, based on my answer they were satisfied that I had dealt with the issue. They never contacted me; I didn’t have to provide any additional information, and I was sworn in that September.” Alan’s circumstances were different. Upon passing the February exam, the Board of Bar Examiners questioned Alan’s character and fitness because of circumstances surrounding his past use of alcohol, including a conviction for DUII two years prior to his application. “I had no idea what to expect,” says Alan, a criminal and family law attorney. “Soon after I passed the Bar, I was interviewed by a panel of three Board members, consisting of two lawyers and a public member of the Board. It was much more formal than I anticipated. They asked a lot of tough questions about my past and my relationship with alcohol. The process felt pretty intimidating.” Hugh, a criminal defense attorney who also went through the character and fitness investigation process, agrees. “If I could change anything about the process, I would make it more transparent, both in terms of expectations of the applicant and the decision-making criteria of the Board.” For instance, Hugh feels it would have been helpful to know in law school that the Board would likely require a period of complete abstinence for applicants who have a clear history of problem substance use. In his view, if he had known, it’s possible that he might have been motivated to seek help sooner. At the time Hugh applied to take the Bar exam, he had been struggling with a serious alcohol problem since college. As a result of his drinking, he had been suspended from school as an undergraduate, had spent nights in a detox facility, and had been convicted of DUII. Hugh recalls, “A few weeks after the exam results were posted, an interview was held in which three members of the Board [of Bar Examiners] questioned me for around 45 minutes about my alcoholism, specific bad conduct, and plans for the future. Shortly thereafter, I got a call explaining that the Board was going to deny my admission.” However, Hugh was told he could request that the Board defer its decision, and, if he could demonstrate a year of sobriety, their decision “would likely be different.” Hugh started the process of healing. Even though he relapsed twice in the first couple of months, he reported the relapses to the Board and they agreed to consider his case a year after his last relapse. Hugh remembers, “A bit more than a year later, I got a phone call explaining that my case would be on the Board’s agenda at its next meeting and that it would likely want to meet with me again.” Hugh sent a letter confirming his sobriety, and he was admitted without another interview. As a result of their respective character and fitness investigations, both Hugh and Alan were conditionally admitted to practice law. Fortunately, Oregon is one of 24 states that have such “conditional admission” programs.(2) These programs allow appropriate applicants with a history of problem substance use to be admitted subject to certain conditions during the first few years of their practice. The programs may require conditions such as monitoring or supervision, treatment, continued abstinence, attending community-based support groups such as SMART Recovery or AA, and drug testing. For Hugh, this meant being supervised by a monitor appointed by the State Lawyer Assistance Committee (SLAC),(3) remaining abstinent, attending recovery meetings, and submitting to random drug tests. Alan had similar requirements, but he was also required to enter and complete an outpatient alcohol treatment program. At times, these requirements can feel like a burden. “Being a rural practitioner, there are not many treatment facilities or AA meetings close by,” says Alan, so he had to drive to a neighboring county for treatment and meetings. However, “I know that I excel with accountability and appreciate the opportunity for personal growth.” For Hugh, the Bar’s character and fitness process was extremely helpful. “Looking back, the process was one of a confluence of factors that got me sober. I was referred to the OAAP and introduced to a community of lawyers in recovery, a profoundly important change in my life. These lawyers provided the ‘carrot’ – showing what a sober life in the law could be like – and the Board of Bar Examiners provided the ‘stick.’ Early in sobriety, I was not so steady, and the stick was important.” Conditional admission programs help dismantle the stigma of mental health and substance use disorders as “scarlet letters.” Especially for law students, they send a meaningful message that even in the worst circumstances, there is hope; seeking help will not block entry into their chosen profession.(4) For law students with concerns about problem substance use, the prospect of asking for help can seem daunting, especially with the Bar exam application on the horizon. According to a 2014 survey of law students, “potential threat to Bar admission” was the primary reason given for not seeking help for alcohol or drug issues.(5) “While I understand a student’s reluctance to seek treatment,” says Libby Davis, Associate Dean for Student Affairs at Lewis & Clark Law School, “avoiding treatment out of fear of creating character and fitness issues will not, in the short or long run, benefit a student. Proactively seeking treatment shows the applicant’s commitment to self-care and to being as well prepared as possible to meet the demands of serving clients and the community. Of even greater importance, going through law school and into a professional career without addressing substance use issues adds extraordinary challenges to already challenging endeavors. I strongly encourage students to seek the help they need.” There is one other thing Hugh would like other applicants with addiction issues to know: “I would not have been able to navigate the Bar’s character and fitness process or find my way to sobriety without help. My life was very dark and very narrow, and I was frightened to seek assistance. Frankly, I only reached out to the OAAP initially to give the Board the impression that I was serious about getting sober. The result was immeasurably more valuable.” Bryan R. Welch, JD, CADC I OAAP Attorney Counselor The Oregon Attorney Assistance Program is a confidential counseling resource for lawyers, judges, and law students. If you are a law student who needs help with substance misuse or other mental health issues, or would like support while planning for or going through the character and fitness review process, call 503-226-1057 or 800-321-OAAP.   Endnotes (1) The experiences of the lawyers in this article are their own. They should not be considered legal advice or predictors of outcomes in any particular case. Their names have been changed to protect their confidentiality. (2) Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements 2016, National Board of Bar Examiners and American Bar Association. (3) The State Lawyer Assistance Committee is a committee of the Oregon State Bar with authority to investigate and monitor lawyers whose substance abuse or mental health issues may impair their ability to practice law. It is not connected to the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program. (4) National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being (2017), The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change, pg. 28. (5) Organ, Jaffe, and Bender, Helping Law Students Get the Help They Need: An Analysis of Data Regarding Law Students’ Reluctance to Seek Help and Policy Recommendations for a Variety of Stakeholders, The Bar Examiner (December, 2015).
March 2018 - Full IssueMarch 2018PDF
National Task Force Report on Lawyer Well-BeingMarch 2018HTMLIn 2017, the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being (Task Force), consisting of the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and a broad coalition of other organizations, published the most comprehensive report (Report) to date on the wellbeing of American lawyers. The Report, The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change, relied on numerous empirical studies, two of the most notable being the recent ABAHazelden Betty Ford Foundation survey of nearly 13,000 currently practicing U.S. lawyers and the 2016 Survey of Law Student Well-Being, surveying over 3,300 law students from 15 law schools throughout the country. These studies revealed that many lawyers and law students struggle with anxiety, depression, and/or substance use issues. Well-Being in the Legal Profession The findings of these studies and the national media attention their publication generated, sparked the creation of the Task Force and its Report. The central question for the Task Force was how the profession can best address these health concerns in a collaborative, comprehensive, and sustainable way to meet the needs of all concerned. The Report made clear that, although a disturbing portion of our legal profession has substance use and behavioral health challenges, the majority of lawyers and law students do not. It noted, however, “. . . that does not mean that they’re thriving. Many lawyers experience a ‘profound ambivalence’ about their work, and different sectors of the profession vary in their levels of satisfaction and well-being.” Well-being is thus more than “the absence of illness; it includes a positive state of wellness.” To be a good lawyer, the Report noted, one has to be a healthy lawyer, and the research suggests that “the current state of lawyers’ health cannot support a profession dedicated to client service and dependent on the public trust.” The Task Force thus undertook to address not only mental health and problematic substance use concerns, but also the overarching issue of lawyer well-being within the profession. How can lawyers experience well-being and actually thrive in their personal and professional lives? The Task Force defined lawyer wellbeing as a continuous process whereby one seeks to thrive in six primary areas of one’s life: Emotional health – identifying and managing emotions in personal and professional environments; Occupational pursuits – cultivating personal satisfaction, growth, enrichment, and financial stability; Creative or intellectual endeavors – engaging in continuous learning and the pursuit of creative or intellectually challenging activities; Spirituality – experiencing a sense of meaningfulness and purpose in all aspects of life; Social connections – developing a sense of belonging and support with others important in one’s life; and Physical health – striving for regular physical activity, proper diet, nutrition, sufficient sleep, and recovery from the use of unhealthy substances. Stakeholders The Task Force’s Report makes over 40 recommendations, some general to all stakeholders within the legal community and some very specific to each individual stakeholder group. The Report is nothing less than a call to action. It seeks to encourage through collective action significant change in the culture of the legal profession. The stakeholder groups addressed include judges, regulators, legal employers, law schools, bar associations, professional liability carriers, and lawyer assistance programs. Task Force Recommendations To their credit, many of the stakeholders in Oregon are committed to lawyer well-being and have already begun implementing some of the Task Force’s recommendations. However, there is always room for additional improvement when it comes to one of the most important issues for this and future generations of our legal community. Some of the general recommendations to all stakeholder groups include: Take action to minimize the stigma that is often attached to mental health and substance use disorders; encourage those with such conditions to seek help. Foster collegiality and respectful engagement throughout the profession; reduce chronic incivility that can foment a toxic culture that is counter to well-being. Promote diversity and inclusivity initiatives that encourage both individual and institutional well-being. Create meaningful mentoring and sponsorship programs, which research shows can aid well-being and career progress, particularly for women and diverse professionals. Guide and support the transition of older lawyers to, among other things, capitalize on the wealth of experience they can offer and, at the same time, reduce risks sometimes faced by senior lawyers challenged by the demands of technically evolving professional environments. De-emphasize alcohol at social events, and provide a variety of alternative non-alcoholic beverages at such events. Utilize monitoring to support recovery from substance use disorders in environments where it can be supportive. Some of the recommendations to specific stakeholder groups include: Conduct judicial well-being surveys. Provide well-being programming for judges and staff. Encourage judicial participation in the activities of lawyer assistance programs, such as volunteering as speakers, particularly when the judge is in recovery him/herself. Educate and inform the judiciary regarding signs and symptoms associated with substance use and behavior health conditions so they are better able to identify when a lawyer may be in need of assistance. Adopt regulatory objectives that prioritize lawyer well-being, such as expanding continuing education requirements to include well-being topics; require law schools to create well-being education as a criterion for ABA accreditation; more closely focus on conduct and behavior rather than diagnosis and treatment as character and fitness bar admission criteria so as to avoid stigmatizing mental and behavioral health conditions and treatment; educate and accurately inform law students about bar admission criteria to reduce their fear that getting needed professional treatment will hinder their chances of bar admission. Adopt diversion programs and other alternatives to discipline for minor lawyer misconduct to encourage treatment for underlying substance use and mental health disorders. Add well-being-related questions to the multistate professional responsibility exam. In legal work environments, form active lawyer well-being committees; monitor for signs of work addiction and poor self-care in legal work; and actively combat social isolation and encourage interconnectivity. In law schools, create best practices for assisting law students experiencing psychological distress; provide training to law school faculty regarding student mental health and substance use disorders; and develop mental health and substance use disorder resources, including taking active steps to encourage help-seeking practices by students. Empower law students to help fellow students in need; facilitate a confidential recovery network for students; provide educational opportunities on wellbeing-related topics in law schools; and discourage alcohol-centered law-school-related events. Encourage local and state bar associations to sponsor quality CLE programming on well-being topics, and utilize the resources of state lawyer assistance programs when appropriate. Emphasize well-being in loss prevention programs, including being aware of the role of lawyer impairment in claims activity. Among lawyer assistance programs, encourage emphasis on confidentiality; high-quality well-being programming; and appropriate and stable funding for outreach, screening, counseling, professional staffing, and preventative education. The Task Force Report “makes a compelling case that the legal profession is at a crossroads” and the time for action is now. It is premised on the belief that, through collective action by all of us, we have the capacity to create a better future for our nation’s lawyers. Improving lawyer well-being is a win-win for everyone: it is good for clients, good for business, good for the profession – and it is the right thing to do! Douglas S. Querin, JD, LPC, CADC I OAAP Attorney Counselor
Welcome Karen!March 2018HTMLThe OAAP is pleased to announce that Karen A. Neri, JD, has joined the OAAP as an attorney counselor and group facilitator. Karen earned her law degree from the New College of California, School of Law, in 2006. She is in the process of obtaining her MA in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling at George Fox University, a degree that will prepare her for attaining dual licensure as a Professional Counselor (LPC) and Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). Prior to joining the OAAP staff in 2018, Karen worked as an associate attorney in California, with a focus on family law, personal injury, and general civil litigation. She subsequently was a sole practitioner, until her move to Oregon. Her legal work exposed her to diverse clients seeking guidance on personal matters, including those relating to divorce, domestic violence, and mental health. Karen joins our three OAAP attorney counselors, Shari R. Gregory, LCSW, JD; Douglas S. Querin, JD, LPC, CADC I; Bryan R. Welch, JD, CADC I; and OAAP group facilitator Kyra M. Hazilla, JD, LCSW.
Bringing the Breath to WorkMarch 2018HTMLDavid Rosen, Oregon attorney, yoga teacher, and co-owner of SoulRoar Breathwork, talks breathwork, mindfulness, law, and the middle ground between them all. Q. Breathwork – What is it? Breathwork is a form of active breathing – distinctly different from meditation – where you are forcefully moving the breath through the body. In short, you lie on the ground, take deep belly breaths through the mouth for approximately 25 minutes, followed by a rest period and guided meditation. In doing that, you change the body chemistry, and when you change the body chemistry, the mind reacts differently. Q. What do people experience with breathwork? While everyone experiences breathwork differently, I think it helps give people great clarity and insight, the ability to see things from a different perspective. Breathwork also gives us an opportunity to get past the stories we tell ourselves. Most of us are our harshest critics. Most of us have stories we tell ourselves, whether it is that we aren’t good enough, or if we get “this thing,” everything will be better. I think breathwork gives us the opportunity to see the stories, to see ourselves, and to see what we want to change and how to do it. Q. Why do you think lawyers should be doing breathwork? The most appealing aspects of breathwork are its accessibility and efficacy. Unlike some modalities where you build up to an experience with practice over time, breathwork frequently has a prov immediate, felt experience the very first time someone tries it. This is a practice that is accessible to everyone, and the results occur in the first session. Lawyers will appreciate the efficiency of the practice – the ratio of low-time commitment to high-yield insight from the practice. Of course, this should be done only with a trained breathwork facilitator. I think lawyers will also appreciate that the work provides an opportunity to address life’s challenges while also addressing current problems of the day at work. In addition, breathwork can serve as the spark for a larger practice in mindfulness. Q. What is the relationship between breathwork and a mindfulness practice? For me, my mindfulness practice is grounded in yoga, meditation, and breathwork. In metaphoric terms, think of building a house of “becoming more present.” Yoga and meditation are the day-to-day work. The framing, the siding, the finishing – it is all yoga and meditation. The breath is the foundation. Breathwork is the blueprints. When we are unsure of how we want the house to look or how to solve a problem, we need to go back to the blueprints. For me, breathwork is the answer. Q. How have these practices informed your practice of law? Yoga, meditation, and breathwork provide me with a better perspective of what is important, keeping my ego in check and learning how to not take on others’ negative energy. It is learning to respond rather than react. By being present in the practice of law, I can serve my clients better, work with opposing counsel better, and manage the needs of my law practice. Q. We often hear today about the practice of law being stressful, anxiety-producing, etc. What has been your experience? That’s accurate. However, I also think we develop patterns of anxiety. I believe the body gets conditioned to create anxiety because we get positive relief when the worries aren’t realized. We create anticipatory stress and anxiety concerning how something is going to go, what’s going to happen, and all the worst-case scenarios. When the situation actually occurs, we are often relieved to learn that the anxiety, stress, or worry we had didn’t come to fruition. We experience elation on the basis that the thing we were worried about didn’t come true. In that process, we create both the problem and the solution. The irony is that ALL of it is in our mind, a complete fabrication that is distinctly separate from reality. It is always our choice whether to engage. We can choose to focus on the present, or we can hop on the roller-coaster in our mind. Mindfulness allows us the opportunity to see the choice, and then if we are mindful, with practice, we can choose not to follow the stories in our head. Q. Are mindfulness practices in conflict with adversarial work in law? Quite the contrary. I think we are doing our best for our clients and our profession when we respond rather than react. When I am mindful, I can hold my ground, evaluate the argument from the other side, decide how best to proceed, and, if the other side is approaching me from a reactive state, choose not to get swept up into their manner of handling things. Q. What do you find particularly challenging about practicing law? Not taking the job home with me. In Oregon we have a fantastic bar, and, thankfully, it is rare to deal with an opposing attorney who is hostile. But we all know hostility when we experience it. I think I’ve always been able to handle difficult attorneys from a case perspective, but I would take it home with me – especially, if I became reactive in response. Being mindful has had an incredible impact for me in this area. Q. What tips do you have for lawyers who are considering starting a mindfulness practice? Try a breathwork class. Start a meditation practice: Keep it simple and short to start: Give yourself time constraints that you can be successful with. It can be breathing for thirty seconds (or even three breaths) twice a day. Set a timer. If the timer goes off and you want to sit longer, sit longer. Find a quiet space: Mornings are chaotic. It’s important to find a space where you won’t be disturbed. Create anchors: If you still the body, the mind will follow. Find a comfortable seat. Focus on stilling the body (committing to being still), then find the breath. The mind quiets on its own. If the mind turns on, just keep coming back to the anchors of the body and the breath. We don’t quiet the mind with more thinking; we quiet the mind by anchoring in the body and the breath. Don’t be discouraged when the mind doesn’t shut off. The mind doesn’t shut off and stay off. Don’t wait until you feel “ready.” You can begin anytime. Q. Parting thoughts? The great irony is that we often go searching for some “thing” to give us a feeling of a greater purpose. But the truth is that “thing” is in the middle of our chest, and the path to it waits quietly in the whisper of the breath. It’s always there, waiting for us to return.   Our thanks to David Rosen for this article. David is a lawyer, yoga instructor, and breathwork instructor in Bend, Oregon.  
December 2017 - Full IssueDecember 2017PDF
How I Networked My Way to My Dream Job Out of Law SchoolDecember 2017HTMLIn this interview, an Oregon lawyer shares her story about her networking experiences and how they led her to her career path. What was your first job after law school? When I graduated from law school, I knew that I wanted a job in policy work, but I didn’t know which area. I was particularly interested in criminal justice reform, healthcare, or education. I knew that one way to give myself more time to make this decision was with a clerkship where I would get a wide range of experience and meet a range of people in different practice areas. I was able to get a judicial clerkship out of law school, and shortly after starting, I began networking. I first met with a judge who gave me two names of people to meet with, and I followed up with them. I then met with someone at a healthcare agency, which started me thinking that the healthcare policy world was where I wanted to be. How many people did you network with? Lots! Each person I talked to would give me about two to three more names of people to contact. They weren’t all doing healthcare policy work, but they were all lawyers. Oregon is too small a community to say no to someone who is willing to talk to you. I gained useful information from each person and found that everyone knows someone who knows someone. Did you have specific goals in your networking? In networking I had two goals: the first was to be memorable and to make a personal connection with this person, and the second was to get another name. Lawyers you meet with already know that you are job searching. My goal was to help them remember my name if a job opening came across their desk. When we met, we mostly talked about what they did, not what I was looking for. Like everyone, lawyers like to talk about their career paths and their motivations. I would ask them a lot of questions. I got this advice from someone early on. You don’t have to say what you want to do; just ask them what they do. You will usually find something to relate to, and that personal connection is what makes the person you are talking with willing to recommend your name to the next person. I had many meaningful conversations about things other than work – hiking, pets, law school, social justice issues to name a few which helped make that personal connection. How long did the whole process take? I began my clerkship in August 2013 and started having coffee dates a few months later. I spent about six months networking until I found the specific opportunity I wanted to pursue. What were the most challenging aspects of your job search? For me, the hardest part of looking for a job is always the first step, whether it’s networking or submitting a job application. The other challenge for me was answering the “What do you want to do?” question. This was a challenge because I felt that part of the reason I was networking was to discover what policy jobs were available. I had to become comfortable with answering the question pretty broadly. I knew this was the beginning of a journey to my career path of choice, which is to influence policy at the state or even federal level. I did not want a traditional lawyer career path, and I would constantly feel the pressures of joining private practice, especially when I did not offer a specific answer to the “What do you want to do” question. I found that if I was confident and direct with my answer – that I wanted to do policy work and influence legislative changes to serve Oregonians – people respected that and wanted to help. My advice is to look inward first – you know yourself better than anyone – and then determine the necessary steps to get to the future you want. As you gather information and learn more about career paths, you may find a better path. For me, it was all about the journey, not finding the “perfect job.” How did you overcome any setbacks or obstacles along the way? Another big challenge was to be patient during my job search and not get too stressed. I was really lucky to have my clerkship to rely on. It gave me stability, and I was able to be patient while I looked for a job. Once I figured out what I wanted to do, sometimes I would have to say no to opportunities that I knew were not the career path I wanted. It would have been tempting to say yes just because it was convenient. I had to continue to listen to myself and know that I decided on this path and I need to be comfortable with my decision. I am beyond grateful that along this path I found people who did support me, and those folks are extremely valuable. What did you learn through the process? I learned that it’s very important to be really well organized about whom you are networking with, because when the networking tree grows, it can become a large number of people quickly. People don’t always get back to you right away, so I had to have a method to track contacts, follow-ups, thank-you notes, and details about where and when we met and what we discussed. What advice do you have for recent graduates and new lawyers? I found that people were really willing to help, so my advice would be to jump in and start networking. I found everyone to be unbelievably supportive and kind. People want to help. Also, I found it was quite valuable to follow up with the people I networked with and to update them on my search. I sent an initial thank you and also emailed the original person to let him or her know I met with the contact and what we discussed. I was surprised to find people appreciated my checking in with them. How did you find time to make all those contacts and do all that networking? In terms of reaching out to people, I used the same base information and varied it. The first email I wrote took me a long time to write, but once I had one or two versions, I started with the same email for everyone and changed the details. I did the same for every follow-up thank-you note as well, which cut down on some of the time. In terms of actual networking, I tried to have two coffees a month. Or I would invite particular people to join me at a bar event. Or it might be a quick phone call over lunch. So the initial part of networking was time-consuming, but after that, once I got going, I got into a rhythm. Is there anything else you found helpful? I also found that meeting with so many people helped with my job interview skills. Networking is great practice for interviews. I became well-versed in what to say. Applying for 50 jobs sounds exhausting, but having one-on-one conversations with people is doable. That familiarity gave me a leg up and saved time in the end. For example, if I found out a job opportunity would be available in the near future, I would try to meet with as many of the people involved with that job as possible beforehand. Although these coffees and phone calls are not job interviews, they allowed me to get to know people in a more relaxed setting and they got to know me. It also gave me an opportunity to show that I could follow through and take initiative. - Grateful for All the Support The OAAP is available to assist with career transition. Please call 503-226-1057 to brainstorm ideas, hone your job search skills, and do some self-assessment.
My Life Before Recovery: The Good, the Bad, and the UglyDecember 2017HTMLI think of my life two years ago as a layer cake composed of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The “good” was a very thick layer at the bottom that formed the foundation of the cake: a wonderful, loving, supportive family; a challenging and interesting profession in the law working with people who had known me for years and who generally appreciated and valued my contributions; lots of friends from many walks of life; a lovely home in a great neighborhood; and many other gifts, including good health, economic security, and the intelligence to do my job well. The “bad” was a much smaller layer on top of the “good” – a workaholic tendency, negative self-talk and self-criticism, some overeating, a challenging relationship with my father, an imperfect husband, and so on – not uncommon in the life of a successful, mid-50-year-old, first-world professional. The thin layer of “ugly” on the top of the cake was alcohol. After eight to nine years of alcoholic drinking, that thin layer of ugly was seeping down into the other layers of my life and poisoning them. The more I drank, the more contaminated my life became. In my last four to five years of drinking, I could no longer enjoy any leisure activity without pouring alcohol on it. Gardening, cooking, sewing, camping, hiking, socializing, traveling – you name it – it was all being mixed with booze. My disease insisted on being fed when I wasn’t working. Undoubtedly, it was just a matter of time before it would also insist on being fed at work. The poisonous, saturating layer of alcohol wasn’t helping my “bad” layer either. All my fears, self-doubt, insecurities, workaholic tendencies, shaky relationships, appetites, and so on were worse when I drank. The self-loathing that I began to feel about my drinking became a perpetual addition to the “bad” layer; it took every negative quality in that layer and made it worse. My alcoholism snuck up on me in my mid-40s. In general, I had been a “take-it-or-leave-it” drinker most of my adult life. In fact, having witnessed the havoc that alcoholism can create in a family, I was doubly determined not to fall into that trap. My father had been an alcoholic, and I was not going to be like him. However, the disease was like a fish in the ocean that kept getting bigger and bigger. I didn’t notice it growing. In the meantime, I was losing my strength as age, daily stresses, and a few major life changes had me turning to alcohol for comfort and joy. The day came when I couldn’t reel the fish in. I had crossed a line and I couldn’t turn back. I had to drink. It was no longer a choice. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I had to get to the buzz level I wanted and then hold that level of buzz for the rest of the day. The fish was stronger than me, and I knew it. I did not want anyone to know that I had slipped into alcoholism. I may not have had the gift of denial, but I was a control-freak perfectionist and I knew how to be sneaky and cover my tracks. Thus began about a decade of devious, obsessive behavior focused on keeping up appearances and not letting anyone see my growing dependence on alcohol. What kinds of things did I do to hide my drinking and alcohol consumption? Drank before and after events, so the amount I consumed in public looked normal. Purchased hard alcohol in little “airplane-sized” bottles to hide in my purse or briefcase – but only alcohol that came in plastic bottles so the bottles didn’t clink together. Bought hard alcohol in liquor stores all over town, so no one store or clerk got to “know” me. Bought wine in disposable paper 1-liter cartons – again so I could hide it in my briefcase or tote without the weight or noise of glass. Bought three-ounce plastic travel containers and poured alcohol into those to keep with me during the day – especially on weekends or evenings. Switched to vodka – at first “regular” and then 100 proof – because it took less to maintain my buzz. Also, didn’t I read somewhere that you can’t smell vodka on someone’s breath? Hid “my” stash of alcohol in secret places in the house so bottles of wine weren’t mysteriously disappearing from the wine rack and levels of hard alcohol weren’t going down. Developed elaborate systems for disposing of empty bottles. Snuck alcohol onto airplanes so I could drink on flights – without my husband or (if he wasn’t with me) other passengers observing the amount I was drinking. My disease progressed over time, and in my last year of active drinking I reached the point where work was the only area of my life that I hadn’t poisoned. The barriers to not drinking at work were starting to crumble. Working over the weekend? Staying late at the office? Doing a task that feels somewhat routine or tedious? Let’s make it more fun by adding alcohol. Not too much, mind you – just enough to bring on the buzz and take the edge off. Of course, I would keep coffee and mints at the ready, just in case my breath could give away my secret. No one has told me that they knew I had a drinking problem. I never got caught. I was never confronted. I never had a friend or relative take me aside and ask, “Is everything OK?” I went into counseling in the winter of 2015 and tearfully shared my story with my counselor. I finally “came out” to my husband in June of that year. He had no idea that I had become an alcoholic. Neither of my children (in their 20s) knew that my drinking had gotten out of control. Starting in fall 2015, I told a few friends that I had gone to an outpatient treatment program and was now regularly attending 12-step meetings. They were also shocked. You could say that I got away with it. Except I didn’t – because I never fooled myself. I knew what I was doing and how bad things had gotten. As an adult and a professional, I had worked hard to earn the respect of others, not in a false, insecure way, but by acting in a way that earned respect – being honest, reliable, hard-working, thoughtful, and sometimes maybe even a little wise. At the same time, there was an inner voice that constantly told me that I actually didn’t deserve respect. When I was in my active addiction, I was leading a double life, a secretive life, a dishonest life. In my soul, I knew I needed to get into recovery and get sober. As of this writing, I have just over two years of sobriety and recovery under my belt. What is my life like now? There is no comparison. My “good” has gotten even better, the “bad” is manageable, and the “ugly” has all but disappeared. My brain and life are no longer hijacked by booze. The mental energy I used to expend scheming about the purchase of alcohol and tracking the disposal of the evidence is a thing of the past. The fish is but a minnow in the lake, albeit one I watch closely and take very seriously. I now look ahead to retirement, grandparenting (fingers crossed!), and vacationing with anticipation rather than dread. I have two years of alcohol-free living under my belt, including leisure activities (book groups, parties, barbecues, and work events), home tasks (cooking, sewing, gardening, and entertaining) and travel (conferences, vacations, long weekends). I enjoy all these things without constantly obsessing about where the next drink is coming from and how I can hide it from others. I still think about alcohol. I miss being a “take-it-or-leave-it” drinker. It would be nice to enjoy a glass or two of wine to take the edge off. But I am not going there; I’m not feeding that fish; I’m not kidding myself into thinking I can ever “drink like a gentleman” again. Through the support and wisdom of three 12-step groups that I have grown close to (including one at the OAAP), I now have other tools to help me handle life’s ups and downs. I appreciate the support of the OAAP and its confidential recovery meetings for lawyers. Instead of a thin layer of “ugly” seeping into my life, I am slowly working on creating a nice layer of peace and serenity. Having that layer of calm and tranquility soak down into the rest of my life would be a fine thing indeed. - Choosing the “Good”
Developing Healthy Habits: Strategies for SuccessDecember 2017HTMLI wish I exercised more regularly. I wish I did not snack between meals. I wish I spent less time surfing the Web. I wish I could stop procrastinating. I wish I could stop smoking. I wish. I wish. I wish. The list can seem endless. At times, the human condition seems to be a constant struggle between what we would like to do, what we need to do, and what, in fact, we do. It can often feel as if we are in a perpetual state of New Year’s resolutions. Social psychologists, neuroscientists, and other researchers are arriving at new understandings about how people successfully manage to change their behaviors. They have identified a variety of physiological and psychological factors that affect our ability to harness our willpower to break bad habits and develop new and healthy ones. Two of the leading authorities in this area are Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., and Roy Baumeister, Ph.D. Both are authors of best-selling books and articles on the science of willpower, self-control, and the formation of healthy habits. Below are some of their observations, research findings, and recommendations. Willpower is like a muscle. We have a finite supply of willpower on any given day. It is a limited resource; the more we use our willpower, the less of it remains as the day goes on. According to Baumeister, current research indicates that most of us spend three or more hours every day resisting desires. This is a normal part of living. Additionally, we routinely use our self-control resources for many other activities, such as managing our thoughts, focusing our thinking, and regulating our emotions. In short, we are constantly exercising willpower throughout our day. Stress diminishes willpower. According to McGonigal, our bodies naturally prioritize our use of the energy resources we have. We use our willpower resources every time we make decisions, control our thoughts and emotions, and exercise personal restraint in our behavior. When stressed, however, our bodies automatically divert energy from those areas of the brain responsible for these healthy activities; we instead focus on immediate, short-term, and sometimes unwise thoughts and activities. For example, it is more likely that we will make poor decisions, utter a sarcastic remark, or procrastinate on a work project when we are stressed and our self-control resources are depleted. Managing our stress is thus essential to preserving our willpower. Going for a short walk, connecting with a friend, or playing with a pet are examples of stress-reducers that help us replenish our willpower reserves. Sleep affects willpower. Research demonstrates that when we are well rested, we are more likely to resist unhealthy temptations and make healthy decisions. Many of us know all too well that, when we are sleep-deprived, our decision-making suffers and we are more likely to engage in the unhealthy habits we are trying to avoid. Nutrition affects willpower. Baumeister and McGonigal both emphasize the importance of a healthy diet and sufficient blood glucose levels in maintaining willpower energy reserves. Baumeister’s research confirms that self-control tends to be noticeably impaired when glucose levels are low; for example, difficulty regulating emotions, resisting impulsivity, and engaging in aggressive behavior is more common when these levels are low. According to McGonigal, “Eating a more plant-based, less-processed diet makes energy more available to the brain and can improve every aspect of willpower from overcoming procrastination to sticking with a New Year’s resolution.” Carefully choose a goal. When seeking to develop new habits, McGonigal advises us to choose a goal that we really want, not a goal that someone else desires for us, and also to give thought to the steps needed to accomplish our goal. However, she adds, “Leave room to revise these steps if they turn out to be unsustainable or don’t lead to the benefits you expected.” Better to revise the plan than to give up the goal. Pay attention. According to McGonigal, “One study found that the average person thinks they make 14 food choices a day; they actually make over 200. When you aren’t aware that you’re making a choice, you’ll almost always default to habit/temptation.” It’s important to be alert to those times when we have opportunities to make choices consistent with our goals. Start small. When embarking on a new habit or behavior, it helps, says McGonigal, to start with small feats of willpower before trying to tackle more difficult ones. Ideally, we should seek to identify the smallest change that is consistent with our larger goal and start there. For example, walking or jogging for 10 minutes may be a better way to begin an aerobic program than starting off at 60 minutes. Willpower is contagious. Find a willpower role model – someone who has accomplished what you want to do. Also, we should try to surround ourselves with family members and friends who can support us in our efforts. We are much more likely to achieve the behavior change we seek if we have role models and a support system. Mornings are best. We generally have more willpower earlier in the day; thereafter, our willpower steadily declines throughout the day as we fatigue. We should try to accomplish what we need – for example, exercise – earlier in the day. Watch out for the evenings, when we have less willpower to resist the habits we are trying to break. Give yourself healthy rewards. It’s okay to give ourselves small, healthy rewards along the way. Research shows this is effective when undertaking new habits. The reward, of course, should generally not be an excessive indulgence in the very habit we are trying to break. Seize today. We need to avoid thinking that “things will be different tomorrow.” McGonigal notes that we have a tendency to think that we will have more willpower, energy, time, and motivation in the future. We tend to tell ourselves that tomorrow, next week, or next month will be a better time to start our diet, exercise program, and so on. The problem is that “if we think we have the opportunity to make a different choice tomorrow, we almost always ‘give in’ to temptation or habit today.” Monitor and keep records. It’s difficult to manage what we don’t monitor. Baumeister’s research clearly confirms that the more frequently and consistently we monitor and record our efforts, the more successful we will be in changing or developing new habits. The person who weighs daily and records his or her weight, for example, is statistically more likely to lose weight than the person who does so weekly, monthly, or only sporadically. In addition, having a supportive friend as an accountability partner also increases the likelihood of success. Whatever the behavior, consistent monitoring is invaluable, and innumerable smart phone apps are available to assist us in these efforts. Guilt and shame don’t work. Science today clearly indicates that self-compassion, not self-criticism, is a more effective way to stay on track when seeking to form new, healthy habits; self-compassion tends to encourage one to better achieve his or her goals. Although it seems counterintuitive, studies show that people who experience shame or guilt are much more likely to break their resolutions than those who cut themselves some slack. Developing new, healthy habits or eliminating unhealthy ones sometimes requires more than simply the exercise of willpower alone. Professional assistance is sometimes necessary. For example, the most effective way to change unhealthy substance use or other problematic behaviors is to obtain the advice of a trained professional. Making the decision to seek assistance and following through is, in itself, the healthy exercise of willpower. The confidential Oregon Attorney Assistance Program can be a valuable resource when seeking to develop healthy habits.   Resources: Baumeister, R. F., & Tierney, J. (2012). Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. New York: Penguin Books. McGonigal, K. (2012). The Willpower Instinct: How Self-control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. New York: Avery.
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