inSight

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

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Self-Care for Women Lawyers of Color

The National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being  (“Task Force”) in its report1 “The Path to Lawyer...

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Perspectives: Life in Early Recovery

I recently had the privilege to interview several Oregon lawyers in the first few years of their...

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Procrastination and the Allure of Tomorrow

Procrastination has few advocates but many followers. It has been the subject of philosophical...

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Self-Care for Women Lawyers of ColorJune 2019HTMLThe National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being  (“Task Force”) in its report1 “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change,” took note that an important aspect of well-being among lawyers is diversity and inclusion. In recognizing that organizational belongingness (defined as presence of acceptance, inclusion, respect, and support by others) is associated with well-being, it recommended that all stakeholders prioritize diversity and inclusion, as well as create meaningful mentoring and sponsorship programs. Unfortunately, the lack of diversity and inclusion in our legal profession remains a concern. Specifically, for women lawyers of color, this lack of diversity and inclusivity adds a layer of complexity and stress that makes well-being difficult to achieve. Many women lawyers of color encounter ongoing bias, discrimination, and harassment that arise from ethnic, racial, and gender differences. For example, previous reports2 by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession such as the “Visible Invisibility Women of Color in Law Firms Executive Summary,” showed women lawyers of color as reporting high rates of being subjected to demeaning comments or harassment, and being excluded from networking opportunities, mentoring, or desirable work assignments. Additionally, the study indicated that women of color felt the need to overcome stereotypes about their abilities at work and their level of commitment. Many women of color shared “downplaying” or “homogenizing” their gender or ethnic identities at the office, maintaining long work hours, working harder than other colleagues, and experiencing loneliness, isolation, or invisibility. The study also showed that the stress of trying to fit in and experiences of invisibility led to a significant portion of women lawyers of color reconsidering their careers and leaving law firms. More recently, according to the 2018 ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA)  “You Can’t Change What You Can’t See Executive Summary” report3 on interrupting racial and general bias in the legal profession, women lawyers of color were more likely to report they were held to higher standards than their colleagues. They were also more likely to be mistaken for non-lawyers (i.e., administrators, court personnel, or janitorial staff). As compared with other surveyed groups, they reported the highest levels of bias with respect to equal opportunities to access high-quality assignments, networking opportunities, receive mentoring, and fair compensation. As women, they experienced higher rates of harassment at work compared to men. The Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Survey 2018 Report4 further reflected the general trend of attrition rates for women associates of color in law firms as increasing while the percentage of those in partnerships as remaining low. From a mental health perspective, the inequalities and injustices within the legal profession, as acknowledged in these reports, create an environment that is both challenging and disheartening for women lawyers of color; one that especially runs counter to well-being. It is worth noting that at the heart of well-being is care for others, care by others, and care for oneself. Self-care is a practice that could mean the difference between thriving and languishing in this context. When we as women lawyers of color engage in self-care, we intentionally hold space for ourselves to promote our vitality, receive support from others, and preserve our sense of self. This has particularly relevancy for women of color; many of whom, culturally, and socially, feel the need to care for others and often find themselves holding the needs of their families and communities above their own. The legal profession, as a helping profession, can deepen this felt responsibility of tending to others. Constantly and regularly caring for others without taking the self into account can easily erode one’s capacity to meet one’s own physical and psychological needs. For women lawyers of color, it can intensify the negative impact of challenging environments. Self-care can serve as a catalyst for all women lawyers of color to make the change they see fit both in their personal and professional lives. Through self-care, we can express and reaffirm our values and our worth. We state that we matter and we are invaluable. It can also lay the foundation for how our allies, including stakeholders in the profession, could best treat and support us. Self-care can increase our resilience, gives us strength, and allow us to achieve a state of well-being. It can also provide a buffer against, and potentially counteract the effects of incivility, intolerance, and invisibility; in turn, allowing us to be empowered in the process. Wondering about how self-care can empower you as a woman lawyer of color? Consider the four self-care practices below: Connect with a socially supportive community. Research informs us that being part of a community where there is a sense of accountability, and where people are encouraged to be there for each other, promotes resilience. This may mean being in contact with caring people who not only value the richness of your ethnic, racial, and gender differences, but with whom you celebrate your culture. It might mean being involved in groups both inside and outside of the profession, or engaging in meaningful activities that allow you to help others and foster your growth. It could mean finding a mentor or sponsor, or becoming one in your workplace. Take a break, recharge, and rest. Stamina and endurance requires having mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual fortitude. Allow yourself time to refresh, recover, and reconnect with activities that bring you joy at home, with your family, and your community. Remember to create a healthy routine that involves a regular meal, bedtime, and exercise plan. Create and maintain strong boundaries. The demands of the profession may pressure you to take on more clients, projects, or tasks, and increase your involvement in organizations or engage in volunteer work. Recognize that time and energy are finite. Once used or depleted, there is no more to give. Prioritize those aspects of your life that are most important to you such as your family, community, spirituality, or traditions. Recognize for yourself when is enough. Give yourself permission to say no, and to ask others at work or at home for what you need. Harness your assets, abilities, or resources. Your unique background and diverse talents, qualities, attitudes, or aptitudes can allow you to shine and help you overcome obstacles to personal and professional growth. Allow yourself the space to discover or rediscover these parts of yourself and use them to your advantage. Highlight for yourself how you have excelled in using your assets, abilities, or resources, and generously share your successes with others. Our thanks to OAAP Attorney Counselor Karen A. Neri, JD, MA-MCFC Candidate, for her contributions to this article. (Endnotes) The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change Report: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/abanews/ThePathToLawyerWellBeingReportRevFINAL.pdf Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms Executive Summary: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/marketing/women/visibleinvisibility_es.pdf You Can’t Change What You Can’t See: Interrupting Racial & Gender Bias in the Legal Profession Executive Summary Report: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/women/you-cant-change-what-you-cant-see-print.pdf Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Survey 2018 Report: https://www.mcca.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2018-Vault-MCCA-Law-Firm-Diversity-Survey-Report.pdf
Perspectives: Life in Early RecoveryJune 2019HTMLI recently had the privilege to interview several Oregon lawyers in the first few years of their recovery from alcohol and/or substance use. Below are some of their answers to my questions about their unfolding recovery journey. What were one or two of the primary factors that encouraged you to get into recovery? I was scared of what my life had become and that I could no longer control my drinking or myself when I was drunk. I finally had to admit to myself I was drinking way more than my colleagues. I felt increasingly dishonest with my family and myself about my drinking. A supportive friend shared with me positive stories about his friends in recovery. Although not in recovery himself, his ability to talk about recovery without judgment was very helpful. I was fearful that my drinking would have professional consequences if I did not address it. I hoped that stopping drinking would improve aspects of my life that were progressively being impacted: my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual life; stress, anxiety, and deteriorating relationships were also factors. I felt that my consumption of alcohol and substances I was using to quell my anxiety was beginning to totally rule my days. I hurt someone dear to me, my life was a mess, my health was a mess, and drinking was consuming my life. What have been some challenges you have experienced in maintaining your recovery? I found that I was reluctant to disclose that I had stopped drinking. It was challenging learning to navigate the many, many professional events that are centered around drinking – how to participate but not drink. Lawyer networking events are still difficult – so much focus seems to be on alcohol. I get anxious when I’m talking to people because I don’t have something in my hands. Uncertainty about the future; imagining a life of abstinence seemed unfathomable; there was some loneliness due to my having to put some healthy distance between myself and the people I frequently drank and used with. Finding new friends and new activities to keep busy. Doing the work to stay sober long-term is challenging but rewarding. I had to learn how to enjoy leisure activities without drinking. I am learning to be more accepting of my emotions and being patient that everything isn’t drastically better overnight. I could no longer pour booze over a bad day at work. And I could no longer reward myself after a long day at the office. What kinds of things, activities, and/or practices do you do to maintain your recovery? I go to three or four recovery meetings a week, and I regularly meet with my sponsor every month. I make sure I have a “buddy” with me at social and networking events – someone who knows why I am not drinking. I don’t need them not to drink, but it’s helpful to have the accountability. The most important thing I do is to stay connected with a recovery community that supports my decision to be sober. Developing and being mindful of healthy habits. I regularly see a therapist, I’ve reconnected with my brother (who has 30+ years of sobriety), I attend 12-step meetings and Refuge Recovery meetings, and I meditate. I work out, stay busy, meditate, pray, work with others, be of service, go to meetings, and stay connected. Has your life in recovery affected your relationships with others (e.g., family, friends, peers, colleagues, etc.)? If so, can you give me a couple of examples? I am so much more present in my friendships, with my spouse, and in all relationships. I remember conversations I’ve had with people. Before recovery, it was foolish for anyone to trust me. Recovery has allowed me to start to rebuild that trust with others who are important in my life. I used to be a source of disappointment and pain for the people I cared about. My relationships today are much healthier and mutually rewarding. My relationships with my family (spouse, kids, parents, siblings) have never been better. My shame and guilt have gradually melted away as time passes. I am more honest. Being present more often at work has strengthened those relationships, and today I am also more present and involved in my kids’ lives. My marriage is stronger because I am not covering up my drinking and lying about how much I’m drinking. Has your recovery affected your professional life and/or law practice?  If so, how? I used to avoid professional events with clients present because I did not want to risk saying something inappropriate because of my drinking. Now I don’t have that concern. I am not hung over constantly. I am now able to get to the office earlier and be much more productive. (It also helps that I am no longer taking off early to go drink.) The first few months/year of not drinking was very hard for me at work because I had previously used alcohol to deaden the bad feelings I had about my job. My recovery has allowed me to make necessary changes in my work life that I had been unable to face as a drinker. Recovery allows me to deal in a healthy way with the stress and anxiety that often accompany law practice. I am better now at doing work at work and doing the rest of life when I am not at work. What have you noticed most about how life is different for you in early recovery? I have so many amazing people in my life who are rooting for me to stay sober. It was amazing the network of people who came out to rally around me once I admitted I had a problem. I no longer have to pour alcohol over something to enjoy it. It’s amazing how much more energy you have for the rest of your life. The cloud of shame I constantly had while I was drinking and using has lifted. I am not as anxious or depressed. I am generally more optimistic about things. After about a year, not drinking felt “normal.” I was no longer triggered by attending events, dinner parties, etc. Health – mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual – has done a 180, and it feels great! Are there any tips you would give to a lawyer considering getting into recovery? Meet and talk to some lawyers who are in recovery and hear what we have to say about how much better life is now. Talk to trusted friends and the attorney counselors at the OAAP. They can connect you to a great recovery community. They are good people ready to help and are closer than you think! Getting into a recovery program will give you tools to use to help both with your drinking and your life. Reach out and talk to like-minded folks. Most people would be (happily) shocked to know the many resources available to those seeking to get into recovery. If you think you might need recovery, then you probably do. Call the OAAP! Our very special thanks to the lawyers who have shared a personal part of their lives in the hope that their perspectives will be of help and encouragement to others. Douglas S. Querin, JD, LPC, CADC I OAAP Attorney Counselor
Procrastination and the Allure of TomorrowJune 2019HTMLProcrastination has few advocates but many followers. It has been the subject of philosophical wisdom, comedic humor, academic study, psychological research, and therapeutic advice for centuries. It is part of the human condition, though it affects some considerably more than others. The legal profession, with its deadlines, obligations, and responsibilities, can be quicksand for those most vulnerable to putting off today that which can be delayed until tomorrow. The inevitable questions about procrastination have always been much the same: 1) what exactly is it, 2) why do we do it, and, perhaps most importantly, 3) how do we avoid or overcome it? The What Question To understand procrastination, it is helpful to understand what it is not. Procrastination in the legal profession is not: Strategic delay: Deliberately delaying a decision or action because the issue appears likely to resolve itself and thus make further action or decision-making unnecessary (e.g., holding off preparing discovery, a brief, or jury instructions in reasonable anticipation the case will resolve). Intentional delay: Deliberately delaying a decision or action because the consequences are uncertain and/or potentially problematic without first obtaining additional information (e.g., delay in accepting a settlement offer or taking on a new client until more information is made available). Necessary delay: Deliberately delaying a decision or action because work load and/or time constraints necessarily require attending first to other matters that are more urgent (e.g., delay caused by an upcoming court appearance or significant client meeting). Accidental delay: Delay caused by miscalculating the amount of time needed to finish a project (e.g., belatedly realizing a legal issue to be briefed is more complex than first thought) or genuinely forgetting to act on an intended goal (e.g., not remembering to timely file discovery requests or send a settlement demand letter). This type of delay may be professionally problematic for a lawyer, but it is not procrastination. Procrastination in the legal profession (i.e., of the kind that chronically interferes with one’s professional responsibilities) occurs when a lawyer: Recognizes the need to achieve a particular goal (e.g., getting a brief or discovery filed on time), Has the time and opportunity to achieve the goal (e.g., 60 days to file a brief), Knows that delay will harm the prospect of achieving the goal, and Nevertheless, intentionally delays taking the action necessary to successfully achieve the goal (e.g., the lawyer does not complete a brief or discovery requests or waits until the last minute to undertake the project). In short, procrastination is intentionally postponing necessary action, fully knowing that delay will probably impede one’s ability to accomplish a necessary task or, at least, impair the ability to produce a quality work product. It is acting against one’s own best interests and likely the best interests of the lawyer’s clients. It tends to affect both one’s personal and professional life. While there are no known empirical studies of procrastination within the legal profession, statistics about the general population suggest: Almost everyone (95%) reports procrastinating sometimes, and Nearly 50% of Americans self-identify as chronic procrastinators. The Why Question The further away in time a task needs to be completed, the more inclined people are to delay attending to it, particularly when it is unpleasant or stress-producing. To some extent, this is human nature. When the behavior repeatedly occurs and risks significant adverse personal and professional consequences, it amounts to chronic procrastination. In the legal profession, an example of serious procrastination is seen when lawyers unreasonably delay for months or years the filing of a lawsuit. Fear, anxiety, uncertainty, or any number of other emotional responses may cause the lawyer to defer filing until the imminent expiration of the statute of limitations compels a last-minute scramble to get the matter filed. Procrastination is not a time-management problem. Keeping meticulous to-do lists and time schedules are typically not the solution. Most researchers today consider that mood, emotions, and emotional regulation issues are causally at the heart of chronic procrastination. People generally learn from their mistakes and make changes so as not to repeat them (e.g., filing discovery late can have consequences). The chronic procrastinator, however, constantly repeats the very behavior that experience has taught will likely be harmful and self-defeating. Moreover, studies have found that procrastinators often carry with them anxiety, shame, and guilt about their decision to delay. Why then do they continue to procrastinate? When faced with the decision to undertake an unpleasant task today, the chronic procrastinator seeks to avoid the negative emotions associated with it and instead opts to delay action until tomorrow. The fear, uncertainty, insecurity, anxiety, embarrassment, or other emotion associated with the task is put off to a later time, with the hope that the emotional angst it produces will be more easily coped with in the future. Delaying action thus functions as a form of emotional self-regulation, despite the procrastinator’s conscious or unconscious knowledge that in doing so the task being delayed will itself likely now be prejudiced. The How Question Behavioral scientists and psychologists have for years sought to identify techniques helpful to those struggling with chronic procrastination. Many of their research-based recommendations, often simple in application, have proved valuable in helping many to successfully mitigate the challenges of procrastination. Their recommendations include: Introspection: Seek to honestly identify the reason(s) for the procrastination; if change is to be made, some candid self-understanding is a necessary starting point. Awareness: Recognize that, at its core, serious procrastination is often about emotions – feeling good in the short term by delaying decisions or actions that may be unpleasant. Social interaction: Many lawyers and others challenged by chronic procrastination are isolated in their struggle. They often feel embarrassed, anxious, and/or depressed by their delaying behavior. Talking openly with a spouse/partner or a trusted friend or colleague about their challenges is very therapeutic and a valuable first step in making needed changes. Small steps: When faced with a disagreeable or daunting task, studies have demonstrated that breaking the project up into smaller pieces and completing them piecemeal is often a very effective practice toward ultimate task completion (e.g., opening a blank Word document is the first step in drafting a brief). Success in the small steps psychologically encourages confidence and forward momentum. Social support: Making a verbal commitment to another person about steps (even small steps) intended to be taken on a project reinforces that commitment and the likelihood of success. Setting aside time: Commit to yourself (and someone else, if possible) to do a defined portion of a delayed task at a defined time; set aside an hour or two (repeating, if necessary) to work solely on that item, and only that item. Some caveats: Mornings tend to be best because people’s energy levels generally are greatest at that time; Energy levels are strongly influenced by how rested and well-nourished one is; when energy levels are low, one’s physiological ability to stay on task and motivated is also low; Make distractions less likely: take no calls, turn off your cell phone, close your door, clear your desk, and stay off your computer (except as needed for the task at hand). Monitoring: Research clearly shows that monitoring progress helps assure success. It creates a visible record of effort and reinforces the positive behavior. Setting deadlines: Procrastinators who set meaningful deadlines for themselves are much more likely to achieve task completion. This is especially true if the deadline date and time are written. Rewards: The procrastinator who is rewarded for task completion (again, even for small steps) is more likely to be successful; regularly rewarding oneself for progress made psychologically reinforces the positive behavior. Be realistic: (1) Many procrastinators tell themselves they work best and are most effective when they are under last-minute time pressure. Studies show that the work-product of the procrastinator is typically inferior to that of the non-procrastinator. (2) Plan a realistic amount of time for the task. Studies show that people are reasonably accurate in estimating how long it will take others to perform a task, but notoriously optimistic in making such estimates for themselves. Counseling and therapy: As noted above, chronic procrastination is often about emotions. Counselors can help address the underlying issues and help you change your behavior. The Oregon Attorney Assistance Program offers counseling assistance and referral resources for all Oregon lawyers, judges, and law students. If you are interested in a procrastination workshop, contact the OAAP. Douglas S. Querin, JD, LPC, CADC I OAAP Attorney Counselor
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Asking for HelpMarch 2019HTMLThe truth is that most of us are not good at asking for help. For one thing, the myth continues that asking for help makes a person appear weak. In fact, asking for help empowers the person because it allows them to face chronic problems head-on, instead of being stuck in a quagmire of secret misery. Another misconception that discourages seeking help is the misbelief that highly successful people are “strong” and don’t need help. The opposite is true. Any great leader knows that he or she is not skilled at everything and that, to be successful, those with superior skills must be relied on too. Asking for help is still not easy, especially regarding personal problems. Lawyers and judges can be particularly reluctant – or even resistant – to seeking help. We often are not comfortable surrendering to anything. This is not surprising. In law school, we developed intellectual stamina and analytical skills that gave us academic confidence. While practicing law, we gained confidence in problem solving. The end result: We are not accustomed to asking others for help or admitting any weakness or difficulties. We are trained to solve other people’s problems, not handle problems of our own. Our admirable attributes of independence and tenacity serve us well right up until we suffer a personal problem that can’t be outsmarted. Alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and other physiologically-based chemical brain diseases simply can’t be defeated with analytical skills and confidence. You can’t “lawyer” your way out of chemical brain diseases. As such, the self-reliance that previously served a lawyer or judge well can stand in the way of a path to help. In the end, and not just for lawyers and judges but for all people, fear is at the core of why most people are reticent to reach out for help: fear of being judged; fear that adversaries will obtain and use information against you; and fear of losing control of the situation. While an internal struggle between seeking help and maintaining secrecy rages within individuals who need help, time is of the essence more than they imagine. Sadly, it is common that an individual will resist seeking help until the problem becomes a full-blown crisis. By procrastinating and not seeking help early on, more-serious consequences accumulate and the road to recovery becomes more arduous. In the worst scenarios, the inability to seek help costs the person his or her life. All that said, help is readily available and there definitely is hope. Some of the happiest and most productive people in the legal profession found their way to a lawyer assistance program and received the help they needed. They are happy and healthy again and have escaped the darkness and isolation they previously suffered. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” and that holds true for dispelling old stigmas that impede one’s ability to seek help for alcoholism, addiction, depression, and other diseases. If you are concerned about your, or someone else’s, substance use, alcohol use, depression, or other mental health condition, call the OAAP. Whether you need immediate help or general information, call us at 503.226.1057 and ask to speak with an attorney counselor. Our services our free and confidential. We are here for you. This article was originally published by the Louisiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program. Reprinted with permission.  
Perspectives on RetirementMarch 2019HTMLWe recently interviewed several retired attorneys who were willing to share their experiences and perspectives on life before and after retirement. We asked the attorneys why they started thinking about retirement, and here is what they had to say: I knew I wanted to retire when I was still healthy and could enjoy life. I wanted to travel and enjoy life with my spouse and friends. The decision to retire did not happen overnight, but was not a difficult one for me to make. I used my logical side to make the decision. I loved my job and my colleagues but wanted to do other things too. I had less patience with obstructive practices by opposing attorneys – it seemed like a sign. I began to feel a sense of sameness and routine. It gave me the vague sense that I could do the work without much effort and without utilizing my best skills. My interest was waning and, at times, I felt the challenge was gone. It was taking too long to bring cases to trial. At the state level, attorneys would not agree to expedite trials. At the federal level, the costs and time requirements to meet the various judicial, local, and FRCP requirements were increasingly daunting and expensive for clients. Technological changes started making impacts in a number of practice areas, and smaller, routine cases became more automated and rote. A time existed when I did not think about retiring, but then one day I realized I had to retire sometime. My contemporaries and I are getting older. Some of them were starting to retire. Others became ill. Still others passed away. Father Time was beginning to gain a bit. Mother Nature was taking a slow toll. In terms of preparing for retirement, here are some insights and suggestions the attorneys offered: Invest in your health – it is an important foundation for a good life. Take care of yourself, exercise, and hope you have good genes so that you can enjoy good health in retirement! I began preparations for an eventual retirement about four years beforehand. It was a slow process, but the early preparation helped me with the transition. The preparation reduced my anxiety and helped me avoid unanticipated consequences. Consulting with a financial planner gave me confidence in my financial future and helped me develop a long-term financial plan. Reviewing your finances really helps you know what to expect and, for me, that relieved a lot of anxiety. If you are in a firm and you are going to retire, talk with your partners so that everyone has time to plan and prepare both financially and emotionally. I discussed my retirement plans with my partners early in the process, so they would not be surprised. I did not want them to sign office leases or other obligations without knowing my timeline. Even though it can be difficult to approach these subjects, it preserves your relationships and saves a lot of upheaval in the firm. It also spares a lot of hard feelings, extra work, and expense. If it works, plan your retirement for the end of a lease! Have complete physicals taken and any procedures finished before retiring – a “total body tune up.” Complete your medical testing and procedures before you retire. Plan the first six months of your retirement, or create a to-do list for that time frame. I found it helpful to have a glide path for when I left work behind. Pick a date and then just do it. Once public, your retirement takes on unexpected momentum. Make a plan before you retire, so that you have something to retire to. The attorneys spoke about approaches and resources that were helpful leading up to retirement: Talk with current retirees. Develop your interests and friendships. Speak with your support network for both ideas and accountability. Meet with a financial advisor. I learned that I could afford to retire. So, I did! Attend or listen to retirement-related speeches, presentations, YouTube videos, TED talks, etc. Do the same with subject areas that are of interest to you. Consider if the time is right. When I first considered retiring, the thought made me worried and anxious. It didn’t feel like the right timing. I am glad I listened to those warning signs. When I retired several years later, I looked forward to my next chapter of life. The right timing makes a big difference! Read about retirement and consult with the OAAP attorney counselors. Learn about and meet with consultants about Medicare and Social Security – well before age 65. Plan something fun for the first winter months of your retirement. It’s a good alternative to sitting around in the gloom of Oregon winter wondering what to do and worrying that retiring was a mistake! Retirement changed the attorneys’ lives, sometimes in unexpected ways: Although I travel less than I thought I would, I am spending more time with my kids and grandkids than I expected. I no longer live on a tight schedule because of work. I find that I need to check my calendar to remember appointments and social visits, because each day is different. On many days, I have the luxury of no time demands and unscheduled time. That makes it is easy to forget about commitments that do have specific times! I was not expecting to find so much joy in being free to do what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. I felt great knowing that I no longer had to cram everything into the weekend! I missed having a regular routine, so I set up several things to do each week on a regular schedule. This is still a work in progress and is not yet a satisfactory replacement for a regular work schedule. I do have more free time than I thought I would. This is my current challenge – being able to accept, embrace, and live with unstructured time. It feels like a big identity shift to identify myself as a “retired” or “semi-retired” lawyer. It is a challenge I did not anticipate. When I first retired, I committed to too many things. My biggest challenge was time management and learning the balance of activities and leisure time that would work best for me. I am getting better at it, now that I am in my second year of retirement, but I am still working on achieving the right level of structure and open time. The attorneys spoke about how they currently spend their time in retirement: I work out several times a week at a gym. A couple of times each week, I try to catch up with existing friends or explore new friendships. I also read more, travel, plan future trips, take classes, catch up on home projects, and do my best to get out of the house at least two times a day. I volunteer at several nonprofit agencies and serve as a director on several boards. I’ve also taken on leadership roles at my synagogue. I balance my time between my family, projects, volunteer work, exercise, friends, and spending time alone. I visit with my kids and grandkids and enjoy time skiing, working out, and going to the beach. My Medicare plan comes with a free gym membership! Finally, the attorneys shared a few personal feelings about their retirement: The thing that I miss the most about work is collegiality. Fortunately, I keep in touch with many former colleagues. I enjoy our informal lunches and “reunions.” I really enjoy the flexibility of my new life. I feel very fortunate to have had a good career, good health, and the ability to retire while I was healthy enough to live it fully. I feel very blessed to have made it here. I can read what I want. Unscheduled days are easier to handle with some experience and practice. I no longer wear a tie. I wear more colorful socks. Our thanks to the lawyers who shared their perspectives with us and to OAAP Assistant Director/Attorney Counselor Shari Gregory, OAAP Attorney Counselor Douglas Querin, and PLF Practice Management Advisor Lee Wachocki for their assistance with this article.   Additional Resources: The Next Stage: Planning NOW for the Retirement that YOU Want – Available on the PLF website, www.osbplf.org > CLE > Past. This CLE examines the financial, business, practical, and emotional aspects of retiring from the practice of law. Lawyers at Midlife: A Personal & Financial Retirement Planner for Lawyers, Michael P. Long, John Clyde, Pat Funk – Available through the PLF order desk, 503.639.6911. Preparing for a Status Change, inPractice, February 25, 2019. https://www.osbplf.org/inpractice/preparing-for-a-status-change/  
Managing Stress With MindfulnessMarch 2019HTMLManaging stress is a constant struggle for many of us. The relentless pressure to satisfy work and personal responsibilities can be immense and taxing. Long hours, complex work, obligations to satisfy professional mandates of conduct, volunteer commitments, and taking care of our family and ourselves all take time and a toll on us. Although we may not recognize it, we each have a relationship with stress that cannot simply be eliminated or avoided. Psychiatrist Dr. Murray Bowen believed that life includes an inherent “chronic anxiety,” which he describes as the way we habitually or automatically respond to a threat; in other words, stress. We learn to work with stress, yet, at times, we may do so in a way that is no longer useful to us. Many of us know this from experience. We have seen that while stress can be a catalyst for action, constant or long-term stress eventually leads to burnout. Science sheds a lot of light on the impact of stress and our reaction to it. From a neuroscience perspective, chronic stress is detrimental to the functioning of our brain. For example, too much cortisol (commonly known as the stress hormone) can diminish the size of our hippocampus – the part of our brain responsible for memory and emotion. In another branch of science known as epigenetics (the study of heritable changes in gene expression), there are studies that show the way we experience or respond to stress may be inherited. Understanding how stress affects us and creating a lifestyle that allows for balance between work and life demands are all helpful steps to managing stress. There are many different ways we can make our work and personal life fit together (“work-life fit”) and avoid chronic stress, whether it is restructuring our schedule to be home more often, reducing our workload and commitments, or finding more space for rest and relaxation. The art of mindfulness is one approach that often gets overlooked, yet it can have a profound impact in allowing us to better manage our relationship with stress. Mindfulness has substantially gained popularity in use and reference in the West since the late 1970s. It has been a long-standing practice in the traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. According to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leading researcher and teacher of mindfulness, it is the state of purposefully paying attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. “Purposefully” paying attention to the present moment means being intentional about directing one’s attention to the here and now. The term “nonjudgmental” refers to the act of not placing a value on the occurrence of a thought, emotion, or bodily sensation. One form of mindfulness that is often recognized is meditation. In meditation, a person uses a certain technique to train the mind to focus its attention and affect the functioning of the body. Regularly practicing mindfulness can be extremely helpful for regulating our emotions and restructuring our cognitive function in a positive way. It does so by allowing us to increase our ability to hold awareness without judgment while retaining a positive state of mind. In their research on effective therapies to recover from substance use disorders, Drs. Marianne Marcus and Aleksandra Zgierska describe mindfulness as encouraging awareness and acceptance of thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations as they arise, and recognizing their impermanence. As a result, individuals change the way they relate to, or view, their experience in the present moment, and they can choose to act with purpose rather than respond reactively. Mindfulness has also been shown in clinical work to be helpful for reducing or managing stress, anxiety, or symptoms of depression; boosting the immune system; and improving one’s ability to make decisions or to solve problems. In a study led by Dr. John Minda and his colleagues, lawyers who participated in an eight-week mindfulness program reported lower levels of depression, anxiety, stress, and negative mood, as well as increased levels of positive mood, resilience, and workplace effectiveness. Mindfulness is at the core of Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which was originally developed to help patients with chronic physical and mental health challenges.  MBSR is now a well-known, empirically supported technique that involves body and sensory awareness meditation, breathing awareness, thought awareness, and yoga movements. Studies of MBSR document its success in reducing stress and depression. Mindfulness is also used to support recovery. In a study of Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), Marcus and Zgierska found that those who participated experienced a greater “decrease in craving, and greater increases in acceptance and acting with awareness” than those who followed the customary treatment. The culmination of the above research and many other studies support the conclusion that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention, and other approaches that incorporate mindfulness can be effective in assisting individuals to manage or reduce their stress, increase their nonjudgmental awareness, foster a positive effect, and achieve a healthier state of being. If you have not yet considered a mindfulness practice, why not start now? The skills of mindfulness can be learned or taught regardless of one’s religious or cultural background. You don’t need prior experience, and you can incorporate the practice into your daily life. Below are five practical tips to help you get started: Tune into your breath. Pay attention to the air filling your lungs as you breathe in and the air leaving your body as you breathe out. Sense the rise and fall of your belly as you allow your breath to flow through you. While walking, turn your attention toward the steps you are taking. Notice each step. Feel the weight of your shoes. Experience the sensation of bringing one foot down, then the other. The next time you have a meal, take a mindful bite. Pay attention to each movement you make as you gather your food with your hand or a utensil, and draw it closer to your mouth for a bite. Notice the shape of the food. Smell the deliciousness. Can you imagine it as if you had already tasted it? While driving, turn off your radio, music, podcast, or other sound source. Bring awareness to the moment by paying attention to the quietness in the air. What do you notice? Take a moment to pause and spend some time simply being instead of doing. Let go and let things be. Allow things to unfold on their own, at their own time, and in their own way. See if you can find a bit of stillness in this space of non-doing. Each time you use the mindfulness methods, you develop and strengthen your ability to use it as a stress management tool. For additional information and resources, see page 2 of this issue and contact the OAAP at 503.226.1057. Karen A. Neri, JD OAAP Attorney Counselor   Additional Resources The Anxious Lawyer, Cho, J., & Gifford, K. (2016), ABA Publishing. Meditation Is Not What You Think: Mindfulness and Why It Is So Important, Kabat-Zinn, J. (2018), Hachette Books Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, Kabat-Zinn, J. (2009), Hachette Books. Mindfulness for Law Students: Using the Power of Mindful Awareness to Achieve Balance and Success in Law School, Rogers, S. (2009), Mindful Living Press. The Mindful Parenting Collection, Siegel, D. & McCarty, M. (2012), Penguin Random House. Mindfulness and Legal Practice: A Preliminary Study of the Effects of Mindfulness Meditation and Stress Reduction in Lawyers, Minda, J. P., Cho, J., Nielsen, E., & Zhang, M. (2017).
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Leveraging Your Leadership StyleDecember 2018HTMLWhere can we begin to gain insights into our own leadership style? Assessments can be a tool to gain greater self-awareness. While there are many well-known and effective self-assessments, one that is very user-friendly is the Everything DiSC Workplace because it measures two dimensions of personality that have a tremendous impact on how we interact in the workplace. It’s also easy to determine the DiSC styles of others once you understand the basic framework, unlike other assessments that are not so easy to apply in practice. Ask yourself these questions to help you to determine your own DiSC style: 1. Are you more fast-paced and outspoken OR cautious and reflective? 2. Are you generally more warm and accepting of others and their ideas OR questioning and skeptical of them? If you selected fast-paced and outspoken AND questioning and skeptical, you probably lead with a “D” or “Dominance” style and you focus on RESULTS. If you selected fast-paced and outspoken AND warm and accepting, you probably lead with an “i” or “Influence” style and you tend to prioritize ENTHUSIASM. If you selected cautious and reflective AND warm and accepting, you probably lead with an “S” or “Steadiness” style and you like to provide SUPPORT. If you selected cautious and reflective AND questioning and skeptical, you probably lead with a “C” or “Conscientiousness” style and you put an emphasis on ACCURACY. See the chart above for more detail about the four main DiSC styles. Our DiSC style informs how we communicate with others, the level of detail we need, the pace at which we like to work, and if we focus on facts or feelings. Even though we are all a blend of the four styles, we tend to lean into some styles more heavily than others. Think about your primary style as your home base, but you are “free to move about the cabin,” as they say on airplanes, and shift into other styles as well. How DiSC Style Impacts Leadership What does DiSC tell us about our leadership style? If you look at the DiSC diagram below, you’ll see eight words around the circumference. These are the eight priorities where leaders focus their energy. One priority or style is not better or preferable to another. Individuals with all DiSC styles can be effective leaders. Depending on the leadership activity you are engaged in, there is a time and place for all of these leadership styles. For example, when a team embarks on a project or a strategic planning process, that is the time for the leader to help the team brainstorm and stay open to possibility. It’s important to focus on being “pioneering” and “energizing.” However, when the project shifts into the execution phase and all the details become important, having an “energizing” approach isn’t always warranted – or appreciated. Instead, being “deliberate” and “resolute,” to make sure that the details aren’t overlooked, is important. A common DiSC style amongst lawyers is the “C” style that puts an emphasis on being “deliberate.” This style values accuracy and objectivity and likes focusing on details. Sometimes, people with a C style will get bogged down in analysis paralysis or not concede a minor point because they don’t want to appear wrong. A leader with this style will benefit from knowing when to focus on details versus when to prioritize the big picture. It’s also easy for this style to slip into micromanagement of others, so more frequent check-ins with employees and clearly defined deliverables and deadlines will help this leader to be successful. Making a point to show empathy and concern for others will also help to build the foundational trust needed for effective working relationships. As you can see, each style of leadership has inherent strengths and some blind spots or areas for growth. There is no one leadership style that is inherently skilled in all areas. We begin the journey towards self-awareness when we understand what our priorities are, what leadership best practices come naturally in relation to those priorities, and what areas we can strengthen or shore up. For further reading on leadership styles, please consult the book The Eight Dimensions of Leadership by Sugerman, Scullard, and Wilhelm. Kirsten Meneghello, JD, PCC Kirsten Meneghello, JD, PCC, is a leadership coach and consultant and the founder of Illumination Coaching LLC. Kirsten coaches leaders and executives, facilitates team communication, and is a Certified Trainer for Everything DiSC and Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. She can be contacted at Kirsten@IlluminationCoaching.com if you would like to learn about personalized assessments.
The Career of a Lawyer: Creating Success at Each StageDecember 2018HTMLFinding one’s niche in the legal profession can be challenging. It is common for lawyers to start their job search by seeking jobs they can fit themselves into rather than seeking a job that best fits them. Whether it is experience or foresight that guides us as lawyers in our job search, one element that is crucial to achieving career change or satisfaction is self-assessment. This year on November 2, 2018, the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program held its all-day career CLE entitled “The Career of a Lawyer: Creating Success at Each Stage.” The focus was on using self-assessment to create success and satisfaction in one’s legal career from the early stages through retirement. Assistant Director and Attorney Counselor Shari R. Gregory, LCSW, JD, and Attorney Counselor Bryan Welch, JD, CADC I, framed the day by making a “case for self-assessment.” They explained the need for considering our strengths as lawyers and becoming  more organized in the manner we assess our values, psychological needs, communication style, skills, and job environment. The morning segment also featured leadership coach and consultant Kirsten Meneghello, JD, PCC, who spoke on “Leveraging Your Leadership Strengths.” Kirsten shared one self-assessment tool that can be used by lawyers to attain greater self-awareness, the Everything DiSC Workplace (see article, “Leveraging Your Leadership Style” on page 6). Although we do not always view ourselves as leaders, the nature of our legal work often calls us to step into leadership roles in which our expertise, influence, and capacity to make decisions are relied on by those we serve. Kirsten informed us that we can leverage the characteristics we prioritize based on our DiSC style depending on the situation we face at work and achieve better outcomes. Using our strengths in this way allows us to excel as leaders in our workplace. Toward the end of the morning segment, the OAAP presented a diverse panel of attorneys: Nathan Morales, JD; Myah Kehoe, JD; and Jacqueline Alarcon, JD. These inspiring attorneys each shared their journey into their current careers. They discussed some of their challenges and successes during their five to ten years in the practice of law. The afternoon segment featured career coach Susanne Aronowitz, JD, ACC, who guided us through “Successfully Navigating Lawyer Career Crossroads at Midlife.” She explained that our path to achievement using time and effort is not always a linear process but can follow a chain of “s curves.” We find “hacks” to accelerate our learning, and we develop new skills in advance of us “plateauing  on [our] existing ones.” The key is not to allow fear to constrain us so we can jump from one curve to the next. To help overcome our fear when confronted by crossroads in our careers, Susanne relayed five steps: (1) identify the focus of our curiosity; (2) identify areas of dissonance; (3) understand the context for our resonance/dissonance; (4) apply context to our situation; and (5) design an action plan. She also introduced us to the concept of “SCARF” (status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness) as another way of addressing our stress response system. All five aspects of “SCARF” activate the primary reward system in our brain, and when any of these areas are threatened, we experience a threat to our life. When we are unable to make a decision or change, it is  important to consider the aspect of “SCARF” involved, its impact, our “SCARF” goals, and how we may blend our interests with the areas of “SCARF” that are threatened so we can move to our next “s curve.” Shari and Bryan subsequently discussed how we may progress toward retirement using William Bridges’ model of transition. This model is composed of three phases: first an ending; followed by an “in-between” period of exploration and often confusion or challenges for most; and a new beginning. Bryan also shared the utility of cultivating resilience to maintain well-being during this period. The afternoon segment concluded with Attorney Counselor Douglas Querin, JD, LPC, CADC I, moderating a panel of seasoned attorneys who successfully retired from the practice of law: Scott Jonsson, JD; Nancie Potter, JD, LMFT; and Douglas Hagen, JD. These courageous attorneys shared their own journey toward retirement and how they continue to live with purpose and meaning after retirement. From our guest speakers and panel members, we learned that it is possible to move beyond fear and uncertainty to change and satisfaction. For those of you still searching for a niche, what steps might you take toward your own self-assessment? A huge thank you to all our speakers and the lawyers who participated at our career CLE. Our event would not have been possible without you. Karen A. Neri, JD OAAP Attorney Counselor
Helping a Colleague in RecoveryDecember 2018HTML“I’ve known Jim for some years and know he’s in early recovery. I’d like to be supportive, but I don’t want to say the wrong thing. Maybe I should just say nothing and pretend like I don’t even know that he is in recovery. Anyway, I’m no expert in drug and alcohol recovery and maybe I should just leave these conversations to professionals or close friends and family. But, like me, Jim’s a lawyer, a professional colleague. I’d like to be supportive and maybe I could be of some help.” We are often perplexed when we want to support a colleague in recovery from problematic substance use because we don’t know how. There is no simple formula for what to say or how to say it. Every situation is different and, for every recommendation, there are usually exceptions. Let’s start, however, with some general principles that can be helpful to keep in mind. People in recovery, especially early recovery, differ in their degree of comfort in talking about it. Some may be very open about their recovery, while others may be more reticent. Certainly, if the person in recovery openly comments about it, they would probably appreciate an offer of support. If the person seems reluctant to talk about or disclose his or her recovery, use discretion. Offering support or assistance in this case, while still perhaps helpful, should be more measured and carefully timed to avoid embarrassment or triggering feelings of shame or guilt. People in early recovery are generally much more in need of the support of well-intended others than those in healthy long-term recovery. The latter group has generally managed to develop and take advantage of a supportive community. The former group probably has not. An exception is when the person in long-term recovery has relapsed and is now struggling to regain what is lost. This person is, practically speaking, not unlike the early recovery person; offers of support can be equally valuable to this person. You do not have to be a medical professional, professional therapist, or drug and alcohol expert to offer support to those in early recovery – any more than you need to be an expert in chronic medical conditions to be a supportive resource for someone struggling with those conditions. Three fundamental tools for effectively helping a colleague in recovery include (1) nonjudgmental communication, (2) genuine caring, and (3) healthy boundaries. NONJUDGMENTAL COMMUNICATION. The primary purpose of offers of support is not to advise, persuade, or convince, but simply to convey concern and availability in a clear, simple, and sincere manner. Some examples: Heather, I really respect what you are doing in your recovery efforts. If there is anything I can do to help you, please let me know. Bob, while I don’t know much about recovery issues and certainly am no expert, please know that I am available to you if you ever want to have coffee and just talk. Jerry, I’ve had my own challenges with substances in the past. If you ever want to just talk sometime about your recovery, please feel free to let me know. I know it can be difficult at times. Listening is an essential part of good communication. Often, we can be most helpful by just listening nonjudgmentally. The colleague in recovery has likely received an abundance of advice, both solicited and otherwise. If the person wants advice, it may be best to wait for him/her to ask for it. Effective listening requires truly focused attention and demonstrated interest in what is being said, the absence of distraction, acknowledgement of the message, awareness of the emotions that may be behind what is being said, reflective feedback (e.g., What I’m hearing you say is . . . ), and appropriate questions (e.g., That sounds really challenging. How are you doing with that?). In this context, effective listening says: I care about how you are doing and am available for you. GENUINE CARING. Offering to be of assistance can depend in part on the parties’ prior relationship. If there has been no previous relationship or personal contact, it may be not only awkward but counterproductive to suddenly express interest in a colleague’s well-being. However, there are two important exceptions. If the colleague in early recovery has few, if any, significant social connections (e.g., no immediate or extended family, living alone, few friends, and/or absence from 12-step or community support meetings), his/her success in recovery may be problematic. In this instance, it may be especially helpful to reach out to this colleague in a supportive way (e.g., Nancy, I’m aware we don’t know each other well, but I understand you are in early recovery. I know recovery can be challenging. I just wanted you to know that if I can ever be of any help or you would like to have coffee and talk sometime, please know that I’m available.). The second exception is when the person offering help is in longer-term recovery. This fact often transcends the lack of prior relationship. It represents a unique connection that can be especially helpful to someone in early recovery (e.g., Bob, I know we don’t know each other well, but I heard you are in early recovery. I’m in recovery, too, and have been for some years. If you’d like to have coffee sometime, I’d enjoy it very much. Or, maybe we could go to a meeting together. I know some really great meetings.). Regardless of prior relationship, sincerely wanting to help is essential to offering meaningful assistance. Often it means no more than being a supportive friend or someone to turn to so the common challenges of recovery can be lessened by simply having someone available to talk with. HEALTHY BOUNDARIES. There are many things one can do to support a colleague in early recovery, including: Be available to just talk, listen, and be present (often this is the most valuable support that can be offered); Be supportive and encouraging; Be appropriately curious and interested in what your colleague is experiencing in recovery; Have coffee with your colleague; Help with transportation (e.g., doctor appointment, support meeting); Include your colleague in healthy social events; Help your colleague reintegrate into work and social environments; Introduce the person to other colleagues; Introduce the person to others known to be in recovery; Be willing to share one’s own recovery story; Be sensitive to the fact that your colleague may have shame, guilt, and/or embarrassment surrounding recovery issues; Learn about addiction and recovery issues; and Remind your colleague about the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP). OAAP attorney counselors provide confidential, voluntary, and free resources to all Oregon attorneys, judges, and law students. The OAAP makes available four recovery meetings every week to our legal community, both those new to recovery and those who have been in long-term recovery. Visit www.oaap.org or call 503-226-1057. A major challenge when helping a colleague in early recovery is seeking to be a helpful resource without being an unhealthy enabler. As a general rule, it is wiser to help your colleague resolve financial issues than to lend money; help find housing rather than offer your own house; help find legal resources rather than represent him/her; help think through employment and/or relationship difficulties rather than personally intervene. Again, there is no fixed formula. Each situation is different, and there can certainly be exceptions. The personal and professional consequences of problematic substance use can be extensive; the person needing help may face major life challenges, especially in early recovery. For those in the legal community wanting to be supportive, the natural instinct as problem solvers and advocates can often be to put on our lawyer hats and jump into the fray. What your colleague in early recovery needs most is not unhealthy enabling, but rather to learn for oneself to deal with life’s difficulties without resorting to unhealthy substance use. This is exactly why having personal connection with others is so essential – to let your colleague know there are others who truly care and, within healthy boundaries, are present and available to help navigate life’s challenges without drugs or alcohol. Keep in mind these additional healthy boundary considerations. Use discretion in sharing with others the conversations and information learned from a colleague in recovery. The colleague’s willingness to accept help generally presumes confidentiality in the relationship. The best way to find out how to help a colleague is to ask; get clarity about exactly what kind of help is being requested. Be clear about what assistance you are willing and prepared to provide. If the help sought is beyond your ability or, on reflection, would not be appropriate under the circumstances, respectfully decline. When you offer assistance to a colleague, it is important to follow through. For example, if you promise to call the person on a certain day, keep the promise. Dependability and reliability are essential to maintaining the helpful relationship. Remember that the ultimate responsibility for maintaining healthy recovery belongs to the recovering colleague. It is not the responsibility of others – spouses, friends, or colleagues. This is a fundamental tenet of recovery. Well-meaning others can be immensely valuable and make the process easier, but success or failure rests with the recovering person. Healthy social connections are a vital part of successful recovery and help to lessen the stigma that is often attached to chronic substance use. And, importantly, social connections facilitate the transition from an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy one. Well-intentioned offers to assist a colleague let that person know that others care and are available. With assistance based on nonjudgmental communication, genuine caring, and healthy boundaries, the colleague in early recovery is best positioned to achieve success in that person’s recovery efforts. Douglas S. Querin, JD, LPC, CADC I OAAP Attorney Counselor
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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 www.attorneyatwork.com/five-ways-to-make-yourdays-better/. 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 judith@leaderesq.net 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 www.susannearonowitz.com. 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 twood@osbar.org. 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. https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/misc/legal_education/ComprehensiveGuidetoBarAdmissions/2016_comp_guide.authcheckdam.pdf (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. www.lawyerwellbeing.net. (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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