A private chat with fellow attorneys is a click away

first_img “As lawyers, we’ve always talked about the ideals of public service and serving the client and the great good we can do in a democracy and all that razmatazz,” Krieger said. “And lawyers who are following that ideal are more satisfied. But the money thing is always the big thing. And people forget that, yes, their family is as important, more important/ The deep parts of our values and ideals that make us people can be expressed in the law in marvelously helpful ways. But too many lawyers forget, and get lost in billable hours or the next client. It’s easy to get lost, because it’s hard work.” The bottom line: “If one is not happy, what is the point?” Krieger asks that question in an article he wrote for the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law’s Journal of Law and Health, titled “What We’re Not Telling Law Students — and Lawyers — that they Really Need to Know: Some Thoughts-In-Action Toward Revitalizing the Profession from its Roots” (Volume 13, Issue I, 1998-99). “Legal educators need to explicitly acknowledge the reality which is increasingly dawning on unhappy practitioners: There is much more to a good life as a lawyer than constant achievement. Students must learn early to work toward their very best while keeping personal health, happiness and life balance as absolute priorities. Otherwise, giving up qualtiy of life now may well become a lifelong mistake.” Krieger goes on to say, “It is no coincidence that the common caricature of lawyers includes shallowness, greed and dishonesty — qualities that manifest in a personal environment devoid of real meaning. And a high rate of addiction among lawyers, by definition, reflects a loss of connection with our feelings and inner self.” Krieger, once a prosecutor, knows well how busy lawyers are — often too busy to seek help or even attend a CLE class on stress management. “Our committee felt that lawyers feel too busy, and we get isolated,” he said. “With isolation can come a sense of depression, which can make people dive even more into work.” And ’round and ’round it goes. The electronic discussion board, Krieger hopes, is a safe chance to have a chat with a fellow lawyer, maybe someone who will say, “I know what you mean. I’ve been there. And I made this change that has really helped. Why don’t you try it?” June 1, 2000 Regular News The drive to be the best, and that only the best will succeed. Relentless competition in a win-lose arena. Performance and appearaces are crucially important. Unyielding devotion leads to excessive hours of work. Being so analytical, you lose touch with your inner feelings and conscience. A private chat with fellow attorneys is a click away Take a deep breath and try to answer this question honestly: How often do you meet a happy lawyer? That’s what we thought. You know what the research reveals: More than a third of lawyers say they are “highly dissatisfied;” an even higher number wish they could flee the profession. Lawyers have the highest rate of major depressive disorders among 104 occupational groups, and lawyers rank fifth among all occupational groups in committing suicide. “All the studies and figures indicate that this is one of the most stressful professions,” says Michael Cohen, chair of The Florida Bar’s Quality of Life/Stress Management Committee. “The whole thrust is that you don’t need to be working 60 to 80 hours and making X dollars to be happy. Maybe make less and have more time for family and get back to the practice of law would make you happier.” Cohen advises there’s great comfort in knowing you’re not alone, and that it’s a lot better to talk about your concerns and problems early on, before stress can lead to addiction, alcoholism, neglecting clients and ethical problems. That’s why his committee has come up with a new resource to help: a confidential electronic discussion group as a convenient and confidential way for lawyers to vent and chat about stress or other problems, and, hopefully, colleagues will be ready to supply construction solutions. From the privacy of your home or office, click on www.law.fsu.edu:8080/~happylawyer or it can be accessed from the Quality of Life/Stress Management web page at www.fla-lap.org/qlsm/. What you’ll find is the discussion board, “Happy Lawyer is Not an Oxymoron: Health and Satisfaction in the Profession,” (a pithy title created by Tampa attorney Diane Vogt) that bills itself as a confidential, password-protected electronic discussion group maintained primarily for members of The Florida Bar who are “seeking greater happiness, health and balance in their lives, or who would like to share their efforts and methods of maximizing those qualities in their lives as lawyers.” The site is maintained at Florida State University College of Law, where Dean Don Weidner believes: “It is important for our law school to be involved in the life of the profession. I hope we can be of real service to practitioners seeking to lead balanced professional, personal and even spiritual lives.” Manager of the site is Larry Krieger, vice-chair of the committee and a clinical professor at FSU’s College of Law. In preparing his students for externship clinics in criminal law, he also teaches his students about the pitfalls of the profession that can easily lead to stressed, out-of-balance, unhappy lives: A private chat with fellow attorneys is a click awaylast_img read more

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