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News & Press: Montana Lawyer

President's Message: Wellness of lawyers and judges is vital to profession, justice system

Thursday, November 29, 2018   (0 Comments)
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By Eric Nord

The “MPR Raccoon” became a social media sensation this past spring when she climbed a 25-story office building in Minneapolis.

The death-defying feat began accidentally when workers tried to save her from the second story of a nearby building. Misinterpreting their attempts to rescue her as an attempt on her life, MPR Raccoon ran over to a nearby office building and began her ascent. Over the next few days she climbed the skyscraper until, finally, she reached the roof. Tired and hungry, she went into a baited trap. She was later released into the wild.

Lawyers sometimes act like MPR Raccoon. We get ourselves into situations which we could have avoided in the first place if we had properly read the intentions of others and accepted their assistance. Instead of admitting we make mistakes and seeking assistance, we keep going in the wrong direction (or digging a deeper hole, if you prefer that metaphor). In the end, we find ourselves exhausted and, like MPR Raccoon, in a trap.

There are various theories as to why lawyers do not seek personal or professional assistance when they need it; we may be too proud; we may think we are smarter than those around us and, therefore, we can manage our problems on our own without assistance; we may not want to appear weak or out of control for fear it will negatively impact our reputation. Whatever the reason for avoiding help, it is wrong. For the good of our profession and ourselves, we must stop avoiding the help we need.

There is ample confidential assistance for lawyers provided both through the State Bar of Montana and the American Bar Association. All we have to do is pick up a phone (Mike Larson at 406-660-1181) or do an Internet search. That part of the process is deceptively simple. The harder part of the process is being constantly vigilant of our own wellness, realizing when we are not well, and making the decision to seek assistance. We also need to look out for the wellness of those around us.

You probably have already heard a lot about wellness recently (and you are going to hear a lot more about wellness in the future), but do not tune it out. Instead, create your own strategy for wellness or, better yet, do this in conjunction with a spouse, partner, or another attorney with whom you can trust and communicate. Consider the many resources out there, both on our Bar’s website as well as the ABA (for starters, consider https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/lawyer_assistance/ls_colap_well-being_toolkit_for_lawyers_legal_employers.authcheckdam.pdf).

Your strategy for wellness does not have to be complicated or trendy. Parts of it can be simple, like making time for recreation (fly-fishing sounds like a great wellness program), having lunch with a friend, or exercise (punching a bag for a period of time can release a lot of stress). Also, ignore your smartphone and your computer on the weekends (do you really need to respond to your client’s text message on a Saturday when it could wait until Monday?). And say “no” to clients who impose unrealistic demands on your time and talents.

Our justice system does not work without its primary components: lawyers and judges. Your wellness is therefore vital to the crucial role that you serve in administering justice. So, take care of yourself. The future of our profession, and our justice system, depends upon it.

Eric Nord is a partner at Crist, Krogh and Nord in Billings.