News

TBA Adopts Policy on Attorney Wellness

In a recap of the recent TBA Board of Governors meeting, an item in TBAToday discussing the adoption of a new TBA policy on attorney wellness did not include a link to that new policy. Here is the policy that was adopted, which references the Path to Lawyer Well-Being report prepared by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being.

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Damages, Failing Insurance and Lawyer Well-Being Headline New Issue

When there is a right, there should be a remedy, but as authors Robert Dalton and David Hudson point out, Tennessee’s Constitution doesn’t include compensation to a citizen injured by a governmental actor who has violated its provisions. Read the details in the November Tennessee Bar Journal. Also, David Broemel explains what happens if an insurer fails. In his column, TBA President Jason Pannu delves into how lawyers can watch for unhealthy habits and focus on well-being -- and what the options are for help, such as the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program, when needed. Check out these stories and more in the new TBJ.

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Tomorrow is Law Student Mental Health Day

Tomorrow is the new date for the American Bar Association’s Law Student Mental Health Day, which aims to promote well-being among the nation’s future attorneys. Planned by the ABA’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, the Law Student Division and the Young Lawyers Division, the day was moved from March 28 to Oct. 10 to encourage law students to start thinking about mental health issues earlier in the school year. A study conducted in the spring of 2014 among more than 3,000 law students found that 17 percent of law students screened positive for depression, 37 percent for anxiety and 21 percent reported thoughts of suicide. Forty-three percent reported binge-drinking habits as well. The ABA Journal reports that two upcoming webinars focused on well-being and recovery are planned for this week.
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ABA Launches Campaign to Improve Mental Health, Substance Abuse Issues Among Attorneys

The American Bar Association has launched a campaign targeting substance-use disorders and mental health issues among lawyers. The campaign, organized by the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession, is designed to address the profession’s troubling rates of alcohol and other substance-use disorders, as well as mental health issues. Recent studies have documented that lawyers struggle with these problems at levels substantially above both the general population and other highly educated professionals. The campaign’s goals are to raise awareness, facilitate a reduction in the incidence of problematic substance-use and mental health distress and improve lawyer well-being. The seven-point pledge identifies the core areas on which firms should focus and the concrete steps they should take as they seek to achieve those goals.
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CLE Yoga In the City

Relax your mind and enhance your meditation skills and earn up to 4 hours of dual credits with our new Yoga in the City CLE on Sept. 14. Held at the non-profit organization Against the Stream in East Nashville, participants will learn the benefits of meditation and yoga and how they can improve attorney well-being.
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Schedule Time to Read Email

A Tip from the TBA Attorney Well-Being Committee

Rather than checking on every e-mail as it arrives, schedule time in your calendar for reading and managing e-mail (and leave e-mail notifications silent during the other times of the day). This will enable you to have focused time for given tasks without constant interruption and distraction.

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A Wellness Tip from the Attorney Well-Being Committee

Consider waking 10 minutes earlier so you can incorporate a brief mindfulness meditation into your preparations for the day. Set a timer for 3-10 minutes (depending on how much time you feel you want to use). Begin by sitting in a relaxed and comfortable but dignified and upright position, with your spine and head aligned. Place both feet on the ground, with legs uncrossed, and rest your hands gently on your lap. Gently close your eyes and allow yourself to notice the sensation of sitting in the chair, of your feet on the ground, of your hands resting in your lap.
 
Gently bring your attention to your breath, slowly taking a deep breath in, pausing briefly, then slowly exhaling. Now repeat this twice and as you do so, observe your breath as it goes in your nostrils and as it exits your nostrils. Sense the flow of air as it moves in and out, and the space between breaths. You may notice the air feels cool as you inhale, but warmer as you exhale. 
 
Return to your normal breathing. Don’t try to change your breath, just continue to observe it, with a sense of curiosity.  Allow yourself to feel your body relax and yield to gravity as you sit quietly in your chair, focusing on your breath. Notice any tense areas in your body and with your next breath, imagine it as a cool breeze touching those areas holding tension and as you exhale, release the tension along with the breath. Continue observing your breath.
 
When thoughts or concerns arise – as they inevitably will – simply acknowledge their presence, without judgment or opinion, and let them pass by while you gently bring your attention back to your breath. There is no need to grab hold of any thought right now -- just allow your breath to guide you back to the present moment.  
 
Our minds will wander, as intrusive thoughts are constantly vying for our attention. When you realize this has happened, simply observe without judgment and gently guide your attention back to your breath. You might find it helpful to label the thought – “worry” “laundry” “clients” – then let it go and return to your breath. Although thoughts and feelings will come and go in the background, you can prevent them from highjacking your attention by simply acknowledging them without judgment, then gently returning to the breath and this present moment.
 

Julie Sandine is a graduate of Wake Forest School of Law. She serves as the Chair of the TBA Attorney Well-Being Committee.

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Balance Work and Play CLE

Do you feel tired and angry most of the time? Are you overwhelmed by work and family? Get your mojo back with tomorrow’s webcast, "Balance Work and Play 2: Finding your Moxie." This program offers 1-hour dual credit.
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TBA Well-Being Committee Points to Memphis

The TBA’s upcoming annual convention in Memphis was on the agenda for the TBA Attorney Well-Being Committee yesterday. Members are finalizing the Better Right Now CLE that will be held during the week's programming. See details here.
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'Girl Walks Out of a Bar' Author Interviewed at TBA

Lisa Smith, author of Girl Walks Out of a Bar, was recently interviewed by Nashville attorney Nancy Corley for the TBA’s Attorney Well Being Committee. Smith talked about her commitment to attorney well-being and shared her thoughts on challenges for today’s lawyers. Watch the full interview here.
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Bylaws Change Highlights TBA Commitment to Member Well-Being

The TBA Board of Governors this past week amended the organization’s bylaws to add five words that the TBA’s Well-Being Committee believes will deliver “a powerful and profound message, namely, that the organization cares about and will support individual members of our profession and their well-being.” The change makes the “well-being of the members” a part of the TBA’s purpose statement. The committee plans other initiatives to carry forward the message, including programming at the upcoming TBA Annual Convention in Memphis.

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Study Finds Lawyers Rank Highest on ‘Loneliness Scale’

In a new survey, lawyers outranked all other professional on a “loneliness scale” of more than 1,600 workers, the ABA Journal reports. Sixty-one percent of lawyers ranked above average on the scale, compared to 57 percent of engineers, 51 percent of workers in food service industry and 45 percent of workers in education services. The study was conducted partly by Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, a psychiatrist for the workplace consulting firm BetterUp.
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Law Firms Often Keep Quiet After Resignations From Misconduct

"There are many reasons why the #MeToo moment hasn’t fully crested in Biglaw yet," Above the Law writes, "and a big one is that law firms know how to conduct internal investigations," which they do with maximum discretion. This story reports on recent resignations from law firms after allegations of misconduct, and why keeping it quiet is not always in everyone's best interest.

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Former Nashville Judge Charged with Obstruction of Justice

Former Nashville Judge Casey Moreland was arrested today on new charges of obstruction of justice, The Tennessean reports. Moreland allegedly stole money from the Davidson County Drug Court Foundation and then tried to destroy the evidence. According to the charges, he is accused of tampering with evidence against him as recently as Feb. 13. Moreland is currently under FBI investigation over allegations that he assisted those in his court in exchange for sexual favors, travel and lodging.
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Lawyers Get No Mental Health Boost from Big Bucks, Study Shows

The mental health boost that usually comes with higher incomes is not making its way to lawyers in the U.S. and Canada, a new study finds. The ABA Journal reports that the study shows higher-status lawyers in both countries have more symptoms of depression than peers in the public sector and are no better off in terms of health. The study found that the larger the firm and the more high-paying the job, the more likely a lawyer was to have depressive symptoms. Overwork and work-life conflict were cited as reasons.

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New Journal: Divorce Law, Startling Stats on Addiction

The September Tennessee Bar Journal covers updates in divorce law, with details from B.J. Strickland about recent federal actions impacting military service members. Also, Family Matters columnists Marlene Eskind Moses and Ben Russ explain 2017 modifications to state child support laws. In perhaps one of the most important subjects, President Lucian Pera writes about recent studies showing how the legal profession has a much higher rate for addiction than other professions – and that those in the first 10 years of practice are most at risk. Pera offers startling statistics and helpful resources, suggesting that lawyers should be aware of warning signs and “if you see something, say something.”

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ABA Offers New Recommendations for Attorney Well-Being

A coalition of groups, including the American Bar Association Commission of Lawyer Assistance Programs, released a comprehensive report yesterday aimed at addressing the problem of substance use and mental health disorders of lawyers. The report includes recommendations on five central themes: identifying stakeholders and the role each can play in reducing the level of toxicity in the legal profession; eliminating the stigma associated with help-seeking behaviors; emphasizing that well-being is an indispensable part of a lawyer’s duty of competence; educating lawyers, judges and law students on lawyer well-being issues; and taking steps to change how law is practiced and how lawyers are regulated to instill greater well-being in the profession.
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Addiction, Mental Health Problems Plague Lawyers, Investigation Finds

A woman’s search for the cause of her ex-husband’s addictions — which eventually led to his death — prompted a deep dive into the addiction and mental health problems of attorneys in a New York Times investigation. The pressure and work culture of law firms, as well as the belief that “lawyers don’t go to rehab,” are all reasons a lot of lawyers suffer from addiction, the newspaper reports, noting that the primary subject of the article spent some of his last moments alive on a conference call, and among the attorneys who attended his funeral, many continued working right through the service, writing emails on their phones during the eulogy. 
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Vote for Your Favorite Book, Enter Your Fiction

Three finalists have been chosen for the seventh annual Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, and you can weigh in on which book should win. The prize was authorized by the late Harper Lee, and established in 2011 by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. Vote for your favorite among Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, Gone Again by James Grippando, or The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. While you are in book mode, send in your entry to the Tennessee Bar Journal's First Annual Fiction Competition. The deadline is May 31, so get to writing!

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Services Thursday for Lawyer, Artist Kaaren Engel

A celebration of the life of Kaaren Hirschowitz Engel, who died last week, will be Thursday at East Park, 700 Woodland St., Nashville, from 2 to 4 p.m. She was 55. A graduate of Emory University Law School, Engel practiced corporate health law before focusing her career on creative ventures. She was an artist and author, who practiced and taught yoga and meditation. Learn more about her in this recent profile from Nashville Arts Magazine.

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Memphis Law Brings Counselor to Downtown Campus

Starting this week, Dr. Kim Collins with the University of Memphis Counseling Center will provide downtown counseling services to law students on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The school reports that bringing a counselor to the law school has been a multi-year collaboration among law students and administrators. Initial appointments are available by calling the counseling center at 901-678-2068.

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Chattanooga Attorney Ordered to Undergo Mental Health Evaluation

After taking the witness stand and claiming “a whole lot of attorneys are out to hurt me,” Chattanooga lawyer Matthew Jack Fitzharris was deemed not competent to stand trial, the Times Free Press reports. Fitzharris was arrested in July for breaking into an elderly couple’s house and threatening to kill them. On the stand, he said an attorney tapped his phone, killed his close personal assistant, and killed the wife of a man he was representing. He also accused several Chattanooga attorneys and judges of conspiring against him. The Georgia court ordered him to complete a 90-day evaluation at a mental health facility. Until that review is finished, he will not be forced to answer any charge.

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Just Breathe: ‘Journal’ Shows Ways to Combat Stresses of Lawyering

A recent study shows more damning news on how lawyers are handling the pressures of the profession – more than a third of lawyers qualified as “problem drinkers” and about a quarter reported experiencing depression, anxiety or stress. These are higher rates than documented in earlier studies and more than in other professions. This issue of the Journal looks at ways some lawyers have beat that trend through mindfulness and meditation – and how you can, too. Plus, our book review of The Anxious Lawyer gives insight into the topic. Also in this issue, TBA President Jason Long writes about the necessary and important steps to embracing diversity. Read the September issue.

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Court Entities Publish Special Well-Being Report

The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility has published a special issue of its Board Notes newsletter to highlight the prevalence of substance abuse and mental health disorders among attorneys. The special issue is published in partnership with Tennessee's Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP), Board of Law Examiners and Commission on Continuing Legal Education. In an opening message, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins asks lawyers to consider the comprehensive scientific evidence of these issues as a wakeup call and call to action.

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