Time for Renewal and Reflection

April in Tennessee means spring is here. As we see our beautiful state come to life again, it is important that we as attorneys take the time to do the same. Our profession is tough enough. With the time pressures of clients, recent legislative changes, the need to make payroll and a host of other pressures, it is no wonder that exhaustion, depression and substance abuse are serious issues in our profession.

There is no shame in recognizing that we are human in a sometimes inhumane world. To be the kind of lawyers, spouses, parents, friends and people that we want to be, it is necessary to step back every now and then and actually smell the roses and heal up.

Many are concerned about the stigma of admitting that we need some time off or that we need help in one area or another. That is absolutely understandable. Just know that as a profession and as an association, we stand shoulder to shoulder with you. You don’t have to be alone in facing whatever you are facing. The Tennessee Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP) does great work and does it in private. Addressing issues before a client is harmed or before you suffer significant damage is the responsible and caring thing to do. Work with TLAP doesn’t have to mean a disciplinary referral. Unfortunately, far too many let problems fester to the point that they become a disciplinary problem. Don’t let that happen to you. Be caring enough and be professional enough to safeguard others while taking care of your own health.

Even if you aren’t facing a serious health issue like depression or substance abuse, it is important that we all just take the time to step away from it all. Change your phone message and leave an outgoing e-mail message to let folks know that you are unavailable for a few days. Then comes the hard part — actually turn off your cell and don’t check your e-mail.

You don’t have to be reachable 24 hours a day to be a great lawyer. Disconnect and rest. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll be able to think about that tough matter or how much more productive you will be. I recently met a lawyer who told me that he had not taken a vacation in more than three years! That’s just not healthy.

We all need a little time to renew. Rest, prayer and quiet time are all really important in any profession. In a stressful one like ours, they are doubly important. So, here’s to hoping that you will take the time to step away, pray, reflect and, if necessary, get help. We are here to help if we can and so is the Tennessee Lawyers’ Assistance Program. [To learn more about TLAP and its services, read “A Way Out,” in the July 2011 Tennessee Bar Journal, online at www.tba.org/journal/archive/2011-07.]


Danny Van Horn TBA President DANNY VAN HORN is a partner with Butler, Snow, O'Mara, Stevens and Cannada PLLC in Memphis.