Burnout: It’s real and it can affect all of us. In this episode, Dave invites a panel of experts to tackle this important and potentially damaging syndrome as it affects attorneys who volunteer their time in a pro bono setting. The demands never seem to end, but volunteering is meant to “fill your cup,” not overflow it.
A Bloomberg survey found burnout is a major problem, and it’s getting worse among attorneys. For the first time the survey found reports of attorney burnout exceeded 50%. Reports of wellbeing and job satisfaction are in decline too. But it’s not just in corporate practice, burnout affects those who want to volunteer. With so much need it’s easy to forget you’re only one person, and you can’t do it all.
How can we get involved in pro bono work without burning out? It can start with being aware of the syndrome, adjusting our workflow to the right level, adopting “virtual” programs to balance time, sharing the load, and focusing on areas of passion.
Learn to recognize the signs of burnout in the pro bono space and how you can help yourself, and others, deal with stress and feeling overwhelmed. And for all who volunteer their services to help others: Thank you.
Special thanks to our
Dave Scriven-Young: Hello everyone and welcome to Litigation Radio. I’m your host, Dave Scriven-Young. I’m a commercial and environmental litigator in the Chicago office of Peckar & Abramson which is recognized as the largest law firm serving the construction industry, with 115 lawyers and 11 offices around the US. On this show, we talk to the country’s top litigators and judges to discover best practices in developing our careers, winning cases, getting more clients, and building a sustainable practice. Please be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite podcasting app to make sure you’re getting updated with future episodes. This podcast is brought to you by the litigation section of the American Bar Association. It’s where I make my home in the ABA. The Litigation Section provides litigators of all practice areas the resources we need to be successful advocates for our clients. Learn more at ambar.org/litigation. According to a Bloomberg survey of over 600 in-house and law firm attorneys, respondents felt burnout about 52% of the time in their practice areas, and this was a higher percentage from the two previous quarters, and also was the first time since the survey’s 2020 inception that attorney burnout reached more than 50%.
Respondents also felt that their general wellbeing worsened, and about 46% of them reported that their wellbeing worsened significantly from the previous 34% and 30% in the two previous quarters, respectively. Those who reported worsened wellbeing also reported a lower job satisfaction score. So in this time of burnout, leaders of law firms, governments, nonprofit agencies, corporations, and bar leaders need strategies to engage and inspire their employees and volunteers. So let me introduce our panel of guests who will help us to discuss these issues. And first, let me welcome back Anne Geraghty Helms to the show. She is Director and Counsel of the US Pro Bono Programs at DLA Piper and is responsible for helping to develop, lead and manage the firm’s pro bono program in the United States. Anne concentrates her own practice on juvenile and criminal justice issues and since joining DLA Piper in 2006, has helped to develop and has herself worked on a number of initiatives in this area.
Now, though she’s principally focused on juvenile and criminal justice issues, Anne has also worked on a range of initiatives that touch on pro bono and access to justice issues, including helping to found and manage the firm’s free legal clinic in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago. Anne, welcome back to the show.
Anne Geraghty Helms: Thanks so much for having me. Glad to be here.
Dave Scriven-Young: And our second guest is Cathy Krebs. She’s the director of the ABA Litigation Section’s Children’s Rights Litigation Committee. Cathy works with leaders and members of the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee to implement the ambitious agenda of the committee, which includes policy issues, programs, and providing technical support to lawyers starting children’s programs. Prior to her position with the committee, she worked at the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, providing legal representation to children and child welfare and education cases. Cathy, welcome to the show.
Cathy Krebs: Thanks, Dave. Great to be here.
Dave Scriven-Young: And finally, we have Angela Vigil. She’s a partner at Baker & McKenzie and executive director of the firm’s pro bono practice. She focuses her practice on children’s law, civil rights and human rights and prior to joining the firm, Angela worked for the Children and Family Justice Center Bluhm Legal Clinic of the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law as a director of Children’s Law Pro bono Projects, where she led strategic litigation and advocacy on behalf of children. Angela, welcome to the show.
Angela Vigil: Thanks so much, Dave.
Dave Scriven-Young: Okay, so let’s talk about burnout and what we can so let’s I think it would be helpful for everyone to kind of define what burnout is. So, Cathy, let’s start with you.
Cathy Krebs: So the World Health Organization defines burnout as a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It’s characterized by three dimensions. First are feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion. Second, increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job. And three, reduced professional efficacy. So I think what’s important to remember here is burnout is actually focused on work. It’s how we’re feeling at work and not how we’re feeling in our personal lives.
Dave Scriven-Young: And how do we see that burnout manifest itself? We have law firm leaders as well as a leader within the ABA and I know Angela and Anne, you both have significant pro bono practices. So how do you see that burnout manifest itself in your in volunteers that you see? So, Angela, let’s start with you.
Angela Vigil: I get to live inside the world of law firms, but also inside the world of public interest organizations, legal aid, et cetera, a lot like Anne does.
And I think that we’ve seen that post pandemic. It is this sort of feeling of, “will I really get anywhere if I take on this volunteer project? Will I be able to finish it?” Or will some other thing happen that makes us not at work as much or not be able to accomplish things, but we also see it in our public interest partners as well. It’s just a real challenge to think about the many things that have to be accomplished and the burdens that people had to carry through the pandemic that just are just making all of us sort of feel like, “am I going to be able to get anywhere in these challenges?” I think it’s probably important to point out, though, too, that we are talking about a community of people that either pro bono or more heroically, full time public interest lawyers are taking on great big challenges to begin with. So it wasn’t an easy task before you got into this sort of feeling of post pandemic. I’m just not sure how high the water is going to rise tomorrow sort of feeling. What do you think?
Dave Scriven-Young: I mean, I was going to say, I think even in the ABA you have similar combination where you have some folks who are interested in getting involved in volunteering to kind of help them pursue what they want in their career if they’re in a law firm. But then you also see folks, especially within the litigation section, who are really interested in the public service aspect of it, either working on different policy issues, helping out with pro bono issues as well. Cathy, I know that you work a lot with volunteers within the ABA, so how are you seeing burnout manifest itself?
Cathy Krebs: Yeah, absolutely. I would go back to that definition we started with and the first dimension as part of the definition, which is feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion. And I’m really seeing that I’ve worked with volunteers for a long time, and I’m seeing that exhaustion and exactly what Angela was talking about, the fear of taking on another burden, the fear of not being able to follow through. And it’s just a little harder to engage volunteers, a little more hard now than it has been in the past.
Dave Scriven-Young: Got it and Anne, how have you seen it?
Anne Geraghty Helms: Yeah, well, I think a lot of your listeners I mean, obviously Angela and I are both in a position where we’re constantly asking people to help out on pro bono matters. But I think a lot of your listeners are either asking or looking for volunteers in a lot of ways or being asked to volunteer, whether it’s on a pro bono matter or perhaps you’re looking for an associate to work on a case with you. You’re looking for a partner to supervise you. You are in your personal capacity, perhaps being asked to volunteer at your school, your church, what have you. And so I think what I see is potentially a little bit of some of this volunteer ask overload where people were being asked so often and in so many ways that perhaps the volunteers shut down a little bit. And end up kind of creating bright line rules almost as a matter of self-protection, where they have to just say no to everything so that they can establish some boundaries or I think even worse, sometimes you see people say yes and then kind of disappear. So I think maybe, hopefully we can talk about some strategies for asking people to be obviously thoughtful in creating boundaries, but also think about where they can say yes and how saying yes can be really productive and positive for them.
Dave Scriven-Young: Yeah, I love that and Angela, I think you talked about in the very beginning of your comments the pandemic and how that has affected people. And it’s not something I had really thought about, which is taking on a project and then not knowing if you’re going to be able to complete it because of something that comes up. And that could be another pandemic. It could be a job loss, it could be a number of things. But that’s a really interesting point that you raised, and I’m sure it has affected a lot of people where they are interested in getting involved, but they just don’t know if they are going to be able to complete the project.
Angela Vigil: I think it’s a good point, Dave. I think we’ve also seen there’s a lot of study and thought about how people are interacting with each other differently since the pandemic. I hear a lot of incredibly engaging, very outgoing personalities saying, because we were at home so long, doing things out among other people is more exhausting for me than it used to be. So I have to think about my energy level and my engagement level a lot more than I did before as well. And a lot of these opportunities, especially when you’re talking about litigators, are about leading and talking and doing court cases and the kinds of things that really are depleting energy that we now have, maybe a more sober understanding of just how much we use when we do this kind of engagement.
Dave Scriven-Young: Just curious, because I do some pro bono practice, but obviously not at an agency and certainly not at a big law firm. But I’m wondering how the pandemic has changed pro bono practice, because oftentimes when you think about pro bono practice.
You’re thinking about meeting with a client, typically in-person and you’re going to court typically in-person to try to get something resolved for your client. And now at least I practice a lot in Cook County, where a lot of cases are still being done by Zoom. In my understanding, a lot of federal court is still being done by the telephone. So, just curious, Angela or Anne, how do you think that the pandemic has affected folks’ interest or ability to do the kind of pro bono work that they’ve done in the past? Anne, why don’t we start with you?
Anne Geraghty Helms: I think it’s had both positives and negatives for pro bono and for the clients that we serve. In some ways, having the option to participate virtually has opened up a whole new world of pro bono for people who may have been more constrained by time or other responsibilities. So we’d see people really willing to sign up for an online clinic in a way that might have been hard for them to get somewhere in-person. And the same is true for our clients. A lot of times, if clients can participate in Zoom court or in a Zoom attorney-client meeting, they don’t have to take a day off of work or find childcare, and that can be huge for them. It can make all the difference. The same time, I think you lose some of the personal connection that you have with your client and your client with you and that is a real loss. And there are times when it makes more sense to be in-person. And I think what I’m seeing more and more and maybe, Angela, you can disagree or agree with me, is that people actually are looking for in-person pro bono opportunities these days because they are looking for ways to connect.
Angela Vigil: I think that’s right. I think everybody’s looking for more ways to connect and really realizing the value of connection at the same time as understanding that it takes a lot out of us. But I take your point really well, Anne. I’m a big proponent of let’s get back into live courts, especially for poverty law, humanity law, family law kind of cases. I think it’s a real challenge for people who are already on an uphill battle because they’re trying to keep from being evicted or they’re trying to obtain an order of protection. And it’s hard to put together that evidence or they’re in children’s court, like many of my clients are to be able to bring forward their humanity, their real circumstances, if they’re in these Zoom courts. And I think that’s a really big challenge for the lawyers as well. It’s like adding this other level on this uphill battle, for sure. But I also think that one of the great things that has been conveyed to me in so many different parts of the bar and certainly parts of the section and the American Bar Association is how much the pandemic made privileged people realize how privileged they are and how much harder it was a struggle and continues to be a struggle for different folks from different circumstances and different backgrounds. And that does inspire people to say, “my gosh, my kids are not — my kids feel like they’re a little bit behind.” Imagine how it was for kids under these circumstances. I want to help out. I’ll roll up my sleeves and try to help if I can.
Dave Scriven-Young: And Cathy coming at it from an ABA perspective litigation section. I mean, a lot of the reason that I’m involved and a lot of people are involved is that kind of in-person connection that we get at these conferences and we certainly had a long time where we weren’t doing that because of the pandemic and now we’re kind of getting back into it. And for me, it’s been — I wouldn’t say a challenge, but an adaptation, kind of remembering what that’s like and how to act and all that sort of thing, getting the suit out and wearing that to the conferences. So what are you seeing from a borough association leader side in terms of kind of getting back into the swing of things from the pandemic and folks that are facing burnout as a result?
Cathy Krebs: I think that people are maybe in some ways a little slower to engage with the ABA because it’s their volunteer work. And so they’re maybe focused as we were talking before about their families, their practice. But I also think as we begin to come together in-person and draw together again, we’re reminded why so many people get involved with the ABA in the first place and that is the work. The work is so meaningful and so important and also the people, the relationships, the friendships that people have. I was just in a convening yesterday in Chicago, and just that feeling of how good it was to be together in a room and to be able to talk through issues and see each other face to face and connect. That is really one of the real strengths, I think, of the ABA and one of the reasons that people continue to be involved.
Dave Scriven-Young: Okay, so I think we’ve talked a lot about kind of the problems and set up context for burnout. Now let’s talk a little bit about strategies for how law firm leaders, pro bono practice leaders, and bar association leaders can help to kind of inspire volunteers, inspire their employees to do the work that they want to do and so, Anne, I think we’ll start with you for our first tip.
Anne Geraghty Helms: I think starting from a place of making volunteering something that fills up your volunteers’ cup rather than adding extra burden or depleting them is a good mindset to have and I think there are a lot of different ways that people who are organizing or leading volunteers can do that. You can think about how to build community and connection with the volunteers that you’re having. Cathy mentioned this great convening yesterday. I was there with her. We sat down for a meal afterwards. Obviously we got a lot of work done at the meeting, but we also had time to relax a little bit and connect and celebrate once we had finished that in-person meeting and that made us all, I think, feel pretty good and so making some time for those kinds of personal connections and making the volunteer opportunity more human are important. Take time to do things like extend personal invitations. I can get a no from a lot of people. It’s easy to ignore an email if I send it a blast email to 100 people asking for help with something. It’s a little harder to say no if I extend a personal invitation. And more than just making it harder, it actually makes people feel good when you think of them. I have a lot of people who say, thank you for thinking of me when I do reach out to somebody individual and say, “I think this pro bono case would be a really good one for you because of XYZ skill set or interest that you have” it shows that I’m thinking about them as a person.
Invite people to work together in teams. Offer that opportunity for people to get to know each other and connect with one another, and then also think about what other boxes it might check for them, maybe from a business perspective for example, I think a lot about when I’m putting pro bono teams together. Maybe there’s a partner that the associates always wanted to work with, and this partner could supervise them on a pro bono case. That’s a really good opportunity for the associate and hopefully the partner, too or maybe they can develop a skill through their practice or an experience that they wouldn’t have otherwise and that’s a really good reason to say yes to a volunteer opportunity and hopefully makes them feel good about the opportunity overall.
Dave Scriven-Young: Yeah. For me, kind of the social aspect is really important and not something that I focused on as a young lawyer. I kind of had that type A personality who just wants to get right down to work and once you do the work, then you move on to the next thing. But then making sure that you’re taking time to decompress and get to know the people that you’re working with makes it more enjoyable and certainly makes you want to do more and to come back — to the really love really love that aspect of it. So why don’t we go to Cathy then, for our next tip?
Cathy Krebs: Yeah, my tip would be connecting what you’re asking people to do with what’s important to them and what they’re passionate about. And I think this really builds on what you and Anne just talking about, which is you can’t connect what you’re asking them to do with what’s important to them if you don’t know them, right? And so you really do need to take that time. If somebody wants to get involved with the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee, the first thing I do is ask for a call, get on that call and talk to them about what they’re excited about. Do they love to write? Is there a substantive area of the committee they’re really excited about? What is it that they want to do? And then we really try to build opportunities around that passion and what I found is that while I still sometimes have to remind people about deadlines and things like that, but I don’t have to really harass them for an article they’re writing, for example, because they’re excited to write it.
It’s something that they’ve chosen. It’s something that they want to spend time on and so they do, and they feel good about it. What I’ve also found is that when you frame volunteer work in this way, it’s also a real way to address burnout for your volunteers. I’ve had so many people who’ve been involved in my committee come back and say, “you know the work I’ve done with the ABA, the work I’ve done with your committee. It’s helped me address my burnout. It reminded me why I went to law school. It’s helped me really engage in even my daily practice.” I think both. I think this tip can help us engage lawyers, but it also can help our volunteers address their own burnout.
Dave Scriven-Young: Great tips and we’ll turn to Angela then.
Angela Vigil: I agree with all these great tips and try to use them every day. I would add to them this idea of celebrating volunteers. I think one of the things that the pandemic did teach us is that we think a little bit more about other people’s circumstances. We don’t just assume everyone’s sort of handling things great and that maybe they’re having a challenging day or maybe there’s some other things falling apart and so you just don’t ever know how much the tiniest little atta boy, atta girl, great job is to somebody who’s donated a little bit of their time or a ton of their time. And I would say that the more that you can combine that with Anne’s point of individual outreach, an individual handwritten thank you note.
I don’t know about you, but the ones that people have sent me over the course of my career, I have almost all of them because it means so much that they took the personal time to say that what I did was valuable to them, and so what they’re doing is really valuable to me. I can’t recommend enough to not only just do shout-outs as much as possible in whatever way, but also to think about doing thank you some of the old fashioned ways, starting a new call, saying, “by the way, since the last call, three different people have done all this great work on this project. Thanks so much” and then moving on or starting with a handwritten note that just goes out even after a project is done, to say, “hey, the time and effort that you gave here really matters.”
I think that’s also true for projects where some pro bono work and some work at the ABA is direct involvement with the recipients and the beneficiaries of that work but a lot of it is things like policies and drafting articles and doing some research and creating services online, so you don’t actually ever get to see the person you’re doing the work for receive it and appreciate it. So those of us organizing it and recruiting people have to be the thank you for those ultimate recipients and say that what they did matters and doing that with an individual touch is such a good idea. I’ll also share another sort of related tip, is that we have thought about new platforms for volunteering, right? The world has changed a little bit, so let’s make the ways we have people engage and volunteer change a little bit. For example, at my firm, we started a sprint, a virtual four-hour sprint, pro bono sprint we call Justice in Action during the pandemic and it was a way for everybody to jump on a Zoom, get trained and work on something for a few hours and help us create resources.
In this case, for children that needed access to things like legal services for homeless youth or an understanding of the criminal justice system for kids who come into contact with law enforcement. I was surprised to see that even as the pandemic has sunseted or is sunsetting, depending on what’s going on when you’re hearing this, people really like that model. They like to come in with this. I’m just going to come in for a few hours work, and then I will be done with my commitment. Maybe for this month or this quarter, and I’ll comeback in a few months and I can get fantastic work out of people that is really appreciated and the public interest partners that we work with really need just by thinking a little bit more creatively and maybe even innovatively, if I can use a term that’s probably overused. On how it is that the volunteers will be best suited to give what they can give right now under what are a little bit of different circumstances as the world readjusts after the big change we’ve been through.
Dave Scriven-Young: Really interesting and I wonder kind of as our next question for the three of you, thinking about it from a volunteer perspective. I’m almost 45 years old, going through what I like to term a midlife opportunity. So I’m doing a lot of different things in my life outside of the law and inside of the law. And one of the things that people think about is doing pro bono work. And there are so many different options to do pro bono within the ABA, within their law firms, et cetera. But they don’t know exactly what types of service would be right for them but they want to try things out and I think, you know, sometimes that leads people to get involved maybe too deep into a project where they come up for error and they think, “you know what, this really isn’t right for me.” But they don’t want to kind of leave their supervisor, their friend, in the lurch on the project. So kind of thinking about it from the start of getting involved in pro bono, what are somethings that volunteers should be thinking about as they kind of get started in this process? So, Anne, why don’t we start back with you?
Anne Geraghty Helms: Well, I think those are excellent points, and I would say a couple of things. One, advocate for yourself and be clear upfront about what you’re looking for and what kind of time you have. I can tell you that as somebody who recruits volunteers regularly, I really appreciate that somebody saying, I can help with this, but I can’t help with that. It sets clear expectations up front and it means I’m not going to come back and ask them for something that they can’t do. I think second of all, is to ask for help. And if you work at a firm that has a pro bono counsel like Angela or me, we always, always want you to come to us if you feel like things are getting out of control or you’re feeling overwhelmed because we are there to help. A good volunteer leader should be someone who is also an advocate for you and who is willing to help you get through and get through so that you can do the best offer your client the best kind of service possible.
And if you’re at a firm that doesn’t have someone like us, there should be others within your firm or in your world who you can reach out to. Perhaps it’s a legal aid lawyer who might be able to give you some guidance. There’s always someone who can help you along the way because I think at the end of the day, most people doing pro bono work just want to do good for their clients, and that’s what it’s all about.
Dave Scriven-Young: Sure and Cathy, any follow up on that?
Cathy Krebs: I would just say if a volunteer is wondering where to start to think about, again, linking it back to my tip from before, what are you passionate about? What do you love to do? Do you love to write, but you don’t really get to do it in your daily practice? Is there an injustice in the world that just makes you upset, makes you passionate? Really you just want to get involved? There’s probably an organization in your community that might need help. I guarantee there’s probably an entity inside the American Bar Association working on whatever the issue is. Find those organizations. Find those places that are working on the things that are exciting for you and see if you can learn about their work and see if there’s a way you can contribute.
Dave Scriven-Young: Got it and finally, Angela.
Angela Vigil: Cathy’s right. Whether it’s the center for Public Interest Law, the Commissions on Domestic and Sexual Violence, the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, all of the ABA entities are very much engaged with local organizations in that space, too. So there’s just always somewhere to turn to at the ABA. My biggest additional tip would be teams, teams, teams, teams, teams. Anything that you can do, not alone, but with a pal or even better with a couple of friends is going to make for better work product because all your different brains will be put together to be more creative and come up with more ingenious solutions to sometimes challenging problems. I think we look at a project and say, “oh, this is going to take me six or eight hours. I’ll just get this done. But if you divide that six or eight hours between two people and even if it becomes nine hours between split between two people, the work product is going to benefit from other brains. Not to mention you’ll feel like you have company. You’ll feel like if an emergency happens, we’re not going to let down the pro bono client because there’ll always be one of us here. And if you think about different people, have different experiences from different parts of the law or even different disciplines, and that makes for not just more hands make better work, but more hands make better work product for public interest organizations and the pro bono clients that need us the most.
Dave Scriven-Young: Great tips. Unfortunately, we’re coming to the end of our time together, so wanted to get some last thoughts from each of you before we do that, though, Cathy, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee. Tell us more about kind of if someone wanted to get involved on the committee, how they would do that and some of the work that you all do.
Cathy Krebs: Absolutely. Thanks for the opportunity. So the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee, which is of course, part of the litigation section, we were created to address the underrepresentation of children in all aspects of the legal system and we do all kinds of things. We have a really robust newsletter and practice points, we do in-person and webinar trainings. We work on policy and if you’re interested in getting involved, you absolutely can you can reach out to me personally. Angela and Anne can tell you what it’s like to be a volunteer because they are longtime volunteers with the committee and have been very involved and done lots of amazing work with us but it’s an amazing group of people and we do really fun work and we really do try to find opportunities and projects that make sense for our volunteers and that it’s work that they’re excited to do.
Dave Scriven-Young: Great and what’s the best way to reach out to you about the committee?
Cathy Krebs: You’re welcome to email me [email protected].
Dave Scriven-Young: Perfect. All right, so last thoughts regarding any of these topics. We’ll start with Anne.
Anne Geraghty Helms: I think I would go back to my original point. Think of volunteering as a way to fill your cup, not as not as something else that’s going to weigh you down. Choose your volunteer opportunities and the people that you volunteer with accordingly, and use it as a way to grow, to learn and feel better about your practice.
Dave Scriven-Young: All righty, and we’ll turn to Angela next.
Angela Vigil: I think if any of us feel like the world is changing really quickly, you can imagine how fast it’s changing for those that have the fewest resources and the least access to ways to address those changes. So whatever it is that might be your interest, maybe it’s how AI is affecting the housing industry. Maybe it’s how foster care is evolving and facing the challenges of fewer and fewer places that kids can live safely. Just whatever it is that drives you. It is a time right now of great challenge for a lot of vulnerable communities across this country. No matter where you are, they need all of us. So even if you think to yourself, well, I only have a couple of hours I might be able to spare, or I’m sure other people could do it better, so I’ll just let other people fill in the gaps.
We need everyone and even a couple of hours will make a really big difference to somebody who needs you most.
Dave Scriven-Young: So true and finally, we’ll turn to Cathy for your last thoughts.
Cathy Krebs: Absolutely. Building on what Angela said, of course the need is great, but I would really encourage all of us, everybody on this call to find volunteer work, find work that really brings you joy and really strengthens your connections. It really is about the people, and I think the American Bar Association in particular, it’s about the people and the relationships and the friendships and that really does help fill your cup, as Anne said.
Dave Scriven-Young: Anne Helms, Cathy Krebs, Angela Vigil, all of all three of you ladies inspire me and inspire our listeners and again, just one of the many reasons why I’m involved and make my home in the ABA Litigation Section. So thank you so much for being on.
Cathy Krebs: Thank you.
Anne Geraghty Helms: Thanks.
Dave Scriven-Young: Thank you to Disco for sponsoring Litigation Radio. Disco makes the law work better for everyone with cutting edge solutions that leverage AI, cloud computing, and data analytics to help legal professionals accelerate e-discovery and document review. Learn more as csdisco.com and now it’s time for a quick tip from the ABA litigation section Mental Health and Wellness Task Force. And I’d like to welcome Chisa Putman for her first tip on the podcast. Chisa is a prosecutor and senior solicitor in the city of Rock Hill, South Carolina. She previously served as chief magistrate judge in York County, South Carolina. Welcome to the show, Chisa.
Chisa Putman: Hey, Dave. Thank you for having me.
Dave Scriven-Young: Of course and I understand you’re going to talk about how to get through tough times in your life. So what’s your quick tip for today?
Chisa Putman: Yes. So what do you do when everything’s falling apart around you and you still have to practice law? You have to figure out how to make one work so that you can get through life, right? So first you have to talk to higher power. Whatever or whoever you answer to, you first have to talk to that power. Then you have to take the next step to speak with a licensed professional to help you understand. One, you have to react to the issues, and two, you have to control the way you choose to handle them. You must be willing to let your guard down. You have to be willing to speak freely and be vulnerable. You must be willing to go against what’s considered normal and in some cultures specifically, I know in the African American culture, seeking mental health assistance specifically was unheard of and it wasn’t even an option. And it wasn’t because professionals didn’t exist, but it was because it was seen as having a lack of faith and if you have or had a problem, you pray on it. And the only person you discuss your problems with was God. And I rely personally, I rely heavily on my faith. But I disagree that with the mindset of the extent, to the extent that you only go to God because God gives you individuals to help you.
We have doctors and we all know that we have lawyers because that’s our profession. We also have mental health therapists and counselors and because I recognized I needed help, I had to look past what others may have thought about in regards to seeking help from mental health professionals and I had to muster up enough courage in myself to be vulnerable and let my guard down and I admit that it was not easy at first, but the more I shared, the better I felt and the better person that I became. So now personally, I see a mental health professional counselor every other week and it’s really changed my life. And my decision has made me a better mother, a better friend, and a better person.
So my advice to you and to anybody else who feels the weight of the world is pressing down on them, and if you feel that you’re going to break and you don’t know how much more you can take, my advice is just to stop. Take a break from the world, from the drama, the stress of work, friends, pressure, all the activities that we seem to continue to take on on a daily basis. We need to learn to say no, take a break, make an appointment to speak with a counselor or a therapist. Now me personally, I utilize my company’s EAP program, but I realize that a lot of us are part of firms. So take a look at your firm or your company’s EAP program. I understand a lot of the state bar associations also have a program, so you can look into those programs. And all of the programs are at no cost to the party in need. And if you’re not sure where to start, you can reach out to your state bar association to find out what resources they offer. If that doesn’t work, reach out to your company’s benefits department to see what services are available through your job. Reach out to your company to see what other services may be available. There are resources out there, but the first step is that you have to be willing to acknowledge that you do need assistance.
And you need to be willing to be vulnerable to seek that assistance and if you’re listening to this and you don’t know what to do, just be willing to seek assistance and if you can’t find anybody else to talk with, you can call me. If nothing else, I’m a good listener and I will help you reach out to someone. Take care of yourself and remember, all will be well.
Dave Scriven-Young: Wonderful and thank you so much for being here today.
Chisa Putman: Thank you for having me.
Dave Scriven-Young: Well, that’s all we have for our show today, and I’d love to hear your thoughts about today’s episode. If you have comments or a question you’d like for me to answer on an upcoming show, you can contact me at [email protected] and connect with me on Social. I’m @attorneydsy on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. You can also connect with the ABA Litigation Section on those platforms as well but as much as I’d like to connect with you online, nothing beats meeting you in-person at one of our next litigation section events. So please make plans to join us at the Women in Litigation Joint CLE Conference in San Diego, taking place November 1 through the third. Join us as we highlight women leading for success in the courtroom, in the judiciary, and in the profession. Programming will focus on trial skills, insurance litigation, products liability litigation, and securities litigation. Connect with leading litigators, judges and in-house counsel from around the country. To find out more and for registration info, go to ambar.org/litigateher that’s litigate H-E-R.
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