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Georgia Bar Journal
December 2022, Vol. 28, No. 3

Attorney Wellness is the New Normal

During the first half of my term as president of the State Bar of Georgia, I have had the privilege of meeting with the leadership of and attending events associated with a wide variety of the Bar’s programs—some of which I had no connection to before I took office.

It’s been a great learning experience. For example, attorney wellness has not historically been a focus of mine. But now I have learned why the Bar’s continued emphasis on the physical and mental well-being of lawyers and judges is so important to our members.

We all live a life of service to our clients, colleagues, families and friends. It is increasingly necessary to add ourselves to that list. For a number of years, the Bar has offered a “Lawyers Living Well” program as a member benefit.

Overseen by our Attorney Wellness Committee, Lawyers Living Well seeks to promote health and wellness among Bar members and staff; identify factors that impact the physical and emotional well-being of attorneys; develop work/life balance CLE programs; increase awareness of existing Bar programs that deal with such issues; and accumulate information and educate members about wellness issues and resources.

While most people recognize the numerous benefits of physical fitness, many lawyers and judges find it difficult to squeeze exercise and wellness activities into their busy professional and personal lives. Our Georgia Lawyers Living Well website (www.lawyerslivingwell.org) offers a wealth of resources to help lawyers identify physical health activities they can start right away.

There are many opportunities for lawyers to participate in physical activities in our own home communities. These can include running, biking, golf, tennis, yoga, swimming, bowling or regular workouts at your local gym. Physical wellness also involves aspects of life that are necessary to keep yourself top condition. Optimal physical wellness is developed through the combination of beneficial physical activity/exercise and healthy eating habits. Our wellness website includes numerous tips, articles and links to help you get moving in the right direction.

Equally important to physical health is mental well-being. The Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) offers a 24-hour hotline for professional assistance and crisis counseling at 800-327-9631, as well as six prepaid clinical sessions per year with an independent, fully licensed counselor near your office or home. Both of these benefits are offered at no cost and are strictly confidential.

The LAP also provides a broad range of helping services to members seeking assistance with depression, stress, alcohol/drug abuse, family problems, workplace conflicts, and psychological and other issues. This includes referral to a wide range of public and private resources and community programs.

Our Georgia Lawyers Helping Lawyers initiative is a volunteer peer support program created by the Lawyer Assistance Program Committee to provide additional tools to members who might benefit from a peer to talk about difficulties in their lives. Peer support generally involves people sharing similar life experiences such as an illness, professional issue or some other life circumstance or struggle.

Peer support can take many forms: phone calls, text messaging, group meetings, individual meetings over a cup of coffee or a meal, going for walks together or other common activities. With peer support, there is no “one size fits all” approach or uniform strategy. Peer support is meant to complement and enhance other health care services by creating emotional, social and practice assistance. If you could benefit from peer support or would like to become a peer volunteer, visit the Lawyers Helping Lawyers website at www.georgialhl.org.

Our Suicide Awareness Campaign has a dual purpose, directed toward both lawyers and judges who are suffering from anxiety and depression and may be at risk for suicide, as well as any Bar members who need to recognize the severity of the problem and warning signs among their friends and colleagues. If you are thinking about suicide or are worried a friend may be contemplating suicide, immediate action is critical. Don’t wait: call the confidential LAP hotline at 800-327-9631 right now.

An example of the Bar’s enhanced commitment to the well-being of our members took place in September, when we offered our annual Wellness CLE program, “Wellness is the New Normal.” Attorney wellness is so important that we waived the customary $250 CLE fee for this session and refunded the fee to those who had already paid for their registration.

The response from Bar members was incredible. More than 1,400 Georgia lawyers and judges signed up for the Sept. 16 seminar, offered in person at the Bar Center in Atlanta and also remotely by livestream. The session featured more than a dozen presenters and offered six total hours of CLE credit, including one hour each of Ethics, Professionalism and Trial Practice.

The program topics, speakers and panelists included “Energy Plays into the Practice” with consultant Doug Leonard; “Selfcare and Wellness During Trial Prep” with Judge Amanda Flora; “Emotionally Intelligent Lawyers Make Better Decisions and More Money” with life coach Tara Simkins; “Wellness Real Talk: Duties to Ourselves and Our Clients” with Chinny Law, Alina Lee and Joy White; “Spiritual Well-Being in Action: Lawyering with Purpose, Joy and Intention” with Idara Bassey and Paul Knowlton; “Wellness & Ethics” with Bar General Counsel Paula Frederick; and “Judicial Wellness: Keeping the Balance” with Judges Shondeana Crews Morris, Render Heard, Matthew McCord and Alvin Wong.

I want to publicly thank program Co-Chairs Paul Knowlton and Candice McKinley and subcommittee members William Monahan, Avarita Hanson, Sam Skelton, Edwin Cook and Tara Simkins for their superb efforts to spearhead this event, and Attorney Wellness Committee Chair Javoyne Hicks for her outstanding leadership of the Lawyers Living Well initiative. The decision to offer the CLE at no charge is one of the best investments the Bar has made toward taking care of our members.

The Georgia Lawyers Living Well website also provides a calendar of upcoming wellness events, such “Wellness Connections: The Power of Breath,” a breathwork program scheduled for Jan. 31 and hosted by Attorney Wellness Committee members Plamen Russev and Adam Fort at Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein in Atlanta. To sign up or get more information, email lizphrampus@parkerpoe.com.

Stay tuned for more news related to our lawyer wellness program in the months ahead.