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Being mindful of your wellness

August 09, 2019

Last month, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel featuring bencher Orlando Da Silva and Doron Gold, a staff clinician with the Law Society’s Member Assistance Program (MAP). The panel discussion took place at the Law Society’s “14th Solo and Small Firm Conference” and was titled “Tips for Maximizing Work/Life Balance.”

The panelists outlined both the challenges and opportunities for wellness that accompany solo and small firm practice. Mr. Da Silva shared his personal experience with mental health issues and stressed the need to eliminate the stigma around it. While he is encouraged by the growing prevalence of this topic in legal circles, he pointed out that more work needs to be done before mental health stigma is eradicated, and invited us all to be agents of change on this front.

Mr. Gold spoke about wellness matters that are of particular importance to the solo and small firm community. He noted that many practitioners in these settings report feeling isolated in their professional and personal lives. They also feel overworked due to an internalized pressure to never reject a new client. He, alongside Mr. Da Silva, offered several tips and strategies to promote wellness on a personal and structural level.

On a personal level, Mr. Da Silva shared a key tip for resiliency, which involves keeping a small card of notable accomplishments in your wallet to review when engaged in negative self-criticism. As an example, he mentioned how reading over his card right before a high pressure situation allowed him to center himself and re-focus on his work.

Many practitioners in the room reported similar techniques, such as keeping a folder of “thank you” and “job well done” notes, as well as cards from clients and others in an easily accessible location. An important takeaway from the group discussion that followed was the importance of keeping “evidence” of your accomplishments in order to counteract negative thoughts of “not being good enough.”

On a structural level, Mr. Gold emphasized the importance of community. He noted the basic, human need for connection, and how certain practice settings can make this harder to achieve. He advised that reaching out to others is a key element in the wellness wheelhouse, and highlighted the various resources offered by the MAP, including counselling services and peer volunteers.

Mr. Gold also highlighted the Law Society’s Coach and Advisor Network (CAN) as a valuable resource for wellness and connecting with other peers from the professions. This is especially useful for solo and small firms, where a practitioner may not have the opportunity to walk down the hall and knock on the door of a colleague. As manager of the CAN program myself, I wholeheartedly agree.

The CAN program offers opportunities for meaningful connection in a professional context by providing lawyers and paralegals access to short-term, outcome-oriented relationships with Coaches and Advisors from across the professions. CAN has focused on the practice of cultivating and maintaining resilience since its inception, and has recruited a slate of volunteers, many of whom are interested in coaching Participants around work-life balance issues. In February of this year, CAN hosted a workshop titled “You are More Resilient than You Think,” and later in June, volunteers got together for a summer solstice mix and mingle. Joining a community of legal professionals committed to personal growth can be a key element in a practitioner’s wellness strategy.

There is no doubt that practitioners in solo and small firms face wellness challenges that are felt broadly across the legal professions, as well as specific to their practice settings. This panel discussion highlighted the wide range of resources available to Ontario lawyers and paralegals to promote and practise wellness.

How are you doing on your professional journey? Consider CAN and our programming as one tool available to you as you reflect on your own wellness strategy.

Jennifer Quito is Counsel and Team Manager in the Law Society’s Practice Supports and Resources department. She is responsible for the oversight of the CAN program. Jennifer looks forward to connecting with CAN volunteers and creating new opportunities to engage with the professions.

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