Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 20
Courtesy of Arent Fox LLP
"Most if not all of us at our firm would believe
we don't have these problems like the rest of the
industry. But that doesn't make sense. There is
no reason that any firm should be separated by
the dynamics and pressures in our industry."
Partner, Arent Fox
"When I found out about the Lawyer Assistance Program, I thought it was
only really for people struggling with substance abuse issues, but it turns out
you can go in for any kind of issue and it's completely confidential and free,"
Bobbie says. "I'm a nonprofit lawyer and, in general, it is hard to afford most
anything. So, it's just been a really great resource for me."
"The thing that was most surprising to me is it really is completely confidential. I was terrified of going into the D.C. Bar and seeing someone I knew, and
I never have. That, to me, was the scariest part because there is such a stigma
and you don't really want to see anyone you know when you are going to
therapy, especially the people who hold your license. It's amazing, though
- once you get up to where the actual counseling offices are, it's completely
secure. It's not connected to anything else," Bobbie says.
LAW FIRMS STEPPING UP
More and more, law firms are beginning to take steps to help their attorneys
cope. The LAP counselors recently were asked to consult with Arent Fox LLP,
a 335-attorney firm, on developing a wellness program for employees.
Mental health "is not talked about openly in law firms," says David Dubrow,
a partner at Arent Fox in New York and chair of the firm's Associate
"We surmised that most people in our firm - and it's probably true of most
firms - think it's not a problem because it is underground. It is not out in
the open. Most if not all of us at our firm would believe we don't have these
problems like the rest of the industry. But that doesn't make sense. There is
no reason that any firm should be separated by the dynamics and pressures
in our industry. And so, we really have to address this," Dubrow says.
Dubrow started Arent Fox's initiative by fostering an open dialogue with
associates, acknowledging that workplace pressures in the legal profession
can contribute to mental illness and addictions. The firm created confidential
channels for associates to talk to partners to get help. Yoga and Pilates classes
were offered at its New York office on a trial basis, giving people an opportunity to address stress in the office.
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* JANUARY 2018
While Arent Fox already was offering a free counseling program for people
struggling with depression, marriage problems, and family issues, the
firm reemphasized communication of that benefit, making sure the 1-800telephone number was visible in break rooms. Following associates' suggestions, employees were provided a list of private therapists who accept Arent
Fox's insurance and are located within half a mile of the firm's offices.
"This is something we are committed to rolling out over a period of time,"
Dubrow says of Arent Fox's wellness program. "We want to set a healthier
context for people's professional lives."
The legal community is full of high-pressure jobs filled by people struggling
to balance the demands of family, self, and career. Performing well at work
means maintaining good mental health, and that, in turn, requires an awareness of multiple physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and a consistent
effort to take care of all of them. That means tuning in to the important cues
our bodies and minds are giving us when wellness is threatened.
"Physical and mental well-being needs to be a priority throughout your
career," says Niki Irish, senior counselor and licensed independent clinical
social worker with the LAP. "You will have to continue to reassess what you
need, and make efforts to address your needs consistently and mindfully.
Recognize that those needs will vary based on what is going on in your life,
both personally and professionally. Some needs will be prioritized over
others throughout your life, but they all need attention over time and can't
be ignored if you want to maintain well-being and have a successful career
as a lawyer."
William Roberts is a regular contributor to Washington Lawyer.
The LAP hosts a Mental Health Support Group the second
Tuesday of each month. Learn more at dcbar.org/lap. To reach
an LAP counselor, call 202-347-3131 or email LAP@dcbar.org.