Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 28

FEATURE

THE WELLNESS PUSH
Vieux's potentially career-ending brush with VT and STS occurred seven
years before the publication of The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical
Recommendations for Positive Change. Among the report's recommendations was for legal employers to emphasize a service-centered mission. It
argued that "at its core, law is a helping profession. This can get lost in the
rush of practice and in the business aspects of law. Much research reflects
that organizational cultures that focus chiefly on materialistic, external
rewards can damage well-being and promote a self-only focus."

and quiet spaces, and worked to eliminate the stigma surrounding
mental health."
More than a year since the American Bar Association launched its
well-being pledge, no legal aid organization has signed up (as of
mid-October 2019). Budgetary constraints are among the biggest
hurdles that many legal aid or public interest groups face when it
comes to crafting robust wellness initiatives on par with their Big
Law counterparts.

Although the report identifies sole practitioners, small firms (2 to 5 attorneys),
and medium-size firms (6 to 15 lawyers) as stakeholders in wellness initiatives,
it implies a focus on Big Law, with its strong emphasis on the bottom line.
And while the study cites "work engagement vs. burnout" as one topic that
firms should address, nowhere does it specifically address VT or STS.

"Budgets are tighter at nonprofits," Lowrey wrote. "Donated resources
go to help clients in need. Attorneys there take on the hope and grief of
the impoverished, the mentally ill, asylum-seekers, victims of domestic
violence, and abused and neglected children. It's baked into the nonprofit culture that the agencies' scant money must be spent wisely and
to the clients' benefit."

How do public interest attorneys, legal aid groups, and other nonprofits
fit into this wellness initiative? In September 2019, Law360 published
Brandon Lowrey's article "Lawyer Wellness Push Leaves Legal Aid Behind,"
which argued that "as Big Law increasingly devotes resources to attorney
wellness and mental health, legal nonprofit groups are struggling to
provide something similar for their lawyers, many of whom deal with
trauma on a daily basis. Major law firms have hired therapists, created safe

"It's definitely a struggle because we do almost everything frugally and
on the cheap," says Eric Angel, executive director of the Legal Aid Society
of the District of Columbia. "For instance, we don't have a gym in our
building. And we can't support [gym] memberships for our staff. So, we
tend to do things that we can do ourselves around morale building and
helping people deal with those issues by having frank conversations."

"Attorneys take on the hope
and grief of the impoverished,
the mentally ill, asylum-seekers,
victims of domestic violence,
and abused and neglected
children."

Human Rights First, where Vieux manages its expansive legal initiatives
geared toward asylum seekers, has multiple offices and an international
reach. However, the organization has budgetary concerns similar to many
legal aid groups hoping to promote wellness for their employees.
"Having been in Big Law, I can tell you that [in those firms] there is
someone who is on payroll just to provide you some of the wellness
services; there's usually someone in the building who can help you
with whatever. In the public and nonprofit sectors, we are usually
short-staffed. Some nonprofits don't have an HR specialist.
Fortunately, we do. And they recognize burnout
because they've been trained to do that," Vieux says.
"We're very busy and committed to the constituents
that we serve. Because of that, we have a tendency
to move so quickly that we fail to pause and take
care of ourselves. It's like those overworked parents
who are busy taking care of their children but don't
do much for themselves."
That's not to say legal aid organizations such as Human
Rights First and Legal Aid aren't doing anything to support
wellness. "All of my team leaders work really hard at
creating a work culture that encourages people to take
mental health days if they need them. We try not to
call it something else. Call it what it is. It's a mental
health day in which you take time away from
the office," Vieux says.
He notes that Human Rights First
also hosts yoga and meditation sessions,
out-of-office team-building activities,
an annual retreat, and weekly
acknowledgments of employees
who go above and beyond
the call of duty.

28 WASHINGTON LAWYER

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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020



Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar Of Events
The Opioid Litigation Wars
The Art Of Wellness: Law Firms Get Creative
Combating Secondary Trauma
Debating The Path Forward On Health Care Reform
Taking The Stand
On Further Review
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Speaking Of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
Community & Connections
Special Section: Counting Down To The 2020 Conference
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 5
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 7
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 9
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 11
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Calendar Of Events
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - The Opioid Litigation Wars
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 18
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - The Art Of Wellness: Law Firms Get Creative
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 22
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Combating Secondary Trauma
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 30
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Debating The Path Forward On Health Care Reform
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 34
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Taking The Stand
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 43
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 44
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 46
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Speaking Of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Special Section: Counting Down To The 2020 Conference
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 54
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - 55
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2020 - Cover4
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