Why Lawyers Should Join Our Well-Being Roundtable

By Brandon Vogel

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New York State Bar Association’s Attorney Well-Being Committee and Lawyer Assistance Program have launched a new program for attorneys who are struggling emotionally during these anxiety-inducing times. Lawyer to Lawyer Well-being Roundtable discussions are open to law students, attorneys, and judges across the state and take place every Thursday at 4 pm EST via Zoom https://nysba.zoom.us/j/550259037. The roundtables are moderated by Libby Coreno, chair of the Attorney Well-being Committee, and Dr. Kerry O’Hara, a licensed psychologist. There is no fee to participate and registration is not required. Attendees can choose to participate by video or by audio; all roundtables are confidential.

Lawyer Assistance Program Director Stacey Whiteley interviewed Libby Coreno about this new initiative.

Why did you decide to create a Roundtable discussion group for lawyers right now?

For the last six years, I have worked alongside some wonderful people in an effort to raise awareness concerning the lives of lawyers from a well-being perspective. The efforts culminated in the establishment of the Attorney Well-being Subcommittee within the Law Practice Management Committee. Our group views well-being from a holistic perspective which includes emotional and physical health, as well as occupational, social, intellectual, environmental, cultural, financial, spiritual and so on.

With the onset of the Covid-19 crisis disrupting the lives of lawyers in profound ways, it was clear that our community of colleagues needed support now more than ever. I receive calls and emails daily from lawyers across the state wondering how to help their colleagues, clients and themselves concerning the impact to emotional and physical well-being. We are a community of professionals and, together, we can help support one another, listen to one another, and come together in the singular experience.

We are all experiencing, in varying degrees, fear, angst, helplessness, confusion as we grapple with the magnitude of sudden change. But we do not have to experience it alone. While the unfolding crisis may require that we physically isolate, we know that isolation increases feelings of anxiety and that connection can help restore emotional balance. Quite literally, human beings need one another for well-being. Yet, lawyers are known as a “help-resistant” profession, where vulnerability or appearing weak equates to the mythology of strength. With the Lawyer to Lawyer Well-being Roundtable, we can accomplish the goals of creating community, supporting and sharing, reducing feelings of isolation and connecting in a confidential environment where it is safe to admit that we need each other.

What do you wish to provide for people that participate?

Our only goal in the L2L Well-being Roundtable is to facilitate a discussion in an open space, which builds connection and community. Any resources, support and learning come from the participants themselves and what we can offer to one another. My personal hope is that the lawyer who participates is able to feel less isolated, more empowered, resourceful and cared for by their colleagues. We are all in this together and we have each other.

What would you say to encourage lawyers to join the Roundtable discussion?

There is a famous quote from Mr. Rogers that says, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” There is a tremendous and profound sense of empowerment when we are of service to one another. We may not be able to control one single aspect of our outer lives at this moment, but we certainly have the power to be of service. Even if you individually don’t feel unsteady or afraid, come be of service to those who do and would benefit from your care and resources. And if you do feel unsteady or afraid or just worried, come be with those who are willing to be in it with you.

The next Roundtable is scheduled for April 2 at 4 pm. The link to join is https://nysba.zoom.us/j/550259037 . If you have questions, please contact Stacey Whiteley, LAP Director at [email protected].

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