How to Avoid Professional Burnout

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By Melanie Fischer

If you wake up in the morning feeling stress, anxiety, or gloom about what the day has in store for you, you might be experiencing burnout. People can feel burnout in just about any aspect of their life. It’s possible to experience personal burnout, emotional burnout, or physical burnout. When it’s related to your job, it’s often referred to as professional burnout.

Unfortunately, professional burnout is not uncommon for lawyers in solo practice. Anyone who is bored with their job or feels dread at the beginning of every work day may be headed towards professional burnout. It’s important to notice the signs and symptoms of this type of burnout – before the situation becomes dire. In the worst-case scenario, professional burnout can lead to the collapse of a career or a business.

Following are some of the most common reasons professionals endure burnout – and some tips on how to avoid letting burnout consume the desire to move forward with your career:

Monotony. Do you feel like you’re completing the exact same task(s) every single day, and are those tasks causing you to feel bored or disinterested? If so, it may be time to vary the type of client(s) you help. While you do not have to abandon all your uninspiring clients – especially if they are reliable – adding more interesting clients or cases into the mix can help relieve your feeling of professional boredom.

Discouragement. If your firm focuses on an area of law that leaves you feeling depressed or disheartened, you might want to consider shifting your professional emphasis to clients and cases that leave you with a more positive feeling.

Isolation. Many solo attorneys work in secluded offices. While some may enjoy the solitude, others may gradually become unhappy with the lack of face-to-face interaction with professional peers. If you do not thrive in a solitary environment, you may elect to share an office with other solo attorneys. Or you may benefit from working in an office that leases executive suites to professionals in various industries.

Overworked. It’s not uncommon for solo attorneys to feel overworked. If you are a solo attorney who has too many clients, you might feel thankful that you have more work than you can handle – which is certainly better than having too little work to keep your firm open. However, being overworked can easily lead to professional burnout. As a solo attorney, it’s important to realize that you can turn down work if you cannot handle the load. You may choose to refer clients to another attorney, who may return the favor at some point in the future.

When professional burnout is left unchecked, it can have a negative impact on your professional path. Not only can it result in your having a negative attitude about your job and your career, but also it can lead to client dissatisfaction.

It’s essential to take time off, enjoy a periodic vacation, and spend time with professional peers. These outlets help to relieve stress and reduce burnout. Additionally, if you notice dissatisfaction or lack of desire to fulfill your daily professional duties, consider re-focusing the direction that your firm takes or changing the type of clients you select.

If you think you are approaching professional burnout, consider joining the YLD on April 18 from 6-8 p.m. for Changing Your Focus: How and Why Lawyers Transition Between Careers which will feature discussions about moving to solo practice, big law, government, and to in house or nontraditional attorney careers.

This post originally appeared on Solo in Colo.

Posted in Career Development, Wellness

Barristers Benefit Ball 2017: Around the World ~ April 29 @ EXDO Event Center

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What is the Barristers Benefit Ball and why should I consider going?

The Barristers Benefit Ball (BBB) is a celebration of pro bono work. It is an event put on annually by the Denver Bar Foundation, and 100 percent of the proceeds help fund Metro Volunteer Lawyers (MVL). MVL is a pro bono program collectively sponsored by the Adams/Broomfield, Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas/Elbert and First Judicial District Bar Associations. MVL’s mission is “to bridge the gap in access to justice by coordinating the provision of pro bono legal services by volunteer lawyers within the Denver Metro Area to people who could not otherwise afford legal services for their civil legal issues.” As well as a critical fundraiser for MVL, the BBB is a fun-filled evening that affords a unique opportunity to network and socialize with colleagues, bar association presidents, and judges.

What makes MVL special?

MVL was established in 1966 by a group of young lawyers. They called it the “Thursday Night Bar” because the founding attorneys met with clients every Thursday evening at the Legal Aid offices in Denver. The attorneys provided what help and advice they could in person on Thursday nights and then met the next morning to discuss clients’ matters and assign themselves cases that could not be completed during the Thursday night sessions. These lawyers’ efforts perpetuated a long tradition of volunteerism and public service by Colorado lawyers. The Thursday Night Bar was renamed in 1998 to reflect the program’s growth and expansion. MVL continues to operate out of Colorado Legal Services’ offices. The CBA still gets calls asking about the Thursday Night Bar, reflecting its longstanding popularity.

Why should I support MVL?

MVL recruits volunteers to represent a population of people who otherwise would not be able to afford legal assistance. MVL coordinates with Colorado Legal Services for the intake of cases. Over the years the program has grown and is constantly striving to serve a larger population. Today, in addition to matching clients with volunteers for their cases, MVL also runs the Family Law Court Program, Post-Decree Clinics, Power of Attorney Workshops and Legal Night at the Denver Indian Center. MVL is constantly extending its reach to increase the help it provides. The programs serve Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson and Denver counties. For more information and to sign up, visit denbar.org/mvl and its Facebook page.

MVL by the numbers:

In 2016, MVL referred 492 cases to attorneys, assisted 373 people through its family law court program, assisted 297 people through clinics and helped 53 elderly persons with power of attorney documents. This amounts to 1,215 people served, all with only three full-time and two part-time employees. Still, this positive impact cannot continue without your help. The BBB is MVL’s only fundraiser.

COME ONE, COME ALL: A Trip Around the World Awaits!

Whether you are a new lawyer, or a seasoned professional, come join us at the 2017 Barristers Benefit Ball. The Ball will be commemorating its 29th year with “Around the World” to celebrate our diverse cultures and heritage. Dress to celebrate an international culture. (Black-tie attire is optional).

We will be offering food from around the world during cocktail hour. A plated dinner followed by regional desserts will finish the night in style. We are excited to be joined by the Jerry Barnett Orchestra, which has a history of keeping us on the dance floor with tunes to please all generations.

All proceeds above the cost of the event go directly to MVL. There are a variety of ways for you or your firm to participate and help raise funds for this important cause. You can purchase a table for 10 or buy individual tickets. Sponsorship opportunities at the Silver, Gold and Platinum levels are also available. To become a sponsor, contact Melissa Nicoletti at melissan@cobar.org. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Even if you are unable to attend, we encourage you to purchase raffle tickets before the event for some fabulous prizes. You do not need to be present to win. A portion of your contributions are tax deductible.

 

This post originally appeared in The Docket.

Posted in Community

Getting Clients: For Lawyers Starting Out or Starting Over — March 30

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The DBA has a great program coming up on Thursday, March 30 from 12-1 p.m. at the DBA — Getting Clients – For Lawyers Starting Out or Starting Over.

It’s always on your mind, right? “How can I get more clients?” Merrilyn Astin Tarlton, author of the new book Getting Clients – For Lawyers Starting Out or Starting Over has the answer. She brings over 30 years of helping lawyers to build successful practices to an hour of fast-paced tips and tricks to this lunchtime seminar designed to help you identify the perfect clients for you – and then attract them to your practice. It’s not just about economics, it’s about creating the work and the life that you crave.

Only $5 for members which includes a taco bar:)  Register today!!!

Posted in Career Development

How the Labor and Employment Landscape Might Change with the Stroke of a Pen

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By Sean R. Gallagher and Mary Kapsak

President Trump has been presented with a number of regulatory issues that could change the labor and employment landscape. Congressional and administrative action is not required to effect all such changes in the way that the federal government regulates private employers. Rather, the new administration can make significant and lasting changes in employment enforcement at certain federal agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Labor (DOL), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) without congressional action. In this article, we will examine ways in which the new administration might quickly and dramatically pivot the landscape of labor and employment laws by simply changing enforcement and litigation priorities.

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

Many observers expect major change at the DOL. Under new leadership, the DOL could alter course for key priorities of the prior Obama administration: the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime rules, the “persuader rule” and the fiduciary duties for retirement advisors.

FLSA Overtime Rule

On May 18, 2016, the DOL published a new final rule updating the nation’s overtime regulations, which would automatically extend overtime pay protection to more than 4 million workers if fully implemented. In November 2016, a federal judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction halting enforcement of the rule. The new administration could effectively terminate the litigation underway and end the overtime rule by withdrawing the government’s appeal, thereby leaving the lower court’s decision intact.

Mr. Puzder has expressed his dislike of the new rule and “has argued that the Obama administration’s recent rule expanding eligibility for overtime pay diminishes opportunities for workers” (nytimes.com/2016/12/08/us/politics/andrew-puzder-labor-secretary-trump.html?_r=0). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted an expedited appeal on the issue. The DOL, under new leadership, could reverse its position and withdraw the appeal before the court hears the oral argument. If so, the injunction would stand, and the new overtime rule would not take effect.

Persuader Rule

Similarly, the DOL currently faces an injunction barring the “persuader rule” from taking effect. The persuader rule “requires that employers and the consultants they hire file reports not only for direct persuader activities — consultants talking to workers — but also for indirect persuader activities — consultants scripting what managers and supervisors say to workers.” The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction on June 27, 2016 and a nationwide permanent injunction against the rule on November 16, 2016. The DOL can appeal the permanent injunction to the Fifth Circuit, but even if it does, the new administration will have time to withdraw the appeal before it reaches a decision by the appellate court.

Fiduciary Rule

The new administration could also change course for the DOL’s new fiduciary rule, which requires financial advisors to act in the best interest of their clients with respect to retirement accounts. The DOL issued the final rule on April 6, 2016, to be applicable on April 10, 2017. Although at the time of this writing the new Secretary of Labor has not yet voiced an opinion concerning the fiduciary rule, his general remarks about less government regulation make some experts believe the new administration “will kill or significantly weaken the fiduciary rule.” Edward Mills, an analyst at FBR & Co., “predicts the new administration will first delay the implementation of the rule through an administrative action and then repeal or overhaul it” (nytimes.com/2016/12/08/us/politics/andrew-puzder-labor-secretary-trump.html?_r=0). Since the DOL has already issued a final rule, the new administration would have to go through the onerous public notice and comment process prior to making any changes. Although the fiduciary rule was not directly addressed during the campaign, an advisor to Mr. Trump suggested that the president could seek to reverse it. Republicans in Congress have expressed their desire to do so as well.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The new administration could appoint new OSHA leadership with officials who are less enforcement-minded. In addition, these new appointments could advocate for the adoption of less stringent regulations and could direct their focus to compliance assistance as opposed to enforcement and litigation. The Obama administration’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), launched in 2010, currently concentrates “OSHA’s resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference to their OSH Act obligations by committing willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations” (osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=DIRECTIVES&p_id=4503). Pursuant to the SVEP, enforcement actions for severe violator cases include, among other things, mandatory follow-up inspections, corporate-wide agreements (where appropriate) and enhanced settlement provisions (osha.gov/dep/enforcement/svep_white_paper.pdf). Given President Trump’s repeated campaign promises to decrease regulation and create a “business-friendly” atmosphere, OSHA may not prioritize follow-up inspections and could impose lower fines or less severe penalties upon employers that violate the Act.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Similarly, the new administration could alter the EEOC’s current employment priorities regarding systemic discrimination, binding arbitration agreements and LGBT rights.

Systemic Discrimination Enforcement

Currently, one of the EEOC’s major priorities is to investigate and file systemic discrimination cases as a means of enhancing recoveries to larger groups (eeoc.gov/eeoc/systemic/review/). Systemic investigations increased by 250 percent from 2011 to 2015, and the EEOC has successfully prosecuted 94 percent of its systemic lawsuits over the past ten years (eeoc.gov/eeoc/systemic/review/). In addition, the EEOC tripled the amount of monetary relief recovered for victims of systemic discrimination between 2011 and 2015 when compared to the relief recovered from 2005 through 2010 (eeoc.gov/eeoc/systemic/review/). However, President Trump suggested that he will also appoint individuals to the EEOC who are less concerned with investigation and enforcement and who are more focused on compliance assistance.

Binding Arbitration Agreements

The EEOC currently takes the position that forcing an employee to agree to arbitrate any discrimination claims against their employer is unlawful (See, e.g., Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n v. Doherty Enterprises, Inc., 126 F. Supp. 3d 1305 (S.D. Fla. 2015)). The commission’s position stems from a policy statement issued in 1997: “agreements that mandate binding arbitration of discrimination claims as a condition of employment are contrary to the fundamental principles evinced in [the employment discrimination] laws” (eeoc.gov/policy/docs/mandarb.html). In a bid to appear more “employer friendly,” the new administration may de-emphasize the EEOC’s focus on binding arbitration agreements, which would allow employers more freedom to determine the best way to resolve disputes with their employees.

LGBT Rights

The EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan makes clear that applying the protections of Title VII to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals is a “top Commission enforcement priority.” Over the past eight years, the EEOC’s attorneys have repeatedly litigated cases in support of this position, and have had success at the ALJ level (eeoc.gov//eeoc/litigation/selected/lgbt_facts.cfm?renderforprint=1). For example, in Macy v. Holder, the EEOC ruled that transgender bias is a form of gender discrimination prohibited by Title VII. In addition, in Baldwin v. Foxx, the EEOC “issued an administrative opinion that held for the first time that Title VII extends to claims of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation” (law360.com/articles/742937/5-eeoc-enforcement-trends-to-watch-in-2016). Moreover, the EEOC filed its first-ever federal court Title VII suits over transgender rights in 2015, asserting that Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination includes discrimination based on gender stereotyping (See, e.g., EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc.). While the new administration has not made its enforcement priorities entirely clear, it is possible that the EEOC could be directed to temper its focus on LGBTQ protections in the workplace, particularly because at least one circuit court is currently considering whether Title VII’s protections apply to LGBTQ individuals.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

The NLRB has been criticized by some for being pro-union under the Obama administration, and the General Counsel of the NLRB is a key player in the agency, bringing cases to the board for consideration and guiding litigation practices (nlrb.gov/who-we-are/general-counsel). Richard F. Griffin, Jr. (D) currently serves as the General Counsel of the NLRB, but President Trump will be able to appoint a new NLRB General Counsel in November 2017. By appointing a new General Counsel, the new administration may be able to alter litigation practices and change the national landscape for labor relations. For example, on October 3, 2016, the Office of the General Counsel asked the NLRB to clarify and broaden the protection afforded to employees who engage in strikes (apps.nlrb.gov/link/document.aspx/09031d4582231e89). While he promised to protect jobs and workers during the election, a pro-business administration might be reluctant to pursue broad protections for unions.

In addition, President Trump might be able to appoint pro-business individuals to NLRB Board positions during his term, thereby potentially changing its composition to a more conservative tenor. The NLRB is considered an independent agency, with a traditionally bipartisan five-member board. President Trump will select individuals to fill two vacancies right away, as well as a third spot in December 2017, when the term of Republican Philip Miscimarra ends. The terms of the two current Democratic members expire in 2018 and 2019.

 

Sean Gallagher is a shareholder and member of Polsinelli’s Labor and Employment practice, where he assists employers in implementing proactive employment policies that help minimize the risk of litigation. He can be reached at sgallagher@polsinelli.com.

Mary Kapsak is an associate and member of Polsinelli’s Labor and Employment Practice, where she provides counsel and, when needed, aggressive defense in a broad range of legal services. She can be reached at mkapsak@polsinelli.com. This post originally appeared in The Docket.

Posted in Employment Law

Message From Your Chair Klaralee Charlton

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The DBA YLD Executive Council is accepting applications for new board members from now until April 7, 2017. While the Council is an excellent opportunity to become more involved in the Bar, the selection process is competitive and the time commitment is significant. If you are not selected for a position on the Council or you simply cannot carve out the time necessary to serve on the Council, there are many other committees that need volunteers.

Check out all the DBA committees. Most of the committees do not require you to apply and be accepted in order to participate in a significant way. In fact, most are actively seeking attorneys to help plan and execute events and take on leadership positions.

For example, the Seniors Committee is eager to add a young lawyer. This committee plans four events a year and would be an excellent opportunity for a YLD member to become involved and network with seasoned practitioners. Contact Heather Folker for more info. Additionally, the Bench Bar Committee would welcome some fresh ideas from a YLD member. This committee plans events with our judicial officers throughout the year and offers the opportunity to work one on one with judges in the Denver area. Contact Juliann Tricarico for more info.

Some of our most active leaders started their Bar engagement as members of these committees. Don’t wait in silence hoping you’ll be asked to get involved. Contact me or the staff liaison listed next to each committee on the Bar’s website. We can introduce you to the chairperson of any committee and get you involved in a meaningful way.

Klaralee Charlton
Chair, DBA YLD

Posted in Career Development, Networking

Modern Law Practice Initiative — A Win-Win for Lawyers and Clients

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By Erika Holmes

The CBA’s Modest Means Task Force has been renamed – the Modern Law Practice Initiative! “Why the new name?” you ask. The reason for the name change is two-fold: first, to stop the misperception that this type of law practice only helps poor people, and second, to develop a moniker for this innovative way to practice law that provides enormous benefits for both clients and attorneys.

The Modest Mean Task Force was formed in 2012 to educate lawyers and judges about the justice gap – the huge portion of society (almost 60% of civil litigants) who make too much money to get a lawyer through public assistance but don’t make enough money to hire an attorney at traditional rates. MLPI’s mission is still the same – to serve this portion of the population. However, MLPI is striving to further educate both lawyers and the public that the justice gap doesn’t consist of just people of modest means. The justice gap is comprised of people across the full spectrum of income levels, including people with middle to upper-middle class incomes. By practicing modern representation, a lawyer can run a thriving, sustainable, and fulfilling practice by providing legal services to this largely untapped market.

The Modern Law Practice Initiative is expounding on its original mission by providing lawyers with the motivation and the specific means to engage in this exciting new method of law practice management. Modern representation is about more than providing legal services at an affordable rate. Modern representation is about practicing law in a manner that is beneficial for both the client and the lawyer in terms of feasibility, flexibility, versatility – and even enjoyability! MLPI’s goal is to teach lawyers how to create a sustainable law practice that simultaneously helps solve the access to justice gap and provides the lawyer with a fulfilling and prosperous career.

Check out MLPI’s new website for access to the latest version of Successful Business Planning for the Modern Law Practice, a step-by-step guide to creating a sustainable modern law practice. MLPI will also highlight for lawyers the best resources for creating and sustaining a modern law practice through CLE’s, books, technology, mentoring, networking, volunteer opportunities, and more. Discover what it means to be a modern lawyer and to be part of a win-win solution to the access to justice dilemma!

 

Posted in Law Practice Management

Message from DBA YLD Executive Council Vice Chair

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The DBA YLD is seeking new board members for the Executive Council. The Executive Council consists of 11 members who help serve the Denver legal community and its members. Council members identify new strategies to engage the legal community and organize networking events, CLE’s and other opportunities for young lawyers. This includes developing new ideas, marketing and communicating, coordinating with other bar sections, promoting the YLD and assisting other young attorneys in our community. Council members are required to attend monthly board meetings at 6 p.m. on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at the Denver Bar Association offices. In addition, members attend various DBA YLD events throughout the year and commit to serving a three-year term.

Interested persons are strongly encouraged to attend the next Council meeting on March 8th at 6pm. Applications, including a current résumé and a letter of interest detailing the applicant’s relevant experience and characteristics including why these qualities would make them a valuable addition to the Council, should be submitted to Jim Fogg and Heather Folker by Friday, April 7. To be eligible you must be a current Denver Bar member, and under the age of 37 or within your first five years of practice.

Do not hesitate to reach out to Jim Fogg, Heather Folker, or any member of the current Executive Council with questions regarding the position or time commitment.

Jim Fogg
DBA YLD Executive Council Vice Chair

Posted in DBA YLD News

Why I Volunteer with MVL

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By Steve Cook

I genuinely believe that the more we give, the happier we feel. When we are doing good for others and the community, it provides a natural sense of accomplishment that instills a sense of pride and identity. However, by volunteering with MVL, we really do accomplish another goal: the strengthening of our community.

Parents who are receiving timely child support are obviously better equipped to care for their children financially. That in turn decreases their stress and makes them better parents emotionally. They will be more likely to be happier at work and more responsible for their physical health.

Parents who are able to have a physical connection and parenting time with their children are less likely to abandon their responsibilities as caregivers for their children. Theoretically, that will decrease the likelihood that those children will act up at school or engage in hurtful behaviors toward themselves and others.

Since we all live here, we are all impacted by our neighbors’ misfortunes, problems and other challenges. We can improve the quality of life for the less fortunate among us with a small commitment to use our legal expertise to assist them in addressing their problems in a pro bono capacity. While the work can be challenging, such challenges are outweighed by the reward of seeing someone motivated by the eased financial or emotional tension in their life and the newfound opportunities that lie before them.

Steve Cook of Smith and Cook LLC is on the Metro Volunteers Lawyers Board. He can be reached at steve@smithandcook.com. This post originally appeared in The Docket.

 

Posted in Volunteering

Don’t Let Life Pass You By

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By Sarah Myers

Your Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP) is happy to announce our new COLAP Wellness Corner in The Docket. You will now find in every issue an article with simple yet thoughtful advice about how to reduce your stress levels and increase your life satisfaction.

The New Year has come and gone, and we are well into 2017. How has it been for you so far? Are your experiences fulfilling, emotions hopeful and positive, and accomplishments making you proud? Do you enjoy the time you spend with others? Or have you been a bit anxious and overwhelmed, with too much to do and not enough time to do it? Maybe it’s a matrix of these feelings. Life is busy these days, and many attorneys report that they feel as if life were passing them by.

Sometimes we experience anxiety over cases, working with difficult people, dealing with large workloads and worrying about the future. Sometimes we feel depressed and isolated because we don’t have the support we need to be effective in our personal or professional lives, or because our workload has been too slow for a while. Sometimes we just feel overwhelmed by the amount of responsibility on our shoulders, or the amount of tasks we have to accomplish in a day. Regardless of the reason, when we feel stressed, anxious, depressed or overwhelmed, we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy the present moment, and life does seem to pass us by.

Research in neuroscience suggests that engaging in mindfulness meditation, breathing techniques, mantras, and exercise, such as yoga, helps relax the brain and the body, reduce stress levels, and increase overall happiness levels. Studies also suggest practicing more gratitude, listening to fun or calming music, having pets, gardening, and cultivating meaningful relationships with friends and family to improve your health and wellbeing. Improving our diets and moving around more throughout the day can also help shift our body’s chemistry to improve our life experiences. Most of us have heard about ways by which we can take better care of ourselves, but are we taking the time to do them?

The quickest and simplest way to reduce your stress and increase satisfaction with your life is to slow down — your thoughts, movements, speech, decision making, etc. When we slow down the “momentum train,” we can discern what is best for us. (What kind of food does your body really want or need?) We can choose more helpful thoughts that lift our mood rather than bring it down by focusing on resources and solutions rather than on the problem itself. We can respond civilly to the people around us rather than succumb to the emotional excesses of a survival mentality. Slowing down allows us to behave with maturity, grace and wisdom. The people you respect the most are probably people who, despite being in difficult or stressful situations, respond with these qualities to the world around them. Research shows that people who are the most well-liked aren’t necessarily those who are the most intelligent, the most attractive or even the most gregarious. People who are sincere, consistent and compassionate rank as the most likeable. To be consistent in our moods and behaviors so that people feel safe around us, to be sincere and honest with those around us, and to show understanding and compassion rather than judgment of others, we have to slow down and contemplate our words and actions.

Mindlessly operating in the “rat race” and spending more time with our technology than the people around us doesn’t endear other people to us — and certainly doesn’t make us feel proud of ourselves. Life doesn’t pass us by when we slow down to appreciate the people or the things in our lives for which we are grateful. The stressful cases, the difficult clients, the massive to-do lists and the glitches along the way that interrupt our plans aren’t going to disappear. If, however, we learn how to handle life’s ups and downs with more patience and dignity, we can learn to enjoy more of the ride. Carve out some time in every day to slow down and breathe mindfully and purposefully. Think about the big picture rather than the details of what you are doing and give yourself a pep talk. Things always get better when we shift our perspective because the parts of the brain focused on survival can calm down long enough for the parts of the brain responsible for happiness, joy and overall life satisfaction to take over. So hurry up and slow down — the sooner, the better.

 

Sarah Myers, J.D., L.M.F.T., L.A.C., is the clinical director for the Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP) and can be reached at smyers@coloradolap.org. COLAP provides free and confidential services for judges, lawyers and law students. If you need resources for any issue that is compromising your ability to be a productive member of the legal community, or if there is someone you are concerned about, contact COLAP at 303-986-3345. For more information about COLAP, visit coloradolap.org. This post originally appeared in The Docket.

Posted in Wellness

Beyond the Safety Pin: How To Be an Active Ally

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By Jill Mullen

In late November, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report called “Ten Days.” The document noted there were more than 900 reports of harassment or intimidation in the 10 days following Donald Trump’s election as the next U.S. president, a situation that the Law Center considered “a national outbreak of hate.” In Colorado, people have taken to Facebook and other social media outlets to bring attention to local instances of vandalism and bullying. A transgender woman in Capitol Hill woke up one morning to find her car covered in swastikas and derogatory terms. An African-American woman said her daughter heard a student boast, “now that Trump is president, I am going to shoot you and all the blacks I can find.” Learning about these incidents is painful and disheartening.

On a cold November evening, the South Asian Bar Association hosted a presentation titled “Beyond the Safety Pin: How To Be An Active Ally” with speakers from nonprofit and legal organizations. The event drew a large crowd of concerned and anxious lawyers. It was clear there was a prevalent sentiment that lawyers could do something to discredit or prevent this hate speech. However, there was some disagreement as to the best approach.

Acting U.S. Attorney for Colorado Robert Troyer had some consoling observations to allay anxiety about the direction of the new administration. Troyer explained that all 93 U.S. attorneys work autonomously, giving them considerable latitude when enforcing laws in their states. Therefore, a change in president or attorney general will have little effect on how each individual U.S. attorney chooses to enforce the law. Troyer promised to enforce all laws protecting civil liberties and affirmed he would not be persuaded to pursue a case he considered to be illegal or discriminatory, even if there was external pressure. As he sees it, the Rule of Law will always safeguard the ideals we hold immutable.

Another speaker, Tim Brauhn, an interfaith community leader and the communications manager for the Islamic Network Group, gave a humorous and insightful presentation on how to defuse tense situations. His first piece of advice: It never helps to call someone a bad person. In essence, you will not convince a white supremacist to stop being a white supremacist with New York Times articles and public shaming on Facebook. Brauhn says a better way to handle hateful situations is to change the conversation. For example, Brauhn recently visited a friend in Chicago. While he was at a grocery store, a drunk man started verbally harassing a woman. Brauhn quickly interrupted to ask the man whether he might be able to give directions to the baseball field. Clearly caught off guard, the man stopped yelling and started pointing directions. (Brauhn added that they were wrong.) While this might be not an intuitive response to such a situation, Brauhn says it works.

Finally, Suneeta Hazra, the chief of the Criminal Division of the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office, offered some legal advice for dealing with confrontations. First, she encouraged everyone to report to local law enforcement any actions that might be considered a hate crime. If law enforcement is not helpful, inform the FBI. Additionally, always keep all evidence; your determination of what might be relevant might differ from the FBI’s. And it never hurts to report, as some acts that might not necessarily be considered hate crimes could potentially amount to criminal activity under a different federal statute.

Local bar associations will continue to help as much as possible. But, increasingly, it appears we may be entering a presidency requiring the judicial branch to (begrudgingly) take a larger role in political battles. Since Trump’s election seems to be the catalyst for a surge in hate crimes, the courts may take on a role as more of a moral arbitrator. When courts condemn these actions, it will hopefully send a message that bigoted and racist behavior is not to be tolerated. And it would be heartening to see more news coverage of small acts of kindness as opposed to reports of hateful conduct.

 

Jill Mullen works in the legislature as the Civic Engagement Director for the Colorado Senate Democrats. She earned her J.D. from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and her B.A. from New York University. Jill is also a DBA YLD Council member. She can be reached at mullen.jill@gmail.com. This post originally appeared in The Docket.

Posted in Community, Professionalism

Toothbrushes for Tots Drive Starts Next Week!

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The DBA YLD is sponsoring a Toothbrush Drive to benefit Kids In Need of Dentistry (KIND). KIND is a nonprofit organization that provides high-quality, affordable dental care to children in need throughout Colorado. We are looking for firms to collect toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss. All donations will be picked up the week of Feb. 27. Sign up your firm to collect donations today. Click here for a flyer. Questions? Contact Robin Hoogerhyde.

 

Posted in Community

Why the Centennial State is Perfect in the Millennial World

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A Brief History of LGBT Rights in Colorado — This blog post is a reflection from two different view points, on our Jan. 26 Coffee Talk about LGBT Rights in Colorado that was presented by Former Senator Pat Steadman.

By Maha Kamal and Ronnie Walls:

In 1991, I was a kindergartner. I liked wearing polka dot skirts with leggings, or the occasional pants with suspenders. Looking back on it, my post-tyke fashion was pretty androgynous for a 6-year old. Meanwhile, Wilma Webb was in the Colorado State Legislature introducing a bill to add sexual orientation to the state’s hate crimes law. It would take 14 years after her bill was introduced for the legislation to pass in 2005.

The next year, in 1992, I learned about the Aztecs, raised butterflies, and enthusiastically cheered on the election of Bill Clinton. It was pretty impressive for a second grader. Meanwhile, Colorado voters approved Amendment II, which banned the enacting of any law or policy that provided Coloradans protection based on their sexual orientation.

In 1996, I was drawing my own book about the history of Colorado in fourth grade. That same year, Amendment II was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans. It was a landmark victory for the LGBT movement. If I had known, I’m pretty sure I would have drawn another page in my book to mark the occasion.

In the 1990s, Colorado really was growing up a lot like I was, with its own legislative let downs, achievements, and the occasional grounding from its parents (See Romer v. Evans).

 

First, let me begin by stating that I’m a Denver transplant.  I traded the beaches of Miami for the mountains of Denver and have not looked back.  Denver consistently graces the top of many “best places to live” rankings, specifically for Millennials.  Denver has plenty of sunshine, vast green spaces, and dynamic cultures that influence everything from the arts to the local cuisine.  I now regret the many years that I spent without green chili.  However, it was not until this particular event that I truly saw what made me appreciate Denver, and the great state of Colorado:  its continuous march for equality.

As a former Legislative Aide, I have run the gambit of listening to legislators speak.  Senator Pat Steadman is the embodiment of a dynamic speaker:  his neighbor next door approach eloquently combines the history of an advocate, colored with kindness, to tell the tale of the journey of LGBT rights across Colorado.  His timeline of events was not presented by a reciter of facts, but rather told through the sparkling eyes of someone who served on the front lines, who lobbied at the Capitol, and who testified before his fellow legislators.  

 

As I sat and listened to Senator Steadman’s lecture, I began to appreciate how truly historic the LGBT rights movement was in this state during a time period that I was too young to appreciate its significance. Conservatives, like Marilyn Musgrave, introduced bills to limit marriage to one man and one woman. She also fought to ban same-sex parents on birth certificate, and won. Liberals, like Senator Steadman and Wilma Webb, did the complete opposite and were often faced with hostile governors or unwilling voters.

But things started to change in the early 2000s. Colorado began recognizing LGBT rights in employment, adoption, and hate crime laws. By 2011, it had recognized civil unions too. The pinnacle of this movement is arguably the issuance of the Windsor (2013) and Obergefell (2015) opinions, which struck down key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act and legalized same-sex marriage.

The Senator’s lecture stopped in 2016, with he introduced one of his last bills to address legal issues for those who had civil unions and later married. The lecture stopped and left us thinking about the future, particularly in the context of the Trump administration. Would the Supreme Court overturn its opinion about same-sex marriage? Would Colorado see a new wave of conservative legislation, echoing the legislative let downs of the 1990s? Would we be okay?

The Senator didn’t have a single answer for such loaded questions. One could hardly blame him. He dedicated his political life to implementing legal rights for Colorado’s LGBT community. And now he, like many others, are faced with uncertainty as to the future of these rights.

 

As the floor opened for questions, the conversation quickly turned to our post-election era.  How do we as everyday citizens, attorneys, and voters continue to impact our communities?  The desire to bring positive change to our environment is notably highlighted as a defining characteristic of the Millennial Generation. 

 Senator Steadman’s solution:  be present. 

 Tell your story, be proud of who you are, connect with your communities.  Whether you are a gay attorney, a biracial child, or you trace your roots to our founding fathers, raise your voice.  It is out of our shared experiences that we will find understanding and ultimately, the ability to continue to move forward as a community, a state, and a nation.

 I grew up in a small Midwestern town; an ordinary town that prides itself on waving to strangers.  I am also the child of an international adoption, an event that was unique to my town.  Thankfully, I grew up in a supportive environment.  My experiences led me to Family Law.  What I find encouraging is that Colorado has a rich history of fighting for the rights of all families.  Senator Steadman reminded us that the conversation in our country has evolved:  we value families and their core rights as Americans.  We must continue to write our country’s history with the brushstrokes of empathy and understanding.  Thank you Senator Steadman for reminding the legal world that our country and its laws are a living and breathing entity; that every voice matters.

 

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Ronnie Walls, Former Senator Pat Steadman, and Maha Kamal

Maha and Ronnie are partners at The Colorado Family Law Project.  They left big firm life to bring affordable and quality family law services across Colorado

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Posted in Diversity

Establishing a Strategic Plan for Your Balanced Legal Career — Workshop, Feb. 15

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Don’t miss this unique workshop organized by the CBA’s Balanced Legal Career Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 15, from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the DBA. In this interactive workshop, private practice lawyers will envision and begin formulating a strategic plan to achieve a balanced legal career.

Recognizing that everyone has a different definition of what a balanced legal career is, Kirby Gamblin Joseph, Managing Partner, Joseph Law Firm and President of Strategy4Success, will guide participants through a structured process that focuses on mission, vision, and firm culture, and establishes a framework for taking control of your practice.

You will also have the opportunity to hear from several seasoned practitioners from a variety of law firm settings about how they have achieved their own balanced careers.

Click here for more information and to register.

Posted in Life Work Balance

A Better You: Becoming a Mindful Lawyer

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“One of the many benefits of meditation is that you begin to be able to see trouble coming up from inside you before it reaches the surface. This doesn’t mean you never get overly angry or say a careless word, but it does lessen the chances of those things happening. Anger, depression, resentment—all those things form in your thoughts first, of course, and the practice of meditation helps you see them while they’re still tropical storms, before they reach hurricane stage.”

 —Roland Merullo, Lunch with Buddha

The practice of law can be stormy, sometimes reaching hurricane stage. Such violent weather does not serve the lawyer, whether acting in the professional role of advisor or advocate, and it certainly does not serve the clients. How can lawyers calm the weather without sacrificing professional competence? One answer to that question not only eases gales but also can give the lawyer additional tools and increased competence in the practice of law. And, it reduces the toll the strain of a storm can take on health and contentment.

What is it? Mindfulness.

Mindfulness, which can be a result of meditation, has many benefits in addition to weathering the storms of feelings and thoughts. A recent article in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry listed four components of mindfulness: attention regulation, body awareness, emotional regulation, and change in perspective on the self. Although each of those components is neutral in itself, when used wisely and toward positive and wholesome purposes together, they can provide great assistance to lawyers. For example, mindfulness can reduce stress, enhance problem-solving, and improve client service. Not sure how mindful you are? You might begin a self-assessment by taking a look at the questions on the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS). The MAAS is available many places on the Internet and can be found with a quick search. Below are a couple of the questions from its set of 15:

  • I could be experiencing some emotion and not be conscious of it until some time later
  • I tend not to notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my attention
  • I find myself preoccupied with the future or the past
  • I snack without being aware that I’m eating

The more mindless one is, the more he or she will find that these are apt self-descriptions.

There are several other ways of looking at mindfulness that may be helpful. Consider it to be an attention skill. How well can you attend to, pay attention to, what is happening inside you (those feelings and thoughts mentioned above) as well as what is happening around you—in this moment right now? Or still another way of seeing mindfulness comes from Harvard’s Dr. Ellen Langer. Her deceptively simple way of describing mindfulness is: The process of noticing new things.

Ways of examining and conceptualizing mindfulness are plentiful, but for purposes of helping you assess yourself, here is one more: Mindfulness is the ability to observe yourself, to watch yourself thinking, acting, and reacting. Can you step back and see yourself as if watching another person’s mind, brain, and behavior? Are you able to watch yourself taking one perspective—and then take another? Are you able to have patience with not immediately knowing an answer, and remain with poise in the uncertainty until a good answer or solution becomes apparent, or is reached? Or do you feel uncomfortable with the unknown and jump to a quick and perhaps inadequate conclusion because of the discomfort? Are you self-authoring or are you always searching for that expert or book or technique to rely on for solutions to problems? As with all of these lenses through which you can look at mindfulness, this one too affects not only your peace of mind, but also the way you interact with opposing counsel (and others in the legal system) and help your clients.

Let’s say you want to increase your mindfulness. Not everyone is drawn to the formal practice of meditation, of course. For those who are not, there are many other methods for developing or expanding mindfulness. The options are numerous and seem to grow daily, e.g., contemplative photography, focused journaling, yoga, in-the-moment walking or running, writing about your day in third-person. At one Colorado Contemplative Lawyers Society meeting, a lawyer explained that his mindfulness practice is riding his motorcycle; and a lack of mindfulness on the bike may give the rider some quick and hard-to-ignore feedback!

Mindfulness practices are not Procrustean or one-size-fits-all. Mindfulness definitely is not developed only by sitting on a meditation cushion as some people may imagine. Knowing what practice or process works best for you will help you to stick with it. Start with these three steps. First, have an idea of why you want to incorporate mindfulness in your life; keeping that purpose in mind will guide you past procrastination or the times when you would much rather be doing something else. Second, choose a definition of mindfulness that seems most compelling to you—one you can use as a touchstone. And then, through experimentation, choose your practice.

The studies about the effects of mindfulness are plentiful; it is a popular focus of research. For those who want to stay current, Mindfulness Research Monthly is a valuable (and free) resource. Subscribe at www.mindfulexperience.org/newsletter.php. Reading this research about mindfulness each month is another way to motivate yourself to stick with the practice you have chosen. You don’t have to take the benefits on faith; science continues to prove its value. Mindfulness is not always easy, but it typically returns your efforts many times over. For the sake of your health, your personal satisfaction, and professional success, why not give it a try?

By Stephanie West Allen, a non-practicing lawyer and long-time mediator who speaks, writes, and trains on the topics of the neuroscience of conflict resolution and the benefits of mindfulness and attention. She blogs on those topics and others related to lawyers at idealawg.net and brainsonpurpose.com. This post originally appeared on The Docket blog.

 

Posted in Life Work Balance

The DBA YLD Suit Drive was a GREAT Success!

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The DBA YLD collected suits for students from low-income families participating in the Mock Trial Competition from Arrupe Jesuit High School and La Academia – Denver Inner City Parish. Members of the DBA YLD board delivered the donations earlier this month and hosted pizza parties for the teams. Board members then stayed to help the teams practice for their upcoming scrimmages. Team coaches, including retired Judge Jack F. Smith who has coached the La Academia team since 2004, commented on how the professional clothing will really help these students’ self-confidence when they compete against teams from well-known private high schools. Thank you to everyone who made this drive happen!

 

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Posted in Community

Call for Volunteers — Denver Mock Trial Tournament, Feb. 3 and 4

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Volunteers are needed for the upcoming Denver High School Mock Trial Tournament — Feb 3 and 4 at the Denver City and County Building!

The CBA High School Mock Trial Program affords an excellent opportunity to be involved in a rewarding and fun learning experience for our young people. This can only happen with hundreds of attorney, paralegal and community volunteers assisting. Please consider being a part of this incredible educational experience!

We are looking for presiding judges, scoring panelists and courtroom monitors. There are 2 rounds each day (12-4 and 4:30-8) and each volunteer position requires approximately 3 hours of your time. Sign up here for either day by scrolling down to the “Denver City/County” option. Thank you for your time!!!!

 

 

Posted in Volunteering

Immigration Under President Trump

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By Courtney Butler

Immigration has always been a hot button political topic, and no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there is no doubt that President Trump and his administration will change immigration policy in a way that will affect lives throughout the United States.  As an immigration attorney, I am already witnessing the potential effects of these policies firsthand, but as they become even further defined, even those outside the immigration field will feel the results.

One of the biggest concerns among immigrants facing a Trump administration is the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program, which President Trump has promised to repeal.  While not a path to any type of permanent residency or citizenship in the United States, this program gave lawful status to thousands of undocumented students who had come to the United States at a young age.  These DREAMERS, as they became known, were able to come out of the shadows, obtain work authorization, and feel slightly safer in a country they had always known as home.  Because the DACA program was an executive action, President Trump has the authority to roll the program back on day one of his presidency, causing thousands of immigrants to lose their status and their work authorization.

Additionally, the Obama administration promised the DREAMERS that if they applied for DACA and willingly gave the government their information, it would not be used against them for deportation purposes.  However, the governmental FAQs for the DACA program also stated that the promise could be “modified, superseded, or rescinded at any time without notice.”  It is currently impossible to tell what will happen to the DACA program, and what will happen to the nearly 750,000 young people who are currently in status and working with authorization under the program.

President Trump has made many other promises regarding immigration, including the fact that he will build a wall on our southern border and make Mexico pay for it, that he will ban all Muslims from entering the United States, and that he will deport the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.  Practically speaking, many of these promises will be tough to carry out.  Unlike DACA, many immigration benefits, such as lawful permanent residence, are statutory, and would require the consent of Congress to change.  Moreover, deporting the millions of undocumented immigrants present in the United States is a greater challenge than President Trump indicates that it will be.

First, priorities for deportation already exist, and they already assign the highest priority to the severest of criminals.  Think threats to national security, border security, and public safety, including terrorists, felons, and those apprehended while trying to cross the border illegally.  The priorities also include those convicted of “significant” misdemeanors, those who have entered the United States illegally since 2014, and those with final orders of deportation issued on or after January 1, 2014.

Even if President Trump wanted to ramp up deportations and deport those who are not current priorities, he would be facing significant backlogs in the immigration courts.  Even immigrants have due process rights, albeit not quite as strong as those given to United States citizens.  All immigrants have the right to a hearing before a federal immigration court to contest allegations and charges of removal.  However, the immigration courts are understaffed and overloaded, and hearing delays are significant.  In fact, the Denver Immigration Court has the longest delays in the nation.  In March 2016, the average waiting period for a removal hearing was 933 days (that’s 2.5 years!), and there were 9,420 cases pending.  If President Trump wants to increase deportations, he will either force an increase in the already-significant waiting time for a hearing, or he will have to increase the federal budget to fund an increase in immigration judges.  Neither option is ideal, and President Trump’s promise to “immediately” deport the undocumented immigrants in the United States is not feasible.

While no one knows exactly what immigration will look like under President Trump, one thing is for certain: we are a country of immigrants, and immigrants will continue to live in our communities, go to our schools, and participate in our economy.  I encourage you to put a human face to the term “immigrant.”  Personalize the issue, and perhaps then we can achieve the comprehensive immigration reform that we so desperately need.

 

Courtney Butler is an Associate Attorney at Joseph Law Firm, P.C., a boutique immigration law firm.  She earned her JD from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and her BA from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Posted in Immigration Law

Hanging Your Own Shingle with Kids

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By Lara Zarzecki

These days, there are so many of us hanging our own shingle for a number of different reasons – flexibility, low overhead, the desire to interact directly with clients and the ability to curate your own clientele – and so many of us solo practitioners or small firm owners are also new parents or thinking about entering parenthood.  As a new mom and owner of my own practice, I have experienced many of the joys and difficulties this work/lifestyle has to offer.

It goes without saying that when you run your own practice you are often the lawyer, the IT guy (lady), the bookkeeper, the legal assistant, the envelope stuffer, the website designer, the keeper of the business receipts, the tax preparer, the event organizer, the document drafter, the face of the firm, and the backbone of the practice. Wearing all those hats is the toughest (or one of the toughest) part of being your own boss; but those hats come with an incredible amount of freedom and energizing power when you’re able to harness it. When things go right, the credit’s all yours.  Good for you! When things go wrong, you only have yourself to blame: a process that can be seriously painful, but at most times ultimately enlightening.

When you have a baby, or multiple children on top of all that, sometimes the to-do lists can seem insurmountable. Drowning in home and work tasks is not the only harrowing part; it is the unsaid but subtly pervasive biases about being a working mother that can be truly challenging. There is so much out there on this very topic: the “motherhood penalty” (the idea that working mothers encounter systematic disadvantages in pay, perceived competence, and benefits relative to childless women); the fact that a child helps your career, if you’re a man; the idea that we’re expected to do our jobs as if we don’t have children – and then raise our children as if we don’t have jobs; the cruel joke that is “work life balance;” the list goes on. As Katrina Alcorn, author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink puts it: “If you think about the model of the ideal mother, it’s the person who sacrifices everything for her child.  The ideal worker is someone who can drop everything and go on a business trip at a moment’s notice, and who can stay late – not leave at 5 o’clock to pick up kids. So if you’re trying to be both, then you are faking it.”

I find that quotation to be even more glaringly apparent when you run your own shop. When your boss is yourself, I have found that I will nearly kill myself bending over backwards for my own firm and for my family simultaneously. I can’t get miffed at a boss if I have to pick up my kid late because of a project because I SET THAT DEADLINE.  And if I have to reschedule a client meeting three times because my child has a lingering ear infection, I’m the one who has to make the call to the client, again, pleading for a new date.

It’s exhausting, and it might seem that this is a manifesto on why not to be a mom and run your own practice. That’s not the truth of it though, the beautiful thing about being a business owner and a lawyer and a parent is that you are constantly challenged, constantly growing, and hopefully making yourself a better lawyer/mom all the time. Having a baby gave me an injection of perspective like I had never experienced; I think that’s something you can only understand if you have kids, and I am absolutely certain that it has helped me as a lawyer. It is the day-to-day struggles, the questions you overhear about whether you “want to be a lawyer or want to be a mom” that can nearly break you, but just like anything else, that’s the stuff that makes you stronger.

My overall impression of this career choice is that it is absolutely a doable one, but, in my experience, only if you have a strong support network, and colleagues that believe in you and are willing to help push you along. I am grateful that I have all of theses things, which allow me to be with my son, the joy of my life, and allow me to work on the type of legal matters that I love with clients that I adore at the same time.

I realize I’m only a short way into this journey, and having one baby and doing this dance is quite a bit different than having multiple kids with demanding schedules, but here are just a few things I’ve learned so far:

  • Rely on colleagues and be proactive about asking for help; often times you can trade helpful sessions with other solos or small firm lawyers because they need the help too.
  • Organization is key. Get one calendar for everything and make sure you are diligent about entering all meetings, events and deadlines (use different colors for personal and work).
  • Outsource! Get a program for invoicing/accounting/cloud storage; hire a great accountant; use services like Mod Assistants to help with day-to-day things (these costs will be worth it).
  • When you take time to be with your kid(s) make a diligent effort to turn everything else off or else the whole point is lost.
  • Have courage because you can absolutely do it and you will be grateful you did.

 

Lara Zarzecki is an attorney at Griffith Legal Group, a boutique Denver practice advocating for entrepreneurs, creative communities, and small businesses. She specializes in business and intellectual property law for companies across a wide array of industries. She can be contacted at lara@griffithlegalgroup.com.

Posted in Career Development, Solo Practice

Not Your Typical Mentoring Program — Coffee List Mentoring

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By Matthew J. Broderick

This past August at a happy hour I had an interesting conversation about legal mentoring.  The happy hour took place at a law firm’s new office space, and after a beer and a tour I found myself in a circle of attorneys discussing typical lawyer topics.  As soon as someone mentioned an idea for a mentorship program, the discussion abruptly shifted. The newer attorneys in the circle described mentoring programs as awkward arrangements, and the more seasoned attorneys complained about the time commitments for mentoring programs, as well as the lack of mentee participation.  In fact, in response to the new mentoring idea one attorney cried out, “Not another mentoring program!”

This conversation made me want to learn more about legal mentoring, and six weeks later I was having coffee with Ryann Peyton.  Ms. Peyton is the director of the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP), the Colorado Bar Association’s legal mentoring program.  We discussed legal mentoring, the challenges many programs face, and the concerns raised by the attorneys at my August happy hour.  After I shared my story, Ms. Peyton mentioned CAMP’s newest mentoring program: Coffee List Mentoring.

Coffee List Mentoring is not another mentoring program, and it is anything but typical.  As. Peyton explained, Coffee List Mentoring is an informal program that allows mentors and mentees to participate at will.  There are no monthly meeting quotas, no prescribed mentor-mentee arrangements, and no year-long commitments.

Instead, Coffee List Mentoring provides a list of mentors willing to talk to other attorneys about nearly any topic (except for ethical issues which are handled by the CBA’s Ethic Hotline).  Answers to questions about billing, handling difficult clients, drafting your first complaint or other substantive inquiries are just a phone call or e-mail away.  These Coffee List Mentors are also available to attend networking events with mentees, review resumes, perform mock interviews, and assist with client referrals.  Mentees are free to call anyone on the list, and as 2017 begins, Coffee List Mentors represent 27 different practice areas.

CAMP’s hope is that mentees who contact mentors on the list will develop an organic mentor-mentee relationship over several phone calls and emails.  At that point, CAMP is able and willing to place the duo into one of its formal programs (should the mentor and mentee desire).  But this result is not required.  If a mentee contacts a mentor about a question, there is no obligation for a second call.  Conversely, if a mentor is inundated by calls or emails from mentees, she is free to withdraw from the list at any time.

As Ms. Peyton and I finished up our coffee, we thought it odd how legal mentoring programs often face difficulties despite the consensus that mentorship is crucial to the success of our legal profession.  The DBA-YLD believes that Coffee List Mentor’s innovative approach to mentorship may be a helpful way to address this issue, and we encourage young attorneys in Denver to use the list.  Call, e-mail, or grab a cup of coffee with one of the mentors available and spread the word to other young attorneys that these folks are willing to chat.  And for those of you with a few years of experience, consider adding your name to the list.

Posted in Career Development, Mentoring

Office? Where We’re Going, We Won’t Need an Office!

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By Doug McQuiston

You’ve read about the “paperless” office. You may even be working in one right now. You are already using a wide range of tech tools to do more for more clients in less time. We all know it is no longer optional that lawyers learn all they can to become technologically competent. We need this know-how to keep up with the pace of our demanding practices.

But where will you go with all of that tech? Though I despise the phrase (one of the most painfully vacant expressions in modern usage), maybe it’s time to (gulp) “think outside the box” — that square space you’re sitting in right now.

You, there, in that nicely appointed Herman Miller chair, comfortably ensconced behind the handsome solid-cherry desk, resting firmly on the office-appropriate Berber carpet of your high-cost downtown office — I’m talking to you. Have you ever thought of busting out, of kicking down the walls that confine you? What’s holding you back?

We’re fortunate in Colorado. In my multi-state professional work these days, I have the benefit of seeing how things are done in other states. None of their court systems are as technologically advanced as ours. None of the states I travel to out West have court systems that are more well-suited for virtual practice than ours. Here, we are unencumbered by the anachronisms that plague the pursuit of progress in many other states.

With statewide electronic court filing, the electronic exchange of documents, teleconferences and videoconferences becoming the preferred way to talk with clients, counsel and even courts, we can “practice anywhere.” So, why don’t we?

Why are we still crawling into our cars every morning and slogging through rush hour traffic to our “box,” neatly aligned with all of the other square boxes, in the large stack of square boxes that is our office building?! Heck, The Lincoln Lawyer debuted six years ago. We’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we? Yeah, I know. I don’t look like Matthew McConaughey either. And I don’t drive an old Lincoln.

But I digress by thinking out of the box.

The means to “practice remotely” are all within your grasp. You may already have the tools you need. If your firm already uses electronic files, electronic case management, etc., then there is nothing tethering you to your desk.

I mentioned my “multi-state” professional existence earlier. My work involves extensive travel to states throughout the West. There is no way I could do what I do without the ability to work in real-time wherever I am. My practice requires me to be as professionally effective in Seattle, Salt Lake City, Scottsdale and Sacramento as I am at my desk in Denver. So, I had to deploy all the tools that the present affords us to make that reality happen.

My “office” is wherever I am — not the four walls back in the Mile High City. When I am in any of my cities, my desk phone rings straight through to my iPhone 7. I don’t leave an “out of office” message because it wouldn’t be true. Most callers don’t even know I am not in Denver sitting at a desk. On my laptop (and, hopefully soon, a tablet) I am able to quickly navigate to their electronic file, (or to any of the other files in the six offices I work with), via a secure MiFi device tunneled through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). (Don’t worry — all of that structure fades into the background before you know it). I can even stay in touch on the home front with Facetime on my iPad Air.

If I have a question of one of my assistants or other lawyers, I shoot them a text on an internal messaging application. Most respond immediately, often more quickly than if I had to walk down the hall to talk with them, because they may be “remote.” If needed, I can open a videoconference with them as easily as dialing their phone. While I haven’t escaped my “box” altogether as of yet, the day will come when that happens organically. Many of you are already there, aren’t you? It is easier today than ever before to begin, manage and thrive in a “virtual law office” practice setting.

The key to it all is connectivity. None of this works if your office systems aren’t up to it. There are plenty of resources, blogs and articles out there (and right here, in back issues of The Docket) that detail the hardware and software needs you’ll face in “going virtual.” You’ll see plenty of good advice on hardware and software that will deliver what you need: a highly reliable, secure connection to your office’s files and systems (if you’re still “logging on” to the Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, stop. Such networks are completely insecure).

But more important than the machines is the mindset. Too often, I have seen lawyers’ emotional reticence about technology derail them before they ever get up from their desks. They fear that all that tech will quit on them when they need it most. They fear they will never be able to “get away from work” if they are “always connected.” They worry that they will be “isolated” if they were to step away from the office. Maybe (like me), they worry that if they aren’t there to “keep an eye” on everything, it will all fall apart. I’m not here to tell you these concerns are unfounded. They’re not. But they can all be overcome, easily, with sound planning, professional execution and the right state of mind.

The answer may seem incongruous, but other “virtual” practitioners will likely agree: Remember what I said about “connectivity?” I didn’t just mean the hardware.

Just because my office is “everywhere” doesn’t mean I don’t also need to share real, face-to-face contact with my fellow professionals. In fact, that face-to-face interaction is even more important when we practice virtually. In my organization, that means getting around to my other offices to check in, talk with the teams, and keep them well-trained, well-motivated and headed in the right direction. In the broader professional sense, my “virtual” office practice makes it even more critical that I take advantage of my bar association membership.

Face-to-face contact with other professionals should never be lost when you step away from the office. On the contrary, it makes all the difference. Just because you can run your practice from the banks of your favorite trout stream or your cozy home office doesn’t mean you never need to get together with other lawyers.

By joining and getting involved in state and local bar committees pertinent to your practice, an Inn of Court, or other professional group, you retain all the best aspects of an “office practice”: the camaraderie, collegial collaboration, brainstorming and “idea factory” aspects of being down the hall from other lawyers while also gaining the advantages and time-leveraging of a virtual practice. Even getting together with professional colleagues over coffee or microbrews on a regular basis helps keep this critical form of “connectivity” active and vibrant. That “analog” connectivity is essential to a virtual practice.

The day may come when even large firms base themselves in the “virtual” world, with no fixed real estate to call home. In fact, it may already be here. (See http://blog.specialcounsel.com/employment-trends/practicing-in-virtual-law-firm/.) But we will never lose the need to connect, both virtually and actually. The secret to success in the “virtual” world is to retain the “analog” connections that nourish us professionally, while freeing ourselves from the real estate that can otherwise confine us.

And about that “always on” worry? All those tools come with convenient “power off” buttons.

Doug McQuiston has specialized in civil litigation, complex tort, professional liability and insurance law for more than 35 years. He is a member, contributing writer and past chair of the Docket Committee. He can be reached at mcquisd@nationwide.com.

 

This article originally appeared in The Docket.

Posted in Technology