MCLE Changes Coming

At its June/July 2018 board meetings the OSB Board of Governors voted to recommend a requirement for MCLE on mental health and substance use issues. The overall number of MCLE credits required in each reporting period will not change, as the proposed rule includes a reduction in general/practical skills requirements.

Why require education on substance abuse?

The pressure and stress inherent in the legal profession begins in law school and never fades away:

  • Lawyers are almost twice as likely to struggle with alcohol abuse when compared to the general population
  • In a 2016 study more than 1 in 5 lawyers reported that they felt that their use of alcohol or other drugs was problematic at some point in their lives
  • In the same study nearly 3 of 4 reported that their problematic use started after they joined law school.

Source: Indra Cidambi, M.D., “Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Legal Profession: Why Lawyers Are at Increased Risk for Addiction,” Psychology Today (June 2017).

This may not be you, but it may be someone you know. A friend from law school, your partner, or a colleague. As the Psychology Today article points out, members of the legal profession are at increased risk and “need to be proactive in reaching out and leaning on their support system before they feel overwhelmed and trapped.” Getting educated on the topic is a start.

Mental health issues affect us all

Not only are lawyers more likely to struggle with alcohol abuse, we also suffer from disproportionately higher rates of mental health issues.

  • Many law students show signs of depression, anxiety, hostility and paranoia within 6 months of entering law school.
  • After the first year of law school, 40% of law students suffer from depression, which persists through law school and their careers.
  • Practicing lawyers find that they have to compromise their ethical principles or moral values, which creates a conflict in them.
  • They may also have to take and defend positions that are contrary to their belief system.
  • In the 2016 study referenced above, 6 of 10 participants reported anxiety, 1 of 2 reported depression, and nearly 1 in 8 reported ADHD. 1 in 9 reported suicidal thoughts at some point during their career.

Source: Indra Cidambi, M.D., “Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Legal Profession: Why Lawyers Are at Increased Risk for Addiction,” Psychology Today (June 2017).

Getting help now

The Oregon Attorney Assistance Program provides assistance with and referral for problem alcohol, drug, and/or other substance use; stress management; time management; career transition; compulsive disorders (including problem gambling); relationships; depression; anxiety; and other issues that affect the ability of a lawyer or judge to function effectively. Services extend to Oregon law students and are free and confidential. If you or someone you know is affected by any of these issues, call (503-226-1057 or 800-321-OAAP) or contact the OAAP today.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

 

My Desk, My Enemy

Desks are the pedestals of our productivity. How we organize the stuff on them has a big effect on how well or if we get things done in a timely fashion. But just as important as these practical concerns is the impact it has on our mental health.

While researching content for a presentation, I came across this older post: My Desk, My Enemy: 6 Helpful Ways to Get Organized.  Written by Dan Lukasik and published at Lawyers with Depression, it contains helpful information that remains relevant.

Organizational Style

Dan begins by describing the four organizational styles identified by Kelly Lynn Anders in her book, The Organized Lawyer:

Stackers organize by topic in stacks. They are visual and tactile and like to give the appearance of order. The busier these people are, the more stacks they have.

Spreaders are visual like stackers, but must be able to see everything they’re working on.

Free Spirits keep very few personal belongings around the work area. They like new ideas and keep reports, books, articles and magazines near.

Pack Rats have emotional ties to things. They like the feeling of fullness around them and like to tell stories about what’s in the office.

These categories are insightful, and describe a fair number of people I’ve worked with. But they fail to recognize what happens when a lawyer is depressed, depleted of energy, and has no motivation to get organized.  Dan calls this “the depressed desk:”

When a lawyer has depression, motivation and organization are BIG problems. A lack of energy blunts motivation. We already know that it’s a good idea to keep our desk together, but there simply isn’t much neurochemical juice to get it done….

We must outfox depression. It would have us do nothing. So we must do something. 

Dan’s Six Simple Solutions [Abbreviated]

  1. Get rid of all those pens. Only keep three or four.
  2. Take home any books that you don’t use on a regular basis. [I would add: do the same with magazines and legal periodicals. Create a “free spirit” space at home if this is your organizational style.]
  3. Hide cords – use twist-ties or coil your cords up.
  4. Only keep on your desk what you need for that day. Then section off your desk and workspace so that everything has a specific space.
  5. Have a dump day.  Pull everything out, put it in a big pile, sort, and toss.
  6. Schedule a date and time to clean your desk.

Read Dan’s original “six simple solutions” here.

Parting Thoughts

It’s easy to be skeptical of simple solutions.  How could tossing excess pens or hiding cords possibly help?  What difference does it make to clean off my desk?  

Trust me, it helps.

  • Eliminating clutter reduces stress and anxiety.
  • Organizing and prioritizing gives you back a sense of control.
  • Compartmentalizing allows you to plan for what you need to do and when.
  • Freeing up space allows you to breathe, think, and work.

You owe yourself, and you deserve, a pleasant work environment.

If you are a lawyer with depression, consider following Dan’s blog and connect with one of the confidential attorney counselors at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program.

[All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis]