Stress and Thanksgiving

You may feel there’s nothing you can do about stress.
The bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more
hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities
will always be demanding. However, you have more
control over stress than you might think. No matter how
stressful your life seems, you can take steps to relieve
the pressure and regain balance.

Sage words from the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program.

Since Thanksgiving – and the holiday season in general – can be especially stressful, here are three stress management strategies to try:

  • Use a tool in the Stress Relief Toolbox. (Take a walk, get out in nature, listen to music, etc.) Pick an activity from the toolbox and do it. Best practices? Don’t wait for stress to build up – use one of these suggestions every day and add your favorites.
  • If you’re a list-maker, you may like the Stress Management Self-Help Checklist. It’s a good way to stay on track and remind yourself of the importance of managing stress as part of your overall health.
  • Last, but not least: if you’re trying to get a handle on the stressors in your life, consider keeping a Stress Journal.

For specific advice on how to cope with holiday expectations and holiday-related stress, review these articles from the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program:

If you’re not sure where to start, or want to talk to someone now, contact one of the attorney counselors at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP). Services are free and confidential.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

Meet the New Oregon Attorney Assistance Program

Well, not exactly. But meet the new OAAP website! Find events that meet your needs or speak to your interests, explore OAAP services, or learn more about the OAAP attorney counselors.

The OAAP can help with:

  • Well-being and stress
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Problem substance use
  • Compulsive and challenging behaviors
  • Career and lifestyle
  • Relationships
  • Challenging times
  • Planning for retirement

OAAP services are confidential and attorney counselors are on-call for urgent matters.

Help for yourself. Help for someone you care about.

If you are concerned about your well-being, or the well-being of another, the OAAP can help with short-term individual counseling, referral to other resources when appropriate, support groups, workshops, CLEs, and educational programs.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

 

 

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

 

How to Treat Bad Clients

When you saw this post title, how did you react? Was your first thought: “Kick ’em to the curb” or “I wonder where this is going?” If it was the former, don’t feel bad – it’s my knee-jerk reaction too.

When we hear the words “bad client,” we instinctively cringe. It conjures up past experiences we would rather not relive. Frankly, nothing could be more unpleasant. So what should we do?

Remedies for bad clients

Want to weed out or eliminate bad clients? Nothing beats:

  1. Screening at intake;
  2. Controlling expectations; and
  3. Knowing when to say no.

Trouble is, most of us know these lessons.  So …

What if a bad client squeezes by?

If there is an irremediable breakdown in the lawyer-client relationship and withdrawal is viable, do it. At this stage, it isn’t going to get better. Yet, some lawyers refuse to do so.

Why would anyone hold on to a client who belittled and berated them? Denied that telephone conversations or email exchanges occurred? Refused to produce materials requested in discovery? Insisted the lawyer use unethical or illegal tactics? (All actual events that have happened to lawyers I know.)

Money is generally the explanation. The lawyer can’t afford to forego the fee (or jeopardize her job). There are other reasons too, like fear and intimidation.

I hope you never experience any of this. If you do, I hope you are strong enough to get out. If you want to talk it over with someone, consider calling one of the confidential attorney counselors at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP).

Is there another approach?

I was motivated to revisit this topic by blogger Celia Elwell. In a recent post, she took on lawyers and legal staff who retaliate against ill-tempered clients by putting the client’s work at the bottom of the stack. Since I’ve witnessed this too, I wanted to share this point made by Ms. Elwell:

Most people, as a rule, do not call an attorney’s office because they are having a good day. Before they became our clients, they realized they had a problem, tried to deal with it, were unsuccessful, stressed, and lost sleep. In short, we are not seeing them at their best.

Take good notes when your clients vent, rant, or repeat themselves. Because they are upset, they may be mistaken or confused. Let the client know that you are listening to them. Interrupt only when you need them to repeat something to make sure you get it right. Document the clients’ concerns, and tell your attorney they called and why.

While her remarks are directed toward staff, they are good reminders for us all.

If you didn’t spot it, notice I suggested above that withdrawal made sense if (a) it was viable and (b) there was an irremediable breakdown in the lawyer-client relationship.

What if you aren’t there yet? This is when Ms. Elwell’s advice comes in handy.

Do not under any circumstances intentionally retaliate by putting the client’s work at the bottom of the stack. At the least, it is unprofessional. It will also likely result in a bar complaint and/or legal malpractice claim. Instead, take the high ground:

  • Try to diagnose what went wrong. Is the client mad at you or someone else? Is the client mistaken or confused? Is this about money? How stressed is the client? Consider scheduling an in-person meeting to air out client concerns.
  • Go out of your way to be courteous and considerate. Instruct staff to do the same.
  • Do high quality work in a timely manner.

It’s easy to be resentful and decide that we’re going to give what we get. But if you go out of your way to appease the upset client, you remove all rational grounds for disputes, complaints, and claims. It’s better to remain professional, even if the “bad” client never appreciates it.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

Postscript

For more tips on improving client relationships, check out this CLE:
7 Steps to Building Better Client Relationships.