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Clifford Law Offices 2022 Annual Continuing Legal Education Program Empowered Lawyers to Consider Well-being – Mind, Body and Soul

Clifford Law Offices sponsored the 15th annual Continuing Legal Education (CLE) program on Thursday, February 17, 2022, from 2:30-4:30 p.m. CST. The virtual program was attended by nearly 4,000 professionals. 

Robert A. Clifford, founder, and senior partner of Clifford Law Offices moderated the program with thought-provoking discussions by several expert panelists: Erin Clifford, Brian Cuban, Tracy Kepler, and Judge David Shaheed (retired).

The first hour of the program titled, “Mind, Body & Soul: Defining Well-Being in Law,” prompted an in-depth discussion of what constitutes well-being, provided some best practices that viewers could employ personally, at work, or in school, considered challenges we face in corporate culture, and how to persevere. The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism approved the substance of Mind, Body & Soul: Defining Well-Being in Law for 1.00 hours professional responsibility credit (Mental Health and Substance Abuse). The Missouri Bar has approved the Wellness course for 1.2 hours of ethics credit. The program was also accredited for 1.00 hour in ethics by the State Bar of Texas.

Erin Clifford, Partner at Clifford Law Offices and Founder of Erin Clifford Wellness shared her expertise as not only a lawyer but as a highly regarded Chicago wellness coach. She discussed how important open communication is in the workplace when it comes to one’s personal wellness journey, as well as the importance of building wellness resilience through habits. Erin shared how building habit-based routines create personal non-negotiables that reinforce your wellness during stressful times. Learning how to create healthy habits is an important component of developing holistic well-being. Erin’s departing message was to “Make 2022 the year of self-care… Be the best you that you can be.” 

Brian Cuban, Lawyer and Author of “The Addicted Lawyer”, stressed the importance of committing to the personal limits you have set for yourself and eliminating the guilt when your limits are questioned or pushed. He provided the example of the ever prominent post-work day or social event at a bar. If you do not drink, you do not owe an explanation to anyone. He added that as professionals, we always need to respect another person’s choices to eliminate the burden of judgment in the workplace. Brian’s final thoughts were that we all have the ability to empathize and ask questions; a mentality that can benefit us in both personal and professional life. 

Tracy Kepler, CNA Risk Control Director, Adjunct Law Professor, and former Director of the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility focused on how mental health can affect one’s overall health. The legal profession is stressful and encourages a “workaholic” ethic. She stated the importance of developing a plan that includes decompression time, adequate sleep, and healthy choices to prevent burnout. Tracy stressed the value and prioritization of effective communication in order to have an overall better quality of life. 

Judge David Shaheed (retired), Associate Professor at Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs brought a different perspective to the discussion, suggesting that attorneys facing a multitude of issues including substance abuse or a naturally occurring cognitive disease, can turn to the Lawyers Assistance Program (LAP), for professional guidance or support, including the option to make a concern anonymously. Overall, Judge Shaheed believes there needs to be more compassion in the legal profession.

Despite their differing backgrounds, all speakers were unanimous in their opinion that personal well-being in the profession needs to be prioritized and law firms should accept wellness as part of their mission to provide a healthy work climate with happy employees. 

The conversation shifted in the second portion of the program to a more specific understanding of wellness. “Mind, Body & Soul of Diverse Lawyers: The Weathering Effect,” paneled by Leslie Davis, Lindsey Draper, and Law Gutierrez, dissected the mental and emotional toll that weathering has on a law professional over time, and how to best address concerns as an industry. The panelists openly discussed their experiences and beliefs in what is happening in this arena and offered suggestions as to how everyone can become more aware in order to improve the health of the profession. The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism approved the substance of Mind, Body & Soul of Diverse Lawyers: The Weathering Effect for 1.00 hours professional responsibility credit (Diversity and Inclusion). The Missouri Bar approved 1.2 total hours, including 1.2 ethics hours and 1.2 elimination of bias hours. The program, Mind, Body & Soul of Diverse Lawyers: The Weathering Effect, was accredited for 1.00 hour in ethics by the State Bar of Texas.

Leslie Davis, CEO of the National Association of Minority & Women Owner Law Firms (NAMWOLF), stressed the importance of a diverse workplace. Diversity is important for the firm, the employees, and especially the clients because it is imperative to link together individuals who might have shared experiences to promote understanding, belonging, and perspective within the firm or a case. He urged lawyers to continue to be intentional with their actions and communication, which will ultimately lead to a solution. 

Lindsey Draper is the former Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney, Assistant Public Defender, Ret. Judicial Court Commissioner, primarily with the Children’s Court, and the current Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) for the Institute of Well-Being in Law. Lindsey made the point that we are not singular entities and that no person fits in just one box. The conversation surrounding diversity must extend beyond race and religion, to accommodate the everyday nuances of the individual.   Lindsey values the intersectionality of people, as that is the one thing we all have in common and it is through cultural sensitivity and insight that we begin to form better ideas and better solutions. Lindsey asked the viewers to remember that DEI is not a checkbox, but it is meant to value and include everyone: the firm, attorneys, and clients. 

Lea Gutierrez, DEI Director at Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, shared her core belief that a more comprehensive definition of diversity is a collection of characteristics and experiences we have had; meaning, diversity is not always visible – such as a person’s learning style or personal values. Lea encouraged organizations to develop tailored mental health referrals for their marginalized employees, provide resources, and encourage diversity through hiring, education, and support. She left viewers with a final request to become an upstander rather than a bystander.

Clifford Law Offices is proud to promote mental health awareness and diversity as professional development and encourage the growth of wellness and well-being in the law community. To learn more about this year’s CLE program or to watch the recorded version, click here

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