Terry Harrell completed her law degree at Maurer School of Law and her Master of Social Work Degree (MSW) at Indiana University. Terry is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), a Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor (LCAC) in Indiana, and has a nationally recognized Master Addictions Counselor certification from NAADAC. She has worked in a variety of areas including inpatient treatment, crisis services, adult outpatient treatment, wrap around services for severely emotionally disturbed adolescents, and management. Terry has been with the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (JLAP) since 2000 and became the Executive Director in 2002. Terry is active with the Indiana State Bar Association and in August 2014 she became the first LAP Director to be appointed Chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs.

In her spare time Terry enjoys helping others with the aid of her certified therapy dog, Augustus of Mackinac, more commonly known as “Gus,” a six-year-old Golden Retriever. Gus and Terry are frequently seen at state bar events and law schools across the state.

Transcript:

CHRIS NEWBOLD:

Hello, and welcome to the National Taskforce on Lawyer Wellbeing Podcast Series, the Path to Wellbeing in Law. I’m your co-host, Chris Newbold, Executive Vice President of ALPS Malpractice Insurance. As you know, our goal here on the podcast is simple, to introduce you to interesting leaders doing incredible work in the space of wellbeing within the legal profession. In the process, build and nurture a national network of wellbeing advocates, intent on creating a culture shift within our profession.

CHRIS:

Once again, I’m joined by my friend, Bree Buchanan. Bree, we’re 10 episodes into the podcast. They said it couldn’t, it would never happen, but we are here, what a milestone. I’m curious what your impressions have been thus far within the podcast experience.

BREE BUCHANAN:

Yeah, hello, everybody. I think it’s been great. One of the things I’ve enjoyed so much is being able to really get to know and dive with some of these people who are really leaders in the wellbeing space, and get to know them a little bit more. We get to interact with them by Zoom or email, but this is a really unique opportunity, so it’s been great. I can’t believe we already have 10 episodes in the can, so to speak. Time flies, so this has been great.

CHRIS:

It has, and like you, I like the fact that we get to have more in depth conversations with what I would call the movers and shakers of the wellbeing movement. It really allows us to delve into some issues a little bit deeper than we could probably do through CLEs or some other forums.

CHRIS:

So, well let’s shift to our topic today. We shift the conversation a bit to one of the foundational bedrocks of the wellbeing movement, and that’s our lawyers assistance programs. We’re very excited to welcome our friend and fellow taskforce on lawyer wellbeing member, Terry Harrell, who resides in the Hoosier state of Indiana. Bree, I’m going to pass the baton to you because you’ve known Terry for a considerable amount of time and have worked with her on a variety of different issues. So if you could introduce Terry, we’ll get the conversation started.

BREE:

I would love to. Terry occupies a very special place in my life because she was really the person who was responsible for getting me into this. I’ll say a little bit more about that in just a minute, but Terry Harrow is a lawyer and a licensed therapist. She’s been the Executive Director of the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, might refer to it as JLAP, for 20 years, following a decade of work in the mental health field.

BREE:

Terry is the past Chair of the ABA’s commission on Lawyers’ Assistance Program. She served in that role from 2014 to 27, and then at some point near the end of that, she snookered me into taking the reigns for the next three years. So yeah, she was really instrumental in getting me and she was, you are, Terry, the person who got me into this. So thank you.

TERRY HARRELL:

You’re welcome, Bree. I do remember with the taskforce saying, “You’ve got to come do this, you have to come to this meeting. We’re going to form this national taskforce.”

BREE:

That’s right.

TERRY:

I’m wondering whether you’d kill me later or thank me.

BREE:

Yeah, well here’s the thank you. So as Terry became a leader in this space, that was certainly recognized in the ABA President at that time, appointed. It was Hillary Bass out of Florida, appointed Terry to lead the working group to advance wellbeing in the legal profession, which was an all-star group of people who were responsible for launching the ABA’s Employer Wellbeing Pledge two years ago, which has been wildly successful. We have now about 200 signatories of some of the largest legal employers on the planet. Terry continues to be very involved in that. She’s been a key partner within the national taskforce since its inception back in 2016.

BREE:

So, Terry, what did I miss? Welcome to the program.

TERRY:

You did a wonderful job, thank you, Bree. Happy to be here and I need to tell both you, I hadn’t realized you’d done 10 already. I was aware of your podcast but I’m impressed, I’m impressed.

BREE:

So Terry I’m going to start off by asking you the question that we ask everybody is, what brought you to the lawyer wellbeing movement? What experiences in your life are behind your passion in this work? We found that people who really get involved and in the center of the circle of what we’re doing, tend to have some real passion that’s driving what they do. So, what’s yours?

TERRY:

Yeah, that question makes you think back and I think it started young because my dad was a lawyer. I remember running with my dad and one of his partners in high school, I loved doing that. Of course we called it jogging, I won’t tell you how old I am, but that gives it away. We’d go jogging and they would talk about how that helped them to stay more focused at work and improve their mood. As a child of a lawyer, I can testify that evenings when better when my dad went, stopped by the YMCA on his way home and exercised first before he came home. He was a trial lawyer, I think that I learned early that transition from work to home can be really helpful.

TERRY:

Then in high school, I had a friend who died by suicide, and then the father of a good friend also died by suicide. So I think that sparked my interest in mental health and my decision to major in psychology in undergrad. But then I went to law school, and actually, I loved law school. I’m probably a geek, there aren’t many people who will say that but I made really good friends, I enjoyed it. Went to work in big law where I saw both some examples of probably good wellbeing practices and then some very bad practices, but I also learned that for me that work was not where my passion was. I learned what a burden it is to try and work that hard about something that you’re not really passionate about.

TERRY:

Bree, I know you understand this, because you and I have spent our Christmas break working on policies before. You have spent I know, breaks working on tax documents and you only do that if you really, really care about what you’re working on. To do that about something that isn’t terribly meaningful to you is torture, to me at least.

TERRY:

So then I went back, after I worked in law for a couple of years, went back, got my MSW, worked in mental health in a variety of positions which was great. Loved it, but then I heard about this Lawyer Assistance Program and I thought, wow, I’d always wondered if I would get back to my legal roots somehow. Started working at the Lawyer Assistance Program, absolutely loved it. First as the Clinical Director, then as the… I became the Executive Director. Then it was really through the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, that I started thinking more broadly about lawyer wellbeing. At the LAP we were already thinking, and we can talk more later, but we were thinking about ways to talk about prevention with lawyers a little bit. Didn’t have a lot of capacity and bandwidth to do that. But it was really through the commission that I started thinking about structures, the fishbowl in which we are swimming, as opposed to just dealing with each individual lawyer himself or herself, if that makes sense.

BREE:

Absolutely, yeah. At some point you want to go, get tired of pulling people out of the stream and you want to go upstream and stop what the real problem is, yeah.

TERRY:

Yeah, exactly, exactly.

CHRIS:

Terry, many people attribute the start of the wellbeing movement around the report that the National Taskforce released back in, surprisingly, 2016. The 44 recommendations and that, but we all know that the forerunner to that was the work of the Lawyer Assistance Programs. So I was hoping that you could give our listeners some perspective of just that history of the Lawyer Assistance Programs and how wellbeing has played a role and what you do. While it’s probably taken on a more prominent role of late, but still being a centerpiece of what ultimately the programs were designed to do.

TERRY:

Yeah, I would love to do that. Begins to make me feel like I’m an old timer, but when you’ve been doing it for 20 years that happens, I guess.

TERRY:

Yeah, the LAP idea of lawyers helping lawyers, which is originally what we called a lot of the LAPs. Lawyers helping lawyers has been around for many decades, at least since the ’70s. I believe much earlier than that, but it was a very informal, just volunteer, and it was mostly lawyers in recovery from addictions trying to help other lawyers who were struggling with addictions, and primarily alcohol, that’s what they were. But then in the ’80s, staff programs starting popping up, people started realizing, this could be a lot more helpful if there was a phone number, one phone number to call, one person who is the point person because it was hit and miss with the volunteer network on who found them and who didn’t find them.

TERRY:

So states around the country started creating Lawyer Assistance Programs where they’d have an office with a phone number and a person assigned there. At that time, the ABA formed a commission, it was called the Commission on Impaired Lawyers. Tells you how far we’ve come. It was about helping impaired lawyers. It was very basic and the primary goal was to help states create a formal program to do this work. I forget exactly when, somewhere in the ’80s I believe or early ’90s, we changed it to the Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, which I think is a much better name. I don’t know exactly the timing, but by 1997 when Indiana created our program, the stronger programs all over the country were what we called broad brushed, in that they dealt with mental health issues, including substance use issues but much broader. I think the earlier programs probably did assist a few lawyers with mental health problems, but that’s not what they were known for.

TERRY:

Over the ’90s I would say, and early 2000, almost I think all of the LAPs today are broad brushed, in that they will help lawyers with almost any problem that they come against, not just substance abuse problems but that myth still persists today. Even though Indiana, for an example, we’ve been a broad brushed program since 1997 and yet I will go out and speak and some lawyer will walk up to me and say, “Wow, I wish last year I’d known that you dealt with problems other than alcohol because Wilma Flintstone was grieving her husband’s death and we thought she was really depressed, but because we know she didn’t drink, we never thought to call the Lawyer Assistance Program.” So that kills me and I want to get that word out there. I’m sure Bree has heard those stories as well.

BREE:

Absolutely, yeah.

TERRY:

So the LAP was doing our work, helping lawyers that were either brought to our attention or came to us voluntarily wanting help. All along, I kept thinking, we should also be doing some more prevention work. I’d like to offer some lawyer’s running group or do some more education, get some more education out there. I couldn’t believe how many years I’ve been doing JLAP 101 presentations.

TERRY:

One of our state bar presidents said, “Terry, what if we create a wellness committee at the state bar, will that upset the LAP? Would we be taking your turf?” I said, “Absolutely not. You can help us because you can do more of those proactive things, like have healthy eating seminar for lawyers or sponsor 5Ks and do some more of that front end work than what the LAP has the bandwidth to do.” We work together very closely. I mean, I was a Co-Chair that first year, I’m back being Chair again, Co-Chair again this year. In fact, the way it works is the wellness committee supports a 5K run but you know who’s there at 6:30 in the morning to organize the whole thing? It’s always staff from the Lawyer Assistance Program. So we really worked hand-in-hand and we’re still having discussions about, how do we work together to be able to do more and not duplicate efforts and not cause each other any hard but actually do more? Because there’s certainly lots more work to do, tons more work.

BREE:

Yeah, and Terry, I’m interested in… because you’ve been so central in this space and know all the players and people. Particularly since the report has come out, what do you see in the area of, I think of it as prevention work, but a lot of times it comes under the heading of wellbeing or wellness. What are some of the things that you’re seeing that the LAPs are doing now?

TERRY:

I think we’re offering, we’re increasing the breadth of our programming, which is good. We’re focusing our marketing efforts, if you will, on those things. I know in our LAP, we found that our care for the caregivers support group is one of the more popular groups, that and our grief group have been more popular. They’ve helped people to understand that there are certain issues that may impact everyone or at least any one of us can encounter. By being part of some of these wellness efforts with the state bar, I think people started to perceive us more as wellbeing people and it’s a good thing to be seen hanging out with those people, as opposed to in the past when they saw us as the alcohol police. They really didn’t want to be seen with us, or I’d walk into a cocktail party and someone would put his drink behind his back. It’s like, we’re not the alcohol police, we’re all about wellbeing. I think that has started to come through, and it’s helped with collaborations.

TERRY:

With the report coming out with these very specific recommendations, I was able to talk to the state bar and the LAP and the state bar put on a symposium for legal employers talking specifically about the recommendations for legal employers and what they can do to improve wellbeing. That was fabulous, actually, we had wonderful speakers from a lot of the law firms and corporate council groups around the state. That was just great. We’re still getting our normal referrals, and of course those remain confidential, but we’re doing so much more that doesn’t have to be confidential, like offering yoga and offering a mindfulness session, that I think we’re more visible to. We’re not this mysterious hidden group any longer.

TERRY:

With more emphasis on wellbeing and the taskforce report coming out, and the pledge from the ABA. Even my own supreme court decided to create a wellbeing committee specifically for supreme court employees. So we’re a 250-person group ourselves, so we’ve added that. So I mean, I just think raising the visibility and the emphasis on wellbeing has had incredible results for us.

CHRIS:

Terry, as you think about… I mean I’m not as familiar with the Lawyer Assistance Programs, although being on the malpractice prevention side, we certainly have partnered with… I mean, we work a lot in rural states, so we were aware of certain states that still did not have a Lawyer Assistance Program. My sense is now that I think all 50 states actually have one. Not knowing when you started with the Indiana program, I would just love to hear your perspective on where we were then versus where we are now from an evolution perspective. You got to be pretty excited because this feels like there’s a lot more with the innovations going on in the wellbeing side, I like to always think of the Lawyer Assistance Programs as, you guys are the heroes in the trenches every day. I think that there’s a great appreciation for the work that you do but it’s been a lot of work to get to the point where the issue has become back on the front burner as a national topic of discussion.

TERRY:

Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, I mean even when we created our program in ’97, there was still a lot of states that did not have a program at all. Now, there were a lot that did. Indiana is rarely first, but we’re rarely last. There were also states that only served lawyers, they didn’t serve law students, they didn’t serve judges. So I’ll make a plug for my state, I was very proud of my state that they looked around and said, “Looks like the better programs serve law students, lawyers and judges, the entire legal community, and they’re broad brushed.” We made that decision but it took a while, into the 2000s I’d say. Now we’re at the point where I think almost every state… let me phrase it this way. I think every state has a Lawyer Assistance Program, some are more robust than others. There’s a fair number that still have only one employee and there might be one that’s still voluntary, but there’s definitely someone we could get a hold of at every state that is concerned with Lawyers’ Assistance. So we’ve come so, so far.

TERRY:

I remember in the day when it was hard. I mean, we knocked on doors to get… we wanted to get our message out at various lawyer conferences, and we really had to work at that. Today, everyone wants a wellbeing program at their conference, whether it’s prosecutors or defenders or trial attorneys, judges, everyone wants a wellbeing program. So now, I mean I talk to my staff about we may have to start to get selective because we’re doing so many presentations throughout the year that we’ve got to make sure we have time to take care of our clients as well. That’s the most important part of what a LAP does, but it’s a great problem to have to work at. I think a lot of that credit goes to the wellbeing movement, that it’s on people’s radar. So organizations that I wasn’t even aware of who never thought to contact are now contacting us.

BREE:

That’s great.

TERRY:

That’s huge.

BREE:

Yeah, that is.

CHRIS:

Yeah, and let’s take a quick break because one of the things I’d love to come back and talk about is just how the demand has evolved over time, because I’ve got to think with COVID and other things, the demand was already high but we’re at an even more interesting place with the pandemic.

CHRIS:

So, let’s hear from one of our sponsors, take a quick break, and we’ll be back.

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BREE:

Welcome back, everybody. We are so honored today to have Terry Harrell, who is really a leader, the leader, one of the leaders in the Lawyers’ Assistance Program world. She has worked at every level of that experience. Terry has been the Executive Director of the Indiana JLAP for the past 20 years, so brings a wealth of experience.

BREE:

So I’m guessing, Terry, that you have a finger on the pulse of how things are going with the LAPs during COVID? The level of demand and how they’re meeting and what they’re seeing. I mean, early on in the pandemic, what I knew in talking to the LAP programs is that they felt that people were hesitating to call. The demand went down at first, but I don’t think that’s the case now. What are you seeing?

TERRY:

I think you’re right on spot, Bree. I think when… My experience, and I think I heard this echoed correct with the other LAPs is that last spring, calls dropped off. I think two reasons. One, all the law students got sent home from law school. We couldn’t do our onsite support groups for law students any longer or meeting one-on-one with law students. Those calls, I mean they went dead silent. We heard nothing from the law students for months.

TERRY:

But the lawyers and judges also dropped off. I don’t know, my thinking is, and this is just Terry Harrell speaking. I think the lawyers and judges were busy trying to help others, trying to help their firm or their court staff deal with what was going on at work, trying to help their families, trying to help their communities figure out what had to happen. As usual, as lawyers will do, they put themselves last and they just sucked it up and did the work they had to do because as the pandemic continued, and I think this is true for all the LAPs, I know it’s true for us, the calls began to come back. Lawyers and judges are calling us, we’re starting to have our normal calls again, as well as, it’s funny, the COVID stress calls don’t come in directly. Someone will call me, concerned about another person, say, another lawyer in the firm.

TERRY:

Then next thing I know, we’re talking. Well, how is this isolation and the pandemic, how’s that affecting you? Next thing I’m talking to that lawyer about their stressors. To where we’ve all noticed, they come in sideways because lawyers as usual, are busy trying to help other people, but they’re getting to us now. I’m really pleased with that, that our normals are back up to normal.

TERRY:

What I would say, I hate to say there’s a bright spot in a pandemic because there’s nothing good about this pandemic, but one of the things, I guess a silver lining of a bad experience, has been our support groups. We had before pandemic, we had, I don’t know, eight maybe support groups going around the state, but if you lived in a smaller community, there wasn’t one close to you. We just couldn’t justify having support groups in some of those communities that had few lawyers in them. Even if you go into Indianapolis, to get to the downtown support group, if you work on the north side to get done with your work day and drive 45 minutes to downtown Indianapolis for a support group wasn’t real. Then 45 minutes home, wasn’t realistic.

TERRY:

So when the pandemic hit, we moved everything to Zoom. We talked about it but we’d never done it. We just did it because we didn’t have any choice. It’s been great because we’ve been able to include people from more rural areas. It no longer matters geographically and so people have come to groups that normally wouldn’t have. They’ve been much more effective than I would’ve guessed.

TERRY:

We also added a group, that just called our Connection Group. So everyone who is practicing law or going to law school or serving as a judge during the pandemic is eligible. We’re all eligible, it’s just to connect with other members of the legal community. It’s robust and people get on there and talk about the challenges that they’re facing. They also laugh as most support groups, they also laugh and have a good time.

TERRY:

So I think when it’s over, we’ll go back to having some in person, I mean because doggone it, sometimes there’s nothing like a hug or an arm on your shoulder, but I think we’ll continue with the Zoom support group meetings because they are more effective than I ever would’ve guessed. It allows us to get to those people in rural communities. I mean, this may be something, Chris, for those states like North Dakota and Montana, where you just don’t have big populations of lawyers. If they can do things by Zoom, I have been shocked at how well that has gone.

CHRIS:

Yeah, I think you raise a good point, because I think that in some ways the legal profession is now more connected because of the necessity of having to utilize technology to connect with one another. One of the things that I’ve seen in the bar association world is that fairly significant rise in participation in CLE program. Obviously that all went virtual, but they’re seeing, particularly in rural states, record numbers of people sitting in on getting their CLEs and connecting in an entirely different way. So that’s going to be really interesting to see how that plays out from a support perspective in the longterm, but like you said, I’d be rather optimistic that we feel like people are not as far away even though we’re physically not together. There’s connection points that we can certainly rely on as we move forward.

TERRY:

Absolutely.

BREE:

Terry, I know the… and just to emphasize and reemphasize this as those in the LAP world always do, that everything is confidential about the calls, 100%. But of course abiding by confidentiality, can you talk about maybe any trends that you have seen in the kind of calls that you’re getting? I mean since they’ve started to pick back up, do you see more extreme situations? Have the type of calls changed, or just going back to what they were before?

TERRY:

I would say it’s really, it’s amazing but I think they’re going back to the mix we had before, which has tended to be more heavy on mental health recently than addiction, which is interesting. Although, sometimes we find out there’s also an addiction issue there, of course, but it’s in the same mix of lawyer with dementia, demeanor issues, depression, alcohol. We have had two… again, thinking about confidentiality, I have to think what I saw but we’ve had two pretty dramatic relapse situations and I don’t know if those were due to COVID or not. It’s too new but they were two people that we thought had a really solid recovery. So I will be over time I’m sure, we’ll figure some of that out and see if that played into it or it was just the course of addiction itself.

BREE:

Sure.

TERRY:

But yeah, I haven’t seen a big change in the type of calls we get, other than it’s almost like the pandemic is just one more layer. It’s one more stressor on top of everything else.

CHRIS:

Terry, I’m curious that the pandemic I think for a lot of people has been an opportunity to reflect on their current state of life. I’m just curious particularly with your social work background, just your perspective on… people are evaluating all parts of their family and their professional life, their relationships, and how that ultimately… I’m sure there will be books and book written post pandemic about the impacts of that as a reflection point. We’re just curious on your perspective of lawyers in particular and as they had to work from home and not be as connected. I’ve heard some lawyers say, “I really never want to go back to an office again.” So I’m just curious on that, on your perspective on that.

TERRY:

Yeah, I mean like you say, it’ll be years before we know the total impact, but I definitely think it has caused people to think about, what do I really need to do? Do I need to be going this hard? Do I need to travel that much? Maybe I want to take a job where I can, if my employers let me continue to stay at home, maybe I’ll quit that job and find a job that allows me to work from home. I’m aware of at least one retirement that was, not caused by the pandemic, but hastened by having that time to reflect on what’s really important in life. The lawyer decided, you know what? I was going to wait two more years but why? Why am I doing that? I want to spend this time with my family, I’m going to go ahead and retire. So I think there’ll be changes in workplace policies, and I don’t know how that will all fold out.

TERRY:

Yeah, and I think there’ll be some career changes because I think there will be some people who have decided what’s most important to them, that there may be some shuffling around. People may make some career decisions because they’ve had time to sit with themselves and decide what’s really meaningful and what works for them, instead of just jumping into the daily grind thoughtlessly every day. I think we’ll see some changes.

CHRIS:

Yeah, and employers may need to adapt as well. Again, I think it’s going to be very interesting to see that if nothing else, the work-life balance has been called into question. As we think about wellbeing as wanting people to feel like they’ve made a good decision in are professionally satisfied in the practice of law. Having a pandemic in the midst of a career has an opportunity for you to rethink your position in that world.

TERRY:

It really does. I mean, there’s some dramatic instances. I’ve heard of lawyers who went into the courtroom and the judge said, “I won’t let you go forward unless you take your mask off,” where they thought it was… something like that can make you think, well, is this really worth risking my life to do big things? Then maybe employers will change. It’s turned out there’s some people who are very rigid about, I want you at your desk working 8:30 to 4:30 or whatever, very rigid hours. They may have learned that actually if you tell people, “This is the work you need to get done but you can be flexible about when you do it,” and it still gets done, that may open up some possibilities for people. Yeah, it will be very interesting to see what happens.

CHRIS:

Terry, you’ve been very involved in the work to create systemic change in the legal profession, both as it relates to wellbeing and both in Indiana and on the national front. Could you talk with us about some of the projects that you’re currently involved with? Again, both at home and on a national level?

TERRY:

I would love to. Bree mentioned earlier that Hillary Bass created the working group to advance wellbeing in the legal profession, but that was a working group that was sunset a couple years ago, but one of the major initiatives of that group was the ABA Wellbeing Pledge. That pledge was meant to continue and to continue to be there to encourage and support employers to make changes in the workplace to benefit lawyer wellbeing. So CoLAP took that under their umbrella and created a wellbeing committee at CoLAP, which I’m still involved in.

TERRY:

I’m particularly involved in our subcommittee that’s working on that pledge. We have, I don’t have a current number, it’s approximately 200 people have signed the pledge. That’s a very rough number, but more people are signing on. We’re starting to get feedback on what the legal employers are doing. I want to stop, it’s easy to say firm, we mean legal employers. This is for anyone who employs lawyers in their workplace, whether it’s a government agency, law school, law firm, in-house council. It’s broad, broader than just law firms, I want to be clear about that.

TERRY:

We’ve seen some big changes, we have seen law firms are updating their policies to be respectful of mental health and encourage people to get the help they need when they need it. I’ve seen law firms hire wellbeing directors and I’ve seen them go a different way and hire an actual in-house therapist to be available to their staff. There’s just been explosion of wellbeing activities and programs in the law school, that go on and on about that. Now, I do think most of those are aimed at the students, which is great, but I think we need to circle back and remind the law schools that they also employ a whole lot of lawyers on staff and make sure that those wellbeing initiatives are also including their own employees, because I’m not sure it’s been interpreted that way at the law schools.

TERRY:

Legal employers are doing things to reduce the emphasis on alcohol, either by having events that are not built around alcohol or by having more options available or limiting the amount of alcohol served. I think there’s still a lot of thought going into how to do that by the legal employers. All legal employers are offering some sort of wellbeing training, whether that’s learning about mindfulness, financial wellness, nutrition, learning about your Lawyer Assistance Program and your EAP. A fair number are offering some fitness coaching kind of alternatives, there’s a lot of creative work being done. I know Bree’s been following some of those signatories as well. She’s also on that wellbeing committee. It’s fun to see and I just can’t wait to see what else comes out of those initiatives with the legal employers.

TERRY:

I’m going to talk about the policy committee briefly, but did you all have anything you wanted to say about the pledge? I know Bree, you’ve been really involved in that as well.

BREE:

No, but I think that it really is beginning to change the way things are done. It also, we’re creating opportunities for these pledge signatories to come together and share information and strategies. So it’s a great project and one that’s just getting started.

TERRY:

Right, in fact I should mention, in March we’re going to have a virtual event for those law firm signatories. So if anybody’s thinking about joining, I would suggest you join before March so you can take part in the March virtual, of course, event.

TERRY:

I’m also on the ABA policy committee today, and that group is looking at the taskforce recommendations, particularly ones on what the regulators should do, because the taskforce report asked that regulators take action to communicate that lawyer wellbeing is a priority. I think that means getting it into written policies and rules so that it’s there for the long term, not just something we talk about at one CLE and move on. So policy committees looking at the model rules of professional responsibility, with an eye on how can we emphasize wellbeing as an aspect of competence. I’m not going to go into more detail on that yet because I think there’s a lot of moving parts there, but I hope that we will be able to make some change in the model rules that institutionalizes wellbeing so it doesn’t go away. So that law professors can talk about it in their professional responsibility classes, so that CLE ethics can tie to it. I think there’ll be all sorts of benefits to institutionalizing the idea in the model rules. We’re watching other policies where there’s an opportunity to add that in.

BREE:

Yep, so foundational. [crosstalk 00:35:23] about what’s going on in Indiana. You guys have taken the lead in some initiatives. The character and fitness questions.

TERRY:

Yeah, in terms of systemic change, I think this is a really important one. For those who don’t know, most bar examiners historically ask… years ago, they asked a really intrusive question about, have you ever been diagnosed with or treated for a variety of mental health conditions? I think the question had been narrowed by most states but it was still there. CoLAP has continued to push and I’ve not been directly involved in those efforts, but to tell states that the question needs to come off the bar application. It’s okay to ask about misconduct or behavior that’s concerning or problems with performance, but it’s inappropriate to ask whether someone has a diagnosis or has sought treatment for something.

TERRY:

We went to our Chief Justice, I guess it was six months ago now maybe. Once we explained it to her, she said, “You’re absolutely right, we should not be asking that question, period. Let’s take it off starting today. Let’s just remove it.” We even had had a few applications come in and she said, “Just strike it from the few applications that have come in. We are not using that question anymore-

BREE:

Wow.

TERRY:

… starting today,” which was fabulous.

BREE:

I didn’t know that, that’s great, Terry.

TERRY:

She did it, because we thought we’d have to wait until the next round because it had still been on the application. She’s like, “No, we’ll just mark it out on this one and then take it off the next one and we’re done with that question right now.” That was fabulous, and we’re not the first state. I know New York for sure has done that. I think there’s a couple others that I can’t recall, but I’m hoping that the snowball is rolling and that more and more… because that’s something that sends a message to law students, it sends a message to lawyers, that getting treatment is a good thing. That’s a positive thing, not a weakness. It’s so important.

BREE:

So essential before they join the legal profession. So Terry, this the capstone question. So, are you ready?

TERRY:

Okay.

BREE:

So pull out your crystal ball and tell us, I think you’re one of the best people I the country to talk about this. What does the Lawyers’ Assistance Program of the future look like? I mean, what would be ideal? Then talk about it if you can, what it takes to get there.

TERRY:

Well what’s in my head is more of a picture, it may not have the details in it yet, maybe you two can help me flesh it out, but one of our volunteers for years has always said that her vision for JLAP, for our LAP, is that it’s a coffee shop. It’s this friendly, open coffee shop where lawyers can stop in, get a cup of coffee, connect to others, talk over their challenges. There’s no stigma to coming in, it’s a very welcoming and encouraging place. I really think that idea, that is the LAP’s role, it’s helping lawyers to connect, whether it’s to a volunteer, another lawyer, a support group, or to professional treatment of some kind, or just reconnect with themselves. That’s the key, I think, underlying LAPs.

TERRY:

Wellbeing is very individual, so it’s maybe the LAPs are helping all lawyers to stay on track with their own wellbeing, whatever that means. Thriving and performing at their highest level. I can envision, what is LAPs, every lawyer did an annual checkup just like you do with your primary doctor?

BREE:

Great.

TERRY:

Let’s pause, push the pause button, sit down with someone from LAP and just say, “Am I taking care of myself? Am I thriving, or am I merely getting by, or am I really sinking here?” Wouldn’t that be great, to just pause once a year and meet with somebody and have that discussion? That would obviously probably take a few more staff, so maybe a little more funding, but that’s my big vision.

BREE:

Great, and in the report, one of the recommendations under that, the LAP section, was to make sure that there adequate funding for the programs to be able to meet the need. A part of that need, it’s the calls and it’s also be able to get out and do all of this public education that is now being requested. We’ve seen some successes in that around the country, particularly we had the podcast from Virginia and how they got an increase in funding that, I don’t know, tripled?

CHRIS:

Yes.

BREE:

What they were able to do and able to hire full-time professional staff, and that’s really made all the difference. So there’s always that piece too.

TERRY:

There really is. Two things about that. I need to give a shout out to my Supreme Court for supporting us, fully supporting us with funding, helping us with staff, but also during the pandemic with laptops and speaker or headsets and cameras and all that’s necessary to do our work. The other piece is, yes, you have to have a LAP that’s well funded because we have people that are out doing these presentations, which you can’t just walk away in the middle of a presentation. We have calls coming in and we also have these crisis situations that come in where suddenly one or two staff people may have to just take off and go deal with a crisis situation. Whoever’s left has to pick up whatever they were supposed to do that day. So the funding is a tricky… funding and staffing is a sticky, interesting issue.

BREE:

Yeah, absolutely.

CHRIS:

I think it’s interesting, Terry, that first of all, I love your coffee shop analogy because I do think that we’re ultimately trying to create a space that’s a very welcoming space. I know how much you have been emboldened in your mission because of the support of your Supreme Court. I almost think of the judiciary as being the baristas in those coffee shops because if they are offering us a wide menu of options and also helping with the systemic change and being supportive, I think so much of what we’ve been able to achieve in the wellbeing movement has been because of the support of the judiciary. Most notably the state Supreme Courts.

TERRY:

Absolutely.

CHRIS:

… and the development of the taskforces. We struck a nerve with a group of individuals who, let’s be honest, are the leaders in our profession. The more that they’re sitting at the table in that coffee shop as our baristas, I think the more effective we will ultimately be, not just in the success of the Lawyer Assistance Programs but in engineering this culture shift that ultimately is our longterm goal.

TERRY:

That’s absolutely right. We’ve had such good support institutionally from our court and from our Chief Justice. We also have two of our justices are actually JLAP volunteers. One justice in particular, he goes around and will speak with us and say flat out, “It is okay not to be okay. It happens to everyone from time to time, it is okay to ask for help. We don’t expect perfection from you, we expect excellence and that means taking care of yourself.” It’s fabulous when lawyers here that from that level, that kind of leadership.

BREE:

What a great message, yeah.

TERRY:

It is, truly is.

CHRIS:

Well, this has been… this again, Terry, you are one of the pioneers in our space here, working in the trenches. You’ve been so giving of your time, talent, resources, expertise. We’re thrilled to have you in our midst, we’re thrilled to have you on the podcast. We just can’t say enough.

CHRIS:

Bree and I both served on the ABA working group and the amount of work product that came out of that group under your leadership in that short period of time was really impressive.

TERRY:

Well, thank you to the two of you for taking that ball and then running with it. It’s been fabulous and I’m really excited to see where we go in the future with the wellbeing.

CHRIS:

Awesome, Bree, any closing thoughts?

BREE:

Just to echo what you’ve said, Chris. We are so appreciative, Terry. It’s great to spend some time with you.

CHRIS:

All right, so we will be back in a couple weeks with our next podcast. A lot of great things, I think, on the horizon, in the wellbeing movement. Bree and I think, as we think about the long term sustainability of our movement, there’s some real exciting things happening. A considerable amount of outreach and conferences on the horizon. So there’s just a lot of good stuff happening out there, both at the state level and the national level. So we certainly hope to be a part of being able to promote those things that are on the horizon because it just feels like more and more things are cropping up on the calendar and that’s good for ultimately where we’re trying to take it.

CHRIS:

So, for everyone out there, be good, be safe, be well. We will see you on the next podcast. Thanks for joining us.

 

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