We caught up with Heidi Alexander, Director of the SJC Standing Committee on Lawyer Well-Being to learn about the committee’s latest efforts to help practitioners navigate their practices remotely and manage stress and anxiety during COVID-19.
What has the SJC Standing Committee for Lawyer Well-being seen as the most immediate need for lawyers, law students, and legal professionals as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
We know that everyone is experiencing elevated stress related to this pandemic. Many of the areas of need identified in the SJC Steering Committee on Lawyer Well-Being Report in July 19 are now amplified. For example, one of the recommendations from the Report focuses on addressing financial duress, particularly for small firms, government, and legal aid lawyers. Many attorneys are finding themselves under significant financial pressures, out of work, having to lay off employees, and uncertain about sustainability of their firm or job. Another recommendation from the Report encourages an expansion of awareness of, education related to, and resources around lawyer well-being. There couldn’t be a more significant need for resources and services to improve lawyer well-being at this time.
What is the Committee doing to help the legal community during this time?
The Committee is working collaboratively with its Committee members and community partners to address concerns by the legal community. To keep the public informed as to the ongoing work of the Committee and provide well-being resources, the Committee has launched a website, www.lawyerwellbeingma.org.
We have launched a TechLine to help attorneys navigate technical issues that arise in operating a virtual practice. The TechLine provides attorneys and legal professionals with live one-on-one assistance in selecting, implementing, and troubleshooting technology to operate their practices. Callers receive assistance and support from their fellow lawyers who can identify with and understand the struggles.
TechLine is available Monday through Friday. Callers should leave a message with their name, phone number, and nature of their request. A volunteer will respond by 5pm. The number is (888) 314-7714.
More information is available here.
For attorneys who need a basic starting point for how to maintain continuity of their practice while away from their office, the Committee’s Simple Remote Work Guide is a distilled summary of the bare necessities for remote practice. The Guide includes questions attorneys should answer when transitioning to remote practice as well as specific options for low-cost technology and video tutorials for easy implementation. You can find that guide here.
What is your advice to practitioners to manage stress, anxiety, and promote health & well-being during these uncertain times?
First, prioritize self-care, especially now. There are loads of fantastic resources on self-care and how to manage stress during this time. Second, avoid isolation. Do your best to remain connected to or create a new community. You are not in this alone. Third, and most importantly, if you are struggling, reach out for help. If you are employed by a firm or organization, check to see if your benefits include access to an “Employee Assistance Program” (EAP). EAPs provide mental health, financial, and well-being resources to employees and their family members. If you are a state or municipal employee, you have access to the EAP, Mass4You. Furthermore, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers and its Law Office Management Assistance Program have excellent resources, provide one-on-one consultations, and support groups.