Since 1976, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers has had your back. Now is a time to step up, at LCL’s Stepping Up Breakfast from 7:30 to 9:30 am. on Wednesday, March 22, at the Minneapolis Club.
“Stepping Forward Together” is the theme of this year’s Stepping Up Breakfast, which encourages the legal community to Step Up and meaningfully address well-being within the legal profession. One way to do that is financially. Tickets are $65 for individuals, $35 for low income, public service and students, and $1,000 for a table.
Another way to address well-being is through attention and gratitude. LCL will present its Help & Hope Award, for service to LCL and the profession, to Senior U.S. District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank. Frank is well-known for his interest in and compassion for individuals with developmental disabilities and substance abuse issues. It’s not every federal judge who has a treatment and detoxification center named after him, although he calls it “the Frank Tank.”
Frank served on the Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Board of Directors and was chair of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers in 2019-2020. In 2014, he received the Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Fred Allen Outstanding Service Award.
LCL’s Help & Hope Award reflects service to LCL, the legal community, and the greater community in furtherance of the principles and promises of recovery and toward the reduction of stigma, by supporting those who may be afraid to ask for the help they need by serving as a model for well-being.
“It’s so important to be available so that people can see you care and are receptive,” Frank told Minnesota Lawyer. “That’s what gives people hope.”
Frank sees law firm and other offices becoming more receptive to the importance of wellness. Some firms have added wellness directors to their staff, he said. The reason that works is because it is a smart business decision, he said. Healthy people are more productive, he said. “A truly safe space is better for the firm.”
It also increases the public image of the legal system, Frank said. “There’s no downside to creating a safe environment.”
In June 2022, Frank spoke to the stepping up breakfast. He said, “I therefore say to each of you when you see, whether it is a law student, colleague, another lawyer, or judge, if they are struggling, please reach out and try to assist and support them in a way, because it is OK to seek help and get well and stay well.”
The guest speaker will be Myrna McCallum, an Indigenous (Métis-Cree) lawyer from the historical Métis village of Green Lake, Saskatchewan in Treaty Six territory. She now lives in British Columbia and is host of “The Trauma-Informed Lawyer” podcast. The title of her presentation is, “Stepping Forward Together: Humanity and Humility in the Legal Profession.”
Trauma is pain and fear inside oneself, from an experience or from the absence of an experience that should have occurred, McCallum told Minnesota Lawyer. Navigating relationships with clients and others that are affected by trauma is not always taught in law school, McCallum said, and when lawyers are “transactional” only, clients may believe they are not seen or heard.
The podcast web site states, about trauma-informed lawyering, “This is a do-no-further-harm, relational approach to the practice of law which benefits you, your clients, your colleagues and the legal profession generally. For lawyers and non-lawyers alike, this is your education in trauma, resilience, compassion, empathy, humility, boundaries, vicarious trauma and good professional relationship strategies you didn’t know you needed.” (https://thetraumainformedlawyer.simplecast.com/)
This approach can also get to the root of why lawyers may devolve into a spiral of addiction, whether that be to drugs, alcohol, work, or anything else, she reportedly has said. “We will be a healthier profession if we recognize trauma,” McCallum told Minnesota Lawyer.
Humility and vulnerability help make relationships work. McCallum told Minnesota Lawyer that she routinely hears from judges who say that they need help with issues of mental health and stigma. Empathy, vulnerability and humility do not undermine a judge’s ability to be impartial, she said. Humility, in this context, means knowing what you don’t know but should, asking how we can do better with a problem, and finding out what you need to learn, McCallum said.
McCallum will present a 2.5 credit CLE on trauma-informed lawyering on Tuesday, March 21 at the MSBA offices. Registration information is available here: https://www.mnbar.org/members/cle-events/tri-bar-event?EventID=5763.
McCallum’s message is congruent with LCL’s. As Executive Director Joan Bibelhausen recently told Minnesota Lawyer, “No matter what, we’re in a stressful profession, we’re not going to change that. Our lane is to help people thrive.”
LCL’s lane includes helping its clients not only when they have a problem, but before they do, which requires that people know what resources are out there, Bibelhausen said. “We have to try to help within a limited system.”
That also means helping to reduce the stigma of taking care of ourselves, which keeps us from asking for help, Bibelhausen said. “Don’t wait until there’s damage you have to try to repair,” she said.