As a lawyer who has been heavily involved in my Provincial Lawyer Assistance program and with the CBA’s National Legal Professionals Assistance Conference, I have travelled all over Canada and even ventured into the United States to either speak to, or hear others present, on the topic of lawyer’s wellness. Many of these discussions focus on our collective need to achieve a healthy work-life balance. This isn’t surprising, given the consuming nature of our profession and its demands on our time, mental and emotional energy. Employing our well-trained critical eye on the intricacies of other people’s conflicts can be exhausting. These are some of the reasons why law outpaces virtually every other profession in the incidence of anxiety, depression and other forms of cognitive distress. The only ones who come close to us are dentists. I guess it’s just simply easier to teach yoga or arrange flowers than it is to extract a tooth from a diseased mouth or an abusive spouse from a troubled home.
This is why it’s doubly important in our profession that we achieve balance in order to maintain our health and our ability to work sustainably. This concept is more easily discussed than attained. I’ve tried to practice what I preach by remaining physically active and by regularizing the little things that help me put the job into perspective, whether this be a walk with the dog, a wrestling match with my 12 year old son, getting out into nature or by sharing a well-cooked dinner at home with family.
Sometimes though, it’s easy to let the good habits slide and to get caught up in the catastrophies of those who come to us for solutions. Sometimes the daily grind starts to grind us down and we forget that it’s just a job. When this happens, we can stay mired down until real life steps in with a reminder of what’s important. This last summer, I received my reminder in form of a brand new baby boy. When my wife went into hospital with complications over a month before her due date, I dropped everything to be present and to focus on doing what I could to assist. After a long week, she had our baby and as Samuel Otis Korpan let out his first cry I felt the awesome awareness that we are small players in something infinitely greater. All of the overwhelming chatter and self-manufactured angst that I had been ruminating over in my effort to deliver solutions was silenced by the knowledge that real life trumps everything.
Others are not so lucky. Sometimes real life comes in painful events such as the death of a loved one, or learning that you have cancer, or barely surviving a heart attack. My hope in writing this blog, is that all of you who read it will be more mindful of our greater purpose and do what you need to do to maintain perspective.
James Korpan JKorpan@mcdougallgauley.com