The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down. However, new and innovative strategies have emerged to help lawyers reduce stress and improve mental health in these uncertain times of the global crisis. Technology has been a key enabler in supporting people to connect, socialize and engage in dialogue about the impact of the virus in our lives and reminding people that “you are not alone.” A simple gathering for some DIY coffee in a positive virtual environment can stimulate a profound impact on one’s well-being.
One such innovative initiative was launched in May 2020 by the Canadian Bar Association’s Mental Health & Awareness (MH&A) Committee, a joint committee of the Young Lawyers and Law Students Sections. Coffee in the Times of COVID is a weekly virtual gathering of small groups of young lawyers and law students around a topic of common interest. These gatherings enable social connection among the legal profession and provide a forum whereby young lawyers and law students can discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on their personal and professional lives as well on as the areas of law that matter most to them.
Each gathering will have a designated facilitator responsible for proposing the topic, setting the stage for the meeting and guiding the discussion. There is a maximum of nine participants to maintain the intimacy of the conversation and encourage meaningful connection. Any member of the Canadian Bar Association may propose a topic for a virtual gathering provided it falls under one of the following three streams.
1. The Lost Jobs Series
The COVID-19 pandemic has had serious impacts on both our health care system and our economy. As a result, many Canadians have lost jobs or been laid off temporarily as their employers weather the financial storm. The legal profession has not been immune to these challenges, and many young lawyers and law students have lost jobs or upcoming opportunities. In this series, sessions explore the impacts of COVID-19 on summer positions, articling and associate jobs; participants will be encouraged to share their experiences, resources and tips with other young lawyers and law students from across Canada.
2. The Well-being Series
While physical distancing will keep Canadians safe from COVID-19, it has really changed the way we live our lives. Many students and young lawyers are disappointed about upcoming graduation being canceled or stressed and anxious as they try to figure out how to remain productive while working from home. The struggle is real. This series explores topics relating to promoting well-being during these strange times, while trying to come up with collective ideas on how to keep calm and carry on.
3. The Substantive Law & COVID-19 Series
COVID-19 is changing everything, including the practice of law. Whether you are trying to figure out how to navigate the new rules of Court, wondering how your right to privacy may be circumvented by state of emergency legislation, or what your employment obligations are in the context of a pandemic, you are not alone. In this series, Section Chairs from the Canadian Bar Association are invited to facilitate conversations on how their area of law has been impacted by COVID-1, and what the future looks like for our profession.
Our personal and professional lives are changing ever so rapidly and, as a result, we are facing a lot of uncertainty and stressful situations. However, despite living in a different setting and staying at home, we can still connect with our peers and colleagues and facilitate opportunities for casual conversation, socialization, self-care and well-being within our organizations. Let’s keep our communities connected — we are stronger together.
Special acknowledgement and gratitude go to the wonderful work by the MH&A Committee in leading the Coffee in the Times of COVID initiative and encouraging mental health and well-being in the legal profession.
Chair, CBA Well-Being Subcommittee
Co-Chair, Mental Health & Awareness Committee, CBA Young Lawyers/Law Students Sections