Balancing the Bar

Happiness and the Practice of Law


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A new direction for the New Year- Hochscheid & Associates, LLC is born.

Sometimes we all have to make a decision about whether a situation is working for us or not. Sometimes the the location of  our practice works and often times it doesn’t  I have been away from my blog for a while reassessing my practice, its costs and its benefits. I enjoy my clients and many of them are very loyal and some are good friends. I was recently faced with a difficult choice about what practice location. At 43, you have to look at the longevity of your career differently than you do at 60. Most of the people around me on a daily basis don’t see life, the practice of law or frankly the business of law the same as I. I guess that makes me the odd man (woman) out. As I see it, I am an innovator, a rebel, a visionary and more importantly a reformer.

Part of the process of deciding what to do next with my practice has left me searching for a better fit – for a place where I can be myself both the lawyer and the person. I did a lot of soul searching and came to a very difficult decision which I am sure is going to bring my work and personal life in better balance. I am starting my own practice. In fact, today I officially became Hochscheid & Associates, LLC with the Ohio Secretary of State. Most of my clients are super supportive and I am grateful for their support. Some are not making the move with me and to them I wish them luck. It was a pleasure to represent you and you will be able to call on me when you need me in the future.

As part of the process of figuring out my business direction, I embraced the idea of impermanence. In Buddhism, you often read about impermanence. All of life is impermanent the Buddhist texts say. Perhaps that is why so many people cling to the idea of being lawyers, being in a firm or having clients they are striving for permanence. Clinging or grasping is a huge part of being a lawyer for sure. I have never seen so many miserable people cling to so many trappings of success. I have clung to these things for a long time. Detaching from the idea that I must have certain things to be a lawyer or certain clients has been a big part of the process of making this change for me.

The last several years have shown me, nothing is permanent. Clients come and go, partners leave firms, associates move on, people get ill and sometimes people even get depressed and kill themselves. We are all just trying to make it in this world. Trying to make a living and live a life. Often times we are too busy doing one to actually live the other. I am not one of those people. I am not in this profession solely for money or glory. I want to work and play and I want to do it for myself. It is time to be alone, to fly solo, and starting February 1, 2013 you can find me at the following address if you need me:

Hochscheid & Associates, LLC
810 Sycamore Street; Suite 420
Cincinnati, OH 45202
513-338-1818 phone
http://www.hochscheidlaw.com
tmh@hochscheidlaw.com

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Gratitude in the midst of a hectic week.

This week was a quick one.  A few days of feeling like a dart board and by Friday afternoon I left the clean up my office and the aftermath of chaos.  As the week wound to a close, I found a lot to be grateful for in the spite of the hectic nature of my work week.

National Alliance on Mental Illness – I attended the Hamilton County NAMI Annual Celebration Dinner on Thursday.  It was great to be with people who share your common thoughts and common cause.   Also, finding a way to give back to Society and grassroots volunteerism was the theme which invigorated me as well.  I was accompanied by Betsy Jameson, Katherine Jameson & Pat Ross.  Despite their personal loss, the Jameson clan is strong, resilient and at the end of time spent with them, I was grateful for their companionship and our shared commitment to make something good come out of Ken’s tragic death.

Connecting with others–  Feeling connected to those around me is a way I keep myself grounded and more than that I find that as I know people longer there are deeper connections that reveal themselves.  I had that happen a few times this week.  Clients and colleagues I have known  for a long time only to  discover some shared issue,  something deeper that connects us and I am amazed to find these things.  Suddenly, our close connection makes sense.  This happened a few times this week and I am grateful for the revelations.

The ability to say No to others.   I am exceedingly grateful for my ability to say no, to set limits and to maintain my client’s position in the face of hostile and aggressive adversary clients.   Sometimes NO is the best word in the English language.  Learning to set limits on others, to be obstinate and  stoic if necessary is an essential skill.  Being able to do so without aggression has taken a lot of practice on my part and somehow that practice seems to have clicked this week.

A view from the Witness box.  Today I spent time testifying at hearing to enforce settlement agreement against my former client.  Uncomfortable to say the least.  However, by being the witness and not the attorney, I realized how much I miss being in the courtroom.  I was also very very grateful to have fired the client.  Sometimes, it is best to move on because a client and you can no longer agree.  Leaving the case may cost you some unpaid fees, but it may save you time and aggravation.

A busy week, but a lot to take stock of.  Also, for the record, a lot to be frustrated about.  Somehow, however, in light of all that happened I am more grateful than stressed.


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A Birthday reflection on gratitude

Thursday October 4, 2012 was my birthday.  I was 39 for the 4th time.  Yes, that means I was 43.  For many years I have used my birthday to reflect on what has happened in the preceding year and where I want to go in the upcoming year.  Many years I was very critical of myself and would set very definitive goals for the next year of my life.  This year  I did something different.  I made a list of  what I had done or experienced during my 42d year on the earth that I am grateful for.  My list includes the following:

-My relationship with my husband which grows and deepens yearly. Will will be married fifteen (15) years on October 11th

-My mother and father for the strength and stubbornness they bestowed upon me.

-My health both mental and physical and my health care providers.

-My law practice and the relationships with my clients which sustain me on the tough days.

-My co-worker friends they share the ups and downs of being a lawyer on a day-to-day basis.

-The Cincinnati Bar Association and their commitment to lawyer health and well-being.

-The members of the Health and Well Being Committee their willingness to help, to brainstorm and their commitment to helping others is amazing.

-Betsy Jameson, her friendship, her gift to other lawyers through the Kenneth Jameson Health and Well-being fund and her support.

-Meeting new people who are interested in helping the mentally ill and their families.

-For new friends and old friends, who have been with me on life’s journey and for finding and maintaining friendships with all types of people.

-For mindfulness and meditation and all the peace of mind which comes along with that.

My plans for this year of my life are much simpler than they used to be.   I want to live each day in a mindful manner, I want experience each thing or event that happens be it good or bad as a part of my journey in life.  I want to advance the Committee work of the Health and Well-being Committee.  At work, I want to do all I can with what I have, in the time that have, in the place where I am and then go home and get up and do it again the next day.

And finally, for the next year, I plan to post each Friday  a summary of the things about life and work that happened each week for which I am grateful.


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Distiguishing Depression, an illness, from disaffection in Lawyers.

What is depression and how is it distinguished from life’s down moments/  The blog ‘The Depression Cure” has an interesting essay entitled Depression Tragically Misunderstood.  The topic caught my attention.  Is the word depression misused and does this give rise to the “snap out of it” attitude so many lawyers  have?

Depression is a long-term problem.  Sadness is something we all have in our lives and  something which is often referred to as depression.  Depression in a clinical sense is an illness.  Depression in the common everyday conversation often times means you are sad, blue or down.  “I feel depressed today.”  I hear that from others often.  People, on the other hand,  who are clinically depressed are in need of medical and psychological treatment. They have a  brain disease.  It is no different from diabetes or heart disease.  In fact, the disease was best described by Freud as Melancholia.  Churchill once described his depression as his “black dog”.

Many lawyers fail to acknowledge depression as a real possibility of allowing their career ups and downs going unchecked.  Many times people accept a demoralized, disillusioned and disappointing existence as a part and parcel of being a lawyer or at least maturing as a lawyer.  So, we accept that are down periods and daily negativity as are part of our work and therefore, we begin the process of rewiring our brain to become accustomed to these states.  The more you become accustomed to the state the more your brain functions that way.

Being sad or disappointed is such an everyday thing for many attorneys.   There are so many variables in our lives that make the practice of law unstable – clients, opposing counsel, co workers, support staff.    Further, it becomes a habit to look at things negatively and to expect the worst out of your day.   In fact, it is what lawyers are known for.

The thing is every one has a negativity bias.  We are more likely to remember the negative things because of our “once burned twice shy predisposition”.  Many times this is a subtle thing but if you actually pay attention to the reactions of lawyers around you it can be quite evident that  negativity is the life blood of our industry.  Phrases like “this case is a looser” or “they will not hire me” or “associates are just like barn cats” are great examples.

So this negativity bias is a glass half empty approach.  Combine that with self-criticism many have and the general lack of civility and you have a great recipe for sadness, anxiety and in some cases depression.  The good news is that you can stave off some of this.  Try taking a walk at lunch, meeting a friend who is not an attorney for lunch or keeping a list of all the good things that happen in your or a list of what you are grateful for.    I try to find something to be grateful for everyday.  On bad days,  I am grateful for the fact that I have a job that allows me to use my brain and my communication skills to make money.  I repeat this when I am having a rough day and I also repeat “It is what it is while it is”.

Finally, instead of saying you are depressed trying the following to describe your moods – disillusioned, demoralized, unmotivated, stresses, anxious, mental exhaustion.   Chances are when you really think about it, you are feeling one or more of these feelings.  The great thing about these states is they are temporary particularly if we don’t reinforce the thoughts by dwelling on them.  They will normally pass away on their own.  If, on the other hand, you feel a black fog or can’t shake your down mood after an extended period of time you may want to not only label it as depression but also seek help.

So many of us have misused the term “depression” that it has lost its medical meaning and this makes those with such an illness less likely to come forward or discuss it with others who know.  When someone around us comes forward and says they are depressed we tend to  think back to  that time of disillusionment, stress or etc. and how easily it went away.  Because our down time passed so easily we think people with depression can “get over it”.

It is never that simple, and someone in the throes of depression should never be told to “get over it”.  Part of the problem in our profession is that we expect those around us to “get over things” and not discuss them.  We sweep are down moods aside or “compartmentalize” them and they come back to haunt us when we least want them.   We treat people with stress as if they are weak and unworthy of support.  Only the strong are supported and the strong are those that keep buggering on regardless of what life throws at them.  So, it is the expectation that events are taken in stride.

What has this resulted in?  Low moral, increased rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.  Isn’t it time we stopped this behavior? Isn’t it worth reassessing our reactions to the mental distress of others around us?


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Just like Kudzu… it grows faster than you can imagine.

Have you ever seen Kudzu growing on the side of a hill?  I grew up in the Mountains of Eastern Kentucky and you know Kudzu, a vine of asian origin, is amazing it grows, grows and covers mountains and whatever is in its way.  I haven’t thought about kudzu in forever but yesterday it came to mind.

You see, this time last year I had a great idea.  I was going to meet with the CBA and develop a program to help attorneys in trouble.  It was a simple idea and my goals were very basic.  Get the information out there, educate others about the issues and keep lawyers from self destructing.  It was a no brainer and an unspoken truth – lawyers are unhappy people.  Many people acknowledge this fact, but no one had ever taken the next step to do anything about the issue.

So, what started out as a simple idea just keeps growing, growing and now has momentum all its own.  You guessed it, just like Kudzu.  Now, the issue is what should be done and when.  Do we just provide information and articles, do we set up a support group or groups for lawyers now or wait and what about law students?  Dealing with so many competing things and so many personalities is like herding cats as a colleague and friend told me recently.   Perhaps, the idea was good, but requires some rethinking or at least an organizational structure.  After all, having the idea is the first step in creating something, what comes after that is work.

My main issue is inclusion, for others it is to find the solution.  I want to give people a way to reach their own resolution and for the to be feel safe sharing what has happened in their life.  Others don’t seem to be interested in this and just want to develop a  “fix” to the problem.   You know lets all live a balanced life.  How do you the two types of solutions/actions.  Is it enough that a person’s your heart and ideals are in the right place even if their fixer mentality means that they wish t0 dictate solutions to people.  And what about the fact that the solution based approach ignores the human suffering that is behind the issue.  Saying you don’t want to hear someone’s problems is not acceptable.     There must be room at the table for those who have suffered from depression, stress induced mental and physical illness.  Isn’t this the purpose of the project?

Yesterday, I found myself defending the rights of others to tell their story and the need to have those stories be a part of the solution.  The fixers among us fail to see the value in this and frankly, don’t feel it is worth their time to hear.    I can’t seem to shake my frustration and anger at the idea that members of a group devoted to Health and Well-being can’t see the value in first hand accounts about the downside of practicing law.  So, what to do?  Create a place for those who wish to share – a support group?  Is it our job as a committee to create programing and that’s it?  Who are we to say what the solution is?  Isn’t that a personal thing for each person to find on their own.

I am not sure what the answer is, but I can tell you there must always be room for those who want to share their struggle and who want to be a part of the process of finding a solution.  Neither the Committee as a whole or any one of its members has the solution to these issues/problems.  There is no quick fix.  The lack of a quick fix is what this is about.

There are no hard and fast rules on how to have a balanced life.  If their were, then life would come with a check list and we all know that is not how life works. As much as we like to think that we can control our life, we can’t.   The point is to lead people in the right direction and support them along the way.  Who better to help with this process than those who have been through it who have struggled with illness and come out on the other side.


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Biofeedback monitors for stresss reduction.

In the NY Times health section today I found an interesting article on biofeed back and two products I am thinking of trying on my coworkers (and myself of course).  The blog is called The Doctor’s Remedy: Biofeedback for Stress .  The entry discusses the EmWave product which is not cheap ($225 to 250) but which can give you biofeedback and meaure how your breath lowers stress.  The manufacturer can be found online at www.heartmath.com and has computer based products as well.   There are other similar computer programs from Calm Link at www.calmlink.com.  I just looked on my Android phone and there are a few related products there too.

As many may know, I am a believer in the health benefits of meditation and specifically mindfulness meditation.  This type of product can help you learn basic breath awareness and the use of breath to calm down your nervous system.  So, I will be trying it out and hopefully experimenting on my colleagues and husband and let you know how they work.


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A Year Later the question remains but the memories shift….

Today is the one year anniversary of my colleague, Ken Jameson’s, death from depression.  Death from depression sounds so much better than Suicide.  Clearly depression kills and in this case it killed a wonderful father, brother, uncle, husband and lawyer.   We will all forever miss Ken and his tenacity for life or as his wife says his “tenacity with a twinkle”.

Recently, I have spent some time with his wonderful spouse Betsy.  And even a year later, I am left with far more questions than answers.  Last June I posted a blog post with the help of Dan Lukasik at www.lawyerswithdepression.com about Ken’s depression and how we, his coworkers, were so unaware.  At the time, many people around me didn’t grasp my intent/purpose for talking about his death and struggle with depression.  My first purpose was and still is to bring comfort to those who loved and knew Ken so well.  Second, my hope was to share his story with others who are in the throes of such an illness.   Perhaps, it is just my acceptance of people with mental illness, but these seemed like the logical thing for me to do.

Ken’s family has indeed been grateful for the post.  They miss him terribly.  It is so hard to imagine what this tragedy has done to them all.  For members of his firm family, I can tell you that it has been a rough year.  Everyone in our office admired and loved Ken.  We each had different reasons to admire him.  However, we all saw him as friend first and a colleague second.

For me, getting to know his wife Betsy has been such a gift.   She is perhaps the strongest woman I know.  No one else would have the inner strength and power to eulogize her husband less than a week after his death.  His struggle with depression was her struggle with depression.  They shared everything.  Her story is very powerful and only compounds the why question.   I also empathize with his kids who are now viewing their father through the cloud of mystery surrounding his suicide.  Despite this death, the entire Jameson clan has decided to move forward with life together and they are remarkable people.

The greatest challenge we all face when someone dies by their own hand, is not viewing them solely in terms of how they died.  It is natural to question the choice and or the method and for many, it is thought of as a selfish act.  There is no way to know the reasons behind Ken’s decision and viewing him through his death only overshadows the wonder that was Ken.

For me, as of today, I will remember Ken for his goodness and his life of service to others.  It will be a challenge to be sure, but I think to learn from this horrible tragedy we must move past the shock and celebrate the man who was always there for his colleagues, his family and his clients.  I also hope that his family has peace and comfort in knowing how many lives he touched as they rebuild from the loss they have felt.

Be well Jameson clan we are all cheering for you!