Every day, I am thankful for something wonderful in my life. Today I am thankful that I have taken the steps to be a happy and successful lawyer. As an advocate for wellness for the legal profession, I’d like to share some common traits that lawyers, judges and magistrates who live happy and fulfilling lives embrace.
A positive attitude
Have you ever heard of Debbie Downer? Debbie is a fictional character from Saturday Night Live who always brings up depressing topics when hanging out with her friends. For example, when having breakfast at Disney World and the waiter asks if they want steak and eggs, Debbie says, “Ever since they found mad cow disease in the U.S., I’m not taking any chances.” Being happy starts with a positive attitude. Instead of bringing up mad cow disease, Debbie could have been positive by saying, “I’m so thankful that I can make my own choices on what I want to eat this morning. I will have the fresh fruit for breakfast.” Always look on the bright side, instead of focusing on the negative parts of life.
If you catch yourself seeing the glass as half empty, try to catch yourself before the negative thoughts sink in. Then think of something positive instead.
Legal professionals, especially judges, are busy at all hours of the day. We are constantly meeting deadlines, meeting with lawyers and courthouse staff. Many of us take advantage of all that technology can do to make our lives easier. Apps are available specifically for time management, billing, meditation, taking notes, calendaring, file storage, etc. Do a google search for “best apps for judges” and you will find many time-saving tools that will help you succeed.
Balancing work and life is definitely a challenge for judges, but it can be done. You might find it difficult to find balance when you are required to be accessible at all times. Try inheriting a mindset where you work to live, not live to work. Living to work can lead to stress, burnout, depression, substance use disorder and even suicide. You owe it to yourself to find balance in your life. A healthy balance consists of work, hobbies, family time and setting aside time for yourself to do activities that you enjoy. The technology apps that were mentioned above can help you set aside time for life outside of the office.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from tough situations. Maybe you did not feel good about the last decision you made. Being able to accept defeat and move on are imperative to a judge’s wellbeing. Since judges tend to dwell on what went wrong instead of learning from their mistakes or misfortunes, it is crucial to learn how to be resilient and bounce back.
Be yourself! Maybe you like to wear flowers in your hair or do things differently than some of your other colleagues. That’s ok.
“People are their happiest when they are being their authentic self. In the image-conscious world we live in and high pressure environments in which lawyers operate, lawyers are often at risk of disconnecting their authentic self from the image they are projecting to clients and colleagues. Doing this, though, leaves us out of balance and that leads to stress.”1
All of us have goals—whether they are financial, related to family, clients or the courtroom—but make sure you set realistic ones. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Set easy and challenging goals that you know you can obtain at some point. You might not reach your goal of being able to decrease your caseload by 10% in one year, but you know you can achieve this goal over five years.
Confident people are not afraid to fail. They know that they can learn life lessons from failure. They listen more than they speak. They know how to ask for help and that they don’t have all of the answers. They own up to their mistakes. Don’t confuse confidence with cockiness, though. Cocky people think they can never be proven wrong, they brag, and they believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Cockiness is a sign of insecurity.
Happy people make wellness a top priority. They take the necessary steps to remain competent. When you are well, you are at your best, which not only makes you feel great, but it also benefits your staff and the public that you serve.
Judicial Advisory Group
As a member of the judiciary, do you ever struggle with the day-to-day responsibilities that come along with the job? Do you know other judges or magistrates who are struggling?
The Judicial Advisory Group (JAG) can help. JAG is comprised of judges who work with the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP) to provide confidential assistance to the judiciary. Brought to you by the Ohio Judicial Conference and OLAP, JAG helps the judiciary in several areas:
Issues of judicial temperament and diligence that on their face do not rise to disciplinary violations
Burnout, stress, and other debilitating conditions
Depression or other mental health issues
Substance use disorder (alcohol and drugs)
Screen referrals regarding judges/magistrates to be sure they represent genuine concerns
Respond to judges/magistrates who need help in ways that address the demands of their responsibilities and positions
Click here to learn more about JAG.