Taking time off is often fraught with mixed feelings for solo lawyers. You know you desperately need some time off, but who will take care of things while you’re away? Attending a retreat (be it personal, professional, or a mix of both) is about more than just taking some time away to recharge. It may also help protect you from allegations of ethical violations.
How Can a Retreat Protect You from Ethical Violations Complaints?
Before we answer this question, it’s important for you to understand the most common reasons that ethical violations are filed. Of course, they’re filed when it is believed that you did not fulfil your duties to your client or to the courts. Yet, it’s generally an underlying problem that creates the likelihood that the complaint will be made. The most common underlying problems are addiction, burnout, and disorganization. These issues can result in you failing to meet deadlines, return calls and messages, and not showing up in court or for meetings.
You could feel overworked, overwhelmed, and depressed. Making these sorts of mistakes, regardless of the root problem, may create a vicious cycle. If it happens once, it can certainly happen over and over again.
A retreat can help protect you from being on the receiving end of an ethical violations complaint by giving you the coping mechanisms and tools to help you get your life and your practice back on track. There’s beneficial because not only do you get away from the office for a few days to relax, you also get to directly address the problems that you know affect your solo practice.
Choosing the Right Retreat
To best protect yourself from an ethical violation, you should choose the right retreat. This will require you to objectively review what’s happening in your life and in your law practice. This isn’t a time for judgment. It’s a time to assess so that you can find the help that you need to run the best practice possible.
Substance abuse is a serious issue among lawyers. In a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, it was found that more than 20% of lawyers were alcohol-dependent, 28% of the sample dealt with depression, 19% dealt with anxiety, and 23% dealt with stress. If you’re struggling with addiction, look for retreats that may be offered by the assistance program provided by your state bar. It is imperative that you get treatment.
Burnout has become such an issue for lawyers that it’s often a subject of continuing legal education classes. Some jurisdictions list retreats and CLEs addressing this matter as a competence credit. Retreats can be very helpful in providing you with a renewed enjoyment of your work.
If you’re overwhelmed, intimidated, disorganized, or any combination of the three, you’re well on your way to burn out. You could also be more at risk of an allegation of an ethical violation. A retreat is an investment in the information you need to get your practice and your mind retooled for success.
Keeping the Peace After the Retreat
Retreats are wonderful, but coming back to your office can be a source of stress. Here are some tips to help you keep the peace provided to you by the retreat:
- Learn and practice mindfulness.
- Take time to get into the right mindset every day.
- Place a reminder where you can see it. This reminder should be something meaningful that you learned at the retreat.
- Learn to shut down, whatever that means to you. You do not need to be on call to your email, cell phone, or instant messenger 24 hours a day. Take some time every day to shut it off and just be.
- Welcome the help that you need. Work-life balance is important. There are great resources available to you.
If you receive an ethics complaint from the California Bar and you’re not sure where you should start, check out The State Bar Playbook. This is Megan’s interactive and easy to use guide (and community!) that will help guide you through the process from receipt of the complaint all the way through the appeals process!