BarCARES Is All About You

By Kevin Pratt

In 2019, BarCARES will release monthly blog publications highlighting its offerings and featuring attorneys who, notwithstanding the rigors of the profession, find ways to live their passion. The purpose: to reimagine BarCARES, to repurpose its role in the wellness conversation, and to change the wellness message from one that focuses on how to avoid known dangers, to a liberating message empowering lawyers to identify and pursue their passion. Big goals. Let’s get started.

What does BarCARES actually do?

It connects qualifying members with a confidential counselor for free. The scope of the engagement is broad: to help you develop a plan for dealing with stress, whether that stress is wholly personal, family-related, or work-related. The source is irrelevant. The focus is you — freeing you to live the life you want while managing your responsibilities as a lawyer. Because let’s be real: it’s you first; your clients second. BarCARES believes that by investing in you, your clients win.

Who benefits (i.e., who can access BarCARES)?

Lawyers and paralegals who are either members of the NCBA or of local bar associations that have subscribed to the BarCARES program qualify for the benefit. Qualifying members receive a one-time benefit of three sessions under the program to assist in resolving a problem, whatever the source, or develop a plan for an ongoing engagement if additional resources are needed to address a systemic stressor. In many cases, family members are eligible for this benefit, too.

Systemic Stressor: What Does That Even Mean?

By way of example, take a look at NCBA member Sean Doyle’s article in “Law Practice Today,” titled Creating a Culture of Civility in the Practice of Law. Sean discusses typical lawyer behaviors that have the unintended consequence of creating stress for opposing counsel. For example:

  • Cursing loud enough to be heard;
  • Making fun of opposing counsel in public and private;
  • Toxic, accusatory, or passive aggressive electronic communications;
  • Inappropriate gestures;
  • Harassing phone calls or voicemails;
  • Social media gossip; and
  • Abusing procedural process.

All done under the cover of zealous advocacy. What’s worse: those “tired” tricks of advocacy — they never really worked in the first place — exact a heavy burden on an adversary. Is that how you want to make others feel? Sean then addresses a lawyer’s personal responsibility (and some would argue professional responsibility) to speak up; to make a colleague aware that their “zealous advocacy” is toxic, even deadly.

So, what’s the point? Here it is: The way you act — your “zealous advocacy”— may be the systemic stressor that sends your opposing counsel in a well-being tailspin. Might we be better served practicing law with an eye towards improving the greater whole? Sean would agree. So let’s follow his advice: Next time you see a colleague handle a potentially stressful situation with humility and self-restraint, let that person know with a heartfelt congratulations. Increasing our mindfulness into the well-being of our colleagues could obviate the need for BarCARES. And that would be a great thing. However, know that if you’re a lawyer in this state, you have a confidential resource established exclusively for you to invest in you. Realize a return on that investment.