I learned one thing last week: Wellness is about balance.

During wellness expert Laura Mahr’s NCBA Annual Meeting CLE session, attendees physically embraced wellness techniques.

By Josh McIntyre

It’s hard to avoid the topic of wellness in the legal world these days. Whether it’s a new ABA initiative, an article in last month’s N.C. State Bar Journal, or our own North Carolina Bar Association Annual Meeting, the good news is that the legal community locally and at large seems to be embracing the reality that the stress of our profession is high and we have to take intentional, mindful steps to promote a healthy workplace and lifestyle.

This topic was front and center for me last week, when nearly 700 NCBA members and guests came to Biltmore for our 2019 Annual Meeting. My department is responsible for this event, and our staff spent countless hours over the past year finding speakers, booking activities and setting up dinners and luncheons, nearly all of which included some aspect of our overarching theme of Wellness: Work, Mind, Body, Life.

So it amused me when, during the first day of our general session, I read a member’s social media post in which she wrote that since she already had enough CLE credit for the year, “…rather than sit and listen to presentations on wellness, [she] spent two hours practicing it.” Pictures of the French Broad River and wild turkeys with a backdrop of the perfectly sunlit Blue Ridge Mountains accompanied her Facebook update. And even though our speakers in the conference center were really delivering, from Stan Phelps’s rousing welcome to Jeena Cho’s experiential breathing exercise, I’ll admit those pictures made me jealous.

Afterall, when it’s 75 degrees and sunny and there are 8,000 acres of the Biltmore Estate to explore, who would not want to seize the opportunity to get outside? The good news is that our members did just that in the afternoons. Over 275 meeting attendees either hiked, paddled, roamed, or drove (check out the Land Rover Experience) their way across the estate, experiencing a respite from work and actually being well and not just learning about it. Not even a typical North Carolina summer afternoon rain shower could deter some folks.

But those nearly 300 individuals who enjoyed the afternoon activities are more than just a statistic to be filed away for future Annual Meeting references. Instead, they represent that our new format worked. From the outset, we planned a more conference-style meeting, with CLE credit and speakers in the morning sessions and the afternoons left open to enjoy the area’s activities. And from the look of things, it had a doubly positive effect: 1) our general sessions were fuller than in years past; and 2) most attendees took advantage of their afternoon free time by booking our pre-planned social activities.

Wellness, in both understanding and practice, was achieved in balance last week. And although our meeting themes and locations will change each year, we can institutionalize wellness in the NCBA by maintaining that balance moving forward.

So the next time I see a member playing hooky from one of our morning sessions and putting wellness into practice, I might just call to see if I can join them. The reality is that my staff responsibilities will probably prevent me from doing so. But I won’t be mad. I’ll just be jealous.

The 2020 Annual Meeting will be at the Charlotte Marriott City Center from June 25-28. The theme is Leadership in a Time of Change.