Mangos, Mendelssohn and Mental Health of Lawyers

My friend, colleague and patent/trademark/copyright lawyer, Susan Dierenfeldt-Troy spoke to a group of lawyers last week. She shared her thoughts about how lawyers need an outlet for their frustrations and stresses. This isn't a new topic, and I've heard and read others who treated the subject, including my good friend, Brian Tannebaum. Brian's book, The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers and Lawyering is a must read. But, what Susan wrote rang true to me in a gentle, less cynical tone. Yeah, you're a cynic, Brian..wear it proudly.

Susan put her spoken words to paper for me and allowed me to post them here. Enjoy.

" Our profession is demanding and has a high burnout rate. According to an often cited John Hopkins University study of more than 100 occupations, researchers found that lawyers lead the nation with the highest incidence of depression. Seven in 10 lawyers responding to a California Lawyers magazine poll said they would change careers if the opportunity arose.

Now this is supposed to be a motivational moment, so why bring up these statistics? Because I want to emphasize that lawyers need to find productive outlets to deal with the unique stresses associated with our profession and be diligent about taking care of our own personal well-being. And for those who employ associates, please be aware of their own well-being as well as your own.

To use a cliché- Stop and smell the roses. Or, as Albert Einstein put it,

He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; he eyes are closed.

We do not have to travel far to find something to wonder about or appreciate even in our own neighborhoods.

A hug from our significant other after a long day at the office. Muscovy ducklings crossing the road. The pink snail sculptures in Coral Gables. A full moon over Miami. A sunset over the Gulf Coast.

A smiling child, a smiling elderly person. Music. Art. An enjoyable book.

An old-fashioned 4th of July parade. Fireworks. Dark chocolate. A cordadito - apologies to my Spanish-speaking friends..

An unexpected thank you note from a difficult client. An unexpected thank you note from a difficult teenager. A welcome home greeting from a loyal pet.

Mangoes.

A budding Poinciana tree.

This next month, let’s make a commitment to find and enhance our ability to overcome negativity as never before even in what appears to be the most mundane of circumstances. While sitting in traffic thinking about my upcoming legal argument to the judge, I saw one of the craziest driving maneuvers I’d ever seen. And around here I’ve seen quite a few. A huge traffic jam resulted. Now I of course started to fume and swore that I was going to become a metro rider. Patience has never been one of my virtues. I’d had it with US 1 and crazy Miami drivers.

But then Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony came over the airwaves of 89.7 and I pumped up the volume. Without going into detail, I was all of sudden struck by the idea of how I could incorporate what I had seen into my argument as an analogy to our client’s case. Why? Because I got lost in music rather than my own anger at being stuck in a situation I had no control over.

As one of my clients wrote in a copyrighted poem, "...it is up to each of us to relish each moment..."

So for this next month I wish you moments of quiet joy. Be on the lookout for them. They are always around. " - Susan Dierenfeldt-Troy