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CAMP Cairn | March 2021
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Well, it’s been a year. A full 365 days of our new mask wearing, obsessive hand washing, home schooling, Zoom working, physically distanced “normal.” I’m tired. Honestly, I’m exhausted. Between the reality of a pandemic and the anxiety, grief, and isolation that comes with it, my bucket is just plain empty. 

How are you? 

How is it going holding up your family, your clients, your community, and yourself? If you’re legs are starting to wobble under the weight of the last year, you are not alone. That fatigue you are feeling is real. I see you.

A word I have been hearing a lot recently from colleagues, mentees, mentors, and leaders in the legal profession is burnout

Burnout is the state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion of the human body caused by an excessive amount of stress. At least, that’s the quickest and most textbook definition I could find for you. But let me tell you what my burnout looks like: it looks like unrehearsed PowerPoint presentations because I just can’t be in front of a screen for another minute. It looks like barely washed dishes and undone laundry because physical rest and mentally “checking out” is all that my brain will let me think about on the weekends. It looks like forcing every last bit of energy into pulling myself together to put on real pants every day. This isn’t all my burnout looks like. It also shows up as back-breaking pressure to do everything—be everything—because as a queer lawyer in a leadership role in the profession I have no room for error. 

This burnout is real, but it likely looks very different from your burnout. I also looks very different than the burnout of a first-generation lawyer navigating a profession nobody they know has ever lived in before. The burnout of a young Black man in our profession looks different than his white counterparts because he is fighting to live and work in a system that is focused on diminishing his value as a lawyer. The burnout of many lawyers today whose identities meet at the crossroads of their oppression and who don’t have the luxury to run away from the world or the profession, so they choose to push through the rough waters of a system that may be sucking the life out of them.

So often we don’t even take into consideration the systemic forces that contribute to mental and emotional exhaustion. I have rarely ever placed my stress in a larger societal context. I didn’t know how systemic oppression like racism, sexism, xenophobia, or the contemporary effects of colonization could trickle down into my own personal struggles and present themselves in my everyday problems. But navigating through my burnout is still easier for me because I have the privilege of being white – a privilege that shelters me from the outright racism, bias, and discrimination faced by many lawyers of color in our profession. Their burnout is very different than mine.

In Tiana Clark’s article “This is What Black Burnout Feels Like”, she writes that “Burnout for white, upper-middle-class millennials might be taxing mentally, but the consequences of being overworked and underpaid while managing microaggressions towards marginalized groups damage our bodies by the minute with greater intensity.” We all experience burnout because life can be intense, but many people of color, especially Black people, don’t feel as though they have the room to be exhausted and overwhelmed.

I will not speak on what Black burnout feels like because that space does not belong to me. However, we know that the impacts of this COVID pandemic have disproportionately affected women, specifically women of color. In the early days of lockdown, an estimated 12.1million women lost, quit, or downshifted their jobs as a result of new family demands. These impacts are exacerbated by race, as even as women are beginning to return to the workforce, Black and Latina women are the more likely to remain unemployed, suffering larger losses than other demographics. 

The legal profession is not immune to this trend. At a time when progress for women and people of color in the law has been hard fought for decades (it’s only in the last year or so that women finally hit the 20% equity partnership mark), all the progress we’ve seen over the past several years could be erased. 

At the same time, there is evidence of what I call the “great humanization” of the legal profession: With many lawyers facing the same stay-at-home challenges, some legal employers have learned to be more flexible, empathetic and supportive of working families. Underrepresented lawyers are increasingly unapologetic and straightforward about their lived experience in the profession and their corresponding equity and inclusion calls to action. Legal employers and individual lawyers alike have recognized that we all share a responsibility to effect change and commit to maintaining accountability in working toward systemic change within legal organizations, the profession as a whole, and our personal communities.

The “good news/bad news” attributes of this pandemic creates a gaslighting dynamic that may cause many of us to question our perception of reality in experiencing burnout, fatigue, and exhaustion. I often find myself wondering “Is it really all that bad?” and “Maybe I just don’t have the right coping skills?” While at the same time, I can feel my head aching and my eyes struggling to stay open at the dinner table. “Get your life together!” I tell myself before reaching for more coffee or what’s left of last year’s Halloween candy. 

The fact that burnout looks and feels different to marginalized groups doesn’t mean that we can’t also support each other in fighting the burdening feeling of exhaustion. This starts by making space for each of us to prioritize the “self” in self-care. We talk so much about what we can be doing for others through “-ship building” - in mentorship, allyship, relationship, and leadership. While service to those around us is integral to the broader well-being of our community and our profession, we can best serve others when we have first taken care of ourselves.

Self-care starts first with you taking care of yourself.

Self-care begins by understanding that your emotional, physical, and mental health has to come before anything else. It is finding space in your life to manage the expectations that create the weight of the world on your shoulders. I can’t give you or anyone the solution to burnout because I still don’t have that answer for myself. But I can leave you with this, a litany of reminders or mantras to get you through these difficult days: 

1.    If I don’t put myself first, then this system will happily chew me up and spit me back out.
2.    My worth isn’t measured by my success, my professional competencies, or my title.
3.    I am worthy of love and happiness, no matter what.

So if you needed to hear it today, you are ENOUGH.
You have permission to prioritize YOU

Finally, if you need or want help in processing your own unique experience of burnout, exhaustion, or overwhelm contact the Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP) a free, confidential resource available to any member of the Colorado legal community for a variety of personal and professional issues. COLAP can be reached at www.coloradolap.org.

*Portions adapted from Mannal Babar "My Burnout is Not Your Burnout"


CAMP is proud to welcome Courtney Sommer as our new Education & Outreach Staff Attorney!


Prior to joining CAMP, Courtney focused her practice on immigration law, representing immigrants in removal proceedings and before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Courtney is currently the Chair of the Immigration Law Section of the Colorado Bar Association, and she is a member of the Colorado LGBT Bar Association and the Colorado Women’s Bar Association. Courtney was also recently selected to be a Bar Fellow of the Colorado Bar Foundation. She has volunteered in pro bono legal clinics with Metro Volunteer Lawyers and Mi Casa Resource Center. Courtney earned her law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law in Chicago, Illinois and her undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri.

In her new role, Courtney will lead CAMP's community engagement efforts across the legal community and throughout Colorado. Additionally, Courtney will be responsible for mentoring pair matching and relationship facilitation. 

Courtney can be reached at c.sommer@csc.state.co.us or
303-928-7752

Welcome Courtney!
CAMP Upcoming Events

Psychedelics are powerful psychoactive substances that alter consciousness and brain function. Like cannabis, psychedelics have long been considered prohibited Schedule I substances under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. However, via the powerful psychological experiences they induce, psychedelics are now being shown to be viable therapeutic alternatives in treating depression, substance use disorders, and other mental illnesses, and even to enhance the wellbeing of healthy individuals. In May 2019, Denver, Colorado became the first city in the country to decriminalize psilocybin (the active compound in “magic mushrooms”) – we’ve now come a long way from cannabis! Join our panel of experts to learn more about the legal implications of psilocybin decriminalization and to receive an update on the current state of cannabis and industrial hemp law in Colorado.

Panelists:

Sean McAllister, McAllister Garfield, P.C.

Jean Gonnell, Gonnell Law

Adam Foster, Foster & Jones

Free CLE credit available!

Register to attend via webinar at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/626718739720955407

The racial equity reckoning of 2020, brought on by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery to name a few, has caused many lawyers to consider their role in achieving social justice. Social justice law is practiced by lawyers who have incredible passion for human rights and equality. But what does social justice law look like in practice, and what does it take to become a human rights lawyer? Join our panel of experts as we consider how lawyers can advocate for and create policy to protect citizens and immigrants in the U.S. who face discrimination on the basis of race, gender, criminal background, economic status, and alienage.

Panelists:

Hannah Proff, Proff Law

Indra Lusero, National Advocates for Pregnant Women

Tiffani Lennon, Colorado Center on Law and Policy

Jessica Bednarz, Chicago Bar Foundation

Free CLE Credit Available

Register to attend via webinar at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1378068911050085903

Promoting the culture of diversity is important for all professions, but it is especially lacking in the legal field. In fact, the legal profession is among the least diverse professions in the United States.  Diversity and inclusion in the legal organizations help lawyers to identify and embrace different backgrounds and contribute to the overall advancement of the profession. There are several factors that impede the prevalence of diversity in the legal field, including the retention of diverse lawyers within the profession.  Join our panel of experts as we discuss how to overcome these obstacles by providing growth opportunities for minority lawyers, developing tools for diverse candidates to succeed, and creating pathways to leadership and equity positions.

Panelists:

Sara Scott, Center For Legal Inclusiveness

Phyllis Wan, Holland & Hart LLP

Jennifer Jaskolka, Xcel Energy

Free CLE credit available!

Register to attend via webinar at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/75979962437776911

We’ve all heard the phrase “Problem Children,” and we can all probably think of someone: a co-worker, a manager, someone in leadership etc., who fits this characterization, right?

Personalities, personal opinions, discord, unintended biases, differing approaches to work, professional standards, fears of speaking up, and communication issues are all Human Issues: there are reasons for them, there are solutions for them and FIG has those solutions, drawing from 35 years of psychological, sociological, practical, and corporate experience in addition to FIG’s proprietary curriculum.

FIG assesses where the disconnect exists  and offers implementable solutions and tools to resolve them. FIG provides 3rd party, objective analysis to human obstacles in the workplace, using an unbiased, evenhanded, non-judgemental approach with the ONLY goal of creating a stronger, more efficient, and more cohesive workplace. 

If you want to hire FIG to improve your own relationship building skills, we will meet for a complimentary consultation to discuss your interests and needs.  If you’re looking to hire FIG as a benefit to your employees (and your bottom line), we’ll talk about what makes someone a good candidate for the program, and help you identify those rising stars within your organization. 


Learn more about Future Image Group and how they can assist with your personal or organizational growth, visit www.futureimagegroup.com

Learn from Your Pets


If you observe your pets, you’ll notice that their behaviors are motivated by achieving well-being:  they focus on what is happening in the present moment; take naps; exercise; have fun and play; maintain curiosity; express love; eat when they are hungry; and drink lots of water.  Ironically, research shows that human beings could benefit tremendously by replicating similar behaviors throughout the day.  Need help thinking of ways to improve your well-being and reduce stress?  

For more information or for confidential assistance, please contact your Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program at 303.986.3345 or visit our website at www.coloradolap.org.






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