- This month’s newsletter is about wellness and balancing work/life in the midst of a pandemic. It has been said in the past that the legal profession has a crisis of stress You’ve worked in private practice, for the US Department of Justice and as an Adjunct Law Professor, and now currently as a Judge on the US Court of Federal Claims. How do you balance your work, teaching and raising small children while staying (or trying to) balanced? What is the value of practicing wellness generally? And what are the specific benefits of it in the legal profession?
Answer: This past year has definitely shown me the importance of health and wellbeing. I know it’s not always on the top of the to-do list, but it’s difficult to do anything else (and do it well) if you aren’t healthy in body and mind. Practicing wellness gives us the strong foundation we need to accomplish everything else in life. It’s particularly important in the legal profession, because the practice of law can be physically/mentally draining at times. Creating healthy habits and finding healthy ways to manage stress can help fortify attorneys for the daily pressures of work.
For me, I feel most balanced when I’m able to impose some order on the chaos, which includes maintaining (as best as we can) a consistent routine. I also operate at my best when I’m getting adequate amounts of both sleep and exercise. I think another key to balance is asking for and accepting help when you need it, because juggling everything on your own is so hard.
- Has your view of what is now called practicing wellness evolved as you transitioned into being a Judge during a pandemic? If so, how? What tips can you provide for balancing work/life during this time?
Answer: Transitioning to a new job—especially during a pandemic—is stressful. This process has taught me the value of healthy stress management. Let’s just say, I’ve done a lot of running and a lot of meditating lately!
As for tips on work-life balance (now or in normal times), I’m not sure I have the secret. I will, however, humbly offer a few suggestions. (1) If you aren’t in work-life nirvana right now, it’s okay. All we can ask of ourselves is to try our best, and that may look different depending on the day. The lines between work and life have been impossibly blurred during the pandemic. Like most people, I’m taking it day by day and trying to approach my day in shorter blocks of time. (2) Make time to do the things that recharge your battery—whether that’s before everyone in your house wakes up or after they go to bed, or while your kids are doing Zoom class. Find the time, set it aside, and use it for you. (3) Don’t be too hard on yourself. There will be good days and not-so-good days; that’s just life. Time is a limited and non-renewable resource, so tradeoffs are inevitable.
- You’ve worked in both private practice and the government. What do you believe that experience will allow you to bring to your role as a judge in the US Court of Federal Claims?
Answer: Having worked in both the private and public sectors, I suppose I know what it’s like for attorneys who work on both sides of the v. in this Court. I think that will help me better understand each side’s positions. The 12 years I spent at DOJ handling civil litigation in district court also directly translates to my new role as judge, as the same or similar issues frequently come up in suits against the federal government.
- What role does the Bar play in advocating or promoting wellness, either formally or informally?
Answer: Being part of a community has a positive effect on wellness, and that’s exactly what the Bar provides. Just the simple act of bringing members together promotes personal connections and shared experiences, and it encourages something that’s very important to me—civility. In addition to creating opportunities for members to support each other, the Bar also has a unique opportunity to serve as a resource, whether by offering members brown bags on wellness topics or connecting them with other organizations that can provide support.
- What is the role of judges in promoting wellness among the Bar generally as well as in times of crisis, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic?
Answer: After 15 years as a litigator, the last several years of which I’ve also been a working parent, I know how challenging it can be and especially during the pandemic. For me personally, I hope I can help foster wellness among the Bar by keeping in mind my own experience as a practitioner and managing cases, to the extent practicable, with the understanding that attorneys (like everyone else) have a lot on their plates.
The Bar Association provides its members numerous educational opportunities and opportunities for practitioners to meet and interact with the judges of the Court and colleagues from both public and private practice for these purposes. Our members work closely with the Court’s judges to develop programs, contribute to revisions of the Court’s Rules, and organize a broad range of educational and other activities.