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10.19.2020

Self-Care is Still a Form of Service

 The following blog post was written by Sydney Coelho, Regent J.D. Class of 2022: 

Self-Care is Still a Form of Service

Stress. It’s a word everyone is familiar with. We all live with it. In a profession that prides itself on serving others, stress is a given. But when you’re constantly in the mode of serving, sometimes you forget to take time for yourself. The phenomenon of overextending oneself can result from many factors. However, a perceived lack of control over increasing demands is by and large the biggest culprit of workplace stress in general.[1] Law, as a profession, is an innately demanding profession. It’s no wonder lawyers are stressed. It’s not only practicing professional who are stressed however. Statistics show that “96% of law students experience significant stress [in the course of their studies], compared to 70% of med students and 43% of grad students.”[2] Think about that figure: 96%! That’s almost a guarantee that at some point in your legal education you will be overwhelmed. For me, it was 1L year. So, what is this thing called stress? How should we define it, and how should we—for lack of a better word—combat it?

According to The American Institute of Stress, stress has many definitions because it changes from person to person.[3] This is because people tend to define stress based on the “negative feelings and emotions it produces.”[4] The Oxford English Dictionary  (OED) defines it as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”[5] The OED further denotes stress as a “mass noun,” which is “a noun denoting something that cannot be counted.”[6] In other words, stress can best be defined as a subjective emotional state of distress that results in a physical manifestation of discomfort.

How can we reduce the load stress gives us? Scripture reminds us, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” for which “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” [7],[8] In other words, if we think about it, stress is the physical manifestation of the reaction to God’s trials, and the various steps we take to manage stress are the tools of power, love, and self-control God provided us. Recognizing the immense problem facing law students, CEFLER teamed up with Regent University’s Psychological Services Center to provide law students with some guidance in stress management.  For instance, we learned the following methods that—if practiced regularly—can offset stress:  1) One minute of deep breathing; (2) a body scan that helps to identify where our body is holding stress, 3) Meditating on a short scripture verse, 4) making a regular gratitude list .  . .   Addressing stress, rather than let it “control” us, leads to emotional well-being and overall health.   Interested in learning more? See below for the slides from presentation to find out how you too can manage your stress and mitigate the chances of burnout, in law school and beyond.















 

 

 



[1] https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress

[2] https://www.lclma.org/2019/01/18/the-full-weight-of-law-school-stress-on-law-students-is-different/

[3] https://www.stress.org/daily-life

[4] Id.

[5] https://www.lexico.com/definition/stress

[7] James 1:2 (ESV).

[8] 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV).


10.14.2020

Wellness and Sleep Go Hand-in-Hand

The following blog post was written by Sydney Coelho, Regent J.D. Class of 2022: 


In the 2006 indie hit, The Science of Sleep, Stephane Miroux, the protagonist, said, “The brain is the most complex thing in the universe and it’s right behind the nose.”[1] The film, which explored the dreams of a lovestruck man, has virtually nothing to do with the law, but the significant role sleep plays in complex brain functioning does. This includes everything from neurotransmissions, to toxin removal, bodily system functions (e.g. immune system and metabolism), and even memory.[2] While none of this may shock you, what is surprising is that a 2012 study found law to be the second most sleep-deprived profession.[3]  Now that’s a problem.

 

Biblical teaching tells us that “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:2 ESV. Furthermore, science has shown that lack of sleep actually correlates to the ability to make ethical decisions.[4] In a profession that requires ethical decision making in every facet of our career, the fact that lawyers (and law students) are sleep deprived should raise a red flag. In the very least, it should cause any legal professional to pause and assess. While we as professionals may recognize this issue, very few will deny that saying we need sleep is easier than actually getting in a full eight to nine hours. Anxiety and depression are some of the more common reasons.[5]

 

As one of CEFLER’s cofounders, Professor Ben Madison, notes:

 

From being a Christian, meeting with Christians weekly for years to nurture our faith, and form mentoring law students, I really believe Christians have a hard time with the concept of self-care. We seem to think it is somehow self-centered to take care of oneself. I know I’ve learned the hard way not to push my limits. I am far less able to be of use to the Lord and to others when I don’t take care of myself.   Sleep is one of those items I consider non-negotiable. I don’t always sleep as well as I’d like but I follow a routine that makes it more likely to get good sleep.

 

With this focus in mind, CEFLER is working with outside resources to bring law students resources to help them manage their stress. Up first, CEFLER and the Psychological Services Center will be discussing burnout event this Friday, October 16, 2020.

 

Until then, are you struggling to get some Zs? This article from The National Jurist says it’s all about how you manage your time.

9.30.2020

The Integrity Standard

The following blog post was written by Sydney Coelho, Regent J.D. Class of 2022:

In the mid-17th century, a few years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a series of political letters penned under the pseudonym Junius were published in the Public Advertiser (a.k.a. London Daily Post). In those letters, Junius wrote that “[t]he integrity of men is to be measured by their conduct, not the profession." While this may and should be true for the general public, for those of us who have chosen a profession where we become a pillar of the community, this standard doesn’t seem to apply. As a role model, we are measured by our conduct, but that very same measurement is also a reflection of our profession.

Integrity. This word carries with it a concept that is drilled into us from day one of our legal pursuits, and will continued to be expounded upon throughout our legal careers. ABA Model Rule 8.4: Misconduct, sometimes referred to as the Integrity Rule, at its core reflects the very weight placed upon our shoulders through its list of acts that would be considered professional misconduct. Simply put, those who lack integrity will, by default, perform such acts. These guidelines (or rules as one might say) not only define the integrity of the profession, but also who we become as practicing professionals and as human beings. But what about beyond the rules? Surely, we, as legal professionals, are more than our profession. Junius believed it, and so do I.

Scripture tells us in Proverbs 10:9 that, “[w]hoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” (ESV). Integrity, in other words, is associated with the righteous; with those of high character and morals. Better yet, as this Forbes article puts it, integrity is the core values of our choices and influences. As a result, similar standards of integrity are what we look for in those around us. This is especially true about leaders and role models.

As legal professionals, whether we like it or not, our standards of integrity will be scrutinized so long as we remain in the profession. Lawyers are leaders. Because of this, and for their own health and well-being, they must not only understand the values of the profession, but also their own core values. Why? Because it is our values that shape how we deal with ethical conflicts. For it is when those values are conflicted or forced into compromising situations that a lawyer will be most tested spiritually.

So what are your core values and how do you determine them? Check out the blog next month to find out more.

 

6.23.2020

Giving Your All as a Law Student

The following blog post was written by Sydney Coelho, Regent J.D. Class of 2022:

Every time I receive grades, the first thought that comes to mind is a story my mother told me from her high school days. It was the first time she ever received a “C” in a course, and she was reprimanded severely by her mother. To this day the incident remains a profound memory for her—not because she was reprimanded, but because of what came after. Her father, a man of few words, actually took the time to come out and talk to her. “Did you do your best?” he asked. Honestly, I can’t remember what she responded, but the last thing he said to her was “That’s all that matters.”



Like my grandfather, Scripture also tells us that “If [you] give away all [you] have, and if [you] deliver up [your] body to be burned, but have not love, [you] gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3 (ESV).

When reflecting on the above passage, I cannot help but think about what my grandfather told my mother all those years ago, or the impact the story had on me growing up. You see, giving your all (or doing your best) means more than just what is at the surface. It also includes the heart we put into the tasks before us. In order to do our best, we have to have our heart in something because the human heart is at the core of who we are. It allows us to experience the world and all its emotions. As a law student, these principles are important for many reasons, including (a) serving as a measure of what you gave, (b) serving as a measure of what you’re willing to lose, and (c) showing you where your heart still lies. Knowing these things about yourself then serves as the foundation for which you can build upon your self-knowledge, exercise better judgment, and learn compassion, not only for others, but also for yourself. For how can one be a leader and be able to lead others without first understanding him or herself?

Did you give your best this semester? If you find yourself saying no, I challenge you to take the time you would be beating yourself up and, instead of asking where you went wrong, ask where you went right. What distractions did you face that prevented you from giving your all? What did you learn about yourself because of those distractions? You may have a “C” in a course, but you may also have taken on increased responsibilities such as managing your children during the day. Perhaps it wasn’t children, but you have trouble focusing outside a classroom environment, or you have pets that demanded attention after not seeing you for several months. Whatever it was, think about where your mind was, and you may find that you didn’t or couldn’t give your best to classes under the conditions you were in. Yet you still passed, didn’t you? You’re still on the same path, and with a much better understanding of your limitations.

For those who did well, I also have a challenge. Ask yourself: What did you give up? Why were you able to perform at your best? Is the way you practice sustainable in the long run? For example, how much sleep did you get a night on average? Were you able to enjoy other activities outside of law school or did you eat, breathe, and dream in legalese? Did you study every day or did you give yourself a sabbath?

Whether you made the grade or fell short, be honest with yourself in your analysis. Remember, law school is just the first step on this journey into the legal profession. Grades and ranks are important, but to remain sustainable one must be sure to have balance in his or her life. The more you are willing answers to these questions and reflect, the greater likelihood of long-term success. Let these questions become your template for practicing a well-balanced life and for sustaining a fulfilling career as leaders in the community and in the legal profession itself.

5.14.2020

Counsel for Law Students Grieving During the COVID-19 Crisis


The following blog post was written by Sydney Coelho, Regent J.D. Class of 2022:

A recent article by the Harvard Business Review reminds us that it’s common for people at times to feel stressed or anxious. It may even be just as common to grieve.



As Psalm 34:18 reminds us, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (NIV). So what would grief look like right now for students during this COVID-19 crisis? Grief comes in five stages, which may or may not come in order. Those stages and ways to recognize them are:
  1. Denial – Everything is normal. I can still go to the office. My internship didn’t fall through. The bar exam is still on.
  2. Anger – You’re taking away my rights. You’re kicking me out of the dorm I paid for. You’re moving classes online and I have to wake up at 4:00 a.m. You cancelled the bar exam. I lost my job.
  3. Bargaining: After two weeks it will all go back to normal, right? If I take a pay cut, they may not fire me, right? If I graduate with a law degree, I can still work without taking the bar, right?
  4. Depression/Sadness: This will never end. I will never get a job. I will be behind my peers because I lost my internship. My hard work doesn’t matter because exams are all open book.
  5. Acceptance. It’s real. It’s happening. What steps do I need to take? I should file for unemployment. I may not have a job until early next year. I should try to get an internship during the school year to make up for the summer.
In the event you or someone you know may be struggling right now, remember:
  1. Grief is a natural part of life. We all grieve at various points for various reasons.
  2. There is no wrong or right way to grieve. As the Lord makes each of us different, so too did He make our processes different.
  3. There is no set time to grieve. Grief affects each of us in different ways. Just because it may appear easy for some does not mean it’s easy for everyone.
  4. Don’t assume that someone isn’t grieving just because the person doesn’t show it or talk about it. Some people are better than others at hiding their emotions.
  5. Know that grief is a rollercoaster ride. Some days you will feel better than others.
So what can you do to cope with grief?
  1. Enjoy time with friends and family via apps like Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype.
  2. Exercise to get endorphins pumping and get out of your head.
  3. Enjoy your hobbies, or discover a new one.
  4. Finally, look for adventure in the smallest places. For example, try a new recipe or challenge yourself to put down electronics for 24 hours.
If you’re still having trouble with grief, please don’t be afraid to talk to someone. There are friends, family, Regent’s Counseling Services and Psychological Services Center, and even a national helpline. Until the restrictions are removed, be sure to stay healthy, stay active, and stay safe.


4.16.2019

CEFLER Guest Speakers Address Students on Bar Passage and Formative Habits

Recently, the Center for Ethical Formation and Legal Education Reform sponsored two presentations . National Bar Exam expert Sara Berman of AccessLex, who has written several books on the Bar exam, including Pass the Bar, spoke on strategies and tips on preparing for the Bar. Professor Berman also discussed the ways in which law school is a means for students to prepare not only for the Bar but also for law practice, addressing issues from time management to establishing a bar preparation fund to having healthy attitudes that foster success.
In the same week, Justin Early, Esq. presented to students in Professional Responsibility, also sponsored by CEFLER. Mr. Early is graduate of Georgetown who began practice at the prestigious firm, McGuire Woods, and is currently an attorney at Gammon & Grange. He is also the author of The Common Rule – Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction. Mr. Early told the story of how his efforts to be a busy lawyer led him to severe anxiety and panic attacks. He spoke on the need for formational habits, highlighting prayer and breaks from technology as ways in which he coped and ultimately has found a way to practice law without debilitating anxiety. He offered practical ways, many of which are similar to practices encouraged in Regent’s first-year Foundations of Law course, for students to develop habits that keep them in touch with their faith (and soul) as they study and practice law. These habits, he argued, serve as important safeguards to ethical decision-making.