Jerry C. Alexander 2016-05-30 12:46:31
It Is Never Too Late Taking the time for attorney wellness. In February of this year, the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation released the findings of a wide-ranging study that concluded one in every three practicing lawyers is a problem drinker, 28 percent suffer from depression, and 19 percent show symptoms of anxiety. In other news, it has been reported that the Pacific Ocean is wet. Of course lawyers experience alarmingly high levels of stress and anxiety—major causes of alcohol and substance abuse. Younger lawyers have to deal with the added strain of a challenging job market and often crippling student loan debt, while many older lawyers have put off retirement and resigned themselves to working longer in an uncertain economy. But the important question is, What can we do about it? Changing the nature of lawyering is not likely to happen anytime soon. Demanding clients, tight deadlines, and billing quotas come with the territory, not to mention those of us with the added pressure of being responsible for whether someone goes free or spends a portion of his or her life in prison. While pessimism is part of what some in our profession praise as prudence, it is not a particularly helpful outlook when balancing one’s temperament or stopping to smell the roses. To truly help ourselves become less stressed or, at least, better equipped to deal with stress, we can start by adopting healthier habits like watching our diets and getting regular exercise. A survey done by the Center for Creative Leadership found that 92 percent of lawyers knew that what they ate and how much they exercised greatly affected their health, yet more than 60 percent were dissatisfied with their fitness level and more than half rated their diets as “unhealthy.” It is not like we do not know these things are important; we just fail to take the next step of doing something about it. Part of that stems from a lack of encouragement from those around us—64 percent of the lawyers in that same survey said they wished their firms would do more to support their fitness levels and wellness. That is why one of the first steps I took when I became president of the Dallas Bar Association in January was to appoint an athletic director for the association. He is Ken Raggio, a distinguished family lawyer and world-class athlete. In 2014, Ken finished second in his age division for the 800-meter run—in the world—and he has also placed in national stair-climbing competitions. Ken shares his tips for living longer, and living better, each month in the Dallas Bar Headnotes. Whether it is the benefits of varying your exercise routine, having a travel plan for diet and exercise, or incorporating more movement and even yoga poses into your time at the office, our DBA athletic director has pointers that benefit everyone. Also realizing the importance of wellness for our community, the Texas Bar Journal is kicking off its own work-life column, where readers can gain valuable insight into that difficult feat of balancing our jobs with our health and happiness. And let us face it—following a healthy diet and getting regular exercise makes good business sense, too. It strengthens the immune system, improves cognitive function, and helps even high-performing individuals become more productive. More importantly, though, you will be less stressed out and happier—and so will those who depend on you. The author would like to thank John G. Browning for his assistance with this article. JERRY C. ALEXANDER is president of the Dallas Bar Association. Practicing law is stressful. Heavy workloads and client stories affect attorneys both physically and psychologically. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of stress and actively work to stay healthy. For more information, go to texasbar.com/tlap and click on “wellness.” EMERITUS MCLE EXEMPTION STATUS REMOVED The Supreme Court issued an order dated August 28, 2015, that amends Article XII of the State Bar Rules to remove the MCLE exemption for emeritus attorneys. Beginning June 1, 2016, emeritus members (members who are 70 years of age or older) must comply with MCLE requirements. How will you be affected? Continue reading to find out about compliance years, why the rule changed, and what to do if you are retired. For more information regarding emeritus exemption status, go to texasbar.com/mcle/emeritus. Why was the MCLE exemption for emeritus attorneys removed? The recommendation to remove the MCLE emeritus exemption came from the State Bar Task Force on Aging Lawyer Issues. The MCLE emeritus exemption was removed to ensure that all active practicing attorneys remain current in the law. The recommendation was approved by the State Bar MCLE Committee and then by the State Bar Board of Directors and the Supreme Court of Texas. When does the MCLE requirement for emeritus attorneys become effective? The MCLE requirement applies to compliance years starting on or after June 1, 2016. Previously exempt attorneys may claim credit for CLE completed within 12 months immediately preceding the first compliance year beginning on or after June 1, 2016, provided that these CLE hours have not been used for compliance in a prior year (see chart below). What if I am retired and no longer practice law, or I practice only for family? Attorneys who no longer practice law may claim MCLE Non-Practicing Status or Inactive Membership Status. To be eligible for either status as an option for MCLE compliance, an attorney must be non-practicing or inactive during the entire MCLE compliance year. Members who practice law at the beginning of a compliance year and later change to inactive status are not eligible for an exemption but may defer their MCLE requirements. Members who practice law only for family members may claim the MCLE Non-Practicing Status, but must remain on an Active Membership status. To request Inactive Membership Status, contact the Membership Department at email@example.com or (800) 204-2222, ext. 1383. To request MCLE Non-Practicing Status, contact the MCLE Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 204-2222, ext. 1806. Please refer to the chart below to determine your first MCLE compliance year. CLE credit hours completed between these dates may be used toward your first MCLE requirement of 15 hours, including 3 hours of ethics/professional responsibility.
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