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162546268-495x328I must be, because I was just interviewed by the celebrated Leslie A. Gordon of none other than the ABA Journal for her article, entitled “How Lawyers can avoid Burnout and Debilitating Anxiety”.

And Leslie also interviewed my old friend, Jeena Cho – and I know she’s famous!

And there’s this great portrait of me taken by the photographer, Len Irish! 0715FANXIOUS-MEYERHOFERL

The article does a great job of highlighting the issues of anxiety and burnout among lawyers.

I modestly confess that I particularly liked this quote, which somehow fell trippingly from the tongue of little-ol’ Moi:

It’s important to note that no strategy should be touted as a cure-all. “The implication can become that you’re struggling with anxiety or depression because you’re not doing your yoga or not meditating or not eating right or somehow choosing to go without sleep,” Meyerhofer says, “that it’s your fault for not having mastered some ‘effective strategy’ that would make all these issues disappear.” The fact remains that law can be brutal, and most young associates are not equipped for what they find when they enter the profession, he says. “You’re not tossing and turning in bed, roiled by anxiety, because you’re choosing to eat badly or to skip your yoga class. It has a lot more to do with being thrown into the deep end in an extremely competitive, exploitive business driven not by compassion or collegiality or the desire to mentor, but by profit and money and competition for prestige.”

Thank you, ABA Journal, and Leslie, and everyone who helped produce this piece.  I hope the message gets out that being a lawyers doesn’t have to be synonymous with being stressed out and miserable.

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Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way-Worse-Than-Being-Dentist

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy: Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

My latest book is a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance.

TRANSATLANTIC PHONE SERVICE ANNIVERSARYYou’ll be delighted to hear that my Bloomsday-honoring webinar with Martin Underwood of Life Productions came off without a hitch.

Less successful, alas, was the process of recording a trans-Atlantic webinar held across “the pond” (as we trans-Atlantic types refer to “the puddle” that separates our nations) via the new-fangled inter webs.

The first webinar was, I’m certain, much-savored by the dozens of participants on the line while it was taking place…but the recording turned out rather…”dodgy” (as Martin might say.)

So we did it again. And this time the video came out…uh…”yucky” (as I might say.)bell-victoria

But rest assured, webinar fans – all is well!  We (meaning Martin’s technical folks) managed to pair the audio from the re-do of the webinar with the slides from the original webinar and the final, hybrid outcome is a very watchable, lively and I think useful hour or so of honest talk about career change for lawyers.

And so, without further ado…Here it is:

Many thanks to Martin, and Life Productions, and his technical wiz, Luka (who saved the day!) and to all the lawyers and legal professional folks who participated in the original incarnation of the webinar (we had a big, diverse crowd tune in, which was gratifying.)

If you’re interested in continuing to explore the stuff we’re talking about in the webinar, you might check out Life Production’s online course.  They have a lot of interesting ideas around how to find work that’s right for you, whether in law or in another field.

The Life Productions folks also did a great job of organizing everything – all that slide-producing and agenda-conceiving and scheduling and planning and so forth that I’m not especially “keen” on handling myself (I mostly like the talking and receiving accolades part.)

And especial thanks – or, uh, “cheers” – to all our UK participants tuning in from Fair Albion. I look forward to continuing our “special relationship.”

So stay calm and carry on – and find that job that really makes you happy!

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My latest book is a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance.

Please also check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way-Worse-Than-Being-Dentist

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy: Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

gaslight_3 copyThe verb “to gaslight” comes from a 1938 stage play (which was then made into two movies, one starring Ingrid Bergman.) The plot is super-creepy, especially for 1938. In it, an evil husband tricks his young wife into believing she’s losing her mind by staging bizarre occurrences in their house, then pretending only she’s seeing and hearing them (yes, he’s after her money.) His favorite trick is dimming the gas lights in her room before clomping around upstairs or making strange sounds emanate from the walls. Soon she’s freaking out whenever the lights dim, expecting another bad trip. After each freak-out, once she’s good and melted down, he rushes to her aid, feigning concern.

It seems like a lifetime before she catches on – but she does. Things click as she (more or less) walks in on him rattling chains in the attic.

Law firms gaslight young lawyers – they create a world where nothing makes sense, then studiously pretend it does. You should catch on, too. You’re probably not the one who’s crazy.

Here’s how it works:

When you first get to the firm, it feels like summering all over again. Work is slow, and when assignments come, they’re low-priority research for marketing or pro bono. Here and there, you get a week of mindless doc review, which actually comes as a relief, since it’s easy and counts as billable hours. Mostly, you’re sitting at your desk, reading blogs. Your officemate is present half the time, not present half the time, but he doesn’t seem eager to explain what he’s up to any of the time, so you follow his lead and attempt to look serious and busy and involved in something, whatever that might be. You begin to wonder if there’s something wrong, but since you haven’t had a chance to do anything yet, it seems unlikely it’s something you’ve done. You build up the resolve to ask around and check if everyone else is dead, too – but they look busy enough, sitting at their desks, determinedly staring at their computers, so you chicken out. Just calm down, do what they’re doing – pretend there’s work. A week later, you pass the bar. You still haven’t really done anything, but it’s a step forward, right?

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james-joyceAre your Bloomsday plans still not nailed down?

Are you (like Molly Bloom), just a girl (or boy) who can’t say no?

Then say yes.  Say yes.  You will Yes.  Say yes you say yes you will Yes.

Say Yes to a free webinar I’m doing with the lovely and rather fetching (photo below) Martin Underwood, of Life Productions.  He’s English and a handsome devil and I said yes, yes I will Yes…upon the condition that we keep things fast-paced, scintillating and titillating – a stream of consciousness, whisking past like a day in Dublin, or (say) getting kissed under the Moorish wall.  And he said…Yes (my mountain flower) Yes.  1432209740745

So, it’s happening the free webinar, on – Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 at 7pm GMT / 2pm ET / 11am PT – Bloomsday, for you Joyceans out there.  And it shall be ravishing, this free webinar of ours.

Here are the deets.  It’s entirely free – like the best of modernist prose – exuberant, unbridled, decidedly salacious.  This is not something you want to miss.

meyerhofer picAnd it’s free.  And Martin is handsome – and interesting – and English.  And he’s a lawyer – a barrister, in fact (isn’t that adorable?!)   And he’s titled this FREE webinar (did I mention that it’s free?) “More Than Law – Find Better Work, In or Out of the Law.”

Which is hard to argue with.Davidson-Ireland-Gay-Marriage-1200

I’ll be there.

So say yes yes say yes you will Yes.

Sign up here.

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My new book is a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance.

Please also check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way-Worse-Than-Being-Dentist

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy: Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

3-e1423885761774I had the pleasure of confabbing away the afternoon a few days ago with the Jeena Cho, author (along with her co-author, Karen Gifford) of the upcoming book, The Anxious Lawyer, to be published in mid-2015 by the ABA.  Jeena recorded our conversation for her on-going podcast series, known as “The Resilient Lawyer.”

As you can probably tell from the resulting podcast (you can also listen to it and download it on iTunes), Jeena (although a lawyer) is very very nice, exceedingly resilient and not in the least bit anxious.  She’s also an expert on stuff like mindfulness and meditation, especially as it might play a part in rendering other lawyers’ lives a tad calmer and happier.

We covered a lot of ground – Jeena is easy to talk to, a great listener and asker of insightful questions.  You’ll have to overlook the gentle sounds of my miniature dachshund, Simon, snoring in the background, but I’m certain it’s worth the sacrifice.  Simon certainly wasn’t complaining.  IMG_5113

Jeena and Karen offer mindfulness meditation training for law firms, which seems like a good idea to me.  If any of you out there happen to manage a law firm and are in the market for calming bliss – well, I can’t think of anyone better with whom to attain it.

Thank you, Jeena, for the opportunity to meet you, and discuss the  important issues of our times…all accompanied by the soothing, slumberous susurrus of my much-loved senior canine colleague.

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My new book is a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Therapist-A-Romance-ebook/dp/B00BY8GV8M&#8221; target=”_blank”>Bad Therapist: A Romance</a>.

Please also check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Worse-Than-Being-Dentist-ebook/dp/B007UVXG0I&#8221; target=”_blank”>Way-Worse-Than-Being-Dentist</a>

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy: <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Life-Brief-Opportunity-Will-Meyerhofer/dp/1937600475&#8243; target=”_blank”>Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy</a>

King-Kandy-1306451680I recently attended a conference at a law school – a pretty good law school – and they invited me to appear on a panel and paid for my transportation and even offered a hotel (if I needed one, which it turns out I didn’t, but still…nice.)

I am a psychotherapist, which means, under ordinary circumstances, I never go anywhere, let alone on anything resembling a “business trip.” Instead, I sit in my office and listen to someone else talk. Whether that someone else is sitting on a chair in front of me, or in a chair in Australia via Skype on my computer screen, there I sit, listening, in my office, in the morning and in the afternoon, and in the evening, too. If I didn’t work out at the gym four times per week, I’d probably go all soft and pudgy and endomorphic and begin to assume (like many of my peers, who shall go nameless) the contours of the chair I sit in. Which is to say I’d look like a pear. It turns out there are two kinds of therapists – those who make the effort to step outside their offices and get some exercise, and those who look like pears.

But I digress. And regress. Which is okay in psychotherapy – free association and all – but I was talking about this conference at the pretty good law school.

The conference’s first discussion panel – which I wasn’t invited to be on, for reasons which will become obvious – was titled “An In-Depth Look at Firm Life.” (Well, actually, this was a conference for Asian Pacific American law students, so it was titled “Peering Through the Glass Ceiling: An In-Depth Look at Firm Life for Minorities” but being Asian Pacific American seemed a minor consideration compared to dealing with biglaw, even at a conference for Asian Pacific American law students.)

I wasn’t on that panel – I was on the one about Mental Health and lawyers (once again, Asian Pacific American mental health and lawyers, but whatever – I’m married to a Chinese-American and I love my Asian Pacific American fans and their mental health and their lawyers.)

What struck me, at least in retrospect, about the classy panel – the one I wasn’t on – was who was on it. Just for reference, my panel – the one about going nuts – was staffed with a research psychologist, two psychiatrists, a psychotherapist (me) and a guy who runs a recovery/support center for lawyers. Two or three of us were lawyers, but mostly incidentally. There was also a third, afternoon panel at the conference about Asian Pacific Americans being a “model minority.” That afternoon panel was populated with academics (no lawyers at all, so far as I could tell) and so things predictably took a highfalutin, theoretical turn – more like college than law school.

Only the panel purportedly concerning the actual reality of law firm life was stocked with 100% lawyers. Clearly, there was to be no fooling around with non-lawyer riffraff for them. The breakdown among the lawyers on this panel was interesting, too (for reasons I’ll disclose shortly.) First, all five of them were lawyers at biglaw firms, with the exception of one former biglaw lawyer who is now a corporate counsel at a humongous, famous, fancy-pants software company. Two panelists were partners at humongous, fancy-pants biglaw firms. There was also a senior associate at another biglaw firm, but she’d clerked for two federal judges and looked like she meant business; she was clearly not planning to be a mere senior associate for much longer – at least, if she had any say in the matter. And there was a lone junior associate, who looked slightly terrified, but she was at a top biglaw firm. Slightly terrified or not, she looked like she was dead set on going places, too.

So? Nothing wrong with that panel, right? Here were a bunch of success stories – Asian Pacific American lawyers in top jobs, reaping the success that comes with hard work. And they said all the stuff you’d expect them to say – advice on getting ahead and racing to the top, stuff like seeking out mentors, checking in to make sure you’re delivering what they want and…well, a lot of stuff about working hard and achieving success like they did. That’s hard to argue with.

But here’s the issue with that panel. The thing that stuck in my craw. The problem (if there was one) – which only dawned me in retrospect: They were only telling us the good news.

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munchkins3-lgReaders of my blog express surprise when they discover that all my clients aren’t lawyers – indeed, a small but sizable percentage of my clientele consists of ordinary civilians, non-combatants, plain folk who have nothing whatsoever to do with law. But the people surprised by this situation are mostly biglaw lawyers – and what really surprises them is not that I work with non-lawyers, but that I work with non-lawyers employed in biglaw – secretaries, law librarians, human resources folks, paralegals and so on. In other words, what surprises them is that I work with those people, those other people.

You know…the Little People.

Before you pile, on accusing me of snobbery, let me point out that I’m the one who’s treating these card-carrying members of the hoi polloi, and often for sliding fees. Let’s also admit that a rigid social hierarchy exists at law firms – in fact, a very rigid social hierarchy, something akin to the caste system under the Raj.

At Shearman & Sterling, where I summered one year, and at Sullivan & Cromwell, where I worked after blowing off Shearman & Sterling because it wasn’t (sniff sniff) quite up to snuff (yes, that’s a social hierarchy, too), I distinctly remember encountering what were referred to as “attorney dining rooms.” These were private dining rooms – partners and associates only. The very existence of these exclusive (as in, everyone except lawyers was excluded) dining chambers sent something of a…uh…message. The lawyers at the firm didn’t require separate water fountains, but message-wise, the effect was along the same lines.

Granted, back in the days when I worked in biglaw, partners arrived at the office in horse-drawn broughams and sported top hats and tails. I fondly remember Old Caesar, the darkie who toiled cheerfully in the S&C stables, and Irish Polly, the scullery drab – and who could forget wee Pip, the cripple foundling lad who maintained the fire in my office, always stoking it high with coal on a cold winter’s morning to earn his ha’penny and an affectionate pat on his cinder-begrimed cap as he hobbled off on his homemade crutches. Those were merry times.

But I shouldn’t permit misty nostalgia for another era to distract from my serious message: No kidding, there really were dining rooms reserved for the lawyers (and for all I know, there still are) and the message around them was clear: No Little People allowed.

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