The health and well-being of our members come first. The following wellness resources offer support, advice, and assistance for our members.

We’re updating this page regularly to keep you informed, and invite you to contact us at 
feedback@cbabc.org with resources and support for the legal sector.

Wellness Supports
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For weeks the entire legal sector has been under pressure making decisions for clients while adapting to new business practices.

Our Wellness Hub provide resources for lawyers and law firms on mental health, self-care, staying fit, communications with clients and colleagues, including the business of law while in isolation.

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The Lawyers Assistance Program of BC (LAPBC) is open and meeting with clients and groups remotely. LAPBC provides confidential outreach, education, support and referrals to lawyers and other members of the legal community to help them deal with personal issues. These may include problems such as alcohol and drug dependence, depression, stress and anxiety, among others.

LAPBC is currently conducting a weekly Zoom drop-in Discussion Group for Lawyers During the COVID-19  Crisis (free and confidential). They have also written some articles on resiliency and self-awareness to address our current situation. Read their blog and read inspiring stories about lawyers and recovery.

Get Help

By phone 24/7: 1-888-685-2171
In person: 415 – 1080 Mainland Street, Vancouver
By confidential email: info@lapbc.com

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The Mindful Lawyer CPD Series is a collection of more than 20 modules with topics such as managing stress, time management, communications with clients and colleagues, building resilience, and strategies for adapting to new technology business practices. Best of all, the series is free for CBA members!

Find out more.

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The Every Lawyer podcast channel is produced by the Canadian Bar Association, bringing expert advice and insights on wellness. Listen to some practical tips.

How to cultivate health and wellness

Did you know that lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to be depressed than non-lawyers who share their same socio-demographic traits. Doron Gold a former lawyer and now psychotherapist, and Glen Hickerson a trial lawyer in Calgary talk about how to cultivate health and wellness.

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By Jeena Cho for Clio

Mindfulness means to pay attention in a particular way without preference or judgment. As Sharon Salzberg explains, when you’re paying attention mindfully, you’re “doing so in a certain way—with balance and equanimity, and without judgment. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention in a way that creates space for insight.” For lawyers, mindfulness is a powerful tool.

Let’s start with an example. Imagine that you’re sitting in your office and the phone rings. You look at the Caller ID and it’s your least favorite opposing counsel. You know the type – the person that’s always difficult to work with, the one that gets under your skin, the person you wish wasn’t in your life. What is your default reaction? Do you answer the phone and say “now what do you want?” or maybe you choose not to answer. Now, let’s slow down and examine what is happening both in your mind and body.

When you see the name pop up on the Caller ID, what do you notice in your body? Does your stomach tighten? Do your shoulders inch their way up to your ears? Are you breathing faster? Do your palms get sweaty? How about your mind? Does your mind start to race running through all the reasons why he might be calling, rehearsing your response, or perhaps thinking of all the annoying things he’s done to you?

Much of what happens in our body when we’re undergoing a stressful situation (such as your opposing counsel calling) is part of the Fight or Flight response. It’s great for keeping you safe in case a saber-toothed tiger is chasing after you. However, it’s not so useful when you’re about to answer the phone.

The Mindful Response

Now, let’s look at this example through a mindfulness lens. The first part of understanding mindfulness is to pay attention. This means simply noticing all the physical, emotional and psychological responses, in a particular way. It means to look at the situation with mental calmness or equanimity. It can also mean to look at the situation through the lens of your highest aspiration, such that you always approach each situation with dignity, respect, compassion, or whatever you aspire toward.

Without preference is referring to our mind’s tendency to struggle against what is happening. You wish this opposing counsel wasn’t calling. You wish you can change her. You wish she wasn’t your opposing counsel. Letting go of our mind’s preference to want this—but not that, this is part of the mindfulness practice. Mindfulness for lawyers means letting go.

Without judgment means letting go of your mind’s natural tendency to label things as good or bad. Going back to the example, you probably hold judgments against your opposing counsel, and perhaps even towards yourself. You might tell yourself things like “stop being so weak!”

Mindfulness enables legal practitioners to pay attention to what is happening and respond from their best selves.

How Mindfulness Helps

Practicing mindfulness as legal professionals can increase focus and productivity because we are training our attention to be with what is instead of the story that we create. For example, if your secretary interrupts you while you’re working on a Motion to Dismiss, you can either accept that the interruption already occurred and respond to the situation, then get back to work. You can also stay engaged in a long dialogue in your mind about how she’s constantly interrupting you, or some other misgiving you have against her. Which is more conducive to focus and productivity? The answer is obvious.

When we’re mindful, we’re paying attention to the now. Instead of having your mind go off thinking about your opening statement at the trial as you draft the Complaint, you can put all of your attention to writing the Complaint (unless, of course, this actually aids you in drafting the Complaint). Instead of worrying about the opposing side’s Motion to Dismiss, you can devote all of your attention to writing the Complaint.

Similarly, you can stay focused when you’re spending time with your family and enjoying their company instead of worrying about all the work that’s waiting for you at the office.

In other words, by definition, when you are being mindful, you are recognizing when you are engaging in unproductive or unfocused behavior (such as rumination, worrying, distraction) and redirecting your attention to the matter at hand—paying dividends for yourself and those you represent.

This post was published on. Last updated: .

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By Allison Wolf and Terry DeMeo for Clio

All businesses, including law practices, have slow periods. Knowing what to do when the phone stops ringing and clients stop hiring you can be a challenge. 

This is true now more than ever as law firms grapple with the broad-based economic and social changes wrought by the COVID-19 crisis.

Lawyers are not immune to the anxiety, doubt, and fear that often comes when business is slow. However, with a thoughtful and deliberate approach, it’s entirely possible for lawyers and legal professionals to get through slow business periods and times of economic uncertainty, and to come out stronger and ready to thrive.

Successfully bridging a business slump requires a twofold approach: Both the inner world (thoughts, feelings, and emotions) and the outer world (your environment and your business) need attention. You must address your inner world to keep the brain and body able to perform efficiently and effectively. On the other hand, you must also pay attention to your outer world—your external experience—and carefully consider what actions to take when there actually is time to implement strategic planning for business development and for your firm’s future.

The inner world: Caring for yourself

If your law firm has ever been through a slow business period, you’ll know how quickly an avalanche of unhelpful thoughts can arise. These are typical:

  • “I won’t get new work.”
  • “My clients have forgotten me.”
  • “I’m going to go broke.”

Since lawyers are trained to consider what can go wrong in analyzing professional cases, they’re particularly prone to negative thoughts. This can provoke fear and anxiety, which can easily lead to a loss of motivation, procrastination, and excessive rumination. Combine that with the fact that we’re all collectively grieving the loss of life as we know it, and you’ve got a veritable breeding ground for negative thoughts.

As humans, we perform better and can think more accurately and creatively when we’re calm. Managing your thoughts and feelings throughout the day can help you stay energized, productive, and focused.

Here are a few simple, yet powerful tips to help get you through times when business is slow:

1. Develop awareness of negative thoughts

Negative or troubling thoughts are usually lurking underneath stressful feelings, lack of focus, and procrastination. Check the reliability of what you’re thinking.

Your mind will naturally try to weave together a narrative, even when you only have a few facts. For example, if it’s been a week since new work has come in, you might tell yourself it means that you will never get new work.

Our brains do this automatically to try to predict the future and keep us physically safe from harm. However, this instinct is not helpful in the context of reacting to a slow period for your law firm—even in the middle of what very much looks like an economic downturn.

Lawyers are particularly prone to this type of pessimistic thinking, since the worst-case-scenario thinking that is necessary for prudent lawyers in analyzing cases can lead to catastrophic thinking in contemplating events in the rest of a lawyer’s life.

Ask yourself which of your thoughts are true—do you have factual evidence that, for example, your business is doomed or you will never get new work? What’s your actual financial situation, and what are your actual options for getting help or adapting your business model?

Dispute any overly negative scenarios with the facts, as if you were advocating on your behalf against an adversary. For example, the thought “I’m going to go out of business,” can be countered with “I’ve survived slowdowns before” and “we still have clients, who we have good relationships with, and who will be happy to refer others to us when things are better.”

2. Remember the facts

Create a list of facts to help halt catastrophic thinking and read them frequently if you begin to stress out. Here are some examples, but come up with ones that are true for you and your practice.

  • “All businesses have slow spells.”
  • “I have survived slumps in the past.”
  • “My major client has told me they will have a new matter for me next month.”
  • “It’s August and most of my clients are on vacation.”
  • “I have a cushion in the bank for times like these.”

If your business is truly at risk due to an economic downturn, it’s still possible to catastrophize, and it’s still possible to halt that thinking in its tracks so you can know you’ve done everything possible to continue running your firm. Try facts like:

  • “I haven’t heard back about my loan yet: That doesn’t mean I was rejected.”
  • “I have several options for securing the capital I need to get through this time.”
  • “I am resilient and will recover no matter what happens.”

3. Breathe

Focus your attention on your breath and breathe slowly and regularly, inhaling and exhaling to a slow count of four. Inhale-2-3-4-exhale-2-3-4. Over and over. If your mind wanders and you start to feel stressed, you can use a simple mantra to help yourself stay relaxed, such as, “Breathe and stay calm, breath and stay calm, breathe and stay calm.” Even if you feel you only have a few moments to do this, this exercise will make a huge difference in your day-to-day.

Breathing triggers the relaxation response of your nervous system, telling your brain that you are safe. By taking a few moments to breathe, you will be able to think more clearly and feel more productive in a very short period of time.

Don’t think you have a few moments? Keep in mind that a minute or two throughout the day can save hours lost to stress and rumination. It may seem counterproductive at the time, but thoughts like “I don’t have time to spend noticing my breath,” are just more instances of unhelpful and untrue thinking.

Try it for yourself. You’ll find that the more you practice, the more effective breathing techniques become.

4. Establish good self-care routines.

Depending on your situation, you may or may not have extra time on your hands with business being slow. But no matter what, you’ll need to take care of yourself to get through this, so engaging in a self-care activity that’s important to you will be critical to your success. Here are a few examples of actions you can take:

  • Exercise regularly. Bodyweight exercises are the perfect at-home workout. You don’t even need equipment!
  • Check out some online yoga videos and stretch your stress out.
  • Commit to sleeping eight hours each night.
  • Stock up on healthy food and get in the habit of eating nourishing meals.
  • Pick up a new hobby just for fun, for example, painting, crafting, or even learning a new language
  • Learn mindfulness meditation if stress and anxiety continue to be a problem.

Not only will you feel better, good self-care will also support your other efforts: Taking care of your mental health will ensure you’re better prepared to weather the periods when business is slow and take positive action. Learn more about best practices for lawyer wellness and mental health in this post.

If nothing else, don’t be afraid to reach out for help when managing your inner world during times of crisis. A coach like Terry DeMeo can help guide you through the process.

Once you’ve solidified a few routines for taking care of your mental health, you’ll be better positioned to succeed at taking practical action to help your firm. Trust us: It’s worth it.

The outer world: Practical tips for navigating slow business periods

As you focus on caring for your inner world, you’ll quickly notice that you have more focus and confidence, and you can move into action. Now is the time for reflection, planning, and getting important but not urgent business needs moving forward.

Invest in business development

There’s no time like times of economic uncertainty to invest time in law firm business development. Begin by answering these three questions:

  1. What clients or referral sources can you reach out to?
  2. What opportunities for your business have you been neglecting that you can now act on?
  3. What specific steps can you take to bring in more business, based on your answers to these questions?

Your answer to question three will guide you in prioritizing initiatives and developing a focused action plan to move forward. Learn more about law firm business development strategies here.

If you’re not sure where to start, consider that your existing clients and inactive clients can be an excellent source of new opportunities for your practice, so prioritize communications with these clients. Which brings us to our next point:

Strengthen client relationships

Especially during times of economic uncertainty, simply reaching out to clients to see how they are doing may not just uncover work for your firm: It will also help strengthen your relationships with clients and show them you really care, leading to lasting long-term relationships. 

Your clients are central to the success of your firm, so investing in these relationships is worthwhile. Building trust means building business relationships where clients will be willing to come to you for legal services more than once, and may even recommend your firm to others.

Create or update your business plan 

Next, if you have a business plan for your practice, review it to see what initiatives you can move forward, and what changes may need to be made in light of different economic circumstances. Maybe you want to add a new practice area, for example. Having a plan can give you a sense of stability and control in uncertain times.

If you don’t have a business plan for your practice, develop one now. The Clio Blog has some great resources on creating law firm business plans and marketing plans to guide you.

Create or update your law firm budget

If you don’t currently have a law firm budget, there’s no time like a slow business period to write one. More than ever, during slow business periods it’s important to know how money has been allocated at your law firm, and what your expenses are, so that you can make adjustments if needed. If you’ve never written a law firm budget before, you can learn how to do so here.

Closely monitor your law firm’s cash flow

When times are tough, cash is king. Taking a hard look at your law firm’s cash flow during slow business periods can lead you to see where your firm is at, and look at options to help maintain cash flow as soon as possible. Here are some tips on improving cash flow, and what to do if your firm is having cash flow problems.

Support your team—and draw support from them

Whether you’re a solo or part of a team of 20, slow business periods and times of economic uncertainty are the time to reach out to close colleagues and industry acquaintances so that you can stay connected. 

Ask staff how they’re doing, and if there’s anything they need to be more productive during difficult times. Be open and honest about your plans if things go south, but also use the tips above to help staff manage their inner worlds to give your firm the best chance of coming out thriving. 

If you’re a solo, keep in close touch with fellow solos so you can refer relevant cases to each other. 

If you’re facing a slow business period for your firm alone, your community will want to help. If  you’re all facing economic uncertainty together, the best way to succeed is by joining forces and problem solving to help each other’s firm survive, one step at a time.

When business picks up again

Soon enough, you’ll be through the slow period and you’ll see business start to pick up again. All difficult times, even worldwide economic downturns, must come to an end.

But, it’s important to remember that investing in law firm business development isn’t just for slow periods.

Here’s how to make time for tasks and strategies to help your firm grow, even when you’re busy with plenty of clients.

Stay on track with business development

You can’t make the corn grow faster because you are hungry, and the same principle applies for your legal practice. Scrambling to call all of your referral sources when work dries up during slow business periods isn’t a sustainable strategy—the best results come from consistent investments over time.

Most lawyers don’t keep their business development and marketing plans moving forward during their busy periods. The pressures of client work are intense and demanding.

But consistency pays off. The trick is to learn to use small increments of time for keeping your non-billable initiatives moving forward (and remember, these tasks, if done right, will bring in new clients, so they actually will make you money!).

Tackle business development in small steps

You might have a great business plan, a solid marketing strategy, and the ripest opportunities within your grasp but this one thought—“there’s not enough time right now”—is what will stop you dead in your tracks every time.

Nodding your head because this happens to you? You are not alone. “I’ll do it later” throws most lawyers off their best-intentioned plans.

Here’s what is important to know: Successful business development can be done in small steps. A five-minute investment can keep your plan on track. With 10 to 15 minutes, you can get some key tasks done.

Here are some examples of important actions you can take in less than five minutes:

  • Look at your business plan or contact list and decide—who do I want to connect with this week? What action do I want to take this week? Get this item onto your to-do list.
  • Send an email to a business prospect or referral source suggesting a meetup—you could even do it over a video conference, which removes geographic limitations.
  • Review your website or online profile and decide what needs to be updated.
  • Start brainstorming topics for the conference presentation proposal you are sending out next month.
  • Email an article or link to a client telling them you thought of them when you read it, with a few words about why you thought it would interest them. (Maintaining strong, meaningful relationships with clients is key if you want them to refer their friends and family to you.)

Take it step-by-step

It’s amazing how much can be done with minimal investments of time.

Even if you only have a few spare moments a day, these are your opportunities to make an impact on your future.

Keep your business development to-do list on your desk and challenge yourself to move something forward every day. Make use of the small pockets of time available to you, to develop and execute on your plan, and to ensure that you are steadily investing in your prosperous future.

Conclusion

Whether you are a solo practitioner, a partner in a small firm, or an associate in a large firm, today’s lawyers are expected to stay productive and effective in both their professional and business spheres. By managing both your inner and outer worlds, you can not only survive when business is slow, but effectively use these times to build and strengthen your practices:

  • Think twice. If it seems as if all is lost, challenge that thought. Likely, your business isn’t doomed, and staying calm will allow you to take action to get through a slow stretch.
  • Start small. Think about what’s most important to helping your business get back on track: Calling existing or previous clients is an excellent source for opportunities.
  • Stay consistent. When business picks up, don’t neglect your long term business development plans. Even a few minutes a day can add up to a big investment in your future.

This post was published on. Last updated: .

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Lifeworks is available 24/7 to articled students, lawyers, and their immediate families. 

The Law Society funds personal counselling and referral services through LifeWorks Canada Ltd. Services. These services are confidential and available at no cost. There are three ways to contact LifeWorks 24/7:

  1. Call the toll-free number: 1.888.307.0590 for a confidential in-person call
  2. Log in to login.lifeworks.com to learn more about the services Lifeworks provides, including website materials and access to a confidential online chat or in-person call:
    Username: lawsocietybc
    Password: healthy
  3. Download the free app on Android or IOS – simply search for “Lifeworks”. Once downloaded, open the app, click on “log in” and enter your Username and Password: lawsocietybc/healthy
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BCPA offers “Psychological First Aid” telephone calls, free of charge, to any BC resident (19+) affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The calls are conducted by volunteer psychologists, are up to 30 minutes in length and there is no limit to the number of times an individual can access this service.

To sign up for a call, complete the form on this page.

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Heidi Grant Halvorson: The Incredible Benefits of a "Get Better" Mindset from 99U on Vimeo.

In this talk, researcher Heidi Grant Halvorson explores the mindsets needed to ensure personal growth. Mainly we should avoid a “Be Good” mindset — one where we are constantly attempting to prove our superiority to the world. Instead, we should embrace a “Get Better” mindset — where we always perceive ourselves as having more to learn. When we embrace a Get Better mindset, we embrace risk and are less afraid of failure, which is key to personal development.

About Heidi Grant Halvorson
Heidi Grant Halvorson is the Associate Director of Columbia University’s Motivation Science Center, and a popular blogger for HBR, Fast Company, Huffington Post, Forbes, WSJ, and 99U. As a researcher, she studies goal pursuit, the obstacles that derail us, and the strategies we can use to overcome them.

Work-Life Balance
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Are You in Balance?

More than ever before, Canadians play many different roles in their lives. They are workers, parents, spouses, friends, caregivers of elderly relatives and volunteers in their communities. They must also make room in their lives for taking care of their own physical and mental well-being. Not surprisingly, achieving balance among all these competing priorities can be difficult. This overload can be heightened by new technologies that were actually intended to make our work lives easier – through email, cell phones and other electronic devices, many workers are expected to be available 24/7, making the achievement of a balance between work and the rest of our lives even more difficult.

Achieving work/life balance means having equilibrium among all the priorities in your life – this state of balance is different for every person. But, as difficult as work/life balance is to define, most of us know when we’re out of balance. To find out more about your own personal balance: Take the Work-Life Balance Quiz.

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Working from home is not a new concept, lawyers have access to the same tools from home as in the office. The potential to provide high quality service is possible so long as there's a balance between work and private life.

Erin Cowling, a freelance lawyer and Founder of Flex Legal Network offers some quick tips for maintaining productivity and balance while working from home.

Have a Dedicated Workspace

Try to physically separate “home” from “work”. To find the best dedicated workspace for you, think about how you like to work. Do you need complete silence? Find a quiet corner of the house or apartment and put on your headphones (especially if others are at home too). Or, maybe you need white noise in the background? Perhaps you need to be in a room with a TV on in the background or a radio or the window open, etc. Find a place that works for you (I don’t recommend a bed or couch; they can make you drowsy) and use that place as your dedicated workspace.

Stick to a Schedule

Do you normally arrive at work at 9am? Then open your laptop and start your day at 9am. Keep your end of day consistent with your usually end of day too. When working from home you may find that “work life” blends into “home life”. To avoid this, set a work schedule and stick with it. Take a lunch break away from your dedicated workspace, eat healthy food and step outside for a bit. This helps to clear your head. 

Schedule “check-ins” with your associates, partners, law clerks, or others who also work on your files. Either daily or twice a day or weekly - whatever makes sense for you. These “check-ins” would normally take place in the office in the form of office chats or afternoon coffee breaks or running into each other in the hall. Having scheduled “check-ins” help with understanding timelines and progress on files and answer any questions that come up. 

It can be tempting to not stick to a schedule while you are working from home and just “wing it” but a schedule keeps you focused and on track to get your work done.

Don't be Afraid of Technology, Embrace It

Hopefully, most firms have the technology in place for you to access your files, communicate with opposing counsel and your clients, etc. If not, you need to invest in the technology now. Also, use video conferencing programs (like Zoom or Microsoft Teams) rather than phone calls to stay connected. When you are on a video call you can read human social cues better, see other’s reactions to what your are saying, and it’s always nice to see a smiling face, rather than just a voice floating down the line. (It may also help you get out of your pajamas every morning).

Set Boundaries with the Kids

If you have children at home over the next few weeks, some of these tips might not work and life may be a little more challenging. Depending on their age, it’s helpful to set them up with a daily schedule as well, which includes “Mommy/Daddy Work Time”. When I work from home and the kids are home, they know not to bother me during my work hours unless it is an emergency. I set scheduled breaks to check in with them and deal with any issues that have come up. It helps when I have snacks handy and in reach for children (pre-cut apples, carrots, granola bars - already opened, etc.)

If you have very young children, you may have to work in the same room and keep an eye on them. Or, unfortunately you may be working the night shift to make up for lost time during the day. In order to avoid this, perhaps a little guilt-free extra TV and electronics time may be in order over the coming weeks!

Focus on Your Mental Health

As an introvert, working from home can be heaven for me. I get exhausted if I have too many in-person meetings or networking events, etc. However, even introverts get lonely sometimes. This means extroverts may suffer even more being isolated. Loneliness and stress and anxiety can creep up on lawyers working from home. While it is important to keep up social distancing, we can still check in with friends and colleagues and loved ones over the phone, by texting, video conferencing, etc. The OBA makes it easy for you to stay engaged through LinkedIn groups, online webcasts, and section meetings.

Also, make sure you set aside some time to read a great book or go for a walk or sit on your deck and enjoy the sunshine. While we may be avoiding the gym right now, we can still set aside some time to exercise at home or in our backyards. Try to keep up all the little self-care steps your normally take.

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By Michael Bury, LexisNexis

According to Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, we now create as much information every two days as we did during the entire span of time between the dawn of civilization through 2003 — about five exabytes of data every 48 hours. That amounts to approximately 250 million DVDs worth of information.

For legal professionals, using online information tools for focused business goals such as case law research has resulted in huge costs savings for clients. These online resources are invaluable.

And while these tools and information continue to grow at an explosive rate, our ability as humans to process the technology flood remains unchanged. Artificial intelligence (AI) might help us in the future, but right now the problem we face is the impact technology is having on our daily workflows.

“Always-on” technology has created distraction issues referred to as “digital fragmentation” by some experts. We are constantly bombarded by messages, whether it be advertising or other digital notifications on our smartphones and desktop computers. Going hand in hand with this has been the need for faster client response times and turnaround times for work product.

It’s no wonder many legal professionals are starting to experience mental and physical health issues including stress and anxiety. Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can use to improve your workflow and hopefully your mental health.

First, change your digital habits by decluttering your digital world. Do the following to change your smartphone experience and turn the device into a more purposeful one:

  1. Remove unnecessary apps: Delete all the apps you don’t or shouldn’t use anymore (everyone knows what games we are talking about — the mindless “time vampires” — which only reinforce the addictive behaviour). Smartphones typically come preloaded with other assorted “bloatware” — apps that you will never use and only create potential distraction. Remove them as well.
  2. Remove social media: This is a hard one and a key cause of addictive behaviour. There is nothing wrong with checking Facebook on your tablet when you get home or viewing Instagram with the browser version on your desktop when you want some down time. But the key is to remember that you are trying to eliminate addictive, on-the-go behaviour that is not productive.
  3. A simple home screen: Place the four or five most-used apps on the dock at the bottom of your home screen. Put everything else into a single folder to simplify the visual appearance of your smartphone’s main screen. Out of sight, out of mind.
  4. Remove notifications: Leave phone call and text message notifications on, but remove all the other notifications. While the little red notification bubbles are rewarding — the digital version of crack cocaine — you do not need to see how many likes you received on Instagram as they appear. When you want to check something, open the app. Don’t let the app control when you open it with its notifications.

Next, take a close look at how you use your desktop computer. The goal is always to remove anything that is not adding value or has the potential of distracting you.

  1. Clean up your desktop: Remove all the files and programs from the desktop. They should not be here. Organize them in a folder elsewhere.
  2. Choose a clean wallpaper: Your desktop wallpaper can have an impact on your productivity. If you have recent holiday photos of you and the family, it should not come as a surprise that your mind will wander to holiday mode when you are overworked or tired. Choose a background that will help you focus.
  3. Auto-hide the dock: The applications sitting in the dock at the bottom of your screen are visual clutter. Get rid of them. You can set this up in the dock preferences so they only appear when you move your cursor over them.
  4. Uninstall programs: Go through your applications and delete those that you don’t use. Again, the objective is to reduce clutter and distractions such as old program update requests.
  5. Work in full-screen mode: Most software programs offer full-screen mode, which will focus you on the task at hand.
  6. Make e-mail a scheduled to-do: Do not waste time checking e-mail throughout your work day. Instead, check it twice per day to reduce the anxiety associated with what’s coming next. Also, build in the amount of time you will spend checking e-mail so that you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of distractions.
  7. Send fewer e-mails: Not every e-mail needs a response, especially if it’s going to be, “Thanks for the update!”
  8. Reply with statements: Don’t answer questions with another question. When asked, “What time should we have the meeting?” be assertive and propose a specific time or solution: for e.g., “10 a.m., the boardroom,” not “What works best for you?”
  9. Turn off e-mail notifications: If you’re not going to check e-mail, why do you need the annoying alerts? Silence them.
  10. Close the application: Once you are done checking e-mail, exit the application to avoid any temptations.

Once you’ve decluttered your digital workspace, organize and prioritize your daily tasks. While it may sound simplistic, a “Things to Do” list is an invaluable tool built into most software suites. There is no point relying on your memory for all the things you need to get done in the day. Quite frankly, it’s a waste of your brain processing power. Recalling that thing you were supposed to get done is a waste of time — time that could be better spent on getting the task done. These lists are excellent planning tools; you should begin and end your day with them.

Hopefully, in the not too distant future, our digital AI assistants will help manage technologies for us. But for now, the goal of these new habits is to create digital wellness by reducing anxiety, creating a productive work space and helping you get things done effectively in a fast-moving world.

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By Amelia Landenberger, Slaw

We are living in unusual times. While some of us are battling illness, overwork, or the exuberance of nearby small children, others are finding ourselves with more self-directed time than usual. If you are seeking some direction for your work, here are some ideas for research challenges or organizational methods so that you can learn something or organize something to make your future work life easier. They’re arranged according to the approximate time they’ll take: very short tasks, tasks for an hour or so, and multi-hour tasks.

Organizational tasks for five minutes or less:

Organize your inbox. For almost everyone, the first step to organizing your inbox is acceptance. You must accept that you are most likely never going to organize the vast unorganized mess of emails past. Now is the time to make peace with that. But there is one way to begin to take care of the innumerable emails you will receive in the future, and it takes less than one minute per email. Every time you receive a new email, after you read it, invent a category for that email. Make an inbox folder with the name you’ve chosen and put the email into it. Take a moment to savor your small victory. Don’t let yourself get hung up on creating the perfect categories at first. Once a week or so you may notice that you have duplicates, like a folder called Slaw and a folder called Slaw updates and you can merge the two, but even that task won’t take more than a minute.

Unsubscribe to unwanted emails. When you receive an email and do not want to categorize it, take a moment to ponder whether you might have preferred not to get the email at all. Look for an unsubscribe button at the base of the email which could rid you of future emails from that list or sender. If the email doesn’t offer an unsubscribe feature, consider setting a rule for your emails. It only takes a few seconds now, but you could make a rule that causes all emails of a particular type to go directly to a folder.

For example, the university where I work sends a daily update. Before I had folders, I’d lose approximately fifteen minutes reading the human-interest stories every time the newsletter hit my inbox. Unfortunately, it often cost me more than fifteen minutes to rebuild my momentum and proceed with whatever I had been working on before the interruption. Now those emails go to a folder for daily updates, and I read them in the afternoon while I drink my tea. If you’ve never set an inbox rule before, here are some easy instructions for Outlook or Gmail.

Research that take about an hour:

Anecdotally, it appears that many people are setting unreasonable goals for their time in social isolation, like learning a new language, becoming professional indoor athletes, or teaching their children to respect bedtimes. Rather than setting unreasonable learning goals for yourself, why not devote an hour to learning a specific aspect of something new? When you research a legal question, take an extra hour and answer the same question a second time in another jurisdiction. It’s often hard to accomplish a task like “learning about the legal system of New Orleans,” but if you’ve already researched something specific like the child custody rules following divorce of same-sex spouses in Ontario, why not try to find the answer to the same question under the legal system of New York or New Orleans or even Paris? To get started you might want to look at some compiled information about those legal systems. Many libraries create free guides which are a good place to start your research on other jurisdictions. You can find information about the state of New YorkLouisiana, and France.

If you don’t want to add a new jurisdiction to your knowledge base, pick an area of law and choose one new source to read every day. If you haven’t subscribed to Slaw, you could always start now, but if you’re already a regular reader, choose an additional list or site to subscribe to. I used to be pretty hesitant to subscribe to things because of the brain drain of receiving too many emails each day and being constantly interrupted by email. But now that I’m more conscientious about removing subscriptions I no longer read (see above), and more deliberate about using rules to automatically move emails into folders, I’m more willing to subscribe to a new information source.

If you’re really restless and the idea of sitting at your computer to learn something makes you want to scream, what about an educational podcast? Load one up on your portable device of choice and take a walk while learning something. The University of Oxford has podcasts on public international law. The American Society of International Law has a podcast called International Law Behind the Headlines. The BBC Radio 4 has a series called Law in Action.

Tasks that take multiple hours:

If you have many hours to spare, why not challenge yourself by choosing a new legal topic to learn about? If nothing strikes your fancy, consider learning about divorce law. Divorce is so common that it’s a generally useful subject in which to be conversant, but be warned that it may be a bad idea to let anyone else know that you have this knowledge. Like a dermatologist, you may find yourself in the uncomfortable situation of being asked to practice your skills on friends, family, and casual acquaintances.

This spring might be a particularly good time to learn about divorce, as it’s possible divorce rates are going to rise following social isolation. So if you wanted to learn about divorce, where could you start? Find a secondary source which gives a fairly good overview of the subject, and then find a specific area you might want to focus on in more depth. Here are online resources on divorce law in the US. You could go straight to a primary source and read the Divorce Act of Canada. Or, if you want to look through the laws of a specific (non-Canadian) jurisdiction, I offer you this guide to divorce law in Franklin County, Ohio.

If divorce law is not your cup of tea, why not delve into learning about the EU? If you’ve always found the structure and history of the EU institutions a bit complicated, try reading The ABC of EU Law, by Klaus-Dieter Borchardt. It’s available for free on the EU website in all of the official EU languages. It’s not a quick read, unless you are fortunate enough to be able to read 150+ pages quickly, but it’s full of helpful diagrams, and it would be a great way to brush up on your directives versus regulations and the difference between the Council and the European Council. Whether you want to read it cover-to-cover or just skim it and keep it for later reference, I would recommend this to anyone who wants to understand the EU without ever having worked in Brussels.

If all of these tasks sound like too much to handle when we are already dealing with a worldwide crisis, remember that staying safe is the most important thing for now. If you want to accomplish something on this list but only have a few seconds, just add it to a to-do list for later, once things have calmed down.

Resources for Lawyer Parents
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Rushing to the day care before it closes, taking your budding soccer star to a weekend tournament, attending parent-teacher interviews, and still meeting your targets for billable hours combining family responsibilities with a legal career is not easy.

The good news is it’s not impossible. Read more.

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Being a working parent is even harder as childcare and education fall to parents amid COVID-19. We share top tips to help working parents respond to the challenge.

By Amanda Beach for Justworks

If things weren’t already difficult with the arrival of the COVID-19 illness itself, we’re now approaching a time when working from home is part of what’s being called “the new normal.” As we navigate the coronavirus and adjust to this new way of working, we’re faced with even more challenges when it comes to caring for ourselves and our families.

Alongside the push for working remotely, schools and childcare facilities are being closed in an effort to limit the spread and risk of exposure to the coronavirus. While this is a crucial step in managing the pandemic, it’s created unique challenges for professionals who are also parents.

If you’re one of many working parents who are now taking on daycare and homeschooling responsibilities, we know the struggles you’re going through. Check out our list of tips, tricks, strategies, and resources that may help you find your footing as you start wearing all the hats at home.

Having enough hands

Parents know all too well the value of an extra hand, and now is the time you need all the hands you can get. What if you’re not sure where to find them?

The people in your household are likely your best resources while we’re asked to practice social distancing and limit interaction with others. It might take some coordination, but trading kid duty with your spouse, partner, parents, or older children can help ensure the kids are cared for and you have the time and energy to get some work done.

If coordinating with your family isn’t working out, or you don’t have helping hands in your household, you still have options for keeping your kids engaged and cared for. Don’t be afraid to try something different:

  • Wear your baby. Lots of parents use carriers like the Baby Bjorn to allow them more freedom while keeping their baby safe. If nothing else, you’ll free up your hands by strapping your little one in for the day.
  • Check out live and recorded storytime. Many videos and streaming events are popping up online that feature people reading children’s books, making it an easy resource to use for keeping younger children occupied. Try Oliver Jeffers' Instagram account to start with.
  • Brighten the day with some color. Even if your kids own coloring books, having different subject matter will make the activity new and engaging. Sites like Get Coloring Pages offer free pages you can print at home.
  • Listen to podcasts geared toward children. Another alternative to reading books in real life, this is another good option for keeping kids occupied and engaged. The Story PiratesThe Past and The Curious, and Stories Podcast are all popular options on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
  • Let the kids help cook dinner. Having a “family cooking class” will not only provide you with an extra set of hands, but your kids will also be engaged and will learn how to do more in the kitchen! Try Sally’s Baking Addiction for kid-friendly recipes.
  • Plan for no-hands time in advance. If you know you’ll find yourself stuck with a sleeping baby on one arm, ensure all your work is accessible from your phone. The Google Docs app is great for this.
  • Don’t shy away from screentime. It’s not a reasonable expectation that you’ll actively care for kids every second of every day. Give yourself a break and let your children get wrapped up in their favorite movie or television show for a bit (bonus if it’s educational). You’ll all benefit from some low-key, hands-off activities that keep kids busy. Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Snoopy in Space, Pete the Cat, and Sesame Street are all popular choices.

If you’re still struggling to perform double-duty as a parent and professional, don’t worry. We’re all trying to get through this challenging time, and sometimes we’ll need to rely on what’s easiest to get through the day.

Keeping a tight(ish) schedule

Many schools of thought support the idea of maintaining a regular schedule for children (and adults). A consistent routine can provide some much-needed structure during times like these. It can also help maintain stable moods, improve one’s ability to interact and build relationships with others, and develop a sense of responsibility. And when kids are following their schedules, parents are better able to keep theirs!

If you have a child who was attending school before COVID-19 developed, use everything their school is providing, including the daily schedule. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to, so try to align your child’s day with a routine they’re already used to following.

Even with many schools providing structured e-learning for students, it’s difficult for children and their families to maintain a schedule and adjust to learning differently. If you’ve found it tough to keep your kids on track, check out some of these options and resources:

  • Create your own family schedule. A schedule that’s unique to your own family’s needs will work much better than a generic one. But don’t be afraid to use any examples you find — they’ll give you a framework you can then adjust to your needs. This widely shared block example provides a great base for structuring the day.
  • Make it a game. Even if your kids have online classes or a schedule to follow, they’re not always going to want to follow along. Consider making a game out of how long your child can stay in their seat or how many sheets of paper they can fill up.
  • Offer your child choices. This can be effective for toddlers as well as grade school-aged kids who are capable of more autonomy. By offering up a choice between two options, you’re maintaining structure and control of what they’ll be doing. Having the choice will make your kids feel more responsible and more committed to following up on their decision.
  • Align your day to your energy levels. We all have our own rhythms in terms of when we feel most energetic and productive, so consider a schedule that works with that rhythm instead of against it. This goes for kids too! If you can afford to put some time in upfront to develop this type of schedule, you may find you and your kids being more productive and focused throughout the day.

At the end of the day, every child is unique and requires different things to learn. Try a combination of these ideas or try none at all — as long as you’re providing your kids with a few activities that will spark curiosity and learning, they’ll get through this situation having grown (and you will too).

Ensuring school is in session

With classrooms being cleared out to support social distancing, parents everywhere are left to handle their kids’ education. Some families are having an easier time than others, but overall this is a challenge that few could anticipate.

As parents are scrambling to maintain careers while becoming teachers, tons of resources are being created and shared. If your household is starting to unravel, here are a few of the Band-aids being used to hold things together:

  • Free online classes. These have been around for some time now, but who knew there were so many? In addition to what was existing, many individuals and institutions are opening up their resources and sharing them for free or at low cost. Scholastic has a resource that includes options for all elementary and middle school grade levels, and Khan Academy has a schedule featuring all of the free courses they offer for all grade levels and most subject areas.
  • Let writing prompts do all the work. The Learning Network uses content from the New York Times to help students practice reading and writing through various prompts. The biggest lift for you might be helping your child set up an account on the New York Times site to get started.
  • Engage kids in their least-favorite subjects. Do you recall what your least favorite subject in school was? Chances are you couldn’t be paid to revisit it now. Try your best to keep your children engaged in subjects like science with simple and free lessons online.
  • Daily streaming videos/webinars. Many artists, educators, and celebrities have taken to providing their services virtually during this time (and often for free). Take advantage of artists like Mo Willems who spend an hour every day hosting a drawing tutorial class for children.
  • Parenting communities on Instagram and Facebook. Many social platforms are becoming havens for the population as we seek connection and resources to get through this strange time. Accounts like busytoddler are sharing ideas that parents can try using across the board, including frameworks and educational activities.
  • Let the real world educate. Kids don’t necessarily need protractors and tests to learn. They can learn about biology and science in the garden. Cookbooks can teach them about math and conversions. This crowdsourced list provides many ideas like this. Show your kids that the world around them can teach them more than they think!
Getting the work done

Becoming your child’s babysitter and teacher wasn’t in the plan, but it’s now part of daily life. You might be trying to figure out how to balance all of these new responsibilities with your career, which is a unique challenge in itself.

Productivity has always been a hot topic, but it’s become even more relevant as of late. With so many other parents struggling with this, more ideas and strategies are being shared to help mothers and fathers everywhere find that ever-elusive balance:

  • Use your time wisely. Aim to tackle the things that require the most focus when your kids are heavily occupied. While everyone’s kids won’t be occupied for long stretches of time, use what blocks you can to get the work done. You’ll save yourself the frustration later on in the day when your kids are restless and you’ve got a deadline.
  • Get into a groove with some atypical tunes. Using music is a common strategy for productivity and one we’ve pointed out in a previous article, but try shaking it up with some less obvious choices. Your children likely have a favorite album that’s played nonstop (like Pete the Cat’s soundtrack), leading to the same earworm you find yourself humming unconsciously. See how much work you can churn out (and how well your kids are occupied) by playing that album in the background!
  • Consider dictation apps. When you’re sprinting to rescue that vase before your child knocks it to the floor, you might lose that thought you were just about to jot down. Avoid losing your thoughts to rescue missions by keeping a dictation app like Transcribe open on your phone. This can help you maintain a semi-productive workday if you anticipate having to jump up for multiple rescue missions throughout the day.
  • Speak with your employer about flexible work. Especially in times like these, parents may find it much easier to focus when their children are sleeping. If your employer allows you to work flexible hours, this may allow you to spend time working in the evenings once your children are down for the night.
  • Be realistic about your workload. Getting through the day can be hard enough when you’re in the office. Add in working from home, the coronavirus, and school closures and you’ve got yourself quite a situation. Recognize that you’re one person with a lot on your shoulders and that it’s okay if you don’t check off every item on your to-do list.

If you’re still struggling with your workload, don’t hesitate to discuss your concerns with your manager. You’re likely not the only one in your company that’s struggling because of COVID-19. Opening up to your employer will enable them to help you find a solution that works for your situation.

As we all adjust to “the new normal,” it’s more important than ever to show kindness and patience toward others as well as ourselves. Showing those toward others and ourselves will make it that much easier to come through on the other side of this stronger than we were before. You’ve got this!

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.

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Managing employees who are parents requires flexibility and understanding. Learn ways to adjust to better support parent employee during COVID-19.

By Amanda Beach for Justworks

Parents don’t have it easy these days. After boarding the struggle bus that is remote life, it can feel like they’re stuck on a wild ride with no stop in sight.

While we’re all experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic together, working parents have a unique challenge in juggling multiple jobs, many in isolation and without the support they’re used to. Aside from basic self-care, they’re also taking on parenting and teaching their children while trying to maintain productivity for their full-time job. Considering this precarious balancing act, the support of their managers is crucial for working parents.

Most managers have never had to support their teams during a pandemic, so it might be hard identifying ways to adjust your management style to align with what your employees need. This is especially true if you’re managing parents, and even more so if you’re not a parent yourself.

Below, we’ve detailed how being accessibleunderstandingflexible, and communicative can help you shift your approach so you’re providing the right support for your employees with children.

Be Accessible

One of the biggest things you can do for your parent employees is to make yourself as accessible as possible. Employees look to leadership during times of crisis, so if leadership is failing to communicate plans and expectations, it can cause distress in parent employees who must make plans and decisions for more than just themselves. As much of the workforce is performing their work remotely, it can also be difficult for employees to approach leadership with questions or concerns.

To make yourself more accessible, consider having an open forum where all employees are welcomed to ask questions. This can be done through a group chat or in a virtual meeting — Justworks has done weekly Ask Me Anything-style forums with our CEO, Isaac, via Slack. You could also hold weekly office hours where parent employees can count on you to be available. Some employees just need someone to talk to, so making yourself available can serve many needs you weren’t previously aware of.

It might also help to establish a network of parents. Similar to an employee resource group (ERG), a network of parents can serve as a great resource for parents to find help, ideas, and support from other parents. While the network won’t necessarily include managers or leadership (but certainly can), the real draw is making a valuable resource accessible to your parent employees.

Be Understanding

Even if you don’t have children of your own, make efforts to understand where your parent employees are coming from. Non-parents might take simple tasks for granted, whereas parents may be fighting to accomplish one of those simple tasks. When in meetings, staying present in the moment can seem like an impossible feat. Turning on the video might require a long-overdue shower that there’s no time to take.

Understanding your employee’s situation includes knowing a bit about your employee’s family. Did they have to relocate? Are they new parents who aren’t getting sleep at night? Were they planning for help from distant family who can no longer travel? Let them explain their situation and what they’re finding most challenging. Find out their children’s names. Ask if they have any family or spousal support at home. Taking the time to discuss and learn about their families will help give you a much clearer picture of what your employee is dealing with on a day-to-day basis. It will also make your parent employees feel like you truly care about more than just their work life.

As remote life continues, it's important to be aware that your parent employees’ mental health may suffer. If one of your parent employees finds their mental health impacted by the current situation, do your best to be understanding of this as well, and encourage them to seek the care they need. Mental health issues are rarely in our control, and the pressure working parents are under may compound the general stress people are feeling around COVID-19.

Be Flexible

Even non-parents are learning that remote work life isn’t that easy to adjust to. Working parents have added layers that probably won’t be smoothed out by the time things return to “normal.” Children aren’t known for being flexible, and their needs aren’t either. With this in mind, managers should be as flexible as possible while their parent employees are juggling their workload and everything that at-home parenting requires right now.

If your employees’ parenting responsibilities make it difficult for them to keep regular working hours, consider relaxing the hours you require them to keep. Consider allowing your employees to work in the evenings or on weekends as their tasks allow. Doing this may help alleviate some of your employee’s stress and may help build more trust between you. At a time when managers must trust their employees to perform their roles from a distance, it’s important to foster that sense of trust. Give your employees the freedom to be offline in the morning or shut off their video during a meeting. Focusing on the results instead of the process or timeframe can lift unnecessary burdens so that parents can get the work done in a way that works for them.

If your parent employees are having trouble meeting deadlines, look at shifting deadlines wherever possible. Re-prioritizing is something that will help everyone, so consider making this a weekly exercise if you haven’t started doing this already. You can also look at re-assigning critical assignments to other employees who have more bandwidth to deliver by the date the assignment is needed.

Be Communicative

We know connection is vital, and even more so now. Despite how our methods have changed over the past few months, communication is still a crucial part of managing your employees. Perhaps you’ve got regularly-scheduled meetings to check in with your employees — if not, this is a great time to start them. For employees with kids, be prepared to, again, be flexible with when you meet. Children aren’t great at keeping schedules, so your parent employees may need to shift meeting times here and there.

When you do manage to grab some of your employee’s time, try finding different ways to ask them for what they need. Providing suggestions can be helpful, too. It can be difficult for any employee to voice their needs, and parents are no different. Some working parents hold themselves to the same standard as employees without children, but this is an impossible expectation given the current circumstances. Let your parent employees know that their best is okay right now and that you’re available to support them. Help them identify how you can best support them with leading, open-ended questions, and ask them often.

Be the Example

We’ve already covered how diligent communication can help, but consider how your own struggles can be valuable to your parent employees. Share a bit about your own challenges during this time, or challenges you have in common. Hearing this from you may help relieve some of the pressure and stress your employees are feeling and shows them they aren’t alone in their struggles.

If you’re a parent yourself who’s managing other parents, lead by example when it comes to your children. Bring them to your Zoom meetings and let your teams see the kid perched on your lap. Laugh about the things your child yells from the other room that your meeting attendees can clearly hear. Normalizing the presence of your children amidst remote work life can help your parent employees feel better about their own.

While your employees need you during the workday, they also need to see you take time for yourself. As we all find ways to deal with the current situation, we need to factor in downtime. Taking a mental health day when you need it is important for everyone right now, and doing so yourself will show your employees that it’s more than okay to follow suit.

Flexibility, understanding, and communication will go a long way in supporting employees who have kids. As they balance multiple roles — parent, teacher, homemaker, employee — it’s important that they’re clear on your expectations but also where there’s room to adjust. If you’re able to manage your parent employees with that in mind, you’ll set them up to better overcome the challenges ahead.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.

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The following camps and kids’ programs offer virtual programming across Canada including some activities offered at no cost: