Following the success of her first two books, 50 Lessons for Lawyers: Earn More – Stress Less – Be Awesome and 50 Lessons for Women Lawyers – From Women Lawyers, law firm coach and author Nora Riva Bergman is returning with a new installment, 50 Lessons for Happy Lawyers: Research-based strategies to increase your personal and professional happiness. For this book Bergman has teamed up with Chelsy A. Castro, CEO and Founder of Castro Jacobs Psychotherapy and Consulting (CJPC), a firm specializing in lawyer well-being. An attorney turned psychotherapist and performance coach, Castro counsels individuals and the organizations they work for on how to achieve their goals in healthy and productive ways.
Bergman and Castro combine their own expert knowledge and share science-based strategies to help you live a happier, healthier, more resilient life. The authors have come to realize that, like the law, happiness is a practice. It is something we can build – little by little – bit by bit – every day. While we cannot merely flip a switch and become happy, we can cultivate happiness. We can practice happiness. Their book gives you the science-backed tools to do just that.
Like the first two books in the 50 Lessons for Lawyers series, 50 Lessons for Happy Lawyers is designed so that readers can choose to read from beginning to end or skip around to find the lessons most relevant to them – regardless of where they are in their careers or lives. They also include a section at the end of each lesson with tips to help you Live the Lesson and put the lesson to work for you.
50 Lessons for Happy Lawyers is expansive in its scope, covering topics from how to identify and beat burnout to why resilience is so important to the positive impact that exercise, sleep, recovery, laughing, crying, nature, beauty, volunteering, and even daydreaming can have on the happiness you experience in life. Bergman and Castro remain practical in their advice. Their book is timely and centered around the idea that there are specific things you can do every day to live a happier life. Yes, you can!
50 Lessons for Happy Lawyers: Research-based strategies to increase your personal and professional happiness.
Nora Riva Bergman, J.D. and Chelsy A. Castro, J.D., M.A., A.M., LCSW | May 26, 2022
Berroco Canyon Publishing | Nonfiction / Self-Help
Paperback | ISBN: 978-0-9972637-4-9 | $24.99
E-Book | ISBN: 978-0-9972637-5-6 | $9.99
“As a lawyer and now as the Executive Director of ADAA, I think about happiness and purpose daily. I found many of the suggestions in 50 Lessons for Happy Lawyers both insightful and practical. I will be sharing the book with my lawyer friends as well as those who may be considering becoming a lawyer. We lawyers need a book like this. Thank you.”
Susan K. Gurley, Executive Director, Anxiety and Depression Association of America
About the Authors
Nora Riva Bergman is a law firm coach, author, and certified Atticus Practice Advisor. As a licensed attorney, Nora has coached lawyers across the country for over 15 years and brings a deep understanding of the practice and business of law to her work with lawyers, law firms, and bar associations. She is the author of 50 Lessons for Lawyers: Earn More – Stress Less – Be Awesome and 50 Lessons for Women Lawyers – From Women Lawyers. She is a graduate of the Leadership Development Institute at Eckerd College and is certified in the Conflict Dynamics Profile® developed by the Center for Conflict Dynamics at Eckerd College to help individuals and organizations deal constructively with conflict. Nora is also a graduate of Villanova University’s Lean Six Sigma Program and is certified in both DISC and EQ through Target Training International. Find out more about her at reallifepractice.com.
Chelsy A. Castro is CEO and Founder of Castro Jacobs Psychotherapy and Consulting (CJPC), a firm specializing in lawyer well-being. An attorney turned psychotherapist and performance coach, Chelsy counsels individuals and the organizations they work for on how to achieve their goals in healthy and productive ways. Chelsy’s publications and trainings focus on science-based skills and strategies for improving performance and increasing well-being in high-pressure professions. After practicing law as a multilingual attorney in the field of international regulatory compliance, Chelsy later earned her clinical degree at the University of Chicago and shifted her focus to lawyer well-being. Prior to launching CJPC, Chelsy designed, developed, and managed clinical programs for the legal profession, and provided evidence-based psychotherapy and training for lawyers, judges, and law students. Find out more about her at castrojacobs.com.
For more information, visit 50LessonsForHappyLawyers.com
In an interview, Nora Riva Bergman and Chelsy A. Castro can discuss:
- The unique challenges to happiness and wellbeing that lawyers face
- Statistics regarding mental health and wellness in the legal profession
- How to help “high achievers” reach their goals in healthier ways
- Common traits among lawyers that can make them a vulnerable population
- How lawyers can effectively address compassion fatigue at work
- Examples of self-care for lawyers and why this is essential for them to avoid burnout
- Warning signs of burnout
- What lawyers can do for themselves each day to live happier lives
An Interview with Nora Riva Bergman and Chelsy A. Castro
How did you two come to work together on “50 Lessons for Happy Lawyers?”
Nora: In 2021, I attended a webinar Chelsy presented on burnout. I was so impressed I reached out to see if I could interview her for the book. I felt like we really hit it off during the interview. I heard Chelsy saying to me the same things I say to my clients. I knew I wanted to work with her, so after a few conversations we agreed to do some writing together. That led to us working together on the book. I can honestly say, it’s been a very happy collaboration.
Chelsy: Nora’s answer made me smile, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. I remember thinking when we first met, “Wow, she is writing about the very same thing I am working for. Feels like we would be great friends and would work really well together.” And here we are.
What unique challenges do lawyers face when it comes to happiness and wellbeing?
Nora: It is very hard for most lawyers to disconnect from the practice and the challenges their clients face. Far too many lawyers suffer from compassion fatigue. Prior to the global pandemic of COVID-19, the 2016 study by the Hazelden Betty For Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, the first of its kind in decades, found that “21 percent of licensed, employed attorneys qualify as problem drinkers, 28 percent struggle with some level of depression and 19 percent demonstrate symptoms of anxiety.” The 2018 Legal Trends Report found that “75% of lawyers report frequently or always working outside of regular business hours, and that 39% of lawyers say these long hours negatively affect their personal lives.”
Chelsy: Also at play are traits shared by many lawyers, making them a population that is vulnerable to disproportionately high levels of depression, anxiety, burnout, and substance abuse. Traits such as perfectionism; pessimism; the adversarial and zero-sum-game nature of most legal work; the legal culture’s typical definition of success (i.e. money, status, power, etc. a.k.a. External points of validation), to the exclusion of internal points of validation such as personal values, authenticity, meaningful relationships, and a sense of purpose; “wellness-washing” (the term I use when an employer advertises that lawyer well-being is a priority and highlights policies such as parental leave, yoga classes, and unlimited vacation, but does legitimize lawyers actually using such benefits).
What are some of your favorite self-care activities that uplift you on a particularly rough day?
Nora: For me it is three things every day: 1. Meditation, 2. Exercise, 3. Sleep – good sleep. We write about 50 different strategies, but those three are part of my must haves!
Chelsy: For a boost, I can always count on movement to help, whether it be stretching, exercise, or dancing. I also find that taking pen to paper and revisiting my “why’s” is a grounding activity that I happily and repeatedly return to. All three are strategies we discuss in the book. The lessons are not just backed up by hard science; they are also tried and tested by ourselves and our clients.
Why are lawyers prone to burnout?
Nora: Most lawyers are high achievers, type A personalities. They have real difficulty with the concept of recovery. By recovery, we mean the type of recovery that is important to an athlete’s performance. Top athletes cannot – and do not – train hard every single day. That is a recipe for burnout, a plateau in performance, and possible injury. Lawyers live in a culture that says work hard; work long hours; work on the weekends. It’s a badge of honor for a lawyer to be the first one in the office and the last to leave. They actually brag about it. That mentality will take its toll on you.
Chelsy: Burnout is a combination of life, organizational and individual factors. To start, we do not cease to be human just because we are lawyers. We still need to deal with all the challenges that daily life throws at us (i.e., health concerns, family issues, financial worries, etc.) while addressing the consistently strenuous work of a legal practice. The organizational factors such as client expectations, high billable hour goals, and the adversarial nature of the legal system are also significant stressors. Finally, lawyers tend to be perfectionists and pessimists. While these traits can result in high quality work product, they also carry the risk of missed opportunities and feelings of overwhelm.
How can “high achievers” reach their goals in healthier ways? What are some unhealthy habits they should watch out for?
Nora: Unhealthy habits are the same for lawyers as they are for everyone. They are human, after all! One important thing they should be on the lookout for is what they stop doing. When people stop doing those things that they enjoy because they feel so pressured to work, that is a huge red flag. These can be little things like skipping lunch, not taking breaks throughout the day, working an extra 10, 15, 30 minutes each day. They can also be big things: not exercising like you used to, missing family meals, not taking vacations, not sleeping. Sadly, I think we’ve all experienced these things. We need to pay attention and notice when these things start happening, then make small changes to course correct.
Chelsy: For high achievers, the goal is often so important that the process gets overlooked. It’s the process that impacts the health and sustainability of pursuing our goals. You cannot expect to run a full marathon if you have never trained, and you also cannot expect to run a full marathon after you have just completed five. The goal of running a marathon is the same in both scenarios, and, while the processes of reaching the goal differ wildly, both are unhealthy and unrealistic. It is key that high achievers consider the sustainability of the process when setting and pursuing goals. Going beyond timelines, we need to consider how restorative practices need to play a role in helping us perform better.
It is also critical that high achievers check in with themselves periodically on how not just the goal, but the process aligns with their values. As Nora said, what you stop doing is just as important as what you are doing. If the pursuit of a goal has you compromising some very important things in life, it’s time to reassess the process of pursuit.
Did you have your own mentors who helped you along your journey to success?
Nora: My wife, Jan, is my mentor, my coach, my biggest cheerleader. I also hear my mom and dad’s voices in my head nearly every day. Also, my Aunt Riva, who I’m named after. I wrote about her in the first 50 Lessons for Lawyers book. She was one of the most positive and inspirational people I’ve ever known.
Chelsy: My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. They have perhaps served more as inspiration than as mentors, but the impact of their experiences has been a powerful force in my life and career. As Cuban refugees who lost everything and had to start over with nothing in a country where they did not speak the language, my parents and grandparents instilled in me the hunger to achieve, but with a caveat; striving must always be accompanied by the knowledge that the external measures of success can be destroyed by independent factors, so it is imperative that you not lose yourself in the striving. You exist well beyond the measure of your achievements and your identity is not your work (that last one is really tough for lawyers). My great-grandparents immigrated from Spain to Cuba sacrificing for a better life. From their stories I learned early on that it is never too late to change. You can always influence your story, your life, for the better, and that the responsibility is yours.
Tell us about the previous books in this series.
Nora: The first 50 Lessons for Lawyers book focuses on how to create a law practice that serves your life rather than living a life that serves your practice – which is what so many lawyers do. Its focus is on foundational concepts of business effectiveness – time management, client development, building the right team. It also touches on some of the concepts we explore much more fully in this book. 50 Lessons for Women Lawyers – From Women Lawyers was a compilation of career and life lessons for women lawyers at every stage of their career. Our contributors included women from all types of practices – including women in private and public practice, current and former national, state, and local bar association presidents, judges, law school faculty, entrepreneurs, and other published authors.
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