We want people to have long and fulfilling careers at Foley & Lardner, which is why we invest in their long-term personal and professional growth and well-being and continue to seek new ways to foster a culture that strengthens relationships and humanity.
Mental Health Awareness Month was an opportune time to share information about the many resources available to firm members through Foley’s Best Self and guide our employees to see they are not alone – and that there is no shame in asking for help – with their struggles.
As part of our May programming, Foley invited all members of the firm to a candid roundtable on the topic of mental health in the legal profession and at Foley. This was a follow-up to our extremely well-received 2021 program with a new roster of presenters who brought a fresh perspective from their own personal experiences.
The partners Von Bryant, Kimberly Klinsportand Tory Mateseand senior counsel Spencer Montei moderator joined Neighborhood Chris for an authentic conversation about what we (really) do and what else can be done to relieve our own stress and support others who are struggling.
Ward kicked off the conversation with the seemingly innocuous question of “how are you?” Panelists said they were mostly happy things were starting to get back to normal, but felt strained to adjust to a “new normal”.
“You reflexively say I’m fine, but in the depths of the pandemic when you had kids running around and you hadn’t been out for 48 hours, it started to feel wrong.”
“Before COVID, I worked very hard during the week, but was totally present when I was at home. During COVID, we made this shift to working from home where I couldn’t physically separate the two, and my kids felt like they had to compete with work for my attention because we were all home together all the time. . With the swing of the pendulum, I feel the pressure of my children asking me if they will see me today because I am now going back to work in the office and not always at home.
On the question of how BigLaw has managed to address wellness, panelists agreed that there is less stigma in talking about making time for yourself, but it takes a team of everyone to really make it the norm.
“We’re going to do what’s right for our customers, no matter what. It’s good to exercise or share a meal with your family, and it’s good for you.
“In my opinion, work-life balance is not the right way to frame it. For me, it’s about thinking holistically about my work and my life so that my meaning and purpose doesn’t have to be put in one bucket or the other.
It’s all about communication – giving lots of time and getting team members up to speed so you can truly disconnect when you’re out of the office. Senior lawyers must lead by example – being transparent about our time away lets junior lawyers know they can do the same.
“Everyone has a limit, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. It’s up to each of us to assess where we are and take the initiative to ask for help, and it’s up to the person benefiting from it to really listen and act. The biggest mistake is to say nothing at all.
While there is a lot of work to be done, Foley is committed to continuing this open and honest dialogue to ensure that our employees are not only aware of the resources available, but also feel comfortable ask for help when they need it.
You can learn more about the resources Foley provides to support mental health and wellbeing in this special edition of The Path & The Practice podcast dedicated to Mental Health Awareness Month. Talent Director Jen Patton and her partners Leigh Riley and Chris Ward share stories and experiences of navigating life’s struggles and highlighting the importance of making space for your own humanity.