Of Competition, Stress, and Well-Being

Will, a white man with a brown beard, and grey glasses, wears a blue and peach plaid shirt. By Will Graebe 

Like many other lawyers, I grew up in a competitive family. The dinner table was a debate stage. Jeopardy was a full-contact sport. Performance and achievement led to reward and affirmation. This environment prepared me for many of the challenges I would face in my adult life—law school, the bar exam, and the stress of practicing law. Somewhere along the way, though, I realized that something was missing. This way of living was not sustainable for me. So, I set out on a journey ten years ago to explore my own well-being and to redefine what flourishing looked like for me. I’d like to share some of what I have learned.

This is not another article encouraging readers to meditate, write a gratitude journal, practice mindfulness, exercise, sleep and eat better, engage in service work, get out in nature, or change their mindset. While these are all valuable practices, by now, most of us know what we can do to improve our well-being. We have been inundated with well-being content offering specific wellness tools. Instead, what follows are principles that I have found helpful in guiding my well-being journey.

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How Should We Deal With Conflict?

Adam a white man with light brown hair, wears a white shirt, red tie with light polka dots, and a white shirt. He is smiling. By Adam G. Linett

A pro se opponent continues to file nonsensical pleadings. An opposing counsel is obnoxious and rude in a deposition. A family law case is on a roller coaster of one crisis after another, created by your own client, the other side, or both.

As legal professionals, we are often called upon to deal with one sort of conflict or another. For those of us who make our living as litigators, all of our cases are “adversarial” in nature. But if we are honest, some of the players—whether parties or our colleagues at the bar—are easier to deal with than others. The question is, then, how do we handle these more contentious situations without allowing it to rob us of our peace of mind?

First, we need to remember that we were retained because a conflict of some sort already existed. In the case of individuals, organizations, or governmental entities, the dispute could be over a contract, a tort, a family law matter, or many other areas. In the criminal law context, the client may be accused of committing a crime and is facing prosecution by the state or the federal government. Thus, the issue is not that conflict itself is inherently bad or must be avoided at all costs. Rather, the existence of a conflict shows that there is a need for some change. The conflict is also an opportunity for us to use our legal education, skills and abilities to assist our clients.

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AI Is Adapting, and Lawyers Should, Too

By Marc E. Gustafson

We’ve all been there – negotiating with opposing counsel over a nuanced situation, only to get a run-of-the-mill response. These types of conversations can be frustrating, if not downright maddening. More importantly, they have the potential to spell a hard road ahead for our profession.

Over the last year, there has been a fair amount of gnashing of teeth by lawyers and law firms over ways Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT and the like will affect the legal profession. If your head has been anywhere but buried in the sand, you’ve likely seen examples of articles and briefs, with varying degrees of accuracy, composed using some form of AI. And these tools are going to get better.

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