Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Ah Coachella. California's yearly music and arts festival affords lot of opportunities for its attendees - amazing music, lots of star sightings, entire websites devoted to the fashion strategies to employ while attending, and being able to file your taxes unsuccessfully. Wait? What?
At least ten people tried to file their taxes from the Coachella campground post office this past weekend. Ironically the "post office" isn't a real post office, nor sponsored by USPS, and "acts more as an intermediary" between the festival "and the real local post office" according to the California Mercury News. Megan Hampton, who runs the Coachella "office, was quoted as saying "No, I can't 'just take it...How do they have their taxes here? I don't know."
Jeff Baker @JRBProf - better get that clinic outreach #JusticeBus ready for this weekend. Sounds like there are folks who could use your clinic's help - maybe even Kanye or Kesha. If not this year then perhaps we need to plan a road trip and ask Prof. Paul Caron @SoCalTaxProf to tag along. As long as actress Vanessa Hudgens @VanessaHudgens can tell us what to wear. I'm in @hagan_carrie. Maybe I'll have a #Suitsy by then.
Thursday, July 9, 2015
It’s July. Let’s talk about vacation. More specifically, have you booked yours?
I’d like to invite us to consider vacation as a matter of professionalism. Vacation as duty to ourselves, to our clients, to our students and the profession. A bit too far-reaching? I actually don’t think so.
I’ve spent the better part of the past two years researching, thinking, talking and writing about well-being, self-care and work-life balance. The way I see it, we are a part of a profession with a longstanding tradition of workaholism and compromised mental health, one that leads other industries in depression, alcoholism, substance abuse and career dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, we are doing far to little to turn the ship. It seems that it's a ship that we would want to turn for our own sakes, of course. However, the task seems all the more important for us as clinical professors, given that we spend our days teaching and mentoring the next generation of lawyers.
The causes and remedies to these problems are by no means uncomplicated, but one central theme continues to surface in these kinds of conversations: the need for self-care. Taking care of ourselves can feel selfish or privileged, especially as we serve clients and communities who cannot imagine such luxuries as paid vacation time or holiday travel. However, thanks to work being done in other people-centered fields like social work, I have become convinced that the best gift I can give my clients and the community that I serve is for me to be alert and energetic, thoughtful and ready to take on the day's work. For me, failure to recharge and step away from the difficulties of my practice results in a burnout that dances dangerously on the border of malpractice. And I don't think I'm alone. We're finding that, for both individuals and for companies, failing to recharge "simply isn't sustainable." And according to a recent study cited in the Harvard Business Review, it is those who take vacations that are more likely to be promoted.
Which brings us to summer: the perfect time to take stock of our work-life rhythms and to hit the reset button on our self-care. Studies show that we typically leave over a week of paid vacation unused. In fact, advertisers have begun to realize that few Americans are convinced to take time away for their own sakes, and have begun to use the “kid angle.” Last summer’s Mastercard "One More Day" campaign featured children citing the benefits of even just one more day of vacation per year. The ad featured kids reacting to the fact that over 400 million paid vacation days go unused each year. This year, homeaway.com partnered with internet sensation “Kid President” to promote the idea of a "whole vacation." Clever as always, Kid President contrasts a whole vacation with it’s common competitors: “vague-cations” and “fake-cations,” insisting that parents must unplug from work and other responsibilities and fully engage with their loved ones for the vacation to "count." Apparently, Kid President would not be in favor of the" work-cation" recently suggested in the Wall Street Journal. Those lovely days in Palm Springs for our AALS Clinical Conference do not count.
Much has been said about the fact clinicians have the opportunity to guide students as they learn how to "act like lawyers." Lately, I've been thinking about what it looks like to guide them in how to" live as lawyers." I want to instill and demonstrate a reflective practice that considers what it is to fully live while practicing law. What does a full or satisfied or multi-faceted life look like? What are healthy rhythms of work and rest in the midst of a productive career? How do we perform differently when we are well-rested and recharged? Do we have any personal experience upon which we might make such a comparison? As we look toward a better balance in our full lives, these are the kinds of questions we need to be processing with our colleagues and our students.
So take a break, good colleagues! Find a weekend getaway or a last-minute trip abroad on your favorite discount travel site, skip out early for your local concert in the park, book a massage, buy those summer concert tickets, go for a hike or a stroll this weekend. And then, reflective practitioners that we are...let's jot down a few notes about what these practices did for us and to us. How did time away affect the way we relate to those around us? How long did it take us to unwind? Did any new ideas come to us as we stared aimlessly at the ocean/lake/forest? (Or while daringly climbing Mt. Hood as our colleague, Warren Binford, wrote about last month?) Finally, let's share our reflections with our students and encourage them to do the same. Let's normalize the idea of getting away and encourage our students to embrace opportunities to both work hard and recharge.
I’m gearing up to turn my email to auto-reply, turn my phone on airplane mode, and cram my family of six into a tent cabin in Yosemite. Relaxing? No, not a bit. But we'll have stories to tell! And I’m convinced that my family, my clients, my students, and I will benefit from the time away.
Where are you headed this summer?
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
One of the dangers of living in the Northwest is that you occasionally attend a school fundraiser and become the winning bidder on a climb to the summit of Mt. Hood. Now I have climbed a fair number of mountains in my day, but none technical and only one recently. Thus, after the semester ended, I found myself in the unusual role of student. Mine was not a class about law or writing or education; rather, this was a class about tying knots, which I know nearly nothing about.
Don’t get me wrong: I have been tying knots for well over forty years. Well, actually, one knot and it involves bunny ears, but if needed, I can even tie it in a double knot! However, in this class, we were not being asked to tie knots that will keep on your Disney princess tennis shoes with red flashing lights as you run across the playground. These were life-saving knots. The kind that get you out of crevasses and keep you from falling off cliffs. Knots you want to--need to--know how to tie in the dark without thinking. Prusiks. Clove lines. Bow hitches. Double eights.
And so there I sat with one of my climbing partners to my left, and the other to my right. Both had a vested interest in my mastery of these skills. Indeed, their life might depend on it. No longer the one in charge, I was suddenly a student well outside of my comfort zone learning a high stakes skill that I needed to master with peers watching and evaluating. The pressure was on.
The course was well designed. The instructors sent us a manual before class, listed online demonstrations to watch, went over a quick PowerPoint in class, and then broke us into small peer groups of 3-5 learners, plus one instructor, and handed us each a length of climbing rope to practice and demonstrate our knot-tying mastery. Our instructor quickly tied a couple of the assigned knots and then directed us to try. I panicked.
Here it was seven o’clock at night. I had not had dinner. I had worked all day. I had just met a publication deadline, returned from a business trip, and closed out the school year. I had two young children at home and not enough sleep. I was driving over two hours roundtrip at night to attend this class. I had not done my homework and was running on fumes. And it hit me.
The tables were turned. All year long I had provided my students with a variety of resources, assigned them work to support their learning, delivered content in multiple settings with a variety of media. I had created opportunities to work in different group sizes, and yet, when it came time to demonstrate their knowledge and skills, to apply their knowledge, they would sometimes look at me hungry, exhausted, and confused like they had no idea what they were doing.
Humbled, I meekly handed my rope back to the instructor and asked him if he could demonstrate how to tie just one knot, and this time more slowly. He did, but not nearly slowly enough. I still didn’t get it. I tried, but he quickly untied my jumble of climbing rope, and directed me to watch him again. He quickly tied it so fast that I could not break down all of the steps. I tried again, but it was clear I had failed. I asked him if he could let me tie the knot and coach me through it one step at a time. He agreed, but after the second step took the rope back and quickly tied it again. At this point, all of my teammates were done with this knot and were ready to move on.
He offered to teach me a different method for tying the knot for people "who struggled." I was being offered remedial knot-tying! "No!" I insisted, and then I dropped the H-bomb in a moment of panic and defensiveness. I had a doctorate from Harvard, and if they just gave me a few more minutes, I could catch up. One of my peers, reached out to assure me. She was a D.O., but this is different, she said.
The instructor suddenly felt uncomfortable and said that now he was intimidated. He was obviously doing something wrong. I assured him that it was my fault: I hadn’t done my homework. I just needed him to slow down and coach me through each step of the tying of the knot, which he did. Once we broke it down step-by-step, with me (the learner) as actor, we both identified what I was doing wrong. Like so many things in life, I had been overcomplicating the knot. Rather than tie it once, I was tying it twice, perceiving it as more complex than it really was. The problem was suddenly untangled.
After the class took a break and I grabbed a quick bite to eat, I quietly slipped into a different group, where I could escape the shadow of my double figure-eight failure and start fresh with a new instructor. I eventually mastered all five knots, and developed such a great rapport with my second teacher (who knew nothing about my near miss with remedial knot tying instruction) that after our field training, he offered to join us on our climb up Mt. Hood. Perhaps he just loves climbing mountains, or maybe, although he witnessed how much I learned in class, he also saw how much I do not know, how much I still have to learn, and knows that some students still need teachers to be ready to support and watch over them, even after class ends.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
UPDATE: We're meeting on the patio outside the Fireside Lounge at the Westin. See you soon.
Friends, Writers, Readers,
The Clinical Law Prof Blog community will gather for an informal, not-hosted, meet up at the AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday night, May 6, somewhere in the Westin. (Watch this space, the Facebook page and @ClinicalLawProf for the location TBD).
It is impossible to plan a gathering that does not conflict with other worthy gatherings at this mighty conference, but if you can, please save the time and join us for conversation, refreshments and pleasantries.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
“It is music and dancing that make me at peace with the world.” ― Nelson Mandela
My father was hiking in Mammoth Lakes with his wife, their 5-year-old daughter, and one of his cross-country runners last month when he unexpectedly had a heart attack and died. He was 75 years old and still went to work six days a week, eleven months a year. He had just arrived for a high altitude training camp for his runners. It was his favorite week of the year in a job he loved.
The only thing he loved more than coaching was his family. Thus, at the age of twenty, when he had his first of seven children, he began a lifetime tradition of packing up our entire family (and often a couple of neighborhood friends), driving us to the 405, and asking, “North or South, East or West?” We never knew at the beginning of these month-long vacations whether we would wind up in the Canadian Rockies, a Kansas farm belonging to a third cousin, or the White House. These summer journeys became our sacred time--a time to rejuvenate, reflect, and cocoon as a family, away from work and school.
When I learned of my father’s death, I was in the midst of one of these sojourns with my older sister and our two families. We had just arrived in Ireland for a work-free week of family vacation. Somehow I had managed to complicate my first two weeks away from campus with two law conferences, a grant application, the presentation of two papers, and several professional meetings with potential collaborators. Needless to say, I am no John Binford.
Returning to campus three days after my father’s burial, I immediately threw myself headlong into work—focusing on meeting the end of summer writing deadlines, and preparing to survive the late August tsunami of students and clients and committees. I became friends with midnight and a stranger to my children.
Transitioning from work to sleep one early morning, I read the following article in Times Higher Education (“THE”) on the link between relaxation and work, which reminded me that working longer hours can often compromise productivity, not increase it. It brought to mind a New York Times essay I read last year that cited similar research. Somehow between infancy and high school, I became caught up in America's "Busy Trap," and here in mid-life, I have still not learned to break free. Was this busy-ness compromising my productivity as a professor? Did it make me a poor role model for my students? Was I missing out on motherhood because I mistakenly thought that working 14 hours a day would make me more successful or helpful to those in need or a better provider or whatever it is that is driving me?
What would happen if we stepped back and experimented with some new approaches to productivity, such as those suggested in this Forbes article? What if we set aside three hours a day, away from our students and family and clients and colleagues just to write, and broke those hours into 90-minute blocks? What if we made it a priority to sleep at least eight hours a night? Should we turn off email for hours at a time as suggested in this New York Times op-ed? What if we silenced all notifications when we wanted to think or needed to meet with people? Could we stop sleeping with our iPhones next to us? Better yet, what if we declared our time away from work a digital-free zone? Would that make us smarter, more present, productive, efficient, relaxed? Is it possible to be at peace with not at least trying to answer every email every day? Would it possibly make us more professional to manage our time and communications more proactively, rather than go through life with an “Always Open” neon sign across our chests? Maybe my dad was right about the sanctity of summer vacations. Should we, could we stop trying to work on vacation? According to NPR, adults need recess, too. What about dancing and singing and loving? Will these make us better teachers, scholars, attorneys, people? Maybe we should find out.
Care to dance with me this semester?