Vermont Bar Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2 Vermont Bar Journal, Spring 2017, Volume 43, No. 1 - Page 5

by Michael E. Kennedy, Esq. PRESIDENT’S COLUMN Spring. Renewal. Light. Hope. Trite? Yes. But perhaps for a reason. And maybe that reason is because Spring brings these feelings. Spring reinvigorates. For some of us, the rejuvenation manifests in visions of gar- dens blooming lush and bright. For oth- ers, it’s the sensory overload of that first im- possibly bright day and a walk past the re- vived bustle of the outdoor cafes & restau- rants. For still others, it’s the feeling best captured by John Fogerty when he wrote “beat the drum, hold the phone, the sun came out today. We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.” 1 And that feeling that, at long last, this might be the year in which the Cubs win it all. Oh, wait. I hope that each of you embraces the season and its clichés. The profession is hard. As I mentioned in my last column, issues related to addic- tion and mental health infect our profes- sion. Then there’s the grind of finding cli- ents, retaining clients, and getting clients to pay. As the folks at Above The Law have written, the profession is not good for your health. 2 Some of you might be at a point in your career where you are asking yourself: “Self, how did it get to this?” Others of you have stopped asking; acceptance hav- ing set in. It need not set in. And that’s whe re Spring is instructive. I’m no scholar and I cringe when “Shake- speare” appears as a category on Jeopar- dy. But, to paraphrase the Bard, “spring . . . hath put a spirit of youth in every thing.” 3 That’s my challenge to you: inject a spir- it of youth into your life. In less lawyerly terms, be a kid again. Let’s be clear: I don’t expect to look out my window and see a bunch of middle- aged attorneys skateboarding on the con- crete and railings that surround the Costel- lo Courthouse. The key word was spirit . . . “inject a spirit of youth into your life, both professional and personal.” Why did you go to law school? What made you want to become a lawyer? As an aside, my honest answer is “I don’t have any idea.” My first year out of UVM I was working at a gas station on Shelburne Road. A high school buddy’s father owned it and I loved working there. I pumped gas, changed oil, and because everyone needs to buy gas, generally enjoyed the oppor- tunity to chat will people from all walks of life. All the while working a schedule that allowed me to coach the freshman basket- ball team at South Burlington High School. Life was good. Until someone (who may or may not have been my father) asked if I was going to change oil my whole life. I took the hint. The poli-sci degree made law school seem a better idea than business school and, next thing I knew, a decent LSAT score and a recommendation from a lawyer-friend of my mom’s, resulted in GW Law extending me an invitation to join the Class of 1993. I accepted, and here we are. Now, back to my regularly scheduled col- umn. Most of you probably chose the law “to help people.” You know what the desire to help people is? It’s part of a youthful spirit. Isn’t that how we felt when we graduated from law school and started our careers? We were going to do good. We were go- ing to help. This Spring, let’s renew that spirit. Let’s reinvigorate our professional lives. This Spring, let’s get back to that youthful spirit that drove us to this profession in the first place. The VBA offers many opportunities to do so. In partnership with Vermont Legal Aid, the VBA’s Modest Means Program provides lawyers and legal services to people whose income is at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. An attractive aspect of the program is that it can be “win-win.” You can get paid! � That’s right – help yourself by helping others. In addition, pro bono opportunities exist in every county in the State. Mary Ashcroft serves as the VBA’s Legal Access Coordina- tor. Through the tireless efforts of Mary and many others, there are programs through- out Vermont in which volunteer lawyers are matched with Vermonters in critical need of legal services. Again, the various low and pro bono opportunities are win-win: not only will your participation help others, it counts towards the aspirational goal of 50 hours of pro bono services per year. No time to participate in the Modest Means or Pro Bono programs? Fear not! Thanks to technology you can help oth- ers without ever leaving your desk. That’s right, within the past few months, the VBA partnered with Vermont Law Line to join over 40 other states in offering a forum to provide online pro bono services. The pro- gram is Vermont Free Legal Answers and it’s yet another way for lawyers to help oth- ers. � Or, to really get into the spirit of being back in school, join a growing list of VBA members who are visiting local schools to talk about civics. There is no better way to foster respect for the rule of law, the le- gal process, and the legal profession than THE VERMONT BAR JOURNAL • SPRING 2017 to educate young people. The VBA has teaching templates and boxes full of pock- et Constitutions for you to hand out at school. I’d be remiss if I limited this column to urging you to return a spirit of youth only to your professional life. Fortunately, there’s a growing realization within the pro- fession that attorney wellness matters. For example, the State Bar of Georgia urges its members to tend to their physical well- being and social well-being. 6 The Ohio State Bar recommends a work-life balance that includes, among other things, fitness, yoga, and humor. 7 The State Bar of Mich- igan has a resource page on wellness for lawyers and judges. 8 Wellness has even made its way into the curriculum at both Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law and Harvard Law School. 9 The Vermont Bar Journal column entitled “Pursuits of Hap- piness” brings focus to the outside talents and interests of lawyers that help those lawyers maintain a work-life balance. Like I said, be a kid again. What captivat- ed your youthful spirit? Music? Take up les- sons. Sports? Sign-up for a 5K. Languag- es? Learn one. Whatever it takes to refresh and renew your energy, do it. We are not robots and it’s no longer “cool” to pretend that the all-work, no-play life is a badge of honor. You cannot help others if you, your- self, need of help. Finally, as I contemplate Spring, help- ing others, and returning to where (and why) each of us started down this road, I find myself thinking of ABA President Linda Klein’s President’s Message in the February 5