Foley Creates Space for Candid Conversations about Mental Health

26 May 2022 Foley Career Perspectives Blog
Author(s): Frederick V Bryant II Kimberly A. Klinsport Victoria A. Matese Richard S Montei Christopher Ward

We want people to have long and fulfilling careers at Foley & Lardner, so we are making an investment in their long-term personal and professional growth and well-being and continuing to seek new ways to foster a culture that builds relationships and humanity.

Mental Health Awareness Month has been an opportune time to share information about the many resources available to firm members through Foley’s Best Self and guide our people to see that they are not alone – and there is no shame in seeking help – with their struggles.

As part of our programming during the month of May, Foley invited all firm members to a candid panel discussion on the topic of mental health in the legal profession and at Foley. This was a follow-up on our extremely well-received 2021 program with a new slate of presenters who brought fresh perspective from their own personal experiences.

Partners Von Bryant, Kimberly Klinsport, and Tory Matese, and senior counsel Spencer Montei joined moderator Chris Ward for an authentic conversation about how we are (really) doing and what else can be done to ease our own stress and support others who are struggling.

Ward kicked off the conversation with the seemingly innocuous question of “how are you?” The panelists said they are mostly happy things are starting to get back to normal but are feeling tension in adjusting to a “new normal.”

“You reflexively say I’m good, but deep into the pandemic when you had kids running around and you hadn’t been outside for 48 hours that started to sound fake.”

“Pre-COVID, I worked really 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 they had to compete with work for my attention because we were all home all the time together. With the pendulum now swinging back, I feel the pressure of my kids asking if they will see me today because I am now going back to work in the office and not always just working from home.”

On the question of how BigLaw has done in addressing wellness, the panelists agreed that there is less stigma in being vocal about carving out time for yourself but that it takes a team of everyone to truly make this the norm.

“We’re going to do right by our clients no matter what. It’s okay to exercise or share a meal with your family, and beneficial to the full pie of you.”

“In my view, work-life balance isn’t the right way to frame it. To me, it’s thinking holistically about my work and my life so that my meaning and purpose don’t have to be put into one bucket or the other.” 

It’s about communication – giving a lot of lead time and getting team members up to speed so you can really unplug when you’re out of the office. Senior attorneys should set the example – being transparent about our time away lets junior attorneys know they can do the same.

“Everybody has a limit, and you shouldn’t feel shame in that. It’s on each of us to assess where we are and take initiative to ask for help, and for the person on the receiving end to really listen and take action. The biggest mistake is not saying anything at all.”

While there is much work to be done, Foley is committed to continuing this open and honest dialogue to ensure our people not only are aware of the resources available but also feel comfortable seeking help when they need it.

You can hear more about the resources Foley provides to support mental health and well-being in this special edition of The Path & The Practice podcast dedicated to Mental Health Awareness Month. Chief Talent Officer Jen Patton and Partners Leigh Riley and Chris Ward share stories and experiences navigating difficulties in life and highlight the importance of making space for your own humanity.

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