Governance & Membership

President's Message - May 2020

Lawyer Well-Being in the Time of COVID-19

By Susan B. Shields

As I write this, Oklahoma lawyers have been doing their best to work from home or social distancing at their offices for many weeks. Courthouses are closed except for emergencies, meetings are by phone or videoconference and mediations and depositions are happening remotely. Children have all moved to online learning. Our calls, emails and letters often begin with “I hope you are well” and end with encouragement to stay well. We have new words and phrases in our vocabularies like “flatten the curve,” “Zoom” and “social distancing.” Important professional and personal events like Law Day celebrations, swearing-in ceremonies, trials and graduations have been postponed or cancelled. Most tragically, many Oklahoma lawyers and their family members are sick or have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Pre-coronavirus, the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being designated May 4-8 as “Lawyer Well-Being Week.” The aim of Well-Being Week is to raise awareness and encourage action across the profession to improve well-being for lawyers and their support teams. On the back page of this issue is a graph from the Lawyer Well-Being website that includes suggestions for wellness action steps, such as focusing on physical and mental health, intellectual growth and connectedness.

In this time of COVID-19 where so many are sick or have lost their livelihood and are struggling, focusing on wellness seems even more critical. At stake is not only lawyers’ individual health and happiness but also our clients’ welfare. For me, remembering that I am not alone in feeling anxious and sad, trying to give back to others in positive ways and getting outside (while social distancing) helps. It’s also been important for my mental health to stay connected through daily check-in calls and texts with family members and friends and virtual gatherings. I have also enjoyed watching musicians give free performances and authors do book readings online. And how about all the news shows and late-night television being broadcast from people’s basements? The creativity happening right now is truly amazing. It’s also been good to get a daily laugh from the funny memes being posted on social media and sent around by email and text. Laughter is not the cure for coronavirus, but it sure can do a lot of good.

All of our lives have been turned upside-down, but I truly believe we are seeing the best of people emerge during this crisis. I am thankful for the health care workers and first responders who are the heroes on the front lines, and I am also proud of the work that the Oklahoma lawyers and the OBA are doing, and will continue to do, to help get us all through this together.

I hope you and your loved ones are well – and stay well. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with your questions, comments and suggestions at susan.shields@mcafeetaft.com or 405-552-2311.

Laughter is not the cure for coronavirus, but it sure can do a lot of good.


Read the fantastic article in this issue by Deanna Harris and Ben F. Rogers on “Strategies for Attorneys Managing the Additional Stress of COVID-19” – and remember to BREATHE!

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- OBJ 91 No. 5 (May 2020)